Diaz on the Increasing Influence of Voters of Color

Several media outlets have called on Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, for insights on election-related issues including the presidential debates, voter suppression and the important role of voters of color. On ABC7’s Eyewitness Newsmakers, beginning at minute 16:35, Diaz addressed misconceptions about the engagement of the Latino electorate, noting that younger voters do not turn out at the same rate as older Americans. She added, “Our studies show that 30% of Americans that will cast a ballot on Nov. 3 are non-white. This is really important and will only continue to increase for foreseeable generations.” On WHYY’s Radio Times, Diaz said some states are instituting “arduous hoops to overcome the ballot box … at a time when we are still not over the hump with this pandemic.” She concluded, “I think that this election is a lot about whether or not people are going to be able to cast a ballot without risking their lives.” 


Ideas and Expertise Exchanged at Post-Debate Forum

The UCLA Luskin Public Policy community came together after the final presidential debate of 2020 to hear insights from an array of experts on the U.S. political landscape: Dean Gary Segura, an authority on polls and other measures of political opinion; Chair Martin Gilens, whose research focuses on political inequality; Professor Mark Peterson, who specializes in health-care policy; Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative; and Chad Dunn, director of litigation for the UCLA Voting Rights Project. During the 90-minute Zoom gathering, the speakers assessed the exchange between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which was deemed a step up from previous matchups, then fielded questions from students and alumni. The conversation touched on the accuracy of polling, the threat of voter intimidation, the electoral pathway to victory for each candidate, and even the risk that the country might veer toward fascism. Unless the vote count is tied up amid irregularities in a single, decisive state — as it was in Bush v. Gore in the 2000 race —Segura said the chance that the election’s outcome will be seriously challenged is small. “Try not to let the demons in your head and the demons from 2016 keep you awake at night,” he advised. The conversation was part of a series of forums designed to bring policy students, alumni, faculty and staff together to share concerns, perspectives and experiences within an informed and supportive community. At the next Policy Forum, on Nov. 5, faculty experts will parse the results of the election.


Top Issues Driving the Latino Vote

A new UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative report reveals that the economy, health care, COVID-19 and racial justice – not immigration – will drive the 2020 Latino vote in four key swing states. News outlets have shared the report, which is intended to dispel a common misconception that immigration policy is a top-of-mind issue for Latino voters. Candidates for federal, state and local offices who want to capture the Latino vote should talk about how they will address Latinos’ concerns about economic and health issues, the report concludes. The study, which focused on voters in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas, recommends establishing a national minimum wage of at least $15 and eliminating exclusions for domestic, farm and tipped workers; increasing Latino representation and graduation in institutions of higher education; ensuring access to health care for all regardless of immigration or employment status; and expanding workplace health and safety regulations to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.


Diaz Weighs In on the 2020 Race

As the  2020 presidential campaign enters its final stretch, several media outlets have sought out the expertise of Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin. News broadcasts on KTLA and Al Jazeera featured Diaz’s analysis of the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, which she said was really about driving voter turnout since “we have so many barriers at the ballot box, particularly for Black, Latino and Asian American voters.” Diaz told NBC News that neither major party is doing enough to connect with Latino voters, and she weighed in on voter suppression, both overt and indirect, in an Elite Daily article. “Absentee voting and the use of mail-in ballots has now been weaponized by conservatives in the Republican Party to be the new vehicle for ‘voter fraud,’ ” she said, calling this a deliberate attempt to suppress minority voters in the midst of COVID-19.

As Election Nears, LPPI Hosts Roundtable With Philanthropic Leaders About Latino Agenda

Working with Hispanics in Philanthropy, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, or LPPI, hosted a virtual conversation Oct. 1 with 29 philanthropic leaders about shaping a political agenda for Black and brown people. Titled “Juntos Ganamos,” or “Together We Win,” the discussion centered on “Shaping a 21st Century Latino Agenda,” a blueprint recently created by UCLA LPPI for policy reforms on issues that include climate change, health, economic opportunity and voting rights. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened existing inequities, and the agenda seeks to address systemic racial injustices and chart a path forward. The roundtable was the first in a series in which Latinx foundation presidents, CEOs and trustees will examine the role of philanthropy amid a global pandemic, ongoing economic inequality and a renewed focus on violence involving police. “There is importance in building unity and coalition among all communities of color, while recognizing the efforts, lives and leadership of our Black peers,” said María Morales MPP ’20, who helped put together the roundtable. Speakers included Sonja Diaz, founding director of the initiative, who said Latino workers often experience “invisibility” in the workplace. “Essential should not be interchangeable with disposable,” Diaz said. Roundtable attendees also learned about research that demonstrates that Black, brown, Asian and Indigenous people combine to make up America’s new majority, potentially influencing policy for years to come. Mobilizing such voters is essential for both parties in the November elections, presenters noted, and philanthropy can play a key role in helping to build solidarity among ethnic communities. — Eliza Moreno

Diaz on Need for Latino Representation in Redistricting Process

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with Spectrum News’ Inside the Issues about the importance of Latino representation on the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The 14-member commission is tasked with redrawing district lines for state and federal offices based on 2020 Census data. Diaz said that California’s distinctive geographic contours mean that Latinos in rural or urban communities may have different political priorities. “Making sure that you have voices that know the needs of Fresno or the Imperial Valley is really important when you’re drawing political lines around what interests communities and who they want to elect to represent them,” she said. Diaz also commented on the state’s arduous process for selecting citizens to sit on the commission, which is “not centered to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of diverse Californians.” She concluded, “Sometimes when people want to make government better, they make it harder for communities of color.”

Millions of Latinos at Risk of Job Displacement by Automation

The potential acceleration of job automation spurred by COVID-19 will disproportionately affect Latinos in U.S. service sector jobs, according to a new report from the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin. The report calls on state and local officials to start planning now to implement programs to support and retrain these workers. Researchers looked at occupational data from the six states with the largest Latino populations and found an overrepresentation of Latinos in industries where jobs are more susceptible to automation, including construction, leisure and hospitality, agriculture, and wholesale or retail trade. More than 7.1 million Latinos, representing almost 40% of the Latino workforce in those six states — Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas — are at high risk of being displaced by automation, the report shows. “As Latinos take a disproportionate financial hit from the COVID-19 crisis, now is a good time to focus on increasing training opportunities and to strengthen the social safety net to catch workers who are left behind,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, the report’s author and director of research at the policy initiative. A failure to prepare Latinos for jobs in the digital economy and other growing sectors will come with economic repercussions to the U.S. by creating a shortage of skilled workers in an aging and shrinking labor force, the report says. The research will be used as a baseline for discussion at a convening this month of policymakers, industry leaders, training organizations and higher education administrators organized by the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program. — Eliza Moreno


Diaz on Trump’s Appeal to Latino Voters

Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to CNN about President Trump’s recent efforts to court Latino voters. While Democratic nominee Joe Biden has been criticized for being slow to commit resources to reach Latino voters, Trump has ramped up efforts to improve his standing among Latino constituents. “What appeals to Latino voters who are supporting Trump is the same thing that appeals to voters who support Trump,” Diaz said. “It’s likely that Latino males will support Trump in 2020 at higher rates than Latinas. And you see that generally in terms of the trends of white voters and white males in particular.” Diaz pointed to Trump’s appeal to male voters in general, saying, “I think that there’s something around masculinity and misogyny that is really galvanizing some voters who identify as men. And I don’t know that there is a cultural component to it. It’s just an American male phenomenon.”

Study Calls for Permanent Residence for Immigrants With Temporary Protected Status

UCLA Luskin’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) has published a policy brief on the benefits of Temporary Protected Status, an immigration status that permits people from specified countries to remain temporarily in the United States if they cannot safely return to their homes because of a catastrophic event. Of the approximately 400,000 people living in the U.S. under the program, over 88% are in the labor force, over 70% have lived here for more than 20 years, and about two-thirds have U.S.-born children. This suggests the significant destabilizing effect that could be caused by changes that the Trump administration proposed in 2018, which would have removed protections for people from Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador. In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security extended the protections through January 2021 following injunctions arising from a series of lawsuits. To improve the long-term integration of immigrants, the LPPI study recommended granting permanent resident status to those currently living under Temporary Protected Status. It also called for renewing Temporary Protected Status designations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan — the home nations for 98% of all participants in the program — beyond the January 2021 deadline. “As we have seen with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, there are benefits with taking people out of the shadows,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of LPPI. “At a time when immigrants have played a key role in maintaining the economy as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand what is at stake when protections for immigrants like Temporary Protected Status are taken away.” — Eliza Moreno

Brown Bag Talks With Latino Leaders Show Students ‘Where Purpose Meets Passion’ Summer sessions focus on the importance of choosing career paths that make an impact

On Aug. 26, Paul Luna of HELIOS Foundation wrapped up a summer series of brown bag talks that provided guidance to the undergraduate and graduate fellows of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin.

The sessions, which took place over Zoom this year, continued a tradition in which community leaders connect with the policy initiative’s students to discuss career paths and the importance of making an impact.

“I learned that career trajectories are not often a linear progression but instead a culmination of unexpected turns where purpose meets passion,” said policy fellow Diana Garcia, who is studying for her master of public policy at UCLA Luskin.

The brown bag series “allowed me to expose myself to the plethora of career paths available, which will allow me to give back to my Latino community,” said policy fellow Bryanna Ruiz, a political science and Chicana and Chicano Studies major at UCLA.

Each conversation ended with the same question. Here’s that question and how some of the summer speakers chose to answer:

Q: The fellows are an essential part of UCLA LPPI’s strategy to invest in leaders dedicated to making an impact. Returning to the normalcy we remember is no longer an option. We must reimagine a world that centers the needs of the most vulnerable communities and advocates opportunity for all. In a time that asks that we invest in new leadership, what does leadership look like amid COVID-19 and in a world after COVID-19?

Luis Perez, legal services director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA): We’re not talking about helping out individuals anymore, but systemic change. That’s the framing that people need to start adopting. Helping one person at a time has not changed the systems of oppression that we experience. This is the right time to start reframing the model of systemic change. Systemic change, in many ways, reflects policy change. The Supreme Court looks to society’s expectations of one another as much as they are looking into laws. Laws need to reflect what people think, and they change with society. What are the ways in which we can change the system?

Francela Chi de Chinchilla, vice president of partnerships at Equis Labs: There has been a reframing on what work can be and what to value because of this pandemic. There is a lot of writing already on what leadership in a workplace should look like because of COVID-19. I am grateful that the companies I have worked for have recognized the importance of valuing the whole person and work-life balance, but now I have a baby and I can’t work all day long. I have to stop working and take care of her. This time has allowed me to be more patient and forgiving with myself.

Noerena Limón, senior vice president of public policy and industry relations at the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals: The bolder you are, the farther you’ll get. This is the time where you form coalitions. I have found that the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed me and housing experts to forge some of the best coalition work that I have ever seen happen, because we don’t have to travel to meetings, we are constantly checking in with each other, constantly giving each other the latest information. I would say that we need to ensure that we are working in coalitions and to be bold.

Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF: The good news is that there are multiple examples of excellent leadership happening on the ground. I have seen it in a lot of my criminal justice work with LatinoJustice. I have seen people of all age groups create intersectional conversation about the systems. I see incredible promise about immigration enforcement and criminal justice enforcement in the same breath. I encourage it. I promote it. I have a lot of hope because I have always been an optimistic person. I am not going to let the same barriers that challenged who I was when I was young, when I was picked up for no reason by police, challenge my identity. I refuse to let all of those obstacles get in the way of: I know exactly why I’m here. I’m here to help gente. My optimism extends to today. My optimism took a hit with the outrageousness of body after body being killed on tape. But then again, I talk to people, listen to people and promote people that have better ways of analyzing and connecting with others than I do. They give me a lot of hope. Keep doing what you’re doing. Be honest with yourself about your hard work.

Paul J. Luna, president and CEO of HELIOS Foundation: A great leader has a vision for the future and brings a new or clearer vision or understanding, especially during a time when we need one. In times of change and in times that we are living through today, we look to our leaders to bring that vision, to provide that guidance and, with their knowledge and understanding, to help us make the right decisions. Secondly, a great leader understands the present. We cannot have decisions that are being made for political reasons, and not for the general welfare and health for our community and citizens — especially during this pandemic when we know that communities of color and low-income communities are more directly impacted. Thirdly, a great leader has an appreciation for the history and the past and can acknowledge who came before them. For any leader to think that they are uniquely in the position to lead because of who and what they are or how uniquely bright and talented they are — and don’t appreciate that there are people who came before them and who paid dues and made sacrifices so that they can have the opportunity to lead — if they don’t appreciate that, they will never truly be able to lead successfully and into the future. Honor the past and those who came before you, acknowledge their contributions. I would not have gotten to Stanford University if my dad was not willing to work at a copper mine for 45 years. Leadership will look different than it did before, and the people who are given the opportunity to lead will hopefully involve more women and people of color and from different backgrounds. You all reflect and represent the great future.