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Diaz on Strategies to Engage Latino Electorate

Sonja Diaz, executive director of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke to CBS News about the importance of engaging Latino voters, who make up nearly 28% of the California electorate. Latinos’ priorities are largely dependent on where they live, Diaz said. “Los Angeles County was the epicenter of COVID 19. … In places like the Central Valley, you could see the closure of small businesses. In other places throughout the state, it’s issues of housing insecurity,” she said, advising campaigns and political parties to “meet Latino voters where they are and actually have the nuanced messaging that is geographical tailored.” In many diverse communities, trusted messengers such as medical professionals at local clinics are key in communicating that protecting one’s health and casting a ballot are important acts of civic engagement. “You need to identify the people that diverse households are going to respond to, especially since there is this plethora of misinformation and disinformation that target these households,” Diaz said.


Recall Vote Has High Stakes for COVID-19 Battle, Diaz Says

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KPBS about changes to California’s policies to combat COVID-19 if Gov. Gavin Newsom is removed from office — including potential cuts in funding to deal with the pandemic. “We know who suffers when bad policy exists … and that’s Black and brown communities who have borne the brunt of the health and wealth impacts of this pandemic,” she said. “One need only look at states like Arizona, Georgia and Florida for the role of a governor who’s anti-science in dealing with the pandemic.” Diaz also spoke to the Associated Press about the electoral power of Latinos, who now make up 40% of California’s population but are less likely to vote than other groups. And she spoke with Spectrum News about the importance of investing in turnout to motivate people of color to vote. 

Latinos in Labor Unions Were Better Protected From Job Losses During Pandemic UCLA study finds Latinos in non-union jobs were seven times more likely to become unemployed amid COVID-19 surge

Latinos in non-union jobs were seven times more likely than Latinos in labor unions to fall into unemployment during three key months early in the pandemic, according to a new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

The report also found that Black and Latino union workers had higher wages than their counterparts in non-union jobs during the pandemic, but that both groups still received lower pay than white workers in union jobs.

Following previous studies demonstrating that Latinos faced disproportionate public health and economic consequences during the pandemic, the new report highlights the benefits that labor unions can provide to vulnerable workers during an economic crisis, said Sonja Diaz, the founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

“Labor unions gave us child labor regulations, work-free weekends and the collective power to demand better conditions,” Diaz said. “Our report shows that during economic downturns such as the one we faced amid COVID-19, union jobs can also provide much-needed stability for workers and their families.”

The report’s authors analyzed data from the Current Population Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, to understand the impact of the pandemic on employment rates, wages and union protections between January 2020 and June 2021. The time frame was chosen so the researchers could compare conditions from the outset of the pandemic in the U.S., the months of uncertainty that followed and the time period when policy actions began to spur an economic recovery.

Unionized workers of all races and ethnicities were less likely than non-union workers to experience job loss during the height of the economic downturn, but the report found that the effect was most pronounced among Latinos. For example, from April to June 2020, the employment rate for Latinos in labor unions fell by only 2.5%, while the employment rate for all union workers declined by 10.2%. During the same period, the employment rate for Latinos who were not in labor unions declined by 18.5%, representing a loss of nearly 4.3 million jobs.

Diaz said the nation’s economic recovery is inextricably tied to how well Latinos can bounce back from the setbacks they experienced during the pandemic. The report recommends policy actions including passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021, a bill that would make it harder for employers to obstruct organizing efforts. The legislation is currently awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.

“The economic devastation spurred by COVID-19 made it clear that it’s essential to build more resiliency and strengthen wages for the nation’s workers, particularly for groups that are most vulnerable during a crisis,” said UCLA research analyst Misael Galdamez, the report’s lead author. “Unionization is an important tool to give workers the economic stability and dignity that they deserve.”

Previous research by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has examined other aspects of how the pandemic has affected the nation’s economy and labor force, including one study which found that Latinas were more likely to drop out of the workforce than workers from other demographic groups.

UCLA Receives Funding for Research Resources on Latino Policy W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s $2.5 million grant will support databases aimed at advancing equitable policy solutions

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has received an 18-month, $2.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The funding will support two new research databases that will help identify and analyze the unique public policy issues surrounding Latinos.

Ultimately, research based on the information in the databases should help decision-makers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors understand how policies that improve the lives of Latinos will benefit the entire nation.

“As the largest non-white minority group in the United States, Latinos are integral to building a prosperous future for all Americans,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. “Yet Latinos face significant barriers to economic opportunity, political representation and social mobility. This funding will enable us to reliably collect data that brings Latinos and the issues that impact them out of the shadows and to create real policy solutions that build a truly inclusive economy and democracy.”

Both databases will be freely available to policymakers, advocates, scholars and the public as a comprehensive resource to broaden understanding of issues affecting the Latino community.

The first database, the Latino Data Hub, will contain data from verified sources on demographics, socioeconomics and civic participation that will help policymakers, community organizations, philanthropists and businesses design and promote policies that benefit Latino communities.

Drawing on UCLA’s unparalleled depth of expertise on issues that impact the Latino community, the database is intended to become a go-to resource for national, state and local data. It also will include statistics and information on climate change and the environment, economic opportunity and social mobility, education, health and housing, all of which contribute to Latino well-being.

As it evolves, the hub will enable users to track progress and setbacks in efforts to ensure a more equitable nation for Latinos.

The importance of clear, reliable and actionable data on Latino communities has been demonstrated repeatedly by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past 18 months, the group has produced research reports focusing on safe access to voting, the costs of excluding undocumented workers from socioeconomic relief programs, and other critical issues.

“The global pandemic has laid bare long-standing inequities that permeate virtually all our systems and institutions,” said Ciciley Moore, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “It also opened a door of opportunity to correct this legacy of inequity, and now is the time to be proactive in building the future we want. Investing in the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative to provide cutting-edge data and research resources means investing in the future where equity is realized.”

The second database, the Latino Research Redistricting Hub, will include statistical, geographic and historical data and analyses to help illuminate how the drawing of state and federal electoral maps affects Latino communities. Redistricting impacts a wide range of issues, from the number of parks in a neighborhood to congressional representation, and the hub will be a resource for officials engaged in redistricting decisions. Its goal is to ensure fair representation in politics and government for the nation’s diverse Latino communities.

“Before we can address inequity, we must tell the truth about our conditions, and that is what data does,” Moore said. “We are proud to invest in creating tools that help us see our biggest challenges clearly and identify equitable solutions that enable us all to thrive.”

Other recent research by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has highlighted the growing political power of the Latino electorate and paths to creating long-term engagement among Latino voters. The initiative also helped secure court victories around voting rights in Texas and Pennsylvania and pushed for the creation of a Latino-focused Smithsonian museum.

Shining a Light on California’s ‘Unseen Latinas’ UCLA researchers join Assemblywoman's effort to make sure no one is left behind in the state's recovery

By Nick Gonzalez

Latinas make less than their male and female counterparts, have never served in a statewide elected position in California and remain underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. A new two-year effort launched by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and the California Latino Caucus seeks to tackle the inequities that the state’s Latinas face.

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) faculty and staff have been at the forefront of the Unseen Latinas Initiative by providing expert testimony in its first year of public hearings to identify problems and solutions. Through cross-sector research, a team of LPPI female experts have been putting a data-driven lens on the educational, economic and career barriers that Latinas must overcome.

“By launching the Unseen Latinas Initiative, California’s leaders are making it clear that they understand that the state’s continued economic prowess requires that Latinas have a fair chance to succeed and thrive,” said Sonja Diaz, LPPI founding director. “Especially as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s time to make sure that no one gets left behind in the recovery and bright future that lies ahead.”

Latinas make up nearly 20% of Californians, and Latina participation in the U.S. workforce is expected to grow by 26% in the next 10 years. Yet new research from LPPI shows that Latinas exited the workforce amid the pandemic at higher rates than any other demographic amid the pandemic, making it clear that recovery efforts should provide specific assistance to help them recover financially and get back on their feet.

“California has an opportunity and responsibility to lead what it means to have a just and equal economy,” said Gonzalez, who earned a law degree at UCLA in 1999. “UCLA LPPI has been a valuable partner on the Unseen Latinas Initiative. LPPI experts have shared key testimony by shining a light on the inequalities Latinas continue to face, as well as the opportunities that exist to make sure Latinas are no longer unseen and can participate in the state’s prosperous future.”

In an October conversation about the Latina wage gap, Diaz urged action to address the child-care and family obligations that pushed Latinas out of the workforce during the pandemic. Without a clear plan to bring them back into the labor market, the repercussions could be devastating for Latino families and for the state’s economy, she said.

LPPI expert Mary Lopez, an economics professor at Occidental College, continued the conversation in a January hearing on the labor market, testifying that policy solutions such as affordable child care and job training are essential in reducing workforce inequities for Latinas.

The Unseen Latinas public hearings series also discussed the challenges that Latinas face in breaking into the legal field, with testimony from LPPI expert Jennifer Chacon, a UCLA Law professor.

Part of the invisibility of the needs and strengths of the state’s Latinas comes from the lack of representation in media and popular culture. At an April hearing, LPPI expert Ana-Christina Ramón provided testimony about the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, which she co-founded and co-authors. Latinos and women are among the groups that remain underrepresented in film relative to their population size.

“We know that Hollywood plays a meaningful role in shaping how people perceive others around them,” said Ramón, who is also the director of research and civic engagement at the UCLA Division of Social Sciences. “When Latinas do not have starring roles or they are not seen as doctors, lawyers or CEOs, that perpetuates the barriers that they face in achieving their full potential.”

For information about the legislators leading Unseen Latinas and for details on upcoming hearings, please visit the Assembly website for the state’s Select Committee on Latina Inequities.

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Receives $3 Million in State Funding Ongoing commitment supports Latino-focused research, especially important as COVID-19 recovery gets underway

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) has received $3 million in ongoing annual state funding to conduct research and develop policy solutions to address inequities that disproportionately impact Latinos and other communities of color.

The state budget signed July 12 included funding for LPPI. The resources will be used to continue the organization’s applied research to help inform future policy efforts and to measure how government actions influence the economic, educational, health and quality-of-life outcomes for the state’s workforce.

“It is clear that California’s story — its future, its economic potential, its role as a national leader — is intertwined with the story of the Latino community,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of LPPI. “We are honored that California has recognized the importance of investing in putting a data-driven lens to shape and implement a 21st century agenda, and we are ready to make sure that research and facts pave a path toward a more just and prosperous future for all Californians.”

The funding was championed by the California Latino Legislative Caucus, with leadership from Sen. Maria Elena Durazo and Assembly members Robert Rivas and Lorena Gonzalez, the chair, vice chair and former chair of the caucus.

“California is the world’s fifth-largest economy, and our innovation and prowess are made possible by the diverse and vibrant communities that demonstrated how essential they are during the pandemic,” Durazo said. “We need to understand how to better include and empower communities who represent California’s future, and there is no better partner to help us understand how to lead with justice and equity than UCLA LPPI.”  

The support for LPPI comes as California prepares for economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, which had disproportionate and devastating public health and economic impacts on the state’s diverse Latino communities. 

“Data tell important stories about what’s working, who is getting left behind, and how our taxpayer investments can be efficient and equitable,” Gonzalez said. “We are proud to partner with UCLA LPPI to make sure we have a data-driven Latino lens on the vision of a vibrant California.”  

LPPI has been on the front lines of driving important policy conversations, particularly as it became clear that the COVID-19 crisis was particularly impacting underserved communities of color. Throughout the pandemic, LPPI research that drove policy outcomes included a report that looked at the racial disparities in what communities were receiving federal aid and on the impacts of the Latino physician shortage amid a public health pandemic. As the vaccination process got underway, LPPI convened more than 70 Latino leaders across the state to urge for better data and equity-driven implementation, which were implemented by the state.

The organization’s research is also focused on highlighting the importance of representation in democratic and civic institutions and processes, and what it means when Californians’ leadership does not represent the totality of communities it serves. For example, a research report highlighted the lack of Latino representation in the California Redistricting Commission, which helped generate action and attention on the selection process. At a national level, research included a report that advocated for the creation of a Latino-focused Smithsonian museum

LPPI was incubated at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the UCLA Division of Social Sciences. 

Uplifting Latina Voices Through LPPI, Telemundo Partnership Kassandra Hernández MPP '20 makes relevant research about the impacts of COVID-19 accessible to a Spanish-speaking community

By Zoe Day

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinas went from being one of the fastest-growing groups in the labor force to one that was hit hardest by unemployment, with 2.4 million Latinas out of work in April 2020.

This finding from the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) at UCLA Luskin is part of a broad body of research on the pandemic’s impact on Latino populations — research that is now being shared with a wider audience through a partnership with Spanish-language news station Telemundo 52.

LPPI research analyst Kassandra Hernández BA ’17, MPP ’20 sees the collaboration as an opportunity to uplift Latina voices and make relevant research more accessible to Latino populations.

“The reports we produce are nothing if no one reads them,” she explained. “We’re studying the impact [of the pandemic] on Latinas, and we would like to reach the people who are being impacted.”

A Telemundo newscast featuring Hernández focused on Latina participation in the labor market, which had been projected to experience substantial growth until the pandemic forced many Latinas to choose child-care duties over paid work. LPPI Director of Research Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas also appeared in the segment, underscoring that “Latinas are overrepresented in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.”

As a native Spanish speaker, Hernández welcomed the chance to connect with the populations that her research focuses on, in their own language.

“Different media outlets are accessible in different languages, but English doesn’t reach Latinas in the same way,” she said.

Two other Telemundo reports featured LPPI-affiliated scholars who shared their expertise on COVID-19’s impact on Latino populations. In one segment, Melissa Chinchilla, a research scientist who studies the intersection of housing, health and community development, explained how unemployment caused by the pandemic led many to move in with friends and family, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission within households.

“Affordable housing and the capacity to accommodate multigenerational families are issues that will require long-term investment,” Chinchilla said.

In another report, Yohualli Balderas-Medina Anaya, a medical doctor on the faculty of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, discussed the long-term symptoms experienced by some COVID-19 patients even after the infection has passed. Anaya expressed concern that some side effects will continue to affect patients for years.

Telemundo reporter Enrique Chiabra, a UCLA alumnus, presented the three-part series aimed at making information about the COVID-19 pandemic accessible for Spanish-speaking populations. That is a key priority for Hernández, who has worked with LPPI faculty experts including Executive Director Sonja Diaz to interpret research and push it into the public sphere.

“Academic research is often not as accessible to the communities it focuses on,” she said. “I want to analyze inequities and share knowledge; I don’t want to stay in the ivory tower.”

Hernández is a double Bruin who earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and labor and workplace studies. After graduation, she worked with AmeriCorps on food insecurity before going back to school to develop her skills in quantitative analysis.

“As a Latina, I have lived what I find in numbers,” said Hernández, a first-generation college graduate and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She spoke about her own mother’s challenges balancing responsibilities as a domestic worker and the demands of being a parent and caretaker.

“I realized not everyone has those same experiences, but I can use numbers as evidence to validate my own story.”

Hernández said she chose the master of public policy program at UCLA Luskin because of the supportive faculty and the opportunity to engage with real-world issues. The experience “opened up my eyes to what I could do and how to analyze policy,” she said. 

Hernández’s research with LPPI has helped shed light on the gender norms and expectations that often push Latina women aside or confine them to the household. The partnership between LPPI and Telemundo, she said, helped break down stereotypes and recognize that Latinas should not be grouped together as a monolith.

As Hernández’s time with LPPI draws to a close, she is excited to meet the next cohort of fellows to continue advancing research and policy work to support Latinas. In the fall, she will pursue her Ph.D. in economics at UC Berkeley, building on her skills from UCLA Luskin to address inequality through policy research focusing on labor, income inequality, immigration, education, food access and environmental economics.

“Everything is connected,” Hernández said. “Inequality dictates access and quality of life.”

Activating Justice Through a 21st Century Latinx Lens UCLA co-hosts a dialogue featuring leading Latinx voices with the goal of sparking a full transformation of the criminal legal system 

By Kacey Bonner

What would our criminal legal system look like if it was truly designed to reduce harm, advance public safety and end America’s legacy as the world’s leading incarcerator?

That was the question on everyone’s mind as leading Latinx elected officials, advocates, academics and media personalities convened to grapple with the issue of criminal justice — a topic of intense national debate.

Hosted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, the May 13-14 convening “Advancing Criminal Justice Reform Through a 21st Century Latinx Lens” had several goals: creating greater visibility of Latinos within the justice reform movement; identifying opportunities to build solidarity with other communities most impacted by the criminal legal system; and advancing transformative policy focused on justice rather than punishment.

“For too long, Latinos have been left out of the criminal justice conversation, even though we are the second most negatively impacted group by numbers behind Black people when it comes to our criminal legal systems,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

With conversations led by faculty experts such as UCLA Law Professor Jennifer Chacón, over 1,000 participants tuned in to hear from a multiracial cadre of 40 speakers covering topics including ending youth incarceration, defunding the police, and the intersection of the criminal legal and immigration systems – all through a Latinx lens.

Speakers including journalist Maria Hinojosa and author Julissa Arce led lively discussions about the opportunity to create more truthful and inclusive narratives in the criminal justice space and develop tailored solutions that address the underlying structural and systemic deficiencies that drive people to engage in harmful acts.

“It was so exciting to see this come together with so many brilliant people who were able to bring fresh perspective on the issue, the challenges and opportunities before us and how we can work in solidarity across race and experience to achieve common goals that make our communities safer and healthier,” said LPPI fellow Paula Nazario, one of the lead organizers of the convening. A UCLA graduate, Nazario is now pursuing her master of public policy at UCLA Luskin.

The event’s opening plenary session included Kelly Lytle-Hernández, a professor of history, African American studies and urban planning at UCLA. Lytle-Hernández gave attendees key insight into the impacts of the criminal legal system on Latinos, the structural racism propping up the system of incarceration and how the criminalization of immigrants is working to expand systems of mass incarceration.

Breakout sessions then enabled attendees to think about how they can demand better data that creates a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities ahead and how Latino-facing organizations — both within and outside the justice reform space — can work together to create broad change.

Throughout the convening, conversation returned to the immense data and knowledge gap that obscures the true impact of the criminal legal system on Latinx individuals, families and communities. If this gap persists, there is a risk of creating solutions that fail to address challenges unique to Latinos who are systems-impacted and perpetuating inequities that exist in our current criminal legal system.

A conversation with Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of Latino Justice PRLDEF, closed the two-day meeting. Cartagena said that, while the U.S. criminal legal system hasn’t changed much in the past five decades, it is on the precipice of big change — change made possible by communities that see an unprecedented opportunity to fundamentally transform systems of justice.

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that there have been amazing opportunities for organizing people around truth, and for having that truth talk to power,” Cartagena said.

“I think we’re stronger than ever to actually have conversations about dismantling systems, about what it means to invest in our communities in different ways and to think outside of every box at every corner so we can get things done.”

 

Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa moderates the opening plenary session with podcast host David Luis “Suave” Gonzalez, author Julissa Arce, District Court Judge Natalia Cornelio and UCLA Professor Kelly Lytle-Hernández.

Jonathan Jayes-Greene of the Marguerite Casey Foundation moderates a “crimmigration” panel featuring Jacinta Gonzalez of Mijente, Abraham Paulos of Black Alliance for Just Immigration, UCLA Professor Jennifer M. Chacón and Greisa Martinez Rosas of United We Dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.


 

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