NCLR Affiliates Make the Case for Education Reform in Washington

By Eunice Ahenkorah, Education Policy Fellow, NCLR Policy Analysis Center

Last week Washington was buzzing with excitement as more than 200 advocates, including nearly 60 youth participants, from NCLR Affiliates across the country converged on the nation’s capital.  In all, groups from 28 states participated in the 2014 NCLR National Latino Advocacy Days.  On the first day, three workshops and five briefings were organized to teach participants how to advocate effectively when meeting with elected officials and their staff.  Then, on the second day, participants held more than 100 meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

One of the most important issues at this year’s event was education, as evidenced by the nearly 70 people who joined the education workshop on March 5 to discuss principles of equity, access, and opportunity.  Some of these participants shared with us why they are passionate about education:

Kevin Sanchez at the U.S. Capitol

“We all have goals and aspirations in life. The key to getting the things you want in life is education.  I believe that there needs to be some kind of reform in our current education system.  No system or bill was ever perfect, but we need to have some type of reform to pass on to the next generation to come.” –Kevin Sanchez, age 18, first-time youth participant from Raleigh, NC

Jennifer Reyes and others from the Latin American Coalition.

“I am passionate about education because I want to succeed in life….I want to go to college and have an amazing life with whoever I want.” –Jennifer Reyes, youth participant

Karen Gomez

Karen Gomez

“I think we as a country have to do a better job of supporting parents and kids, especially Latinos.  We know that one out of every five children in the U.S. is a Latino, so we need to seriously start investing money in them because they are going to be the future of the country.” –Karen Gomez, Executive Director of Centro Hispano Comunitario de Nebraska and mother of two

“Education starts very early, at birth. Our [Latino] kids are already falling behind, when they start school.  Because of this we cannot further our education as a community in order to help others.” –Zhania Martinez, volunteer at Action Institute, NC, a former NCLR Emerging Latino Communities (ELC) Initiative grantee

NCLR’s National Latino Advocacy Days are proof that Latinos are a powerful force in this country.  The diversity of age and geographic location among participants reflects the commitment, strength, persistence, and resilience of our community.  They came to tell their stories, show how congressional inaction was affecting their lives, and give Latino issues the attention they deserve.  If members of Congress are wise, they will have listened closely to the hundreds of advocates who visited them last week.  Doing otherwise could result in a lost seat in Congress come Election Day.

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending February 7

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Week Ending February 7, 2014

This week in immigration reform: one week after releasing principles to guide work on immigration reform legislation, House Republicans are back to giving excuses on why they’re not working on a bill; a new poll finds that voters strongly prefer reform that features legalization and a road to earned citizenship over an enforcement-first approach; immigration authorities announce they are updating the N-400 form, used by those applying for citizenship, with new questions; and NCLR Affiliates push for action on reform by organizing calls into Congressional offices and meeting with their representatives, while an ELC group in Minnesota begins a fast to call attention to the need for reform.  NCLR kept the community informed as always this week, with staff quoted in the Washington PostNew York Daily News, Excelsior, Takepart.org, the Latin Post, and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Republicans continue to give excuses for lack of action on reform.  It’s been only one week since House Republican leadership released a set of immigration reform principles intended to guide work on legislation, and yet this week the GOP reverted back to giving the nation excuses in place of constructive action.

Putting politics above policy in this way is a bad move for Republicans.  As poll after poll has shown, the American people want to see this issue addressed, and they want it addressed in a manner that includes a path to citizenship.

Some conservatives are pushing back on the false argument that Republicans may fare better if they avoid addressing immigration reform.  Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, says: “We have a problem.” “[Speaker John Boehner] created an expectation in the public and with the Latino public.  We expect him to follow though.  But if they don’t deal with it, we will be handicapped, whoever is the candidate in 2016.”

Poll shows voters think legalization with road to citizenship, not border security, should be top priority.  A new CNN/ORC International poll confirms what poll after poll has found – the American public overwhelmingly supports immigration reform that allows aspiring Americans to earn legal status and pursue citizenship over reform proposals that prioritize border security and enforcement.

Changes coming to naturalization formsU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Tuesday that, starting May 5, 2014, those applying for citizenship will have to fill out an updated N-400 form that features new questions and is double the number of pages.

NCLR Affiliates, among them CARECEN, Hispanic Unity, and Latin American Coalition, will be hosting workshops and otherwise making sure that aspiring citizens apply using the old form while they can, and understand the changes coming to the application form. For more information and tools to learn about the naturalization process, please see www.citizenshipworks.org. Continue reading

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending January 17

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Week Ending January 17, 2014

This week in immigration reform: in line with what other House Republicans have been saying, Rep. Doug LaMalfa calls on Congress to get something done on immigration reform; NCLR fights a proposal in the Senate that sought to deny the Child Tax Credit to families of four million U.S. citizen children; the Congress passes an Appropriations bill that funds both good and bad immigration programs; and NCLR meets with a House working group to discuss the year ahead for immigration reform.  Emerging Latino Communities (ELC) grantee HOLA (Hispanas Organizadas de Lake y Ashtabula) kept the spotlight on the need for reform by gathering the community for a 20-mile pilgrimage from Lake County to Cleveland in support of staying the deportation of a married father of three children.  NCLR kept the community informed as always this, with staff quoted in CNN Mexico, Terra, and VOXXI.

California Republican comes out in support of immigration reform.  Last week, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) made what he described as a “pivot” by coming out in support of immigration reform.   The conservative Congressman said he changed his mind after talking to farmers who told him that their businesses couldn’t survive without immigrant labor.  Echoing other House Republicans, Rep. LaMalfa said that something needs to get done, and done soon, on immigration reform.

NCLR fights to protect Child Tax Credit for immigrant families as jobless benefits debate continues.  This week NCLR fought to preserve access to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for all qualified families by strongly voicing its opposition to an amendment to the Senate jobless benefits bill that sought to eliminate the CTC for tax filers who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).  This proposal, offered by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H), would have adversely affected over 4 million U.S. citizen children.

Ultimately the amendment was not brought to a vote.  NCLR will continue to educate lawmakers on the importance of the CTC for eligible filers and oppose any changes that would hurt Latino families.  Continue reading