Team from UCLA Luskin Social Welfare travels to immigrant detention center in Texas to counsel mothers and children seeking asylum in the U.S.
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and Menlo College Professor Melissa Michelson received Distinguished Career Awards at this year's Midwest Political Science Association convention.
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura received the Distinguished Career Award during the annual convention of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago. The honor was presented April 5, 2019, by the association’s Latino/a Caucus, which also recognized Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College in Atherton, California. Named UCLA Luskin’s dean in 2016, Segura helped launch the School’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative, a research laboratory tackling domestic policy issues affecting Latinos and other communities of color. He is also co-founder and senior partner of the polling and research firm Latino Decisions. Segura’s work focuses on political representation, social cleavages and the politics of America’s growing Latino minority. He has written several publications, directed expansive polling research and served as an expert witness on the nature of political power in all three of landmark LGBT marriage rights cases in 2013 and 2015.
UnidosUS President Janet Murguía will deliver the keynote address at the June 14 UCLA Luskin Commencement. Photo courtesy of Violetta Markelou Photography
By Les Dunseith
Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, has been named the 2019 Commencement speaker for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Murguía has led UnidosUS since 2005. She will deliver the keynote address during the UCLA Luskin ceremony at 9 a.m. on June 14 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.
“Janet Murguía is an inspiration as a woman, a Latina, and a thoughtful and passionate advocate for social justice,” Luskin School Dean Gary Segura said. “In this very difficult time for the Latino population, I am excited to hear her share her insights and determination — developed and refined over decades of advocacy — with our graduating class.”
‘Janet Murguía is an inspiration as a woman, a Latina, and a thoughtful and passionate advocate for social justice.’
— Dean Gary Segura
During her tenure at the organization, which changed its name from the National Council of La Raza in 2017, Murguía has sought to strengthen the work of UnidosUS and enhance its record of impact as a vital American institution. Murguía has also sought to amplify the Latino voice on issues such as education, health care, immigration, civil rights and the economy.
A native of Kansas City, Kansas, Murguía earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and Spanish, and a juris doctorate, from the University of Kansas. She has also received honorary degrees from Cal State Dominguez Hills, Wake Forest University and Williams College.
Murguía began her career in Washington, D.C., as legislative counsel to former U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery from her home state. She worked with the congressman for seven years before joining the Clinton administration, where she served for six years as a deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton, including deputy director of legislative affairs.
Murguía went on to serve as deputy campaign manager and director of constituency outreach for the 2000 presidential campaign of Democrat Al Gore, during which she was the primary liaison between former Vice President Gore and national constituency groups.
In 2001, Murguía returned to the University of Kansas as executive vice chancellor for university relations, where she oversaw KU’s internal and external relations with the public. She is credited with coordinating the university’s strategic planning and marketing efforts at KU’s four campuses.
Over the course of her career, Murguía has been featured in various magazines and newspapers for her work and leadership. This includes being highlighted on Hispanic Business Magazine’s “100 Top Latinas” and “100 Most Influential Hispanics” lists, Washingtonian magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women in Washington,” the NonProfit Times’ list of top 50 leaders of “Power and Influence,” People En Español’s “100 Most Influential Hispanics,” Newsweek’s third annual women and leadership issue, Poder magazine’s “The Poderosos 100,” Latino Leaders magazine’s “101 Top Leaders of the Hispanic Community” and Hispanic magazine’s “Powerful Latinos.”
Murguía was the first Latino to give the keynote speech at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast in Birmingham, Alabama. And she received Alpha Phi’s Frances E. Willard Award in 2018.
Murguía is currently a board member of Achieve, an independent and nonpartisan education reform nonprofit organization, and the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility. She also serves as a member of diversity advisory councils for Bank of America, Charter Communications, Comcast/NBC Universal and Wells Fargo.
From left, AltaMed's Berenice Núñez Constant, vice president, government relations, and Sonja Diaz, executive director of LPPI. Photos by Gabriela Solis
By Gabriela Solis
Although Latinos comprise the largest ethnic group in California, Latino doctors in the state are in short supply, according to recent research from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI).
On Jan. 15, 2019, the UCLA Luskin-based think tank co-hosted a discussion in Oakland that brought together doctors, medical practitioners, academics and advocates to discuss California’s Latino physician shortage.
“California has an alarmingly low rate of Latino doctors. There are 46 Latino doctors for every 100,000 Latino Californians,” said LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz, citing data derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey. “In contrast, there are 405.7 non-Hispanic white physicians for every 100,000 non-Hispanic white Californians.”
“We graduate about 110 Latino medical doctors every year. If we continue forward, it will take almost five centuries to close the gap,” noted Diaz. That data from the Association of American Medical Colleges is included in the LPPI report, “5 Centuries to Reach Parity: An Analysis of How Long It Will Take to Address California’s Latino Physician Shortage,” which was produced under the guidance of LPPI faculty expert David Hayes Bautista, a distinguished professor at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.
Joining Diaz in debate and discussion were Jeffrey Reynoso, executive director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; Arturo Vargas Bustamante, associate professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and public policy at UCLA Luskin; Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president and chief executive officer, California Primary Care Association; Berenice Núñez Constant, vice president, government relations, AltaMed Health Services Corporation; and Carmen Estrada, MD candidate at the UC Davis School of Medicine.
The wide-reaching conversation focused on the shortage’s effects on California’s economy, the needs of medical providers and the shortcomings within higher education that contribute to the shortfall.
Estrada spoke about her personal experience of being one of the limited number of Latinos currently pursuing a medical degree. Estrada’s first-hand experiences traced her personal journey to medical school from a California State University and the lack of outreach that she said created unnecessary challenges in her career choice.
Núñez Constant shared that although her organization, AltaMed, is constantly looking for Latino physicians, “The supply is just not there.” She also highlighted the difficulty of retaining a Latino physician in such a competitive job market.
Vargas Bustamante’s research supported Núñez Constant’s comments on workforce recruitment. Bustamante said he has found a substantial pipeline problem for Latinos in their transition from high school to college and their transition from college to medical school. Based on his interviews with Latino pre-med students, medical school applicants, Latino medical students and recently graduated Latino physicians, Vargas Bustamante said students who may have an interest in the field often feel discouraged by the lack of investment to recruit and retain Latino students. Many then choose another career.
The panel agreed that this complex issue requires a strategic collaboration of California policymakers, medical providers and academia to form solutions.
But, said California State Assemblyman Robert “Rob” Bonta, expressing his support, “I think we have some wonderful opportunities.” Bonta, a Democrat whose California District 18 includes Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, serves on a number of legislative committees, including the Health Committee. “Your timing couldn’t be better in terms of uplifting and raising the issue. This is something I’d be proud to work on, and I think it needs to be worked on.”
To learn about California’s Latino physician shortage, visit latino.ucla.edu/health.
View additional photos on Flickr.
As results rolled in from the November 2018 midterm elections, a team of researchers from the Latino Politics and Policy Initiative (LPPI) provided real-time analysis to assess how the country’s fastest-growing voting bloc impacted the outcome of major contests. Among other findings, the UCLA Luskin-based LPPI reported that Latino voter participation saw a striking increase compared to the 2014 midterms. LPPI followed up with a report detailing its analysis of election results in six states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and Texas. A forum co-hosted by LPPI and the Aspen Institute Latinos in Society Program delved into the results before a crowd of 175 people, as well as a live stream audience. And LPPI experts were widely cited in election coverage by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, NPR, NBC News and many other outlets.
Moderator Abigail Golden-Vazquez of the Aspen Institute's Latinos and Society Program, far left, led panelists through a wide-ranging discussion of voter outreach issues. Photos by Amy Tierney
By Les Dunseith
As the days passed after the Nov. 6, 2018, elections and vote tallies across the United States were finalized, it became increasingly clear that voters had turned out in record numbers for a midterm election cycle. It also became evident that Latino voters played a pivotal role in many races.
Tom Perez, the first Latino to serve as chair of the Democratic National Committee, told an audience of about 175 people that gathered Nov. 14 at the Japanese American National Museum for a panel discussion of the midterm elections that his party’s get-out-the-vote effort targeted many populations that have been historically hard to motivate in large numbers, including Latinos.
“The number of folks who turned out this year who were first-time voters was a remarkable phenomenon.”
— Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee
“The number of folks who turned out this year who were first-time voters was a remarkable phenomenon,” Perez said during the event co-hosted by UCLA Luskin-based Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) and the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program.
Perez was joined by three other experts on the U.S. Latino electorate during a wide-ranging discussion about the outcome of key 2018 races and what it means for the future of Congress and the 2020 presidential election.
Although turnout was higher than in most midterm elections, the proportion of eligible Latino voters who cast ballots was not as high as it could be. Even so, Perez is focusing on carrying the increased voter engagement of 2018 into future elections.
“I mean, you look at turnout and I think it was up 174 percent in 2018,” he said. “Can we do more? Absolutely. There’s no doubt that there are votes that are left on the table.”
The panel discussion coincided with the release of a new report by LPPI that analyzed 2018 midterm results in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and Texas — states with large Latino populations.
“It’s not about this election. It’s not about the next election. It’s about constantly being present in the Latino community and organizing to get people involved.”
— Matt Barreto, faculty co-director of LPPI
The report found a significant increase in Latino ballots cast, said panelist Matt Barreto, faculty co-director of LPPI and professor of political science and Chicana/o Studies at UCLA.
“We can observe that here in California about 40 percent of majority Latino precincts in Southern California had over a 70 percent increase. For non-Latino precincts, it was only 20 percent, so it was twice as high in the Latino community,” Barreto noted about the difference in voter turnout in 2018 as compared to 2014.
On the Republican side, Daniel Garza, president of the Libre Initiative, said campaign strategists for the GOP missed opportunities to connect with the Latino electorate on many issues by continuing to focus on the divisive rhetoric that has marked much of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“Donald Trump never shaped my values or my conservative views. I am pro-life. I believe in a limited government. Less regulation,” Garza continued. “But [Republicans] weren’t connecting on those issues as well as they should.”
Even though the midterm results generally favored his party, Perez said it is unwise to view any demographic group as a monolithic entity that will always vote a particular way.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that civil rights is about inclusion. It’s about making sure everyone has a seat at the table,” Perez said. “Demographics are never definitive. You need to show up. You need to build relationships. You need to listen. You need to be responsive. And the reason we were successful is that we responded when we heard from folks, ‘I want a better life for my kids.’”
The panelists also talked about voter suppression and how policymakers could make it easier for citizens to cast their ballots. A key point of discussion was the fact that national campaign strategies often focus on likely voters at the expense of people who vote less often, which includes many Latinos.
Barreto noted that a Latino voter tracking poll asked respondents whether they had been contacted by a campaign. Initially, the rate of contact among Latinos was 40 percent. By Election Day, 53 percent of Latinos in the battleground congressional districts said that they had been contacted — a higher rate for Latinos than for whites in those districts.
Even though 53 percent is historically high, “what’s frustrating is that there are still millions of people who didn’t receive any contact at all,” Barreto said.
Also on the panel was Democrat Tatiana Matta, whose bid to unseat GOP incumbent Kevin McCarthy in U.S. House District 32 was unsuccessful. She spoke about some of the challenges she faced to reach potential supporters in her district in the Central Valley of California.
“A lot of [my] connections were made as a Latino, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity. But we have to work for it.” — Tatiana Matta, on the challenge to reach supporters in her bid for a congressional seat
“My district is very rural. So to get from one home to another home, you have to get in your car,” Matta explained. “So you have to physically take volunteers or canvassers to those communities and push those resources out. If not, you’re not going to reach them.”
To reach Latino voters in many areas, candidates must be comfortable speaking Spanish.
“A lot of [my] connections were made as a Latino, and I’m very grateful for that opportunity,” she said. “But we have to work for it.”
Garza expressed a similar sentiment.
“It’s hard to get ahold of people,” he said. In Nevada, for example, Garza said that when his organization’s campaign workers made calls or canvassed, people were often unavailable. “So it’s hard work, too. It’s not because of indifference.”
Barreto interjected. “I think it’s entirely because of indifference,” he said bluntly. “When campaigns look at the voter file and someone doesn’t have a vote history, they just put them in another bucket. They don’t say, ‘How hard are you to contact?’ They just don’t contact them. So we have to change that cycle.”
Barreto told the crowd, which included many people who had participated in Latino voter registration and outreach efforts, that the 2018 midterm elections are just one step in a long process.
“It’s not about this election. It’s not about the next election,” Barreto said of the long-term political importance of the growing Latino population in America. “It’s about constantly being present in the Latino community and organizing to get people involved. And at some point that will pay off for whichever side wants to take advantage of our voters.”
Learn more about the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.
More information about the Aspen Institute and its Latinos and Society Program is available on social media via @AspenLatinos.
View video of the event on YouTube:
Browse additional photos on Flickr:
By Les Dunseith
As television journalist Jorge Ramos prepared to leave the stage after his visit to UCLA on Oct. 9, dozens of UCLA students swarmed toward him.
They wanted to get closer to Ramos, an icon for many Latinos in the United States. Graciously, he motioned them forward, and soon he was surrounded on all sides by young admirers. Ramos then spent several minutes chatting with them and posing for selfies.
Kimberly Fabian is a sophomore pre-major in the undergraduate major in public affairs that launched this fall at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She was among those grateful for the opportunity to engage directly with Ramos at the event, during which he was presented the UCLA Medal by Chancellor Gene Block.
“He is the face of Univision, and Univision is what everyone watches when you grow up in a Spanish-speaking household,” she said of Ramos, the longtime host of Univision Noticias’ evening news and its Sunday newsmagazine. “Even if you don’t know a lot about him or his politics, he is someone who has just always been there. It is a big deal to see him live when you are so used to seeing him on the screen.”
Many other attendees shared Fabian’s sense of familiarity and excitement about Ramos, including Ricardo Aguilera, also a sophomore pre-major in public affairs. He said making time to attend the event was an easy decision.
“Jorge Ramos — he’s a big voice within the political community, within journalism, within advocacy,” he said. “To hear him talk, to hear that inspiration, to see what’s going on? Definitely. I signed up right away.”
UCLA Luskin graduate student Gabriela Solis had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Ramos before the medal ceremony.
“I guess you never really know about people who get that much attention — how they are going to act or treat other people,” Solis said. “But he was so kind, very down-to-earth. … He has a nurturing presence about him that is really great.”
Solis found inspiration in Ramos’ words, particularly his call to action for students to speak up when they witness injustice or intolerance.
“As someone who is nearing graduation, I have had a lot of thoughts about what I need to do after UCLA, how I can be more useful,” she said. “He was very adamant about taking risks, really using my voice, and using my education to push against the powers-that-be right now.”
Solis said she is sometimes hesitant to speak out, worrying about the potential repercussions of being more vocal or tackling issues outside of her comfort zone.
“Hearing him talk gave me a little bit of a push to think that maybe I could explore doing more organizing, or working closer in the community or potentially running for office,” Solis said.
Inspiration was a familiar theme among attendees, as was gratitude for Ramos’ kind manner and willingness to engage with them on a very personal level.
In a hallway afterward, Fabian approached Ramos with her cellphone in hand.
“I asked him, ‘Can you do me a favor and give a shout-out to my dad’s family and to my mom’s family?’ And he was like, sure. ‘I am here with Kimberly and don’t forget to vote,’ ” Fabian said about the message from Ramos she recorded.
“On top of him being this public figure, suddenly it became something special — here he was saying my name. It was surreal,” she recalled with a wide smile.
At one point, Dulce Vasquez, a first-year master’s degree student in public policy, asked Ramos about the political climate in their shared home state of Florida. Vasquez wanted to know whether Ramos thought the Florida vote in November’s midterm elections might be impacted by the U.S. response in 2017 to devastation in Puerto Rico resulting from Hurricane Maria. Many refugees from Puerto Rico have since relocated to Florida.
“I have not seen the fallout from Hurricane Maria being talked about enough a year later, especially on the West Coast,” said Vasquez, who has prior experience campaigning for Democratic candidates in the state. “It happened near Florida, which is near to my heart, and knowing the shifting demographics of Florida, I was very interested in hearing Ramos’ opinion about the impact on his home state.”
Although Ramos said he doubts that the immediate election impact will be significant, he said that he expects the changing demographics of Florida to eventually have an impact on election results in the traditionally conservative state, perhaps as soon as 2020.
“I kind of thought the same thing,” Vasquez said later of Ramos’ response. “People who have left the island are settling into their new home, and it is going to take a lot of organizing over the next two years to get them all registered, but I think there will be a very strong anti-Republican sentiment among Puerto Ricans moving forward. His response was reaffirming and very spot-on.”
The event was presented as part of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Lecture series at UCLA, and Fabian said the entire evening was memorable for her.
“On top of Jorge Ramos being there, the chancellor was there. And the Luskins were there,” she said afterward. “Hearing these names from a distance, it kind of seems like it’s make-believe. But then when you meet them in person and see that they are actual people who do very real things for us as students — I think it’s beautiful.”
Before the medal ceremony, Solis had the opportunity to meet Chancellor Block and the Luskins, and she also engaged directly in conversation with Ramos.
“I’m a policy fellow at UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, and we did a study recently on Latino voter turnout,” she began. “We studied a get-out-the-vote campaign with AltaMed, a health provider that has historically helped with the Latino community. … In the precincts that they targeted, Latino voter turnout went up 137 percent.”
Ever the inquisitive journalist, Ramos jumped in with a question of his own: “What did they do right?”
Solis explained that volunteers from the medical services provider canvassed in the community wearing T-shirts with the AltaMed name. “The community knows that brand,” Solis told Ramos. “They had people in waiting rooms to sign them up to register to vote. This was the kicker — the doctors would get some sort of light or reminder with something like, ‘Voting is coming up,’ when they were seeing their patients.”
Ramos said this is the sort of extra effort that is needed to combat an ongoing problem with Latino voter turnout, which is often far below that of other demographic groups, and was a factor in the 2016 presidential election.
“I think partly people didn’t want to vote for Donald Trump, and I can understand that. But also they didn’t want to vote for the Democrats because, in the previous government, Obama … promised to do something on immigration reform his first year in office in 2009, and he didn’t do it,” Ramos told Solis. “So people were saying, ‘I didn’t want Trump; I don’t want the Democrats — I’m going to stay home.’ That’s a problem.”
Ramos’ willingness to answer their questions forthrightly impressed many of the students. They also appreciated that Ramos made a point to relate to them as young people. More than once, he noted that he was once in a very similar place in his own life.
“There is a part of me that is very proud,” Vasquez said. “I am a first year master’s student at UCLA, and there is something very special about having that UCLA connection to Jorge Ramos, knowing that UCLA was his home when he first arrived in the United States.”
Fabian had a similar reaction. “With him being a former student at UCLA, and me wondering whether I can ever reach a level of relevance in my life, now I believe I can,” she said. “He just seemed like a normal guy, someone who was once a normal student — but if I can have his passion, then I feel like I can be up for the challenge. It is very inspiring. It makes me feel: If he could do it, why can’t I?”
Mary Braswell and Stan Paul of the UCLA Luskin communications staff also contributed to this story.
View additional photographs from the Luskin Lecture and a dinner with Ramos that followed on Flickr:
Opening remarks were provided by Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Photo by Stan Paul
By Stan Paul
When elected leaders from across the country gathered at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for three days of workshops on housing, transit, criminal justice, education, public safety and immigration, a recurring theme ran through each conversation.
“Every issue, every single issue, is a Latino issue,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative and a 2010 graduate of UCLA Luskin who got a master’s degree in public policy.
Diaz was speaking to about 60 state legislators, county and municipal officials, school board members and higher education trustees at the first-ever National Education Leadership and Public Policy Academy, held Aug. 3–5.
Organized by LPPI and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, the event was a “master’s course of our policy work … in the hopes that you will take this information and apply it in your communities,” Diaz told participants, who traveled from as far away as Florida, Connecticut and Hawaii.
Discussions led by expert panelists, she said, would be informed by two things: data and facts.
“By shaping policy and making sure this policy is tailored for kids, for immigrants, communities of color and, frankly, all Americans, we’re all better off,” Diaz said. “And we’re going to do it together.”
For Arturo Vargas, chief executive officer of NALEO Educational Fund, one major goal was how to get to the “great unengaged.” Many Latinos have little or no faith in the political system, he said, and “there isn’t any significant investment in Latino voter engagement in the United States.”
Citing the 2016 elections, Vargas continued, “Half of the Latino electorate was not part of the national conversation with the campaigns, and it happens consistently.” He urged officeholders to take up some of this responsibility in their districts.
The weekend series of presentations and workshops was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by State Farm. It included opportunities to network with peers and while participating in group sessions, attendees developed tools and information to craft policy reforms on issues such as public safety.
Marisa Perez, a member of the board of trustees at Cerritos College, said many Latino students get their start in higher education at a community college.
“Whatever I can take back to my college to better support our students, that’s what I’m looking forward to learning about,” Perez said as the conference got underway.
Citing an achievement gap in his home state, Jon Koznick, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, said he wanted more hard data on issues related to Latino youth, especially boys.
“I’m excited to learn a little bit more about how we can have some stronger impact” in economic development and employment, he said.
Speakers and panelists at the academy included researchers from UCLA and other universities, as well as from policy institutes, foundations and associations.
Gary Segura, dean of UCLA Luskin, presented a case study on transit-oriented development in Oakland’s Fruitvale Village, that city’s largest Latino community. With co-panelist Chris Iglesias, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Unity Council, he discussed how the city used transit as a means for economic development and how that affected residents’ socioeconomic well-being.
Segura, a faculty co-director of Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, pointed to the initiative’s empirical study comparing Fruitvale residents to those living in similar communities over a 15-year period in the Bay Area and throughout California. The study found that, although the Latino population in Fruitvale changed by only 1 percent, homeownership increased by 8 percent, the bachelor’s degree completion rate climbed by 13 percent, and household income increased by 47 percent.
“So you can change a place without changing a people if you provide a set of economic structures and opportunities and services,” Segura said.
The dean encouraged participants to seek partnerships with local policy schools. “Oftentimes, communities of color think of universities as not invested in their issues, and, by the way, that frequently is true,” Segura said. “But there are places where that is not true and I would encourage you to look.”
Matt Barreto, UCLA professor of political science and Chicana and Chicano studies, presented demographic data to explain the growth in the country’s Latino population.
“Why is the Latino population growing so quickly? Because we have an extremely young population,” said Barreto, pointing out that the largest population distribution is under age 5; for whites, the largest group is adults in their 50s.
“The population is growing at a rate faster now than most demographers 10 years ago were anticipating or estimating. And it’s almost entirely driven by U.S. births,” said Barreto, also a faculty co-director of LPPI.
Amada Armenta, who joined the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty in July, spoke about the intersections between criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems.
Even in so-called sanctuary cities, contact with the police can have consequences for immigrants because of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s practice of using criminal justice databases to find immigrants and staking out jails and courthouses to take people into custody.
“Interactions with police have important ramifications for the way people feel about local government, democracy and their place in society more generally,” Armenta said. “I want local leaders to understand that … true community policing requires changing police practices so that they align with priorities of neighborhood residents.”
In a keynote lunchtime address, Vargas of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, focused on the U.S. Census.
“The census is really only about two things: It’s about power and money: who gets it, who keeps it, and who’s denied it,” he said. “When the numbers are wrong, the allocation of political power is uneven.”
Legal battles over a proposed citizenship question are being waged in court, he said, but the public also must be heard. The U.S. Census Bureau is seeking public input on the 2020 headcount.
“We need your help, people,” Vargas said. “We need to fight this.”
View more photos from the conference in an album on Flickr.
Elected officials from over a dozen different states, including state legislators, municipal and school district officials, gathered Aug. 3-5 at UCLA Luskin for a landmark conference co-hosted by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI). More than 60 elected officials were expected to participate in the first-ever National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) National Education Leadership and Public Policy Academy to learn about effective public policies that support Latino families and communities. NALEO Educational Fund and LPPI designed an innovative public policy curriculum to strengthen the governance capacity of Latino policymakers in the critical policy areas of education, economic development, criminal justice and immigration. “UCLA is ecstatic to partner with NALEO Educational Fund to empower Latino elected officials with the data and strategy necessary to address today’s most critical policy challenges and improve the well-being of Latinos from Connecticut to California,” said Sonja Diaz, LPPI’s executive director. The invitation-only intensive training featured modules created by LPPI faculty, with a cadre of national policy experts and practitioners from across the U.S. advancing evidence-based policymaking. Conference speakers included Diaz and her LPPI co-founders — UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and Matt Barreto, professor of political science and Chicano/a Studies at UCLA — as well as LPPI-affiliated faculty such as Amada Armenta, who recently joined the faculty of UCLA Luskin Urban Planning. NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director Arturo Vargas also participated.
Undergraduate Celina Avalos (center, wearing glasses) during a meeting of the student staff with LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz. Photo by Les Dunseith
By Les Dunseith
The new think tank at UCLA known as the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) has moved quickly to bring together scholars and policymakers to share information that can help political leaders make informed decisions about issues of interest to Latinos.
One of the goals of LPPI, which received its startup funding from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Division of Social Sciences, is to provide better access to information to help leaders nationwide craft new policies.
“It is impossible to understand America today without understanding the Latino community and the power that it wields. And this institute is going to do that,” Scott Waugh, UCLA executive vice chancellor and provost, told the crowd at the official launch of LPPI in December 2017.
Representatives of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and throughout UCLA were among a crowd of about 175 people that also included elected officials, community activists and other stakeholders who gathered in downtown Los Angeles. The co-founders of LPPI — Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Studies Matt Barreto, UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz MPP ’10 — “have a vision that reaches not just inside the School of Public Affairs but reaches out across the campus in areas like health, education, science, the arts — wherever Latinos have made a difference and continue to effect change in a profound way,” Waugh said at the launch event.
LPPI works with UCLA faculty to produce research and analyze policy issues from a Latino perspective — aided by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of students from UCLA Luskin and other schools. For example, students associated with LPPI were involved in the production of two recently released reports:
- An empirical analysis of Fruitvale Village in Oakland, California, that assessed aggregate census tract socioeconomic outcomes to evaluate changes for those living there compared to those living in similar communities in the Bay Area.
- A state-by-state analysis of Latino homeownership, plus data research on national disasters and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the 2017 Hispanic Homeownership Report issued by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP).
Gabriela Solis, a UCLA Luskin MPP and MSW student whose focus at LPPI is on housing and displacement, provided some of the information in the NAHREP report, working from raw Census data.
“My background is in homelessness in L.A. County and extreme poverty,” said Solis, a policy fellow at LPPI. “With this research and learning about homeownership rates, and who gets to buy homes and who gets loans, it’s something that I had really never thought about too much. It’s been really interesting.”
Several students also traveled to Sacramento in February, during which LPPI visited legislators and their staffs, and presented applied policy research before the California Latino Legislative Caucus.
LPPI’s inaugural Sacramento legislative briefing included research on three policy areas: the Latino Gross Domestic Product; Criminal Justice and Bail Reform; and the impact of Social Science Research on DACA litigation.
Sofia Espinoza MPP ’18 was also a Monica Salinas fellow during her time as a student. She focused on criminal justice in her schoolwork, so joining the effort in Sacramento dovetailed nicely with her interests.
“Being on our Sacramento trip and meeting with all Latino legislators and aides, that’s really important,” Espinoza said. “The higher up you go in academia, to see people who look like you doing amazing work, I think that is really a value add for LPPI.”
LPPI Director Diaz said her student team includes a mix of graduate students like Solis and Espinoza and undergrads with an interest in public affairs and
Celina Avalos, wan undergraduate student in political science, served as special projects associate for LPPI during the 2017-18 academic year.
“A lot of it does have to do with political science, what I hope to do in the future,” she said. “My main focus was never on policy. But being here in LPPI and working with [Diaz], I have gotten more passionate about it — how impactful public policy actually is.”
Diaz said the LPPI students work as a team. “For the undergrads, what is great is that they have a seat at the table,” she said. “There is integration. There is cohesive learning. We are learning from each other. The students are on the calls with the external stakeholders. They are going on these trips. They are supporting our events.”
The undergrads also see first-hand what it is like to be a graduate student involved in impactful research efforts.
“Working with the graduate students, I get to hear from them and see the work that they are doing,” Avalos said. “I have found it really inspiring seeing these Latino women — honestly, I look up to them. I see them doing their research work and think, ‘Wow, look at them.’ It has definitely changed my perspective on what I hope to do in the future.”
The inspirational potential of LPPI was an important motivation for Segura in getting the new research center underway and finding a home for it at UCLA.
Segura, who secured approval to hire additional UCLA Luskin faculty members with expertise in Latino policy, said the day-to-day work being done by LPPI helps bolster UCLA’s capacity to provide role models for its Latino students.
“I genuinely care about every research opportunity that I have with LPPI,” Espinoza said. “And it really hits close to home. It gives you an added desire to do well and a drive to succeed.”
Segura said of the LPPI students: “I have been at events with them. I have seen them present on our behalf. I have seen the product of their work. And they are doing great.”
The students fully embraced LPPI’s goal to advance knowledge about Latinos through work that actually involves Latinos themselves.
“It’s why we do what we do,” Espinoza said. “It’s motivating.”
For more information about how to support LPPI, contact Ricardo Quintero at (310) 206-7949 or by email at email@example.com.
A version of this story also appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Luskin Forum magazine.