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    By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR

    One of the most empowering aspects of social media is its ability to give life to hyper-local stories. In the most successful cases, these stories are the rallying cry that sparks a movement. There are many of these stories in the battle for immigration reform, but few have come to symbolize and capture this fight as well as the moving documentary 9500 Liberty.

    In just a few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the granddaddy of all anti-immigrant laws, SB 1070. In thinking about the case, and in preparing for the uptick in media coverage of this emotional issue, it became clear to me that I had little knowledge in the way of understanding how such laws take root. I had even less understanding than I care to admit of how communities grapple with immigration in a nationwide political climate that has become increasingly xenophobic. Most of all, I wanted to know how people fight back. Enter 9500 Liberty.

    This gripping documentary tells the story of a quiet community just outside of Washington, DC that only a few years ago was the center of a fierce debate over a resolution that codified racial profiling, in many ways the precursor to SB 1070. The film is also a powerful statement on the role that social media has taken on in our digital world as it is a tool wielded by both the proponents of the resolution and those who fought to change it. Indeed, the filmmakers released segments of the movie on YouTube during the filming, so the documentary was truly interactive and representative of its subjects. 

    A chief character in 9500 Liberty is Greg Letiecq, who is largely credited with setting the foundation for the anti-immigrant resolution through his blog. Empowered by the level of support he receives from commenters in the community, Letiecq leads the effort against immigrants and manipulates politicians at the highest levels of government in the county. The resolution has much support from early on, which compels immigrants and allies alike to band together and fight back. The iconic symbol of that opposition is a massive sign located at a busy intersection on 9500 Liberty St. It is the property of one immigrant who decides that his contribution to the campaign against the resolution will be to confront the Manassas residents with their own hatred. Throughout the film, we see the sign change with messages of empowerment at the beginning to near submission at the end. It serves as the backdrop of a community ripped apart over a senseless and cynical law borne out of fear and opportunism.

    As you prepare for the upcoming Supreme Court showdown, it would be well worth your time to watch the film and learn more about how you too can fight back against hateful legislation through the power of social media and good old-fashioned activism. The best part is that you can watch the film for free! We’ve embedded the whole movie below. You can also go to snagfilms.com, to watch a whole array of other socially conscious movies.

    Watch the trailer and then the whole movie, and arm yourself with the power and tools to create change! 

    Enjoy the show!


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Julian Teixeira
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    (202) 776-1812

    Telephonic briefing examines support among Hispanics for LGBT community

    Washington—While mainstream America has made tremendous progress in accepting the LGBT community over the past few decades, Latinos are unfortunately still often depicted as more anti-gay and less likely than other segments of society to support gay issues such as same-sex marriage. In fact, coverage of the battles over same-sex marriage in states such as New York and California frequently portrayed the LGBT and Hispanic communities at odds with one another, while recent reports indicate that national organizations attempting to block gay marriage have explicitly tried to exploit this tension based on the assumed premise that Latinos are anti-LGBT.

    Join NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) for a telephonic press briefing about Hispanic attitudes toward the LGBT community and toward LGBT policy issues, such as gay marriage and anti-discrimination laws. The discussion coincides with the release of a SSRS report, LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective, funded by the Arcus Foundation, which offers an in-depth look at the factors that affect LGBT acceptance among Hispanics and how levels of support are expected to change in the coming years.

    If you plan to join the press briefing, RSVP with Joseph Rendeiro either by calling (202) 776-1566 or emailing jrendeiro@nclr.org.

    MEDIA ADVISORY

    WHO:
    David Dutwin, PhD, report author and Vice President, Social Science Research Solutions
    Tom Kam, Vice President, Social Justice Programming, Arcus Foundation
    Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR
    Lourdes Rodríguez-Nogués, President, Dignity USA

    WHAT: Press Briefing for LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective

    WHEN: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 1:00 p.m. EDT

    HOW: Call: (800) 862-9098
    Conference Title: Hispanic Perspective
    Conference ID: ARCUS

    TO RSVP: Contact Joseph Rendeiro at (202) 776-1566 or jrendeiro@nclr.org.

    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 along on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • 04/09/12--08:42: The @NCLR Weekly Top 10

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  • 04/09/12--23:48: The New Idioma
  • By Samantha Ferm, NCLR

    (Cross-posted from the ALMA 411 blog)

    The new Spanish-language telenovela-spoof movie that just opened recently, Casa de mi Padre, starring Mexican superstars Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal and American funnyman Will Ferrell, brings up some good questions about multilingual appeal and pushing the boundaries of mainstream film and television actors. While it’s refreshing to see actors venture beyond their native language (in this case Ferrell, who dove headfirst into Spanish), Will Ferrell is hardly the first actor to do so. Some of the biggest Latino stars in the U.S.—Salma Hayek, Sofia Vergara, Demián Bichir, and Antonio Banderas, to name just a few—have been working in multilingual shows and film for ages, but rarely has their ability to act in a second language been given the same notice.

    Does it seem strange that we make a big deal about an actor like Will Ferrell spoofing a comedy in Spanish, but don’t stop to consider how many successful foreign-born actors there are who have broken language barriers and risen to the top? And why does it seem to surprise so many people that an English speaker is acting in another language?

    Do you think that Casa de mi Padre will be a success for both Latino and mainstream audiences, or do you think this first leap into Spanish-language acting for Ferrell will be a bust?

    We’d love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook or Twitter!


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    By Emma Oppenheim, Associate Director, Workforce Development Policy Initiatives, NCLR

    Thirteen million Americans are unemployed while companies can’t find workers to fill current job openings, because too many of America’s workers don’t have the right skills. America faces a skills crisis that threatens to deeply harm our economy, hurt our global competitiveness, and to impair our ability to match Americans with good jobs—especially Latinos, whose share of the labor market is set to increase from 15% in 2010 to 19% by 2020.

    Tragically, this is a solvable problem. In decades past, our country built an impressive infrastructure to invest in American workers, enabling them to navigate previous eras of industrial change and economic dislocation. We created these programs because job training is a public good, just like public education and good roads; a well-prepared workforce is undeniably a key ingredient of a vibrant economy, and we as a society benefit when workforce development investments are systematic and strategic. Those systems remain well-equipped to tackle today’s challenges, but are in need of some repairs.

    Yet some in Washington are proposing, in the midst of this crisis, that we dismantle these federal job training programs and workforce investment systems. The “Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012” (H.R. 4297), recently introduced by Republican Representatives Foxx, McKeon, and Heck, would obliterate more than 20 workforce development programs currently serving adults, youth, dislocated workers, veterans, and more in favor of a one-size-fits-all program. This one-room classroom approach would virtually ensure that workforce programs focus only on the immediate job-matching needs of workers and businesses, and ignore our country’s severe long-term worker preparation challenges.

    Make no mistake: proposals to consolidate workforce programs in the name of reducing the public sector’s role would leave Latino workers—not to mention veterans, the disabled, and other groups in need specialized services—stuck in low-skill and low-wage jobs. These proposals ignore the job openings going unfilled, ignore the industries unable to take new products to market, and ignore the American workers who, with the right investments, could make our economy hum.

    Of course, no one disagrees that our workforce investment system needs an overhaul. NCLR and its allies have been calling for the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act for nearly a decade now, and many good fixes are reflected in the “Workforce Investment Act of 2012” (H.R. 4227), recently introduced by Democratic Representatives Tierney, Hinojosa, and Miller. The bill emphasizes coordination among key partners such as adult education and community colleges, encourages programs to better serve workers with greater needs such as those with limited basic education and English skills, and helps more workers gain industry-recognized post-secondary credentials, ensuring that programs not only connect workers to jobs but truly add value to our economy.

    If those hoping to shrink the government’s footprint want to do so at the expense of America’s workers and at the risk of our future economic prosperity, they should know that Latinos—the fastest growing segment of the population and the community that stands to lose the most in consolidated workforce programs—are watching. Latino workers will watch to see if these proposals close the skills gap, heal our economy, and put America’s workers into good jobs.
     


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

    Francisco has big brown eyes and a round face with a dimpled chin. He is serious, but grew excited when he spotted the crayons and paper that we had brought for children to play with as we talked to their parents. At three years old and just under forty pounds, Francisco is overweight for his age and height. He is also among the minority of Latino children whose families receive health care advice about their children’s weight.

    I met Francisco and his mother, Esperanza, at La Clínica del Pueblo, a community health center and NCLR Affiliate that serves hundreds of low-income Hispanic families in the Washington, DC metro area. Esperanza moved from El Salvador years ago; despite better economic opportunities in the U.S., she has always struggled to get by. When she became pregnant, La Clínica staff provided her with affordable, culturally and linguistically appropriate care for her pregnancy with Francisco and, later, his little sister Roxana. The entire family has been patients of the clinic ever since.

    At one of these check-ups, Francisco’s doctor noted that the boy was gaining too much weight. By age two, he was 45 pounds and gaining. Although Esperanza was concerned about Francisco’s health, it turned out that she had a hard time assessing his weight and body size as too heavy. According to executive director Alicia Wilson, this situation is all too common; her staff see children struggling with obesity nearly every day. But armed with La Clínica’s budget-friendly healthy-eating strategies and regular pediatric monitoring, Esperanza had been able to reduce her son’s weight by more than ten pounds in five months—and she planned to keep him on that path until he reached a healthier weight for his height and age. (Read Esperanza’s full story here.)

    Francisco is one of nearly ten million Latino children who are overweight or obese; approximately 1.5 million are toddlers who, like him, are already too heavy before they even start school. The latest estimates place one-third of Hispanic and Black children between ages two and five in the overweight/obese category, along with nearly one-quarter of White children in the same age bracket. Those rates only climb as children get older—by the time they are teens, about 42% of Latinos are either overweight or obese. They are more likely than children with a healthy weight to grow up to be obese as adults and have a greater risk of developing chronic diseases. Just last week, a new report found that an estimated 37% of Mexican American adults had undiagnosed diabetes by 2006, up from 20% in the early 1980s. If we do nothing about the child obesity rate, we can only expect rates like these—along with a whole host of other obesity-related conditions—to climb higher.

    Yet Francisco is in the minority when it comes to Latino children who are receiving regular, appropriate health care and counseling about weight status. One obstacle is that, although uninsurance rates among children are lower than those for adults, Latino kids are still twice as likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic White children. That often translates to poor access to the pediatrician in the first place—although uninsured Latino children were still less likely than their uninsured White peers to have ever had their height and weight measured by a health care provider.

    But even more troubling is that regular access to health care is no guarantee that kids are receiving weight monitoring or counseling. In a nationally representative sample, 58% of pediatricians and family physicians reported that they never, rarely, or only sometimes tracked the weight and weight-related behaviors over time for their pediatric patients. Despite Hispanic children’s increased propensity to be overweight or obese, researchers have found that Latino children were less likely than White or Black children to receive obesity prevention counseling at well-child visits. And although kids may receive intervention when they have reached an obese weight, physicians seem to be less likely to monitor and discuss weight with healthy weight and at-risk overweight Latino youth.

    As we address the obesity epidemic, we need to find ways to incorporate regular nutrition and weight counseling into our children’s lives. One of the solutions is not only getting children better access to health care, but also ensuring that it becomes a part of health professionals’ regular training and practice to consistently measure, prevent, assess, and treat obesity for each and every child and ensure that families have the support they need to carry out the advice and counseling they receive. Because the pediatrician at La Clínica measured and monitored Francisco’s weight and provided his mother with accessible nutrition counseling, Francisco is a success story. This story should be the rule, rather than the exception, if we want to move the needle on child obesity for our kids.

    Sign up for health and nutrition updates from NCLR’s health policy team! 


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    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact:
    Julian Teixeira
    (202) 365-2273
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    Washington—Countering popular assumptions that Hispanics are more anti-gay than other segments of society, a new report co-released today by NCLR (National Council of La Raza) and Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) finds that Latinos are, in fact, as open and tolerant, if not more tolerant, than the general population in the U.S. toward gays and lesbians. The report, LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective, offers an in-depth look at how Latinos view gays and lesbians within their own community and their level of support for LGBT issues. 

    The report, funded by the Arcus Foundation, notes that Hispanics are actually slightly more inclined to support legal same-sex marriage and to be more accepting of gays and lesbians in society than most Americans. Also, Latinos are just as likely as any other group in the U.S. today to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.

    “There is a clear misperception among the general population about where Latinos stand on LGBT issues, partly because the media pushes this narrative that the culture and values of Latinos and LGBT progress are simply incompatible,” said David Dutwin, Vice President of SSRS and author of the report. “Such misperceptions manifest in story after story about a particular Hispanic group opposing a gay rights bill, even though this anti-gay sentiment is not reflective of all Latinos. In reality, as society is evolving on LGBT issues and becoming more accepting of this community, so too are Hispanics.”

    However, Dutwin points out that Latinos also mirror the general population in that there are groups within the Hispanic community that are more intolerant than others. The highly religious and those less familiar with American cultural values in particular tend to hold less accepting views of LGBTs. Dutwin notes that religious communities that insulate themselves are particularly rigid in their attitudes concerning gays and lesbians.

    “Still, across the board, we’re seeing that exposure to the LGBT community is really the key to acceptance and tolerance for Latinos,” added Dutwin. “Many Hispanics come from countries where gays and lesbians are less upfront about their sexuality, so that enables this discomfort toward LGBTs to persist. But the longer these Hispanics live in the U.S. and the more they come into contact with gays and lesbians, the more likely they are to accept them and support pro-LGBT policies such as same-sex marriage.”

    Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR, said that the findings are important and should be discussed and shared widely.

    “Latinos, like other Americans, have come a long way in acceptance of the LGBT community,” Rodriguez said. “Without a doubt there is work to be done within our own community to promote acceptance and tolerance, but this report is a strong indication that we are moving in the right direction.”

    A copy of the report can be found on the NCLR Web site.

    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 along on Facebook and Twitter.

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

    Think for a minute: do you live in a healthy community? Think about whether your friends, family, and neighbors are in good physical health, but also consider the whole host of factors that affect your opportunity to be healthy. Access to health care, for example, plays a role. So does whether your neighborhood is physically set up to make healthy behaviors easier for residents. Don’t forget social and economic factors, such as quality jobs, that have bearing on our ability to make healthy choices. Now, how do you think your community compares to others in your state, or across the nation?

    It’s important to understand how your community stacks up in order to successfully organize for change. Last week, the interactive website County Health Rankings was re-released with updated data, allowing you to see at a glance how your county compares with the rest of the state and nation. This is a powerful tool for health equity for Latinos and other communities of color, as we know that racial and ethnic health disparities are closely linked to how and where we live. As Hispanics struggle with escalating rates of child obesity and complications such as undiagnosed diabetes, policy change at all levels—federal, state, and local—is necessary.

    To that end, we wanted to know how the communities for our Comer Bien families stacked up compared to their states, the nation, and each other. We took a look at the numbers for Bexar County, Texas (home of San Antonio and 58% Hispanic); El Paso County, Texas (82% Hispanic); Canyon County, Idaho (home of Caldwell and 22% Hispanic); and Washington, DC (9% Hispanic). Here are some of the interesting patterns we spotted:

    • Fast food saturation: In the U.S., quick-service restaurants (fast food chains) make up a substantial share of our eating establishments. Studies have found links between increased fast food exposure and obesity. County Health Rankings researchers suggest that fast food establishments should make up no more than 25% of restaurants in a given community. Yet in each location we visited, more than half of all restaurants are fast food chains. This was a common observation among the families we spoke to—fast food restaurants selling cheap, calorie-dense food were often concentrated near their homes. (Watch Emily’s video, also below, for a description of how fast food restaurants dominate her San Antonio neighborhood.)

    • Healthy food access: Bexar (TX), El Paso (TX), and Canyon (ID) counties each had higher percentages of the population with limited access to healthy foods, compared to the rest of their states. (Hear from April, also below, about the food retail options for a farmworker community in Idaho.) Washington (DC) was the exception—just 1% live in a food desert as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than one mile from a grocery store for urban areas and more than ten miles in non-metro areas. This pattern supports our findings, where access to healthy food was less likely to be raised as problem in DC, which has a robust public transportation system. Finally, it’s important to recognize that even if low-income Latino neighborhoods are not technically defined as food deserts, there is no guarantee that the food for sale is fresh, healthy, high-quality, and affordable. For example, Emily (linked above) felt that her local supermarket offered fewer healthy options and lower-quality items than the same chain in an affluent neighborhood across town.

    • Violent crime rate: It is difficult for Latinos who live in areas prone to violence to be healthy. When you fear for your safety, you don’t want to run out for groceries, especially if your only free time to shop is between jobs at odd hours or after dark. According to the County Health Rankings, Washington (DC) had the highest rate of violent crime, at 1,400 incidents per 100,000 people. Bexar County (TX) and Canyon County (ID) had higher than average crime rates. The crime rate for El Paso County (TX) was lower than the state average. This, too, reflects our conversations with families, as fear of crime or violence came up more frequently in the nation’s capital. (Listen to José, also below, from DC describing his worries for friends and community members living in areas where violence is commonplace.)

    • Fair/poor health: Researchers set a national benchmark for the percentage of people living with fair or poor health at no more than 10% of the population. All of the locations we visited exceeded this measure. Washington, DC’s rate was the lowest, at 13%, followed by both Bexar County (TX) and Canyon County (ID), each at 18%. El Paso County (TX) had the highest rate, with more than one in four (26%) people living with fair or poor health outcomes. (Watch Crystal, also below, from San Antonio as she explains how she pinches pennies to afford healthy food—important for managing her son’s lupus.)

    The Latino families that sat down with us in these locations came up with examples of how factors like these play out in their communities even without having the data at hand. Their stories show how these gaps in access and infrastructure play out, narrowing the options for low-income Hispanics and making it harder to be healthy and to specifically promote good nutrition. To create healthy families, it’s important to acknowledge that part of the process is about creating healthy communities. Location matters.

    Sign up for health and nutrition updates from NCLR's health policy team!


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    PARA DIVULGACIÓN INMEDIATA PARA MÁS INFORMACIÓN:

    Julián Teixeira
    (202) 365-2273
    jteixeira@nclr.org

    Nuevo Informe Demuestra Que Los Hispanos Son Más Propensos a Apoyar La Comunidad LGBT Que LA Mayoría de los Estadounidenses

    Washington-- Rebatiendo la popular creencia que los hispanos tienen un sentimiento anti-gay mayor que otros segmentos de la sociedad estadounidense, un nuevo informe -publicado hoy por el NCLR (Consejo Nacional de La Raza) y Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) rebate esa. De hecho, los hispanos resultan ser abiertos y más tolerantes que la población general de los EE.UU. hacia los gays y las lesbianas. El informe titulado LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective (Aceptación y apoyo al grupo LGBT: la perspectiva de los hispanos) ofrece un profundo análisis sobre los hispanos acerca de los gays y lesbianas dentro de su propia comunidad y su nivel de apoyo sobre los problemas que enfrenta el grupo LGBT.

    El informe, financiado por Arcus Foundation, señala que en realidad los hispanos tienden a apoyar la legalidad del matrimonio homosexual y que son más receptivos hacia los gays y las lesbianas que la mayoría de los estadounidenses. También, como cualquier otro grupo de los EE.UU., los hispanos se pueden identificar como gays, lesbianas, bisexuales y personas transgénero.

    "Hay una clara percepción errónea entre la población general sobre cuál es la postura de los latinos en relación a los diferentes problemas del grupo LGBT, y en parte ese error se debe a los medios de comunicación que han difundido que la cultura y los valores de los latinos son simplemente incompatibles con el progreso del grupo LGBT ", dijo David Dutwin, Vicepresidente de SSRS y autor del informe. "Tales ideas erróneas se manifiestan en notas publicadas constantemente sobre la existencia de un grupo hispano en particular que se opone al proyecto de ley sobre los derechos de los gays, a pesar de que ese sentimiento anti-gay no representa exactamente el pensamiento de todos los latinos. En realidad, a medida que la sociedad evoluciona sobre los temas del grupo LGBT, se acrecienta la aceptación de la comunidad gay por el sector hispano".

    Dutwin señala que la comunidad latina también refleja la población en general ya que en la misma comunidad hispana existen grupos que son más intolerantes que otros.
    Los grupos de personas muy religiosas y aquellos que están menos familiarizados con los valores culturales estadounidenses suelen ser menos tolerantes a las ideas del grupo LGBT. Dutwin señala que las comunidades religiosas que se aíslan mantienen actitudes muy rígidas respecto a los gays y las lesbianas.

    Sin embargo, en general, estamos viendo que la exposición a la comunidad LGBT es realmente la clave para la aceptación y la tolerancia entre los latinos ",

    "Sin embargo, en todos los ámbitos, estamos viendo que la exposición a la comunidad LGBT es realmente clave para la aceptación y tolerancia para los hispanos", agregó Dutwin. "Muchos hispanos provienen de países donde los gays y las lesbianas son menos abiertos respecto a su orientación sexual y, por ello, aún persiste en esos países un sentimiento en contra del grupo LGBT. Pero cuanto más tiempo estos hispanos hayan vivido en los EE.UU. y más hayan estado en contacto con gays y lesbianas, habrá una mayores probabilidad de que esos hispanos acepten el grupo LGBT y apoyen las políticas pro-LGBT, como el matrimonio del mismo sexo".

    Eric Rodríguez, vicepresidente de la Oficina de Investigación, Defensa y Legislación del NCLR dijo que los hallazgos del informe son importantes y que, por ello, deben ser discutidos y difundidos ampliamente.

    "Los hispanos, al igual que los demás estadounidenses, han recorrido ya un largo camino en la aceptación de la comunidad LGBT", dijo Rodríguez. "Sin duda aún debemos seguir trabajando en nuestra propia comunidad para promover la aceptación y la tolerancia. Sin embargo, este informe es un fuerte indicio de que nos estamos moviendo en la dirección correcta."

    Una copia del informe se puede encontrar en el sitio Web del NCLR.

    El Consejo Nacional de La Raza (NCLR, por sus siglas en inglés) —la organización nacional más grande de apoyo y defensa de los derechos civiles de los hispanos en los Estados Unidos—trabaja parar mejorar oportunidades de los hispanos. Para mayor información sobre el NCLR, por favor visite www.nclr.org o síganos en Facebook y Twitter.


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

    This week, when it comes to Latino families’ nutrition and well-being, we have good news and bad news. First, the good news: economists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new report showing that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) plays a definitive role in reducing the depth and severity of poverty, particularly among children. That means something a little different from the fact that SNAP lifts people (nearly four million in 2010) out of poverty, which is a critical measure of the program’s success, but not the whole picture.

    Think of a family—say, two parents and a young child—with a household income far below the federal poverty line (this year, about $19,100 for a family of three). Our family is having trouble paying for the basics—the rent is due at the same time as the electric bill, and there’s not much left over to feed our parents and kid. Maybe Mami starts skipping breakfast so there will be more for her child, or buys inexpensive, filling foods to stretch a couple of dollars into a meal for three people. After enrolling in SNAP, the family has more resources at the grocery store, so they can pick up not only more food, but also afford the fresher, more nutritious items that are usually priced higher than the calorie-dense stuff. Since they’re not spending as much income on food, they have more money left to meet their needs—or to just keep up with rising food and energy costs.

    In this example, even if our family is still living in poverty, SNAP did help to make the family better off. Thanks to SNAP, their income situation becomes less dire—a change which is most effective at the lowest income levels. That is another important measure of SNAP’s effectiveness. In particular, researchers found that SNAP made the biggest difference in 2009—the year that Congress, in light of the economic recession, passed a temporary boost to benefit levels to help low-income families keep their heads above water.

    This is a big deal for Latino families, who like many Americans are struggling to give their kids healthy meals on a limited budget. More than one in four Latinos lives in poverty (a rate that is even higher under an alternative measure, NCLR found last year). And more than five million Latinos—about one in ten—live below 50% of the federal poverty level, among the very poor that the USDA report shows have the most to gain from SNAP participation. When we talked to Latinos from different parts of the country about what helped or hurt their access to healthy food for themselves and their children, SNAP came up repeatedly as crucial not only in helping families buy more food, but also in helping them afford better quality, nutritious food.

    So what’s the bad news? Politicians are continuing efforts to drastically cut SNAP (and other critical programs’) eligibility and funding. Why is a program that has consistently proven its worth always such a popular political target? SNAP is helping to better the well-being of millions of the working poor and their families. This includes a significant number of Latinos—and could include a whole lot more (an estimated one-quarter of people eligible but not participating in SNAP are Hispanic) if resources were better spent looking at ways to extend the program’s reach to more people in need.

    To find out if you, a friend, family member, or neighbor is eligible for SNAP, use USDA’s pre-screening tool in English or Spanish. For more information, please visit www.nclr.org/nutrition


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    It’s finally here! The agenda for NCLR’s inaugural Health Summit is now available on Facebook. Don’t miss the chance to learn more about health care reform and how to create policies to improve your community.

    On July 5, the Institute for Hispanic Health and the Health Policy Project will provide updates and highlights on health care reform. They will offer advocacy strategies for Affiliates in order to shape effective policy and influence policymakers.

    Finally, on July 6, we will highlight some of the actions of several NCLR Affiliates in policy and programming efforts. Eli Lilly’s social media team will also provide a social media training to show the attendees how tools like Twitter or Facebook are useful in delivering a common message.

    Get involved and join our Facebook group to get more details about this very exciting inaugural event!
     


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  • 04/13/12--16:34: The @NCLR Weekly Top 10

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    Contact:
    Joseph Rendeiro, NCLR
    (202) 776-1566

    Dave Lemmon, Families USA
    (202) 628-3030


    Forum to focus on new protections for families in health reform

    Philadelphia, Pa.—Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General of the United States, and a panel of seasoned health professionals and advocates will answer questions from the community on key provisions of the health reform law at a breakfast gathering on Wednesday, April 18. Dr. Benjamin, America’s Doctor, will lead the forum, which is intended to help Philadelphia’s Latino community better understand how the law will help and protect their families.

    Dr. Benjamin replaces Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in the forum’s program.

    When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, families gained a whole range of new consumer benefits and health insurance protections. The Wednesday gathering will allow community participants to ask questions about these new benefits, such as provisions that prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against children with preexisting conditions, allow adult children to stay on their parents’ plan, make prevention a priority by providing free health screenings, and increase support for seniors with high prescription drug costs.

    The forum is being hosted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos, NCLR (National Council of La Raza), and Families USA. The groups believe that it’s critically important for people to understand their options for better coverage and care under the law. The forum also provides a venue to elevate the top health care priorities of Latinos in Pennsylvania, as the state begins the implementation process of the health care law. The Affordable Care Act is especially significant for the Latino community, which is less likely to be insured and more likely to suffer from conditions that make access to high-quality, affordable insurance even more important.

    Breakfast will be served immediately before the program commences. Interpretation for those who prefer Spanish will also be provided.

    MEDIA ADVISORY

    WHO:           Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General of the Unites States
                         Cynthia F. Figueroa, President and CEO, Congreso de Latinos Unidos
                         Jennifer Ng'andu, Deputy Director of Health Policy, NCLR
                         Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, Chief Medical Officer, Complete Care Health Network
                         Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus, Senior Advisor and Director of the Office of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Labor
                         Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, Director, Health Equity, Families USA

    WHAT:         Dr. Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, to Lead Community Forum on Consumer Benefits and Protections in the Affordable Care Act

    WHEN:         Wednesday, April 18, 2012
                         Breakfast to be served at 9:15 am EDT
                         Program to commence at 10 a.m. EDT

    WHERE:       Congreso de Latinos Unidos
                         2800 N. American Street, Philadelphia, PA 19133
     

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    By Janis Bowdler, Director, Wealth-Building Policy Project

    When the housing bubble burst more than four years ago, many banks and federal regulators argued that the impact would be limited and the damage contained to the subprime market.

    Famous last words.

    Now we know the full story: unregulated finance companies and malfeasant brokers peddled toxic loans designed to earn originators a quick buck at the expense of unsuspecting homeowners, investors, and taxpayers. The damage has spread well beyond the subprime market and helped usher in the worst recession of our generation. The majority of financial trickery was carried out at the hands of lenders that operated outside the scope of federal oversight. The Federal Reserve could have reined them in, but reacted too late. This trend persisted under Bush and Obama when both administrations missed opportunities to get ahead of the market crash and the ensuing tidal wave of foreclosures.

    Last week, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) released a report on the treatment of REOs—real estate owned properties, meaning foreclosed properties owned by banks—in nine cities. Their research found that REOs in predominately minority neighborhoods were scarred with the signs of neglect and blight while those in predominately White neighborhoods were well maintained even though they are serviced by the same company. The impact goes beyond the aesthetic. Abandoned properties are estimated to reduce neighboring home values by an average of $7,200 and cost cities millions in maintenance and lost tax revenue. The disparate treatment by servicers comes on the heels of unfair targeting of these same communities by deceptive lenders. Black and Hispanic families were more than twice as likely to be sold subprime loans, even though they had the credit to qualify for regular prime loans. The foreclosures that followed have wiped out 58 percent of Black and 66 percent of Hispanic wealth. Now neglected REOs are threatening to set our neighborhoods and families back even further.

    The slide show below shows the contrast between in Miami between two REOs in two different communities. See if you can tell which one is in which community.

    When done right, REOs can be a neighborhood asset. Creative reuse of REO properties can fuel community revival and expand housing opportunities for a broad range of families. Because many bank-owned properties are in neighborhoods close to good schools, jobs, transportation, recreation, healthy foods, and other amenities, they provide a unique avenue for expanding access to opportunity for all families while also breaking down barriers of segregation and isolation. Banks should work with mission-driven local partners like Chicanos Por La Causa in Phoenix, which is acquiring REO properties and converting them into ownership opportunities for families who have completed their housing counseling program. Another NCLR Affiliate in Stockton, Calif., Visionary Homebuilders of California, has established a lease-purchase program for reclaimed REO homes where renters partner with a financial coach to work their way toward an opportunity to buy the home. NCLR is exploring ways to expand these kinds of programs to other cities throughout the country.

    In a recent speech, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated that over the next couple of years an additional one million foreclosed properties per year could be added to the REOs held by banks, guarantors, and servicers. Beyond the fact that mortgage servicers are legally required to maintain the properties they own, it would go a long way to healing their relationship with those communities if servicers also participated in and supported those innovative programs to repurpose properties with the community’s social goals in mind. To get there, regulators—starting with the Federal Housing Finance Agency—must set and enforce strong standards to make sure that servicers treat all borrowers and all communities fairly, including standards for maintaining and marketing foreclosed homes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice should fully investigate the disparities uncovered in the NFHA report.

    If no action is taken, abandoned and vacant properties will continue to drag down home prices and infect neighborhoods with crime and blight. But with a little creativity and cooperation, REOs can become a driving force in neighborhood stabilization. Homeowners cannot afford for banks and regulators to miss another opportunity like this. 


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    Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) have partnered to debunk the widespread notion that Latinos are not accepting of the LGBT community. A new report, LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective is a comprehensive study that shows Latinos are at least as accepting as the general population when it comes to supporting LGBT issues and laws. SSRS, with funding from the Arcus Foundation, conducted phone interviews to a representative sample of Latinos ages 18 or older from across the nation, and here is what they found:

    • Hispanics are as tolerant, if not more tolerant, than the general population. While supporters of gay marriage rank across 53% of the general population, 54% of Hispanics offered their support according to data.
    • Hispanics who personally associate with gays or lesbians are more likely to accept gay or lesbian policies. Hispanics who say they know “some” gay and lesbian people have a positive sentiment toward these issues (64%) and support legal adoption (59%) as compared to 52% and 43% of those who know “none”—that is a 16 percentage point increase on the issue of adoption.
    • The longer Hispanics live in the U.S., the more tolerant they become.
    • Although religion does play a role in acceptance of pro-gay/lesbian beliefs and attitudes, Catholic Hispanics are more accepting than Protestant Hispanics. One substantial finding: 67% of Catholics support legal gay marriage, as compared to 43% of Protestants.
    • Puerto Ricans are half as supportive as other Hispanic groups of gay marriage, and men are half as supportive as women.
    • Concerns about LGBT acceptance (homophobia) among Hispanics were found to be highly overrated.

    “Latinos, like other Americans, have come a long way in acceptance of the LGBT community,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR. He noted, however, that there is much work yet to be done within our community.

    Although the report does not make any policy recommendations, it does lay out a vivid framework for policymakers to follow when crafting nondiscrimination legislation. Perhaps the strongest message from the report is that, contrary to popular belief, there already exists a sentiment of acceptance—even among the highly traditional Hispanic population.

    You can download the report in full here


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    Today, NCLR sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reconsider his decision to delay issuing an executive order (EO) that would bar federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification.

    The letter comes on the heels of a report we co-released last week which showed that Latinos are more accepting of LGBT people than what is commonly portrayed. The letter today further demonstrates NCLR’s belief in equality for all, especially our Latino LGBT brothers and sisters.

    In the letter, vice president of NCLR’s policy department, Eric Rodriguez, writes:

    "The EO is important to millions of Hispanic LGBT community members. According to a recent Center for American Progress report, the EO provides badly needed legal protection for the 43% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual and 90% of transgender workers who have experienced workplace discrimination."

    The letter couldn't come at more prescient time as anti-LGBT forces have been summoned to defend their strategy to drive a wedge between the LGBT community and communities of color. We strongly condemned that practice in a blog post written by Rodriguez. We must also, however, be vigilant about making sure that pro-LGBT forces within the Obama administration understand how vital this executive order is to both of our communities in fighting those who are working to deny Americans their basic rights.

    Click here to download a copy of the report released last week.


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

    In the midst of a battle over how to balance the country’s budget, millions of Americans today are once again paying their income taxes, which are an important part of the revenue our country needs to fund critical investments in education, workforce development, infrastructure, health care, and countless other areas that underpin our nation’s long-term competitiveness and prosperity. Latino workers are contributing their fair share.

    Despite popular myths, all workers, including immigrant workers, pay taxes in America as a result of their hard work. A recent study by Citizens for Tax Justice revealed that the lowest-income workers—who average about $13,000 in annual earnings—paid a total of 17% (or $2,262) of their income on state, local, and federal taxes. And, according to the Social Security Chief Actuary, undocumented workers paid $12 billion in payroll taxes to Social Security in 2007, though they are ineligible to receive benefits.

    But some are not interested in fairness and say that low-income families should bear an even greater tax burden to help close the deficit. Critics are sharpening their knives to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit, both of which give an income tax refund to low-income working taxpayers to supplement their earnings.

    The first targets for cuts are Latino children. On Wednesday, April 18, the House Ways and Means Committee is taking a straight up-or-down vote on H.R. 1956, a bill that would strip hardworking taxpaying families of their right to claim the Child Tax Credit if they pay taxes with an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). This would harm over four million Latino children in families that earn an average of $21,000 per year, costing each family approximately $1,800.

    “The refundable tax credits prevent millions of Latinos families from falling deeper into poverty and help low-income working families feed and house their children so that they can grow into the strong and healthy adult workers we need,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR (National Council of La Raza). “The Latino community is closely watching to see if politicians target Latino children for the deepest cuts and will hold elected officials accountable.”

    A serious deficit reduction plan must include revenue increases—not just spending cuts—as part of the equation. The wealthiest Americans should also contribute to deficit reduction through new proposals like the Buffett Rule. Refusing to increase revenue will force even deeper cuts to programs that help families raise children, afford health care or a college education, and move into the middle class.

    Our nation needs a tax policy that grows the economy, invests in the future, and protects vulnerable people.

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    by Janet Murguia, President and CEO, NCLR

    (This was first posted to the Mom's Rising blog and is part of their Equal Pay Day blog carnival. Visit MomsRising.org for more.)

    Today is Equal Pay Day, which marks the end of the catch-up game women in the United States involuntarily play every year. But unlike most games, there is no grand prize. Instead, women receive a brutal reminder that it takes from all of 2011 until April 2012 —more than 100 days since the beginning of the year — for our wages to finally match what men earned in just 2011. No, it’s not that we’ve been paid late — it’s that we’ve been paid less, shortchanged an average 23 cents for each dollar earned by our male counterparts in the same jobs, according to latest U.S. Census Bureau data. The wage hole is even greater for Latinas: compared to each dollar earned by the average White male, a Hispanic woman makes 60 cents.

    It is in honor of these women — their hard work, their commitment to their families, and their struggle for justice in the workplace — that the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is proud to work with MomsRising to unveil this blog carnival on Latinas and Equal Pay Day. My hope is that this blog carnival will help bring attention to an issue that needs more visibility: the multiple challenges that plague workers in the low-wage labor market. After all, equal pay for equal work is only one obstacle. Low wages, unpaid wages, no health insurance, dangerous working conditions, unpredictable schedules, sexual harassment, discrimination — these are daily realities that threaten the economic security of millions of women, their families, and the communities in which they live.

    Just ask Juana, who earned $7.50 an hour as a cook, but received no benefits or paid leave, and was never paid on time. As a result, her unpaid wages of nearly $3,000 forced Juana to move her family and rely on the part-time wages of her two teenage sons. With more Latinas in the workforce like Juana acting as their family breadwinners, it is inexcusable that Latinas experience one of the highest poverty rates of women in the labor force at 12.1%. Businesses that fail to compensate an employee fairly or offer a minimum wage means unpaid bills, unstable households, and more hungry children. And the less money workers bring home, the less money they have to spend at local businesses still trying to recover from the economic downturn.

    The posts that follow give voice to workers like Juana, as well as a rich cross section of advocates and allies who showcase where progress is being made and what remains to be done. Policies such as the “WAGES Act”, which would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 to $5.50 an hour, stronger investments in federal labor protections, and comprehensive immigration reform are part of the blueprint for action. Please read, comment, and share these posts with your family, friends, and neighbors.

    Thank you!

    En español:


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    By Liany Arroyo, Associate Director, Education and Children’s Policy Project

    Happy Tax Day! According to the Tax Foundation, you have had to work until today, April 17, 2012, to earn enough to pay your tax obligation to the federal government for 2011. Not excited about Tax Day? Most other Americans probably aren’t either. With all due respect, I say, “so what?” Don’t get me wrong. Like most people, I do not want to pay more than my fair share of taxes, but something happened to me last year that drove home the impact of my tax dollars: in July 2011, I became a mami.

    I was not an anti-tax zealot prior to becoming a mami, but I have sometimes questioned why the government needs so much of my money. Once my daughter was born, however, I stopped complaining about paying taxes and recognized the necessity of a well-funded government that meets the basic needs of its citizens. I now see things differently, and I’ve started to tie my daughter’s future to that of the more than 74 million other children in this country. What I want for my daughter is no different than what other parents want for their children: to be able to provide our kids the best education, health care, and childhood possible.

    Yet the reality is that there are limits to what I and other parents can provide. I try to be the best mom I can, but I am not a trained teacher so I need there to be good schools. I am not a transportation laborer so I need these workers to ensure that my community’s roads are safe for me and my daughter to travel on. I am not a doctor so I need access to quality health care, no matter my work situation. The last nine months have shown me that even great parents can’t do everything and that our government plays a huge role in providing all children with their best possible shot at success.

    Luckily, others also realized this when I was younger. If they had not, I would not have been the first in my family to graduate from college because I had access to Head Start, excellent public schools, the Pell and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, and Community Health Centers. Today, all of these programs are under attack by legislators whose chief concerns are cutting taxes and reducing spending instead of investing in our nation’s future. The American Dream is being stripped away from our children, especially low-income, Black and Hispanic children, leaving them ill prepared to compete in our global economy.

    Your future—our future—is inextricably tied to how those in Washington treat our children, particularly Latinos. Some under the Capitol dome and on the airwaves would have you believe that Latino children are not important to the future of our country, but this could not be further from the truth. Here’s why:

    • More than 92% of Hispanic children are U.S. citizens, as is the majority of their parents.
    • Almost 25% of all children in the U.S. are Latino.
    • Latino children represent more than 22% of all public school students.
    • In 2050, 30% of the country’s workforce will be Hispanic.

    Latino children matter because they are our future workers and taxpayers, and their taxes will buoy the increasingly graying U.S. population. However, their ability to support our future is hampered by the barriers that hinder them from reaching their potential. Overcoming these barriers requires investment in programs that help our nation’s children, not a divestment of our country’s resources.

    We must invest in today’s children—our future—particularly those who are most at risk. If we do not, we are eating our proverbial seed corn. I am not willing to do that, for my sake or my daughter’s. 


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    Para más información:
    Joseph Rendeiro
    (202) 776-1566
    jrendeiro@nclr.org

    En medio de la batalla de cómo balancear adecuadamente el presupuesto nacional, millones de americanos pagarán hoy sus impuestos sobre los ingresos, una entrada necesaria para mantener el sistema de educación pública, el desarrollo del sector laboral, la infraestructura, el sistema de salud pública, y otros innumerables programas que son la base de la prosperidad y éxito de nuestro país. Los trabajadores latinos están contribuyendo su parte justa al sistema.

    A pesar de lo que se dice comunmente, todos los trabajadores, incluyendo los inmigrantes, pagan impuestos en este país como resultado de su labor. Un estudio reciente de Citizens for Tax Justice, reveló que los trabajadores de bajos ingresos-aquellos que tienen un promedio de ingresos de $13,000 anuales—pagaron un total de 17% de sus ingresos en impuestos estatales, locales y federales. De acuerdo con el Director Actuario del Seguro Social, los trabajadores indocumentados pagaron más de $12 mil millones en impuestos sobre el ingreso al Seguro Social en el 2007, aunque los mismos no sean elegibles para recibir estos beneficios.

    Pero algunos no están interesados en la equidad y piensan que las familias de bajos ingresos deben cargar más del peso de los impuestos para ayudar a reducir el déficit nacional. Los detractores están afilando sus cuchillos para cortar el Crédito por Ingreso del Trabajo (EITC) y el Crédito Tributario por Niño, los cuales proveen reembolsos para los trabajadores de bajos ingresos para ayudar a suplementar sus ingresos.

    Las primeras víctimas de estos recortes serán los niños latinos. El miércoles 18 de abril, el Comité de Medios y Arbitrios de la Cámara de Representantes (House Ways and Means Committee), estará debatiendo la propuesta de ley H.R. 1956, una propuesta que eliminará la posibilidad de reclamar el Crédito Tributario por Niño a las familias trabajadoras que pagan sus impuestos utilizando un ITIN (Número de Identificación del Contribuyente). Esto afectaría a más de cuatro millones de niños latinos cuyas familias tienen un ingreso promedio de $21,000 anuales, hecho que resultará en la pérdida de $1,800.

    “Los créditos tributarios previenen que millones de familias Latinas caigan en una mayor pobreza y ayuda a que los padres latinos tengan recursos para alimentar y vestir a sus hijos para que crezcan y se conviertan en los trabajadores adultos fuertes y saludables que nuestro país necesita,” dijo Eric Rodriguez, Vice-Presidente del Consejo Nacional de La Raza. “La comunidad latina está vigilando muy de cerca si los políticos recortan los recursos para los niños latinos o no; sabremos quiénes son los responsables.”

    Un plan serio de reducción de déficit debe de incluir el aumento de ingresos—no solamente recortes—como parte de la solución. Las personas con los más altos ingresos deben de contribuir a la reducción del déficit a través de nuevas propuestas como el Buffett Rule. Reusarse a incrementar el ingreso los forzará a hacer recortes más profundos a programas que ayudan a nuestras familias a cuidar a nuestros niños, obtener cuidado de salud, una educación universitaria, y avanzar a la clase media.

    Nuestra nación necesita leyes de impuestos que mejoren la economía e inviertan en el futuro, y protege a los más vulnerables.

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