Coalition: Hire Hispanics

A coalition of more than 30 Hispanic civil rights groups yesterday criticized the Clinton administration for what they said was a low level of Hispanic representation in the federal workforce, especially at the executive levels.

Rep. Esteban Torres, D-Calif., said at a press conference yesterday that Latino representation among federal employees has dropped to a new low.

"Talented Latino men and women continue to knock at the door of the administration for an opportunity to serve their nation," Torres said.

Two Latinos serve in Clinton's cabinet: Energy Secretary Federico Pena and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson.

The overall percentage of Hispanics in the federal workforce has steadily increased, from about 4.5 percent in 1982 to 5.9 percent in 1995, according to the Office of Personnel Management. But 10.2 percent of the total U.S. labor force is Hispanic.

The Hispanic leaders said they were especially concerned about the number of Hispanic executives in government, particularly those subject to political appointment.

In September 1996, 2.2 percent of the Senior Executive Service was Hispanic, according to OPM. Of the 689 presidentially-appointed sub-Cabinet posts, 5.6 percent were filled by Hispanics. That is significantly less than the high of 8 percent earlier in the Clinton administration, the coalition charged.

"While we understand that the level of Latinos in federal career positions cannot change overnight, the president can have a direct impact on the number of Latinos appointed to high-ranking appointed positions," said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

Manuel Oliverez, President of the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives, which represents 2,000 Hispanic federal managers and SESers, said this is the first time this issue has been publicly raised at this high a level.

"It is long overdue," Oliverez said.

Oliverez said the main problem facing Hispanics in the hiring process is that well-intentioned people who make selections for top positions nevertheless tend to pick people who reflect their own background.

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