The gala marking the 35th anniversary of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute had as one of its guests Vice President Joe Biden, who hailed Latinos as "the most powerful force in American politics."

The celebration also featured the presentation of awards to neurosurgeon Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, activist Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch and comedian George Lopez.

The vice president stressed the need to keep improving educational quality and access in order to build a better nation.

Biden recalled the early days of the Hispanic Caucus, which began with only five members.

"The rest of America is beginning to understand that your success is America's success," he said.

Biden spoke of the measure instituted by Obama that has kept thousands and thousands of young undocumented students from being deported - the very people who would benefit if Congress passes the long-stalled DREAM Act.

"Look how the American people reacted to President Obama's executive action lifting the threat of deportation from the Dreamers," the vice president said, citing polls that showed broad support for the move.

"It had to be emotional, fill all of you with pride how that first day those Dreamers were eligible to apply for deferred action, thousands lined up, block after block after block," Biden said. "I'm proud of my president, I'm proud of what the president did and I know you're equally proud."

The guests and award winners who came up the red carpet were very aware that the elections are coming soon and discussion centered on the need for comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform.

Dr. Quiñones-Hinojosa told Efe that "there exists a split in the United States, because we may have an enormous presence in terms of numbers, but we don't carry the same economic or political weight."

"We need education, and the only way we can make progress in this country is as a group," said Quiñones, who came to the U.S. undocumented.

Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, a military veteran turned activist, warned that there's much to be done in the next four years.

"We have to make a big effort and fight the way people did 40 years ago, for a better future," Castillo told Efe.

Barack Obama's current term is not ending with the hoped-for immigration reform because "the circumstances were not favorable to Latinos" and the "bad immigrant stereotypes" continue. EFE