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    By Kara D. Ryan, Senior Research Analyst, Health Policy Project, NCLR 

    A health insurance card may be your ticket in to the doctor’s office, but it may not always guarantee the care and treatment that you need. If you are Latino—or hail from another community of color—you have a greater chance of suffering from a serious health condition in your lifetime. Once you are ill, you are more likely to have poorer health outcomes.

    For example, Hispanic and Black adults are nearly two times more likely than Whites to have been diagnosed with diabetes, an often preventable and always treatable chronic disease. Even more startling: among diabetics, Hispanic and Blacks are more likely than Whites to have a foot or leg amputated and the death rate for diabetes is nearly 50% higher for Latinos than for Whites. The avoidable complications, like the troubling rates of amputations, are often the result of an inequitable health care system where people of color experience lower quality of and access to care, regardless of where they fall on the income scale.

    Driving these health disparities are economic and structural barriers that make it difficult for racial and ethnic minorities to access a full range of affordable, high-quality health care services. The increase in racially segregated living spaces means that minority neighborhoods have less infrastructure that encourages good health, too. And on top of that, everything from your sex to your sexual orientation may contribute to obstacles to good health care. Immigration and citizenship statuses are often challenges that hinder access for millions, particularly Latinos and Asian Americans; in fact, nine out of ten uninsured noncitizens are racial and ethnic minorities. If implemented properly, health care reform stands to make a considerable difference in narrowing health disparities in our communities. But there is another opportunity to build on the foundation of the Affordable Care Act and further strengthen the promise of equity.

    That’s why NCLR is thrilled by the introduction of “The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011” (HEAA), comprehensive legislation that would build on the gains of the health care reform law to improve the health and well-being of Latinos and other communities of color.

    Introduced by Reps. Barbara Lee (D–CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D–CA), and Donna Christensen (D–VI) on behalf of the Congressional Tri-Caucus and with 68 total original cosponsors, the HEAA is supported by a broad spectrum of policymakers and advocates representing communities of color and other critical disparities populations, sending a strong message that additional tools and investments are necessary to realize the vision of health equity for all Americans.

    This legislation moves us closer to health equity by helping to integrate communities who will remain vulnerable even after health reform is fully implemented. For example, the HEAA would eliminate access barriers for immigrant families, such as the removal of the federal five-year waiting period to health and nutrition programs currently faced by legal immigrants. The bill takes a broad approach, incorporating not only strategies to improve access to care but also community-based strategies that address social, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities.

    NCLR supports the HEAA and commends the Tri-Caucus for its continuing commitment to improving the health and well-being of communities of color. NCLR looks forward to working with members of Congress, organizational partners, and a network of advocates to advance policies that tackle systemic barriers to affordable quality health care and allow all Americans an equal opportunity to be healthy.

    Sign up to receive health and nutrition updates from NCLR’s health policy team and we’ll keep you posted on the latest developments, resources, and advocacy opportunities in Latino health.
     


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    By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

    Last Thursday, Senators Lamar Alexander (R–TN), Johnny Isakson (R–GA), Richard Burr (R–NC), and Mark Kirk (R–IL) introduced a series of five bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Sadly, these bills are replicas of the same rhetoric and philosophy introduced by their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives—aimed at limiting and restricting the role of the federal government in education. Although we at NCLR agree that we must take swift action to reauthorize ESEA, I simply can’t think of another strategy that would take us further away from the intentions and underpinnings of this law.

    ESEA in its very essence is a civil rights law. And that includes its current version, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was designed to achieve education equity for low-income and minority students after decades of neglect by states. Prior to NCLB, states had no incentive to fix failing schools and many, quite frankly, didn’t care to do so. Once NCLB was signed into law, it shed light on the fact that poor Latino and Black children were at the very bottom of the achievement gap. Moreover, it did something unprecedented and applied labels to schools that publicly displayed what was happening in classrooms across America. What these labels described were failing schools, especially in communities with high concentrations of minorities living in poverty.

    I suppose for some, having too many schools labeled as failing is a scary thought. But, from my perspective, this label accurately describes classrooms whose seats are filled with children of color every day—especially considering that only 17% of fourth grade Hispanic students are at or above proficient in reading. That is failing.

    The federal government doesn’t have to dictate rules for every school and school district, but it must set and maintain aggressive goals in order for states to live up to the promise of providing equal opportunities for all children. That means focusing on all schools—not just the bottom 5%—and that means setting aggressive goals for closing the achievement gap between subgroups of students. History tells us that states, if left on their own, will continue to mask the glaring challenges in schools throughout the country. This means that a strong, smart federal role is needed to improve our public education system. Legislation to weaken the federal role in education would be a step backward for the Hispanic community and a serious mistake for legislators.

    Let’s not shy away from real education reform out of fear of attaching labels to schools. Instead, let’s continue to have high expectations for all of our nation’s children, and put politics aside to take our public schools from “failing” to “great.” 


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    By Janet Murguia, President and CEO, NCLR

    Last week, my organization, NCLR (National Council of La Raza), along with The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights and the Asian American Justice Center, announced the suspension of our participation in the economic boycott of Arizona.

    As was the case when NCLR initially announced our plans to join in boycotting the state in May 2010, we consulted with a wide variety of our partners, including our network of nonprofit Affiliate organizations across the country—13 of which are based in Arizona—and our sister civil rights institutions. The decision to boycott Arizona was not made lightly, and we end our participation now after meticulous consideration.

    In particular, we were moved to act after receiving requests from Arizona’s elected officials, business leaders, union leaders, religious leaders, and NCLR Affiliates. They believe that this is the right time for NCLR to suspend its boycott activities and promote a more constructive debate around the issue of immigration. There is a concerted and growing effort in the state to foster civil and constructive dialogue—voices that represent a broader swath of Arizona than the brand of extremism that has tarnished the state. In light of the injunction against the SB 1070, and these growing efforts committed to charting a new course, we agreed to suspend our participation in the boycott.

    Our opposition to racial profiling laws such as SB 1070 is unequivocal, and the work against them continues. The record has shown that such laws are destructive political wedges that undermine the social and economic fabric of the communities through which they are pushed. And because of that, we understand why other organizations and allies may choose to continue to boycott the state, and we respect that decision completely. For our part, we reserve the right to reinstate the boycott should SB 1070 be implemented, and in the meantime we will continue to work with and lend our support to local partners trying to get their state back on track.

    Ultimately though, by pursuing this new course, we hope that we can play a role in bringing SB 1070 supporters and opponents together to find the common ground needed to advance sustainable solutions to fix our broken immigration system. We look forward to working together with all Arizonans—and Americans—of good will to seek real, lasting solutions that are consistent with our nation’s most fundamental values and principles.  


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    Parent engagement is an essential piece of the education puzzle. Parental involvement can take many forms, and this week’s "Spotlight on Education Excellence" highlights NCLR’s approach to this essential education reform element.

    This is the state of education for Hispanic students in America today:

    • There are 16 million Hispanic children and youth living in the U.S.
    • Fifty-nine percent of Latino youth live in poverty.
    • Fifty-one percent of Latino fourth graders read below a basic level, according to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
    • Forty-six percent of Latino eighth graders are below basic in math, while 67% are below basic in science (NAEP, 2009). 
    • About 24% of Latinos from ages 16 to 24 have permanently dropped out of public schools.

    These are startling numbers, and NCLR (National Council of La Raza) continues to work diligently to reverse this trend. We support the efforts of PreK–12 schools and programs to provide high-quality, outcome-driven, linguistically and culturally appropriate education for Latino and dual-language learner (DLL) students. We also work to create opportunities for Hispanic parents to proactively support the academic success of their children as they progress through each grade. Latino students consistently have low high school graduation rates and high dropout rates; this is especially troubling given that the Hispanic youth population boomed over the last decade. The situation is even grimmer when we look at early childhood education. Consider this:

    • By age five, English-proficient Hispanic children are about three months behind White children in their pre-reading skills. This early gap is already wide upon students’ entrance into kindergarten.
    • In 2008, Latino children constituted a majority of enrollees in first grade in several major U.S. cities.: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose, Calif.
    • By 2050, the child population in the U.S. is expected to be 62% minority.

    To address these issues, NCLR has been heavily engaged in crafting useful parent engagement programs. We know that parents can be strong contributors to their kids’ educational success and that they are invested in the future of their children. Keeping this idea at the forefront from preschool through high school will promote "authentic, meaningful relationships, respectful open communication, and participation among families, children, and school staff." (NCLR Core Qualities “CQ 5: Sustained Meaningful Relationships”)

    These ideas are the linchpin of our Padres Comprometidos, our parent engagement curriculum for prekindergarten, elementary, and secondary levels in English and Spanish to reach out to parents who are traditionally disconnected to schools. For more information on Padres Comrpometidos, visit www.nclr.org/education.

    When parents are welcomed, supported, and valued in school they can engage in a collaborative process with teachers and school staff in supporting their student and enhancing their own skills. A collaborative process utilizes the resources and assets of families, and continually focuses on building respectful relationships with ongoing communication. Family values, knowledge, and interests are integrated with principles of teaching and learning to co-create learning goals and expected academic and social outcomes of growth. When schools empower parents, they become dedicated advocates for the school and for quality education for children. 


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    PARA DIVULGACIÓN INMEDIATA

    Contacto:
    Camila Gallardo, NCLR
    (305) 573-7329


    Enrique Cortez, LSR
    (202) 525-7411


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

    Miami, Fla.—En el foro municipal que tomo lugar hoy en Miami se reunieron líderes comunitarios y personas de mayor edad preocupados por la posibilidad de que el Congreso de EE.UU. reduzca las modestas prestaciones del Seguro Social, Medicare, y Medicaid de las que dependen para gran parte de sus ingresos y cuidados de salud. Las personas de mayor edad que asistieron al foro, presentado por el NCLR (Consejo Nacional de La Raza), AARP, y coalición Latinos para una Jubilación Segura (LSR, por sus siglas en inglés), expresaron su oposición a los recortes potenciales, y les dijeron a los representantes de estos grupos cómo estos recortes les podría afectar a ellos y a sus familias.

    Como anticipo a las recomendaciones del “supercomité” encargado por el Congreso de EE. UU. de negociar una solución a largo plazo para el presupuesto federal, ya existe una creciente preocupación sobre los posibles efectos que tendrán los recortes que se lleguen a hacer a los programas como el Seguro Social, que ayudan a mantener a millones de personas fuera de la pobreza. El foro, que se llevó a cabo en español y es parte de la campaña “Latinos y el Seguro Social, ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta!”, contó con el alcalde de Miami, Tomas Regalado, y expertos en estos programas federales que proporcionan cierta seguridad financiera a las personas de mayor edad de bajos ingresos y a otras personas también.

    Los ponentes señalaron que los hispanos de mayor edad son más propensos a acceder a Medicare con el apoyo de Medicaid que otras personas mayores, y es posible que sufran las peores consecuencias de las actuales propuestas de reducción del déficit federal mediante el recorte a estos programas y prestaciones del Seguro Social.

    “La promesa de la seguridad jubilatoria que proporciona el Seguro Social para millones de estadounidenses tiene una significación particular para los latinos, tanto ahora como en el futuro, y no se debería amenazar este beneficio clave para reducir el déficit nacional,”dijo Cristina Martin Firvida, directora de servicios financieros y de asuntos consumidores del AARP.

    En Miami-Dade County, el Seguro Social contribuye con más de $4.1 miles de millones de dólares a la economía local a través de los beneficios que reciben 371,000 residentes, incluyendo a 256,000 jubilados, 42,935 trabajadores con discapacidades, y 25,570 niños. El programa del Seguro Social sirve más de 3.7 millones residentes de Florida y evita que 1,070,000 de ellos 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 fórmula 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.

    “Los beneficios del Seguro Social y Medicare ganados por los latinos son críticos para aquellos que no pueden trabajar debido a su edad o discapacidad”, planteó Héctor Sánchez, director ejecutivo del Consejo Sindical para el Avance del Trabajador Latinoamericano y dirigente de la coalición Latinos para una Jubilación Segura. “Aumentar la edad de jubilación a 67 años le costará a los latinos más de $2.4 miles de millones de dólares, sólo en el primer año”. A principios de esta semana, la coalición Latinos para una Jubilación Segura dio a conocer un informe detallando los efectos dañinos que esta propuesta tendría en la comunidad latina.

    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.

    “Las generaciones futuras de trabajadores, que serán más diversas en términos de raza y etnicidad, necesitarán las prestaciones del Seguro Social” dijo Leticia Miranda, directora adjunta del proyecto de política económica y empleo del NCLR. “Debemos tomar medidas que garanticen que este programa esté para esas generaciones, así como lo ha estado para aquellos que lo han necesitado en los últimos 76 años”.

    El foro de Miami es el tercero 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 AARP, visite www.aarp.org.

    Para más información sobre el NCLR, visite www.nclr.org o 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:
    Camila Gallardo, NCLR
    (305) 573-7329


    Enrique Cortez, LSR
    (202) 525-7411


    “Latinos and Social Security ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta!” town hall forum was held in Miami

    Miami, Fla.—A town hall forum held in Miami today brought together Latino seniors and community leaders who are concerned that the U.S. Congress may reduce the modest Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits that they rely on for most of their income and health care. Seniors who attended the forum hosted by NCLR (National Council of La Raza), AARP, and the Latinos for a Secure Retirement (LSR) coalition voiced their opposition to potential cuts and told representatives of these groups about how reduced benefits could affect them and their families.

    As the nation anticipates the recommendations of a congressional super committee charged with negotiating a long-term solution for the federal budget, there is growing concern about the potential effects of cuts made to programs like Social Security that help keep millions of people out of poverty. The forum—which was held in Spanish and is part of the “Latinos and Social Security ¡Tu Futuro Cuenta!“ campaign—featured Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and experts on these federal programs that provide some financial security to low-income seniors and others.

    The speakers noted that older Hispanics are more likely than other seniors to access Medicare with the support of Medicaid, and may experience the worst of the repercussions from proposals to reduce the federal deficit by cutting these programs and Social Security benefits.

    “The promise of a stable retirement that Social Security offers to millions of Americans and which is so critical to the Latin community, now and in the future, should never be threatened, especially to reduce the national deficit,” said Cristina Martin Firvida, Director of Financial Security and Consumer Affairs, AARP.

    In Miami-Dade County, Social Security contributes more than $4.1 billion annually to the local economy by paying benefits to more than 371,000 residents, including 256,000 retirees, 42,935 disabled workers, and 25,570 children. Social Security serves more than 3.7 million residents of Florida and prevents 1,070,000 of them 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 and Medicare benefits earned by Latinos are critical to those who cannot work because of age or disability,” stated Hector Sanchez, Executive Director of Latin American Labor Council and a leader of the Latinos for a Secure Retirement coalition. “Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 would cost Latinos more than $2.4 billion over the first year alone.” Earlier this week, Latinos for a Secure Retirement released a report detailing the harmful effects that this proposal would have on the Latino community.

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) is severely underfunded, which has led to unacceptable delays in benefit claims for disabled Hispanics. 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 will continue to be needed by future generations of workers who will be more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity,” said Leticia Miranda, Associate Director of NCLR’s Employment and Economic Policy Project. “We must take steps to ensure that this program is there for them as it has been for those who have needed it over the past 76 years.”

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

    ###

    For more information about NCLR, visit www.nclr.org or www.nclr.org/socialsecurity.

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

    For more information about AARP, visit www.aarp.org.
     


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    The key to raising successful readers ultimately relies on the foundation that we, as parents, construct for our children. Reading is essential in all subject areas, and indeed in every aspect of our lives. Many of NCLR’s education programs are geared toward helping parents become more involved in fostering their children’s literacy.

    The reading ability of a student depends on factors such as word knowledge, enunciation, and comprehension, which, when mastered, develop critical thinking skills. Students develop critical thinking skills by reflecting on and evaluating their conscious understanding of the meaning and significance of what is observed or expressed, giving them the ability to determine whether there is adequate justification to accept a conclusion as true. Critical thinking establishes a process of reflecting on the meaning of statements, examining the reasoning and evidence, and forming judgments about the facts.

    Some of the benefits your child will reap through reading include:

    • An expanded vocabulary
    • An understanding of how writers develop and express their ideas, which helps the students themselves develop better writing skills
    • Skills for handling complex ideas
    • Improved scores on college entrance exams, which test all of the skills listed above
    • A more well-rounded perspective as they learn about people and the world outside of their own existence

    Although encouraging children of all ages to read at home might seem difficult at times, here are some ways your child can become fully invested in reading:

    • Accompany your kids to the neighborhood library regularly
    • Find books that interest your child
    • Let your child help you map out a route to a destination
    • Search for garage sales or bargain bookstores to find economically friendly new and used books
    • Attend the library story hours with young children
    • Establish a consistent family reading hour
    • Accompany your child to the school book fair
    • Encourage children to watch educational programs, and sit with them to ask questions about what they saw to prepare them for comprehensive reading

    Reading is one of the most important lifelong skills and should be nurtured daily for sustainability. Your child’s relationship with reading will ultimately determine their success in life and career. Be proactive! Learn what the reading standards are for your child’s grade level, be involved in their daily reading activities, and finally, embrace your role in developing an accelerated reader. Reading comprehension prepares Latino children to be the leaders of tomorrow and NCLR works hard every day through our various education programs to make that happen.


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    By: Jennifer Ng'andu, Deputy Director, Health Policy Project

    A decade ago there was little acknowledgment of the pervasive inequities in health care. At the annual Health Equity Summit in Oakland, California this past weekend, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard summed it up when she said, “Ten years ago health disparities weren’t even on the radar screen.” She went on in the spirit of celebration, emphasizing accomplishments that the diverse organizations in the room—and more often outside of it—have achieved by transforming the national dialogue. The Health Equity Summit brings together a rich group of advocacy organizations, community health providers, state and national elected officials, and individual leaders all for the common cause of moving an agenda that creates equity in health and health care. While in the past the summit has focused on the shortcomings of national policy in this area, this year the event was a reflection on the tough fights that we have undertaken to improve the state of health care for the Americans who are most underserved by our current health care system.

    Despite landmark research illustrating deep disparities in the treatment of Blacks and Latinos in health care settings, skeptics have long doubted that people of color endure different health care experiences that threaten their well-being. Yet more than a decade ago, the Tri-Caucus, composed of the very determined Hispanic, Black, and Asian Pacific American caucuses of the U.S. Congress, raised the consciousness of national policymakers about the deep gaps in health care access and quality that can wreak havoc in the lives of people of color.

    Last year, the work paid off. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law, not only with new coverage mechanisms for the uninsured, but with a bold new set of policy options that recognize that health is more than an insurance card. Community health initiatives, workforce expansion and diversification programs, data collection, and strong anti-discrimination provisions were just some of the important changes made.

    The establishment of these programs and their subsequent implementation are an inarguable indication of progress, but let’s be clear: there is still work to do. Just as health is not only about having insurance, it is also not only about having access to medical care. Community infrastructure, poverty, and other social and economic structures often have more implications on health than do doctor visits. Given indications that racial segregation in the United States is not just high, but growing, it is imperative that the nation reverse these trends. Isolated communities of color are more frequently poor in resources and infrastructure, which fosters an environment that is ripe for unnecessary illness and disease. As I learned during the summit, a child of color born today in West Oakland, California is expected to have a lifespan that is 15 years shorter than a child born in the wealthier Oakland Hills.

    The good news is that leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus—recognizing that we must build on what we’ve achieved—have come together once again to push for additional policy that improves medical care and addresses the social determinants of health. Days before the summit, they introduced H.R. 2954, the “Health Care and Accountability Act,” with a record 68 cosponsors. The bill drives health promotion resources into the community, moving away from a system of treatment and toward one of prevention. The even better news is that the sheer determination of the Tri-Caucus often results in real change. The vast majority of health disparities initiatives included in the Affordable Care Act were taken directly from previous Tri-Caucus legislation.

    It took a long time to get where we are today, and it will take a longer time still to reach full health equity. But with the collective action of all our communities and the addition of the many powerful voices that I heard last weekend, there is no doubt in my mind that we will get there.


     


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    By Jennifer Ng'andu, Deputy Director, Health Policy Project

    A decade ago there was little acknowledgment of the pervasive inequities in health care. At the annual Health Equity Summit in Oakland, California this past weekend, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard summed it up when she said, “Ten years ago health disparities weren’t even on the radar screen.” She went on in the spirit of celebration, emphasizing accomplishments that the diverse organizations in the room—and more often outside of it—have achieved by transforming the national dialogue. The Health Equity Summit brings together a rich group of advocacy organizations, community health providers, state and national elected officials, and individual leaders all for the common cause of moving an agenda that creates equity in health and health care. While in the past the summit has focused on the shortcomings of national policy in this area, this year the event was a reflection on the tough fights that we have undertaken to improve the state of health care for the Americans who are most underserved by our current health care system.

    Despite landmark research illustrating deep disparities in the treatment of Blacks and Latinos in health care settings, skeptics have long doubted that people of color endure different health care experiences that threaten their well-being. Yet more than a decade ago, the Tri-Caucus, composed of the very determined Hispanic, Black, and Asian Pacific American caucuses of the U.S. Congress, raised the consciousness of national policymakers about the deep gaps in health care access and quality that can wreak havoc in the lives of people of color.

    Last year, the work paid off. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law, not only with new coverage mechanisms for the uninsured, but with a bold new set of policy options that recognize that health is more than an insurance card. Community health initiatives, workforce expansion and diversification programs, data collection, and strong anti-discrimination provisions were just some of the important changes made.

    The establishment of these programs and their subsequent implementation are an inarguable indication of progress, but let’s be clear: there is still work to do. Just as health is not only about having insurance, it is also not only about having access to medical care. Community infrastructure, poverty, and other social and economic structures often have more implications on health than do doctor visits. Given indications that racial segregation in the United States is not just high, but growing, it is imperative that the nation reverse these trends. Isolated communities of color are more frequently poor in resources and infrastructure, which fosters an environment that is ripe for unnecessary illness and disease. As I learned during the summit, a child of color born today in West Oakland, California is expected to have a lifespan that is 15 years shorter than a child born in the wealthier Oakland Hills.

    The good news is that leaders of the Congressional Tri-Caucus—recognizing that we must build on what we’ve achieved—have come together once again to push for additional policy that improves medical care and addresses the social determinants of health. Days before the summit, they introduced H.R. 2954, the “Health Care and Accountability Act,” with a record 68 cosponsors. The bill drives health promotion resources into the community, moving away from a system of treatment and toward one of prevention. The even better news is that the sheer determination of the Tri-Caucus often results in real change. The vast majority of health disparities initiatives included in the Affordable Care Act were taken directly from previous Tri-Caucus legislation.

    It took a long time to get where we are today, and it will take a longer time still to reach full health equity. But with the collective action of all our communities and the addition of the many powerful voices that I heard last weekend, there is no doubt in my mind that we will get there.


     


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    For the Comer Bien blog series, NCLR has asked several of our partners and Affiliates to reflect on the issues raised by families in the video vignettes. Views and opinions expressed are those of the author and our Affiliate, Mary’s Center, of Washington, DC, one of five organizations with whom NCLR partnered for the Comer Bien video and storybanking project.

    By Maria Gomez, President and CEO, Mary’s Center

    At Mary’s Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center serving 24,000 individuals in the DC metropolitan region, our work is rewarded with the stories we hear every day from clients like Brenda, a 17-year-old high school student who lives with her parents and two younger sisters in Washington, DC. Brenda was diagnosed with high cholesterol at a young age, together with overweight and a mild palsy in her leg that sometimes made physical activity challenging.

    In stories like Brenda’s, there are often factors affecting the health and nutrition of our pediatric patients beyond the initial problem for which their parents brought them to see our doctors. It’s not a secret and we see it every day: families are struggling to put food on their table and to give their children good nutrition.

    We know the outcomes of poor nutrition—our health providers and teachers see it firsthand in our participants. Our children are at risk for developmental delays and chronic disease; they also have poor performance in school and suffer from depression at very early stages in their lives.

    We also know that our obese children will most likely grow up to be obese adults, contributing to the high cost of our health care system. They are at risk for heart disease, diabetes and insulin resistance, and—most alarming—dying much too young. The low self-esteem and social isolation of obesity puts our adolescents at risk for suicidal tendencies.

    The good thing is that nearly all of this can be prevented. Part of our work at Mary’s Center is to guide and educate our families on healthy life styles. We have nutritionists who work in conjunction with the WIC program, SNAP (food stamps) enrollment, and after-school food programs that enable individuals to take advantage of resources to help them buy and prepare healthier foods while they also receive their health care and educational instruction.

    When Brenda came to Mary’s Center, our medical team flagged her weight and high cholesterol as threats to Brenda’s health and connected her with our nutritionists, who provided her with culturally relevant, budget-friendly counseling and recipes.

    Access to affordable health and education services helped not only Brenda, but also her entire family. Brenda shops with her father at the Latino grocery market, choosing healthier items and fresh foods for the family meals. In the past year, she has successfully lowered both her weight and cholesterol levels and is committed to continuing her progress. She will graduate from high school next spring.

    Brenda is on board with her commitment to good nutrition and vows to teach her future children the healthy eating strategies that she learned at Mary’s Center. We are so proud of Brenda for her determination to overcome her barriers and for her decision to live a healthier life.

    Save the date! NCLR will be wrapping up the Comer Bien vignette series with a Twitter chat on Thursday, October 6, at 4:00 p.m. EDT. Stay tuned for more information.  


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

    STATEMENT FROM NCLR PRESIDENT AND CEO JANET MURGUÍA ON THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S PROPOSAL TO WAIVE REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT

    Washington, D.C.—Today, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took a bold step to reform our nation’s public schools by offering states the opportunity to improve their education systems in exchange for relief from complying with provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The proposal would put responsibility for achieving the goals of NCLB—to improve teacher quality, close achievement gaps, and ensure that every single child in America is afforded a quality education—squarely on the states. It is now up to states, policymakers, and advocates who called for relief from NCLB’s requirements to work with the administration to ensure that this results in education reform and improvement.

    NCLB was enacted in 2002, laying out ambitious but necessary goals for preparing our nation’s schoolchildren for college and careers. The law acknowledged that the United States provided a low-quality educational experience to children who were poor, minority, English language learners, or disabled. NCLB recognized that the education system was unjust and unsustainable, especially considering the increasingly diverse student population and the evolving workplace, which required a more educated labor force. Since then, many teachers, principals, and education officials have worked diligently to put in place the elements needed to meet the law’s objectives. At the same time, many states have struggled to implement NCLB and have called for significant changes to the law. Today the Obama administration has opened the door for states to prove that they have a better plan to provide every student in every school with an education that prepares him or her for college and the 21st-century labor market.

    At NCLR (National Council of La Raza), we are pleased that the administration’s waivers plan would continue to hold schools accountable for closing achievement gaps. We are also pleased that the waivers plan would not let any schools off the hook. We look forward to working with the administration to ensure that the process is transparent and includes a strong peer review process, as well as ongoing monitoring. In addition, we are encouraged by the administration’s commitment to enforcing civil rights laws and expect that commitment to continue.

    The waivers package could set in motion a set of policies that define the federal role in education moving forward. NCLR and the Hispanic community will be watching closely to ensure that the waivers are implemented with an eye toward the well-being of all students, particularly those whom NCLB was designed to help the most.
     


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    By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth Building Policy Project, NCLR

    In the current political atmosphere—where partisan politics seem to trump the needs of so many Americans—it’s encouraging to hear that some of our Congressmen are willing to protect programs that are so crucial to vulnerable communities. Among these programs is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Counseling Assistance Program, which may be spared from deep spending cuts that would have bankrupted the program altogether.

    Last week, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) was pleased to hear that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development marked up their bill to include $60 million for HUD’s housing counseling program. While this amount still falls short of the $88 million the program had previously received in funding, it certainly provides a substantial budget at a time when numerous programs are seeing major cutbacks. In fact, when the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development marked up their bill earlier this month, they had eliminated funding completely.

    Last year, more than two million families received counseling through HUD’s Housing Counseling Assistance Program, including one-on-one sessions and essential advice for first-time homebuyers, seniors, renters, homeless individuals, and families facing foreclosure. The counseling program is essential—particularly because Americans are in the midst of a foreclosure crisis with no end in sight. Approximately 17% of Latino homeowners are projected to lose their homes, a development that guts their family savings and contributes to family discord. Indeed, homebuyers who receive consumer education in the form of counseling are less likely to default on their home loan in the first place and more likely to acquire a reasonable mortgage modification. Without the funding for HUD’s program, nonprofits that provide counseling will be forced to cut these services and lay off staff, while those families in need will lose a vital lifeline that can help them stay afloat.

    NCLR is committed to ensuring that the $60 million in funding for this program stays intact. Not only have representatives from our organization and our Affiliates participated in hearings on Capitol Hill, where we voiced support for the program, but we continue to meet leadership on both committees to make sure they understand the importance and effectiveness of this program.

    So far, discussions are proving promising, and it appears that members from the House Subcommittee and Senate Subcommittee may be able to negotiate funding for housing counseling assistance. NCLR is pleased to see that a program which has long enjoyed bipartisan support still finds champions from both the Democratic and Republican parties. And while putting housing counseling back on the table is a major victory, we have not crossed the finish line just yet. We need everybody to lend their support by continuing to call your representatives and senators to ask that they protect funding for HUD’s Housing Counseling Assistance Program.


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    By Sergio Muñoz, Senior Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project

    Health equity is about making the health system work for everyone. Broken policies contribute to widening health gaps in many communities that ultimately hurt our entire country. Indeed, a study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies shows that more than $82 million was added to the health costs of Latinos during a three-year period due to health errors, premature death, and other inequities in health care. The cost of disparities for the entire nation reaches into the trillions. Recently, the Tri-Caucus—the Hispanic, Black, and Asian and Pacific American congressional caucuses—jointly introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011 (HEAA), a comprehensive effort to alleviate health disparities that have long plagued millions of individuals in our health care system. One of the communities that this bill helps is the millions of immigrants who not only experience disparate treatment in health settings, but are also arbitrarily cut out of coverage.

    The HEAA is designed to build on many of the gains of health care reform by continuing to chip away at coverage, access, and quality disparities that contribute to subpar health outcomes among racial and ethnic minorities. The HEAA also addresses the fact that many communities have intersecting demographic factors that make life even more complicated. A disabled racial or ethnic minority may be doubly impacted by disparities in health treatment, as may a member of the LGBT community of color. Minority immigrants are acutely affected by barriers that keep them from buying into our health insurance system. Uninsured noncitizens in particular, one-fifth of the national uninsured and 92% of whom are racial and ethnic minorities, have much to gain. The HEAA increases the study of this population and removes several access restrictions affecting immigrants. Crucially, along with striking the five-year waiting period for legal immigrants’ participation in public health and nutrition programs, the HEAA addresses the repercussions of nasty politics that snuck into last year’s historic health care reform.

    Did you know that four out of ten undocumented immigrants already have private health insurance? It’s true. Did you also know that the health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), included a provision that will prohibit these undocumented immigrants and others from buying unsubsidized private insurance in the new insurance marketplaces (Exchanges) in the future? Also true. The HEAA eliminates this over-the-top ban on the purchase of full-priced insurance.

    To be clear: the HEAA only permits undocumented immigrants to buy private insurance from the Exchanges on their own—without any government subsidies. This is not an issue of undocumented immigrants receiving government tax credits or even getting a break on their co-pays—that’s prohibited elsewhere in the ACA. Instead the HEAA takes one very logical step forward by allowing any individual who bears the full burden of insurance costs to get into the health care system and share the risk, and eliminates unnecessary screening roadblocks for legal immigrants and citizens who have already been designated eligible for coverage.

    The HEAA is the first major piece of federal legislation introduced after health care reform to approach the discussion of immigrant health care in a common-sense way—by removing this unprecedented barrier. NCLR is proud to support this effort. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is often quoted for his observation that although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no one is entitled to their own facts. Since we’re still waiting for a sound policy reason for increasing the ranks of the uninsured, and (most of us) agree that it’s wrong to allow the uninsured to suffer, this provision is entitled no deference. The Tri-Caucus commendably recognized this, the HEAA fixes it, and NCLR is proud to stand with its civil rights partners in full support.
     


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    The National Council of La Raza is dedicated to promoting nurturing and meaningful relationships between parents and children. Recently, we have been looking at how our Parent Engagement programs achieve that goal. To highlight our commitment to a quality education, we provide below a helpful list of things you can do at home to get involved in your child’s education. These tips are taken from our Padres Comprometidos curriculum, which you can read more about here. Incorporating these ideas at home will help put you and your kids on the right path toward educational success:

    Taking the time to regularly acknowledge the positive traits in your children promotes positive self-esteem.

    • Award accolades to your children when appropriate.
    • Reward your children for their accomplishments.
    • Regularly verbally express your satisfaction to your children.

    Keep track of your children’s progress at school.

    • Ask them to share what they are learning in school.
    • Ensure that they understand everything they are introduced to.
    • Show interest in what your children learning by regularly asking questions geared around the topics.

    Read with your children at home.

    • Establish a routine family reading hour.
    • If possible, the entire family should participate.

    See that your children complete their homework.

    • Furnish an independent area that is quiet and free of distractions where your children feel comfortable studying at home.
    • Know when to intervene when your children are having difficulty completing their work.

    Regularly have candid conversations about social ills, self-discovery, human development, and interaction with others.

    • Explain the process of rapid physical changes that occur in adolescence.
    • Students have a strong need to belong and feel accepted. Explain the differences between being accepted and succumbing to peer pressure, which can have negative consequences.
    • When adolescents experience a multitude of changes, they can be vulnerable; parents should be mindful and sensitive to their feelings, especially during difficult conversations.

    Introduce your children to goal setting and steps to success.

    • Set clear expectations and ask children to help define the consequences for their actions. It is important to be consistent with rules and consequences.
    • Have your children set up a calendar to keep track of chores.
    • Share the family budget with your children; explain the monitoring process and the importance of keeping a budget.
    • Discuss options for a brighter future, including obtaining a good education, attending college, increasing chances for success.

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    If you’ve been following the Comer Bien series, by now you know that Latino kids are going hungry at unacceptable rates and, at the same time, experiencing record levels of overweight and obesity. At the heart of both Latino child obesity and hunger is poor access to healthy foods. This means that economic and environmental factors—often called “social determinants of health” in the public health and policy world—make it difficult for Hispanics and other underserved Americans to regularly afford enough healthy foods for everyone in the family to eat nutritious meals. 

    So what are we going to do to change these outcomes for our children?

    With our first Twitter chat series, #NCLRChats, on Thursday, October 6 at 4:00 p.m. EDT, we invite you to join the conversation about how social determinants of health are affecting the nutrition of our children and to bring this message to policymakers. As Janet Murguía, our President and CEO, explained, “We as a nation must understand Latino nutritional experiences in order to craft meaningful solutions for improving the health and well-being of Latino children and families.” We want to hear from you about how these factors affect your community’s access to healthy foods—and we need your help sharing that message with policymakers to make sure that solutions take all of these factors into consideration.

    Consider that many Hispanics live in food deserts, where fresh, healthy food is not available or retail food outlets are absent altogether. Transportation and community safety also play a role when Latino families must travel far from home to shop for food or walk home with heavy bags through unsafe settings. And job and income insecurity, often exacerbated in an economic downturn, means that many families are making the best food choices they can on a limited budget once the rent, utilities, and other nondiscretionary expenses have been paid.  Worse, many Hispanic families are not just dealing with one social determinant at a time; a low-income parent struggling with job insecurity is likely to lack affordable health care, live in an area where healthy food is scarce, and make trade-offs at the grocery store between buying inexpensive, calorie-dense foods that will fill everyone’s stomachs or purchasing nutritious foods, such as fresh produce, that tend to be more expensive and spoil quicker.

    Take the example of Emily of San Antonio, who takes four or more hours out of her weekend to do her grocery shopping in another part of town at a store that stocks healthier foods than her neighborhood chain. Or consider Geanette of El Paso, who is able to give her daughters healthy dinners thanks to nutritious school meals and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), despite a busy schedule of work and higher education. These mothers are juggling a number of factors that together create an uphill battle when it comes to buying and preparing the healthy meals that they want to give to their children.

    So on October 6, join our experts and other advocates to ask questions and share your own thoughts, experiences, and ideas for action. You can send your questions and contributions in advance to news@nclr.org, post on our Facebook wall, or send us a tweet using the #NCLRChats hashtag. We’ll be publishing the chat transcript and distributing it to decision-makers, so make your voice heard!

    And, if you haven't checked out Comer Bien yet, watch the video below. When you're finished, click here to view the entire video series.  


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    If you’ve been following the Comer Bien series, by now you know that Latino kids are going hungry at unacceptable rates and, at the same time, experiencing record levels of overweight and obesity. At the heart of both Latino child obesity and hunger is poor access to healthy foods. This means that economic and environmental factors—often called “social determinants of health” in the public health and policy world—make it difficult for Hispanics and other underserved Americans to regularly afford enough healthy foods for everyone in the family to eat nutritious meals. 

    So what are we going to do to change these outcomes for our children?

    With our first Twitter chat series, #NCLRChats, on Tuesday, October 6 at 4:00 p.m. EDT, we invite you to join the conversation about how social determinants of health are affecting the nutrition of our children and to bring this message to policymakers. As Janet Murguía, our President and CEO, explained, “We as a nation must understand Latino nutritional experiences in order to craft meaningful solutions for improving the health and well-being of Latino children and families.” We want to hear from you about how these factors affect your community’s access to healthy foods—and we need your help sharing that message with policymakers to make sure that solutions take all of these factors into consideration.

    Consider that many Hispanics live in food deserts, where fresh, healthy food is not available or retail food outlets are absent altogether. Transportation and community safety also play a role when Latino families must travel far from home to shop for food or walk home with heavy bags through unsafe settings. And job and income insecurity, often exacerbated in an economic downturn, means that many families are making the best food choices they can on a limited budget once the rent, utilities, and other nondiscretionary expenses have been paid.  Worse, many Hispanic families are not just dealing with one social determinant at a time; a low-income parent struggling with job insecurity is likely to lack affordable health care, live in an area where healthy food is scarce, and make trade-offs at the grocery store between buying inexpensive, calorie-dense foods that will fill everyone’s stomachs or purchasing nutritious foods, such as fresh produce, that tend to be more expensive and spoil quicker.

    Take the example of Emily of San Antonio, who takes four or more hours out of her weekend to do her grocery shopping in another part of town at a store that stocks healthier foods than her neighborhood chain. Or consider Geanette of El Paso, who is able to give her daughters healthy dinners thanks to nutritious school meals and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), despite a busy schedule of work and higher education. These mothers are juggling a number of factors that together create an uphill battle when it comes to buying and preparing the healthy meals that they want to give to their children.

    So on October 6, join our experts and other advocates to ask questions and share your own thoughts, experiences, and ideas for action. You can send your questions and contributions in advance to news@nclr.org, post on our Facebook wall, or send us a tweet using the #NCLRChats hashtag. We’ll be publishing the chat transcript and distributing it to decision-makers, so make your voice heard!

    And, if you haven't checked out Comer Bien yet, watch the video below. When you're finished, click here to view the entire video series.  


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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


    Washington, D.C.—NCLR (National Council of La Raza) expressed outrage at U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn’s decision to let stand the most egregious provisions of HB 56, the nation’s harshest and most draconian version of Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant and anti-Latino law. Those provisions include allowing local law enforcement to pull over and detain people whom they suspect could be undocumented and, even more disturbing, requiring teachers and schools to collect information on the immigration status of their students.

    “This law harkens back to similar laws in Alabama’s past. We have been down this road before, and this is not a part of Alabama’s history that bears repeating,” stated Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO.

    “Let me be very clear: allowing these provisions to go into law will wreak havoc on the people of Alabama, not just its Latino residents,” Murguía continued. “By failing to stop the law’s clearly unconstitutional directive to force teachers and schools to ascertain their students’ immigration status—a complete violation of a decades-old Supreme Court decision—and allowing the ‘papers please’ aspect of the law, which legalizes and legitimizes racial profiling, Judge Blackburn’s decision endangers the civil rights and public safety of every Alabamian and the education of every child in the state.

    “Although several other troubling provisions were rejected by Judge Blackburn, this decision will sow confusion and chaos in the state and undermine education. Teachers will have to become immigration agents. Fearful parents may take their children out of school. Harassment and abuse of ordinary residents will increase, and police-community relations will be severely undermined as well.

    “These are among the reasons why so many educators and law enforcement officials are opposed to these kinds of laws. Teachers and police know all too well that politically motivated stunts like HB 56 jeopardize their ability to do their jobs—educate children and protect the public’s safety.

    “All of us want to fix our broken immigration system, but we should not fall prey to false solutions that only make the problem worse. We hope and expect that a higher court will side with every other decision that has been made on similar anti-immigrant legislation and overturn Judge Blackburn’s extremely disappointing decision,” concluded Murguía.

    # # #
     


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    By Manuela McDonough, Program Manager, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

    For the first time in U.S. history, Latino children make up the largest group of poor children in the country. According to a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center released Wednesday, 6.1 million Latino children are living in poverty. Several factors may contribute to this statistic, including the disproportionate difficulty that Latinos face amid the weak economic recovery and continuing job crisis. With the Hispanic unemployment rate at 12.5%, it is now more important than ever to teach Latino parents like Yvette how best to stretch their dollars to buy healthy groceries that are critical to their children’s growth, development, and well-being.

    Unfortunately, the reality is that healthier foods cost more than foods that are less nutritious. The good news is that it is possible to help families to afford more healthy foods by sharing simple, money-saving skills. At the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) Institute for Hispanic Health (IHH), where NCLR’s health programs are housed, we recognize this. That’s why in 2010, IHH developed De Compras con Salud y Sabor, a project geared toward educating low-income Latino families in how to get the most nutrition for their food dollars by helping them make healthier, affordable choices centering on traditional Latino foods.

    As we saw in the vignette, Yvette, from San Antonio, knows that eating healthy foods is best for her children’s health and helps prevent many chronic diseases. However, in the face of hard economic times, she and her husband have to be savvy regarding the food that they buy. For example, she’ll buy fattier leg quarters that are cheaper, but when she gets home she makes sure to take the excess fat off. Easy solutions such as this one are included in the De Compras project.

    In collaboration with three NCLR Affiliates and with support from General Mills, IHH designed, developed, and evaluated a bilingual promotores de salud (lay health worker) curriculum. The curriculum, proven effective, includes basic nutritional and physical activity information, as well as tips on how to save money when shopping for groceries.

    Some of the strategies our promotores teach include preparing a shopping list (Spanish and English) to help families stick to the healthier foods that they need to buy and avoid unnecessary purchases; hints on how to cook traditional meals in a healthier way without compromising the taste; and reminders about how to prepare for a trip to the supermarket. Once the educational session is completed, promotores then lead grocery store tours so that participants can practice key food shopping skills such as buying fruits and vegetables in season, using coupons, and identifying whole grain foods for bulk purchases.

    Through the Comer Bien stories, we’ve heard directly from Latino families the different struggles and barriers they face in putting healthy food on their tables. No one solution can fix this problem, and we can’t do it alone. I know that by working together on a comprehensive approach that includes both policy and program efforts, we can address these challenges and ensure that all Latino children, despite their economic status, have the opportunity to be well-nourished and grow up healthy and strong.  

    Save the date! NCLR will be wrapping up the Comer Bien vignette series with a Twitter chat on Thursday, October 6, at 4:00 p.m. EDT. Stay tuned for more information.  


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    By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

    It is difficult to find the right words to express National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) outrage at U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn’s decision to let stand the most egregious provisions of HB 56, Alabama’s harsh and draconian version of Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant and anti-Latino law. It goes against every principle of American democracy to allow police to pull over and detain people on the mere suspicion that they might be undocumented and—even more disturbing—to require teachers and schools to collect information on the immigration status of schoolchildren!

    While several troubling provisions were rejected by Judge Blackburn, there is still much to object to in her decision. The judge failed to stop the law’s clearly unconstitutional directive to force schools to determine students’ immigration status, a complete violation of a decades-old Supreme Court decision. Allowing the “papers, please” aspect of the law, moreover, legalizes and legitimizes racial profiling and will create confusion and chaos. Harassment and abuse of ordinary residents will increase, and police-community relations will be severely undermined as well.

    This decision will endanger the civil rights and public safety of every Alabamian and the education of every child in the state. It helps no one for teachers to take precious time away from education in order to act as immigration agents. Fearful parents may take their children out of school. Birmingham Chief of Police A.C. Roper is against shifting scarce law enforcement resources away from municipal priorities to immigration. Teachers and police oppose these kinds of laws because they know that politically motivated stunts like HB 56 jeopardize their ability to do their jobs—educate children and protect the public’s safety.

    We all want to fix our broken immigration system, but false solutions like this one only make matters worse. We expect a higher court to side with every other court decision in the country that has been made on similar anti-immigrant legislation and overturn Judge Blackburn’s extremely disappointing decision.

    This law harkens back to similar laws in Alabama’s past. We have been down this road before, and this is not a part of Alabama’s history that bears repeating. Allowing these provisions to go into law will wreak havoc on all the people of Alabama, not just its Latino residents.


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    Getting ready to travel the road to college must start early. Students need to understand what it takes to prepare for and succeed in college. They need a road map and help from their families, counselors, mentors—and, they need to know what resources are available to them.

    • We know from the available data that Latino student achievement lags far behind their White peers. Many Latino students simply do not have access to the resources and tools they need to be successful in school and preparing for college can seem too difficult or overwhelming. With access to good information and a little planning, however students and their families can do what is needed. So, what can students and families do to prepare for college? Here are some helpful tips to help with the process. First, remember that nothing is more important than a student’s academic record. Students and parents need to keep track of student records and portfolio, and they should know how colleges use this information.
    • Know what information colleges focus on when looking at applications—Grade point averages (GPAs), courses, test scores, class rank, activities, personal qualities, leadership experience, and community involvement are among the factors colleges consider.

    A student’s four-year high school plan should be developed during the eighth grade.

    • Courses Recommended for College Preparation:
      --4 years of English

      --3–4 years of mathematics, including rigorous courses in algebra I, geometry, and algebra II
      --3–4 years of science, including rigorous courses in biology, chemistry, and physics
      --3 years of social studies
      --1–2 year of fine or performing arts
      --Competitive schools consider the above list to be the minimum requirements. Take challenging courses, and consider their content, level, and rigor.
      --Successfully completing additional courses like speech, trigonometry, calculus, foreign languages, physics, and advanced history courses will help immensely.

    Grade nine—when a student becomes a freshman, everything starts to count. Freshman grades, courses, and credits all become part of a student’s transcript.
    1. Plan ahead
    2. Start to build a relationship with counselors and teachers
    3. Start a portfolio
    4. Monitor academic progress
    5. Get involved in a variety of activities
    6. Select appropriate tenth-grade courses
    7. Research and learn about colleges
    8. Look for meaningful summer activities or community-service activities


    Grade 10—sophomores should start to identify their abilities, aptitudes, and interests. This is the year students look for ways to further develop talents and skills.
    1. Continue to monitor academic progress
    2. Continue involvement in activities, and personal interest
    3. Start to use the SAT-PLAN or ACT’s Explore Program
    4. Prepare for the PSAT
    5. Continue to explore colleges and look for local college fairs (to collect college information)
    6. Explore scholarships
    7. Select appropriate 11th-grade courses
    8. Look for meaningful and important activities

    Grade 11—The junior year is crucial in the college planning process, because students take standardized tests, make college visits, narrow down the college list, searching for scholarships, writing application essays, and learning more about financial aid. In addition, keep track of academic courses.
    1. Continue to monitor academic progress
    2. Continue involvement in activities, personal interests, and taking on leadership roles
    3. Take advanced courses, including advanced math, English, and/or science courses
    4. Take the PSAT in October to qualify for National Merit and other scholarships
    5. Start to visit colleges
    6. Keep updating the portfolio
    7. Register for the SAT and/or ACT early in the spring
    8. Collect information about colleges (including entrance requirements, tuition, room and board costs, course offerings, student activities, and financial aid)
    9. Start working on scholarship applications
    10. Meet with a counselor to review records and discuss college plan
    11. Narrow college choices and set up appointments for the top three choices
    12. Look for meaningful activities for the summer (including jobs or internships in a field of interest)
    13. Prepare a challenging senior-year schedule
    14. Contact early those who will be writing recommendations and/or nominations
    15. Start working on application essays

    Grade 12—senior year is when it all comes together.
    1. Continue to monitor academic progress—grades are important all-year-long, remember colleges require submission of a final transcript
    2. Keep a calendar for the year
    3. Take the SAT or ACT if necessary
    4. Get counselors, teachers, and mentor to help with your college applications, personal statements, and essays
    5. Provide information to those who will be writing recommendations and/or nominations
    6. Complete scholarships applications on time
    7. Complete the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in January
    8. Complete all college applications, and essays in time to meet closing deadlines
    9. Keep portfolios updated with copies of all applications, essays, and necessary documents
    10. Contact colleges to make sure they have received all information
    11. Make a college decision by the acceptance deadline
    12. Make sure all final information is submitted to the college, including final transcripts
    13. Pay attention to deadlines—(e.g. tuition payments, room and board, freshman orientation)
    14. Write thank-you notes to everyone who provided support or a letter before college starts.

    HELPFUL WEBSITES:

    College Board – www.collegeboard.com
    ACT – www.act.org
    Hispanic Scholarship Fund – www.hsf.net
    Hispanic College Fund – www.hispanicfund.org
    Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – www.chci.org
    FAFSA – www.fafsa.ed.gov
    Gates Millennium Scholars Program – www.gmsp.org


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