Remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Annual Awards Gala
Folks, hello, hello, hello. Folks, this happens to be Nanette's birthday. It's hell when you turn 25, but you know. [Laughter] We have a tradition to the Biden family: We sing "Happy Birthday." So let's go. Ready?
[At this point, the President led the audience in singing "Happy Birthday" as follows.]
Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, Nanette. Happy birthday to you.
[The President continued his remarks as follows.]
God love you, kiddo. All right.
Please have a seat if you have one. [Laughter] About a year and a half ago——
[The President checked his microphone.]
Is this on? Hello, hello, hello.
[The microphone was turned on.]
Whoa, whoa, whoa. [Laughter] About a year and a half ago, we were—it was a large crowd like this, where they were outside. I thought they had chairs and said, "Have a seat." And the press said Biden was so stupid he didn't even know though they didn't have any chairs. [Laughter] But I'm glad you have some chairs. [Laughter]
Look, folks, I want to thank you and the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. And I want to thank you for everyone being here tonight. This is a heck of a crowd.
And Raul, the Caucus chair, thank you. Also, you know, Albio, the Cuban born, came to United States at age 11, served years 16 years in Congress. And you know, the idea is that, you know, Lucille—a House icon of three decades, grandmother of the DREAM Act. You know, Congress is going to miss you both.
Members of my Cabinet are also joining us. In fact—give them a round of applause. You're all going to miss them. My Cabinet is here. The Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, the honoree of tonight's American Dream Medallion. All of you here tonight embody the same theme: "Root in the Strength of Achieving Our Dreams." That's what I want to talk to you briefly about tonight.
The historic American Rescue Plan helped us emerge from the pandemic and move from economic crisis to resurgence. Secretary Becerra, I want to tell you how that law of funding closed to—closed the racial gap and vaccinated Hispanic Americans and how it helped more Latinos gain health insurance now than ever before.
Secretary Cardona, he'll tell you how it helped to safely reopen our schools—an absolute necessity—including 28 percent of public school students who are Latino—28 percent. You're all going to own the country, man. We'd better darn well make sure they have every opportunity they have. Not a joke. Imagine—imagine—the opposition talking about why this isn't important; it's critically important.
And we've invested $11 billion in Hispanic-serving institutions, the largest investment in the future of Hispanic college students in our entire history. With the help of all of you, we expanded the child tax credit, helping slash child poverty by over 40 percent among Latinos—the lowest ever—the lowest rate ever.
Since I've been in office, we've created nearly 10 million jobs, a record for any Presidency at this point. We saw the biggest 1-year drop in Hispanic unemployment on record—the—biggest drop in unemployment. And Administrator Guzman, I want to tell you how the Hispanic entrepreneurs are starting new businesses at the fastest rate in over a decade.
And, folks, we made Puerto Rico's economic recovery and development a top priority. I asked Deputy Secretary Don Graves to help me during the—get Detroit back on track during the Great Recession. And while I was Vice President, he helped lead our efforts in Puerto Rico as well. We are committed. We're committed.
Together, we passed once-in-a-generation infrastructure law to mobilize America's roads, bridges, ports, airports. It's going to replace poisonous lead pipes so every child in America—specifically those in Hispanic communities, which are most often affected—can turn on a faucet at home or school and drink clean water for God's sake.
And we're going to deliver affordable, high-speed internet to every single household. Every household. And with your help, I signed the Inflation Reduction Act, one of the most significant laws in our history.
For too long, we've paid a higher price for prescription drugs than any nation in the world. And for years, as a Senator and Vice President, many of us have been trying to fix that. We've been taking on Big Pharma, but it always stood in the way. But not this year. This year, the American people won, and Big Pharma lost.
Now Medicare will have the power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, and seniors will see out-of-pocket drug costs capped at $2,000 a year no matter what their costs are—no matter what, no matter whether they have drug—for cancer drugs or other expensive drugs. Two thousand a year maximum. And if you're on Medicare and you have diabetes, your insulin is going to be capped at $35 a month instead of three times—30 times that.
And for decades, climate deniers have blocked any meaningful progress against climate crisis. But not this year. This year, the American people won and the climate deniers lost. Look, folks, the Inflation Reduction Act takes the most aggressive action to confront our climate crisis ever. It offers Hispanic families thousands of dollars in energy savings, tax credits, rebates to buy new efficient appliances, weatherize their home, purchase electric vehicles, and so much more.
And it provides—most important to me and my—in my State, we have eighth largest Black population, but—Hispanic and Black populations, poor populations—are those fenceline communities, those frontline communities where have suffered most as a consequence of being smothered by pollution. They're going to get rewarded first.
Folks, we're going to be able to do all this while reducing the deficit by $350 billion last year and nearly $1.5 trillion this year. Because of the Inflation Reduction Act, we expect to reduce it by another $300 billion in the next decade, just because of that act alone. And as a result, we can afford to cancel $10,000 in student debt and $20,000 if you're a Pell grant. And by the way, tens of millions of Americans are making under 125 grand, and that means almost half Latino students with federal loans will see their debt totally forgiven. That's a gamechanger. It gives people a chance.
And I'm proud that the Obama-Biden administration stood up for "Dreamers." My predecessor tried to end DACA, but the Biden-Harris administration is working to preserve it and fortify it. And with Secretary Mayorkas's leadership, we're committed to fixing the immigration system.
Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props. What they're doing is simply wrong. It's un-American. It's reckless. And we have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We're working to make sure it's safe and orderly and humane.
Republican officials should not interfere with that process by waging a political—these political stunts. It's long overdue for Senate Republicans to come to the table and provide a pathway for citizenship for "Dreamers," those in temporary status, farmworkers, and essential workers.
We need to modernize our laws so businesses can get workers they need and families don't have to wait decades to be brought back together. It's time to get it done. That's why we have to win this off-year election.
And one more thing. It's long overdue for a National Museum of the American Latino—long overdue—I mean it—to take its rightful place here in Washington, where it belongs.
Look, a few days after the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, my wife Jill and I visited that school memorial. We spent 4 hours with the victims' families. We attended services at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
Just as we were leaving, a grandmother who lost her granddaughter came up to me, coming down the aisle in church. And she handed me a handwritten note. And it read, "Erase the invisible line that's dividing this Nation." Erase the invisible line that's dividing this Nation.
Whether it's for the people of Uvalde or El Paso or all the other places that never make the news, together with you, we are erasing the invisible line. Together, we passed and signed the first meaningful gun safety law in 30 years. And I want to make it clear to you: I'm not stopping here. We're going to ban assault weapons, as I did when I was a Senator, and that's going to end. Because when we banned it, mass murders stopped. And when we changed it, it went back again.
Let me close with this—I know you've been here a long time. During the week of Fourth of July, I had the honor of bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 17 distinguished Americans, two them including friends of this institute: Raul of the National Council of La Raza and Juliet Garcia, one of our top, top college administrators—nation's administrators. Their life's work reflects the greatest strength of "We, the People."
You know, we're the most unique nation on Earth. We're not a product of our ethnicity or our religion or geography. We are a product of our Constitution. We're uniquely organized on an idea—an idea—the only nation in the history of the world. And the idea is that: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We've never fully lived up to that, but we've never, ever walked away from it. And so I would respectfully suggest, it's a responsibility of your organization and every other good organization in this country to make it real.
The Nation is always, always a work in progress, creating possibilities and fulfillment of promise. That's been the American story, rooted in the strength of achieving our dreams.
I know it's been really a hard few years. But I stand here today more optimistic about the future that I've been in my whole career. We just have to remember who we are. We are the United States of America. And there's nothing—nothing—beyond our capacity if we work together. So let's keep working together and get it done.
God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.
Thank you for letting me interrupt your dinner. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 8:29 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. In his remarks, he referred to Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán, Raul Ruiz, Albio B. Sires, and Lucille Roybal-Allard; Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves; former President Donald J. Trump; Raúl H Yzaguirre, former chief executive officer and president, National Council of La Raza; and Juliet V. García, former president, University of Texas at Brownsville. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on September 16.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Annual Awards Gala Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/357967