Zepeda-Millán on Damage to Labor’s Influence

A Los Angeles Times column on an L.A. labor leader’s role in the scandal that has upended city politics cited Chris Zepeda-Millán, associate professor of public policy. Ron Herrera resigned his post as leader of the L.A. County Federation of Labor after a leaked recording of a racist conversation that also involved three City Council members. Union members across the country were shaken by the recording, which undermined the labor principle that workers must stick together to ensure dignity for all. The timing of the leak, weeks before the midterm elections, also threatens voters’ trust in organized labor, one of the most powerful political players in California and the country. “With a scandal this bad, with the L.A. Federation of Labor being involved, it could really do some long-term damage,” said Zepeda-Millán, who chairs the labor studies interdepartmental program at UCLA.


Zepeda-Millán on Labor Organizing, Activism and Scholarship

Chris Zepeda-Millán spoke of his Boyle Heights roots, early activism in labor and anti-war movements, and inspiration to pursue a doctorate to broaden the perspectives heard in academia during an interview marking his selection as chair of the UCLA Labor Studies Interdepartmental Program. An associate professor of public policy and Chicana/o and Central American Studies, Zepeda-Millán grew up hearing about the challenging conditions his grandparents faced as garment workers and migrant farmworkers and learning about the importance of labor organizing. It was not until pursuing higher education that he would discover the connections between his family’s work, economic and social inequality, race and immigration status. In college, “for the first time in my life I was able to read books and stories that literally took place in my neighborhood,” he said. “I saw these courses as intellectual ammunition. I was learning how to defend my beliefs, to be able to call out things that I knew were wrong.”


Zepeda-Millán Weighs In on Title 42 and Immigration Policy

Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in a USA Today article about the role of immigration policy in driving voters to the polls. Democrats are divided about ending Title 42, a public health order that allows U.S. border agents to expel asylum seekers to Mexico in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Zepeda-Millán noted that immigration alone is not what motivates most Americans, including Republicans, to head to the polls. “While many Americans don’t agree with immigration policies that separate children or detain families, those policies don’t drive voters to the polls, especially in a midterm year when voter participation is low,” he explained. Even if immigration is not a defining factor for voters, Zepeda-Millán added that it could still affect some voters’ decisions if the Biden administration doesn’t explain that it can repeal the policy to follow international and U.S. law, but also make sure the border stays orderly.

U.S. Border Policy Leads to Migrant Deaths, Zepeda-Millán Says

Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in an Independent article discussing the deadly consequences of U.S. border policy. A recent photo of a Border Patrol agent carrying a migrant to safety in the Rio Grande Valley highlights the dangers of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, especially in the excessive heat of summer. As of May, the Border Patrol has rescued more than 7,000 people this fiscal year, more than the same period in previous years. By tightening security at more common points of entry, U.S. border policy is explicitly designed to push migrants into dangerous, remote areas to deter further crossings. “The most devastating effect will undoubtedly be the increasing number of migrant deaths as they get pushed further and further into dangerous deserts and isolated mountain areas,” Zepeda-Millán said. “That’s literally our stated policy.” Most adult migrants who make it across the border are immediately deported without a chance to seek asylum.

Zepeda-Millán on the Death Toll at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán spoke to the Independent about the state of the U.S.-Mexico border wall as President Trump nears the end of his fourth year in office. Trump had promised to build a wall spanning the entire border; as of mid-October, about 370 miles of border barriers had been erected. At around $15 billion for the total project, it is projected to be the most expensive wall ever built, the article noted. After a decline in migrant apprehensions in late 2016 and 2017, immigration and apprehensions spiked again after the wall was slow to materialize. This contributed to an increase in the number of migrants who died while crossing the border during the first three years of the Trump administration. “The most devastating effect will undoubtedly be the increasing of migrant deaths as they get pushed further and further into dangerous deserts and isolated mountain areas,” Zepeda-Millán said. “That’s literally our stated policy.”

Zepeda-Millán Publishes ‘Walls, Cages, and Family Separation’

Walls, Cages, and Family Separation: Race and Immigration Policy in the Trump Era,” a new book co-authored by Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán and University of Washington Associate Professor Sophia Jordan Wallace, takes a closer look at the evolution of U.S. immigration policy leading up to and during the presidency of Donald Trump. Published by Cambridge University Press, “Walls, Cages, and Family Separation” examines the “deeply racist roots” of U.S. immigration policy, which have been exacerbated by the Trump administration’s racially charged rhetoric and policies, including the border wall, migrant family separation and child detention measures. Zepeda-Millán and Wallace point to Trump as the “most blatantly anti-Latino and anti-immigrant president in modern American history” and examine the factors motivating his support base. Their research shows that resentment and fear among whites who feel culturally threatened by Latinos motivates them to support Trump’s immigration policies. They examine how support for immigrant detention and the wall has shifted over the duration of Trump’s presidency, as well as the stereotypes and misinformation that play a role in public perception of immigrants and immigration policy. While Trump’s immigration policies have been widely criticized and are unpopular with many Americans, Zepeda-Millán and Wallace argue that Trump is relying on his ability to “politically mobilize the most racially conservative segment of whites who back his draconian immigration enforcement measures” in his bid for reelection. “Walls, Cages, and Family Separation” is Zepeda-Millán’s second book, following his first release, “Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization, and Activism.”

Majority of Americans Oppose Criminalizing Humanitarian Aid Along Mexican Border

An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the Trump administration’s practice of threatening people who provide humanitarian aid to undocumented immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border with arrest and a possible 20-year prison sentence, according to a new UCLA policy brief. The brief, published by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), cites a 2019 survey of 1,505 Americans that asked participants, “Do you agree or disagree that it should be a crime for people to offer humanitarian aid, such as water or first aid, to undocumented immigrants crossing the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border?” Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed said they disagreed — including 71% of Republicans — highlighting the unpopularity of the policy. “Our survey showed that an overwhelming number of Americans across political parties agree that no one should face jail time for being a good Samaritan,” said LPPI member Chris Zepeda-Millán, an associate professor of public policy who conducted the survey with Sophia Wallace of the University of Washington. The policy brief, authored by Zepeda-Millán and Olivia Marti, a Ph.D. student in UCLA’s political science department, recommends legislation that would halt current efforts to criminalize border relief and calls for an end to the destruction of humanitarian supplies by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Currently, the agency only counts fatalities discovered by its own agents; the UCLA report suggests that the fatality count also include bodies identified by local government officials, medical examiners and nongovernmental organizations. — Eliza Moreno


Protests Bring Lasting Change, Zepeda-Millán Says

Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán spoke to AP News about the long-term impact of protests. Studies estimate that over 15 million Americans have taken part in demonstrations decrying racial injustice following the death of George Floyd. While it’s too early to gauge the impact of current protests, a look at the history of U.S. activist movements — including calls for women’s suffrage and civil rights — highlights the victories that have been achieved through protesting. Zepeda-Millán weighed in on a 2006 bill seeking to classify undocumented immigrants as felons and penalizing anyone who assisted them. The bill was shut down in the Senate after millions turned out to protest against it. Zepeda-Millán credits the protests for both stopping the bill and encouraging voter registration among Latinos. However, he said the protests also intensified congressional polarization, dimming prospects for any immigration overhaul and citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

Zepeda-Millán Finds Public Support for Releasing Child Detainees

Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in a Conversations with Changemakers interview about public opinions surrounding the current administration’s immigrant detention policies. He explained that “even before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, jails, prisons and detention centers already had pretty bad conditions,” including poor sanitation, cold temperatures, inadequate medical care and dangerous overcrowding. Zepeda-Millán suspects an undercount in COVID-19 cases in detention centers, noting that only 1% of detainees had been tested but 60% of those tested positive for the virus. Before the pandemic started, one survey found that the public overwhelmingly rejected detaining children and preferred releasing immigrant children to family members or sponsors instead. Conditions have only worsened since the pandemic started, Zepeda-Millán said, and the public may be even more in favor of releasing detainees now that they know how the pandemic is spreading among incarcerated populations.

Zepeda-Millán Sees BLM Protests as Inspiration for Latino Activists

Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in a New York Times article about the role that Latinos have taken on in the Black Lives Matter movement. Both Black and Latino communities have been affected by police violence and systemic racism, even though the national focus of ongoing protests has chiefly been about the impact on Black Americans and the ways white Americans are responding to it. A recent poll by the New York Times and Siena College found that 21% of Hispanic voters said they had participated in Black Lives Matter protests, nearly identical to the 22% of Black voters who said they had done so. “Many Latino youth, they are making the connection, they are pressing their families to have difficult conversations,” Zepeda-Millán explained. For many liberal Latino activists, the Black Lives Matter movement and current wave of protests serve as a model and an inspiration.