Over the past two years, the U.S. Labor Department has launched some highly successful programs to recruit Hispanics for jobs in the federal government. But none of those programs has been of much help to job-hungry Hispanics in the D.C. area.
The Labor Department and all other federal agencies are under a congressional mandate to ensure that minorities are represented in the federal work force in the same proportions in which they are employed in private industry. That means all federal agencies must work toward insuring that about 4.8 percent of their employes are Hispanic.
According to Hispanic leaders, there are so few Hispanic employes in many government agencies that they don't even show up in personnel statistics.
Thus in late 1978 the Labor Department, taking the lead among government agencies, began to contract with nonprofit, national Hispanic organizations to find Hispanic for entry-level GS 1, 2 and 3 clerk/typist jobs.
The result has been that about 220 Hispanics from various parts of the country have been hired in the federal government. But only 24 are residents of this area.
Labor Department officials say 80 more Hispanics are expected to get federal jobs by the end of the year, but probably none of them will be from D.C., where Hispanic leaders say the rate of unemployment among Latinos is about 16 percent.
The reason so few are local, according to Sam DeGenova, director of special personnel programs at Labor, is that the department's recruiters could not find enough Latinos in the Washington area with the right qualifications to fill the clerk/typist openings.
"We initially started our recruiting efforts with the local community," he said. "You might not believe this, but most of the people we were able to get in touch with (as prospective employes) were noncitizens. You have to be a citizen to get these jobs."
DeGenova also said his office received little response from the D.C. Department of Employment Services, the D.C. Office of Latino Affairs or a number of other local Hispanic organizations it contacted during the recruiting efforts.
Employment Services promised to send 50 applicants, but only 14 people showed up to take the test for the jobs. Only seven of them passed the exam, DeGenova said. Latino Affairs referred no one, he said.
Local Hispanic leaders have criticized the Labor Department, however, for not contacting enough of the nongovernmental, grass-roots Latino organizations.
Angel Irene, director of the Council of Hispanic Agencies, said his organization was not notified of the civil service openings.
Fernando Lemos, director of the Wilson Center, which runs training programs for Hispanic, said he did not know if the recruiters had come to the Wilson Center. But he said he was not pleased with the kinds of jobs being offered -- positions at the low end of the salary scale -- or with the rule on citizenship.
Lemos said that rule prevents noncitizens with legitimate work visas -- who may be studying here or awaiting naturalized citizenship -- from getting the jobs.
"In one sense they talk about equal opportunity for my people. In another sense, they close the door," said Lemos, who is from Paraguay.
The organization that has been most successful in bringing Hispanics to Washington has been the New-York-based National Puerto Rican Forum. It runs job training and placement programs in several East Coast cities and Chicago, and has brought 137 Puerto Ricans to Washington. c
These newcomers have a 90 percent retention record in their jobs and several have received promotions, according to Manuel A. Bustelo, the Forum's national director.
Under a contract with the Labor Department, the Forum has received more than $80,000 to recruit Hispanics and help them settle in Washington. The Forum provided the recruits with housing during their first month here and counseling services. It also arranged social events to help them adjust and not feel too homesick.
"We would never have met the demands of the federal government through local recruitment," said Mara Patermaster, who heads the Forum's Washington office. "But we do have a large number of Hispanics along the East Coast who are not finding jobs. The feeling was that other Hispanics throughout the nation should be given this opportunity."
Patermaster said when her office did try to recruit from the local Latin community, they found many applicants were overqualified for the positions.
The Forum's relocation program is called Los Padrinos (Pioneers). One of its main objectives is the establishment of a Puerto Rican middle class in Washington. Most Hispanics here are from Central America, especially El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. There are few Puerto Ricans.
Yolanda Sanchez, 23, one of the padrinos who is now working at the Labor Department, says she does not regret leaving her native New York to work in Washington.
"People in Washington are more sophisticated than in New York. Everybody in D.C. seems to be into school, their jobs, their professions. That's the kind of atmosphere people starting out (in the work world)-should be in," she said.
Sanchez was in one of the Forum's training programs in New York when a Forum representative asked her if she would be interested in a job in the capital.
She is now renting a townhouse in Northern Virginia with four of the other Puerto Rican women who have landed jobs.
Other groups that received Labor Department recruitment contracts are Project SER, which operates out of Texas; MANA, a Hispanic women's group, and La Raza, a national organization.
DeGenova said since 1978, the Labor Department has increased its proportion of Latino employes from 2.7 to 4.5 percent.
He attributed that success to having Hispanics working in Labor's personnel office, and to the fact that four Labor officials traveled across the country in search of Hispanic recruits in 1978.
In that year Labor also started a "vocational outreach service," called Image, with offices throughout the United States.
DeGenova said President-elect Reagan and the incoming Congress may not be as willing as the old administration was to spend as much money recruiting Hispanics, "but in order to carry out the law (to increase Hispanic representation in the federal government), these are the kinds of things that will have to be done."