The negative political climate around immigration policy continues to affect the daily lives of our most vulnerable immigrant population. As we near the close of Immigrant Heritage Month it is critical to continue celebrating our community, the numerous contributions immigrants make to our society, and our resilience and strength to advocate for change.
In California, many young Latino immigrants, like Hugo Romero, a 25-year-old immigrant from Mexico, contribute by being at the forefront of social and economic justice movements.
This is Hugo’s story:
Hugo Romero was born in Toluca, Mexico. Striving for a better quality of life, his family migrated to the United States when he was just a toddler. They settled in Brea, CA, a city in North Orange County. Confronted with limited employment opportunities, Hugo’s father started working in the car wash industry and after more than 20 years he continues to work in the same industry.
Hugo grew up in a largely conservative community. Talking about his experiences as an undocumented immigrant and issues he cared about such as immigrant and labor issues was not something that he felt comfortable or safe doing. But Hugo was fortunate enough to attend Fullerton College where he met other immigrant students and a community that welcomed him and empowered him to speak up. He joined organizations like the Fullerton College Dream Team and the Orange County Dream Team whose pro-immigrant advocacy work has led to numerous pro-immigrant polices like historic Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Executive Action by President Obama on June 15, 2012, which now provides young immigrants a work permit and exception from deportation.
June is Immigrant Heritage Month—a time to celebrate our diversity and shared American heritage. Throughout the month, we’ll be celebrating by sharing the stories of young Immigrant Latinos who are an integral part of the American narrative.
These young Californians are making a positive impact in their communities across the state and we hope they inspire you to move to action. And with California’s primary right around the corner, one of the most important ways to take action is to register to vote and vote!
Today, we launch our Latino immigrant story series with Samantha’s story:
Samantha Contreras was born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. She migrated with her family 24 years ago to California in search of better educational and economic opportunities.
When they first arrived to Los Angeles her father worked as a day laborer. Mostly working in construction that exposed to many work safety risks, he eventually suffered an injury that prevented him from doing heavy lifting. The workplace injury meant that he and Samantha’s mother had to look for other work to make ends meet. They began working in the fast-food industry where they remained for more than a decade. Now, at the age of 56, Samantha’s father continues to work two jobs as a cook in a skilled nursing facility by day and a chef in restaurants at the Staple Center and Dodger Stadium by night. Her mother is a deli chef at a major supermarket chain.
As if exposure to worker injustices and struggling financially was not enough, Samantha and her family also faced injustices as undocumented immigrants. She was only 6-years-old when their visas expired – her family was forced to live in the shadows in order to survive amongst the anti-immigrant sentiment and policies moving through the state legislature and the ballot box. In 1994, California voters took away Samantha’s family’s rights to a public education, health services, and freedom by enacting Proposition 187. They took refuge from discrimination, hostility, and oppression in their humble home— a garage converted into a bedroom.
For 14 years, their immigration adjustment application was backlogged in the Immigration and Nationality Service (INS) office. The slow-moving bureaucracy made it impossible to obtain legal residency before her high school graduation – greatly stifling her prospects of a college education.
These experiences inspired her to social activism with the hope of making an impact in her
family’s lives. As a high school student, she joined the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, where she was a member and organizer for six years. She organized high school youth and increased the youth program from one high school chapter to ten chapters with a membership of over 200 students. She trained and mobilized students to participate in national, state, and local issue campaigns around comprehensive immigration reform, the CA Dream Act, and the Federal Dream Act.
Although she no longer directly organizes around immigration issues, she remains a part of the broader movement for social justice because she understands that her community, her family, and herself are impacted by more than just immigration policy. They are all impacted by broader issues like education, environment, health care, housing, labor, tax policies and more.
Today Samantha works as a Legislative Advocate for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015. In her position she ensures that the needs of over 325,000 in-home supportive services (IHSS) workers and nursing home workers from across California are represented in Sacramento.
Samantha cares deeply about the labor movement because it’s not only fighting for a high minimum wage, it’s fighting for equal pay regardless of gender, for paid family leave, for paid sick day, for retirement security and much more.
For her being part of the labor movement means having the opportunity to change lives.
Samantha’s story is only one of millions of immigrant experiences that make American great. We’ll be sharing more stories like her throughout the month, but we also want to hear from you—share your or your family’s immigration story on Facebook and Twitter and contribute to the dialogue around Immigrant Heritage Month!
What inspires you to work for change? Your family, the issues you care about, the people in your community…making your voice heard at the polls is one more way to fight for the future we want. Ana, Rigoberto, and Adriel, three young Latino advocates from California share their reasons for registering to vote in the upcoming election.
Ana Cid is a 24-year-old Latina who works for an immigrant advocacy organization. She was born and raised in Los Angeles to a mixed-status family—her two parents are undocumented and she and her siblings are U.S. born citizens. Ana watched as her undocumented parents worked hard and became small business owners.
Ana said, “Growing wing up in a mixed-status family allowed me not only to gain a better perspective of the struggles undocumented people like my parents face in this country but also to gain a deep understanding of the privilege I have by being a U.S. citizen. For that reason, I must make sure that I vote and exercise this privilege that many take for granted but that I know my parents have fought hard for me to have.”
Ana has been advocating for comprehensive immigration reform since she was in high school and now she continues to do so as an activist – registering to vote is the first step in making sure her message is heard at the polls.
By now you must know that the 2016 elections are a big deal—you will have the privilege to vote for a new U.S President! While that’s very important, the presidential seat is only one of out hundreds of public seats are open this year. California citizens will be able to elect candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly, local judges, city mayors, and more. These are the people that make important decisions that impact your local communities.From schools to parks to streets and more.
If you want better schools, safer parks, cleaner streets, you will need to elect the candidates across different levels of government that will best represent you, your family and your community. In addition to elected representatives, you will be able to vote for state and local ballot measures- a proposed legislation on issues like marijuana use, the minimum wage, health are access, school funding, parks funding and more. But first, you need to register to vote.
We’re just 17 days away from the voter registration deadline in California where Latinos are 39% of the population but are historically one of the groups with lowest voter turn out. Together we can change that!
In 2016 about 6.9 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in California. With so much at stake for the Latino community—from immigration, the economy, healthcare and the environment – we need to make sure our voice is heard at the polls.
Register to vote by the May 23 deadline – ensure that you have the opportunity to vote this June for the state and local candidates and ballot measures that will impact your community, your family, and the issues you care about.
Need more reasons to register to vote? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to track our countdown to the CA voter registration deadline on May 23. We’re posting a reason every day explaining why we think it’s crucial to register to vote – but we want to hear your reasons, too. Join the conversation and tell us what’s your reason to register to vote!
With the primary elections almost coming to an end, there is a lot happening in politics. Stay informed. Here are some of the top headlines from this past week.
“Sitting out is not an option for our community, ever… It’s time we own the narrative. It’s time we’re clear that when someone tries to make us less American, to harm our children, disparage our contributions to this great country, we defend ourselves with our vote. Our vote will demonstrate not only that words matter but that words have consequences.”- Maria Teresa Kumar
The Mexican rock band Maná, performed at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in the White House. They took that opportunity to urge Latinos to vote and get involved.
“The Latino Power Tour is [intended} to Celebrate the Latino culture. Latinos have given so much to the US culturally and with this tour we want to celebrate that…We also want to tell the people to go out and vote…Your vote makes a difference.” –Maná member
Immigration, education, and employment are often quoted as the top priority issues on which Latinos vote. But emerging research shows that Latino voters also care greatly about environmental issues and the reasons for their concerns are deeply personal. Latinos along with other communities of color are disproportionately more vulnerable to the impacts of environmental hazards and climate change leading to increased suffering due to lack of clean water, clean air and climate policies and programs to address the growing crisis.
A recent American Lung Association State of the Air report ranks air pollution in cities across the country and the key findings in relation to the Latino population are alarming:
By all metrics, the most polluted air in the country is in the Los Angeles-Long Beach region and in various regions of the Central Valley all with a large low-income Latino population.
The Los Angeles-Long Beach area has the nation’s largest Latino population (5.8 million in 2011, or 44% of the total population) and it ranked first in ozone pollution and fourth in particle pollution.
Nationwide, almost 50% of the Latino population lives in the country’s top 25 most ozone-polluted cities.
Air quality is only one indicator among many that point to the environmental injustices Latinos experience. Other factors to consider are access to clean and safe water and latino neighborhood’s proximity to toxin-producing factories, oil refineries, and freeways. These environmental hazards coupled with poverty, pre-existing health conditions and lack of health coverage, leave Latino communities at risk of serious health issues ranging from asthma, other respiratory conditions, heart attacks, cancer and more. According to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund, Latinos are three times more likely to die of asthma than any other race or ethnic group.
This is a crisis the Latino community can no longer ignore. In 2015, Latino Decisions, a political opinion research group, polled 400 Latino Voters in CA and found that overwhelmingly Latinos consider environmental issues important. Key findings:
79% said it was very to extremely important that the state of California address global warming and climate change.
81% said it was very to extremely important that the state of California reduce air pollution from oil and gas.
Latino Decisions also asked about how to address the problem. Latino voters responded more enthusiastically to strategies targeting the most impacted communities:
75% support the state to provide financial assistance for low-income families in buying low emission cars.
87% said they would like to see more “Green Jobs” in the Latino community.
81% agreed that state government should devote more resources to address environmental issues and pollution in Black and Latino communities.
The numbers speak for themselves. Latinos are affected by environmental issues, understand them as political issues, and need elected representatives to take action to ensure Latino communities are healthy and thriving.
What do YOU need in your community? We’d love to hear your thoughts, experience, and hopes for how to ensure Latinos live in healthy environments – please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think. And don’t forget to register to vote – together we can elect representatives that will address the needs of the Latino community.
Over the last year, we have seen presidential candidates tailor their messaging to Latino Voters, pander at us and even insult us. While some of these tactics are beyond distasteful, candidates are right in recognizing that Latinos are a powerful force. Latinos represent a huge voting block that can highly influence election outcomes and candidates need to pay attention to Latino communities.
But Latinos are more than votes. Latinos contribute to American Society in a myriad ofways—socially, culturally, economically and more. In honor of Tax Day, let’s take a look at the economic impact that Latinos have on the U.S. economy.
In 2013, Latinos contributed more than 190 billion in U.S. Tax revenues1. That includes federal taxes, including individual and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, and state and local taxes. Through their tax contributions, Latinos pay into governments funded programs that many Americans benefit from, like Social Security, infrastructure, education, community development etc.
Latinos also create jobs and develop local economies. Latinos currently start more small businesses than any other group in the U.S. Latino-owned businesses contribute almost $500 billion each year. Latinos are expected to contribute over 1.7 Trillion to the economy by 2020.
The numbers are impressive and we need to celebrate Latino’s economic contributions but also acknowledge the significant gaps in the Latino economic progress. The American government is falling short in providing equitable resources and opportunities to Latino families. Although 25 million Latino workers make up the U.S. labor force, a significant portion is concentrated in low-wage jobs. Also, the current unemployment rate among Latinos is 6.4 percent—almost 1.5 times the rate for whites (4.4 percent). The unemployment rate is especially high among young Latinos.
Unemployment coupled with low-wages and other factors lead to poverty. Latinos are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-Latino white Americans. Poverty has serious consequences on Latino’s health status, education opportunities and other indicators of progress.
Latinos economic strides are worthy of recognition but the inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities is unacceptable. Let’s show candidates that Latinos matter. Make sure you and your family and friends are registered to vote. Together we can shift the national dialogue, demand legislation that works in our favor, and delivers the change we need for our communities to thrive.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, Unemployment Rate – Black, 16 Years & Over (January 2005 through September 2015); Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, Unemployment Rate – White, 16 Years & Over (January 2005 through September 2015).
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, 2014 Table 3: Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population by age, sex, and race.
Matt Weeks, “Asians, Hispanics driving U.S. economy forward, according to UGA study” UGA Today (September 24, 2015)
Latinos are often presented as a monolithic voting bloc but contrary to what many politicians and the media would have you believe, we know that Latinos are complex, diverse demographic that spans the political spectrum.
We often see political campaigns using immigration as the issue to motivate Latino voters – this year’s presidential debates have highlighted immigration on both sides of the aisle. But while Latinos care deeply about immigration reform, it isn’t the only issue affecting Latinos. In fact, recent polls, including one by the Pew Research Center, point to many of the same issues the populace as a whole considers important: education, the economy, and healthcare.
Leading into California’s primary this June, Oye Mi Voz is taking a deeper look at the complexities of Latino voters, particularly how California’s Latinos are affected by different issues. This week we took a look at a couple of key Latinos educational achievement statistics.
Though the numbers aren’t all bleak, they aren’t exactly inspiring. It’s clear that while the education achievement gap is getting smaller there is much progress to be made. Latino high school graduation is at 75%. And even though more Latinos than ever before are entering college, only 11% of Latino adults have a Bachelor’s degree while the national average is 30%. That’s not enough!
We need to invest in policies (and the politicians who can implement them) to better reflect the educational needs of Latino students and ensure more equitable educational access. We’d love to hear your thoughts, experience, and hopes for improving these numbers – please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you think.
In the midst of the 2016 elections, let’s expand the public conversations and debates that our candidates are having. Let’s demand that they start paying attention to the all the issues and needs of the Latino community.
And then let’s show them that we matter. Make sure you and your family and friends are registered to vote. Help us to turn out the vote for the candidates that will best represent our interests on immigration, education, the economy, health care and much more. Together we shift the national dialogue, demand legislation that works in our favor and change these statistics to mirror the change we seek. Let’s do this!
Cesar Chavez Day honors a legacy of respect, dignity and justice for all working families. Yet, more than 50 years after a significant victory for farm workers following the Delano Grape Boycott led by Cesar Chavez, Latino communities continue fighting to for fair treatment and fair wages.
“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”
A key tenet of the struggle Chavez led was to ensure that all working families earn a living wage. Since then many organizations and labor unions like the Service Employees International Union and the CA Labor Federation have advocated for a minimum wage increase to $15 in cities and states nationwide. Yesterday, on Cesar Chavez Day California’s workers moved ever closer to making history increase to $15 in cities and states nationwide. Yesterday, on Cesar Chavez Day California’s workers moved ever closer to making history again when the legislature sent a statewide $15 minimum wage to Governor Brown for his signature!
The $15 minimum wage bill, SB 3, will give millions of working Californians a raise to $15 over the next few years. This historic wage increase will be especially impactful for California’s Latino families.
Latinos have disproportionately high rates of poverty. According to a brief by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, “Latino/a workers are more likely to earn low wages … An estimated 55% of the workers who would benefit from this wage increase in California are Latino/a.”
“…Today, millions of Californians secured life-changing raises that will lift our families out of poverty,” said Guadalupe Salazar, a McDonald’s worker in Oakland. With $15 an hour many Latino workers like Guadalupe may be able to afford a car loan, live closer to work, have more food security or have access to other basic necessities they currently do not have.
As workers across the United States continue to call attention to our country’s soaring income inequality and fight for a living wage, California is poised to declare victory in the fight for respect, dignity, and justice for Latino families and communities.
Yesterday was Super Tuesday! But what was so “super” about it? Well, the largest number of states held their primaries or caucuses to elect their nominee for president. It’s an important day because the results are usually a strong indicator of who will win the presidential nomination for the Democratic and Republican parties.
Results: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each won in most states. Clinton now leads in delegates for the Democratic Party and Donald Trump leads in that Republican Party.
How do you think the results affect Latinos? Here is a recap of how some people are reacting to Super Tuesday:
“My primary concern if someone like trump wins is that a lot of undocumented families will be separated…if I lose my mom It would be like if I lost my world.” – Latino resident from Virginia
“Latinos, like all voters, want a president who will seek workable solutions, and not someone who only has fiery speeches to stoke anger and media coverage. As the primaries and caucuses continue and the choices become clearer, Latinos will vote and be counted on the side of our communities and the best values of our nation.” Ben Monterroso, Mi Familia Vota
“With hate-spewing Donald Trump closer than ever to the Republican nomination for President, it’s time to get real about a Basta Trump campaign,” writes Democracy Now! co-host Juan González in his new Daily News column.
“Exit polls in the state [of Virginia] indicate that the Republican Party’s embrace of an anti-immigrant platform may not only doom them with the growing Latino electorate, but could also erode their base. –Alice Ollstein, ThinkProgress
“I believe that the only way to win the White House is with the Latino vote.” – Jorge Ramos
A lot is happening and a lot is at stake. Make sure then when it’s your turn to participate, you go out and vote! Stay tuned on the latest y corre la voz! ¡Comparte con tus familiares y amigos! ¡Somos el futuro! Let’s be present.