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    By Janis Bowdler

    (The was first posted on Univision News blog)

    In honor of National Homeownership Month, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) issued a joint call to action with our partners―NAACP, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, National People’s Action, National Urban League, The Opportunity Agenda, and PICO―asking Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner to use his leadership to address the housing crisis. With approximately one foreclosure occurring every minute, we are urging our leaders to not give up on the American Dream.

    Mr. and Mrs. Henriquez were one among the many who experienced foreclosure. They lost their home when Mrs. Henriquez had to close down her business. She ultimately had to give up working entirely to care for her autistic son. Mrs. Henriquez described being steered into an expensive loan by the real estate agent she relied on to guide her through the process:

    Well, it changed completely. You had a dream and that’s the word these people [use]; tell you “you could do it” and give you this loan. And now you are back, worse than you were before. I got a phone call…[The] real estate agencies [said] we’ll come out and it was in Spanish, my language―They said, “We can help you, just go to the house, we’ll let you know and soon if you can qualify or not.” So we say yes, why not? And then, he came to our home…We said what kind of house can I afford? And his answer was, “If you want a million-dollar house, I can give [it to] you.” That was his answer. Whatever you want. And I said well, my question is what can I afford? And, and he said, “You just let me know how much you want to pay.”

    In a last-ditch effort to save their home, the Henriquez family put mortgage payments on their credit cards:

    I used the credit cards to make the payments for the house…I was not in debt at all, you know. So, I used my credit cards to make the house payment.

    Researchers estimate that 1.3 million Latinos will lose their homes between 2009 and 2012. With banks and federal and state governments still struggling to resuscitate our housing market, few have considered the long-term ramifications of record foreclosure rates.

    Mrs. Henriquez explains that these financial challenges have strained their marriage. Divorce was a consideration at one point:

    My husband and I [were] fighting because there’s [not] enough money. There was a lot of [discussion] before we bought a house. We talk about it and then, you know, “I told you, you were not supposed to do this and you did it.” Blaming each other, like who was at fault. That “you’re supposed to get a job,” but I need to stay with my kids.

    The Henriquez family ultimately moved four times before they found a new home to rent. They struggled to find a place that could accommodate their autistic son’s special needs while their older son bounced between three different schools.

    Mrs. Henriquez believes achieving the American Dream for her family may be possible, though in the distant future; it “seems very far away.” Owning a home should be a modest yet steady way to grow an asset that a family can share with the next generation. During the housing bubble, federal regulators failed to rein in deceptive lending practices while finance companies rejected successful models that help working families step mindfully into homeownership.

    Thanks to new protections included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, many of the worst lending scams are prohibited. Now we must address the second half of the problem by protecting responsible paths to homeownership for creditworthy borrowers. Join the Home for Good campaign and tell Secretary Geithner to not give up on the American Dream.

    Has your life been affected by the risk of foreclosure? If so, please share your experience. Contributing to this project will help decision-makers better understand the depth of this continued foreclosure crisis and take better steps to address it. Your personal story could impact their decisions!  


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Julian Teixeira
    (202) 776-1812
    jteixeira@nclr.org

     

    Washington, D.C.—Six new Affiliate members—East Austin College Prep Academy in Austin, Texas; Hispanic Services Council, Inc., in Tampa, Fla.; La Maestra Community Health Centers in San Diego, Calif.; Mariposa Dual Language Academy in Reno, Nev.; Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco, Calif.; and Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire, Inc., in San Bernardino, Calif.—have recently joined the NCLR (National Council of La Raza) Affiliate Network. With these new additions, NCLR now has 267 organizations across the United States as Affiliate members.

    “It is a pleasure to welcome these organizations to the NCLR Affiliate Network,” said José Velázquez, Vice President, Affiliate Member Services. “Community organizations help Latino families find opportunities and improve their lives. At NCLR, we greatly value our partnership with Affiliate members as we work together to ensure that Latino voices are heard on the issues that are important to all Americans.”

    Information about the organizations that are new NCLR Affiliates can be found as follows:

    • East Austin College Prep Academy, Austin, Texas (www.eastaustincollegeprep.org)
    • Hispanic Services Council, Inc., Tampa, Fla. (www.hispanicservicescouncil.org)
    • La Maestra Community Health Centers, San Diego, Calif. (www.lamaestra.org)
    • Mariposa Dual Language Academy, Reno, Nev. (www.mariposaacademy.net)
    • Mission Asset Fund, San Francisco, Calif. (www.missionassetfund.org)
    • Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire, Inc., San Bernardino, Calif. (www.nhsie.org)

    NCLR’s Affiliates include 267 community organizations that provide programs and services to more than five million Hispanic Americans. Their diverse services include charter schools, after-school programs, job readiness and training resources, English-language preparation courses, homeownership counseling services, health centers, and community activities centers.


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    At the recent Netroots Nation conference, NCLR's Elena Lacayo talked about how to respond to restrictive immigration policies in your own state. If you weren't able to attend Netroots this year, check out the video below for some great tips on how to fight back at the local level!

    Watch live streaming video from fstv2 at livestream.com

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    PARA DIFUSIÓN INMEDIATA

    Contacto:
    Carlos De Los Ramos (Centro Latino)
    (302) 655-7338 ext. 7707

    Kathy Mimberg (NCLR)
    (202) 776-1714


    Enrique Cortez (LSR)
    (202) 525-7411

     

    Foro abierto “Latinos y el Seguro Social, ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta!” en Wilmington, Delaware

    Wilmington, Del.— Los últimas propuestas de cambios al Seguro Social, Medicare y Medicaid amenazan con reducir las modestos beneficios de las que dependen las personas latinas de mayor edad del país, para gran parte de sus ingresos y cuidados de salud. Este fue el mensaje dado hoy en Wilmington en la reunión municipal, parte de la campaña Latinos y el Seguro Social, ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta!, de la que fueron anfitriones el Centro Comunitario Latinoamericano (Centro Latino), el NCLR (Consejo Nacional de La Raza) y la coalición Latinos para una Jubilación Segura (LSR, por sus siglas en inglés).

    En el foro estuvieron funcionarios del gobierno, líderes de la creciente comunidad latina de Wilmington y expertos a nivel nacional sobre estos programas federales que proveen cierta seguridad financiera a las personas de mayor edad de bajos ingresos y a otras. Los ponentes señalaron que las personas latinas mayores tienen más probabilidad que otros homólogos a utilizar Medicare con el ayuda de Medicaid; por lo tanto, es posible que sufran las peores consecuencias de las actuales propuestas de reducción del déficit federal mediante el recorte a estos programas y beneficios del Seguro Social.

    "El Seguro Social, Medicare y Medicaid son programas que mejoran la calidad de vida de las personas latinas de mayor edad", dijo Carlos De Los Ramos, director de relaciones públicas del Centro Latino. "El compromiso del Centro Latino es concientizar a nuestra comunidad para que los hispanoamericanos puedan participar en el debate sobre estos programas críticos".

    En Wilmington, el Seguro Social contribuye con más de $1.2 miles de millones de dólares a la economía local a través de los beneficios que reciben 86,580 residentes, incluyendo a 55,655 jubilados, 12,630 trabajadores con discapacidad, y 6,965 niños. El programa del Seguro Social evita que 39,000 residentes de Delaware vivan en la pobreza.

    Las personas latinas de mayor edad son especialmente vulnerables a los recortes y cambios porque los beneficios que reciben del Seguro Social representan casi todos sus ingresos. Mientras que la formula de beneficio progresivo favorece a los trabajadores de salarios bajos, las personas hispanas de mayor edad reciben los beneficios promedio más bajos debido a que durante su vida ganaron menos. Las beneficios anuales promedio que reciben los hombres y mujeres hispanos de mayor edad son de $12,213 y $9,536 respectivamente.

    “El Seguro Social protege y asegura a personas de mayor edad, trabajadores con discapacidad, viudas y huérfanos”, manifestó Jeff Cruz, director ejecutivo de Latinos para una Jubilación Segura. “Los modestos beneficios que los trabajadores estadounidenses reciben podrían fortalecerse con pequeños ajustes según se explica en nuestro plan Protección del Seguro Social para Todos los Estadounidenses”.

    La grave insuficiencia de fondos de la Administración del Seguro Social (SSA, por sus siglas en inglés) ha dado lugar a demoras inaceptables en las reclamaciones de beneficios de los latinos con discapacidades. Este año, la SSA cerró varias oficinas locales, dio excedencia a miles de trabajadores y suspendió el envío del informe anual de beneficios a los participantes. Esto a pesar del hecho de que el programa no ha contribuido al problema del déficit federal y permanecerá solvente hasta el 2037 sin ningún cambio.

    “El Seguro Social es la red de seguridad social más importante de nuestra nación y no tiene nada que ver con el déficit”, dijo Leticia Miranda, directora adjunta del proyecto de política económica y empleo del NCLR. “Tenemos lo suficiente para mejorar los beneficios y el acceso para las personas de mayor edad de bajos ingresos mientras garantizamos la solvencia a largo plazo”.

    El foro de Wilmington es el segundo de la serie que se está llevando a cabo en el país como parte de la campaña Latinos y el Seguro Social ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta!

    ###

    Para más información sobre el Centro Comunitario Latinoamericano, visite www.thelatincenter.org.

    Para más información sobre las iniciativas de NCLR sobre la seguridad social, por favor visite www.nclr.org/socialsecurity

    Para más información sobre Latinos para una Jubilación Segura, visite www.latinosforasecureretirement.org.


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Carlos De Los Ramos (Latin Center)
    (302) 655-7338 ext. 7707

    Kathy Mimberg (NCLR)
    (202) 776-1714


    Enrique Cortez (LSR)
    (202) 525-7411

     

    “Latinos and Social Security, ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta!” town hall forum in Wilmington, Delaware

    Wilmington, Del.—Current proposals to change Social Security and dismantle Medicare and Medicaid threaten to reduce the modest benefits that Latino seniors throughout the nation rely on for most of their income and their health care. This was the message delivered today at a town hall in Wilmington hosted by the Latin American Community Center (the Latin Center), NCLR (National Council of La Raza), and the Latinos for a Secure Retirement (LSR) coalition as part of the Latinos and Social Security, ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta! campaign.

    The forum featured government officials, leaders from Wilmington’s growing Latino community, and national experts on these federal programs that provide some financial security to low-income seniors and others. The speakers noted that older Latinos are more likely than other seniors to access Medicare with the support of Medicaid so they may experience the worst of the repercussions from current proposals to reduce the federal deficit by cutting these programs and Social Security benefits.

    “Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid improve the lives of Latino seniors,” said Carlos De Los Ramos, Public Relations Director for the Latin Center. “The Latin Center is committed to raising awareness in our community so that Hispanic Americans can participate in the debate about these critical programs.”

    In Wilmington, Social Security contributes more than $1.2 billion to the local economy by paying benefits to more than 86,580 residents, including 55,655 retirees, 12,630 disabled workers, and 6,965 children. The Social Security program prevents 39,000 residents in Delaware from living in poverty.

    Latino seniors are particularly vulnerable to cuts and changes because Social Security benefits represent nearly all of their income. While Social Security’s progressive benefit formula favors low-wage workers, Hispanic seniors receive the lowest average benefits due to lower lifetime earnings. Average yearly benefits for Hispanic seniors are only $12,213 for men and just $9,536 for women.

    “Social Security protects and insures seniors, disabled workers, widows, and orphans,” stated Jeff Cruz, Executive Director of Latinos for a Secure Retirement. “The modest benefits that American workers earn could be strengthened with just minor tweaks, as outlined in our Protecting Social Security for All Americans plan.”

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) is severely underfunded, which has led to unacceptable delays in benefit claims for disabled Latinos. This year, SSA closed several field offices, furloughed thousands of workers, and suspended the annual participant benefit statement. This is despite the fact that the program has not contributed one dime to the federal deficit and will remain financially solvent without any changes until 2037.

    “Social Security is our nation’s most important social safety net and does not contribute to the deficit,” said Leticia Miranda, Associate Director of NCLR’s Employment and Economic Policy Project. “We can afford to improve benefits and access for low-income seniors while ensuring long-term solvency.”

    The Wilmington forum is the second in a series being held across the country as part of the Latinos and Social Security, ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta! campaign.

    ###

    For more information about the Latin American Community Center, visit www.thelatincenter.org.

    For more information about NCLR’s social security initiatives please visit www.nclr.org/socialsecurity.

    For more information about Latinos for Secure Retirement, visit www.latinosforasecureretirement.org.


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    Hundreds of student activists and immigration reform advocates packed a Senate hearing room this morning to witness the first-ever Senate hearing on the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.” The moment was historic, and the two panels of witnesses included Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; Arne Duncan, Secretary of the Department of Education; Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Lieutenant Margaret Stock, retired Army reserves officer and immigration attorney; Steven Camarota, director of research for the anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies; and Ola Kaso, a “DREAM Act” hopeful and student who arrived in the United States at the age of five.

    It has been ten years since Sen. Richard Durbin first introduced the “DREAM Act,” which would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and are working hard to contribute to America. The bill would give these youth a chance to earn legal status if they came to the U.S. as children (15 or under), are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character, graduate from high school or obtain a GED, and complete two years of college or military service in good standing.

    Last December, the “DREAM Act” came as close to passing as it ever has, but those efforts were thwarted by break a Republican filibuster. Immigration advocates, including NCLR, are hopeful that the DREAM Act will finally become law this year.

    Today’s testimony was largely positive, as witnesses talked at length about the benefits of the bill for the economy and for the American education system.

    “Educating these [undocumented] students is an investment, not an expense,” said Sec. Duncan when asked by Sen. Durbin to address concerns that passage of the “DREAM Act” would be too costly for public colleges and universities. He went on to cite the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which has stated that, if passed, the “DREAM Act” would cut the deficit by more than $1 billion dollars.

    The highlight of the hearing came when Kaso told her story. Her aspirations of going to medical school to become an oncology surgeon would be cut short, she said, if the “DREAM Act” is not carried through. Kaso is currently in the middle of deportation proceedings; she received word from the United States government just two months before her high school graduation. Kaso was lucky to receive support for her community, however, as they rallied to get the Department of Homeland Security to grant her a deferred action for one year while she finished high school. Watch her emotional testimony below:

    Today’s event, though historic, was only a hearing. Sen. Durbin expressed his frustration with the process, saying that he was discouraged with the length of time it has taken to pass the bill, but not too disheartened to stop trying. “Sometimes it takes a long time to reach fairness and justice, but we do get there,” he said before closing the hearing. “Our day will come. This dream will come true.”

    In the meantime, the clock is ticking for bright, young students like Kaso, for whom America is the home and the country that they love. NCLR will continue to work on her behalf and on behalf of the thousands of young people who only want to do their part to become productive American citizens.  


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    By Cecilia Muñoz
    (Originally posted on www.whitehouse.gov

    Last week at their annual meeting, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution among their members calling for comprehensive immigration reform. The sponsors of that resolution, Los Angeles, California Mayor and U.S. Conference of Mayors President Antonio Villaraigosa and Laredo, Texas Mayor Raul Salinas explain why immigration reform cannot wait.

    Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

    Last week, the nation’s mayors gathered in Baltimore to discuss the issues that matter most to Americans. Together, we resolved that one of the best ways to achieve our collective goals of strengthening the economy, ensuring our global competitiveness, and securing our homeland is through comprehensive immigration reform.

    The United States has always been enriched by the economic and cultural contributions of immigrants. Immigrants have spurred innovation, made major financial contributions to our nation, and bravely served our country in the armed forces. Yet our current, broken system turns a blind eye to their countless contributions.

    Today’s immigration law lacks accountability and responsibility, exploits undocumented workers, and undermines the American workforce.

    The system must be reformed now. We must embrace the DREAM Act and the millions of young people who would be given a pathway to citizenship with it. We must embrace AgJobs to ensure that agricultural workers can earn residency and stabilize their workforce. And we must provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented persons who meet strict requirements.

    As Mayors of cities that are home to millions of immigrants, we know that comprehensive immigration reform is a key to prosperity for all Americans. For the sake of our economy, security, and competitiveness, comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do.

    Laredo, Texas Mayor Raul Salinas:

    Because I agree with President Obama that we cannot surrender to the forces in favor of the status quo on immigration reform, I offered a resolution for consideration by the United States Conference of Mayors meeting this summer in Baltimore. For too long, comprehensive immigration reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics.

    As a mayor, as a Hispanic community leader, and as an American, I will not accept the polarization and pettiness that prevents this nation from addressing one of the great challenges of our times: comprehensive immigration reform.

    I was proud to be joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in championing a resolution in support of comprehensive immigration reform and recognition of the great value immigrants have provided to this nation. The language, which is available at www.usmayors.org, was unanimously adopted by our colleagues on a bi-partisan basis.

    And why was it that mayors could reach agreement on matters that other elected officials cannot? That may be best explained in the inaugural address of Mayor Villaraigosa as the 69th President of the Conference of Mayors: “You hire a mayor to act. And the American people desperately need us to act now.”

    Read the text of their resolution here.

    Cecilia Muñoz is Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at The White House and former Senior Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR.
     


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    By Cecilia Muñoz
    (Originally posted on www.whitehouse.gov

    Last week at their annual meeting, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution among their members calling for comprehensive immigration reform. The sponsors of that resolution, Los Angeles, California Mayor and U.S. Conference of Mayors President Antonio Villaraigosa and Laredo, Texas Mayor Raul Salinas explain why immigration reform cannot wait.

    Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

    Last week, the nation’s mayors gathered in Baltimore to discuss the issues that matter most to Americans. Together, we resolved that one of the best ways to achieve our collective goals of strengthening the economy, ensuring our global competitiveness, and securing our homeland is through comprehensive immigration reform.

    The United States has always been enriched by the economic and cultural contributions of immigrants. Immigrants have spurred innovation, made major financial contributions to our nation, and bravely served our country in the armed forces. Yet our current, broken system turns a blind eye to their countless contributions.

    Today’s immigration law lacks accountability and responsibility, exploits undocumented workers, and undermines the American workforce.

    The system must be reformed now. We must embrace the DREAM Act and the millions of young people who would be given a pathway to citizenship with it. We must embrace AgJobs to ensure that agricultural workers can earn residency and stabilize their workforce. And we must provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented persons who meet strict requirements.

    As Mayors of cities that are home to millions of immigrants, we know that comprehensive immigration reform is a key to prosperity for all Americans. For the sake of our economy, security, and competitiveness, comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do.

    Laredo, Texas Mayor Raul Salinas:

    Because I agree with President Obama that we cannot surrender to the forces in favor of the status quo on immigration reform, I offered a resolution for consideration by the United States Conference of Mayors meeting this summer in Baltimore. For too long, comprehensive immigration reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics.

    As a mayor, as a Hispanic community leader, and as an American, I will not accept the polarization and pettiness that prevents this nation from addressing one of the great challenges of our times: comprehensive immigration reform.

    I was proud to be joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in championing a resolution in support of comprehensive immigration reform and recognition of the great value immigrants have provided to this nation. The language, which is available at www.usmayors.org, was unanimously adopted by our colleagues on a bi-partisan basis.

    And why was it that mayors could reach agreement on matters that other elected officials cannot? That may be best explained in the inaugural address of Mayor Villaraigosa as the 69th President of the Conference of Mayors: “You hire a mayor to act. And the American people desperately need us to act now.”

    Read the text of their resolution here.

    Cecilia Muñoz is Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at The White House and former Senior Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR.
     


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    By Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, NCLR Director of Immigration and National Campaigns

    Throughout the past week, state-level legislative and judicial action has created an increasingly complex patchwork of immigration laws that underscore the need to address immigration reform at the national level. On Monday, June 27, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley signed SB 20, a draconian racial profiling law that pushed South Carolina into the all-too-crowded race to see which state can pass the most heinous piece of anti-Latino legislation. By signing SB 20 into law, Gov. Haley chose to walk down the same misguided and unconstitutional path as other states that have enacted laws that demonize immigrants and threaten the civil rights of state residents.

    Instead of pursuing this course of action, South Carolina should have looked to the court decisions blocking similar racial profiling bills in Arizona, Utah, and, most recently, Indiana and Georgia. On June 24, U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker granted an injunction blocking the section of Indiana’s SB 590 that would have increased police arrest authority for anyone ordered deported by an immigration court. Then, on June 27, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Thrash halted two sections of Georgia’s HB 87 that would have increased law enforcement’s authority to request documentation of citizenship and punished people who knowingly transported or harbored undocumented individuals.

    These decisions affirm the misguided nature of these laws. Any state that passes these anti-immigrant laws is likely to face the same legal hurdles that have befallen Indiana and Georgia, as well as Utah and Arizona before them.

    Thankfully, many states have opted against following Arizona’s failed approach to immigration reform. In fact, on June 28, the Texas Legislature adjourned without approving the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino “sanctuary cities” bill, marking the second time in two months that the Republican-controlled state legislature rejected the proposal. We commend the efforts of the advocates, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) Affiliates, law enforcement officials, and religious groups who worked tirelessly with the heavily Republican legislature, which ultimately found that these foolish, misguided, and politically motivated bills would be devastating to the state’s financial health and public image.

    Our nation is frustrated by federal inaction on immigration reform, but the response to federal inaction cannot be irresponsible state action. Measures such as South Carolina’s SB 20—racial profiling legislation cloaked under the false guise of immigration solutions—do not solve immigration problems and are simply excuses for officials to play politics at a high cost to the residents of their states.

    Our nation will be better off if legislators focus on the real issues and create viable solutions that fix immigration at the federal level, instead of enacting laws that will encourage racial profiling and discrimination. NCLR urges Gov. Haley and the governors of Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Indiana, and Arizona to call upon their own congressional delegations to push for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington.  


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Julian Teixeira, NCLR
    (202) 776-1812
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    Camila Gallardo, DUSA
    (305) 573-7329
    cgallardo@mydemocracia.org

    Washington, D.C.—With the goal of expanding the size and influence of the nation’s fastest-growing electorate—Latino voters—NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and Democracia U.S.A. (DUSA), the nation’s largest Hispanic voter registration organization, announce the formal integration of DUSA into NCLR.

    “The growing Hispanic voting bloc is poised to determine the outcome in crucial electoral states in the upcoming presidential election. Integrating NCLR and DUSA’s efforts will allow us to create a long-term, sustainable Latino civic engagement program,” stated Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “If we are going to change public policy affecting the Hispanic community in the country, we must grow the Latino vote and increase our political influence.”

    Since its inception in 2004, DUSA has registered nearly half a million Hispanics to vote, expanding the size and power of the Latino electorate. Meanwhile, NCLR’s public policy component, which includes six issue-based policy-focused areas, has worked on issues ranging from immigration and health care reform to education, housing, and wealth-building. Throughout their existence, both organizations have worked not only to increase the Latino community’s participation within the country’s political process, but also to ensure that those issues important to Hispanics—such as job creation, safe communities, affordable housing, health care, education reform, and most importantly, immigration reform—are achieved.

    “We are excited about the opportunity to grow NCLR’s civic engagement work by integrating DUSA into our ongoing advocacy work, so that we can register more Latino voters and help connect more Hispanics to the urgent public policy debates of our time,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of NCLR’s Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, where the new effort will be housed.

    Rodriguez will assume all management, operational, and fiscal oversight responsibilities over DUSA. Former DUSA President Jorge Mursuli will continue as a strategic consultant, advising NCLR’s leadership in developing a new strategy for the 2012 election cycle.

    Over the coming weeks, NCLR and DUSA will work together to develop a voter registration, engagement, and mobilization strategy for the 2012 elections while developing and carrying out current work that includes timely issue campaigns in key states.

    “We firmly believe that integration of the DUSA project is an important step forward,” Murguía said. “Together, we will be able to engage the Latino voters and translate the benefits of our community’s demographic growth into influence at decision-making tables.”

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    By Delia Pompa, NCLR Senior Vice President, Programs
    (Originally posted on National Journal's Expert Blog - Education)

    Here’s the reality about charter schools in the Latino community—for many Latino students, charter schools often provide a better educational option than the nearby traditional public schools. Our experience inworking with our affiliated network of charter schools demonstrates the success of these schools in developing innovative and effective strategies for teaching Latino and English language learner (ELL) students. Unlike schools in some large charter management organizations, the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) charter schools have opened in response to a specific and self-identified community need for a better schooling option. These “mom-and-pop” operations are spearheaded by community leaders who understand that for Latino students to succeed academically, schools must prioritize family engagement, support  ELLs, and uphold high expectations. Schools that focus on these three elements have shown promising results, too. Take the Altavista Charter School in Kansas City, Mo., where standardized test scores in  language arts assessments for ELLs are 20 percentage points higher than the state average, and where the high school graduation rate is 26 percentage points higher than that of the surrounding districts. Or consider the Tejano Center in Houston, which educators regard as one of the best high schools in the state of Texas. At the Tejano Center, dropout rates have averaged at the low figure of 1.6% over the last four years, thanks in part to the charter school’s nontraditional educational approach. Any push to improve educational outcomes for underperforming children must support innovative programs such as these.  

    Though we at NCLR laud the value of charter schools, we also agree with Rep. George Miller (D–Calif.) that the entire educational system must be fixed to demonstrably improve opportunities and achievement for all students. NCLR believes that charter schools alone cannot solve the education crisis in the United States. Not all children have access to charter schools, and not all charter schools are good. Therefore, educational experts, elected officials, and families must work together to develop a broadly based strategy that guarantees that all children, especially low-income minority students, are well-equipped for the future. Any reform agenda must adopt high standards, such as the Common Core State Standards, as well as incorporate meaningful assessments, family engagement, and support for early childhood learning as a foundation for academic success. A comprehensive education policy should promote innovation through charter schools, but ultimately Congress must ensure that its educational overhaul efforts have the widest reach and greatest impact on the students and families most in need.


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  • 07/01/11--11:25: What’s on Your Plate?
  • By Manuela McDonough, Progam Manager, Institute for Hispanic Health

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat from a pyramid—I eat from a plate—and a plate is exactly what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled earlier last month: its new food icon, MyPlate.

    The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) welcomes the new USDA food plate, and we applaud USDA for updating this easy-to-use tool that will help all Americans, including Latinos, make healthier food choices. This colorful plate is divided into quarters: two are dedicated to fruits and vegetables, while one is for protein and the other is for grains. Alongside the plate is a smaller circle for dairy. The plate also comes with certain guidelines about eating smaller portions, switching to low-fat or fat-free milk, and drinking water instead of sugary beverages, among others.

    Furthermore, the accompanying website has all of the necessary resources to help consumers and professionals adapt MyPlate to their needs. None of the information, however, is in Spanish yet. It will probably be another six months before we see a Spanish version. Since Latinos face many barriers to making healthy food choices, we are eager to see the new food plate available for our community. In the meantime, NCLR will begin incorporating our version of the translated plate into our nutrition program materials that target Latino families.

    We look forward to continuing our work with USDA to tailor its outreach efforts to achieve cultural competence and improved health outcomes for Latinos nationwide. Adiós mi pirámide, hola un plato muy rico y más saludable


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  • 07/06/11--01:27: Still Getting it Wrong
  • By Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President, Programs
    (This was originally posted to the National Journal Experts Blog on Education)

    The recent data collected by the Office for Civil Rights, although appalling, are actually not very surprising at all. They represent the challenges and frustrations I frequently hear from our network of education providers across the country. Although it’s both sad and frustrating to be reminded that we have made such little progress over so much time, this country must remain steadfast in its commitment to provide every child with access to a quality education. Education equity was at the forefront of our national agenda when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted as part of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, and now, as Congress debates the federal role in education, this issue has become salient again.

    What happened between then and now? These data make it clear that states have not been successful in devising strategies to help children of color and English language learners meet very basic benchmarks in reading and math. Some would say that states have had to abide by overly stringent guidelines that make teachers dumb down lessons in order to show progress on standardized tests, therefore restricting what can be taught to students. Our view, however, is that states and schools have not tried hard enough to deliver this very basic promise to a growing share of American children.

    Now, with congressional Republicans considering measures to allow states funding flexibility across the various titles in ESEA and the Obama administration considering granting waivers to states, we’re losing sight of this fundamental promise. Federal policymakers in particular should view these data as a red flag that we need to do more to hold states accountable for their lack of progress and devise incentives for states to do better. Those strategies should maintain a strong focus on subgroup accountability while providing supports and resources to help schools design programs that work. It is simply unacceptable that after so many years we continue to get this wrong. Education has always been a central issue in the battle for civil rights and our hope is that data will compel federal policymakers to make the right decisions in moving forward a comprehensive education reform agenda. There is simply too much at stake.


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    Today at 2:00 p.m. EDT, the president will answer questions via Twitter during the first-ever White House Twitter Townhall. You can follow @Townhall to participate or go to this site that the White House has created for the event. You can also follow the conversation using the hashtag #AskObama.

    The Internet has been buzzing about this event for days, so don’t miss out. This is your chance to ask the White House hard questions about immigration, education, and the economy:

    Will the president heed the call of Representative Luis Gutierrez (D–IL) to stop the deportation of #DREAM students?

    Will the White House step up its pressure to get the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorized this year? The last time it was reauthorized was 2002 and it is supposed to happen every five years.

    There is still a home foreclosure crisis going on in America, and it disproportionately affects people of color. What is the White House doing to address this ongoing problem?

    Job quality has declined over the last few years, as U.S. employers have lowered wages in response to an ever-stiffening global marketplace. Employers have decreased the standard benefits offered to workers and, in some cases, willfully violated labor laws and health and safety standards. Many of the negatively affected workers are hard-working Latinos. What does the president plan to do to increase the political will needed to improve standards in the low-wage job market?

    These are just some of the questions that NCLR has for the White House. What are your questions?


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    PARA DIFUSIÓN INMEDIATA

    Contactos:
    Julian Teixeira
    (202) 776-1812
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    Elena Gaona (HUD)
    202-402-6627
    Elena.gaona@hud.gov

    NCLR SE UNE A HUD PARA DESTACAR NUEVO PROGRAMA DE ASISTENCIA HIPOTECARIA PARA PROPIETARIOS DE VIVIENDA DESEMPLEADOS
    Se lanza anuncio de servicio público en español para informar sobre fecha límite de solicitud

    Washington, D.C.— Por tiempo limitado, el Programa de Préstamos de Emergencia para Propietarios de Vivienda (EHLP, por sus siglas en inglés) del Departamento de Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano de Estados Unidos (HUD) está ofreciendo a los propietarios de vivienda sin empleo o con sueldos reducidos, quienes luchan por evitar la ejecución hipotecaria o “foreclosure”, hasta $50,000 en ayuda para cubrir una porción de su hipoteca incluyendo pagos retrasados, recargos por pagos tardíos, el capital, impuestos, seguros y honorarios de abogados mientras buscan trabajo.

    "Esta es una oportunidad fantástica para que aquellos propietarios que han perdido sus empleos se mantengan a flote", dijo Janis Bowdler, directora del proyecto de política de creación de riqueza del NCLR (Consejo Nacional de La Raza). "Ahora, el mayor reto es asegurarnos que la gente se entere de esta oportunidad y la aproveche durante el corto tiempo que estará disponible". Los interesados tienen hasta el 22 de julio de 2011 para presentar sus presolicitudes.

    Por medio de un anuncio de servicio público en español, la Red de Asesoría para Propietarios de Vivienda (NHN, por sus siglas en inglés) está haciendo su parte, instando a las familias latinas en necesidad de asistencia hipotecaria a que aprovechen esta oportunidad. El anuncio que contiene comentarios de Mercedes Márquez, subsecretaria de planificación y desarrollo comunitario del HUD, alerta a los interesados sobre la fecha límite que se acerca y los dirige a la página de Internet , www.FindEHLP.org y la línea telefónica del EHLP sin costo, 855-346-3345.

    “A través del Programa EHLP, continuamos nuestro compromiso para ayudar a mantener a las familias en sus hogares durante estos tiempos difíciles", dijo Márquez. "Es una ayuda fundamental que hemos ofrecido en 27 estados y Puerto Rico para que las familias puedan conservar su más preciada inversión mientras buscan trabajo o se recuperan de una enfermedad".

    Cinco estados que operan programas sustancialmente similar está administrando directamente el EHLP: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland y Pennsylvania. El programa EHLP es un complemento al Fondo de los más afectados (Hardest Hit Fund), que pone a disposición $7.6 mil millones a 18 estados y el Distrito de Columbia que fueron los más afectados por la crisis hipotecaria. Con el lanzamiento del EHLP, ayuda hipotecaria ya está disponible para los propietarios desempleados y subempleados en cada estado y Puerto Rico.

    Los solicitantes potenciales pueden acudir a una agencia del EHLP y visitar www.FindEHLP.org o llamar al número gratuito 855-FIND-EHLP (346-3345) para obtener más información sobre el programa.

    ###

     

    La misión de HUD es crear comunidades fuertes, sostenibles e inclusivas y vivienda asequible para todos. Para más información sobre HUD y sus programas visite www.hud.gov o www.espanol.hud.gov. También nos puede seguir en Twitter en @HUDnews o en Facebook en www.facebook.com/HUD.
     


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Julian Teixeira
    (202) 776-1812
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    Elena Gaona (HUD)
    202-402-6627
    Elena.gaona@hud.gov




    Spanish-language PSA launched to highlight fast-approaching program deadline

    Washington, D.C.— For a limited time, the Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program (EHLP) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is providing homeowners who are unemployed or underemployed and struggling to avoid foreclosure with up to $50,000 in help to pay a portion of their monthly mortgage including missed mortgage payments or past due charges including principal, taxes, insurance and attorney fees while they search for a job.

    “This is a fantastic opportunity for homeowners who have lost their jobs to keep their heads above water,” said Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project, at NCLR (National Council of La Raza). “The biggest challenge now is ensuring that people know about this opportunity and take advantage of it during the short period that it is available.” Homeowners must submit pre-applications by July 22, 2011.

    The NCLR Homeownership Network (NHN) is doing its part to encourage Latino families in need of mortgage assistance to seize this opportunity by releasing a public service announcement in Spanish. The announcement, which features remarks from Mercedes Márquez, Assistant Secretary, Community Planning and Development with HUD, alerts listeners to the approaching deadline and directs them to the EHLP website, www.FindEHLP.org and toll-free hotline, 855-FIND-EHLP (346-3345).

    “Through the Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program, we are continuing our commitment to help families stay in their homes during tough economic times,” Márquez said. “This is critical help that we have launched in 27 states and Puerto Rico to help families maintain their most precious investment while looking for work or recovering from illness.” Five states operating substantially similar programs are administering EHLP directly: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The EHLP program is a complement to the Hardest Hit Fund which makes available $7.6 billion to 18 states and the District of Columbia that were hardest hit by the housing crisis. With the launch of EHLP, mortgage assistance is now available for unemployed and underemployed homeowners in every state and Puerto Rico.

    Potential applicants can locate an EHLP agency and learn more about the program by visiting www.FindEHLP.org or calling the toll-free number 855-FIND-EHLP (346-3345).


    ###

     

    HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and www.espanol.hud.gov . You can also follow HUD on Twitter at @HUDnews or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD.
     


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
    July 8, 201

    Contact:
    David Castillo 
    (202) 776-1771 

    Washington, D.C.—Yesterday’s introduction of the “State and Local Flexibility Act” (H.R. 2445) by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., is of grave concern to NCLR (National Council of La Raza). This bill allows states and school districts to use federal education dollars in an unrestricted manner, essentially gambling with funding for English language learners (ELLs) and low-income students.

    “This partisan bill is taking us back to a time when the achievement gap in schools was all but ignored. This proposal will only exacerbate the problem highlighted in the recently released data from the Office for Civil Rights which show that ELLs and low-income children of color still don’t have access to a quality education,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “Funding for ELLs, who make up 40% of the Latino student population, is especially threatened by this proposal.”

    In a radio interview yesterday morning, Kline stated that schools should not be required to only use targeted funding for specific subgroups of children, including ELLs and low-income students. He continued by suggesting that some schools would rather use federal resources to buy computers instead of using targeted federal funds for English language learners.

    “We expected Congressman Kline, as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, to show leadership in maintaining the strengths of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a bill that was enacted to promote education equity,” said Murguía. “Unfortunately, his decision to introduce this bill and his recent comments call into question his commitment to providing the same educational opportunities to English language learners that are enjoyed by other Americans.”

    ###

    NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visit www.nclr.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


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    By Elena Lacayo, Immigration Field Coordinator, NCLR

    Things are getting ugly in Alabama. Last month, the Cotton State became the fourth state to pass a draconian anti-immigrant, anti-Latino law, one even harsher than Arizona SB 1070. And on June 29, Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks used violent and inappropriate language toward immigrants, saying, “As your congressman on the House floor, I’ll do anything short of shooting them, anything that is lawful.”

    As shocking as his comment may be to many Americans, Brooks’ statement is only the latest in a number of offensive remarks from elected officials who have used demonizing language toward immigrants to further their political agendas. Last November, Tennessee State Representative Curry Todd likened immigrants to rats in a hearing. Then, in March, Kansas State Representative Virgil Peck brought shame to his legislature by comparing immigrants to swine and saying that they should be shot from helicopters. Even John McCain recently blamed some of the most devastating wildfires in Arizona’s history on undocumented immigrants, despite the fact that U.S. Forest Service officials said there was no evidence to support his claim.

    Just under a month ago, Republican Governor Robert Bentley signed HB 56 into law, seizing the title of harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the nation from Arizona’s widely reviled SB 1070. This sweeping anti-Hispanic bill mimics the draconian Arizona legislation, providing local law enforcement with an overly broad license to investigate residents’ immigration statuses, thereby opening the doors to racial profiling. Alabama’s bill goes a step further by requiring schools to collect information on the citizenship or immigration status of their students, bringing discrimination back into Alabama’s classrooms. Unfortunately, this damaging piece of legislation threatens the public safety and civil rights of everybody living in Alabama and is likely to lead to the same costly legal battles and financial losses that ensued in Arizona, which negatively impacted the state’s economy and image.

    Although Brooks does not sit on his state’s legislature, his comment exposes what lies behind enforcement-only policies like HB 56. His rhetoric demonstrates what is already crystal clear about Arizona-style bills—they do not intend to find workable policies and solutions to the issue of immigration. Rather, they force immigrants to live in fear, and they perpetuate discrimination and intolerance toward immigrants and the overall Latino community alike.

    Advocating for anything beyond commonsense solutions at the federal level is illogical and, in this case, blatantly dangerous. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Representative Brooks may disagree on how to fix the U.S. immigration system, but we should all agree that finding those solutions requires no mention of violence or dehumanizing rhetoric. Brooks’ violent language is unacceptable and has absolutely no place in civil discourse. We expect better from elected officials and ask Mr. Brooks to apologize for his insensitive and inappropriate statement.
     


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  • 07/11/11--11:19: Deafening Silence
  • It has now been more than a year since Arizona began its assault on civil rights with the racial profiling law, SB 1070. In that time, dozens of Major League Baseball (MLB) players, members of the business community, and civil rights leaders have spoken out against the law. Players like Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista—the new all-time top vote-getter in the All-Star Game history—have both raised concerns with the law. Gonzalez told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “It’s immoral.” Indeed, the MLB Players Association itself issued a strong statement denouncing the draconian law.

    Missing from the opposition to SB 1070, however, is a statement from MLB’s leadership, in particular Commissioner Bud Selig. This Tuesday’s 82nd Annual All-Star Game in Phoenix will serve as a painful reminder that Commissioner Selig chose to stay silent when he had the chance to stand up for his Latino players and speak out against Arizona’s racial profiling law.

    Selig’s silence is deafening, but the Latino community will continue to make its opposition to this law and to his silence loud and clear. Today and tomorrow, one of NCLR’s grassroots partners, Unite Arizona (AZ), will be giving out white ribbons as a symbol of opposition to this law. Unite AZ will be outside Chase Field asking fans to don white ribbons in protest of SB 1070 and as a reminder to Commissioner Selig that baseball needs to exhibit leadership.

    In addition, you can join NCLR and Unite AZ in changing your Twitter avatar and Facebook profile photo to a white ribbon from today through Tuesday night’s game. To change your Twitter avatar, visit our Twibbon campaign and follow the easy instructions. You can also download the image to the right to  change your Facebook profile.

    On Tuesday, NCLR and Unite AZ will also be asking their Facebook supporters and allies to donate their status to: “Arizona hosts the 82nd Annual All-Star Game today, and I stand united with the Latino community to remind MLB and Congress that racial profiling laws like SB 1070 threaten to divide, not unite, our nation.”

    Selig still has time to break his silence and make a statement that calls attention to the issue. He could also wear a white ribbon in support of constructive dialogue about immigration. The choice is his, but he should remember that the Hispanic community has the choice to stop supporting a sport that will not stand with us.
     


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    Last month, we announced the recipients of the fifth annual NCLR-Best Buy Emerging Latino Leaders Scholarship Program. The scholarship program awarded $25,000 to four students who were selected based on their academic achievements, leadership, and involvement in the Latino community. The scholarship is promoted by the NCLR Líderes Initiative, a national youth leadership program designed to help young Latinos increase their impact in their communities.

    However, we haven’t introduced you to the winners yet. We will highlight one winner each day here on our blog. Each scholarship recipient has just graduated high school and now eagerly awaits the arrival of fall to embark on a new chapter in their lives. These students are promising Latino leaders in their communities, and the scholarships will aid their pursuits of becoming national leaders working on behalf of the Latino community.

    Be sure to come back tomorrow to learn about the first award winner!
     


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