Uncovering Climate Hazards in California’s Prisons

A San Francisco Chronicle article highlighted research by UCLA Luskin master of public policy students who found that California’s prison system is not prepared to respond to climate emergencies that threaten the well-being of the state’s incarcerated population. Their report, produced on behalf of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, used a mixed methods approach that included interviews with experts, a spatial analysis and a survey of nearly 600 currently incarcerated people in all 34 of California’s prison facilities. The study found evidence of power outages and generator failures, a lack of shade in outdoor spaces, and a lack of access to air-conditioned spaces or heated facilities during extreme weather events. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents said they experienced heat exhaustion while incarcerated. The researchers, MPP ’23 graduates Aishah Abdala, Abhilasha Bhola, Guadalupe Gutierrez, Eric Henderson and Maura O’Neill, offered a series of policy recommendations aimed at keeping incarcerated people safe, protecting taxpayer interests and ensuring that government institutions are held accountable.


Zepeda-Millán on Effects of the LAUSD Strike

Chris Zepeda-Millán, associate professor of public policy and chair of UCLA’s labor studies program, was cited in an article by The Progressive about how school staff won key victories after a major strike in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). In March, members of Service Employees Union Local 99 were able to negotiate with the LAUSD and approve a new contract that will increase the average annual salary from $25,000 to $33,000, increase the minimum wage to $22.52 and provide other benefits. Zepeda-Millán said that the labor action provided an advantage to the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) in their own negotiations with the district, which have led to a tentative agreement. UTLA is larger than Local 99 and helped elect many school board members.


Zepeda-Millán on What’s Ahead for LAUSD

Chris Zepeda-Millán, associate professor of public policy, spoke to the Daily News about labor issues at the Los Angeles Unified School District and the road ahead for Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. After a three-day strike, LAUSD reached a contract with service workers including bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and instructional aides. Now the district must negotiate a settlement with the teachers union, which has the upper hand, said Zepeda-Millán, chair of UCLA’s labor studies program. “The district knows [the unions] can shut [schools] down pretty easily,” he said. “That’s going to be in the back of both teams’ minds as they’re negotiating.” If successful,  the negotiations could strengthen the superintendent’s influence. “Carvalho has a chance to say, ‘I’m going to do things differently this time and let’s show the state and the country that if we have well-paid teachers, smaller class sizes — what all the research says works — we could have great public schools again,’” he said.


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.”