Jose Hernandez worked in farm fields with his Mexican-immigrant
parents before becoming an astronaut. Iraq War veteran Julius
Melendez is the third generation of his Puerto Rican family to serve
in the military. And Tony Cardenas, the youngest of 11 children of
immigrant farmers from Jalisco, Mexico, has served in the California
Assembly and on the Los Angeles City Council.
Next year, all of them could be coming to Congress.
The 2012 election is shaping up as a big one in the House for Hispanics. There are currently 29 in the House -- including a Pacific islands delegate and Puerto Rico's resident commissioner -- according to the Congressional Research Service. That number is virtually guaranteed to increase by at least three or four seats because of once-a-decade redistricting that's created new Hispanic- majority districts in California and Texas. On top of that, Hispanics could win more seats in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Florida.
"It's a watershed election for the Latino community," said Rep. Raul Grivalja, D-Ariz. "Our ability to influence decisions is evident and present and our ability to motivate voters is critical."
Hispanics are the fastest-growing group in the United States, increasing in population by more than 15 million between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data. They make up more than 16 percent of the U.S. population, far more than their share of roughly 5 percent of the seats in the House.
In comparison, there are 44 blacks in the House, including two delegates, according to the CRS, a record number. Blacks comprise roughly 10 percent of the House, compared to about 12 percent of the U.S. population. There are 10 Asian-Americans in the House, according to the CRS.
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