"Durante los últimos años, la administración de Trump ha promovido una agenda de infraestructura que ignora por completo a los trabajadores y su bienestar general". Crédito: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

El ‘racismo ambiental’ y su impacto en la comunidad latina

In Univision

 

La administración de Trump ha anulado 41 leyes ambientales, de recursos naturales y de gestión de la tierra.

 

Ataques cardíacos, derrames cerebrales, cáncer de pulmón, nacimientos prematuros, obesidad infantil, autismo y demencia. Estos son sólo algunos de los efectos secundarios que deben tolerar las personas que viven cerca de altos niveles de contaminación. Desafortunadamente, la contaminación afecta a los latinos más que a nadie en el país: 2 de cada 5 de nosotros vivimos a 30 millas de una planta de energía.

El ‘racismo ambiental’ es la aplicación sistemática de normas y regulaciones que obligan a minorías étnicas y raciales, así como a comunidades de bajos ingresos, a vivir en proximidad a condiciones ambientalmente peligrosas. Una de las herramientas más efectivas para combatir esto es la Ley de Política Ambiental Nacional (NEPA), que otorga a las personas una plataforma para expresar sus inquietudes y opiniones con respecto a proyectos de infraestructura que los afectan directamente.

NEPA requiere que los proyectos federales proporcionen información transparente. Lo hace a través de un proceso de revisión que evalúa los efectos secundarios ambientales, de salud, y socioeconómicos que un proyecto dado podría tener en una comunidad. Cuando NEPA es aplicada de manera correcta, todos tienen derecho a ejercer su opinión sobre los problemas que afectan su vida cotidiana.

Sin embargo, durante los últimos años, la administración de Trump ha promovido una agenda de infraestructura que ignora por completo a los trabajadores y su bienestar general. Esta administración ha anulado 41 leyes ambientales, de recursos naturales y de gestión de la tierra, para perseguir su infame muro fronterizo.

Esta administración buscó una y otra vez eludir requisitos de partes importantes del proceso de revisión, permitiendo a las agencias federales ocultar información clave con respecto a cómo dichos proyectos podrían tener un impacto negativo en comunidades y el medio ambiente. Además han limitado el período de comentario público que NEPA resguarda, lo cual puede desempeñar un papel perjudicial en las vidas de minorías raciales y étnicas, al silenciar abiertamente a la opinión pública, lo que en sí representa un atropello a los procesos democráticos.

 

El muro fronterizo propuesto por Trump dividiría vecindarios, empeoraría la situación de comunidades propensas a sufrir inundaciones peligrosas, destruiría tierras y vida silvestre. La cerca fronteriza existente ya ha desempeñado un papel devastador para muchas comunidades fronterizas. Nogales Arizona, en el lado estadounidense de la cerca de acero, y Nogales Sonora, en México fueron sujetas a la división física por el muro, esto a su vez dividió sus economías, e incluso la cooperación entre estas ciudades se vio limitada abruptamente. En 2008, este mismo segmento de la pared de acero bloqueó el drenaje durante una tormenta, causando inundaciones en ambos lados. La región fronteriza de 2,000 millas, es el hogar de millones de familias que también están preocupadas de perder sus hogares y tierras.

Sin embargo, muchas familias trabajadoras latinas saben lo que está en juego cuando la administración Trump decide eliminar regulaciones. Saben que sus comunidades necesitan ser protegidas de proyectos que ignoran sus mejores intereses, saben que las condiciones de trabajo pueden ser nefastas y saben que un elemento crítico para evitar estos escenarios es abogar por la continuidad y la protección de NEPA. Esta es la razón por la que miembros del Consejo Sindical para el Avance del Trabajador Latinoamericano llevamos esta lucha sin temor y con pasión a los pasillos del Congreso en Washington DC. Durante una semana, nuestras hermanas y hermanos tendrán la oportunidad de hablar con sus representantes y expresar sus inquietudes. Explicarán lo que la eliminación de estas regulaciones hará a sus comunidades, e ilustrarán cómo ellos en su papel de trabajadores, se benefician de NEPA.

 

acción para decir ‘¡Ya Basta!’ Para estas mujeres y hombres, así como para sus familias y comunidades, ha llegado el momento de luchar por el fin inmediato de las políticas abusivas y negligentes que enferman a nuestros niños, acortan nuestras vidas y nos exponen a condiciones inhumanas de trabajo y de vida. Es hora de detener estos ataques flagrantes que vienen en forma de contaminación, exposición tóxica y contaminación del agua, por nombrar solo algunos. Todos debemos unirnos a la batalla por el acceso justo y democrático a condiciones de vida seguras y limpias. Esto sólo se puede lograr si protegemos y elevamos nuestra voz.

 
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The Burden of Environmental Racism and Its Impact on Latinos

In Univision

 

In the past few years alone, this administration has waived 41 environmental, natural resource and land management laws in order to pursuit it’s infamous border wall.

 

Heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, pre-mature births, childhood obesity, autism, and dementia; these are but a few of the side effects which people living near high levels of air pollution must endure. Unfortunately, pollution hits Latinos harder than almost anyone in the country: 2 in 5 of us live within 30 miles of a power plant.

Environmental racism is the systematic enforcement of rules and regulations that target ethnic, racial minorities, as well as low-income communities, forcing them to live in the proximity to environmentally dangerous conditions. One of the most effective tools to fight this is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which grants people a platform to voice their concerns and opinions regarding infrastructure projects that directly affects them.

NEPA requires that federal projects provide transparent information. It does this through a mandatory review process that evaluates the environmental, health and socioeconomic side effects a given project could have on a community. If NEPA works correctly, everyone has a say in the issues that affect their daily lives.

Nevertheless, for the past few years the Trump administration has promoted an infrastructure agenda that completely disregards workers and their overall wellbeing. In the past few years alone, this administration has waived 41 environmental, natural resource and land management laws in order to pursuit it’s infamous border wall.

This administration sought time and time again to skirt the requirements of significant parts of the review process, allowing federal agencies to conceal how government’s actions could play a crucial role in the well-being of communities and the environment, and limiting the public commenting period. This last move can play a detrimental role in the lives of racial and ethnic minorities, by blatantly silencing public opinion, which in it of itself hinders democracy.

Trump’s proposed border wall would divide neighborhoods, worsen dangerous flooding, destroy lands and hamper wildlife. The existing border fence has already played a devastating role for many border communities. Nogales Arizona, on the US side of the steel fence, and Nogales Sonora, in Mexico were divided, their economies, and even cross town cooperation abruptly terminated. In 2008 this same segment of the steel wall blocked draining during a storm, causing flooding on both the U.S. and the Mexican side. This 2,000-mile border region is home to millions of families that are also worried about losing their homes and land to the wall.

However, many Latino working families know what’s at stake when the Trump administration decides to wipe out regulations. They know that their communities need to be protected from projects that ignore their best interests, they know that working conditions can be dire, and they know a critical element to avoid these scenarios is advocating for the continuance and protection of NEPA. This is why members of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement are fearlessly and passionately taking this fight to the halls of Congress in Washington D.C. For one week, our sisters and brothers will have the chance to talk to their representatives, and voice their concerns. They will explain what the elimination of these regulations will do to their communities, and they will illustrate how they- as workers- benefit from NEPA.

This is a call to action to say enough! For these women and men, as well as for their families and communities, the time has come to fight for the immediate end to abusive and neglectful policies that make our children sick, shorten our lives, and expose us to inhumane working and living conditions. It is time to stop these blatant attacks that come in the form of pollution, toxic exposure and water contamination, to name a few. We must all join the battle to implement safe and clean living conditions. This can only be achieved if we protect and elevate our voice.

 

 

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Fortaleciendo nuestra democracia: 6 ejemplos de cómo los latinos e inmigrantes lideran la resistencia contra los ataques de Trump

In Univision

 

Continuamos este año jugando un rol central en nuestro propio futuro, pero también enfocados en ser un elemento de esperanza para tener una democracia más inclusiva que refleje la diversidad y prioridades de todas las comunidades.

Los dos últimos años han representado un ataque constante para la comunidad latina, inmigrante y minorías por parte de Trump. Estructuralmente hemos sido el centro de agresión y exclusión de todo tipo de decisiones en la política pública por parte de esta administración, lo cual tiene un impacto en nuestra calidad de vida a corto y largo plazo. El uso constante de la retórica negativa de Trump contra nuestra comunidad ha llevado también al incremento drástico del 24% en los crímenes de odio en contra de los latinos en estos dos años.

Sin embargo, estos ataques en lugar de debilitarnos nos han fortalecido y unido como comunidad. He aquí seis ejemplos de cómo los Latinos e inmigrantes nos estamos organizando, y por ende fortaleciendo nuestra democracia:

1. Participación cívica

La respuesta central de nuestra comunidad ante tanto ataque ha sido la participación cívica. Los latinos venimos jugando un rol cada vez más importante en las elecciones nacionales y locales. Somos 57 millones de latinos en Estados Unidos, de ellos 29 millones están habilitados para votar. Y los latinos participamos más en las elecciones de 2018 que en cualquier otra elección de término medio, y se estima que un 27% de esos votantes acudieron a las urnas por primera vez. Las más recientes proyecciones son altamente positivas, ya que para las elecciones presidenciales del 2020 habrán 32 millones de latinos elegibles para votar, siendo así el segundo grupo más numeroso en el país y un electorado decisivo.

Estos resultados se dieron gracias al trabajo exhaustivo de miles de personas y organizaciones a lo largo del país que han apostado por la importancia de nuestro voto, y esto se ha reflejado en el incremento de programas de registro de votantes, voto, educación de votantes, programas para promover la ciudadanía y la lucha contra de la supresión del voto.

2. Postulaciones a cargos públicos

Hemos también lanzado un ‘ya basta’ a la falta de representación y exclusión de nuestra comunidad en cargos públicos. Hemos visto un incremento importante en el número de latinos y latinas que se han postulado a cargos públicos en todos los niveles y alrededor del país. Los resultados de las últimas elecciones son un ejemplo claro, ya que ahora contamos con 43 latinos electos al Congreso en Washington D.C., el número más alto de legisladores latinos en el Capitolio en la historia. A nivel nacional las cifras también son prometedoras, con 6.600 latinos electos, un incremento del 10% desde el 2013.

Los comicios del 2018 dejaron claro que las mujeres también han sido parte de la reacción al discurso divisivo de Trump. El Congreso en Washington ahora cuenta con más mujeres, más juventud, y más diversidad que nunca. El número de mujeres latinas en posiciones de poder ha incrementado exponencialmente, con 2.401 latinas electas, cifra que se traduce al 36% del total de latinos electos a nivel nacional.

3. Contribuciones e incentivos a la economía

Uno de los argumentos anti-inmigrantes de Trump ha sido que los trabajadores indocumentados vienen a robar trabajos, cometer crímenes y vivir de la asistencia pública. Nadamás lejos de la realidad. Como país tenemos una adicción a la mano de obra barata del trabajador inmigrante, y como resultado se ha creado un sistema perfecto girado en torno a la explotación de dichos trabajadores y hay sectores enteros de la economía que dependen de ellos: 53% agricultura, 15% construcción, 9% producción, 9% servicios, 6% transporte, y 5% de la fuerza laboral total.

 

De la misma manera, el gasto generado por los inmigrantes incentiva el crecimiento económico y la creación de empleos. Los inmigrantes pagamos más de 300,000 millones de dólares en impuestos al año; los trabajadores indocumentados contribuyen con 24,000 millones de dólares en impuestos federales así como con 11,000 millones en impuestos de propiedad, locales y estatales. También los trabajadores indocumentados contribuyen con 15,000 millones al año al seguro social, lo que representa un subsidio importante ya que ellos no tienen accesos a esos beneficios.

Además de ser un pilar esencial para la estabilidad y economía del país, los latinos somos el grupo que creamos más pequeños negocios, hoy día son alrededor de 5 millones de negocios. Mientras que el número de negocios en el país declinó del 2007 al 2012, el número de negocios de latinos se incrementó en un 46%, y se estima que los latinos contribuimos con 213,000 millones de dólares, lo que representa el 11.8% del PIB y que muestra que somos centrales para la salud y el crecimiento de nuestra economía nacional.

 

4. Derechos laborales

Lamentablemente los trabajadores latinos continuamos siendo el sector más vulnerable en el país, particularmente los trabajadores indocumentados, con el número más alto de muertes y accidentes en el trabajo, el robo salarial más alto, y tristemente un incremento en el acoso sexual y violaciones en el lugar de trabajo contra las latinas. A raíz de este panorama, los latinos e inmigrantes hemos sido parte central de movilizaciones nacionales y organización de trabajadores para mejorar los derechos laborales en el país. Los ‘carwasheros’, los jornaleros, los ‘farmworkers’, las trabajadoras domésticas, los movimientos nacionales de trabajadores de servicios y restaurantes, el movimiento TimesUp entre otros, han sido centrales para impulsar la agenda nacional de respeto a los derechos laborales de todos los trabajadores y ha su vanguardia han estado latinos, latinas e inmigrantes.

 

5. Movimiento por los inmigrantes

Las agresiones contra la comunidad inmigrante por parte de esta administración, son incontables. Durante los primeros días de su mandato, Trump anunció el polémico Veto Musulmán y la terminación de DACA, el programa que protege a los “Dreamers” de la deportación, y desde entonces el futuro de unos 800.000 Dreamers ha quedado en la incertidumbre. Los Tepesianos también han sido víctimas de Trump, quien en un esfuerzo por restringir la inmigración, y aumentar el número de deportaciones, canceló el Programa de Protección Temporal (TPS, por sus siglas en inglés) en 7 de 13 países. El polémico muro que propone Trump en la frontera con México, culminó en el cierre parcial de gobierno más largo en la historia del país, dejando a más de 800.000 empleados federales sin un ingreso por 35 días.

En respuesta, los Dreamers, Tepesianos y la comunidad inmigrante han liderado los elementos de organización de trabajadores y también marchas y movilizaciones nacionales, que se han convertido en protestas históricas en defensa de los derechos de los inmigrantes, y este 2019 es un año en el que nosotros ejercemos poder en todas las esferas: desde las calles, hasta los corredores en el Congreso.

6. Nuestra juventud y el futuro de la nación

La juventud latina representa una plétora de oportunidades para toda nuestra nación, somos una comunidad 10 años más joven que la media nacional, lo que representa muchas oportunidades para un país que está envejeciendo. Estas cifras arrojan un panorama sumamente alentador, ellos son el futuro y el presente. Estos números se traducen en votos, en participación cívica, en la creación de empleos, en un cambio tangente que ya ha empezado a materializarse. Se ha visto una creciente participación de los jóvenes latinos en el país como respuesta a todos estos ataques, tal es el caso de los Dreamers, los jóvenes de la Secundaria Stoneman Douglas en Parkland Florida, quienes están luchando a favor del control de armas, y el caso de diversos movimientos nacionales de jóvenes para mejores condiciones y oportunidades laborales en muchas ‘uniones’, los estudiantes que han hecho ‘walkout’ de las escuelas por una causa, entre otros ejemplos.

 

Momentos difíciles y ataques contra nuestra comunidad también han representado espacios de oportunidad, unidad y acción, lo cual se ha demostrado en los dos últimos años. Continuamos este año jugando un rol central en nuestro propio futuro, pero también en ser un elemento de esperanza para crear una nación y poder tener una democracia más inclusiva y representativa que refleje la diversidad y prioridades de todas las comunidades, además de inyectar una visión clara para las elecciones del 2020.

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Strengthening Our Democracy: 6 Examples of How Latinos and Immigrants Lead the Resistance Against Trump’s Attacks

In Univision

 

This year, we continue playing a central role in our own future, being an element of hope in creating a nation that has a more inclusive and representative democracy, and that reflects the diversity and priorities of all communities.

Representatives-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Abby Finkenauer, and Sharice Davids join with other newly elected members of the House of Representatives for an official class photo of new House members at the U.S. Capitol on November 14, 2018 in Washington, DC.Crédito: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The last two years have represented a constant attack on the Latino community, immigrants and minorities by Trump. Structurally, we have been the focus of aggression and exclusion in all types of public policy decisions by this administration, which has an impact on our quality of life in the short and long term. The constant use of Trump’s negative rhetoric against our community has also led to a drastic 24% increase in hate crimesagainst Latinos over the past two years.

However, these attacks, instead of weakening us, have strengthened and united us as a community. Here are 6 examples of how Latinos and immigrants are organizing, and therefore strengthening our democracy:

1- Civic Participation

The central response of our community to these attacks has been civic participation. Latinos have been playing an increasingly important role in national and local elections. There are 57 million Latinos in the United States, of whom 29 million are eligible to vote. Latinos participated more in the elections of 2018 than in any other midterm election, and it is estimated that 27% of those voters went to the polls for the first time. The most recent projections are highly positive, anticipating that there will be an estimated 32 million Latinos eligible to vote in the elections of 2020, making Latinos the second most important group in the country and thus a decisive constituency.

These results were obtained thanks to the exhaustive work of thousands of people and organizations throughout the country who have believed in the importance of our vote. This has been reflected in the increase of voter registration programs, get out the vote, voter education, and programs to promote citizenship and the fight against voter suppression.

2. Nominations to Public Offices

We have also said enough to the lack of representation and exclusion of our community from public office. We have seen a significant increase in the number of Latinos and Latinas who have run for public office at all levels and across the country. The results of the last elections are a clear example of this. We now have 43 Latinos elected to Congress in Washington DC, the highest number of Latino legislators in the Capitol in the history of our nation. Nationally, the figures are also promising, with 6,600 Latinos elected, an increase of 10% since 2013.

The 2018 elections made it clear that women have also been part of the reaction to Trump’s divisive discourse. Congress in Washington now has more women, more youth, and is more diverse than ever. The number of Latinas in positions of power has increased exponentially, with 2,401 Latinas elected, a figure that translates to 36% of the total number of Latinos elected nationwide.

3. Contributions and Incentives to the Economy

One of Trump’s anti-immigrant arguments has been that undocumented workers come to steal jobs, commit crimes and live off public assistance. Nothing is further from the truth. As a country, we have an addiction to cheap labor and as a result we have created a perfect system that revolves around the exploitation of undocumented workers. There are entire sectors of the economy that depend on them and their contributions: 53% agriculture, 15% construction, 9% production, 9% services, 6% transportation, and 5% of the total workforce.

In the same way, immigrants are central for the national economic growth and the creation of jobs. Immigrants pay more than $300 billion in taxes per year; undocumented workers contribute $24 billion in federal taxes as well as $11 billion in property taxes, along with local and state taxes. Also, undocumented workers contribute $15 billion a year to social security, which represents an important subsidy since they do not have access to those benefits.

 

In addition to being an essential pillar for the stability and economy of the country, Latinos are the group that creates the largest amount of small businesses. There are around 5 million Latino-owned businesses. While the number of businesses in the country declined from 2007 to 2012, the number of Latino businesses increased by 46%, and it is estimated that Latinos contribute $2.13 billion, which represents 11.8% of GDP, and ultimately shows that we are central to the economic growth of our nation.

4. Labor Rights

Unfortunately, Latino workers continue to be the most vulnerable in the country, particularly undocumented workers, who suffer the highest number of deaths and accidents at work, the highest wage theft, and sadly an increase in sexual harassment in the workplace. As a result of this landscape, Latinos and immigrants have been a central part of national mobilizations and the organization of workers to improve labor rights in the country. For example, the car washers, the day laborers, the farmworkers, the domestic workers, the national movements of service workers and restaurants, and the TimesUp movement among others, have played a central role in advancing a national agenda of labor rights for all workers. At the forefront of this movement are Latinos, Latinas and immigrants.

5. Movement for Immigrant rights

The aggressions against the immigrant community by this administration are countless. During the first days of his term, Trump announced the controversial Muslim ban as well as the termination of DACA, the program that protects the “Dreamers” from deportation. Since that announcement, the future of some 800,000 Dreamers has been uncertain. TPS recipients have also been the target of these attacks by Trump, who in an effort to restrict immigration and increase the number of deportations, canceled the Temporary Protection Program (TPS) for 7 of 13 countries. The controversial wall proposed by Trump on the border with Mexico, culminated in the longest partial closure of government in the history of the country, leaving more than 800,000 federal employees without pay for 35 days.

 

In response, the Dreamers, TPS recipients and the immigrant community have led national organizing campaigns, marches and mobilizations, which have become historic protests in defense of the rights of immigrants and all people. 2019 is the year in which we are exercising power in all spheres, from the streets, to the corridors of Congress.

6. Our Youth and the Future of the Nation

Latino youth represents a plethora of opportunities for our entire nation. We are a community 10 years younger than the national average, which represents many opportunities for an aging country. These figures give a very encouraging picture; they are the future and the present. These numbers translate into votes, civic participation, the creation of jobs, and a tangent change that has already begun to materialize. There has been a growing participation of young Latinos in the country in response to all these attacks, such as the Dreamers, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, who are fighting for gun control, and the case of several national youth movements mobilizing for better working conditions and opportunities in many unions, along with students who have been part of school ‘walkouts’ for a cause, among other examples.

Difficult times and attacks against our community have also presented spaces of opportunity, unity and action, which have been demonstrated in the last two years.This year, we continue playing a central role in our own future, being an element of hope in creating a nation that has a more inclusive and representative democracy, and that reflects the diversity and priorities of all communities, in addition to projecting a clear vision for the 2020 elections.

 

 

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Our vote, our choice, our future. Let’s not take it for granted

In Medium

 

I am an American Citizen, a Latino, an immigrant, and I voted for the first time in this mid-term election. I am not alone. With a myriad of issues deeply affecting our nation, including the increase in hateful rhetoric and violence, constant attacks against minorities, communities across this country should flex their electoral muscle. With the increased anxiety over voter turnout, it is clear that my vote and the votes of other minorities are critical to this November’s outcome.

Voting is personal. It is one of the most direct ways to engage in the democratic process as it is an instrument central to advancing our democracy by injecting our diverse voices and values. I am not taking my vote for granted; no one should take voting for granted. When we look at the history of our nation, we have had leaders and communities that fought hard and even died for this precious right. Until 1920, after a lengthy and serious struggle, women attainted voting rights with the passage of the 19th amendment. African Americans could not fully vote until the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting and ended practices that had denied African Americans the right to vote. Due to poll tax and voter suppression, most Latinos could not vote until the VRA of 1965 but more importantly until its reauthorization in 1975. Asian Americans could not vote until 1952 because of a federal policy that barred immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and having access to the right to vote[1]. And the Native American vote was not granted in all states until 1957.

In 2017, I became a U.S. citizen. It was not an easy process; it took me 25 years to be able to attain this right. I was eager to be fully part of society by going to the polls, in the country in which I had lived for most of my life. I promised myself to be a strong civic participant by voting in every single election and to make my voice heard for countless others who cannot participate. I also vowed to continue advocating to make this a better and more inclusive democracy by keep fighting voter suppression and to maintain pressure through all our democratic infrastructures to ensure that all the voices in this nation are taken into account.

Yet, almost half of the voting eligible population do not vote: about 60% in a presidential election vote and 40 percent vote during midterm elections[2]. As a country we have some of the lowest voter turnouts in national elections among developed democracies. According to the Pew Research Center, the United States ranks 26th out of 32 nations for the percentage of people eligible to vote who actually vote. Only 55.7 % of voting-eligible Americans went to the polls in the last presidential election, this could help explain why a person with no qualifications to be President got elected[3]. Elections have consequences.

There could be many reasons to explain low turn out, from voter suppression that make it harder for minorities to participate, to the limitations of working families with more than one job to find time to go to the polls. And, we are fighting to make it easier for everyone to be able to vote. Voter apathy is yet another reason the low turnouts in elections.

With this election, we can finally reverse low turnout and we can help define the destiny of our nation by turning out in large numbers. Political apathy is not an option when so much is at risk. This midterm is a clear referendum on Donald Trump, whose extremist and divisive policies have drastically divided our nation in only two years. Our nation’s historical pillars of justice and economic advancement, which took decades to build to make more diverse, are under attack in this administration. Precious rights such as citizenship (14th amendment), freedom of speech, religious freedoms are on the line. And there are ongoing efforts to limit the rights for LGBTQ communities, immigrants, Muslims and other minorities.

There is no doubt that voting has an impact in the quality of life of our families and communities. In fact, there is a direct correlation between voting and the attention that we receive from politicians in the decision making process, such as investment in our neighborhoods. The more people we have in our communities voting, the more pressure we can put on elected officials. Voting is also important because there could be ballot initiatives that are central for the well being of our cities.

I am optimistic about this election. I have been traveling across this nation and collaborating in voter registration efforts, voter education and getting out the vote. I am enthusiastic about the excitement that I have witnessed. And the initial numbers reflect this, for example in 22 states voters are outpacing 2014 early ballot counts[4]. We also see good news from millennials, a Harvard poll found that this election would be the highest midterm turnout for young voters in at least 32 years[5]. According to Pew research, there is a 14% increase in Latino registered voter interest in the 2018 midterms as compared with the 2014 midterms and also voter enthusiasm is surging among Latinos[6].

Let’s not take our right to vote for granted. On November 6th, we have a choice. We can stay on the sidelines and let others decide our future with the potential to continue to take this nation down a dark and dangerous path for our democracy. Or we can come out in massive numbers to elect leaders who reflect our vision, values and above all hope for this nation. We can choose to prioritize our families, working people and to protect the middle class. The choice is ours. A votar.

[1] https://www.advancingjustice-aajc.org/report/50-years-voting-rights-act-asian-american-perspective

[2] https://www.fairvote.org/voter_turnout#voter_turnout_101

[3] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/21/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/02/us/politics/early-voting.html

[5] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/10/new-poll-suggests-historic-midterm-youth-turnout/574141/

[6] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-latinos/ready-for-a-fight-voter-enthusiasm-surges-among-u-s-hispanics-idUSKCN1N90AS

 

 

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What Trump’s First Year in Office Has Meant for Latinos, and Why We’re Ready for the Second Year

In Medium

 

It’s been one year since Donald Trump’s inauguration, but to many Latinos, the fear, frustration, and abhorrence incited by his administration has made it feel a lot longer than 365 days.

A year ago, Trump’s own contradictory comments on various issues, such as immigration and the fate of the Affordable Care Act, made many wonder whether he’d really be as bad we initially predicted. Alas, the past twelve months have proven our worst fears true.

When confronted with a choice of policy options, Trump has repeatedly chosen the path most detrimental to communities of color and working families. Consistent with the tone with which he launched his campaign, when he denigrated Latin American immigrants, Trump moved swiftly after his inauguration to advance a white supremacist agenda.

Trump’s opening salvo included executive orders to expand the grounds for deportation to every undocumented immigrant, enhance the role of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement, punish sanctuary jurisdictions, and ban Muslims from entering the country. The deportation in February of an Arizona mother, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, for nothing more than a decade-old minor offense of using a fake social security number so she could work to support her two children, signaled the ominous direction in which the new president was steering the federal government’s deportation apparatus.

In September, the Trump administration ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and since then has announced the termination of Temporary Protected Status for those from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan — all places that Trump offensively referred to last week as “s — hole” countries.” Trump has also cut refugee admissions in half and has endorsed legislation that would cut legal immigration.

The message is clear: the Trump administration will do nothing to help people who aren’t white. It’s no surprise that his response to Puerto Ricans struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria has been lackluster, to say the least.

Meanwhile, as outrageous tweets attracted popular attention and ire, the machinery of Trump’s administration quietly dismantled regulations across a broad swath of federal policy. These actions are putting our drinking water at risk of contamination, keeping overtime pay out of reach of millions of hard-working people, putting obstacles in the way of accessing quality health care, and increasing mass incarceration.

With the complicity of his allies in Congress, Trump is transforming the judiciary to serve the most powerful and be less diverse, and making the super rich even richer. While the tax bill he signed before Christmas is a gift to the wealthy, it will result in tax increases on 70 percent of Latino familiesby 2027.

In addition to all these public policy decisions, Trump has abused the bully pulpit of the presidency. From his refusal to rebuke the white supremacists that marched in Charlottesville, to his pardon of the virulently anti-immigrant former sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and his recent vulgarities about non-white immigrants, Trump has continuously sent dog whistles to the extreme fringe on the right of American society.

Despite these setbacks and insults, there are reasons for Latinos to be hopeful. While we endured an unprecedented assault on our community during the past year, we did not go unheard. Just as we stood with other communities when they were attacked, we did not stand alone, as exemplified by the rally that the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) held in front of the White House to launch Latino Heritage Month in September, where national Latino leaders were joined in solidarity by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, African Americans, women of all races, and representatives of the LGBTQ, labor, and environmental movements.

The Latino community is organizing and coalescing. NHLA, the coalition of the nation’s leading Latino advocacy organizations, has grown in the past year and is more united than ever. Young Latinos from across the country are bringing extraordinary determination and leadership to the front lines of the current struggle to pass the Dream Act. Latino attorneys are leading legal challenges to discriminatory policies, from our legal defense organizations like MALDEF and LatinoJustice, to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Latinas are running for office and winning, epitomized by Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman, who became the first Latinas ever elected to Virginia’s state legislature.

We look at the year ahead with trepidation, but thanks to the strength within our community, and the solidarity of our allies, Latinos are feeling less fearful. We know the tide will turn, not on its own, but by our making.

 
 

 

Four Reasons Why The Republican Tax Bill is a Disaster for Latinos

In Huffpost

 

While we continue to push for the Dream Act before the end of the year and the extension of Temporary Protected Status, we cannot lose sight of a major threat facing the Latino community and the nation.

Both chambers of Congress have passed far-reaching legislation to overhaul our federal tax system. While the House and Senate each passed different bills, they’re the same in their overall impact: massive tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy, while eliminating tax deductions used by the middle class, harming Puerto Rico, and setting the stage for cuts to the federal anti-poverty programs that help struggling families make ends meet. Latinos face four devastating impacts should this legislation be signed into law.

First, the tax overhaul worsens income inequality, which matters because the less that wealth is spread out across the population, the larger the number of people struggling to get by.

And yet, Congressional Republicans are preparing to send legislation to the president’s desk that will make the wealthiest one percent and big corporations even richer, while making millions of working families and those struggling with poverty even worse off. Under the Senate Republicans’ bill, up to 11.7 million Latino families earning less than $75,000 a year would be hit with a tax increase within the next decade—that’s 70 percent of Latinos in the United States. For its part, the House plan would leave 8.5 million Latino children’s low-income families worse off by making it harder or impossible to claim the Child Tax Credit. Latino-owned businesses wouldn’t fare much better, with an estimated four in five getting a negligible gain of 0.3 percent in after tax revenue while big corporations, hedge funds, and real estate developers would reap billions of dollars in benefits.

Never in our lifetime has there been a single piece of legislation that does more to exacerbate income inequality.

Second, the tax bill includes an attack on the Affordable Care Act and will increase insurance premiums and result in 13 million more people being uninsured.

The Senate bill included repeal of the individual mandate, which requires people to have health insurance or else pay a tax penalty. The House is expected to accept this provision in a final compromise bill. While no one likes a tax penalty, repealing the mandate provides no incentive for younger and healthier workers, who may not think they need health insurance, to purchase coverage on the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. This will leave behind an older and likely sicker pool of customers for insurers to cover, driving up insurance premiums for everyone else.

This isn’t sound policy, but just the latest attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, on top of the detrimental actions President Trump already took earlier this year. Together, these steps will significantly erode the gains Latinos have made thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which resulted in 4.2 million Latinos obtaining health insurance coverage, and which brought the Latino uninsured rate to a record low of 16.2 percent.

Third, the tax bill would harm an already devastated Puerto Rico.

Provisions Congress is currently considering would treat Puerto Rico as a foreign country for tax purposes, creating a disincentive for corporations to keep their manufacturing facilities on the island. These provisions would decimate the manufacturing industry in Puerto Rico, leading to an estimated loss of 170,000 jobs and a quarter of the Puerto Rican government’s revenues. Puerto Rico is still reeling from a fiscal crisis and struggling to return to normal life after Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Rather than cripple Puerto Rico’s recovery, Congress should expand access to refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, helping families provide for their children and stay on the island.

Fourth, the Republican tax overhaul adds $1.4 trillion to the federal budget deficit, putting a squeeze on funding for important domestic priorities that grow the middle class.

Despite spending the past eight years railing against the budget deficit, Republicans are about to blow an even larger hole in the federal budget, and they want the poor and working families to pay the price. House Speaker Paul Ryan has announced that he plans to put Medicaid, Medicare, and anti-poverty programs on the chopping block in 2018 in order to close the deficit. For Latinos, this would be a disaster. Medicaid alone provides health coverage for 18 million Latinos. Cutting nutrition programs jeopardizes access to affordable food for 10 million Latinos. Cuts to housing, nutrition, and income support programs that help families make ends meet will put millions of Latinos at risk of falling into poverty. A larger deficit will also put pressure on education funding priorities, meaning we’ll likely see cuts to funding for public schools, Head Start (which provides early childhood education to 400,000 Latino children), and Pell Grants (which provides financial aid to 1.8 million Latino college students)

The pain of Republicans’ reckless tax policy will be felt most acutely by our children. Budget cuts to education and health programs, tax policies that make their families worse off, and a ballooning national debt that their generation will have to pay off, will make it more difficult for today’s youth to achieve the American Dream that their parents envisioned for them. This is why the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda has opposed these tax plans and will work to ensure that those Members of Congress who advance this disastrous policy will be held accountable. The tax debate has made it clear that too many of our elected representatives are putting the interests of wealthy elites ahead of the American people. In a democracy, there’s a price to pay for that.

 

 

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Inadequate Federal Response To Maria Threatens Puerto Rico’s Long-Term Recovery

In Huffpost

 

Two months after the strongest storm in 80 years hit Puerto Rico, life is anything but normal for 3.4 million American citizens. The living conditions they face are substandard and unacceptable for a wealthy nation such as the US. A significant portion (57 percent) of the population is still without electrical power, one in 10 people lack running water at home, and 15 percent of gas stations remain closed.

At the same time, water-borne diseases are on the rise. Public health experts warn that the Zika virus may make a comeback and that if conditions do not improve very soon, diseases common in developing countries, such as dengue or cholera, will threaten the health of Puerto Ricans.

 

Having endured three destructive hurricanes within a month, it is understandable that FEMA is stretched thin, but it is not clear why our government has not responded decisively after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Our nation possesses the resources, technology, and logistical prowess to rebuild Puerto Rico, yet our government has not shown the sense of urgency, creativity, or flexibility needed to deal with this humanitarian catastrophe. The most recent example is the Trump administration’s supplemental budget request for disaster relief, submitted to Congress on Friday, which falls short of providing the help Puerto Rico needs now.

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) issued ten recommendations to President Trump and Congress for addressing the humanitarian crisis facing the island. Since then, little progress on those recommendations has been made. We welcome Congressional approval of $36.5 billion for FEMA to respond to recent natural disasters and the administration’s decision to direct FEMA to cover 90 percent of public infrastructure reconstruction, rather than the typical 75 percent. These developments will help make a difference, but the devastation on the island is so severe that much more work remains to be done.

The list of needs is only growing. Many Puerto Ricans have left the island, with an estimated 143,000 having arrived in Florida alone thus far. It is estimated that the exodus to the mainland will be around 470,335 by 2019. In addition to rebuilding infrastructure and helping those on the island meet their basic needs, the federal government also needs to be assisting state and local authorities and community organizations to ensure that those individuals who have come to the mainland are connected to health and social services, and that children are enrolled in school.

While the needs are growing, the political will to act must not falter. Some in Congress and the Trump administration are demanding offsets―that any dollars spent on recovery come from cuts to other federal programs. This runs contrary to the traditional approach of responding to emergencies as emergencies. And it is bitterly ironic that those members of Congress who demand offsets to help their fellow Americans regain electrical power and running water, do not make such demands when it comes to giving away tax cuts to the wealthy. Majorities in both chambers of Congress have voted to balloon our nation’s deficit by $1.5 trillion for tax cuts. It is unconscionable that they would then refuse to come up with the estimated $70 billion needed to rebuild Puerto Rico.

In contrast, it is heartening that Members of Congress from both parties are visiting Puerto Rico to view the damage, and we’ve heard supportive statements from Republicans and Democrats alike. It is encouraging to see the growing traction among these leaders that a response comparable to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Western Europe after World War II is the only realistic way to rebuild Puerto Rico. One can only hope that these sentiments will prevail and that Members of Congress will act on NHLA’s recommendation to provide Puerto Rico with full funding for relief and recovery that takes the realities of climate change into account so that Puerto Rico and its ecosystem will be resilient in the face of future storms. Congress should also lift the caps on Medicaid funding to the island’s residents so that they have access to healthcare, and approve a Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program to rebuild homes, provide temporary housing, and repair infrastructure.

More immediately, President Trump can make a difference by revising his latest disaster relief funding request to Congress to include more aid for Puerto Rico, deploying more military personnel and equipment so that Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan has all the tools he needs for the recovery effort, extending the FEMA deadline for filing disaster relief claims, and waiving matching requirements for FEMA disaster assistance programs beyond 180 days as recovery from a disaster of this magnitude will take longer than six months to accomplish. Furthermore, it is the duty of Congress to act swiftly before Thanksgiving and ensure that our fellow American citizens receive equal treatment.

Puerto Ricans have been struggling and are doing all they can, under harsh conditions, to rebuild their island with the little they have. International and domestic nonprofit organizations are responding by providing services. The Puerto Rican diaspora is collecting and shipping relief supplies from every state of the nation. Volunteers from the mainland have traveled to the island to help, and Americans across the country have donated money. Americans’ solidarity with the island is clear, as demonstrated by last weekend’s Puerto Rico Unity March on the National Mall. Now more than ever, we need national leadership that sets aside politics, to step up to the challenge and dedicate the resources, talent, and vision to help Puerto Rico rebuild and fully recover. It is not too late, but we must act quickly to avert an even greater disaster that could impact Puerto Rico’s future for generations

 

 

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Trump’s early and devastating impact on Latino community

In The Boston Globe

 

It is not surprising that, in his first 100 days in office, President Trump has pursued a divisive agenda targeting refugees and immigrants, kicking people off their health insurance, exacerbating destruction of our environment, and slashing funding for investments in programs that grow the economy and the middle class.

Without any respite, Trump has set out to accomplish what he promised on the campaign trail. The nativist rhetoric and myopic policy views expressed before the election have seamlessly become the new administration’s road map. And the Latino population, alongside other minorities, is bearing the brunt of this administration’s harsh and inhumane policies. In an analysis of the Trump administration’s first 100 days released by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of the nation’s 46 leading Latino advocacy organizations, it is obvious that this administration’s priorities contradict most of the Latino priorities.

On immigration, he surrounded himself with the most extremist anti-immigrant voices and advisers in the White House. His executive orders serve as a vehicle for repeating his rhetoric about building a wall on the southern border, expanding the number of Border Patrol agents, and constructing new detention centers. While implementing these measures will require Congress to pass legislation, the executive orders have already expanded enforcement priorities to encompass nearly every undocumented immigrant by classifying minor infractions as serious crimes. The attorney general has directed increased criminal prosecution of immigrants, and immigration enforcement agents have detained people without restraint, whether across the street from a church, right in front of a school, or at courthouse steps.

These actions were deliberately taken to create fear within the Latino and immigrant communities around the country. Fear has driven families to withdraw their children from school and health services and women to stop reporting domestic and sexual abuse. Further fueling the fear are increased hate crimes and racial profiling against immigrants and other minorities, by perpetrators emboldened by the rhetoric and actions of this administration.

Our access to health care has been under threat as well. The Trump administration’s spectacular failure to garner congressional support for a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is likely only a temporary reprieve from this administration’s determination to kick 24 million Americans off of health insurance. Once again, this policy would have a disproportionate impact on Latinos. Thanks to that law, 4.2 million Latinos gained health coverage, cutting our uninsured rate nearly in half, from 30.7 percent to 16.2 percent.

Even without repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration has been able to make administrative changes to chip away at access to health services and signed a law that would let states take away women’s reproductive health services and cancer screenings.

The administration’s attacks don’t end with the high-profile issues of immigration and health.

On the environment, Trump signed an executive order to end actions to reduce climate change, including gutting the Clean Power Plan, ceasing the government’s litigation of climate-related cases, and removing public health regulations. On the civil rights front, the Trump administration is reversing policies to protect minority voting rights. On education, the Trump administration has proposed cutting the Department of Education’s budget by 13 percent and eliminating funding for after-school programs that have played a critical role in bringing down the Latino dropout rate. And for workers, he has proposed slashing job training programs and revoked the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace executive order, which protected federal contractors’ employees from discrimination and banned forced arbitration for sexual harassment cases.

These actions show a wanton disregard for the well-being and future of Latinos, women, people of color, and vulnerable communities in this country. We know that many more hundreds of days are yet to come. To protect Latinos and other communities that are being targeted, we will continue to make our voices heard. At a time when we are under attack, our community is responding by continually organizing and demonstrating the potency of civic action. We are also working with allies to fight for policies that are fair, just, inclusive, and reflective of this country’s diversity. The collective power of our vote is more decisive than ever, and we will continue engaging to ensure greater voter registration, voter education, voter turnout, voter protection, citizenship drives, and civic participation on the local, state, and national levels. We will also continue to hold elected officials accountable. Through collective action, we can ensure that our future and the future of our nation are not in jeopardy or left in dangerous hands.
 

5 Things Congress Should Do To Protect Consumers

In Huffpost

 

During this National Consumer Protection Week, it’s especially worth remembering that the last thing any worker needs when working two or more jobs to make ends meet, is to be ripped off by predatory loans or “gotcha” fees charged by lenders, banks, or credit card companies. And what workers need even less is a Congress that weakens the very agency that’s standing up to those big financial interests.

One of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda’s (NHLA) key policy priorities is to economically empower Latino workers and families. This cannot be accomplished without strong safeguards to protect hard-working people’s incomes from being siphoned off by predatory lenders.

Abusive financial practices add up to big bucks. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, the fees associated with payday and car title loans cost workers in America nearly $8 billion per year. For Latinos, the impact is even greater. In the lead up to the Great Recession, financial institutions steered Latino families into subprime loans, even when those families could have qualified for a conventional loan. This led to higher default rates, foreclosures, and an evisceration of two-thirds of Latinos’ household wealth.

With these facts in mind, it is unconscionable that certain members of Congress have proposed to undermine the one agency that effectively protects consumers from predatory financial practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), created in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law as a response to the financial crisis that triggered the Great Recession, has been instrumental in curbing unfair and deceptive practices.

In less than six years since opening its doors, the CFPB has already curbed several unfair and deceptive practices in the financial marketplace, bringing transparency to the remittance industry, stopping credit card companies from adding on products that consumers never agreed to, and requiring mortgage lenders to ask applicants for proof of their income before making home loans. These actions have helped put Latino families, and all Americans, on a path to greater financial security.

Despite the gains consumers have experienced thanks to the CFPB’s actions, efforts are underway to rip the teeth out of the CFPB and turn it into a weak agency that cannot stand up to the financial industry. This would once again leave everyday workers and consumers at the mercy of big financial businesses.

To ensure Latinos, and all Americans, do not lose the only federal agency entrusted to protect the interests of consumers, we urge Members of Congress to do five things to maintain the CFPB as the strong consumer watchdog that we all need.

 
  1. Defend Director Richard Cordray and avoid attempts to remove him before his term expires: A challenge to Director Cordray’s authority is a challenge to the consumer agency itself. The Director’s willingness to stand up to Wall Street titans is exactly the kind of leadership consumers need, and voters overwhelming support the agency’s work. A 2016 poll found that three-in-four voters support tougher rules to address the unscrupulous practices that caused the financial crisis.
  2. Keep the agency’s single director and oppose efforts to replace it with an ineffective bipartisan commission: If the director’s position were replaced with a commission, the consumer agency would fall into a pattern of gridlock and a chronic unwillingness to challenge the industries it is charged with overseeing. The Comptroller of the Currency, a much larger federal bank regulator, as well as the Federal Housing Finance Agency and Social Security Administration are also headed by single directors.
  3. Resist efforts to shrink the CFPB: If the CFPB were denied the ability to continue growing, or at least maintain, its workforce, the Bureau’s functions would be severely limited.
  4. Preserve the consumer agency’s independent funding and prevent the agency from relying on annual congressional appropriations: If Congress were to fund the consumer agency each year, bank lobby interests would encourage the use of the appropriations process to starve the CFPB of the funds needed to do its job. The prudential regulators—the Department of the Treasury (the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency), the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation—are all funded independently of the appropriations process to insulate themselves from political pressure by the very entities they are designed to regulate, the banking industry.
  5. Maintain the consumer complaint database: Eliminating the consumer complaint database would cripple the agency’s ability to protect consumers by collecting, monitoring, and responding to complaints. The CFPB sends thousands of consumers’ complaints each week to companies for response, handling more than 1 million total complaints as of January 2017.

This National Consumer Protection Week, join me in calling on Congress to allow the CFPB to continue its important work on behalf of consumers, and thus preserve opportunities for Latino families, and all Americans, to build and maintain wealth for this generation and the next.