Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, wrote a commentary for CalMatters about the lack of Latino representation on the California redistricting commission candidate list. The commission is in charge of redrawing state and federal political boundaries, which is especially critical as California faces the potential loss of a congressional seat after the 2020 Census count is complete. Diaz pointed out that, while Latinos are California’s largest ethnic group at 40% of the population, they represent only 17% of the candidate pool for the redistricting commission. She explained that the lack of geographical representation means that Latinos are being left out of the redistricting process. “The pandemic is not an excuse to ignore the key principle of equal participation,” Diaz argued. “In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect opportunity to commit to ensuring that Latinos and other voters of color have equal access to the democratic process.”
A new Politico article included comments from Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, about the financial impact the pandemic is having on racial minorities and renters. Congressional relief has allowed homeowners to delay payments on federally guaranteed mortgages, but renters are much more vulnerable. Struggling tenants whose jobs have been wiped out and are unable to keep up on rent will face eviction as well as a major hit to their credit scores, hurting their ability to build wealth for years to come. “Latinos were the hardest hit of any racial ethnic group in terms of wealth loss during the Great Recession,” Diaz said. “Over the course of the last five years, Latinos have had targeted increases in their share of homeownership in the United States and in fact have been instrumental in increasing the national share of homeownership, [but] any recession associated with the coronavirus threatens that.”
Paul Ong, research professor and director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, and Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, co-authored an opinion piece for NBC News about the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color. Their research suggests that Latino and Asian neighborhoods will be most affected by the predicted loss of 1.6 million jobs in California by this summer. Furthermore, they argue that “Latino and Asian workers disproportionately rely on low-wage jobs where the most layoffs in the wake of COVID-19 are occurring.” They write that the CARES Act stimulus packages are not enough to protect these vulnerable households, especially undocumented immigrants and service workers who hold multiple part-time jobs. Ong and Diaz recommended that states create “recovery programs focused on those who are highest at risk of not receiving federal COVID-19 relief” so that no one is left out of the recovery.
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and its marquee advocacy project, the UCLA Voting Rights Project, hosted an April 2 webinar on the importance of vote-by-mail programs in upcoming primaries and the November general election amid the coronavirus pandemic. Leading experts on voting rights joined the conversation, moderated by Sonja Diaz, LPPI’s founding executive director. With Election Day just months away, “it is not a matter of if, or a matter of when — the question is how do we provide the opportunity for people to vote because we must and we will,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan added, “This is not the first time Americans have voted during a crisis.” Matt Barreto, LPPI and Voting Rights Project co-founder, emphasized the importance of outreach to communities of color, and Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley assured that “voters will adapt and are looking for opportunity and expanded access.” The Voting Rights Project has released a report outlining four steps that states can begin implementing now, as well as memos on a House bill to protect voting rights and on safe voting amid the pandemic. The publications address the equitable implementation of a vote-by-mail program to encourage voter participation. As Chad Dunn, director of litigation at the Voting Rights Project, said at the close of the webinar, “It’s on all of us to double our commitment to democracy and find a way to make this work in all 50 states and territories.” — Eliza Moreno
Neighborhoods with significant Latino and Asian American populations in Los Angeles County are particularly vulnerable to economic uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report sponsored by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin, along with Ong & Associates. “Entire communities are in a precarious financial situation, weakening the economic base in areas that already have a history of underinvestment and limited opportunities,” said Paul Ong, lead author and CNK director. According to the report, almost 60% of Latino-majority neighborhoods and 40% of Asian-majority neighborhoods will be affected; in comparison, 12% of white-majority neighborhoods will face the same level of economic disruption caused by the global pandemic. The report includes recommendations for state and local officials to support low-wage workers in Los Angeles County. “Latinos and Asian Americans are critical to the continued success of Los Angeles County’s economy, and the impact that their families and neighborhoods will see in this crisis requires urgent action,” said Sonja Diaz, LPPI executive director. Communities that will see the greatest impacts include neighborhoods in northeast Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, Inglewood and the northeast San Fernando Valley, the report found. The affected neighborhoods also have a high concentration of foreign-born residents. “Now is the time for elected officials to ensure that low-wage workers have a safety net in this time of crisis to ensure the safety and well-being of all communities,” Ong said.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, wrote an opinion piece for the Sacramento Bee arguing that the enormous demands placed on California’s health care system as it grapples with COVID-19 will magnify longstanding racial and ethnic health disparities. Diaz cited research showing that access to health care among California’s Latinos continues to lag behind other groups, and that the state’s physician pool is not diverse enough to adequately serve its population. As the coronavirus crisis continues, the number of uninsured is likely to rise as businesses shut down or lay off workers, possibly cutting off employer-provided health insurance. Diaz argued that the state must act quickly to protect the health of communities of color and those living in poverty. “Put plainly, our state’s most vulnerable will wait until they are at their absolute worst to seek care, which will likely result in unnecessary loss of life during this pandemic,” Diaz wrote.
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.