Sonja Diaz, founding executive director of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, joined a KPCC Airtalk episode to discuss the results of the Super Tuesday Democratic primaries and the role of black and Latino voters. According to Diaz, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders were “propelled by voters of color,” with overwhelming support for Sanders among Latino and younger voters and support for Biden among black voters. However, she said there is “no evidence that blacks and Latinos are voting against each other.” Instead, she explained, voters respond to the campaigns that targeted and invested in them, including hiring locally, having bilingual mailers and opening field offices in predominantly Latino communities. “It’ll be black and Latino voters deciding the outcome of this Democratic contest,” she said.
Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) at UCLA Luskin, wrote an opinion piece in the Arizona Republic highlighting the importance of Latino voter participation not just in the presidential race but in state and local contests. An expanding Latino population in Arizona has led to increased voter turnout, a trend that Diaz expects will continue. The number of Latino members of the Arizona Legislature has grown from 19 to 24 members in the last five years, and the upcoming election is an opportunity for Latino voters to further transform statewide governance, she wrote. Diaz highlighted the importance of ensuring that everyone can exercise their constitutional right to vote to “maximize the potential of the Latino electorate.” And she said the 2020 Census, which could mean an additional congressional seat for Arizona, could produce political shifts that create lasting impact for generations to come.
Sonja Diaz, founding executive director of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about the impact of Latino voters on the 2020 presidential election. LPPI research showed that Latino voters in Nevada supported Sen. Bernie Sanders by almost 70%, a trend that is in line with national polls, Diaz said. She cited the Sanders campaign’s early efforts to engage with the Latino electorate and noted that voters want a candidate who will lead on diversity issues and address the discrimination and xenophobia facing the Latino community. On-the-ground organizing and face-to-face contact, not just big media buys, are key to a candidate’s success, she said. “It’s really about going out into the community, especially for unlikely voters or new voters,” Diaz said.
A New York Times article on the multiracial coalition of voters who propelled Sen. Bernie Sanders to victory in the Nevada caucuses for the Democratic presidential nomination cited Sonja Diaz, founding executive director of the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) at UCLA Luskin. Grassroots outreach to Latino and immigrant populations has been key to the Sanders campaign, the story noted. “If you have focused intention and ongoing support for Latinos and other voters of color, you can win,” Diaz said. “They did not take the Latino vote for granted.” Diaz also spoke with Newsweek about the influence of the Latino voting bloc. “Latinos are a very young and growing population, which means that new Latino voters will age into the electorate and have a critical voice for years to come,” she said. In addition, LPPI research about Latino voting patterns in Iowa and Nevada was highlighted by several news outlets, including Yahoo News.
By Zoe Day
Twenty-five years after Proposition 187 was approved by California voters, UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) is working to ensure that the lessons of the Latino activist movement that fought against it are not forgotten.
The 1994 ballot initiative sought to deny social services to undocumented immigrants but instead set off a political earthquake, inspiring many Latino activist leaders to make their debut in politics.
Eventually struck down as unconstitutional, Proposition 187 marked a profound turning point for Californians and yielded important lessons for other states about immigrant rights, electoral participation and collective action in the face of bigotry.
As the 2020 election and Census approach, LPPI has pledged to ensure that Latino voices and experiences remain a part of policy-making decisions across the country.
Sonja Diaz, founding director of LPPI, described the parallels between 1994 and today.
“I remember hitting a piñata of Gov. Pete Wilson at the Prop. 187 rally in downtown Los Angeles. In 2016, on my way from L.A. to Virginia for the presidential campaign, I saw Donald Trump piñatas in Arizona and Texas,” Diaz said. “The similarities between California in the 1990s and the U.S. as a whole today are unreal.”
As a founding member of the We Are CA advocacy campaign, LPPI is playing a critical role in equipping future generations of voters and leaders with accurate information and an understanding of history, she said.
For example, Diaz co-developed a middle school and high school curriculum to share the lessons of Proposition 187. The curriculum explores the impact of student protests in shaping public opinion and the role of litigation and advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in helping defeat Proposition 187 in the courts.
In addition to organizing a “Rally for Our Rights” in downtown Los Angeles in November, LPPI and We Are CA have launched a project to create a documentary and media archive of the activist movement. Archival content about Proposition 187 includes articles, photos, flyers and audio recordings.
LPPI fellow Amado Castillo, a third-year undergraduate student, worked directly with the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center to collect and digitize photos for the documentary, which will be produced by KCET.
“The effort to take away the rights of California’s immigrants more than 25 years ago continues to shape politics beyond the state to this day,” Castillo said. “UCLA, its student activists and professors have played a key role in shaping that history, and it is critical that we document that historical work to ensure that we learn from the mistakes and lessons of the past.
“Now, more than ever, we need to highlight the stories of those who experienced a political awakening as a result of Prop. 187.”
Cora Cervantes contributed to this article.
By Maria Morales
“You’re the next frontier.”
Those were the words of UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Dean Gary Segura as he welcomed Latino legislators from Arizona to a two-day leadership academy at UCLA this summer.
The elected leaders came to deepen their understanding of educational, economic and social issues in Arizona and craft policies to address the needs of the state’s Latinos.
This is a crucial time to look at the opportunities and challenges faced by Arizona’s elected officials, said Erica Bernal, chief operating officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund and advisory board member of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.
The conference, which was held Aug. 16-17, was hosted by the two organizations, along with Arizona State University’s Center on Latina/os and American Politics Research.
One of the country’s fastest-growing states, Arizona will be “the marquee battleground state in 2020,” said LPPI faculty director Matt Barreto, a professor of political science and Chicana and Chicano studies at UCLA. The number of eligible Latino voters will be at a record high and the bilingual electorate will be a driving force in the campaign, he said.
For candidates, Barreto said, this creates a challenge: How will they connect and engage with this emerging demographic?
During workshops, conference participants explored demographic changes in the Latino community, the importance of state budget realities, lessons learned from former elected officials, and the essential role of accurate data in crafting policy.
Research- and evidence-based policymaking was a recurring theme throughout the two days. Edward Vargas, professor at the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, shared current polling trends, strategies on how to analyze this data to determine its legitimacy, and best practices on using the numbers to build support among stakeholders.
Vargas also encouraged legislators to think of possible polling questions to engage and communicate with their constituents, keeping in mind the need for culturally relevant questions and true representation of the community.
The conference provided the 13 members of Arizona’s Latino caucus with the opportunity to exchange ideas, build a support network and learn how to incorporate research into their policymaking.
During the gathering’s second day, legislators applied the lessons they learned at a practicum led by Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, and Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging and professor of social welfare and public policy. The skill-building exercise allowed the legislators to incorporate polling data and effective messaging to develop sound legislative policy ideas.
“It was great to see it all unfold,” said Amado Castillo, a third-year undergraduate policy fellow with Latino Politics and Policy Initiative. “The practicum was quite inspirational as it not only gave the legislators the opportunity to use real examples to formulate policy proposals but also allowed us to look and see what type of legislators they are and what they prioritize.”
The Latino Policy and Politics Initiative and its partners will continue the training academy in December in Tempe, Arizona, and will host two roundtables in Phoenix, the state’s capital, in January and February 2020.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Minnesota Public Radio about voting trends shaping the 2020 presidential campaign. “Voter turnout in 2020 is slated to reach the highest it’s been in decades, and this includes a surge of new voters, which will potentially produce the most diverse electorate in this country’s history,” said Diaz, citing research conducted by LPPI and other organizations. Minority populations are growing steadily in existing and emerging battleground states such Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, she said, and “that’s where 2020 could be decided.” Diaz also weighed in on continuing threats to the democratic process. “We’re going into an election where there have been massive attempts by states to roll back access to the ballot box,” she said, but added that election officials across the country are working resolutely to protect their voting protocols from interference.
By Mary Braswell
Leading Los Angeles political figures who paved the way for Latino empowerment over the last half-century took the stage at UCLA to share their strategies and personal stories — and underscore that the work is not finished.
To longtime Angelenos, their names were familiar: Alatorre, Cedillo, Molina, Polanco and Villaraigosa. Collectively, their influence has been felt far beyond Southern California.
The speakers are among 10 L.A.-based pioneers profiled in the book “Power Shift: How Latinos in California Transformed Politics in America.” Authors George Pla and David Ayón joined the May 14 conversation in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom as part of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture Series.
“There are 60 million Latinos in the United States, 15 million in California. And the panelists are right, they continue to be stereotyped, continue to be invisible,” Pla said. “But ‘Power Shift’ is not about one group over another. It’s an American story about a group of individuals who have made contributions to our entire society in California and the United States.”
Blazing trails carries an immense responsibility, the panelists agreed.
“We had to kick open the door in order to really get in there and set the example,” said Gloria Molina, the first Latina to be elected to the California legislature and to Los Angeles City Council and the first woman on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.
“Being the first, everybody was watching. It’s really very important to be at your best all of the time,” she said.
Friends since high school, Gil Cedillo and Antonio Villaraigosa became passionate political activists during their years at UCLA in the early 1970s. Cedillo went on to serve in the state legislature and now sits on the L.A. City Council. Villaraigosa spent decades in public service, including as speaker of the California Assembly and mayor of Los Angeles.
Also in the 1970s, Richard Alatorre was elected to the Assembly before becoming, in 1985, only the second Latino to serve on the L.A. City Council in the 20th Century.
Richard Polanco completed Alatorre’s Assembly term, launching a 15-year tenure in the legislature that was hailed for increasing Latino representation.
“Tonight is really important to me personally,” said Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, which hosted the event. Segura’s work in Latino politics began in the 1990s, when California was roiled by two ballot initiatives. Proposition 187, which denied public services to undocumented immigrants, was later found unconstitutional. Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in public hiring and university admissions, is still in place.
“I owe my career, and in many ways my current position, to the mobilization of Latino electorates and leaders that resulted in those wars of the mid-1990s that reshaped California and will reshape, eventually, the United States,” Segura said.
Sonja Diaz, the evening’s moderator, noted that the gathered leaders were anything but single-issue politicians. On health care, LGBTQ issues, voting rights and community development, they effected changes felt far beyond the Latino community, said Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which is based at UCLA Luskin.
Villaraigosa concurred. “Across the board, all of us, we were not just Latino leaders, we were leaders for the whole state. We were progressives in our time, focusing on issues across the spectrum,” he said.
While coalition-building is important, Cedillo said, “We should be very clear that our community at this very moment is under attack, under siege” by a Trump Administration that has demonized the Latino community. “We should not pause or be shy about organizing ourselves as a community to defend our interests.”
Inspiring the next generation of Latino leaders is key to that effort and part of the reason “Power Shift” was written. The book also profiles political and labor leaders Miguel Contreras, Maria Elena Durazo, Ed Roybal, Art Torres and Esteban Torres.
The Luskin Lecture audience included two UCLA undergraduates who arrived early enough to receive a free copy of “Power Shift.”
Tatiana Velasquez, a chemistry and materials science major, and Patricia Valdezco, a political science major, said they grew up in California but were not aware of the trailblazing history of the evening’s speakers.
“It always goes back to the state curriculum, and what’s being taught is not this,” Velasquez said.
Molina recounted a conversation with her young niece, who read “Power Shift” and asked her classmates to name leaders in the Latino community.
“These sixth-graders had a hard time coming up with a name, but they finally concluded that it was Cesar Chavez and Pitbull,” Molina said. “The children got very angry. … They said, ‘Why aren’t we learning this? Why don’t we know this?’ ”
She added, “We need young people to understand that this isn’t a history that was, oh, way back then and now is now. We need to continue that kind of leadership today. … We are not finished. Our agenda has just begun.”
View photos from the UCLA Luskin Lecture on Flickr.
By Gabriela Solis
A recent UCLA conference sought to fill a knowledge gap about how Latinos interact with the criminal justice system.
With themes such as policing of Latinx communities, community organizing, adjudication and norms, ethics and constitutional culture, the Feb. 8, 2019, conference held at the UCLA School of Law combined the resources of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), UCLA Law Review and the Bruin X Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Community advocates, scholars, staff, undergraduates and graduate students heard from a variety of experts, including several UCLA faculty members associated with LPPI.
The first panel, moderated by UCLA Law Professor Laura Gómez, sought to establish the context for discussion of Latinos and the criminal justice system.
“Latino-ness is very contingent,” said Victoria Plaut, professor of law and social science at UC Berkeley, referring to common generalizations about their characteristics. “Latinos are hardworking but lazy; family-oriented but not warm.”
Plaut, a clinical psychologist, shared findings from her research of the psychological processes relevant to diversity and inclusion in legal, educational and workplace settings to highlight the beliefs that often frame Latino experiences.
The panel included Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicana/o studies, and Kelly Lytle Hernández, professor of history and African American studies. They spoke about the importance of collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, especially because data from criminal justice entities can be unreliable and inconsistent.
Another panel, moderated by Law Professor Jennifer Chacón, focused on the policing of Latinx communities. During this panel, Amada Armenta, assistant professor of urban planning, shared her expertise on this issue, the subject of her award-winning book “Protect, Serve and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement.” Armenta’s ethnographic research in Nashville, Tennessee, studied the role of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement. She described how the logic and culture of policing negatively affected Latino immigrant neighborhoods. Police were incentivized to make as many stops as possible and pull over as many people as possible, Armenta said.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of LPPI, moderated a panel that explored successful methods of organizing communities to change laws, with a focus on direct democracy as a vehicle for criminal justice reform.
Panelist Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, shared his successful experiences with Florida’s Proposition 4, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative. Passage of the initiative restored the right to vote for people in Florida with prior felony convictions.
Cartagena stressed that it is important for individuals with personal experience to participate as leaders in a movement. He also urged organizers to think strategically about how to frame the problem, which he said was essential in the Florida campaign’s victory. The campaign’s focus on second chances resonated well with Florida voters, Cartagena said.
All panels provided a unique perspective on how Latinos fare in the criminal justice system — a sorely under-researched topic, especially by legal scholars.
Learn more about Latinos and the criminal justice system.
Sonja Diaz, director of the UCLA Luskin-based Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle about the potential political repercussions of declaring a national emergency to secure funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, an action that President Trump is contemplating. Declaring an emergency would allow Trump to secure funding for the wall without congressional approval. This action may please Trump’s current base; but it could also benefit Democrats by ending the government shutdown triggered by the budget battle over border security while allowing them to keep the campaign against the wall alive. Diaz commented on the impact that building the wall may have on Trump’s chances of reelection. “In 2020, states like Arizona and Texas [with surging Latino turnout] are going to be critical,” she said. “This is going to be very impactful on who they choose on that ballot.”