Friday, January 28, 2011

Hispanic Institute responds to State of the Union

CHCI President & CEO Esther Aguilera Statement on the State of the Union

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2011 -- The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) President & CEO Esther Aguilera released the following statement today in response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech last night:

Keeping the Promise of the American Dream for Latinos: Education First
In his speech last night, President Obama stressed our nation's commitment to keep the promise of the American Dream alive by working together "to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build" other nations in the new global economy.

I agree, but would argue that it starts with making the United States number one in the world once again in college graduation rates.  The U.S. now ranks tenth in the world in college completion for adults 25-34.  Education needs to be the first priority – especially for Latinos. 

Today, higher education is not just a pathway to opportunity – it is a prerequisite. Over the next decade, nearly 80 percent of new jobs in this country will require advanced workforce training and/or post-secondary education. 

Currently Latino children account for the largest percentage of the elementary school population, yet continue to lag dramatically behind other demographic groups in high school and college graduation rates. By 2020, one out every two new entrants into the U.S. workforce will be Latino.  Clearly, increasing the educational attainment rate of Latinos is a national imperative and must be at the forefront of any investment in this country's future.  

To address this critical need, the Board of Directors of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHCI) recently passed a unanimous resolution in support of the Lumina Foundation for Education, The Gates Foundation, key educational partners, as well the Administration to increase to 60 percent by 2025 the national college graduation rate for all Americans.  To reach this goal and have the U.S. regain its education leadership status in the world will require engaging in programs and activities to improve the Latino college completion rate.  

CHCI will launch this effort in April, with a series of education policy forums that will bring together leading education experts, advocates, and practitioners.  We will host panels in cities from Los Angeles to New York to examine the unique education challenges facing young Latinos, define the barriers to higher education attainment for Latinos, and identify best practices for addressing these to reach the 60 percent goal by 2025.

CHCI will share this vital information with other organizations and work collaboratively to ensure that together, we keep the promise of the American Dream accessible for the next generation – and that Latinos are part of that promise.

Esther Aguilera is President & CEO of CHCI. Since 1978, CHCI has been developing the next generation of Latino leaders by providing higher education attainment support, hands on public policy experience on Capitol Hill, and proven leadership development curriculum.  Today more than 5,400 CHCI Alumni across the country are Latino leaders in all sectors of U.S. society – public, private, and non-profit.

About CHCI
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), a nonprofit and nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization, provides leadership development programs and educational services to students and young emerging leaders.  The CHCI Board of Directors is comprised of Hispanic Members of Congress, nonprofit, union and corporate leaders.  For more information call CHCI at (202) 543-1771, visit, or join us on Facebook, Twitter (chci) and LinkedIn.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hispanic Republicans respond to Iowa's Immigration bill

Hispanic Group Responds to Iowa Immigration Bill and 287(g) Solution

ANKENY, IOWA - Iowa State Representative Windschitl introduced an immigration bill, HF27, which would authorize Iowa law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws, authorize all public employees to share information with DHS, and prohibit sanctuary cities.

The Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) authorizes the federal government to enter into agreements with state and local police, which often has created bureaucracies that wasted millions of tax payer dollars and create monsters like Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona. According to a report by the Dept. of Homeland Security, the 287(g) resources have not been focused on undocumented immigrants who pose the greatest risk. In addition to officers not being trained nor supervised properly by ICE, costs went from $5 million in 2006 to $55 million in 2010 - this shows us that 287(g) does not work as intended.   The results of IIRIRA have been very poor, and it appears we might be headed towards the same ideas from the Neanderthal Age. To date, despite widespread complaints about racial profiling across the nation, only one police department has been held accountable for not following program guidelines, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose department is the subject of a massive class action lawsuit for pervasive racial profiling, unlawful detention of Hispanic U.S. citizens, etc.

HF27 also bars local governments from crafting sanctuary policies. The only sanctuary city policy under consideration to our knowledge is in Iowa City, whose proposed policy appears carefully crafted to allow investigation of immigration status only of those actually arrested for a crime, to avoid inhibiting crime victims and witnesses who may be undocumented immigrants from cooperating with police. The primary focus of police should be solving crimes and public safety, not pursuing civil violations of federal law.

HF27 also bars government agencies from prohibiting employees from sharing information with Homeland Security. The vast majority of public employees who do not have specialized training in immigration law enforcement, and we believe this will lead to mistakes and racial profiling. The large majority of Hispanics in the U.S. are citizens or legal immigrants, but many mistakenly believe in the stereotype of Hispanics as undocumented immigrants. So we want school bus drivers calling DHS to report there are Hispanic students on their bus, when they have no idea of their legal status?

Recently, The Journal of Higher Education reported problems in Upstate New York with Customs and Border Patrol agents, who are supposed to be well trained in immigration law, making mistakes and arresting foreign students by mistake, typically students who are adjusting their status or extending their visas and waiting for DHS to process their applications, a process that can take months, sometimes years. Without substantial training, police and public employees should not engage in immigration enforcement.

About Somos Republicans:

Somos Republicans is a national watchdog group and the largest Hispanic Republican grassroots organization in the nation because of our leadership that is pro immigration reform. The Mission of Somos Republicans is to promote political education and information needed to make more informed political decisions. To inspire the Hispanic people to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their neighbors through collaborative political education, volunteer commitment and responsible participation in society. Our vision is to increase the Latino Republican voting block by 100% within two years. To increase voter registration, precinct committeemen recruitment, campaign volunteering, fundraising and events to reflect quality of future Latino leadership.

Obama's reelection hinges on States with Latino influence

Latino influence states even more important in 2012 electoral college map

Matt Barreto | January 24, 2011, Latino Decisions
In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama won the important Latino battleground states of Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida on his way to winning 365 total electoral college votes. The 46 electors in those four key states back in 2008 were part of the coalition, but in the ended they served more to run up the score, than provide the margin of victory. In 2012, due to declining approval of Obama among Whites, and a change in the number of electoral college votes during reapportionment, Latino voters, and Latino influence states are likely to play a very crucial role in determining which candidate gets to 270 electors. The four Latino battleground states have gained 3 seats in the U.S. House, resulting in 3 additional electoral college votes - 1 in Nevada and 2 in Florida. While Obama carried all four of these Latino states in 2008, the other states he won saw a loss of 9 electoral college votes in reapportionment, for a net loss of 6.
Thus, the starting point for 2012 is 359 electors for Obama and 179 for the Republican candidate with states breaking as they did in 2008. However, Obama approval hovers below 50%, ranging from 46% - 54% depending on the poll. That leaves a number of states he won in 2008 as likely Republican pick-ups in 2012. The most likely pick-ups for the Republicans in 2012 are North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, and the 2nd House district in Nebraska -- that amounts to a total of 58 electoral college votes, dropping Obama to perhaps 301 electors, to 237 for the Republican opponent, under the new electoral vote state totals following the 2010 Census numbers.

While a dozen or so states will be targeted as battlegrounds in 2012, the 49 votes up for grabs in the four key Latino influence states may be the most competitive, and the most important for Obama to secure. These four states and their 49 electoral college votes have demonstrated growth for two straight reapportionments - they had 42 combined votes in the 2000 election, grew to 46 for 2004-2008, and now hold 49 votes; growth that was largely driven by the Latino population, as Sylvia Manzano points out. Not only are they growing, but they are highly competitive.
In 2010, New Mexico and Nevada elected Republican Latino governors, and Florida a Republican Latino U.S. Senator, creating some buzz that with these surrogates, Republicans may attempt to chip away at Obama's strong Latino numbers in each state in 2008. Indeed, if Obama has only 301 votes leaning towards his column in 2012 these 49 Latino-influence electoral votes are absolutely crucial - without which he'd be left with just 252 votes. Can he win Ohio in 2012? Maybe. But is he willing to risk re-election on the Buckeye state, or is there more of an opportunity for him in Latino-influence states?

There are limitless possibilities of dividing up the electoral map as we look towards 2012, however it is almost impossible for Obama (as it was for Kerry) to get to 270 electors without winning a minimum of 3 out of 4 of these Latino-influence states. For example, if Obama loses Florida (29 votes) but wins Colorado (9), Nevada (6) and New Mexico (5) he would end up with 272 votes and be re-elected. If he fails to win New Mexico (as Kerry did in 2004), those five electors shift to the GOP side giving them 271 votes. If Obama wins New Mexico, but can't hold Nevada, those six electors would give the GOP 272 votes. Anyway you look at the map in 2012, Obama needs to hold all three of these critical Southwestern states, and the Latino vote, growing in size and influence, will certainly make the difference, just as they did in 2010.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Latinos will feel pain under Brown's budget

Latinos will feel pain under Brown's budget

Elation of having Jerry Brown back may force a blind eye toward impacts of his budget plan
By Adrian Perez, Publisher

Jerry Brown's first term as Governor
SACRAMENTO, CA -- On January 3, 2011, Jerry Brown became Governor of California again, establishing a new record in state politics for having been the youngest and now the oldest governor to serve.  This is essentially Brown’s third term as governor in a State that has embraced term limits.  The elation among many who wanted to see him back may be short-lived, unless they are closing their eyes to what is about to happen.  It is typical for the first 100 days of a governor’s administration to experience a “honeymoon” period, where legislators and the governor get to know one another and support each other on platform issue.  But, this go round is different and the man many once referred to as “Governor Moonbeam” may shock Latino supporters and even his own Party.

During his inaugural speech in Sacramento, Brown told a crowd of supporters, legislative leaders, and special guests very bluntly that things have to change and that it was going to hurt.

Jerry Brown today.
"At this stage of my life, I have not come here to embrace delay and denial," said Brown, referring to the annual political game the State’s Legislature has embraced in delivering a timely and balanced state budget.  "In this crisis, we simply have to learn to work together, as Californians first, members of a political party second."

Working together has been a challenge for past legislatures and governors, who have overtly ignored the voters’ call for change, resulting in pitiful public approval ratings.  Now, Brown is taking the first serious shot at needed change through his proposed budget and staffing appointments.  

The Brown budget features deep cuts into state social programs and higher education, and proposes to extend the 2009 tax for another 5 years.  It eliminates “Enterprise Zones,” which could be viewed as a job killer, and transfers many responsibilities to local governments, a concept viewed as suspect by local government leaders.  Unfortunately, the group most impacted by these cuts will be Latinos, a topic no statewide elected official is openly discussing yet.

Brown’s goal is to move his budget proposal forward with bi-partisan support, a task his predecessor was unable to achieve.  So far, most Democrats and Republicans have been shy about embracing the proposal, but real evidence of support won’t appear for another week or so, after special interest groups review and assess the potential benefit or damage.  That’s when Brown will learn who will support his vision of getting California economically solvent. 

Ana Matosantos, Finance Director
The Brown appointments so far have been conservative yet consistent…all Democrats.  He is keeping Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Director of Finance, Ana Matosantos, a Puerto Rican Latina whose skill in crafting budgets is difficult to top.  He has also appointed some old friends who served in his prior administration, at cabinet level positions.  We can’t argue with this philosophy, considering that experienced people can handle program and department realignments and cuts better than any novice.  What we can argue as being politically motivated are the appointments he made to the State Board of Education.  They all Democrats whose loyalty will favor teacher’s unions, while sacrificing real education innovators like Dr. David Lopez, President of the nation’s only Hispanic university.  

California’s Latino leaders are looking for Brown to repeat his inclusion of Latinos at cabinet level appointments, as he did 35 years ago.  Latinos comprise nearly 40 percent of the state’s population and channeled an estimated 86 percent of their vote to Brown in November.  While some political pundits saw this as a rejection of the Republican candidate, others saw it as a potential for Latinos to have a presence in the state’s public policy decision-making and implementation arena.  However, the scarcity of Latinos in Brown’s transition team and the lack of large representation at his inaugural festivities is cause enough to raise an eyebrow.  Couple this with the fact Brown ignored the hundreds of thousands of Latino small business owners while campaigning leads some to believe he is not interested in their issues.  

Still, Latinos have expressed an interest in serving with this governor and are garnering support to lead the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, and to become a member of the California Public Utilities Commission.  These are areas where the new economy will be taking hold and Latino inclusion will be essential for the state’s long-term prosperity.

Overall and being Brown’s first week in Office allows for some deserved acknowledgement from Latino community leaders.  He has appointed former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Press Secretary Gil Duran to serve in the same capacity.  He appointed Nick Velasquez as Director of External Affairs, who served as senior communications and policy aide to former L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.  Finally, he appointed Aida Molina to the California State Board of Education, who once served as a Commissioner for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.  

At this juncture, it is way too early to challenge Brown’s appointments, but it is not too early to chime in on the adverse impacts the Latino community will feel with his proposed budget plan.  Unless of course the elation of having Jerry Brown back as Governor blinds Latinos from seeing those impacts.

I appreciate your feedback.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Latino group decries Brown's higher ed cuts

Governor’s Proposed Budget Cuts to Higher Education Limit Access and Success for Latino Students 

SACRAMENTO, CAThe Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities decries Governor Brown’s proposed cuts to higher education institutions, but lauds increases in Cal Grants to preserve access for low-income students.

“Although we trust California’s higher education institutions will do their best to protect direct services to students, as well as access to higher education, a 20 percent budget cut to the segments of higher education will lead to students being denied their dream of a higher education,” said Antonio R. Flores, President and CEO of HACU. “We understand that these are exceptionally difficult financial times across our nation, but reducing access to higher education will only exacerbate the shortage of well-educated workers the Golden State needs to regain its competitive advantage.”

The Governor’s January Budget included cuts of $500 million each to the University of California and the California State University, as well as a $400 million cut to the California Community Colleges. The $500 million reduction to UC and CSU represents just under 20 percent of last year’s General Fund expenditures. Cuts of that magnitude will lead to a reduction in the number of seats at the public institutions, as well as reductions in programs that ensure that low-income and first-generation college-going students successfully graduate from college. The cuts to the UC and CSU will also create additional pressures on community colleges as students are turned away from 4-year institutions.

“The budget achieves the $400 million in cuts at the community colleges by changing the census date at those colleges,” said Flores. “Unfortunately, this move will likely have a stronger negative impact on higher education institutions that serve our neediest students. Many of California's low-income students face life challenges that make staying in school very difficult. By changing the census date, we handicap those institutions that serve the neediest students by reducing funds available to provide them additional support services.”

According to Flores, HACU does wish to express its gratitude to Governor Brown for increasing the availability of Cal Grants “so that as students face increased fees at California institutions, we are able to preserve access for the neediest of students.”

“We acknowledge the magnitude of California’s budget and structural deficits,” Flores added. “However, the magnitude of California’s cuts to higher education risks damage to the dreams of Latino students for generations to come. We hope the Governor and Legislature can find ways to mitigate these cuts, particularly their impact on low-income and first- generation students.”

HACU was established in 1986 with a founding membership of 18 institutions. Today, HACU represents approximately 400 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, Portugal and Spain. HACU’s regional office in Sacramento represents its membership in the western region of the U.S. HACU is the only national educational association that represents Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Latino political growth in Rhode Island

Mayor Angel Taveras and the
Political Empowerment of Latinos in Providence, Rhode Island
By Pablo Rodriguez (January 4, 2011)

(This opinion letter was first published by the National Institute for Latino Policy newsletter.)

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND - The first Latino Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island was sworn into office yeterday, January 3rd.  Administering the oath of office was his uncle, District Court Judge Rafael Ovalles, both of Dominican descent. The capital and largest city in the state, Providence has a population of close to 173,000, which is 38 percent Latino, 39 percent White, 13 percent Black and 6 percent Asian.

It was 1998 when a rag tag group of Latino leaders came together in Providence to design a political action committee, the Rhode Island Political Action Committee (RILPAC). The idea was for it to serve as a vehicle for political empowerment and to educate the politicians of the day about the issues affecting what was then an emerging Latino community, which was at the time around 15 percent of the population.

Until that time, outreach by politicians was limited to the ransom payments given to "community organizers" who showed up at our doors, like the swallows of Capistrano, a couple of weeks before an election. Our political success was measured not in our ability to elect anyone but in the number of people that were hired by the winner. Usually one was lucky enough to get the infamous "community liaison" position that served, not as a bridge to the community, but as a door that was mostly closed until the next election cycle came about.

Just about 13 years later, the first legal counsel of this group, Angel Taveras, is now Mayor of the City of Providence and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee who credited Latinos for his victory, made repealing E-Verify the first act of his Administration. Providence now has six Latino Council members, a state senator, and three state reps. No one would have predicted this outcome when the early monthly meetings of RILPAC would sometimes have a quorum of only two, including the president!

What has been the secret of our success? From the beginning we made it clear to the politicos that our aim was not to elect Latinos. We believed that "la genética, no hace la política" (genetics does not make good politics). Policy ideas are the things that matter.

We also never claimed to represent the Latino community at large and warned those seeking our endorsement that they would fail if their outreach was limited to our group. Politicians are lazy and if you give them the impression that they could reach an entire community with a limited effort, they will limit their effort. Endorsement was based on an extensive questionnaire and on a personal interview that was meant to verify that the candidate him or herself actually completed the questionnaire, and not his or her community liaison. Most importantly, we were non-partisan, which allowed us to influence both sides of the aisle. 

However, it was not until the year 2000 that we were able to claim a very important victory. The Census showed remarkable growth in our neighborhoods and redistricting presented us with an opportunity to draw favorable lines for the election of Juan Pichardo, our first State Senator and the first Dominican state senator in the country. Of course we had to sue in Federal court and force a settlement that provided us with funds to continue our advocacy. From then on, issues affecting Latinos have become part and parcel of all urban and statewide campaigns.   

Latino communities nationwide have once again the unique opportunity given by the Census every ten years. The blueprint that we followed in Rhode Island is the same that many immigrant communities before us have followed. There is no need for large budgets or infrastructure if you are able to harness the boundless energy that lives in the hearts of those seeking opportunity for themselves and their loved ones. Providing a forum for educating not just Latinos about who we are and what matters to us is the beginning. Following a mission that values ideas and policy instead of individuals and political parties ends up being the true source of power.

Pablo Rodriguez, MD, is associate chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Women and Infants' Hospital in Providence, and is a clinical associate professor at Brown University's Program in Medicine. He is the host radio programs "Hablemos" and "Nuestra Salud" on WELH 88.1 FM, Latino Public Radio, where he also serves as Chairman. He can be reached at