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LPPI Student Fellow Gains Insight at Latinx Criminal Justice Convening Second-year MPP student María Morales represents UCLA Luskin at a Texas gathering to discuss how criminal justice and immigration systems impact U.S. Latinos

Leadership development is a key component of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) at UCLA Luskin, allowing student fellows to gain hands-on policy experience and realize opportunities to develop management skills, as well as champion equity and innovation.

María Morales, a second-year Master of Public Policy student and a 2019-20 LPPI student fellow, became the latest example of this idea in action when she was selected to attend the 5th annual Latinx Criminal Justice Convening in Brownsville, Texas, in June.

Morales is serving as a project manager for an LPPI criminal justice system project that is currently underway, and she saw the conference as a professional development opportunity that allowed her to familiarize herself even further with research and efforts in the field. She also welcomed the opportunity to talk about issues of importance to Latinos in her home state of Texas.

One benefit of the trip for Morales was getting to see how a multilingual approach was incorporated.

“I was impressed by the way that interpreters established a multilingual culture during the gathering, ensuring Spanish and English-only speakers communicated smoothly with each other,” she said.

It was clear to Morales that organizers understood that language barriers often hinder efforts within the justice system to combat injustices. Community-centered, multigenerational sensitivity to interpretation is also beneficial, Morales explained, when formerly incarcerated individuals are welcomed home for the first time.

“It promotes a healing component for all participants,” she said.

The convening was organized by LatinoJustice PRLDEF in partnership with Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network. A variety of local and national organizations came to the U.S.-Mexico border town of Brownsville to engage in conversations about Latinos in the criminal justice and immigration systems.

Organizers said the two-day encuentro was intended to create a space for Latino leaders, activists, academics and impacted community members to explore connections within the criminal justice and immigration systems across the United States. They also discussed strategies to promote an inclusive movement that does not leave anyone behind.

Morales said she found the intersection between immigration, incarceration, criminality and the war on drugs very interesting. The degree of overlap of those issues was new to her.

“I had not realized how all these were intertwined and played a role in the relationship between the Latinx community and the criminal justice system,” she said.

Another impactful experience for Morales related to the general lack of data about the Latinx community in the United States. Based on her research for LPPI, she was able to engage in a “fishbowl conversation” on the topic, bringing a student’s perspective to the discussion.

Morales said she was inspired and motivated by the opportunity to be part of these types of conversations for the first time in such a setting.

“Speaking on the lack of Latinx data in the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems underscored the importance of research and the need to identify these disparities in order to enact meaningful policies based on accurate evidence,” she said.

During the gathering in Brownsville, community members highlighted their work on the ground to end collaboration between state and local police departments with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement efforts in the states of Texas and Georgia.

Another topic of discussion related to a jail closure in Los Angeles and efforts to prevent construction of a replacement. The intersection of criminal law and immigration law — often referred to as “crimmigration” — was the focal point of these conversations, with attorneys explaining the importance of litigation and the need for advocates to be patient during a legal process that often becomes lengthy. A lack of lawyers with expertise in social justice was also mentioned, Morales said.

This topic was of special importance to Morales because she will soon begin working with a group of other MPP candidates on their Applied Policy Project, and “crimmigration is a topic we are interested in exploring for our capstone project,” she said. “Learning more about its impact on the community at this convening has further piqued my interest.”

Morales found the convening enjoyable and insightful. “It was an honor being able to attend this convening and feel such passion and dedication in the room,” she said.

A Nexus of Latin Cities New initiative Ciudades finds common ground in urban spaces across the Western hemisphere

By Mary Braswell

They came from Sacramento in the north, Mexico City in the south and points in between, drawn to the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs by a common pursuit: increasing access to high-quality housing in urban areas where opportunities abound.

It’s a worthy goal, shared across borders but beset by a lack of consensus on how to achieve it. So planners, professors and government officials from throughout Mexico and California gathered to share their insights on moving forward, invited by one of UCLA Luskin’s newest ventures, the Latin American Cities Initiative.

The workshop visitors — along with urbanists throughout the region — have much to learn from one another, said Paavo Monkkonen, associate professor of urban planning and public policy, and founding director of the initiative, known as Ciudades.

“Los Angeles is home to millions from across Latin America,” Monkkonen said. “Because of this shared history and present, and because of the potential for urban learning across the region, we established Ciudades to deepen our connections and intellectual exchanges.”

Launched in early 2019 with the support of UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura, the initiative is just the latest example of the School’s global ambitions and outreach.

With the international city of Los Angeles as a home base, faculty have spearheaded research into HIV-infected youth in sub-Saharan Africa, mass protests in Ukraine, sex markets in Indonesia and degradation of the Amazon rainforest, among many other pursuits.

The School’s Global Public Affairs program brings graduate students into the mix, preparing them to navigate an increasingly integrated world. GPA students choose from a wide array of concentrations, including political dynamics, health and social services, the environment, development, migration and human rights.

Ciudades zeroes in on the Western Hemisphere. The binational, bilingual workshop on urban housing was just the type of cross-pollination of ideas that the initiative was created to foster.

In cities across Mexico and California, low-density sprawl has limited access to jobs, transit, retail and parks, creating roadblocks to prosperity. But federal and state programs to remedy this with denser urban development have met with resistance from municipalities, which often face political blowback.

Bridging this divide was the aim of the Ciudades workshop. Planners, academics, students and officials from all levels of government, including the cities of Tijuana, Ensenada, Compton and Los Angeles, came together to share data, resources and cautionary tales. Among them was Haydee Urita-Lopez MURP ’02, a senior planner with the city of Los Angeles.

“I’m just very happy today that we’re able to collaborate at this academic and practical level,” Urita-Lopez said, inviting her colleagues to continue the conversation in the weeks and months ahead. “We share an integrant political, social and cultural history. … Geopolitical lines on a map have not erased our cultural ties.”

Ciudades focuses on urban spaces in the Americas, but the topics it embraces are unlimited. Local democracy, public finance, indigenous populations and historical preservation will steer the dialogue in a knowledge network that reaches across disciplines as well as borders, Monkkonen said.

He envisions field visits by faculty and students from each of UCLA Luskin’s graduate departments, Public Policy, Social Welfare and Urban Planning. Grants and internships will promote Latin-focused student research.

Monkkonen’s studio courses in Baja California provide one model for learning: Students identify a problem, define the scope of their analysis, then conduct interviews, site visits and scholarly readings to develop practical solutions.

Ciudades also brings voices from across the Americas to campus. Over the 2019 winter quarter, students and the public heard from experts on social mobility in São Paulo, indigenous groups in Cancun, sustainable development in Bogotá and many other topics as part of the weekly Ciudades Seminar Series.

“Academia and professional practice can benefit a lot from greater levels of communication,” and that interplay creates a spirited learning environment, Monkkonen said. When students speak with practitioners, both sides ask questions that professors may not have thought to ask, he added.

The connections that Ciudades is forging will make UCLA Luskin a draw for graduate students, planners and policymakers from across the region, Monkkonen predicted. Looking ahead, he envisions quarter-long exchange programs with universities in South America and Central America.

“Our student population is so Latin-descended, and many want to study in the places their parents are from,” he said.

Monkkonen has been interested in the Spanish-speaking world since he can remember. Enrolled in a Culver City elementary school that offered one of the first language immersion programs, he became fluent as a child. As a young man, he taught English as a second language in Spain and Mexico. His wife is from Mexico and his daughter is a dual citizen. Monkkonen is a permanent resident of Mexico and is currently applying for dual citizenship.

Much of Monkkonen’s long-term research is based in Mexico, but he has also conducted studies in Argentina, Brazil and across Asia. UCLA Luskin, he said, is an ideal laboratory for urban studies in the region.

In March, Ciudades posed the question “Is L.A. a Latin American City?” Author and journalist Daniel Hernandez and UCLA’s Eric Avila debated the question at a forum moderated by Monkkonen.

The answer, they concluded, was both yes and no.

Los Angeles “is developing in a way that only benefits the people who already have money,” a familiar pattern in Latin American cities, Hernandez said.

Avila, a professor of Chicano studies and urban planning, said the city’s population and built environment are very Latin but “Los Angeles is not a Latin American city in regard to the historically sustained efforts to whitewash and erase the Spanish and Mexican past.”

The panelists touched on racial hierarchies, environmental justice, gentrification, food, art and identity. It was merely one of many conversations Ciudades intends to spark.

“We hope that this initiative is just the beginning of something larger that deepens ties across South, Central and North America,” Monkkonen said.

Zoe Day contributed to this report.

Taking the Border Crisis to Heart Team from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare counsels mothers and children seeking asylum in the United States

Team from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare travels to immigrant detention center in Texas to counsel mothers and children seeking asylum in the U.S.

Latinx Conference Seeks to Break Down Borders

The student-led Latinx Caucus at UCLA Luskin collaborated with the Council on Social Work Education to host the 17th Annual Latinx Community Conference: Breaking Down Borders, Más Allá de la Frontera. The April 27 event brought together social services professionals and scholars to discuss issues facing the Latinx community, focusing specifically on immigration. “Immigration permeates every level of service, and without considering it holistically while also considering it within our specialties, we risk taking on a limited understanding of this complex social concern,” said MPP candidate Kassandra Hernandez, one of several student organizers. The event started with a blessing circle, followed by an address by Dean Gary Segura. Beth Caldwell MSW ’02, a professor at Southwestern Law School, gave the keynote address. Caldwell’s most recent research explores the consequences of deportation to Mexico with an emphasis on deportees who grew up in the United States. The daylong conference covered a wide spectrum of topics relating to the experiences of the Latinx community. Experts led workshops on mental health, educational barriers, domestic violence, LGBTQ issues, and the deportation of immigrant youth and families. Conference attendees enjoyed entertainment by the Mariachi de Uclatlán group during lunch and Changüí Majadero during the evening networking reception. Historically, Social Welfare students have taken the lead on organizing the community conference; this year, the scope was broadened to encourage full participation by Public Policy and Urban Planning students, as well.

Conference photo gallery available on Flickr:

Latinx Conference 2019


Segura Responds to Trump’s Decision to Cut Foreign Aid

Gary Segura, dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and an expert in polling and public opinion, was quoted in a Pacific Standard article dissecting President Trump’s announcement to cancel foreign aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Trump has made multiple threats in the past to cut off the three Central American countries due to his dissatisfaction with their respective governments’ failures to stop people from leaving. After his recent announcement that funds would be withheld from the three nations, experts objected, explaining that the funds help combat crime and violence, ultimately serving U.S. interests. Segura maintained that ulterior motives were behind the policy decision, which would fuel the asylum crisis. He tweeted, “Pay attention folks. This is an INTENTIONAL act to drive MORE asylum seekers to the U.S. border to help [Trump] maintain his crisis. It’s ugly, devastating in impact, and bad policy.”


Armenta Publishes Research on Unauthorized Immigrants and Police

Amada Armenta, an assistant professor of urban planning, co-authored the research article “Beyond the Fear of Deportation: Understanding Unauthorized Immigrants’ Ambivalence Toward the Police,” which was recently published in American Behavioral Scientist. Armenta and co-author Rocío Rosales examined unauthorized Mexican immigrants’ perceptions of and experiences with police in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. While much of the existing research focuses on undocumented immigrants’ negative attitudes toward police as a result of fear of deportation, Armada and Rosales used in-depth interviews and ethnography to gain a better understanding of the immigrants’ perceptions of police. Their research article found that most undocumented immigrants are ambivalent about American police, “believing them to be both trustworthy and overly punitive.” Interviews indicated that “compared with police forces in Mexico, [many undocumented immigrants] believe that U.S. police are honest, hardworking and trustworthy.” Even those who do not hold the police in high regard may choose to trust them under certain circumstances. “Positive interactions with the police can shape immigrants’ legal attitudes such that they feel empowered to call the police for help,” the article noted. The study is a valuable addition to research on minorities’ relationships with police, which is mostly focused on the experiences of African American citizens. Armenta is the author of an award-winning book on immigration enforcement in Nashville, Tennessee, and is currently working on a second book examining the legal attitudes of undocumented immigrants in Philadelphia.


Yaroslavsky Offers Insights on State of the Union Address

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, provided in-studio commentary on KCAL9 following President Trump’s second State of the Union address. Yaroslavsky said Trump played to his base, spending almost 20 minutes speaking about immigration, but was also smart to acknowledge the record number of women now serving in Congress. “He was not as inflammatory as he’s been in the past. Let’s wait 12 hours and see what he tweets in the morning,” Yaroslavsky said. The former Los Angeles County supervisor also spoke about the changes in State of the Union addresses over the years. “It’s a television show,” he said. “In the old days, there was more substance, there was less theater. … During the civil rights movement and in the Vietnam War, the stakes were very high. So the theater was real, it wasn’t manufactured as it has been in recent decades.”


 

Torres-Gil Examines Nexus of Aging and Immigration

UCLA Luskin Professor Fernando Torres-Gil has co-authored a book on the shifting demographics of the U.S. titled “The Politics of a Majority-Minority Nation: Aging, Diversity, and Immigration.” In the next 30 years, the older population of the United States is expected to double and the country will become a majority-minority society. Torres-Gil and co-author Jacqueline Angel of the University of Texas, Austin, provide an in-depth examination of these demographic trends, which will undoubtedly affect the politics of aging, health, retirement security and immigration reform. The authors identify three forces that must be understood: “a politics of aging that includes generational tensions; conflicts over diversity and the need for immigrants; and the class divisions emanating from an economics of aging that may see greater poverty among the elderly.” Torres-Gil and Angel offer guidance for politicians and policymakers seeking to address these changes to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come. Torres-Gil is a professor of social welfare and public policy at UCLA Luskin and director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging. His career spans the academic, professional and policy arenas, and he is a nationally recognized authority on health care, entitlement reform and the politics of aging.


Ruling Puts Welfare of American Indian Children at Risk, Akee Writes

Randall Akee, assistant professor of Public Policy and American Indian Studies, wrote an article for the Brookings Institution’s Up Front blog likening the separation of migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border to that of the United States’ former policy of permanently relocating American Indian children from their families and often impoverished communities into foster homes. This practice was in place until as recently as 1978, when the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was enacted, granting tribal governments exclusive jurisdiction over American Indian child custody cases. However, the ICWA was recently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court for Northern Texas. Akee argues that the state-ordered breakup of tribal families is cruel and unnecessary and, if resumed, could further harm the already largely damaged tribal communities. Furthermore, he argues that indigenous peoples thrive under independence and self-governance, and meddling by state civil and criminal jurisdictions cause these communities to “[experience] an increase in crime and a reduction in incomes,” not to mention the “disastrous” effect on the welfare of the children themselves. 


 

Umemoto Interviewed on Impact of New Census Data

Karen Umemoto of UCLA Luskin was a guest on a KPCC “Air Talk” broadcast focusing on new U.S. Census data that indicates the percentage of foreign-born residents in the United States is the highest since 1910. The data show that new arrivals are more likely to come from Asia than in the past. “It’s hard to cast one homogeneous statement about what the impacts will be, but I think there is a lot of diversity that comes with the new immigration that we’re seeing from parts of Asia, especially China and India and the Philippines,” said Umemoto, professor of urban planning and Asian American studies and director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. “But I think there’s a lot of economic diversity too,” she said. “It’s a very bifurcated population economically, where you have many who are very poor and some who are very wealthy.”


 

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