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    By Leticia Miranda, Associate Director, Economic Policy Project

    As if the outlook wasn’t bleak enough, yesterday the U.S. Census Bureau released its Supplemental Poverty Measure which shows that rates of poverty for Hispanics and the overall population are actually higher than officially reported in October. While the official measure counted 13.3 million Latinos as poor in 2010, the Supplemental Poverty Measure adds another 660,000 to the ranks of the poor. At 28.2%, Latinos have the highest rate of poverty among every racial and ethnic group in the country under the new measure. Unlike the official measure, the Supplemental Poverty Measure accounts for the value of non-cash benefits such as food assistance and subsidized housing, and the differences in costs of living by region and housing type. It also adjusts for necessary expenses such as out-of-pocket medical charges, payroll taxes, and childcare costs.

    Weathering the rough economic downturn hasn’t been easy for most Americans. According to the supplemental measure, an additional 2.5 million Americans were living below the poverty line in 2010, a clear indication that the safety net has not been effectively assisting families and must be strengthened, not weakened. Hispanics are especially hard hit because they are less likely to use crucial safety-net programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides a stark example: only 53% of Hispanics eligible for SNAP used the program, compared to 63% of eligible Whites and 80% of eligible Blacks.

    And to make matters worse, the growing federal deficit is now being used as an excuse to attack such safety nets. The first instinct among many deficit hawks is to cut programs for the poor. Some legislators have reflexively opposed putting taxes on the table, which calls into question how serious they are about balancing the budget. Perhaps we can give them the benefit of the doubt because they may not understand what it means to live in poverty.

    Recently, NCLR held a series of town halls in communities across the country to hear from Latino seniors about how they are faring with Social Security. We heard stories from seniors, living on just $750 per month from Social Security, who cannot afford to buy food and must go to food banks to survive. Yet, we hear that the congressional Super Committee is putting across-the-board cuts to Social Security benefits on the chopping block. One particular cut being heavily discussed would reduce the increase in the Cost of Living Adjustment, so that the longer a person lives, the more pernicious the effect.

    As members of the Super Committee convene, it’s important to remind them that many of the programs that they are considering cutting are truly lifelines to all Americans, including Latinos. Tax cuts that provide help to people who do not need it should be reconsidered before cutting programs that help keep people out of poverty. Job creation is obviously a key factor to getting our economy back on track. The Super Committee must make decisions that prioritize economic growth first and address the long-term debt responsibly over time, while ensuring that our safety net remains in place so that more Americans don’t fall into poverty.


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    NCLR occasionally publishes guest blog posts from our Affiliates around the country. Today’s guest post comes from the Hacienda Community Development Corporation. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and our Affiliate.

    By Nathan Teske, Director of Community Economic Development, Hacienda Community Development Corporation

    Portland, OR and its surrounding metropolitan area has been devastated by the current recession, much like many other cities and towns across America The region has suffered from mass layoffs, business closures, and a 12.2 percent unemployment rate. Low-income people and people of color have been most affected. The 2010 U.S. Census figures show that Latinos are both the largest and fastest-growing minority population in Oregon. It has grown 63% from the 2000 Census to now make up 11 percent of the state’s population. Latinos are also a very young minority and are more likely to have much larger families. They face stark economic and social hardships that present barriers to their success. In Portland, for instance, the per capita income for Latinos is half the city average. The dropout rate is twice as high, and 26 percent of Latino families live in poverty.

    In response to their communities’ needs for new jobs and to industry demands for a skilled green workforce, a coalition of nonprofit groups have banded together to develop the Green Career Pathways: Communities for Equity project. The Hacienda Community Development Corporation, the Native American Youth Association, Verde, the Urban League, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, Work Systems Inc., Human Solutions, and Oregon Tradeswomen are the groups comprising this new project. Communities for Equity is made up of Portland’s disadvantaged communities: Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, the homeless, immigrants, veterans, and those with a criminal record.

    The project enhances knowledge about effective programs that will benefit individuals and communities throughout the nation. It connects target populations to valuable training and employment resources, using an integrated and supportive green jobs recruitment, training, placement, and retention pathway designed and implemented by groups with direct access to those populations. Portland is a model city for sustainability, and its reputation for spearheading new green practices and industries (green building, energy efficiency retrofits, storm water management) makes it an ideal location for creating a pathway from poverty into high-growth, high-quality green jobs.

    Communities for Equity is founded on the principles of equity, economic opportunity, and environmental benefits for target populations and neighborhoods. Hacienda is actively working to connect the Latino community to the burgeoning number green jobs in the Portland metro region. This includes new publicly funded green construction projects, the development of the Sustainability Center at Portland State University, and the imminent construction of Columbia BioGas. This system will convert food waste into clean, natural gas and reusable clean water. This emerging economy includes some entry-level positions, but also includes many jobs that require skills that some Latinos may not have.

    Hacienda is working hand-in-glove with local green jobs trainers, including community colleges, to skill up Latino workers for these job opportunities. In addition, Hacienda offers in-house basic skill trainings, including adult education, ESL, and GED classes in Spanish. In this environmentally conscious city, Hacienda has also had success training new entrepreneurs to “green” their business model. Some successes include a married couple operating a cleaning company. They began using organic cleaning products and marketed their cleaning services as safe for children and pets. This resulted in a 25 percent increase in sales. In another case, a jewelry-maker began incorporating recycled materials into her earrings, necklaces, and other items. This new marketing approach helped her sales increase by more than 100 percent! Finally, a family tamale- vending business uses its own locally grown organic vegetables (grown on land they rent) to sell tamales and salsa with ingredients from their mini-farm. They have since been recruited to work with a nonprofit promoting urban farming in Portland. In 2012, they hope to expand their sales by entering Portland’s vibrant farmer’s market scene.

    Through the combination of resources, knowledge, and effort with community partners, Hacienda CDC, along with Communities of Equity, is able to effectively serve our community and have a greater successful impact on the overall achievement of workforce equity in the Portland area. 


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    Contact:
    Joseph Rendeiro
    (202) 776-1566
    jrendeiro@nclr.org

    Washington, D.C.—NCLR (National Council of La Raza) today called the election of Jerry Lewis as the next State Senator from Mesa, Arizona a turning point in that state’s recent ugly and divisive anti-immigrant, anti-Latino crusade. Lewis defeated Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce, architect of Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 and a key leader in anti-immigrant extremist circles. Lewis has drawn a stark contrast between him and Pearce on the issue of immigration, with Lewis calling for a more comprehensive, civil and effective strategy on the issue.

    “This is a good day for the Latino community, but it is also a good day for the people of Arizona. They have at long last seen that Russell Pearce and his allies have done devastating damage to the state’s economy and reputation and his actions have been a major distraction in a time of real crisis in the state. Yesterday, they rejected that path and voted overwhelmingly for a better way forward,” stated Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR.

    SB 1070, which essentially codified racial profiling as an accepted practice, inspired a boycott that cost Arizona’s tourism industry millions of dollars and tarnished the state’s image. Although the courts have blocked many key provisions in the bill, SB 1070’s legacy lives on in the numerous copycat bills that have since been passed in states such as Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

    “Senator-Elect Lewis has said that he wants to distance Arizona from the intolerant label the state has been branded with in the wake of SB 1070,” said Daniel Ortega, Board Chair of NCLR. “Having seen firsthand the effects of this law as a resident of Arizona, I can say that SB 1070 put a dark cloud over this state. This election shows that people are clearly eager to move forward and I am proud that the people of my state have chosen this new path. But to do that, Senator-Elect Lewis must help push back against those legislators, many of whom are in his own party, who continue to pursue unconstitutional anti-immigrant policies and spew hateful rhetoric about the Latino community.”

    “Arizona’s passage of SB 1070 set off unfortunate and counterproductive efforts by elected officials in several other states to replicate these laws and bolster their own political fortunes. Perhaps Arizona can be a bellwether here as well. This election should send a clear message to all candidates at the local and national level of not only the limits of that strategy but, more importantly, that elections can be won with a sensible, humane, and solution-oriented approach to the issue of immigration,” concluded Murguía.

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  • 11/13/11--03:48: The People Speak
  • If one thing was clear after Tuesday’s election in Arizona, it was this: once the voters understand the anti-immigrant agenda, they do not accept it.

    The voters of Arizona sent that message when they voted to oust Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, author of the infamous anti-immigrant SB 1070. Since the passage of that misguided law, copycats have sprung up in places such as Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. Pearce’s challenger, Jerry Lewis, also a Republican, has distanced himself from SB 1070 and said that the state rushed into passage of the bill. Lewis stated that he would have voted “no” on the bill, though he has said that he understands frustrations over immigration. Pearce’s bill made Arizona the subject of intense criticism from the civil rights community and cost the state more than $140 million in revenue—according to the Center for American Progress—because of cancelled events and business leaving Arizona.

    In a statement, NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía had this to say:

    This vote is more than the defeat of one man; it’s a referendum on the dangerous and divisive immigration policies that were supported by far too many legislators in Arizona. Sen. Pearce chose to aggressively push a bill that attacked his own constituents and, ultimately, he paid for his actions with his job. His fall from grace should be a reminder to every politician in Arizona, and across the country, that they will ultimately answer to the people and that a law like SB 1070, which does nothing but create confusion and chaos, will do them no favors come Election Day.

    Proponents of anti-immigrant laws have looked to Arizona as a beacon for navigating their xenophobic agendas. After this week’s sound defeat, however, legislators in those states may want to reconsider their vociferous support. Advocates throughout the nation have surely been emboldened by the victory in Arizona, and supporters of hate can rest assured that the immigrant rights community will continue to fight mightily against the injustice that anti-immigrant laws have established.  


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    Stop wrongful foreclosures. Protect affordable housing. Keep responsible homeownership opportunities available. These three simple demands are at the heart of our Home for Good campaign, which was launched last April. Every day, more Americans join the ranks of those who have had their homes foreclosed upon and who have lost their jobs. In the Latino community, one in six is either at imminent risk of losing their home or has already lost it. This disturbing national crisis must be addressed immediately. 

    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been the focus of Home for Good. We put out a national call to Americans to sign a petition demanding that Sec. Geithner make the foreclosure crisis a top priority. Since making the call, we have gathered signatures through online petitions, postcards, and our mobile action network; NCLR’s supporters and allies worked diligently to spread the word. The work paid off today when the Home for Good campaign team delivered more than 10,000 signatures to Sec. Geithner’s office.

    Of course, we’re not finished yet. In many ways, the hard work is just beginning. Now that Sec. Geithner has heard you loud and clear, we must continue to spread the message telling the administration and Congress to stop wrongful foreclosures and restore homeownership opportunities. Soon, NCLR will bring Home for Good to your neighborhood. We will be holding a series of town halls in communities across America to hear more about the struggles that everyday Americans are facing in this terrible economy, and we’ll focus on solutions for putting an end to the foreclosure crisis. Stay tuned, and visit back here often for news about these upcoming town halls.

    Finally, be sure to check out Home for Good online, and visit us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest Home for Good news. And, if you haven’t done so, text HOME or HOGAR to 62571 to join our Home for Good mobile action network.
     


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    NCLR occasionally publishes guest blog posts from our Affiliates across the country. Today’s guest post comes from Mi Casa Resource Center. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and our Affiliate.

    By Karen Stran, Director of Career Development, Mi Casa Resource Center

    In 1976, eight mothers of Head Start students in Denver decided they were going to do something to help women achieve personal and economic success. They understood that education and employment were vital for doing this, and that year the Mi Casa Resource Center (Mi Casa) was founded. Mi Casa’s overarching goal is to increase employability, education, knowledge and life skills of low-income individuals. Our priority is to provide highly relevant and effective programs that advance the careers and small businesses of Denver’s large and growing Latino population, enabling them to trade poverty for lasting economic stability.

    The career development programs that Mi Casa offers are short-term, sector-focused job training programs for workers with limited skills and education. These programs prepare them for careers with strong earning and advancement potential in one of three high-growth industries: green construction and energy, financial services, and healthcare. Mi Casa’s comprehensive career pathway programs include hands-on technical skills training, as well as life skills, financial and computer literacy, job search and placement assistance, and case management to address each individual’s unique challenges.

    The sector-focused approach Mi Casa utilizes for career development is evidence-based and it has been proven to lead to positive outcomes for both industry and low-income workers. It requires Mi Casa to engage a variety of employers, industry experts, and representatives from business, government, and higher education to assist the agency in developing and maintaining high-quality workforce development programs that prepare low-income workers for lasting employment success. To most effectively engage these populations, Mi Casa has established advisory councils for each of its three career development programs. Advisory Council members represent industry groups, trade associations, training organizations, other community-based organizations, and employers. Together these individuals have helped Mi Casa design and implement career training programs to serve as a bridge for low-income workers in the Denver area. These workers typically have a strong interest and some aptitude, but they possess few skills and have insufficient experience to get a job in a high-growth industry without assistance.

    Advisory councils meet on a regular basis, with the frequency of meetings determined by program need. Fully established programs with fewer curriculum design needs might meet quarterly, while newer programs or those undergoing revisions and changes might meet monthly. Flexibility in meeting frequency helps ensure that advisory council members make the most of their time at meetings while offering the necessary level of guidance to the programs and staff. Each council consists of five to ten active members, with additional members attending as possible. Members bring their expertise to the meetings, advising program staff on matters such as curriculum, testing, industry trends, hiring needs, interview prep, resource development, and opportunities in the field.

    Mi Casa has had particular success with its Financial Services and Healthcare Advisory Councils. Members of the Financial Services Advisory Council have taken an active role in preparing participants in the Bilingual Bank Teller Class for their careers. Members regularly come into class as guest speakers, presenting on topics such as customer service, sales, security, and compliance. Advisory Council members also act as mock interviewers for each class, participating in multi-day exercises designed to expose students to the rigors of financial services interviews and provide feedback that they can use to better prepare for upcoming interviews. Financial Services Advisory Council members include a bank branch manager, a representative from the insurance industry, and an investment services recruiter.

    By utilizing advisory councils, Mi Casa has been able to keep its career training programs current. Advisory council members ensure that Mi Casa’s training programs stay in touch with industry needs, and allow Mi Casa to quickly adapt its programs to meet other identified needs for the near future.  


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    Contact:
    Joseph Rendeiro
    jrendeiro@nclr.org
    (202) 776-1566


    “Rebuild Southern Nevada Expo” will provide homeownership guidance for communities of color

    Las Vegas—The Alliance for Stabilizing Our Communities—led by NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the National Urban League (NUL), and the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), in partnership with Housing for Nevada, an NCLR Affiliate—will host a free Home Rescue Fair, the “Rebuild Southern Nevada Expo,” on Saturday, November 19 at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Loan specialists, housing counselors, and attorneys will provide intensive counseling and offer home retention strategies through workshops and in-language assistance to Las Vegas families facing financial hardship. This fair will also offer expanded services, including job placement, child care assistance, adult and dislocated worker training services, and downpayment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers.

    Minority communities have been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn that continues to plague many American families. “Rebuild Southern Nevada Expo” is one of numerous fairs that the Alliance has held since 2009 to help keep families in their homes or navigate options after foreclosure. The program began as part of a two-year commitment by the Alliance organizations—through a $2.5 million grant from Bank of America—to provide resources and counseling to homeowners with the greatest need. Over the past three years, the Alliance has served more than 12,000 households as a result of these successful housing fairs hosted in more than 30 high-risk communities throughout the country.

    This fair is sponsored locally by Housing for Nevada, City of Las Vegas, City of North Las Vegas, City of Henderson, Clark County, and Station Casinos.

    Nonmedia who would like to register should call (702) 229-4663. Please remember to bring copies of the following documents: loan number, two current pay stubs, 2010 income tax returns, two months of bank statements, list of monthly expenses, letter explaining reason for current financial situation, recent utility bill showing name and property address, most recent property insurance and mortgage statements, and any recent correspondence from your mortgage company.

    MEDIA ADVISORY

    WHO:      Alliance for Stabilizing Our Communities: NCLR, NUL, and National CAPACD; Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Coalition for Affordable and Sustainable Housing Network; housing counselors, loan specialists, attorneys, and translators

    WHAT:    “Rebuild Southern Nevada Expo,” Las Vegas Home Rescue Fair

    WHEN:    Saturday, November 19, 2011, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
                     Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m.

    WHERE:  Palace Station Hotel and Casino
                     Grand Ballroom, 2nd Floor
                     2411 West Sahara Avenue
                     Las Vegas, NV 89102

    TO COVER:  Please contact Joseph Rendeiro at jrendeiro@nclr.org, or call (202) 776-1566.

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    Contact:
    Joseph Rendeiro
    jrendeiro@nclr.org
    (202) 776-1566

    Washington, D.C.—On Monday, November 21, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) along with leading civil rights and labor groups will hold a vigil in front of the White House at Lafayette Square to show solidarity with the launch of the “One Family, One Alabama” campaign in Birmingham, Ala. The campaign, a project of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ), aims to repeal the state’s appalling anti-immigrant law, HB 56, which has devastated immigrant communities and wreaked havoc on Alabama’s schools and businesses.

    Vigils will also be held in cities across the country to coincide with the campaign launch on Monday. Participants are asked to wear white.

    TERRIFIC PHOTO OPPORTUNITY

    MEDIA ADVISORY

    WHO:      NCLR; Jobs with Justice; Rights Working Group; American Civil Liberties Union-NCA (ACLU-NCA); and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)

    WHAT:     One Family, One Alabama: DC Solidarity Vigil

    WHEN:    Monday, November 21, 2011, 5:00 p.m.

    WHERE:  Lafayette Square (in front of the White House)
                     16th and H Street, NW
                      Washington, D.C.

     

    TO COVER: Please contact Joseph Rendeiro at jrendeiro@nclr.org, or call (202) 776-1566.

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    Por Leticia Miranda, Subdirectora, Proyecto sobre la Política Economica y Empleo

    Recientemente tuve el placer de asistir al lanzamiento de los servicios en línea en español de la Administración del Seguro Social (SSA, por sus siglas en inglés) donde presentaron una sección mucho mas extensa de servicios para el cliente en español. He quedado muy impresionada por la forma en que la SSA ha mejorado su sitio Web en español, www.segurosocial.gov, y cómo ha ampliado los servicios para ofrecer las solicitudes de jubilación y asimismo obtener la información en español sobre los beneficios de Medicare. Con esto la SSA ha logrado el mejor servicio en línea en español que pueda obtenerse en cualquier otro organismo federal de los Estados Unidos.

    Al ofrecer en línea los servicios del Seguro Social en español y la información que millones de estadounidenses necesitan en español, la SSA podrá comunicarse con mayor precisión y facilitar a los interesados la tramitación de los beneficios que solicitan. La SSA es además una oficina digna de elogio porque se ingenia para estirar los dólares de nuestros impuestos, ya que al disminuir el número de personas que acudan personalmente a sus oficinas, a tramitar sus solicitudes, menor será el número de empleados necesarios para atenderlas.

    La SSA ha hecho un esfuerzo extra en apoyo de los servicios en línea en español presentando material de mercadeo novedoso y excelente. Lograron que el popular Don Francisco, presentador del conocido show televisivo de Univisión, Sábado Gigante, grabara sus anuncios de servicio público. Su lema, "¡Es tan Fácil!" llenar la solicitud en línea. Haga clic aquí para ver los anuncios de servicio público. Estos anuncios se transmitirán en línea y en los canales de televisión en español en todo el país.

    Si usted, como yo, es un Hispano Americano de segunda generación, se preguntará si nuestros padres inmigrantes se resistirán al uso de la Internet para solicitar un beneficio tan importante como el Seguro Social. Estoy segura que muchos lo harán. Y lo que es más importante, sus hijos se sentirán aliviados al poder ayudar a sus padres a llenar la solicitud en casa, en lugar de tener que faltar a su trabajo para acompañarlos a alguna oficina del Seguro Social.

    Llenar la solicitud de beneficios jubilatorios en línea toma apenas 15 minutos y hay medidas de seguridad importantes para hacer ese trámite en línea. Si usted completa la solicitud en nombre de otra persona, el sistema automáticamente genera una copia en papel y envía la solicitud al domicilio del solicitante para su revisión y firma, antes de que esa solicitud de beneficios se la considere definitiva.

    Hay muchos otros recursos en español en www.segurosocial.gov, entre los que se incluye el cálculo de la jubilación (Calculador de beneficios de jubilación), que brinda al interesado un cálculo personalizado de sus futuros beneficios de Seguro Social en base a sus ingresos. También está disponible la solicitud del programa del beneficio adicional para los ancianos de bajos ingresos (Beneficio Adicional) que compran sus medicamentos recetados a través de Medicare. Mediante este programa de ayuda adicional se pueden ahorrar hasta $4.000 anuales; hecho que sin duda representa una gran ayuda.

    Comunique a los miembros de su comunidad sobre estos nuevos servicios en español. Si la gente no los usa, el gobierno federal puede llegar a la conclusión que no vale la pena el costo de crear servicios en español. También puede seguir los anuncios de la SSA en español en Facebook y en Twitter.

    El personal de la SSA hizo un recuento de los meses que trabajaron para actualizar el sitio en la Web y cerciorarse de que haber utilizado la terminología adecuada en español. Para ello, la SSA trabajó con un equipo de traductores que representaban varios dialectos del español. También pidió a solicitantes y revisores de las organizaciones de servicios latinos que hicieran pruebas con el nuevo servicio. El resultado fue excelente: ¡Nuestras felicitaciones a la Administración del Seguro Social! 


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    By Leticia Miranda, Associate Director, Economic Policy Project

    I just had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) expanded online services in Spanish. I am impressed with how the SSA improved its Spanish-language website, www.segurosocial.gov, and expanded services to allow online applications for retirement and Medicare benefits in Spanish. The SSA now has what are likely the best online services in Spanish offered by any federal agency.

    By making Social Security’s online services and information accessible to the millions of Americans who may need assistance in Spanish, the SSA can communicate accurately and make it easier for people to apply for benefits. The SSA is to be commended for stretching our tax dollars, too, since fewer people applying in person at SSA offices means that fewer staff will be needed to process applications at these offices.

    The SSA went the extra mile to support the new online services in Spanish with excellent marketing materials. They enlisted Don Francisco, the popular host of the long-time hit TV show on Univision, Sabado Gigante, to tape public service announcements. His tagline—“¡Es tan fácil!”—translates to “it’s so easy” to do the application online. Click here to see the PSA. These will be broadcast online and on Spanish-language channels throughout the country.

    If you are a second-generation Hispanic American like me, you may wonder if our immigrant parents will hesitate to use the Internet to apply for a benefit as important as Social Security. I am sure many will use it. More importantly, their children will be relieved to help parents fill out the application at home instead of having to take time off from work to accompany them to a Social Security office.

    It takes as little as 15 minutes to apply for retirement benefits and there are important safeguards in place; if you complete the application on behalf of someone else, the system generates a paper copy and sends the application to the applicant’s home for review and signature before it is considered final.

    There are many other Spanish-language resources at www.segurosocial.gov, including the Retirement Estimator, which provides workers with a personalized estimate of future Social Security benefits based on their earnings. Also available is the application for the Extra Help program for low-income seniors who use Medicare for prescription drugs. The Extra Help program can save as much as $4,000 yearly, which is indeed a big help.

    Please spread the word in your community about these new services in Spanish. If people do not use them, the federal government may conclude that it is not worth the cost to create services in Spanish. Follow the SSA in Spanish on Facebook and Twitter.

    SSA staff recounted the months of effort that it took to upgrade the website and make sure that they used the appropriate terminology in Spanish. SSA worked with a team of translators representing several different dialects of Spanish. They also asked applicants and reviewers from Latino service organizations to test the new service. They got it right: Kudos to the Social Security Administration!


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    Today marks the launch of the One Family, One Alabama campaign to repeal Alabama's notorious anti-immigrant law, HB 56. 

    In Washington, NCLR is joining a broad coalition of civil rights groups for a solidarity vigil outside the White House in Lafayette Square. At 5:30 p.m., people will gather to support One Family, One Alabama and to express their collective outrage at the passage of this misguided law. NCLR will be live-tweeting from this event using the #CrisisAL hashtag.

    The vigil will coincide with events happening in Birmingham. Eleven Members of Congress have traveled there to help kick off One Family, One Alabama, and they will also hold an ad hoc congressional hearing. Community members will have the chance to tell Congress stories of the adverse effects that HB 56 has had on their lives since its passage. The day will culminate in a rally at Birmingham’s historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

    If you're not in Alabama or Washington, you can still participate in the day's events. Our friends over at America's Voice have come up with a handy list of five ways that you can support immigrant rights in Alabama.

    1. Check out the schedule of the launch events here.

    2. Tune into U-Stream and live-tweet as you watch, using the hashtag #CrisisAL.

    3. Follow the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) on Twitter @ALimmigrant, and retweet to your followers. The ACIJ will be tweeting throughout the day.

    4. Change your Facebook profile picture to this image to show solidarity (it’s the image to the right).

    5. Check the ACIJ Facebook page throughout the day for pictures and videos, and blog them!


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Joseph Rendeiro
    (202)776-1566
    jrendeiro@nclr.org

    Washington, D.C.—Today, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) participated in a vigil held at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. as part of a nationwide effort to show solidarity with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice’s (ACIJ) One Family, One Alabama campaign to repeal the state’s anti-immigrant bill, HB 56. The campaign, which launched today in Birmingham, Ala., includes a host of Black and Latino members of Congress and civil rights leaders from Alabama and from around the country. 

    “In just a few short weeks, HB 56 has wreaked untold damage on Alabama’s economy and educational system and endangered the public safety and civil rights of hundreds of thousands of residents,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “To push back on this reprehensible law, we need a unified front of everyone from local activists in Alabama to our national leaders to lend their voice and support to urge the Alabama legislature to reject a law that harkens back to a very dark chapter in the state’s history.”

    The One Family, One Alabama campaign kicked off its repeal efforts today by welcoming a congressional delegation from the House of Representatives that will host field briefings in Birmingham to hear about the impact that HB 56 has had on families, businesses, agriculture, and law enforcement. Democratic State Senator Billy Beasley, sponsor of the proposed bill to repeal HB 56, spoke at the campaign launch, along with a number Alabama residents whose lives have been damaged by the law.

    “Having this delegation of representatives here in Birmingham is crucial to helping elevate this movement to repeal HB 56 beyond the borders of Alabama,” said Isabel Rubio, Executive Director of ¡HICA! (Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama), an NCLR Affiliate, ACIJ member, and lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the law. “If you’re not already tuned in to what’s going on here, it really is difficult to get across how severely devastating this law has been on Alabama’s families. We need to come together as a nation and say ‘enough’ to these bills that demonize and discriminate against our community and damage our whole state. ”

    “We deeply appreciate the role that Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez and the Department of Justice have played in taking on this counterproductive and likely unconstitutional law,” said Murguía. “Hopefully their strong stand as well as this new campaign will encourage other key policy leaders to join the effort to repeal this law and work instead on real solutions like comprehensive immigration reform.”

    If you would like more information or would like to support the campaign, please visit www.acij.net.

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

    Two weeks ago I joined thousands of advocates, researchers, and community leaders from throughout the country at the Equity Summit in Detroit, hosted by PolicyLink, to talk equity strategy. The atmosphere was electric and hopeful—a seemingly rare emotion for those of us mired in daily battles against foreclosure and attacks on homeownership. Angela Glover Blackwell delivered a compelling case that if we aim to be an economically vibrant nation once again, recovery must be fueled by equal opportunities to participate in our economy. As stated in a PolicyLink report delivered at the Equity Summit, “The more we invest in each other, the better off we will all be.”

    This theme continued during my panel, “The Future of Housing,” with Dawn Phillips of Causa Justa/Just Cause and Geoff Anderson of Smart Growth America and moderated by Xavier de Souza Briggs of MIT. From the attack on immigrants who rent mobile homes in Alabama to pressure from ideologues to mandate a wealth standard for would-be homeowners, the assault on housing rights is peaking across the country. Racial and economic inequity in housing has real consequences for families, communities, and regions. Wall Street investors’ insatiable appetite for risk and exorbitant profits drove a housing bubble that was fueled by unfair and deceptive lending practices—many of which are now illegal thanks to Dodd-Frank. As a result, six million families have lost their homes to foreclosure, devastating neighborhoods and depressing local property values. New research shows that our neighborhoods became increasingly segregated in the last ten years, which among a range of negative consequences for communities of color also leads to inequities in health.

    Adopting a more equitable housing policy goes beyond a moral imperative. It is critical to our economic success. Homes will continue to be the largest asset that most families own. The evidence clearly shows that when families receive sound advice and a responsible loan, they build equity that can become the foundation for retirement or a childs education. Not all families can or want to own, so a balanced housing policy must also provide affordable rental opportunities near good schools and quality jobs. These are tangible goals that are within our reach. Our panel offered recommendations on how we can get there. Here are four highlights:

    • Organize! Inspired by the “We are the 99%” movement, overlooked and underserved communities across the country are organizing to keep their homes and demand corporations and elected officials to stop wrongful foreclosures and invest in quality jobs. Check out Causa Justa and City Life for two amazing organizing operations.
    • Incorporate equity goals in regional development. Innovative approaches to infrastructure and community development that integrates equitable affordable housing, public transportation, and job creation goals from the outset can leverage community benefits without requiring new public funding.
    • Support the National Housing Trust Fund. The National Housing Trust Fund would create a dedicated source of funding for permanently affordable rental homes for our nations most vulnerable families by restructuring the mortgage interest tax deduction (which disproportionately favors affluent homeowners).
    • Defend responsible homeownership opportunities. Homeownership is about building a nest egg for the future, not a get-rich-quick scheme. We must develop an inclusive housing finance system that provides families a real shot at a responsible mortgage, even if they were not fortunate enough to inherit wealth from their parents.

    This was first published at Rooflines.org.


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    It has been quite the week for immigrant rights. In a massive show of solidarity this week, advocates from across the country came together to show their opposition to unjust immigration laws.

    The focus of the movement’s efforts this week were on Alabama, where HB 56, the nation’s harshest and most anti-immigrant law, was implemented a few weeks ago. In many ways, Alabama has become a rallying call for the movement. Passage of HB 56 has resulted in a humanitarian crisis that grows increasingly worse each day. Reports of people being denied basic services like water and electricity have been well documented, while parents have grown afraid to send their children to school for fear that they will be bullied or detained and that their families could be separated.

    On Saturday, NCLR, together with Reform Immigration for America, America’s Voice, Faith and Public Life, La Jefa, Voto Latino and Presente.org delivered 50,000 signed petitions calling on Gov. Robert Bentley to repeal HB 56. The delivery was the culmination of a 14-day march to Montgomery, the state capital. Watch coverage of the delivery below.

    However, the most striking show of solidarity against HB 56 came Monday, when advocates from across the country voiced their support for the “One Family, One Alabama campaign aimed at repealing HB 56. Eleven Members of Congress traveled to Birmingham to help launch the campaign. The day included a press conference, a fact-finding congressional hearing and a spirited rally held at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church. In Washington, a solidarity vigil was also held to show support for the people of Alabama and for the “One Family, One Alabama” campaign. You can see a photo album of the day-long event here. Be sure to check out the video below, too.

    And, just yesterday, the Department of Justice announced that it was filing a lawsuit against Utah’s SB 1070 copycat bill, HB 497. Utah now joins a list of states facing legal challenges for these suit, a list that includes Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina. In a blog post earlier this month about the South Carolina lawsuit, NCLR’s Elena Lacayo was especially prescient:

    “The DOJ’s involvement in this case should be yet another indication that the administration will not sit idly by while state legislators overstep their boundaries and attempt to enact laws that wreak havoc on their own states’ economies and violate the civil rights of their citizens."

    We applaud the federal government for taking on states that pass anti-immigrant laws and will lend our support wherever we can.

    It may have been a good week for immigrant rights, but we know the struggle for justice still continues on. The events that transpired over the course of this week have reinvigorated a community and we can all expect to see much more action on this issue as we push for real immigration reform at the federal level.


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    By Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, NCLR 

    Last legislative session, the Florida state legislature passed a bill that dramatically overhauled Florida’s election laws. The sweeping changes in that law represent a direct assault on voting rights in Florida precisely at a time when Americans, embattled by the economic downturn of recent years, are striving to be heard by our country’s leadership. Until recent weeks, the law had been under review by the U.S. Department of Justice which requires states with histories of voter discrimination, like Florida, to subject its electoral reform laws to a preclearance process. Florida must prove that the new rules will not have any discriminatory effect on voting in order to obtain that clearance. While many of law’s provisions have been precleared, the four most controversial measures were withdrawn from that process by the Florida Department of State who has opted for a costly federal court review in hopes of boosting its chances of obtaining a green light to implement.

    While the laws proponents argue the new rules were put in place to curb voter fraud, the argument just doesn’t hold water; incidents of voter fraud over the last decade in Florida have been extremely rare and virtually no cases were reported prior to the passage of the law of registration fraud connected to third-party voter registration drives. What the law will curb instead, are the rights of minority voters in the State. Studies have shown that Hispanics and other minorities are among the most frequent early voters in the State. In 2008, one-third of Florida’s Hispanics and over half of the State’s African-American voters cast their ballots during the two-week early vote period prior to Election Day. The new law purports to cut that early vote period nearly in half from 15 days to a mere eight, and completely eliminate voting the Sunday prior to the election, the day in 2008 where 32 percent of the black Floridian electorate voted.

    In addition to cutting down early voting, the law would not allow voters to change their names or addresses at the polling location on Election Day as has been allowed over the course of the past four decades. Given the high rights of foreclosures in the State, particularly within Hispanic and other minority communities, many families will have changed addresses since the last election. Many of them will be unaware of the new requirement and on Election Day will be forced to fill out a provisional ballot. The problem with provisional ballots? On average studies show they are only counted 50 percent of the time.

    Non-partisan voter groups in the State, such as the League of Women Voters (LWV), Democracia USA (now part of NCLR), and the Boy Scouts will also be severely affected by the new law. Stringent requirements and shortened turn-around timelines will place an undue burden on non-profit groups that are responsible for registering a significant percentage of Florida’s voters, many of them minority voters who are twice as likely to register at a third-party voter registration drive as their white counterparts. Because of the inability to meet the increased financial burden placed on them by the new rules, many of them, such as the League of Women Voters, will likely cease those operations in the State. Undoubtedly this will lead to a major decline in new registered voters who are more often than not likely to be minorities, new immigrants and youth.

    Several weeks ago, the National Council of la Raza and the League of Women Voters filed an intervening motion to prevent the implementation of these provisions. If allowed to go into effect, millions of Hispanic and other minority voters across the state will become disenfranchised. Florida’s example is likely one to be duplicated in other states, creating a dangerous precedent that is likely to scale back some of the progress we’ve fought so hard for as a nation, over the last half of a century.

    Gov. Rick Scott and Florida’s Secretary of State, Kurt Browning filed a petition in federal court asking that the section of the Voting Rights Act that provides protection for minority voters in counties with detailed histories of minority discrimination in voting, be thrown out. These efforts, all paid for by taxpayer monies, demonstrate a determined effort to push for full implementation of a law that only serves to undercut the basic American right granted to all citizens of this great nation—the right to vote.

    Now, more than ever, as citizens are increasingly taking to the streets, demanding more of their elected leadership, exercising their right to redress, we cannot allow for their disenfranchisement regardless of race, creed or political persuasion. Today we must ask Florida’s leadership to cease their efforts to undermine democracy and instead, take up the issues and concerns of Florida’s citizens so that together, we can move the State, and the nation, forward.
     


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Julian Teixeira
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    (202) 776-1812

    Phoenix—NCLR (National Council of La Raza) is proud to be a co-convener of the We Are One, “Moving America Forward” Conference, a national train-the-trainer event for more than1,000 labor and community organizers who will meet in Phoenix from Thursday, Dec. 1 to Sunday, Dec. 4. This national conference—held in conjunction with the annual convening of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists—will push for an economic and social justice agenda that fortifies the bond between all Americans. 

    Daniel Ortega, Chair of the NCLR Board of Directors; Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of NAACP; and Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director of the Advancement Project, will open the conference. Mr. Ortega will speak at the opening plenary session titled “Why We Are Here?” which begins at 2:00 p.m. For additional information on the conference, please visit www.weareonemovingamericaforward.org.

    MEDIA ADVISORY

    WHO: 
    Daniel Ortega, Board Chair, NCLR
    Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP
    Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director, Advancement Project

    WHAT: Welcome and Opening of the We Are One, “Moving America Forward” Conference

    WHEN: Thursday, December 1, 2011
    2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. MST

    WHERE: The Phoenix Convention Center
    100 N. Third Street
    Phoenix, Arizona

    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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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Julian Teixeira
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    (202) 776-1812

    Phoenix—NCLR (National Council of La Raza) is proud to be a co-convener of the We Are One, “Moving America Forward” Conference, a national train-the-trainer event for more than1,000 labor and community organizers who will meet in Phoenix from Thursday, Dec. 1 to Sunday, Dec. 4. This national conference—held in conjunction with the annual convening of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists—will push for an economic and social justice agenda that fortifies the bond between all Americans. 

    Daniel Ortega, Chair of the NCLR Board of Directors; Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of NAACP; and Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director of the Advancement Project, will open the conference. Mr. Ortega will speak at the opening plenary session titled “Why We Are Here?” which begins at 2:00 p.m. For additional information on the conference, please visit www.weareonemovingamericaforward.org.

    MEDIA ADVISORY

    WHO: 
    Daniel Ortega, Board Chair, NCLR
    Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP
    Judith Browne-Dianis, Co-Director, Advancement Project

    WHAT: Welcome and Opening of the We Are One, “Moving America Forward” Conference

    WHEN: Thursday, December 1, 2011
    2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. MST

    WHERE: The Phoenix Convention Center
    100 N. Third Street
    Phoenix, Arizona

    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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    Contact:
    Joseph Rendeiro
    (202) 776-1566
    jrendeiro@nclr.org

    Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, the Senate voted down an extension of the federal payroll tax cut, which would have provided much-needed relief to workers. The legislation failed due to Congress’s inability to compromise on how to pay for the extension. NCLR (National Council of La Raza) is dismayed that the gridlock in Congress prevented the passage of another piece of legislation that is essential to sustaining this country’s fragile economic growth.

    “Instead of acting responsibly to strengthen our economy and give us a shot in the arm, Congress is doing the exact opposite, effectively choking us by stunting much-needed economic activity,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR. “Extending the payroll tax cut would free up money in the pockets of shoppers and allow them to spend more, which would ultimately enable employers to hire more people. Closing such a vital window of opportunity is incredibly dangerous and could put our already fragile economy at risk of another recession.”

    “Other types of tax credits could also have been effective, but the payroll tax cut is the option that went furthest in this debate,” added Rodriguez. “NCLR believes that the payroll tax cut should only be used temporarily, that other options should be pursued, and that the Social Security Trust Fund must be protected.”

    The news of Congress’s failure to extend the payroll tax cut coincides with the release of NCLR’s latest Monthly Latino Employment Report. The report looks at how the unemployment crisis has affected Hispanic young adults and provides recommendations for a comprehensive employment policy agenda for America’s workforce.

    For more information about unemployment among Latinos, please read this month’s report, Young Latinos in the Workforce.

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    Today is the first Friday of the month and that means that the federal government’s latest job figures are out. And the news is good! Well, it’s relatively good.

    The good news: the unemployment rate dipped from 9% to 8.6% and the economy added 120,000 jobs in November. This is encouraging, especially as we head into the holiday season. In fact, the unemployment rate has been dropping—albeit slowly—since October 2009, when it was at its peak of 10%. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza highlighted this trend today in a piece describing what this means for the president. Check out his chart below.

    The not so good news: Latino unemployment remains at an all-time high of 11.4%; the outlook is particularly bleak for young Hispanic workers. In our latest Monthly Latino Employment Report, we focused on America’s Latino youth workers and what these new numbers mean for them. If we don’t put the right policies in place, this community, which is estimated to become one-third of the American workforce by 2050, will continue to lag behind. Worse, the effects of high Latino unemployment will extend well beyond the Latino community.

    This month’s report outlines what policies Congress must consider to create jobs and bolster the education, skills training, and employment of young Hispanic workers.

    From the report:

    1. The “Pathways Back to Work Act” (H.R. 3425./S. 1861). This legislation builds on the success of the Recovery Act’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund and promising strategies funded through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). It includes $1.5 billion in funding for paid work experience targeted to disadvantaged youth. In 2009, a similar program connected nearly 360,000 young people to jobs with recognized credentials and meaningful work experience.

    2. Reauthorization of federal transportation legislation. The transportation sector already employs over a million Latinos, and the pending reauthorization of the federal transportation bill has the potential to create millions of jobs in communities across the country. Workforce development programs designed to reach low-income young people, such as the program described in the “Transportation Job Corps Act of 2011” (H.R. 929), could go a long way to opening opportunities for Latino young adults in the transportation sector.

    3. Workforce Investment Act Appropriations. Both the House and the Senate have proposed cuts in fiscal year 2012 to WIA Title I and II programs that provide skills training, education, and paid work experience for low-income young people. These cuts would have a devastating impact on programs that already operate on reduced budgets and would greatly reduce the number of young people served in every state.

    4. Extension of the payroll tax holiday and long-term unemployment insurance benefits. The expiration of these items at the end of 2011 would wreak havoc on a macroeconomic level because consumer demand would plummet. Congress must extend these provisions to protect the fragile economic recovery and prevent future job losses.

    For more information about NCLR’s work on the economy and the workforce, visit www.nclr.org.


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

    Contact:
    Julian Teixeira
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    (202) 776-1812

    Washington—NCLR (National Council of La Raza) today commended Sen. Robert Menendez (D–NJ) and the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) led by Chair Charlie Gonzalez (D–TX) for urging the U.S. Senate to act quickly in confirming Mari Carmen Aponte as the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. After a two-year wait, Ms. Aponte’s nomination was recently approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to continue to serve as ambassador to El Salvador, where she has served with distinction since last year. 

    “We applaud Sen. Menendez and Caucus members for asking their U.S. Senate colleagues to hold themselves accountable by taking quick, bipartisan action on Ms. Aponte’s nomination,” said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. “Ms. Aponte has been a strong advocate for United States political, economic, and security initiatives in the region. Her vast experience and knowledge of Central America, coupled with the trust and respect she has earned from Salvadoran leaders, makes her an exceptional and valuable asset to U.S. diplomatic efforts in this region.”

    “We urge the Senate to take the opportunity before the December holiday break to at long last confirm her,” Murguía added. “Ms. Aponte’s confirmation is long overdue and we must allow her to continue her critical and important work as the United States Ambassador to El Salvador.”

    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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