Monday, June 20, 2011

AT&T/T-Mobile merger is bad news for Latinos and America

Merger would not improve customer service or choice and would lead to layoffs.
By Jessica L. González (June 20, 2011) with the assistance of Fabiola Rivas and Michael J. Scurato
Jessica L. Gonzale
Publisher's Note:  This Commentary was first published by the National Institute for Latino Policy.

Following up on our recent submission to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of a petition to deny AT&T's request to purchase T-Mobile, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP) reviewed further arguments in support of this merger, which we find to be unsupportable by the facts. AT&T and T-Mobile's joint arguments stretch nearly 230 pages, yet fail to address many of our concerns about this acquisition, outright ignoring many of them.

Notably, AT&T and T-Mobile - although suggesting that consumers have nothing to worry about regarding the effect of this acquisition on prices - make no promises to reduce or even maintain current prices. Nor do they promise to improve customer service and choice. At the same time, they concede that this acquisition would lead to layoffs. Substantial evidence in the FCC case docket suggests that this acquisition would result in less competition, higher prices, poorer customer service, less consumer choice and fewer jobs in the telecommunications sector.

AT&T and T-Mobile's assertion that the acquisition would lead to lower prices is suspect. They suggest that the increased capacity that AT&T would gain through this acquisition would "lower the cost of serving additional subscribers and thus create incentives to expand output and lower prices relative to the levels expected in the absence of this transaction." AT&T and T-Mobile's attempts to rebut this evidence are unconvincing.

This is a much different story than the one AT&T presented to its shareholders, which focused instead on lowering the joint entity's costs and increasing T-Mobile's annual revenue per user. Conspicuously absent from AT&T's shareholder presentation is any claim that it would reduce or maintain prices if the acquisition were approved. And again, AT&T and T-Mobile seem unwilling to make any similar promise to the FCC even as they are attempting to prove that this acquisition would be in the public interest.

In addition to their lack of clarity on pricing, mounting evidence suggests that, indeed, this acquisition would ultimately result in higher prices for a number of reasons. This is especially the case given T-Mobile's history of exerting downward pressure on prices.

Finally, AT&T and T-Mobile fail altogether to respond to how this acquisition would impact AT&T's poor record on customer service. Although they continually allude to the claim that AT&T customers would receive "better service," AT&T relies on unsupported statements and letters from a few civil rights organizations - many of whom lack expertise on telecommunications issues - to argue that this acquisition would close the digital divide and, therefore, benefit people of color.

These claims seem to all pertain to reception problems as opposed to customer assistance for billing questions and technical support. AT&T and T-Mobile's failure to even acknowledge arguments about AT&T's lackluster customer service is troubling, especially as billing experts and retail employees appear likely to be pink-slipped if this acquisition is permitted, leaving even fewer employees to respond to AT&T and T-Mobile customers' issues.

For instance, AT&T cites a brief letter that states that the '"benefits of this merger to the consumer, especially Latinos, are incredibly significant and would go a long way to erase the digital divide"' given AT&T's plan to roll out Long Term Evolution (LTE), the latest standard in the mobile network technology. This argument is flawed because it is based on the incorrect assumption that wireless phones are substitutes for home broadband access. Petitioners strongly support efforts to close the digital divide; however, AT&T's plans for LTE service would not accomplish that goal.

Cell phone Internet access does not provide the same opportunities as having broadband at home attached to a computer. Cell phone users cannot do homework, search for jobs, or utilize healthcare applications on their mobile devices. We agree with a statement from Brent Wilkes, the National Executive Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which supports the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, appearing in the February 1, 2011 issue of Broadband & Social Justice, that:

To the extent that these new adopters would access this service over their cell phones, they would continue to have a substandard internet experience. And even if they could connect their computers to LTE service through their cell phones, they would still have to pay an additional fee separate and apart from the fees that they already pay for data services. This is not a cost-effective remedy to closing the digital divide, even as cost is one of the main barriers to broadband adoption, and the primary barrier for Latinos.

In a 2010 FCC working paper, "Broadband Adoption and Yse in America," John Horrigan, vice president of research at TechNet, has also found that mobile broadband does not provide the same level of functionality as home connections. He finds that "mobile use is great for quick information hits and nuggets of information along the way, but it doesn't lend itself to job success."

A recent FCC report found that 36% of Americans who have not adopted broadband cite cost as the primary reason. The latest National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report, Digital Nation: Expanding Internet Usage (2011), found that price is the main reason for non-adoption among Latinos with 35.9% saying that they do not have high speed access at home because it is too expensive.

We, therefore, have urged the FCC to hold a hearing to deny AT&T's application. The harms to the public interest of this acquisition clearly greatly outweigh any potential benefits. The harms to the Latino community are even greater.

Jessica J. Gonzalez is the Vice President for Policy for the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC). Michael J. Scurato is a Staff Attorney and Fabiola Rivas a NHMC Intern completing her law degree for the Washington College of Law. Ms. González can be reached at


McCain blames undocumented immigrants for AZ fires...

Has Senator John McCain become delusional about undocumented immigrants?  The 2008 candidate for President has all but alienated his relations with Arizona's Latino voters after blaming undocumented immigrants for causing the state's worst wildfires.  However, he recanted the allegation on the Immus show this past weekend.  Judge for yourself...

Is anti-abortion movement a hijacking of Women's rights?

As with the abortion-as-black-genocide billboards unleashed by the far right Radiance Foundation, the Latino billboards evoke reductive hyper-religious narratives of sinning promiscuous bad women and “breeder” good women.
By Sikivu Hutchinson and Diane Arellano

Publisher's Note:  This Opinion first appeared on USC Annenburg's Intersections South LA.

On a recent Los Angeles talk radio show Louisiana state legislator John LaBruzzo lamented the “massacre” of millions of “baby women” by abortion. In this fascist’s warped mind abortion infringes on the civil rights of fetuses. LaBruzzo is the author of a bill that would abolish abortion on the grounds that denying fetuses civil rights is akin to the violent denial of black civil rights under slavery. According to male anti-abortion fascists like LaBruzzo, poor single women get abortions because they are forced to by predatory deadbeat dad boyfriends in training or by fathers who have committed incest. Hence, overturning Roe vs. Wade is consistent with gender equity and social justice.

As the national hijacking of women’s rights continues, the Right has become more and more skillful at manipulating pro-death anti-choice messages designed to make women believe that their interests are being served by powerful white conservative foundations and their “third world” allies. In Los Angeles, conservative Latino groups are now targeting Latino communities with a new wave of anti-abortion billboards similar to those aimed at African American women. The
Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles is the architect of this latest assault on reproductive justice for women of color. As with the abortion-as-black-genocide billboards unleashed by the far right Radiance Foundation, the Latino billboards evoke reductive hyper-religious narratives of sinning promiscuous bad women and “breeder” good women.

The billboards claim that “the most dangerous place” for a Latino child is in the womb. Yet the reality of Latina fertility rates—three children are the national average for Latinas in their childbearing years—would seem to belie the need for this campaign. But of course reality in fascist propaganda is an oxymoron. Crafted as they are at the height of the recession, the economic subtext of these moral panic narratives must be exposed. The subtext of the campaign is that any form of access to abortion threatens the stability of patriarchal Latino families. Like black women, Latinas’ bodies are territory to be manipulated, controlled, and strictly policed vis-à-vis the regime of authentic Latino gender identities based on Catholic piety and female submission. As the most underrepresented and lowest paid group in the American economy, Latinas are especially vulnerable to socio-cultural narratives mandating that they stay barefoot, pregnant, and underemployed.

In the Latino community, the assault on women’s right to self-determination is also being spearheaded by former Latin American telenovela stars ready to lend their “expert” opinions on what Latinas in the US should and should not do with their bodies. The most vociferous of these is former boy band member and telenovela heartthrob Eduardo Verastegui. In 2008, Verastegui vied for the heart of the Religious Right with media appearances encouraging Spanish speaking Latino voters to vote yes on Proposition 8, California’s anti-same sex marriage initiative. He has returned to the spotlight as a founding member of
Manto de Guadalupe, a nonprofit focused on “defending life from conception to natural death.”

On June 12th, Manto de Guadalupe sponsored a fundraising event in support of the development of the largest “pro-life” women’s clinic in the United States. This facility is slated to be built in South Los Angeles, which has one of the highest poverty rates in L.A. County. At the event, legendary Mexican telenovela star Veronica Castro introduced Texas governor and rumored presidential hopeful Rick Perry. Just a few days before the fundraiser, Perry introduced
SB 9—sweeping legislation which would ban “sanctuary cities” or non-existent safe havens for undocumented immigrants—into the Texas Senate. SB 9 would further criminalize Texas Latinos by allowing law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of those arrested or legally detained. Still, at the fundraiser, the predominantly Spanish speaking immigrant crowd cheered wildly for Perry.

The connection between the right’s anti-immigrant and anti-choice agenda is no coincidence. Criminalizing choice and undocumented immigrants is part of a larger scheme in which big government eliminates the rights of the underclass and expands “social welfare” for corporations, the wealthy, and the military industrial complex. Thus, right wing propaganda in black and brown communities must be met head on. Access to safe and legal safe abortions is not only paramount to women’s health but to economic and social justice. Pro-choice politicians like President Obama who waffle on the morality and necessity of abortion (talking only of the need to “reduce” the number of abortions), further distort the connection between unrestricted access to abortion and human rights. Indeed, the Left’s marginal response to far right anti-abortion fascism has enabled a climate in which Planned Parenthood has now been defunded in three states. If the war on safe and legal access to abortion does not shift to a national movement centered on how family planning and abortion are a fundamental human right, then the lives of black and brown women will continue to be expendable. And if the right wing of all hues continues to be allowed to define the terms of human rights and “social justice” women of color will be on the frontlines reliving the horror of the back alley.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars. Diane Arellano is a photo documentarian and youth advocacy educator based in Los Angeles. Her work examines sociocultural instability and flexibility, the intersections of marginalized communities, race, class, and gender roles. Sikivu and Diane run the Women's Leadership Project, A South L.A.-based feminist mentoring program. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fewer hands in the fields

Video of farm workers in Georgia produced by the LA Times.  Excellent example of the hardships farmers will face across the U.S. if laws like SB 1070 are adopted in other states.

Click HERE:  Fewer hands in the fields

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't trust E-verify says Latino lawyer

Faulty reasoning pushing E-Verify in Congress.

Publisher's Note:  Raul A. Reyes, a lawyer living in New York City, responds to a Los Angeles Times' June 13 Op-Ed article "E-Verify works; let's use it." 

Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) advocate the mandatory use of E-Verify to preserve jobs for Americans and crack down on illegal immigration. As a supporter of comprehensive reform, I read their Op-Ed article with great interest and was disheartened by their faulty reasoning, especially in light of the considerable influence the two members of Congress wield over our nation's immigration policy.

They begin their piece by citing the nation's dismal unemployment numbers and quickly segue to their unsourced claim that Americans compete with illegal immigrants for jobs, the reason Smith and Gallegly say mandatory E-Verify checks are needed. Funny, they offer no evidence that citizens are losing out in their quest to land work picking strawberries, cleaning bathrooms or plucking chickens.

Smith and Gallegly write that E-Verify “quickly confirms 99.5% of work-eligible workers.” What they do not say is that the program fails more than half the time at detecting illegal workers. A 2009 study by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services found that E-Verify cleared 54% of undocumented workers to work.

Smith and Gallegly cite a Rasmussen poll reporting that 82% of likely voters thought businesses should be required to use E-Verify. The New York Times' Nate Silver, however, rightly counsels "extreme skepticism" when reviewing polls by Rasmussen Reports. In this case, Rasmussen simply asked people if employers should be required to certify that their employees are legal. This is, in fact, already law. I doubt most Americans would want to be forced into a new government program to get and keep a job.

Citing a study by the Public Policy Institute of California, Smith and Gallegly claim that Arizona's mandatory use of E-Verify has reduced the state's illegal immigration population. They omit one of the institute's key finding: Arizona's use of E-Verify has pushed significant numbers of undocumented workers into the informal economy. Instead of going home, illegal workers have shifted to cash-only transactions, depriving the state of much-needed tax revenue. Is this a policy goal worthy of expanding to all 50 states?

"It is crucial that we promote policies that help grow our economy and increase job opportunities for Americans and legal immigrants," write Smith and Gallegly. I agree. But the National Immigration Law Center estimates a national rollout of E-Verify would result in the loss of about 770,000 jobs. Based on calculations using known error rates for selected employers, the NILC estimates that between 1.2 million and 18.5 million workers would have to consult with the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to correct their records, a task the Government Accountability Office has called "formidable." Almost anyone could be declared ineligible to work: those who have married, divorced or changed their names; legal immigrants and naturalized citizens with paperwork issues; or those unlucky enough to be victims of clerical errors. So much for promoting job growth.

I found it telling that Smith and Gallegly made no mention of the costs of E-Verify. The Department of Homeland Security estimates it would have to spend $765 million on staff, technology and training if the program were to go national. According to a report by Bloomberg Government, small businesses would bear the brunt of compliance costs, spending about $2.6 billion per year to use E-Verify. E-Verify can be a hassle for big corporations too. In 2008, Intel said that about 12% of its workers were incorrectly tagged as ineligible to work.

What's more, as a Latino, I have deep reservations about a program that would probably result in discriminatory hiring practices. If E-Verify were to go national, employers might be understandably hesitant to hire anyone who looked or sounded foreign-born, thereby subjecting Latinos increasingly to profiling and discrimination.

Although I do not support illegal immigration or the hiring of undocumented workers, I fail to see the benefits of E-Verify as outlined by Smith and Gallegly. The costs and unintended consequences of the program would be great; its payoff is at best debatable. Unfortunately, the two members of Congress seem willing to overlook the realities of immigration, economics and civil rights in their misguided attempt to turn this compliance program into an enforcement tool.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Creating new Latino political leadership

Voter registration and get-out-the-vote operations are not enough, we need to create new leadership that can win elections.
By Jaime Estades, NiLP
The idea to create a Latino Leadership Institute that would concentrate on organizing and creating new political leadership surged from the mind of the late Richie Perez (1944 - 2004). Richie always said that voter registration and get-out-the-vote operations were not enough -- we need to create new leadership that can win elections independent of the political machineries.

As Executive Director of the Hispanic Education and Legal Fund (HELF), created by labor leader Dennis Rivera), in 1996, I had the opportunity to attend Latino academies sponsored by Chicanos in the Southwest. Those academies were exactly what were missing in New York and the rest of the East Coast. At that time, I was shocked to learn that around 2,200 Chicanos had been elected to office throughout the Southwest and the Midwest. Meanwhile, in the northeast, if we could count 30 Latino elected officials, it would have been a surprise and a stretch. The Latino academies in the Southwest and Midwest definitely had a lot to do those numbers. At HELF, I lead an all-volunteer effort throughout the East Coast through which 100,000 voters were registered and reached through get-out-the-vote operations in a three month effort.

After I left HELF, in 1999, I incorporated the Latino Leadership Institute, Inc. (LLI) as a tax-exempt corporation. At that time, we hosted some small workshops in Washington Heights and Los Sures in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. LLI's mission is to empower Latinos and other minorities by increasing their participation in the democratic process through training, organizing and mobilizing leaders into an agenda that reflects their aspirations and values. LLI also seeks to be a forum for intellectual discourse, where we can help to influence public policy in a nonpartisan manner.

In 2000, I went ;aw school, and the project remained dormant until I attended the "Latino City-Wide Dialogue" at the Community Service Society co-hosted by journalist Gerson Borrero and civil rights attorney Juan Cartagena.. I realized during those conversations that there were many frustrations with the current Latino political leadership, as well as with all elected officials, regardless of race. However, it was difficult for people to articulate a response to address those frustrations. I realized that the LLI was one potential answer, so I decided to "dust off" my old 501(c)(3).

Last weekend, on June 4 and 5, 2011, we re-inaugurated the Latino Leadership Institute, Inc. with an Academy that took place at the SEIU Local 32 BJ in Manhattan. The response was overwhelming. Latinos flew in from Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Detroit. People car pooled from Philadelphia, Boston, Albany and numerous other upstate regions, demonstrating that the political frustrations of Latinos and the desire not be invisible anymore in the political arena is shared by Latinos nationwide.

While we knew that there was a thirst for this type of training and for the creation of new leaders, we were shocked by the sheer demand and raw sense of imperative -- more than 200 people attended the Academy, most with a real thirst for participation in the Academy and in the electoral process. The speakers included the top political strategists in the State of New York, some with worldwide recognition - all volunteering their time in this 100% volunteer effort for which only a small optional donation was requested.

Currently, LLI is delineating a plan that focuses on the 2012 elections. There are two states critical for both the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as Independents, where Latinos play a critical role -- Pennsylvania and Florida. As a nonpartisan organization, our goals are to train, register and mobilize the Latino vote in the East Coast, regardless of individual party identification or preference.

Meanwhile, LLI will have our second Latino Academy (Part Two) this November. In addition, since Sunday, we have received three invitations to take the Academy to Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Chicago.

Jaime Estades, Founder and Chairperson of the Latino Leadership Institute. He is an Attorney holding an MSW degree, and was a Revson Fellow at Columbia University. He has taught Social Policy and Social Justice at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services as Adjunct Professor. In September, he will be teaching Social Policy and Welfare at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Social Work in New Brunswick.

For more information on the Latino Leadership Institute, contact Jaime Estades at
347-446-5786 or You can also join the LLI Group on FaceBook.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Charity begins at home

Hispanic business donations in their own turf paled in comparison to what their Caucasian counterparts in the same areas.

By James Reza  , Dallas  

Almost all of my life, I’ve tried to help others in need.  Proud to say, when I lived in North Fort Worth, a predominately American Hispanic area I was one of the go to guys when my parish and Hispanic groups needed someone to spear head a fund raiser to help those in need.  Since I was a young boy I enjoyed being involved in my parish.  First as an altar boy, then as co-choir director for 18 years, Vice President of the All Saints School Booster Club and a member of the Catholic Men’s Club.  Besides being involved in my parish I also was involved politically and as a newspaper writer for two major newspapers, I often was asked to appear on many radio and national TV shows to debate or speak on political topics I wrote in my columns.  The media exposure I received, to which I didn’t seek by the way, gave me the opportunity to meet and be friends with many powerful and influential political and business individuals.  Also, being a member of the North Stockyards Optimist Club gave me the opportunity to work and meet many prominent individuals who’s sole purpose as Optimist members was to organize fundraisers to help youngsters in sports activities.  Interestingly, most of the individuals who were extremely generous to me in my fund raising endeavors were Anglos.  And most of the monies I garnered for those in need went to Hispanics.  “Did Hispanic business owners help you James?” some might ask.  Sure, and though those Hispanic businessmen and businesswomen were and are very wealthy, their contributions to help other Hispanics in their own turf paled in comparison to what their white counterpart businesses in the same area donated.

A couple of week ago, a nun from the Order of St. Francis (a group of nuns who left Bavaria, Germany 160 years ago to minister to immigrants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) made a gripping homily to St. Paul’s parishioners of whom I’m a member.  Though I was familiar with the topic the nun was addressing, my fellow parishioners were shocked by her revelations.  As the nun talked about the ministry her order is involved in Juarez, Mexico (across from El Paso, Texas), a city with a population of 1.3 million, she revealed the horror the people of Juarez daily experience due to the severe criminal activities that abound attributed to the drug cartels.  The nun revealed that daily, scores of men and women, who include politicians and law enforcement officers, are found mutilated, raped and decapitated for their efforts in fighting the drug cartels.  The nun cited that newspaper reporters are also targeted and many along with their family members are found dead when they write stories denouncing the drug lord’s activities.  Surmising, the nun stated that consequently a large number of businesses have shut their doors and moved out of the city, or, moved their business to El Paso, Texas.  Due to the exodus of many businesses closing in Juarez, the nun continued, many residents of Juarez are now without work and struggling to survive in a city that is in total chaos.

As I listened to the nun and the terrible situation in Juarez, where she ministers to the poor, I then remembered the speech President Obama made in El Paso this May where he pandered to Hispanics as they suffer with a 10.1% unemployment rate due to Mexican immigrants crossing over to Texas to take their jobs.  And, how he beat his breast as how he has fought tooth and nail to curb illegal immigration.  He made sport of those, in this case Republicans, who want to secure our borders.  The President stated:  “Opponents (I guess Republicans) want to move the goal posts on border enforcement. Maybe they’ll need a moat,” he said sarcastically.  “Maybe they want alligators in the moat.”

As expected, the nun then pleaded for donations to help her order.  Folks, though I wanted to help, I felt like asking her, “Why don’t you go solicit donations at the predominately Hispanic parishes of All Saints, Our Lady of Guadalupe, or Immaculate Heart, which are the largest parishes in the diocese?”  My friends, I already knew the answer — Catholic Hispanics are less charitable than white Catholics.  My sister, Cecilia, who counts the Sunday collection at her church was shocked when she visited my church one Sunday and noticed the contributions our small parish gives exceeded those of her parish of All Saints, which is one of the largest congregations in Fort Worth.

All my life at mass, I’ve heard black, Hispanic, white priests, nuns, and laymen asking for donations to help Hispanics, blacks, and people of other countries.  Yet, I question, “aren’t there any poor white people in need in our own country?”  Just this last month, hundreds of white Americans, along with some blacks, lost their lives, and thousands more lost all of their belongings in violent storms in Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Massachusetts.  Aren’t those folks worthy of our help?  Or is it because most in those torn states are white, don’t deserve any assistance.

One of the most disturbing ads I see on TV is one that solicits funds for blacks.  In the ad they make this statement, “Give to the United Negro College Fund, a Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”  That’s fine with me.  I’m fully aware that Hispanic groups like LULAC and American GI Forum make fundraisers where they disclose that the funds raised are strictly for Hispanic scholarships.  But, what if there was a TV ad that made this statement, “Give to the White Student College Fund for their College Needs.”  How do you think Hispanics and blacks would react to that?  One can only wonder.

This Great Nation gives aid to many countries.  However, with unemployment at 9.1% and higher in some states, many American workers are hurting financially.  I believe we need to cut our foreign aid and start helping our own American citizens.  I’m a firm believer that “Charity Begins at Home!”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Redistricting and the Latino boom in Nebraska

Growth rates in new destination states such as Nebraska (77%), Nevada (82%), and North Carolina (111%) have emerged as battlegrounds over the extent to which Latinos will impact this decennial process.
By Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, University of Nebraska Omaha

OMAHA, NEB -- At the beginning of the year there was much speculation as to how the rapid growth of the U.S. Latino population in the last decade would influence the redistricting process across the country. Growth rates in new destination states such as Nebraska (77%), Nevada (82%), and North Carolina (111%) have emerged as battlegrounds over the extent to which Latinos will impact this decennial process. In this entry, we look at the effort to redraw both the state legislative and congressional districts around the center of Nebraska’s Latino population, the southeastern portion of the Omaha metropolitan area. More specifically, we explore the controversial attempt by Republican members of the Nebraska Legislature’s Redistricting Committee to create a Latino “super-majority” district in South Omaha, while simultaneously decreasing Latino influence in the east Sarpy County communities of Bellevue and Papillion-La Vista by removing them from Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District.

Changing Demographics in Nebraska Provide Interesting Context for Plans

Nebraska’s Latino population increased by 77 percent over the past decade to reach 167,405, or roughly 10% of the state’s population. Most of the counties that gained population are in eastern Nebraska near the state’s largest cities of Omaha and Lincoln. As reflected in the districts listed in the table below, it is this eastern growth that is largely responsible for the need for lawmakers to redraw the lines for the state’s three congressional and 49 legislative districts this year. This population growth is apparent in Omaha, where in 1970, there were approximately 6,500 Latinos (almost all U.S.-born) in the South Omaha community. By 2000, that population has exploded to over 30,000 Latinos, with a large majority of the growth fueled by immigrants arriving from Mexico, and internal Latino migrants from Chicago and the American southwest.

Consequently, the 2010 Census placed the Latino population in South Omaha at over 45,000, but with only 47% of Latinos being U.S. citizens. These changing demographic patterns have led to competition within the Latino community between the “original” Latino community, and the emerging Latino immigrant population. For example, Rebecca Barrientos-Patlan, the losing Latina Republican state legislature candidate in 2008, and Somos Republicanos of Nebraska, a Hispanic Republican grassroots organization claim that the current districting scheme “divides South Omaha into several legislative districts, and combines South Omaha neighborhoods with very different neighborhoods outside the area.”


Packing Strategies and “ Threshold” Effects Key in State Legislative Districts

Initially the Legislative Bill 703 introduced by the Republican representatives sought to create a Latino “super majority” (approximately 70% Latino with a Latino VAP of 57%) district in Legislative District 7 (LD7). LD7 is currently 48% Latino with 39.6 % Latinos of voting age, so this proposal would reduce the Latino population of LD5 from 35.5% to 20%LD5 and reducing the Latino VAP from 28.9 to 13%. The proposal immediately drew protests from the two non-Latino State Senators representing the districts, Heath Mello -D (LD5) and Jeremy Nordquist-D (LD7). They and their supporters argued that only under limited circumstances - for instance when a racial minority’s political clout is being suppressed – can a state seek to create “majority-minority” districts. Moreover, questions began to surface as to whether the “packing” proposal would violate elements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by essentially diluting the racial composition of District 5. Almost immediately, the proposal was withdrawn and another, essentially retaining the existing district boundaries was introduced.

The argument of Nebraska Republicans to “pack” district 7 to ensure a safe district for a Latino Republican candidate appears to be line with the Republican approach highlighted in a previous
Latino Decisions post, and is grounded in the academic argument that descriptive representation leads to greater substantive representation. However, this appears to be a “false choice,” as any attempt at do so directly violates the “racial dilution” clause of Section 2 in the VRA, and does not ensure victory for a Latino candidate, as Latinos only constitute 28% of the voting population in the district. Furthermore, Barrientos-Patlan only won 31% of the vote in the 2008 general election in LD5 (where turnout was over 70%).

These trends point to the need for a higher threshold for Latinos within districts due to lower turnout rates, citizenship rates, and voter registration among Latinos more generally (See Lublin and McDonald, 2006). The future Latino
population trends for LD 5 and 7 however suggest good potential for Latino candidates due to high concentrations of Latinos and that over 90% of the Latinos under the age of 18 in Nebraska are U.S. citizens.

Latinos are Vital to Congressional District Plans in Nebraska

The Congressional redistricting proposal, while not as immediately controversial, also presents issues highly salient to Latinos that could serve as the grist for legal challenges. First, the redrawing of the lines of CD 1 and 2 significantly favors the Republican Party by removing a portion of eastern Sarpy County that is demographically Democrat and Latino relative to surrounding districts. While Sarpy County is only 15% minority, the city of Bellevue and the adjacent Offutt Air Force Base are much more diverse (25% and 30% respectively). This plan (depicted in maps below) significantly weakens the voting strength of Latinos in these areas by shifting them into a congressional district that is much more heavily Republican and white. This now raises a significant question as to whether the proposal, approved by the State Legislature on a purely party line vote of 34-15, does not violate tenants of both the 14th Amendment and the VRA. In spite of testimony that the re-drawn district boundaries displace and marginalize the electoral impact of Latino voters in eastern Sarpy County, the Nebraska State Legislature has pushed the passage of LB 704 forward. 

Partisan Implications and Conclusions

The head of the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee, State Sen. Chris Langemeier, noted that although the Legislature is officially non-partisan, the “political fangs come out during redistricting”. In 2008, CD-1 surprisingly went to Barack Obama and is viewed as the only district in the state in which Democratic candidates have a reasonable chance at victory. In fact, Obama’s win marked the first time in 44 years that Nebraska had provided a presidential electoral vote for a Democrat, thus the stake are high.

As alluded to in the introduction, the Nebraska case is by no means an isolated issue. As
depicted here before, the rise in Latino population ensures that many states will wrestle with similar issues related to the apportionment and redistricting process. The ability of the Republican Party to secure many state houses and governorships during the 2010 elections provides Republicans with the power to shape election outcomes for the next decade through the re-districting process. However, they must do so without alienating the growing Latino electorate. The rising number of Latinos and their relative propensity to support Republican candidates ensures that Latinos will be a major factor in the re-districting process in Nebraska and other locales not traditionally associated with the Latino population.

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado
is Professor of Political Science and the Assistant Director of the Office of Latin-Latin American Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Works Cited in Post

David Lublin and Michael P.McDonald, “Is It Time to Draw the Line? The Impact of Redistricting on Competition in State Legislative Elections,” Election Law Journal 5:2 (2006): 144-157