POSTED: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 11:28pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 3:32pm
EL PASO - Jobs and the economy were at the forefront of the State of the Union Address Tuesday night and local congressional candidates took notice.
In what could be President Obama's final State of the Union Address, he spoke of the new jobs created in 2011. The unemployment rate is at 8.5 percent nationally. The lowest it's been since 2009.
"In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year they created the most jobs since 2005," Obama said.
But the unemployment rate in El Paso is at 9.6 percent. Local candidates for Congress said that needs to change.
In a statement, former El Paso City Representative Beto O'rourke said we need to do more for El Paso when it comes to creating jobs.
"With more than 30,000 fellow El Pasoans out of work right now, we must do more to make sure that we have opportunities and investment in our region," O'Rourke said.
Life-long El Pasoan Ben Mendoza feels we haven't done enough to keep jobs in the city.
"We should have done everything we could have to keep jobs here because that increases the tax base and puts people to work," Mendoza said. "When people work they're going to spend money."
Army Veteran Jerome Tilghman believes education is key to keeping and creating jobs in El Paso.
"Education, it's the cornerstone of what I speak of in terms of overall economic recovery for this region," Tilghman said.
Incumbent Silvestre Reyes is hopeful Obama's Jobs Act will help lower the unemployment rate.
"If we pass the legislation it will be good news for El Paso," said Reyes in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Also addressed in Obama's speech Tuesday night was the Dream Act. The bill would allow children of illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military the opportunity to become conditional residents.
Reyes, who helped draft the Dream Act in 2010, hopes Congress will pass the bill soon. The bill passed through the house but failed in the senate.
O'Rourke said passing the bill is a priority.
"We MUST pass the Dream Act, O'Rourke said. "What's taking Congress so long on this and on comprehensive immigration reform?"
Tilghman agrees the bill is necessary.
"We paid for the education we should tack a green card to every diploma at every level and do what we can to secure that labor here," Tilghman said.
Mendoza said education is important and the Dream Act will allow El Paso residents the opportunity to improve their lives.
"I think it's important that people be educated especially people that have been here," Mendoza said.