trump_small_biz1

What’s next for Latinos’ priorities under a Trump administration?

In The Hill

 

President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress was consternating to say the least.  The new president delivered a message to the American people mostly at odds with his actions since taking office. The lofty rhetoric, which harkened back to his less divisive predecessors, fell flat with anyone who’s had a hard-working family member deported, faces the prospect of losing affording health care, or has watched the president appoint individuals with uncompromising anti-immigrant and xenophobic views to key policy positions that will impact our daily lives.

The Trump administration poses a clear challenge for Latino advocacy organizations that have a long history of engaging policymakers, on both sides of the political aisle, to advance the best interests of our community and the nation as a whole.  The president campaigned on the most anti-immigrant platform of any successful presidential candidate in over five decades and, throughout his campaign, refused to engage in a dialogue with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), the coalition of the nation’s 40 leading Latino advocacy organizations.

If the president was at all sincere when he called for unity and cooperation in his address to Congress, then his administration will need to boldly move beyond the timid conversations it has had with selected Latino leaders, or the hints dropped to news anchors, and move toward a broader, earnest two-way discussion directly with our community about how to address Latino priorities. This was the type of dialogue NHLA repeatedly invited then-candidate Trump to engage in during last year’s campaign, but which he refused to do.

Some have asked if we need to change our priorities to appeal to the new president.  Our answer to that is clearly no.  Latino priorities do not change based on who is in power. Our priorities reflect our community’s understanding of the challenges we face and how to build a better future for ourselves and America as a whole.

Those of us who believe in constructive dialogue will continue to make an effort, in whatever way we can, to minimize the negative impact of policies such as moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act or increase deportations.  We know that any effort to have a dialogue cannot succeed if done in isolation.  The energy and vigor of our community, speaking out across the country in rallies and at town halls, will be critically important.

We will continue to fight against any policies which marginalize and adversely target Latinos.  In the coming weeks, months, and years, you will see us:

– Advocate for expanded job training opportunities, increased retirement security, and advocate against rolling back labor protections, worker rights and workplace health and safety regulations and enforcement. For Latinos, who are more likely to work in high-fatality industries, this can literally be a matter of life or death.

– Oppose any effort to weaken the enforcement of rules that protect consumers from getting ripped off by predatory lenders, fraud, or other unfair practices.

– On education, we will continue to demand the best for our kids by holding government accountable for improving the academic progress of all students in our public schools, especially those who are learning English, the children of migrant workers, and others who are too often overlooked.

– On immigration, NHLA has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino views expressed by this president, which have already resulted in increased hate crimes and harassment. We oppose the president’s policies to tear families apart and expand the use of for-profit detention facilities. Instead, we will continue our push for immigration reform.

– Knowing that government works best when it draws on the strength of our nation’s diversity, we will continue to push for greater representation of Latinos and especially Latinas, at all levels of government.

– We will not waver from advocating for everyone’s civil rights, including those at the intersection of being Latino and LGBTQ, and we will vigorously defend our voting rights.

– We will continue to oppose efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has provided affordable health insurance to 4.2 million Latinos. We will defend Medicaid and the right of Latinas to obtain comprehensive quality reproductive healthcare and exercise their reproductive freedom.

– We will resist efforts to weaken enforcement of our environmental laws or protection of our public lands.

The road ahead may be headed uphill, but the strength and energy of our community should not be discounted. Our work continues to make America a better place for all and our active civic participation is at the center of these efforts.

Latina Equal Pay Day: Women’s Campaigns For Economic Justice Go On After Election Day

The Huffpost

 

Latina Equal Pay Day 2016 is Tuesday, November 1. This Day of Action commemorates the fact that Latinas are paid 54 cents on the dollar to while, male workers in similar jobs. November 1 marks the 11 additional months that the average Latina trabajadora would have to work to get paid what the while, male worker would in just one year.

On Latina Equal Pay Day, my organization, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), will get out the facts, raise our voices, and mobilize Latino labor leaders around the country for action. This Day of Action will include a public Town Hall event with our partners at the AFL-CIO, at 6:30PM ET on November 1, which will also be livestreamed on LCLAA’s facebook page for a national audience. The gathering will be preceded by a Twitter Storm on the vital issue of Equal Pay and closing the gendered Wage Gap at 2PM ET on November 1, using the hashtags #LatinaEqualPay and #Trabajadoras. Follow @LCLAA on twitter to get plugged in, or go to latinaequalpay.org
to find great resources and guidance on how to support the campaign.

These Latina Equal Pay Day events are part of LCLAA’s Trabajadoras campaign, which aims to elevate the issues facing the most vulnerable workers, Latinas, including immigrants without legal status. We know that the employer blackmail that is currently enabled by our broken immigration system is a major contributor to the wage gap, because immigrant trabajadoras face the greatest gendered wage gap among women.

With all of the discussion in this year’s presidential campaign of inequality and women’s empowerment in the face of enduring, shocking sexism, Equal Pay is a cause whose time has come. And for activists looking beyond the election for movements that can build on the amazing strides we have made in pushing progressive economic solutions onto the table for discussion, Equal Pay connects to a full array of ongoing campaigns that we can all directly engage with and support well beyond election day.

The following is a list of issue campaigns on topics which rightly should be in the election conversation, with candidates responding to these concerns and offering progressive solutions. At the same time, on-the-ground activism and issue-based electoral engagement are two complementary activities that can contribute to building strong movement for gender equity.

Here are some campaigns dealing with issues related to the Wage Gap, and the intersection of economic inequality with women’s labor rights and social empowerment. If you aren’t hearing them addressed, demand a response! Letters to the editor, online comments, and social media directed at candidates are all ways that you can make our candidates and elected officials discuss these real issues.

I hope you will join LCLAA and AFL-CIO for our Latina Equal Pay Day event online, go in-depth at latinaequalpay.org and, most importantly, connect with a an ongoing, movement campaign for economic justice for women and all workers that moves you, in your community.

Together, we will end economic discrimination against Latinas and all women, and achieve economic justice for all.

Equal Pay
Equal Pay Today Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union

Equal Pay Today works in coalition to leverage the expertise, network, and resources of its state projects and roundtable organizations to close the gender wage gap across the United States.”

The campaign’s vision includes: Compliance with existing laws, eliminating the gendered wage gap, transparency in pay without retaliation, fair overtime pay, an end to wage theft, and Family-Forward human resources policies that protect and support all workers.

Wage Transparency
Equal Pay Campaign, Restaurant Opportunities Center

Pay secrecy often prevents workers from discovering and taking action against wage discrimination. The “Wage Transparency Amendment Act” would increase pay equity and transparency by prohibiting retaliation against employees for discussing their wages and eliminating wage non-disclosure agreements, or so-called “pay secrecy” policies.

Living Wage
#FightFor15, Fight for 15

The Fight for a $15 minimum wage has rightly been called the civil rights movement of our time, and has grown into an international movement in over 300 cities on six continents of fast-food workers, home health aides, child care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees – and underpaid workers everywhere. (Also see “Tipped Minimum Wage” and “One Fair Wage” campaign from Restaurant Opportunities Center, below!)

TIPPED Minimum Wage
One Fair Wage Campaign, Restaurant Opportunities Center

Did you know that tipped workers are paid a separate, lower minimum wage? It’s $2.13 an hour at the federal level, a rate that hasn’t changed since 1991. That’s bad enough, but the tipped minimum wage is especially unjust and harmful for women worker. Because they are dependent on customer tips for the vast bulk of their wages, women workers are often forced to tolerate sexual harassment and even assault while they work.

Sexual Harassment
Hands Off, Pants On Campaign , UNITEHERE
In order to better understand the experience of women working in Chicagoland hotels and casinos, UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, pioneered a program to survey nearly 500 women. The study reveals that 58% of hotel workers and 77% of casino workers surveyed have been sexually harassed by a guest. Sexual harassment and assault are gendered oppression, and clear workplace safety threats.

 

 

gettyimages-2486156

For representative government, America needs Latino leaders

In The Hill

 

The generation that is coming of age during the Obama presidency knows a world where an African-American man was nominated to be the leader of the most powerful country in the world, twice. They know a world where a woman was nominated for president and could become the first female president of the United States. Truly, these are historic times.

While their respective successes speak to our country’s progress, the Latino community still has a long way to go to achieve equal representation. Latinos represent 17 percent of the population, but we make up only 8 percent of federal government employees, and approximately 1 percent of elected officials. We are severely underrepresented in top government positions, including in political appointments at all levels.

At a time when there is so much vitriol in American politics, it is more important than ever to create pathways for promising leaders to rise above and help us navigate these unsteady times, while honoring the experiences of Latinos all across the country. Because — and perhaps in spite of — all this vitriol, we’ve got a lot of work to do. Thankfully, we have a solid groundwork of ideas to help us start.

First, we must invest in the vehicles to support existing leaders in our community while looking to the future to develop a stronger pipeline. We want to make sure that the roadblocks facing our current leaders aren’t in the way of building on the progress made over the last eight years.

There is no doubt that this year’s election is one of the most consequential in modern history, and the Latino community has the power to elect our next president. But the Latino community also has the opportunity to help shape and drive the next president’s policy agenda and proposals day in and day out by serving as part of their administration.

Too often we’ve heard the excuse of not being able to find talented Latino candidates who can represent us in all levels of government and political power.

Which is why three years ago, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) launched the Latino Appointments Program, to address the extreme underrepresentation of Latinos in appointed positions in the Executive Branch, and at state and federal levels.

We fundamentally believe that our government must reflect the diversity of the people it serves. When people of all backgrounds contribute their diverse experiences and perspectives in the service of our nation, the result is better government — and better lives — for everyone.

With the exception of NHLA’s Latino Appointments Program, there has been no other effort fully funded as a stand-alone program whose primary mission is to recruit and recommend Hispanic talent on such a large scale.

This year, Latino Victory Foundation and NHLA joined forces based on our shared values and goals of increasing Latino political power.

Together, we will identify and nominate Hispanic candidates for incoming political appointments and positions in other sectors through the Latino Talent Initiative. Building upon the groundwork of NHLA’s Latino Appointments Program and expertise, the new partnership will work proactively to streamline the process for Latinos interested in appointed positions in the next administration.

Along with advocates, corporate partners, and strong networks of senior leaders, the Latino Talent Initiative will be working to identify, recruit, and encourage Latinos to submit their applications to ensure Latino voices are represented at all levels of government, including the highest positions within the administration.

The Initiative will build on NHLA’s process, modeled after other successful programs such as the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, whose program has been successful in increasing the number of LGBTQ appointees. Interested candidates can learn more here.

At a time when our community is constantly under attack, it is more important than ever that Latinos participate; not just civically and electorally but through public service. We need more and stronger Latino voices in government, as elected officials, as appointees, and as staff at all levels. Only then will our community be truly represented within government, and our experience, ideas, and needs addressed.

Blanco is the interim director of Latino Victory Foundation and Sanchez is the chair of National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. The Latino Talent Initiative (LTI) recently launched as an effort to identify talented Latino candidates for administration appointments.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 28: Mexican immigrant Nieves Ojendiz holds her 4-year old daughter Jane as she attends an immigration reform rally with members and supporters of the New York Immigration Coalition, June 28, 2016 in New York City, New York. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 decision concerning President Barack ObamaÕs immigration plan, which would have protected millions of undocumented immigrants from being deported. Because the Supreme Court was split, a 2015 lower-court ruling invalidating ObamaÕs executive action will stand. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

This Is The Last Chance For Candidates To Discuss An Agenda For Working Families, Especially Latinos

The Huffpost

 

Co-authored by Minor Sinclair, Director of Oxfam America

After the bruising spectacles of the first two presidential debates, which saw an unprecedented level of personal attacks and vitriol, we’d like to suggest a chance of pace before the third and final one, on October 19. Can we please discuss important policy decisions that have the potential to improve the lives of millions of workers and their families?

We’re especially interested in the plight of hard-working Latinos, who, as an ethnic block, are earning the lowest wages in the country. A full 60 percent of Latinos in the U.S. earn under $15 an hour, according to research from Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute. That’s more than 13 million Hispanic workers struggling to get by on near-poverty wages. The numbers are even starker for Latinas, who earn 56 cents compared to the dollar earned by a white man.

At the same time, the Latino population has grown into the largest minority group in the US, and a record number of Latinos (27.3 million) are eligible to vote. Latinos recognize how much they have at stake: Congress and the president can make important policy decisions that would improve the lives of millions of workers and their families.

Latinos do vital work to keep the U.S. economy running at full throttle. They make up 16 percent of the U.S. workforce, many concentrated in sectors like mining, oil and gas, construction, agriculture, food preparation, and elder care. In other words, Latino workers are integral to building, feeding, and fueling this country. But the economy is failing Latino workers: they’re finding it harder to survive on poverty-level wages and keep families afloat.

As leaders of organizations representing millions of voters, we support a new agenda that will give this country’s working poor the first real raise in many years. It rests on four essential policies:

First, raise the federal minimum wage. This simple move would boost incomes for millions, especially Latinos and their families. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for eight years. Working full-time at that wage brings in $290 a week, or $15,080 a year — while the costs of living rise steadily. Since Congress raised the wage in 2007, the cost of food has risen 25 percent: a bag of groceries eats up more of a shrinking dollar.

Second, provide access to earned sick leave. While 46 percent of the private sector workforce lacks access to earned sick leave, among low-wage workers, the figure soars to over 80 percent. Since Latinos are disproportionately represented in the low-wage workforce, they are suffering more than others.

Third, protect the recent expansion of overtime pay. In May, the Obama administration raised the threshold for overtime pay, which enables many workers to receive time and a half for hours worked over 40 per week. Latinos will be among those who benefit most.

Finally, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The credit subsidizes families with low incomes, often lifting them out of poverty; however, it does not benefit workers without children or under age 25. One proposal to expand the EITC could have a positive impact on 13.5 million people.

Our economy has grown dramatically more unequal in recent decades, and the Latino community has felt this acutely. We need to understand that this disparity is the consequence of our political choices — and take action to change it.

After decades of decisions that have resulted in low-wage workers, regardless of race or ethnicity, falling further behind, it’s well past time for our elected officials to support solutions to make the economy work for everyone. The past few decades of deepening inequality make it clear that all workers share a common fate; only by working together can we create a prosperous and more inclusive economy for all.

This agenda is a good start towards raising the wages of millions of workers, helping Latino working families to build a better life, and a stronger nation.

Minor Sinclair is the director of Oxfam America’s program in the U.S.

Immigration Protest

Evaluating Trump’s Immigration Plan: Facts To Bring Down A Wall Of Fiction

In Huffpost

 

In the past few weeks, Donald Trump’s zig-zags on his immigration positions have been dizzying for the public. Because of his unconventional presidential campaign style, he has managed, thus far, to avoid the usual scrutiny and analysis that all candidates normally face. For us in the Latino and immigrant community, his speech in Arizona represents more of the same as we have directly felt the impact of his words for over a year.

With the election nearing, it is about time to look beyond the rhetoric and unravel the truth behind his declarations. In particular, now that Trump has reaffirmed his extreme nativist position on immigration, we have to examine seriously and thoroughly his “10-point plan.” Correlating his statements with reality takes a concerted effort, so let us tackle his points one-by-one.

Before delving into each point, it is important to highlight the overall contribution of immigrants to this country. In fact, studies have shown that immigrants contribute over $700 billion to the U.S. economy each year. In 2011, it amounted to $743 billion in total wage, salary, and business proprietor income. In addition, according to the Brookings Institute, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a small business and three times more likely to file a patent.

Furthermore, contrary to Trump’s assertions and portrayals of immigrants, both documented and undocumented as criminals, there is ample evidence that demonstrates otherwise. In fact, according to the New Yorker’s Eyal Press in his recent article, studies by Harvard sociologist, Robert Sampson, have shown that incidences of crime decrease in neighborhoods with an influx of immigrants. These studies have reported that immigrants contribute to the revitalization of neighborhoods, thereby advancing economic growth and development. Also, immigrant communities are marked by their drive to improve the wellbeing of their families with immigrants focused on economic advancement and educational achievements for their children.

With this context in mind, let us explore the Trump plan.

1. Complete the border wall.

Building a wall in the fashion that Donald Trump envisions along the entire 1,989 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border is not only costly but also highly unrealistic. The Washington Post estimated the cost of an actual physical barrier across the border at more than $25 billion. And, as the BBC reported in its recent story, the plan will mean extension into remote areas, as well as incursion into private lands. These elements will add considerably to the overall expense and only highlight the impracticality of his proposed wall.

It is also worth mentioning, as noted by reporter Todd Miller in his piece, that a significant portion of the border is already covered by remote cameras, drones, watchtowers as well as other forms of human surveillance.

Finally, the central issue is who will pay for the wall. Trump is insisting that he will make Mexico pay for it. But, as verified earlier this month during his visit to Mexico City, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto continues to assert that Mexico will not pay for the wall.

Considering these factors, the wall cannot be seen as a serious policy consideration. The facts demonstrate that it is purely a political ploy and attempt to pander to Trump’s base. After all, it is a powerful hallmark of his campaign that aims to create a culture of division, based on dominance and hate.

2. End “catch-and-release.”

In his speech in Arizona, Trump made very clear that 11 million undocumented immigrants would not have a path to legalization. He added that he would institute immediate and swift deportations. His proposal would end due process for people apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities. Beyond the legal ramifications of his actions, deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in this country would cost an estimated $400 to $600 billion, and harm our economy by reducing our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by nearly $1.6 trillion over the next two decades.

The hateful rhetoric and unending focus on immigrants also has deterred us from the truth that over the years, undocumented workers have contributed up to $300 billion, or nearly 10 percent, of the $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund. Also, granting legal status to undocumented immigrants would cause the U.S. GDP to increase by $1.1 trillion and increase tax revenue by $144 billion over 10 years.

Aside from the substantial economic implications, the deportation of people will tear apart families, separating U.S.-born members from others. The cases of the brave womenin the Berks County, Pennsylvania detention facility make evident the cruelty and illegalityof his proposal.

And Trump’s proposed “touchback” principle, in which undocumented immigrants would need to return to their home country as a condition to regularize their immigration status is not realistic. Current immigration laws do not support reentry for undocumented workers. Families would be separated indefinitely without hope of return or a viable future.

These hardline, inhumane policies will signal a sharp departure from our fundamental principles as a nation of immigrants. We will no longer represent a country of freedom, prosperity and justice for all.

3. Hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and create a Deportation Task Force.
As part of Trump’s proposal to banish all undocumented people, he pledges to create a new deportation task force by hiring 5,000 new border agents. This increased militarization at the border is completely pointless and misdirected.

Immigrants, by all available evidence, are less likely to commit crimes, with one study finding less-educated immigrant men from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador are three to five times less likely to be incarcerated than less-educated native-born men.

Instead of investing in key sectors of our economy and promoting innovation, Trump will focus on the border. It would be far better to invest in our schools, infrastructure, affordable housing, and workforce development.

The border is more secure than ever. In 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol already had a budget of over $11 billion, overseeing a jurisdiction that stretches 100 miles from the border, covering 200 million Americans, and has over 300 video surveillance systems and a dozen drones at its disposal. Trump’s plan is more expansive and calls for greater coverage which invariably will be more costly and divert funding from other critical programs.

4. Block funding for “sanctuary cities.”

This proposal only caters to the anti-immigrant impulses of Trump’s constituency and does not contribute to improving public safety. As the ACLU and others have made clear, “There are NO ‘Sanctuary’ zones free from immigration enforcement.” The attempt to draft local police as ICE officials disregards over 350 cities and counties whose elected officials and police have chosen to limit interaction between federal immigration agencies and local law enforcement in order to build trust and cooperation with immigrant communities. It is a necessary measure to help ensure that immigrant communities view local law enforcement as a partner in combating crime — not as agents out to deport people from their community and tear families apart.

Politicians who want to end community trust agreements are disregarding local police chiefs and sheriffs who know best how to keep their communities safe. Let us not glorify self-proclaimed “law-and-order” candidates, such as Joe Arpaio, who are capitalizing on fear of immigrants as criminals. There are ample studies to demonstrate that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes. Instead of scapegoating immigrants, it is time to focus on combating criminality where it actually exists and improving the economic and social well-being of all Americans.

5. Rescind Obama’s executive orders.

Trump reiterated his opposition to President Obama’s Executive Orders on immigration – DAPA, and proposed expansions to DACA, which are currently tied up in federal courts. His proposed plan will take aim at both. Once again, Trump made clear that he would rescind these actions, thereby threating the future of an estimated 5 million undocumented individually who would benefit from these deferred action policies.

Not surprisingly, Trump did not mention that these executive actions would boost economic output by an estimated 0.4 to 0.9 percent over ten years, corresponding to increases in GDP of $90 billion to $210 billion in 2024.

By targeting DAPA and DACA, Trump demonstrates once again not only his hardline approach to immigration but his complete disregard for the real economic and social implications of his policies.

6. Suspend visas from certain countries.

Trump’s proposed plan also targets immigration quotas and visa processes. In his speech, he called for greater screening of refugees and a suspension of granting visas in certain locations.
In addition, he also noted that he would institute “ideological certification” for all incoming immigrants.

What Trump left out in his speech is that immigrants are a vital force in our society contributing to our economic, social and cultural growth. Furthermore, the acceptance of refugees is not only a key tenet of our international humanitarian obligation as a party to global treaties as well as pledges to safeguard those fleeing from war, famine, and other disasters.

Beyond our international responsibilities, Trump failed to mention that refugees are currently being screened, under the most stringent of vetting processes, in accordance with the U.S. State Department’s guidelines. “Extreme vetting” which Trump calls for is already in place and being undertaken.

Finally, the suspension and reduction in the issuance of visas will not generate greater security for this country. The biased assumption that criminals and those seeking to inflict harm on us will only come from developing countries creates greater vulnerability in our security. It does not account for the fact that Europeans and several other developed nations have easier access to this country through the Visa Waiver Program.

7. Ensure countries take back immigrants the United States deports.

Trump’s demands that other countries take back U.S. deportees is impractical. After all, these countries cannot be treated as if they were sitting governors of U.S. states or former big-city mayors. Without a clear effort to improve this nation’s immigration system and the necessary diplomatic skill, it is highly doubtful that Trump could achieve better or faster results than current U.S efforts with the 23 nations reported to not yet accept U.S. deportees.

8. Complete the biometric entry-exit visa tracking system.

Yet another unfeasible proposal made by Trump is to complete an entry-exit biometric visa system. Currently, almost all non-US citizens (including Legal Permanent Residents) are already processed on entry through the US-VISIT program, managed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), which verifies their identities (narrow exceptions include diplomatic personnel, children under 14 and adults over 79).

Implementation on the exit side is not yet complete and proves to be a complicated, as well as costly, measure without demonstrable proof that it will ensure our security as a nation. Once again, Trump’s proposal will be seen as a symbol of hostility and isolationism from the rest of the world.

9. Continued expenditure on “e-verify.”

Another element of Trump’s plan is to focus more investment into the e-verify program. To date, the e-verify system to confirm work eligibility has been riddled with problemsincluding both false denials and failing to catch legally ineligible workers. Rather than focusing efforts on creating a pathway to legalization and reforms that would benefit so many, Trump is focused on unworkable programs that do not have tangible benefits.

10. Reform legal immigration.

Trump proposes to create a commission to find ways to reduce legal immigration, based on the pretext that immigration is at an all-time high. In fact, the proportion of the U.S. population that are immigrants reached 13.3 percent in 2014, which falls below the high of 14.8 percent in 1890. And net migration with Mexico in recent years actually became negative, meaning more Mexicans are returning to Mexico than entering the U.S.

Above all, Trump’s proposed plan must be viewed as a gross failure to accurately and appropriately address the real issues plaguing the current immigration system. It is a system in desperate need of an overhaul. Without reform, this country is losing the opportunity to reap dividends from immigration that would spur economic growth, innovation, and contribute to the social and cultural development of this nation.

In sum, Trump’s plan does not offer any practical, workable solutions to improve our current immigration system. Instead, with his rhetoric and relentless focus on the alleged criminality of immigrants, he continues to contribute to a dangerous, and divisive atmosphere that portrays immigrants as the new enemy. As a community, we have already witnessed the impact of this extreme anti-Latino, anti-immigrant rhetoric in our neighborhoods. Hate crimes, racial profiling, and bullying against children, have increased in Latino and immigrant communities. Rather than focusing on actual issues and providing substantive solutions, Trump deviates from reality and appears unwilling to offer real solutions. In the end, we are losing time and with this proposed plan, we are losing all hope of a better future for our nation.

 

Supporters of fair immigration reform gather in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, April 18, 2016. The Supreme Court is taking up an important dispute over immigration that could affect millions of people who are living in the country illegally. The Obama administration is asking the justices in arguments today to allow it to put in place two programs that could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation and make them eligible to work in the United States. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Rising Power Of The Latino Vote

In The Huffpost

 

As the presidential campaigns focus on making the most out of the upcoming conventions to catapult them into the general election and toward victory in November, the Latino population, often referred to as the sleeping giant, is stirring. Intent on making its voice heard, reacting to divisive and hateful rhetoric, and growing in numbers, Latinos are a powerful, emerging, political force.

Of the nation’s 58 million Latinos, 28 million are eligible to vote, comprising 12 percent of the country’s eligible voting population. Latino turnout in the last several elections has grown steadily. Figures from the Pew Research Center indicate that 13 million Latinos will cast ballots in 2016, a 17 percent increase from the 2012 election.

But the numbers may turn out to be even higher. With over 66,000 Latinos turning 18 each month, many advocacy groups and community organizations have begun on-the-ground efforts to register, educate, and mobilize voters. And would-be voters seem more motivated than ever. The number of Latinos registering to vote this year is significantly higher than during the last presidential election year. In California, for example, the number of new registrants has doubled compared with 2012. Similar activity in Latino-heavy states such as Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado may end up deciding November’s election.

Beyond voting numbers, there is also an equally potent economic story to be told. Latinos’ purchasing power has grown 70 percent faster than Americans as a whole since the 1980s, and our community is well known for its entrepreneurship. The economic role Latinos play in the nation is another example of why the presidential campaigns should view Latinos as critical constituents whose issues are vital to the nation. We are an integral part of American society and are important economic contributors with a stake in the direction of the country.

Over the course of this election cycle, Latinos have become increasingly active on critical policy issues of concern for all Americans, including economic growth, health, the environment, criminal justice reform, education and other issues central in the national debate. Our community is rapidly emerging as change agents on these issues, in addition to the policy areas where Latinos are best known for making their mark — in immigration, labor and civil rights.

Earlier this year, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 40 prominent Latino advocacy organizations, released its 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda and simultaneously called on the presidential candidates to respond to a questionnaire focused on key issues of concern. The responses of the different campaigns are quite telling. While the two Democratic Party candidates took up the challenge and told uswhere they stand on important issues, the Republican candidates did not. The lack of engagement is disconcerting not only because Latinos have the ability to determine the next president, but also because it signals a jarring disregard for a key constituency that contributes to the economic, social and cultural vitality of this nation.

Latinos are looking for leaders who will understand and respond to our needs. We will not tolerate any hateful rhetoric and will strongly oppose any policies that will adversely affect our community. Both the Republican and Democratic conventions provide an important opportunity for developing a dialogue about the most pressing issues facing Latinos in this country. The leaders of the Latino community will be at both conventions, ready to initiate a dialogue, and we hope that both of the parties will take our concerns seriously. It is time for us to move forward toward a brighter future for Latinos and all Americans.

 

 

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 15: A Puerto Rican flag is left at a makeshift memorial near Orlando Regional Medical Center, down the street from the crime scene at Pulse Nightclub, June 15, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The shooting at Pulse Nightclub, which killed 49 people and injured 53, is the worst mass-shooting event in American history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

What The Orlando Shooting Means For Latino Civil Society

In Huffpost

 

Our immediate thoughts and prayers following the horrific massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando are with victims, survivors and their families. In their faces we see our own, and those of our family members. This attack, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, is hitting the Latino community particularly hard, as most of the victims are LGBTQ Latinos, and have been robbed of their promising futures at such young ages.

What does this devastating attack mean for Latino civil society in America?

First, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who were targeted in this heinous attack. These are members of our families, schools, and communities. The loss of LGBTQ lives is everyone’s loss, and our entire community is acutely feeling the pain of the Orlando attack. Accordingly, the response from the Latino community has been unequivocal, as witnessed by our coalition member organizations and by the big number of national and local organizations in Orlando that immediately organized to provide support to family members and the broader community.

Second, we welcome the sympathy that Muslims across America have shown, whether by expressing their condolences publicly, praying for the victims, or donating blood to help save the survivors. We will stand by our Muslim friends and reject any effort to use an attack on one community to justify attacks on another.

Whether we call this a hate crime or an act of terrorism, or anything else, this attack has further shaken the sense of safety among LGBTQ people across the country, especially LGBTQ people of color, who have already had to endure decades of homophobic and transphobic attacks, police brutality, and indifference or outright hostility from political leadership and many different sources. This is especially acute for LGBTQ Latinos today, as they face the threat of rising rates of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, homophobic and transphobic hate crimes. Further undermining any sense of safety, the Orlando attack happened in the middle of Pride Month, and in a space that is normally a sanctuary for those who have few places to freely be themselves.

Finally, we must reaffirm our commitment to undoing the legacies of homophobia and transphobia by embracing our LGBTQ family members through our own advocacy work. The tragic events in Orlando underscore how critical it is for our community to address the needs of LGBTQ Latinos in the nation in a stronger way.

Earlier this year, The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda unveiled its quadrennial Hispanic Public Policy Agenda, explicitly including more LGBTQ policy priorities than ever before. These priorities cover the specific health challenges facing LGBTQ Latinos and the need to address them. They call for protecting LGBTQ Latinos from employment discrimination. They demand reforms to improve the safety of LGBTQ immigrants facing detention, such as alternatives to detention and respecting individuals’ gender identity. In the criminal justice system, our priorities call for improved data collection that includes sexual orientation, and demand an end to using solitary confinement for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

These policy reforms, and many others, are important because we cannot advance the well-being of the Latino community, or the nation as a whole, if we fail to create a society in which we respect the dignity of every LGBTQ person and enable them to live to their full potential.

One year ago, during Pride Month, we celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, an achievement that once seemed impossible. This year, we are violently reminded that the march toward equality is not complete. As we stand in full solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, let us unite and work together with renewed vigor for a more loving, peaceful, and just society for all.

Latinos underscore real issues amid season of anti-immigrant rhetoric

In The Hill

 

Today’s presidential campaign cycle has elevated anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and policy proposals to new heights. These attacks target a community that is already marginalized. But with more than 58 million Latinos in the U.S.— 28 million of whom are eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election, Latinos remain determined to counter such fear-mongering by cultivating a culture of civic engagement in this nation’s public affairs. As such, any serious candidate for federal office must address the issues that impact America’s Latino community.

By 2050, Latinos will number over 100 million, comprising more than a quarter of the entire population. The community’s electoral significance is growing. Indeed, registered Latino voters have grown by 26 percent between each of the last four presidential elections. Latinos have a decisive role in the outcome of this election and the future political landscape.

Despite the tremendous demographic change, Latinos continue to face profound challenges, including wealth gaps, health disparities and the harsh realities of flawed immigration and criminal justice systems. This is why we at the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA)—a coalition of the nation’s 40 leading Latino advocacy organizations—release a comprehensive policy agenda every four years. This agenda provides policymakers a roadmap to address the Latino concerns and outlines opportunities for partnerships beyond the community in working toward a more inclusive society.

Released today, the 2016 Hispanic Public Policy Agenda presents recommendations to strengthen the economy, education, immigration, civil rights, the environment and health, and addresses Latino representation in government. The report highlights policies to improve the lives of Latina women and girls, the criminal justice system, violence prevention, and LGBT community.

On immigration, we continue to call for a fix to our nation’s failed system by providing a path to legal status and citizenship for the majority of undocumented immigrants currently in the country. We call on the next administration to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAMers, youth brought to the U.S. as children. The next president will have discretion to decide whether DACA continues. Without it, we would deprive our nation of much-needed skilled and well-educated workers by curtailing young people from starting their careers or pursuing higher education. The NHLA will push for relief from deportation to a larger number of individuals, as President Obama’s executive actions of November 2014 would do, but which are currently under Supreme Court review.

The agenda also calls for the next president to address the underrepresentation of Latinos in the federal workforce. In 2014, Hispanics represented 16.1 percent of the civilian labor force, yet only 8.4 percent of the Federal Government’s workforce and 4.4 percent of the career Senior Executive Service. If we want a government that reflects America’s diversity and be effective for all, then these numbers must change. We are calling for an executive order on Hispanic employment that firmly requires managers to meet Hispanic hiring goals or face negative performance ratings, and eliminate the citizenship requirement for federal employment unless constitutionally mandated.

Last September, we launched outreach to all of the presidential candidates and have met with three of them so far. Now, concurrent with the agenda release, we are sending each candidate a questionnaire, requesting that they decisively state how they will address the community’s concerns. Their responses will provide an additional tool for all Americans to understand where the candidates stand on the diverse issues reflected in our policy agenda.

We are undertaking this effort in good faith, to educate our nation’s next chief executive. But we are also frustrated that a share of the population as large as ours, which contributes to the economic, social and cultural life and security of our nation, and which continues to grow in importance, is used as a political punching bag.

It is, therefore, all the more significant that we, as a united coalition, stand together in presenting our priorities this year, which also coincides with NHLA’s 25th anniversary. It is time for Latinos to be taken with utmost seriousness. Those seeking the nation’s highest office must tell us precisely where they stand on our most pressing priorities. We want action not rhetoric. It is time for real solutions. 

 

Obama’s Last Budget Includes Many Latino Priorities, But Gridlock May Doom It

In Huffpost

 

The White House unveiled its budget proposal today but leaders in Congress want nothing to do with it. It’s a shame, because in the last federal budget proposal by this administration, the President has laid out a blueprint that’s consistent with many of the goals that Latino advocates have articulated to the White House and Congress in recent months and years.

First, it’s worth noting that this budget proposal follows the three main pillars of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda’s (NHLA) ongoing recommendations for building a fair economy. This budget proposal:

  1. Reduces the budget deficit — not through cuts on the backs of working families, but through new revenue, including 955 billion from those who have the greatest means to contribute more, and 170 billion in savings that comprehensive immigration reform would generate over a decade.
  2. Puts an end to sequestration, the arbitrary across-the-board cuts that threaten to hit every important domestic funding priority after next year.
  3. Increases investment in our economic future by investing more in our youth.

Second, while the President’s proposed increase in spending for domestic priorities is lower than we might wish for, at a very modest one percent, his administration targets this at boosting many of the educational and workforce investments that the NHLA coalition has consistently called for in recent years. This includes proposals to expand full-day Head Start, promote universal pre-school, increase access to quality child care, boost funding for STEM education in public schools, make two years of community college free for responsible students, expand apprenticeships, and invest in youth job training and summer jobs. Considering that one in four children in America are Hispanic, these proposals give young Latinos the tools they need to succeed in their careers and life would strengthen our nation’s economy as well as increase the standard of living for Latino families.

The President’s budget proposal also offers tax reforms that should garner bipartisan support, especially the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to more working individuals without children and noncustodial parents. Other spending priorities in the budget include the Latino priorities of expanding Medicaid, ongoing funding for the Affordable Care Act, enforcing worker protection laws, encouraging paid leave, supporting affordable housing, and increasing funding for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) of higher education.

It’s worth noting that even if funding increases were made to these excellent programs, the President would still have his work cut out in ensuring they effectively reach the Latino community. Key to achieving this is having a diverse and culturally competent federal workforce to implement government investments. With Hispanic representation in the federal workforce at a woeful 8.4 percent (well behind Hispanics’ 16.1 percent share of the civilian labor force), a robust executive order will be needed to fix this.

Third, the President attempts to make up for his omission of the Puerto Rican fiscal crisis from his State of the Union address by including support in his budget for the territory’s ability to restructure its debt — a right that state and local governments have on the mainland, but that is currently denied to Puerto Rico. The budget also provides some relief to the island’s economy by extending the Earned Income Tax Credit to Puerto Rican residents and proposing to lift the existing cap on Medicaid funding.

Lastly, back to Congress. We know that the White House and Congressional leadership have their differences (to put it lightly), especially when it comes to the federal budget, but in an unprecedented move, the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees announced last week that they won’t even invite the President’s budget director to present the budget proposal. Policy differences are no excuse to forgo dialogue, especially when important decisions about investing in our nation’s future are at stake. Regardless, today’s budget proposal establishes a strong marker for where spending negotiations should start, and our work as advocates will continue, in order to ensure that future budget proposals come at least as close as this one did to meeting the needs of the Latino community.

 

 

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 28:  Sania Stiles, who came to the US from Monterrey, Mexico eight years ago, waves a flag upon gaining US citizenship as 18,418 people are sworn in as US citizens during naturalization ceremonies at the Los Angeles Convention Center on August 28, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Immigrants, especially Latinos, which now make up 15 percent of the US population, play an increasingly important role in US politics. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL), who could benefit from a strong Hispanic following of former presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who now campaigns for him, has set aside $20 million for Latino outreach. Republican rival John McCain has also stepped up efforts to attract Latinos, focusing particularly on those in the military. The US Department of Homeland Security reports that citizenship applications have jumped by more than 100 percent since 2006, a surge in naturalization that is expected to add to the 17 million existing eligible Latino voters nationwide and lead to an anticipated record of 9.2 million Latinos voting in the November presidential election. Issues of interest to Latinos include the slumping economy, employment, health care, housing, and immigration reform.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Top 9 Issues Latinos Want To Hear the President Address at the State of the Union

In Huffpost

 

As President Obama prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address, Latinos continue to face many challenges that require focus and dedication to overcome. Rather than focus on the accomplishments of his administration, we need the president to look forward toward the work that remains to be done in his final year in office. A forward-looking approach is what comes naturally to Latinos across the country, when we wake up each day to go to work or school, focused on working and studying hard to build a better future for ourselves, our families, and the generations to come. We need the president to approach his last year in office with the same determination.

The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 40 of the nation’s leading Latino advocacy organizations, shared its priorities for the president’s final State of the Union. Here’s the top nine list of things what we want to hear the president address:

1. Let’s unite to solve Puerto Rico’s financial crisis. On January 1, Puerto Rico defaulted on $37 million of a $1 billion bond payment. Without cash or the ability to restructure its debt as U.S. states and cities do, it will be unable to cover upcoming bond payments of over $2 billion. As a result, the 3.5 million American citizens living on the island of Puerto Rico are facing severe socio-economic hardship as austerity measures are slashing spending on basic needs, businesses are closing, thousands are migrating to the U.S. mainland, and the tax base is eroding. Congress and the White House need to immediately set aside their differences and reach agreement on a path forward for Puerto Rico out of this crisis.

2. Let’s treat those seeking refuge humanely. Regardless if someone is fleeing from violence in Syria or Central America, they deserve to be treated as human beings. This means ensuring those seeking asylum have access to counsel, ending raids on families to deport children who lacked counsel to begin with, and finding alternatives to detention for women and children so they’re no longer subject to abuse and trauma as too often happens in detention facilities. The deportations of our families must stop.

3. We’re going to make sure every voter can vote. Since the Supreme Court gutted key parts of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), 2016 will see the first presidential election in 50 years without full protections against voting discrimination. In addition to calling on Congress to restore the full strength of the VRA by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act, the Obama Administration needs to do its part to ensure fair elections, such as through enhanced field monitoring in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ offices, advice for concerned citizens who want to play a constructive role, and encouraging local governments to make the voting process understandable and manageable for all voters.

4. We’ll promote citizenship by encouraging the 8.8 million lawful permanent residents living in the United States to commit to naturalize as U.S. citizens and preventing a hike in the naturalization fee so they’re not deterred.

5. We’re going to demand results for children of color in our public schools. Graduation rates for Latinos rose 4.2 percentage points between 2011 and 2013. To keep this trend going in the right direction, the Obama Administration will need to vigorously use every tool it has to ensure that state and local education authorities don’t backslide under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces the No Child Left Behind Law beginning this year.

6. Let’s ensure that hard-working people have the opportunity to earn a decent living. In addition to continuing to call for an increased minimum wage, the president should combat the abuses of workers’ basic protections to ensure they get overtime pay, are free from sexual harassment and abuse in their workplace, and don’t face retaliation when challenging unfair employment practices. Enforcement of labor laws isn’t just good for employees; it also benefits employers who are playing by the rules but face unfair competition from those who don’t.

7. I’ll keep the veto pen ready to defend the Affordable Care Act. The Latino community has greatly benefited from the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, which have resulted in a significant 9.7 percentage point drop in the rate of uninsured Latinos from 2013 to October 2015. Repeal would be a major step backwards.

8. Let’s improve Latino representation in the federal workforce. President Obama deserves kudos for his many diverse appointments to his cabinet and other leadership positions in various departments and agencies. Unfortunately, Latino representation in the rest of the federal government continues to lag. We need the president to take bold steps, such as the announcement of an executive order on Hispanic federal employment that outlines an aggressive program to substantially and affirmatively increase the number of Hispanics at all levels of the civil service.

9. We can’t relent in protecting our environment. In addition to enforcing existing environmental laws and addressing climate change through lower greenhouse gas emissions and greater use of renewable energy, Latinos broadly support protecting our nation’s natural treasures. We hope the president will continue to exercise his executive authority under the Antiquities Act to designate additional national parks and protected lands near Latino communities.

By working hard on these priorities, the president will leave a lasting legacy that ensures those Latinos waking up every day to go to work or school have a fairer, healthier, and more prosperous future ahead of them and this ensures a better future for our nation.