Now Rescinded, Trump-Era ‘Public Charge’ Policy May Still Harm Immigrants’ Health

The Trump administration’s expansion of the “public charge” rule — a move that sought to disqualify immigrants who used social programs like Medicaid from obtaining legal residency in the U.S. — led to widespread disenrollment from these programs and left scores of children in California without access to health care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s more, say the authors of a new report from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, the fear and confusion that the now-rescinded Trump-era policy sowed in the state will likely have a chilling long-term effect. The researchers’ analysis determined that the number of Latino children of immigrant parents who do not have a usual source of medical care could increase from the current level of just over 64,000 to more than 180,000 as parents avoid enrolling or disenroll their children from non-cash public assistance programs out of fear of jeopardizing their immigration status. Additionally, the researchers say, the number who have not seen a doctor within the previous 12 months could eventually jump from approximately 99,000 to almost 240,000. The public health consequences are likely to extend to U.S.-born children, who are already citizens but whose immigrant parents may fear that enrolling them in public assistance programs might limit their own path to a “green card,” or lawful permanent residency, the authors say. The report indicated that immigrant communities in Los Angeles County have been more acutely impacted by the complex and often confusing changes to immigration policies than those in any other region in the state.


Diaz on Selection of Filipino American Attorney General

A Los Angeles Daily News article on the nomination of Assemblyman Rob Bonta as California’s next attorney general included comments from Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Bonta’s nomination completes a trio of high-profile appointments by Gov. Gavin Newsom. He tapped former Secretary of State Alex Padilla as the first California Latino to serve in the U.S. Senate. He picked former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as the first Black secretary of state. And he selected Bonta as the first Filipino-American to be California’s top law officer. “I applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom for making California a model for the country in how to rectify the willful neglect of growing and youthful communities of color who are left out of key decision-making positions across our most fundamental institutions by sending the first Filipino to lead the nation’s second-largest Department of Justice,” Diaz said.


Diaz on Ensuring Equitable Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines

Director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Sonja Diaz was featured in the Sacramento Bee, CNN and the San Francisco Chronicle discussing the importance of prioritizing Latino and other disadvantaged communities’ access to vaccines. Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a new plan to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines reach California’s most disadvantaged communities by targeting neighborhoods in the bottom quartile of the “Healthy Places Index.” Diaz explained that minority communities have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and that California has a responsibility to get them help first and fast. “Communities of color are keeping the economy afloat, and prioritizing them is not only the right thing to do, but an economic imperative,” she said. “The state’s new approach is the right step to stop the bleeding and affirm that Californians of color are not collateral damage but the catalysts to recovery.”

COVID Relief Program Deepened Disparities

The Los Angeles Times and KCBS Radio were among media outlets covering a new UCLA study showing inequities in the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the 2020 federal stimulus package that aimed to aid small businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Majority white areas of California received more money from the program than majority Latino areas did, worsening economic and racial disparities across the state, according to the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, both housed at UCLA Luskin. The disparities arose primarily because the loans were distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, favoring established businesses with ties to big banks, Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, LPPI’s director of research, told the L.A. Times. Communities of color have “really borne the brunt of the pandemic, not just in terms of infection and mortality, but job loss and economic devaluation,” LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz said on KCBS’ “The State of California.”

Diaz on Deep-Seated Disparities Exposed by COVID-19

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, was featured in a New York Times Magazine article about the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black and Latino communities in Los Angeles. The disease has killed Black residents at nearly twice the rate and Latinos at nearly three times the rate of white Angelenos. “This is a public policy conundrum and systems failure of a whole other level because of the economic and the public health consequences,” Diaz said. “Ultimately, we’ve failed to respond and to stop the bleeding because we’ve made decisions that either willfully or because of the lack of understanding have excluded the very populations that are critical to the state’s functioning and are also the ones that need our help the most.” She highlighted the importance of making investments now to address these disparities so that vulnerable communities are able to not only survive COVID-19 but also thrive in recovery.

Diaz on Urgency of Vaccinating Essential Workers Regardless of Age

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) at UCLA Luskin, spoke to ABC7 News about the importance of quickly vaccinating California’s essential workers regardless of age. Diaz pointed to the success of Riverside County’s program to bring COVID-19 vaccines directly to farmworkers. “What’s really important is you don’t need technology to get your appointment, you just need to show up,” she said. “When we think about who our workers are right now and the fact that they’re on the front line, saving American lives, we know that they’re not over the age of 65, and they deserve access to a vaccine.” In California, Latinos make up 39% of the population and 55% of the state’s essential workforce, but just 16% of those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Immediately expanding access to the vaccine is one of several strategies that LPPI and other advocates are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to implement.


COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Reflects Disparities, Diaz Says

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke to NBC News about her personal experiences with the confusing rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in California. Initially, the rollout relied on county and city health departments to distribute the vaccines to eligible populations, a strategy that exacerbated disparities between wealthy areas and vulnerable communities. Affluent regions like San Francisco and Long Beach were able to efficiently vaccinate their first batch of eligible residents, while overburdened communities in Los Angeles struggled due to dwindling supplies. Residents with limited access to technology and the internet have had trouble signing up for appointments, even if they are eligible. Diaz spent hours navigating the Los Angeles County online portal to book appointments for several older relatives who were having trouble with QR code attachments and text codes. “It’s like winning the Lotto or getting the Golden Ticket at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Diaz said.

Diaz Discusses Invisibility of Latino Voters

Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, joined a conversation with KQED about the role of Latino voters in the 2020 elections. Diaz explained that the “invisibility of Latinos is not simply a political issue but goes across all parts of our institutions in society,” including media, entertainment, academia and philanthropy. She pointed to a general lack of understanding about Latinos as the source of this invisibility. According to Diaz, Latinos are often misconceived as having singular policy preferences, but polls show that they care about bread-and-butter issues such as jobs and health care. The Latino electorate showed up in force in 2020, said Diaz, whose research estimates that 16.6 million Latinos cast a ballot in a pandemic, despite misinformation and widespread voter suppression. These voters will be included in the system moving forward, getting mail and door knocks that will motivate them to show up and vote, she said.

Diaz Recommends Staying Focused on COVID Relief

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke to the Associated Press about growing criticisms of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new poll found that Newsom’s approval rating dropped from 65% last May to 54%. Newsom was criticized in November after being spotted at a birthday celebration at a luxury restaurant while simultaneously telling Californians to avoid large gatherings. More recently, he has drawn criticism for the messy vaccine rollout in California, failure to reopen schools and his decision to abruptly lift stay-at-home orders. Diaz said young workers and people of color are bearing the brunt of the state’s coronavirus surges and that the Trump administration deserves much of the blame for the disjointed response. However, she argued that Democrats should stay focused on the priorities of vaccinating people and providing economic help rather than bending to critics on the right. “This isn’t really just on one governor,” she said.

LPPI Team Finds Mobilization of Latino Vote

Sonja Diaz, Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas and Daisy Vazquez Vera of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative joined Latino Rebels Radio to discuss the findings of their new report on the role of Latino voters in the 2020 election. In a path-breaking study building on research from 2018, the LPPI team collected and analyzed precinct data, which represents actual election results instead of polls or predictions. The LPPI report estimated that a historic 16.6 million U.S. Latinos voted in the 2020 election, a 30.9% increase from 2016. “Either by themselves or in a multi-racial coalition, Latinos delivered many states for Joe Biden, including Arizona and Georgia,” the report’s authors found. The team explained that Latino voters have historically been “invisible for a variety of structural reasons,” and they aimed to find empirical evidence of the impact of Latino voters across the country with the quantitative report.