Josefina Flores Morales PhD

UCLA LPPI Centers Latinas in the Struggle for Reproductive Freedoms Following the Overturning of Roe v. Wade

By Alise Brillault

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI) elevates research that applies a Latina lens on emerging political issues and aims to be nimble in responding to the evolving needs of the nation’s growing and diverse Latino community. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and recent attacks on reproductive freedoms, UCLA LPPI brought together its research, mobilization and leadership capacities to advocate for a Latina-centered response.

UCLA LPPI recognizes that America’s future is Latina. By 2050, Latinas will represent 13% of the U.S. population, 11% of the labor force and have a median age 11 years younger than non-Hispanic white women. Yet too often, Latinas are left out of policy conversations, and they experience significant inequity that places them among our nation’s most vulnerable.

Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, UCLA LPPI has conducted rigorous research to put a spotlight on the challenges Latinas have faced – including exiting the workforce at higher rates than any other group and struggling to keep their businesses afloat as entrepreneurs in sectors like hospitality.

These challenges have now been compounded by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. By ending federal protections for abortion rights, Latinas have not only been deprived of their bodily autonomy – their economic security and ability to make choices about their lives is also undermined.

In response, UCLA LPPI has supported emerging Latina scholars through its policy fellowship program to pursue new research to help quantify the impacts of the Dobbs decision on Latinas. That investigation was recently published in UCLA LPPI’s newest report, “Differential Rights: How Abortion Bans Impact Latinas in Their Childbearing Years.”

Josefina Flores Morales PhD

Josefina Flores Morales, PhD

The policy fellows leading this important research initiative included Josefina Flores Morales, who recently completed her PhD in sociology from UCLA, and Julia Hernandez Nierenberg, a master of social work and master of public policy candidate at UCLA.

“UCLA LPPI is committed to creating pathways for rising scholars to publish applied research and inform policy,” explained the organization’s research director, Silvia González. “It was an incredible opportunity to support Josefina and Julia as they led this project and defined the analytical approach, conducted the research and proposed thoughtful policy recommendations.”

The report was also an opportunity for Flores Morales and Hernandez Nierenberg to receive guidance from UCLA LPPI’s partners at Arizona State University’s Center for Latinas/os and American Politics Research (ASU CLAPR). In addition to obtaining data insights and research support from ASU CLAPR’s Dr. Francisco Pedraza, the report was reviewed by Dr. Rocío R. García and Dr. Kenicia Wright, two women of color faculty members at ASU.

“We were able to work with external reviewers at ASU to get an expert perspective outside of UCLA LPPI that gave us insights from people who have been doing gender, policy and reproductive rights work for many years,” Flores Morales said.

“This was my first time working on a report with external reviewers, and collaborating with Dr. Rocio Garcia and Dr. Kenicia Wright was an honor and privilege,” Hernandez Nierenberg added. “They were both excited and supportive of this project and provided thoughtful feedback for Josefina and me.”

UCLA LPPI has also mobilized community members through expert convenings featuring perspectives from Latina leaders in the reproductive justice space. On August 31st, UCLA LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz led a national webinar alongside moderator Astrid Galván of Axios and panelists Olivia Julianna from Gen-Z for Change; Lupe Rodríguez from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice; América Ramírez of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity Reproductive Rights; and Cathy Torres of Frontera Fund.

This webinar event brought together Latina leaders at the forefront of the reproductive justice movement to discuss the impacts of the Dobbs decision on Latinas’ bodily autonomy, economic wellbeing and political inclusion in American democracy. During this event, participants discussed a meaningful path forward that centers Latinas, from state level protections and abortion fund networks, to comprehensive federal legislation that secures abortion care and reproductive freedoms.

Image: UCLA LPPI Webinar: Latinas in the Fight for Reproductive Rights

UCLA LPPI Webinar: Latinas in the Fight for Reproductive Rights. From top left, Olivia Julianna, Astrid Galván, Lupe Rodríguez, Cathay Torres, and América Ramírez

“The webinar helped to ground our research in some of the tangible, urgent issues facing Latina access to abortion,” said Hernandez Nierenberg.  “Listening to community groups and on-the-ground partners allowed us to formulate a comprehensive list of policy implications based on our research and these conversations, such as enshrining the right to abortion in state constitutions, increasing funding for community-based clinics and hospitals, and protecting transgender and non-binary persons’ reproductive rights.”

Collaborating on this response to the Dobbs decision was a powerful experience for Flores Morales and Hernandez Nierenberg, who will bring this with them in their future academic and professional endeavors.

Flores Morales, who will be pursuing her postdoc at Stanford’s School of Medicine focusing on epidemiology and population health, said, “Julia was a thought partner through and through, and I’m so glad that we were able to work together to create this report. The team at UCLA LPPI was both cheering us on and also providing really important and critical feedback at each step of the way. So it was really a team effort, and I hope that the report reaches a wide audience and continues these critical conversations.”

(From left) Dr. Rosita Ramirez of NALEO, Dr. Angel Molina of ASU CLAPR, Supervisor Nora Vargas and Juana Sánchez of UCLA LPPI at the HACU Annual Conference

(From left) Dr. Rosita Ramirez of NALEO, Dr. Angel Molina of ASU CLAPR, Supervisor Nora Vargas and Juana Sánchez of UCLA LPPI at the HACU Annual Conference

The Role of Hispanic Serving Institutions in Preparing the Leaders of Tomorrow

By Alise Brillault

As one of the youngest and fastest-growing demographic groups in the United States, Latinos are key to the future success of our nation and represent the leaders of today and tomorrow. The 2022 midterm elections saw a record number of Latinos elected to Congress, including the country’s first Gen-Z congressperson. Likewise, young Latinos are increasingly shaping election outcomes, driving record turnout around the salient issues that matter most to them. To truly harness the power of this next generation of changemakers, however, Latinos must have access to the high-quality postsecondary education necessary to bolster their full civic and economic participation.

Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), which are federally designated as having at least 25% Latino/Hispanic undergraduate student enrollment, are essential in preparing the future leadership of this country. UCLA is striving towards achieving HSI status, backed by the support of on-campus units like the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI).

As such, UCLA LPPI’s director of programs, Juana Hernandez Sánchez, led a panel at last month’s Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) conference. Held from October 28-30 in San Diego, the conference drew education administrators, government agency staff, corporate leaders and community partners interested in supporting Latino university students through HSI status and beyond.

In her panel, Sánchez was joined by San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas as well as UCLA LPPI partners Dr. Angel Molina from the Center for Latina/os and American Politics Research at Arizona State University (ASU CLAPR) and Dr. Rosita Ramirez of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). Their discussion centered on the role that Hispanic Serving Research Institutions (HSRIs) play in leveraging rigorous research to inform live public policy debates that impact economic mobility, educational opportunity and quality of life for Latino communities in the U.S. In particular, Sánchez and Dr. Molina discussed how their respective research centers are working to advance equitable, data-informed policymaking and governance while training and supporting Latino students.

“Through our Policy Fellowship at UCLA LPPI, we are contributing to campus-wide efforts to train undergraduates in research, strengthen the graduate education pipeline and promote the retention and success of our Latinx graduate students,” Sánchez explained.

“The research is clear that with more education, individuals experience higher earnings, better quality jobs, higher rates of civic participation and other positive life outcomes,” she elaborated. “Thus, obtaining a postsecondary education is not only vital for individuals’ upward socioeconomic mobility and for U.S. economic prosperity, but also to increase civic participation levels and strengthen our democracy.”

While Latino undergraduates overwhelmingly tend to enroll in HSIs in pursuit of this educational training, Dr. Molina emphasized the need to go beyond enrollment counts to support historically excluded students.

“In order to better prepare the Latino students who will make up the future electorate, public servants and policymakers, HSIs really need to focus on the ‘S’ (‘Serving’) in ‘HSI,’” Dr. Molina said. “For places like ASU, which is a relatively new HSI, and UCLA, which aspires to become an HSI, HACU was a great opportunity for us to learn from the universities who have been doing this work for a long time. They were able to share their insights about what it means to serve students and how they are innovating as the demographic itself is changing.”

Nationally, there are just 21 Hispanic Serving Research Institutes. As one of the highest-ranked research universities in the world, UCLA has the opportunity to orient its teaching and research agendas to better serve Latino communities and learn from peer institutions like ASU. Providing Latino students with access to high-quality research education that explicitly serves their needs will help prepare them to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. The future prosperity of our nation depends on it.

Ju Hong, director of the Dream Resource Center

Ju Hong, director of the Dream Resource Center. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

On Nov. 1, the UCLA Labor Center co-hosted a teach-in about the history and struggle of undocumented students to amplify the “Opportunity for All” campaign, a new statewide effort led by undocumented student organizers, the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law and the UCLA Labor Center urging the University of California system to remove employment barriers impacting thousands of undocumented students.

The teach-in featured presentations from students, faculty and legal experts, as well as screenings of short films “Seattle Underground Railroad” and “Undocumented & Unafraid: Tam Tran & Cinthya Felix and the Immigrant Youth Movement.” Attendees heard firsthand accounts from undocumented students and their friends and family on the difficulties they face navigating the University of California system with restricted work opportunities.

“For over 15 years, UCLA undocumented students have been at the forefront of the fight for immigrant rights and immigrant justice,” said Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center. He spoke about the historical success of the immigrant youth movement in advancing key legislation, including California Assembly Bill 540, the California DREAM Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), each of which he said serves as “a reflection of the power of the immigrant youth movement.”

“The Opportunity For All campaign is yet another defining moment for the immigrant youth movement. The campaign is launching at a critical time in history, because this year is the 10th anniversary of DACA,” said Ju Hong, director of the UCLA Dream Resource Center. “Some of the biggest lessons I learned from the DACA fight is that we have to challenge the system, take bold actions and lean on each other.”

Alondra Banda (pictured), a speaker at the teach-in

Alondra Banda (pictured), a speaker at the teach-in. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

Approximately 44,326 undocumented college students in California currently do not have equal access to on-campus opportunities — such as work-study jobs, paid internships and graduate student research — due to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), a federal prohibition on hiring undocumented people. However, a recent analysis conducted by CILP reveals that IRCA does not restrict hiring practices by state entities, including the University of California. So far, 28 immigration and constitutional law scholars from across the U.S. have signed a letter supporting CILP’s analysis, and more than 2,000 community members have signed a public letter of support.

“The history of progress at the UC is written by the hands of students,” said Jeffry Umaña Muñoz, an undocumented third year student. “More specifically than that, the nationwide advancement of progress for immigrant justice is rooted right here at the UC. We stand here today as living proof of the progress that comes from supporting undocumented communities directly, exemplifying the excellence, critical consciousness and care for community that the UC system instills in each of its students.”

Carlos Alarcón, a UCLA graduate student of public policy.

Carlos Alarcón, a UCLA graduate student of public policy. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

Katie Garamendia, a third-year student, spoke about her grandfather’s experience as a bracero, a farm laborer subjected to harsh, exploitative work conditions for little pay despite promises of workplace protection and fair pay from the U.S. government. For her, the Opportunity for All campaign offers a way to recognize the diligence, courage and accomplishments of immigrants that have been historically ignored.

“Today, we have an opportunity to be different: to change a narrative in the trajectory of righting the wrongs we have made and to actually fulfill the promises that were made to our ancestors, immigrant workers and people like my grandfather,” said Garamendia.

On Nov. 15, student leaders will attend the University of California board of regents meeting in San Francisco to continue advancing the campaign.

“I am a chingona activist fighting for my immigrant community to be recognized for their humanity, not their merit,” said Karely Amaya, an undocumented student leader pursuing a public policy degree. “The University of California has both an opportunity and an obligation to remove barriers to employment for all students, on all 10 of their campuses, regardless of immigration status.”

Watch a recording of the teach-in on Facebook

Original Article by Anna Dai-Liu – for DailyBruin

Rosario Majano headshot

New UCLA LPPI Staff Bring Insights and Accountability to Policymaking Ahead of the 2022 Midterm Elections

By Mirian Palacios Cruz

With the 2022 midterm elections nearing, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI) has been making it clear that candidates must prioritize the needs of Latino voters and other communities of color. As Latinos are one of the key voting blocs capable of deciding election outcomes, it is important that parties engage this growing electorate with policy proposals that center their wellbeing. However, engagement must not end once election season is over. UCLA LPPI’s growing team of research and policy analysts are leading the way in holding lawmakers and change agents accountable to Latino communities for the next two years and beyond.

Jie Zong headshot

Jie Zong

During elections, Latino outreach is sometimes overlooked on the grounds that there is not enough data available to describe Latinos’ electoral patterns. To address this gap, UCLA LPPI is launching the U.S. Latino Data Hub led by the institute’s new Senior Research Analyst Jie Zong. As a public multi-issue repository of digestible, reliable and actionable information on Latinos and other groups, the Latino Data Hub will be accessible to elected officials seeking to better understand the constituents they are serving.

“Focusing on 10 critical issue areas – including demography, economic opportunity and mobility, education, health coverage, housing and voting rights –, the Latino Data Hub will equip policymakers with the insights necessary to design and promote policies that improve the lives of Latinos and communities of color,” Zong explained.

Rosario Majano headshot

Rosario Majano

The data hub’s focus on economic mobility is helping inform the work of Rosario Majano, a new Research Analyst at UCLA LPPI who is studying the impact of the pandemic on Latino entrepreneurship. As part of a joint small business research initiative between UCLA LPPI and the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, Majano’s team will also address the resources communities of color will need as they grapple with the transition to a low-carbon economy. In the context of rising economic uncertainty and the passage of the Inflation Reduction and Recovery Act, Majano said that this project will help UCLA LPPI understand the policy implications on Latino businesses as well as other businesses within historically underserved communities.

“By evaluating the obstacles Latino entrepreneurs face to accessing capital and technology – as well as assessing their engagement in environmental sustainability practices –, we can better understand the landscape of issues directly affecting small businesses and consequently gain a glimpse into the political concerns of small business owners,” said Majano.

Cesar Montoya headshot

Cesar Montoya

In addition to applied research, UCLA LPPI understands the key role that the news media plays in shaping policy debates – which too often leaves out the voices of Latinos. Cesar Montoya, who recently joined UCLA LPPI as a Senior Policy Analyst, is leading an initiative with the Los Angeles Times to increase the visibility of Latinos in public narratives. Through translating academic research into stories that spotlight Latinos’ concerns and contributions, this partnership seeks to expand decision makers’  perception of the American identity.

“By uplifting Latino voices in the media and civic processes, we can work together to bring all communities to key decision-making tables to create a more equitable future,” Montoya noted.

The outcome of the 2022 midterm elections will indicate how much advancement has been made in the last two years to transform Latino political inclusion and representation. Above all, elected officials and political parties have a responsibility to recognize that Latino engagement requires more than investment – it requires leveraging data analysis and a commitment to bolstering public narratives that reflect the impact and contributions of the nation’s growing Latino communities.

Celina Avalos Jaramillo headshot

UCLA LPPI Policy Fellows Fight for an Inclusive Democracy During the Midterm Elections and Beyond

By: Alise Brillault

As we approach the 2022 midterm elections, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI) is working to advance an inclusive democracy that reflects the shifting demographics of the United States. At 19% of the population, Latinos are a youthful and diverse demographic group whose votes are consequential and whose perspectives need to be centered. Not only were they responsible for 51% of U.S. population growth in the last decade, but six out of ten Latinos are of Millennial age or younger.

However, increasing attacks on voting rights in key states threaten to dilute the participation of Latinos and other communities of color in our democracy. These assaults will continue until we build the infrastructure needed to ensure everyone who wants to cast a ballot and make their voices heard has the opportunity to do so.

Through its student fellowship program, UCLA LPPI is building a pipeline of young leaders who are taking on the challenge of ensuring our political system works for everyone. Through hands-on training in areas such as voting rights and election data analysis, students are exposed to the policy challenges of today and are provided the tools necessary to inform a better tomorrow. Alumni of the program go on to shape policy making through influential roles in sectors such as state and federal government, civil society organizations and beyond.

Sebastian Cazares in a Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees meeting

UCLA LPPI Policy Fellow Sebastian Cazares in a Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees meeting.

One such leader, Sebastian Cazares, has already made history as Los Angeles County’s youngest elected official – while working as a policy fellow with the UCLA LPPI Voting Rights Project. Having recently graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in Chicana/o and Central American studies, Cazares has entered his first year of UCLA’s master of public policy program while serving as a member of the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees. According to Cazares, knowledge he has gained from UCLA LPPI has provided guidance for his own work as an elected official – and in turn, his on-the-ground perspective has informed his advocacy work within the Voting Rights Project:

“As a governing board member, I approved my own school board district during the recent redistricting process in a manner consistent with defending civil rights and voting rights. I also sued the City of Santa Clarita and won in a landmark victory, defeating one of the last cities in Los Angeles County to utilize an election system that is proven to disenfranchise Latinos. Both of my personal accomplishments came to fruition due to the incredible education provided by UCLA’s Political Science and Chicano Studies undergraduate programs, the UCLA Luskin School and training I gained from the Latino Politics and Policy Institute.”

Celina Avalos Jaramillo headshot

Alumna Celina Avalos Jaramillo

Likewise, the skills and experience that alumna Celina Avalos Jaramillo gained during her fellowship at UCLA LPPI continue to inform her work as a voting rights advocate and master of public policy candidate at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. While at UCLA LPPI conducting research on topics focused on expanding opportunity for all – from voting rights to health care and criminal justice reform – Avalos Jaramilo co-led an on-campus coalition that increased student voter turnout in the 2018 elections by 500%. Since graduating with her bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA, she has worked with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the U.S. Department of Justice to protect the right to vote.

“I understand what it means to be disenfranchised from the political process and excluded from most public policies,” Avalos Jaramillo revealed. “UCLA LPPI gave me the confidence that I needed as a young Latina from the Eastern Coachella Valley to strive to ensure that every American has the right to live a prosperous, healthy and just life – not just a select few.”

Yaritza Gonzalez headshot

Yaritza Gonzalez

In addition to her on- and off-campus leadership roles, policy fellow Yaritza González Rodríguez is currently engaged in expanding access to the ballot box through her work with the UCLA LPPI Voting Rights Project,. A second-year master of public policy student at the UCLA Luskin School, González Rodríguez has supported the Voting Rights Project on key initiatives to understand different demographic groups’ voting behaviors. These analyses have provided the California Secretary of State with important data on patterns of voting, such as which groups tend to vote by mail as opposed to in-person.

González Rodríguez was recently elected as Director of Legislative Affairs for the University of California Graduate and Professional Council. In this capacity, she disseminates information on how to vote for California propositions and advocates for equitable policy changes within the UC System.  She has also organized community events to endorse candidates and educate on the redistricting process through her role as a Board Member for the Los Angeles County Young Democrats.

“UCLA LPPI and the Voting Rights Project have given me the opportunity to work on important voting rights research and cases that aim to promote an inclusive democracy,” González Rodríguez said. “These experiences inform my other leadership roles, including on critical issues such as redistricting.”

UCLA LPPI is supporting the development of the BIPOC leaders of today and tomorrow who are protecting and expanding voting rights while building a fair and inclusive democracy grounded in equity and justice. These policy fellows backfill the nation’s leadership vacuum by increasing the capacity of new voices to advocate for the needs of underserved communities. This creates new pathways for progress grounded in data and research that ensures no one is left behind.

Trash Talk interview with Author

“Trash Talk: Anti-Obama Lore and Race in the Twenty-First Century” explores the rumors, legends, and conspiracy theories surrounding Barack Obama since his initial run for President in 2004, and continuing to present day. We spoke with author and professor Patricia A. Turner (Departments of African American Studies, and World Arts and Culture/Dance) who discusses how these rumors, legends, and lore often focus on identity by attacking Barack Obama’s faith, patriotism, sexual orientation, and citizenship, and speaks to the impact of such attacks on the political and sociological landscape both now and throughout history.

0:04 – Intro
0:46 – Main argument and contribution of the book
1:38 – Description of Anti-Obama lore
4:18 – Did you think Obama’s presidency would constitute a post-racial America?
6:32 – Why should this folklore be taken into account?
8:06 – Why is this a critical book to read and/or assign?

Dept. African American Studies –
Dept. of World Arts and Culture/Dance –
Arthur Ashe Legacy Program –

Interviewer: Dr. Celia Lacayo, Associate Director of Community Engagement, UCLA Social Sciences & Professor Chicana/o & Central American Studies and African American Studies Department

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UCLA LPPI at CHCI Conference

by Alise Brillault

UCLA LPPI experts and policy fellows were well represented at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. on September 12-15, 2022. CHCI is a leading national organization that convenes members of Congress and other public officials, corporate executives, nonprofit advocates, and thought leaders to discuss issues facing the nation and the Latino community. Taking place at the onset of Hispanic Heritage Month, the conference sought to highlight Latino excellence through an offering of 26 sessions featuring over 200 thought leaders and elected officials – including remarks from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

UCLA LPPI at CHCI Conference

Pictured left to right: Jessie Hernandez-Reyes, Paul Barragan-Monge, Rodrigo Domínguez-Villegas, Nick González, and Bryanna Ruiz Fernandez

Paul Barragan-Monge, director of mobilization at UCLA LPPI, and Rodrigo Domínguez-Villegas, UCLA LPPI director of research, were featured panelists in two different sessions during the week. Barragan-Monge spoke in a breakout session sponsored by UCLA LPPI centered on criminal justice reform. With Latinos accounting for increasingly higher percentages of people in U.S. prisons, the conversation focused on how policymakers and community leaders can pursue comprehensive justice reforms and support formerly incarcerated Latinos in successfully reintegrating back into their communities.

In a breakout session sponsored by Casey Family Programs, Domínguez-Villegas spoke on how to strengthen communities to reduce Latino family separation. From acute crises such as family separation at the border, to longstanding socioeconomic inequities, Domínguez-Villegas discussed with other panelists about the innovative policies and interventions needed to protect Latino families’ holistic safety and well-being.

UCLA LPPI was able to sponsor the attendance of three alumni policy fellows, Bryanna Ruiz Fernandez, Jessie Hernandez-Reyes and Nick González, as well as current policy fellow Rocio Perez.

Ruiz Fernandez had a powerful experience reconnecting with her former UCLA LPPI colleagues in the nation’s capital. Having recently graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in political science and chicana/o studies, Ruiz Fernández is now working as a financial analyst at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in Washington, D.C.

“Sharing a space filled with Latina/o trailblazers in public policy, as a UCLA LPPI alumni, highlighted the abundance of opportunities I have been granted as a result of mentors like Sonja Diaz and Rodrigo Domínguez-Villegas, who are dedicated to opening doors for young Latinos hoping to enact meaningful change across our communities,” Ruiz Fernández remarked.

González, now a second-year Master of Public Policy student at Georgetown University and intern for U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, was inspired by Latino leaders he met at the conference and the diverse fields they work in.

“Aside from reconnecting with my UCLA LPPI colleagues, my favorite aspect of the conference was networking with so many Latinos in public policy from a broad range of issues and sectors,” said González. “Hearing about the diversity of their work felt like a reminder of LPPI’s mantra that every issue really is a Latino issue.”

Perez, currently a Master of Public Policy student at UCLA, was likewise inspired by the community of Latino leaders with whom she was able to network – and some of the high-profile speakers.

“It was incredible to learn about the journeys of Latinos in different industries and network with empowering individuals, as well as reconnect with friends and mentors,” Perez shared. “One of the highlights was witnessing remarks by both the Vice President and President of the United States – who would have thought I would be there!”

Single-mom and full-time SEIU-USWW Janitor Jenny Meija and her two sons pictured with a computer provided by Building Skills Partnership’s digital equity initiatives.

By Lucy González, Graduate Student Researcher; Sophia L. Ángeles, Graduate Student Researcher; Janna Shadduck-Hernández, Project Director, UCLA Labor Center

There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on families. Low-wage essential workers, such as janitors, have been hit particularly hard. The work demands placed on janitors dramatically increased as new safety standards were instated by 2020 COVID-19 protocols. Front-line janitors were at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, and their families also faced serious financial challenges due to job loss and reduction of work hours. The difficulty of juggling parent-worker responsibilities impacted their well-being and mental health. However, few studies have explored the unique experiences of janitor parents and their critical role in the pandemic.

In the fall of 2021, the UCLA Labor Center conducted 16 interviews with janitor parents who are members of the Building Skills Partnership and SEIU-USWW (Service International Employees Union-United Service Workers West) and have children attending LAUSD schools. The study’s goal was twofold: 1) to understand how changing working conditions affected janitors as parents and workers and 2) to understand how an ever-evolving year of online learning shaped parent workers’ ability to support their children. Preliminary findings point to janitor parents’ resiliency in light of the challenges they encountered.

First, our research team found that the sanitation training janitor parents received in the workplace made them acutely aware and critical of their children’s school sanitary practices. Selene,* a Guatemalan mother of two students, shared her worries after learning that her children were tasked with disinfecting shared spaces. She cited that disinfection practices needed to be performed by professionals on a daily basis. Janitor parents’ access to specialized training equipped them to act as health brokers as they consistently discussed best health practices with their children to keep them safe from COVID-19.

Reflecting nationwide trends, more than half of the janitor parents reported that their children struggled academically. Parents cited the lack of personalized communication and consistent support from teachers and school staff as contributing factors. Iris, a Latina mother of two, shared that she reached out to her daughter’s school counselor for help, but never heard back. She believed this lack of support was due to her Latina ethnicity, as she had received negative responses from school staff when she called speaking Spanish versus the more positive responses she experienced when she spoke English.

Single janitor parents also consistently struggled. Nora, an Honduran single mother of two children with special needs, shared how burnt out she was juggling work and parenting since the start of pandemic:

“As a single mother, how is it going on a daily basis? Very hard. It is very hard because I have to be at 100% … I go to work at 6pm until 2:30am … I sleep for just 3 hours … Then go drop them off … Then I take classes … After, I have to pick up my sons. Then I serve them dinner. Can you imagine? I have no life.”

To support janitor parents, we suggest the following recommendations::

  1. Provide coordinated support and resources for working parents, particularly single parent households (e.g., flexible childcare options, financial assistance).
  2. Ensure that school-parent communication is multilingual and through varied and accessible formats.

An article on this research is forthcoming. Read our previous report on the UCLA Labor Center’s programs with worker parents, Learning Together! An Innovative Tutoring Program for Low-Wage Janitor, Garment and Domestic Worker Children (click HERE to download).

Lucy González is a graduate student researcher with the UCLA Labor Center and is a recent MSW graduate. She plans to be a school social worker to work on creating a safe and culturally inclusive school environment for all children.

Sophia L. Ángeles is a graduate student researcher with the UCLA Labor Center’s Worker and Learner project and a PhD candidate in the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies.. Her research focuses on the intersection of immigration and language to examine newcomer youths’ educational experiences and their K–16 trajectories.

Janna Shadduck-Hernández, Ed.D., is a project director at the UCLA Labor Center and teaches for UCLA Labor Studies and the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Her research and teaching focus on developing culturally relevant, participatory educational models with first- and second-generation university students, community members, and youth, with a focus on the organizing efforts of low-wage workers to combat labor and workplace violations.

* All names are pseudonyms to protect our participant’s identity.

“Latino Policy and Politics Institute Founding Executive Director Sonja Diaz, Center, with past and current institute staff and policy fellows. Photo by James Michael Juarez.”

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has officially become the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI), thanks to $3 million in ongoing annual funding from the state of California.

The funding, championed by the Latino Legislative Caucus, was initially secured in 2021 and initiated UCLA LPPI’s transition into a permanent research fixture with a robust fellowship program and a network of nearly 50 affiliated faculty experts across UCLA’s College and professional schools.

Founded in 2017 through a partnership between UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs and division of social sciences, UCLA LPPI was launched to address the most critical domestic policy challenges facing Latinos and other communities of color. Since its inception, the institute has utilized the power of research, advocacy, mobilization and leadership development to propel policy reforms that expand genuine opportunity for all Americans.

Under the leadership of Sonja Diaz, UCLA LPPI’s founding director, the institute has gained national standing as a leading Latino policy think tank. Further, it has become a critical piece of infrastructure in UCLA’s march toward achieving federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by 2025.

Some of UCLA LPPI’s key stakeholders shared the following thoughts on the significance of the institute’s work and the transition from an initiative to an institute with long-term sustainability:

“As chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, I am so grateful for the Latino-centric research from UCLA LPPI that has helped us formulate the policies our communities need most. Latinos play an essential role in California, yet we are disproportionately impacted by issues like the gender pay gap and disparate health outcomes. It is critical that we have a Latino-focused think tank with readily available data on the various topics that Latinos care about most.”State Sen. María Elena Durazo

“It would stand to reason that the state with the largest number of Latinos in the country would recognize the need for a permanent voice on these matters, especially at UCLA – a vanguard of public higher education. This transition reflects the hard work of UCLA LPPI’s original founders and the growing influence of our ‘gente’ in academia and beyond. I applaud UCLA and the staff of UCLA LPPI, and I look forward to greater things and continued collaboration.”Juan Cartagena, UCLA LPPI advisory board member and president emeritus of LatinoJustice PRLDEF

“As a member of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, we refer to data from UCLA LPPI to inform our policymaking on the issues that directly impact California’s diverse Latino communities. I’m especially appreciative of the gender lens that UCLA LPPI applies in its research products, which has played a key role in our Unseen Latinas Initiative. UCLA LPPI’s transition to an established research institute will ensure we are pushing for the right legislative solutions for years to come.”State Sen. Lena Gonzalez

“The Chicano Studies Research Center shares a strong alignment with UCLA LPPI’s scholarly research on the most pressing social and political issues affecting diverse Latinx communities in the U.S. As UCLA LPPI transitions into an institute, we look forward to deepening our partnership and bolstering our shared commitment to raise the profile of Latino scholarship on campus and beyond.”Veronica Terriquez, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

This story and photo were submitted to L.A. Social Science by Alise Brillault (she/her), Communications Manager of the Latino Policy & Politics Institute.


LA Social Science recently interviewed Dr. Raúl Hinojosa, an Associate Professor in the UCLA Department of Chicana/o and Central American Studies and Founding Director of the North American Integration and Development Center (NAID), about his center’s conference on March 4 reflecting on its 25 years of research and innovation.

Interview Chapters:

00:20 – Welcome

01:05 – Dr. Hinojosa, please tell us about your conference “Empowering Diasporas to Address Root Causes: 25 Years of UCLA NAID Center Research & Innovation.” I understand it covered various areas of UCLA NAID Center research and policy innovation, which had three panels of research, policy, and community leaders from the US, Mexico, and Central America, highlighting recent publications and current pilot policy pilot projects.

07:11 – Perhaps you can tell us about the mission of the NAID Center and the highlights of its achievements over the past 25 years. Also, can you tell us about the first panel which I understand highlighted your book written about the North American Development Bank: historical trajectory and lessons learned?

15:57 – Can you tell us about the second panel designed to highlight a new policy monograph “Addressing the Root Causes of Migration,” to be published by the UCLA NAID Center and the DC based Migration Policy Institute? I understand you also unveiled UCLA NAID transnational data mapping website for online detailed geographic visibility in the US, Mexico and Central America. Also, what are the policy recommendations of the NAID-MPI monograph on Promoting the Reinvestment of Remittances and Migrant Savings for Addressing Root Causes of Migration?

26:00 – The third panel is entitled “Transnational Indigenous Empowerment,” which I understand highlighted a financial empowerment pilot project in San Quintin BC organized with Mexican Indigenous “microbanks” and local universities with the support of the NADBank. Can you also talk about how this conference is a part of future trajectory of the NAID Center? I understand the NAID Center, and partners are working on transnational migration and global climate change.


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