Delaware Latino Summit Looks to Set Public Agenda - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Latino Summit Looks to Set Public Agenda

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Issues facing Delaware's Hispanic community took center stage in Dover Thursday at a first of its kind summit. Hundreds of people, Hispanic and others, took part in the Delaware Latino Summit hosted by the Delaware Hispanic Commission at Delaware Tech.

The all-day event brought in community leaders, state and federal agencies, political leaders, community organizations as well as the general public. The goal of the event was to "develop the Delaware Hispanic Public Agenda."

The attendees discussed a wide variety of topics. The event's organizers say First State's Hispanic community is strongest when it speaks in one voice.

"We want to make sure that we guarantee that Latinos have the same opportunities when it comes to housing, transportation, jobs, economic development, education," said Javier Torrijos, chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission.

On education Torrijos says there's a need for more bilingual and multi-cultural teachers in classrooms. Immigration, and its many facets, is also a major issue for this community, like driving privilege cards for undocumented immigrants.

"We have to come together agree on it and push our legislators to approve a bill that we would like introduce in 2015 and say, 'This is something we think could make a big difference here,'" he said.

A task force is looking into the idea.

"I look forward to hearing where they come out," said Gov. Jack Markell. "Even within the Latino community there is a range of perspective on making sure people are driving safely."

Gov. Markell, who addressed the summit in Spanish, says some people are concerned an id showing they aren't citizens could be used against them.

A Pew Research 2010 estimate shows Delaware has between 25,000 and 35,000 undocumented immigrants living within its borders.

There's another number - 171. That's how many unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors were in Delaware at the start of October. More than three-quarters of those are in Sussex County.

Gov. Markell says they're using state services. His push to get the federal government to cover the costs hasn't gained traction in Washington.

Beyond political and community leaders, the event was also meant to focus on issues brought up by every-day people. In Georgetown, WBOC spoke to a hodge-podge of Hispanic residents to hear what they consider the top priorities for the Hispanic Community.

"It's family first," said Antonio Perez in Spanish.

Perez makes pizzas at Caruso's Pizza in Georgetown. He said central to providing for his family is a focus on job creation.

"When a person doesn't work they can't provide for their family," he said. "Sometimes although they want to work, there are no jobs. When the economy is down, they can't do anything about it."

Colleague Cesar Augusto Hernandez Yoc said there were many issues beyond the economy that were important to the community as well.

"There's the right to obtain a drivers license," he said in Spanish. "I think it's one of the important issues. The other two are healthcare and education."

Down the street at Supermarquense on Race Street, Rafael Ortiz said that the top priority can all be summed up by one word.

"Respect," he said through a translator. "Respect from one person to another. Whether towards young people or towards the adults. That would support the Hispanic community."

According to the United States Census Bureau, the Hispanic population makes up approximately nine percent of the Delaware population.

WBOC Sussex County Bureau Chief Evan Koslof contributed to this report.
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