Faculty and researchers from UCLA’s Latino Politics and Policy Initiative in the Luskin School of Public Affairs are not only documenting the changing dynamics of voting in America. They also serve as champions of voting rights that will allow Latinos and other underrepresented groups to step into their political power.

Since 2014, the initiative has drawn on extensive research and real-time analysis of election cycles, diving into issues that impact voters of color—particularly Latinos, a population that represents the plurality of California and is the largest non-white ethnic group in the nation.

The group’s flagship advocacy effort, The Voting Rights Project played a role in shaping new voting rights legislation that has passed the U.S. House and is awaiting Senate action.

Led by UCLA alum Sonja Diaz as founding director, the goal of LPPI is to drive policy actions that address the needs of Latinos.

“Directing UCLA LPPI has provided an unparalleled opportunity to leverage my entrepreneurial skills with my passion for social change in my hometown,” Diaz said. “It has enabled me to put a bright spotlight on the issues that Latinos care about and the power I’ve seen in our communities since I was a child.  “It’s also created the space to develop data-backed policy for this incredibly diverse and complex population that far too few people have taken the time to really understand.”

Diaz and UCLA professor of political science Matt Barreto, who are both voting rights experts, testified during House hearings on the bill and offered solutions to combat recent attacks on access to the ballot box. Their testimony contributed to “Voting in America,” a report led by Subcommittee Chair G.K. Butterfield that was used to develop the new voting rights legislation.

Drawing on extensive research and real-time analysis of election cycles since 2014 into the behavior of voters of color – particularly Latinos – Diaz and Barreto outlined the changing dynamics of voting in America.

They highlighted how the American electorate is shifting due to growing numbers of young Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander voters and how voting rights have been curbed since Shelby v. Holder gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act through actions like voter ID laws and lack of multilingual ballots.

They also recommended steps our federal government should take to protect access to the ballot box in light of the 2021 redistricting cycle. UCLA LPPI’s work on the new voting rights legislation included an in-person briefing with Rep. Butterfield at UCLA Luskin with senior policy fellows and policy faculty experts.

“The architects of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought to ensure all Americans were able to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot in the face of widespread discrimination.” Diaz said. “While we have made real progress in curbing the racial discrimination of Jim Crow, we find ourselves in a new era of vote denial and suppression and we cannot go backward.”

With more than 400 bills in state legislatures across the nation aimed at restricting voting rights introduced this year, the work is vital for all Americans.

“We are at a critical moment in our democracy,” Barreto said. “As the demographics of the country shift toward being less white, those who have always held power are doing everything they can to retain it, including trying to restrict the fundamental right to vote.”

Without a comprehensive solution such as sweeping voting rights legislation will protects the rights to vote, Diaz said she is concerned that the country not only risks silencing the voices of youthful, diverse electorates but also jeopardizing our very democracy.

Within this context, Diaz and Barreto’s pivotal efforts to ensure all eligible voters can cast a meaningful ballot couldn’t be more critical, especially because those efforts are squarely focused on protecting Latinos and other communities of color.

To this end, in just the past year and a half, LPPI has released research highlighting opportunities to expand access to the ballot box through vote-by-mail, the increasing influence of voters of color and information into why some may want to limit their power.

They are advocating for the need for deep, meaningful and sustained engagement of growing electorates like Latinos and Asian Americans. In December 2020, the Voting Rights Project hosted a symposium bringing together voting rights practitioners, expert witnesses, and legal scholars from around the country. The convening explored a path forward to protect the right to vote and craft a 21st Century voting rights act.

The work to increase Latino political power and strengthen the voting rights of underrepresented Americans is personal for Diaz. She marched in the streets with her parents to protest Prop 187, a California ballot proposition passed in 1994 that sought to restrict access to public services for undocumented immigrants.

“Protesting on the streets served as my first education in the power of the vote,” Diaz said. “It’s where I decided that I would use my power to advance equitable policy and expand civil rights, so that dignity and opportunity are not limited to where you live or how you identify, but accessible to everyone.”

By Alise Brillault, Communications Manager, UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative

November 29, 2021

Young Latino leaders are key to America’s future. As California’s plurality and the nation’s second largest ethnic group, Latinos were responsible for 51% of U.S. population growth in the last decade and represent an increasingly youthful and diverse population. More than half of young Americans are people of color, and six out of ten Latinos are Millennials or younger.

Yet, Latinos are underrepresented in leadership positions and overrepresented in low-wage jobs. Latinos only account for 1.2% of elected officials in the country. During a pandemic in which Latinos have been nearly three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from COVID-19, it is imperative that Latino communities see themselves and their needs reflected in political decision-making. Further, the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing economic inequities, even while Latinos serve as the economic drivers of America. In fact, if U.S. Latinos were their own country, they would have the 7th largest GDP in the world. Ultimately, the nation’s success is predicated on Latinos’ success, and these numbers remind us how critical it is to invest in young leaders of color.

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (UCLA LPPI) recognizes the need to harness the talent and potential of young Latino leaders to bring us to a future where we all can thrive. Through its flagship student fellowship program, UCLA LPPI is training the elected officials and organizational leaders of tomorrow to center historically marginalized communities at decision-making tables. But the policy challenges that student fellows tackle are not just résumé boosters. The issues at hand are often deeply personal to them.

Bryanna Ruiz, Undergraduate student; Area of study: Major in political science, minor in Chicanx studies and public affairs; Expected graduation: 2022

For example, Bryanna Ruiz, an undergraduate fellow, had real worries about the health of her family members who were frontline workers. “My mother is a house cleaner, and at the beginning of the pandemic I was scared for her,” Ruiz reveals, also noting that her family did not qualify for the first rounds of CARES Act stimulus payments due to their mixed status. “In the pandemic, frontline workers were the largest impacted yet were treated as disposable.”  So, for fellows like Ruiz, it has been significant to be at UCLA LPPI as they conduct research on the effects of the pandemic on essential workers of color and convene advocates and policy leaders to identify solutions for protecting those workers.

Ruiz, who is now in her fourth year as a fellow, has also gotten hands-on experience with a variety of career paths that she never previously considered — from assisting co-founder Dr. Matt Barreto with mixed-methods research on automatic voter registration to aiding the communications team with report rollouts. “As a first-generation college student, it’s hard to picture oneself in roles not exposed to growing up,” says Ruiz. “I’ve discovered, for instance, that uplifting research through strategic communications is just as crucial as the research itself.”

The work has been so rewarding that Ruiz even decided to continue with her fellowship remotely while she studies abroad in Italy during UCLA’s Fall Quarter. “I didn’t want to miss out on important research around the 2022 midterm elections and the chance to engage in a collaboration between UCLA LPPI and the University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program,” said Ruiz. The latter project seeks to uplift diverse Latino stories at this historic tipping point by collecting 1,000 oral histories.

Paula Nazario, Graduate student; Area of study: MPP (Master of Public Policy); Expected graduation: 2022

Graduate Fellow Paula Nazario also feels a direct stake in shaping a new Latino narrative with her work focusing on Latino economic issues. While contributing research to a report demonstrating that Latinas exited the workforce during the pandemic more than any other group, Nazario saw the same story playing out in her community, with women being disproportionately burdened by caretaking duties as schools went remote and childcare centers closed. “I saw how the pandemic hit women particularly hard in my neighborhood — everyone was relying on them for cooking, taking care of the children, etc., so, I was able to provide my own personal insight into that report,” said Nazario.

Nazario describes how support from Latina peers and role models at UCLA LPPI is guiding her own career path. She notes, “Seeing Kassandra Hernández getting a PhD in economics is inspiring, because I had never heard of a woman of color doing that before.”

Undergraduate Fellow Moris Gomez started a beauty salon business alongside his mother during the pandemic to support his family. During the process, Gomez began learning web development so that he could create a website for the salon, which ultimately sparked a passion for programming and design. Now as UCLA LPPI’s webmaster, Gomez describes how building on these skills in his fellowship is powerful for tackling policy issues that directly affect him and his community. He explains, “The connection to the data is very important because my community members are literally in LPPI reports. Knowing this information and disseminating it in a meaningful, accessible way can help the community.”

Moris Gomez, Undergraduate student; Area of study: Major in international development studies; Expected graduation: 2022

The community at UCLA LPPI also speaks to Gomez, who is undocumented. He reveals that he does not feel excluded or isolated. “I feel at home. Being surrounded by Latino professionals motivates me, and seeing Latinos with master’s degrees and PhDs makes me want to take it a step further,” said Gomez.

After graduation, Gomez wants to bring the skills he’s learned at UCLA LPPI to work that has a social justice perspective and direct impact on his community.

As America emerges from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, going “back to normal” will not be sufficient for achieving true equity. “Going back to normal for Latinos is marginality,” states Juana Hernandez Sanchez, UCLA LPPI’s director of programs. “What is needed is to disrupt the status quo by leveraging existing resources for a new pipeline of young leaders of color who can return to their communities with the relevant tools to tackle long-standing policy challenges.”

UCLA LPPI plays a key role in identifying and preparing this pipeline. Student fellows are supported with technical research training and the development of interpersonal leadership skills around communication, teamwork, professional network building and setting post-graduation goals. While encouraging students to lean into their lived experiences, UCLA LPPI is helping them find their place in the policy arena and identify ways to make a tangible impact that uplifts Latino communities and expands equity and opportunity for all.

By Alise Brillault, Latino Policy & Politics Initiative Communications Manager

As the nation has grappled with the health and economic outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic, an election marked by profound political polarization and a reckoning on race, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (UCLA LPPI) has been at the forefront of putting a bright spotlight on how these issues have impacted Latino communities in California and across the nation. As part of that effort, UCLA LPPI has highlighted unique perspectives aimed at identifying challenges, opportunities and solutions to move the work forward and create a future where everyone can thrive. These perspectives have included those of academics, labor leaders and elected officials, just to name a few. Recently, UCLA LPPI had the opportunity to hear from the philanthropy world when they sat down with Weingart Foundation* CEO and former UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Board Member Miguel Santana. During the conversation, Santana shared the importance of funding data-driven, Latino-led organizations to build a more inclusive economy and democracy. Check out the conversation (lightly edited for clarity) below.

*UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (UCLA LPPI) recently received $125,000 in general funding over two years from the Weingart Foundation.

**

Alise Brillault: The Weingart Foundation’s main areas of focus are housing justice, immigrant and refugee rights and strengthening nonprofit effectiveness to build towards racial and socioeconomic justice. How does the work of UCLA LPPI as as a Latino-focused research center fit into the foundation’s mission?

Miguel Santana: The Weingart Foundation is committed to advancing social and racial justice in Southern California. For us, it is important that any work to deal with inequities in Los Angeles be based on data, analysis and best practices. The Luskin School of Public Affairs and UCLA LPPI are leading that effort.

We believe that to make change, there has to be an organized community on the ground – but there also need to be academic partners committed to advancing these issues using data analysis and research. Funding initiatives such as UCLA LPPI is part of a larger strategy to harness the power of data to make change in our communities.

AB: Why is it important to invest in Latino-led organizations such as UCLA LPPI?

MS: We strongly believe in supporting organizations led by the very communities that have been marginalized. Although Latinos make up about 50% of Southern California’s population, unfortunately, they are disproportionately reflected in poor outcomes in education, economic prosperity, home ownership, food security, and so many other issues. In short, the Latino community is not benefiting from the thriving economy of Southern California. We believe strongly that these issues have to be grounded in communities they are about. Supporting initiatives such as UCLA LPPI – whose research is being led by the best and brightest of the Latino community – is an important part of that mission.

AB: Can you tell us more about the Unrestricted Operating Support program that Weingart uses to enhance nonprofit effectiveness?

MS: We believe in nonprofit organizations – particularly those already meeting existing gaps due to systemic failures in the community. That’s why we work hard not to be prescriptive and to support organizations based on the idea that they know best how to use their dollars. Most of us at the Weingart Foundation came from the nonprofit world, so it’s important for us to take that experience and remind ourselves of what it was like to work in that space, which makes us very intentional about how to provide the best support necessary.

AB: Only 1% of philanthropic foundation CEOs are Latino, and Latino-focused organizations receive less than 2% of philanthropic funding. Is there a connection between representation at the top of foundations and the type of organizations that receive funding?

MS: For foundations like ours, it’s important that the organizations we fund look like and are led by the communities we support. Our Board of Directors has been very committed to leading on that effort. If we expect our funding recipients to have diversity in their boards and executive leadership, our board thought it was important that our foundation also look like and come from the community we serve to better represent the community’s perspective.

I’m very honored to serve as CEO of the Weingart Foundation. I’ve been in public service my entire career and have been the leader of nonprofit organizations. Frankly, though, my own lived experience growing up in Southeast Los Angeles County as the son of immigrants and the first in my family to go to college is more relevant than my degrees. Foundations committed to racial justice need to look like communities they serve. For me, I live in and work in the community, and it’s an honor to lead a foundation that is truly committed to racial justice.

**

Founded in December 2017, through a partnership between the Luskin School of Public Affairs and Division of Social Sciences, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative addresses the most critical domestic policy challenges facing Latinos and other communities of color in order to expand genuine opportunity for all Americans. UCLA LPPI believes that there is no American agenda without a Latino agenda. Funding from the Weingart Foundation will allow UCLA LPPI to expand its capacities for research, data collection, advocacy and leadership development activities as well as the growth of its staff.

 

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has supported the efforts of California’s Unseen Latinas Initiative headed by UCLA Alumna and California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (UCLA Law ‘99)

By Nick Gonzalez, Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI) Policy Analyst

 

Latinas make less than their male and female counterparts, have never served in a statewide elected position and remain underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. A new two-year effort launched by Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (UCLA Law ‘99) and the California Latino Caucus seeks to tackle the inequities that the state’s Latinas face.

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative faculty and staff have been at the forefront of “Unseen Latinas” by providing expert testimony in its first year of public hearings to identify problems and solutions. Through cross-sectoral research, a team of UCLA 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, UCLA LPPI founding director, who participated in the October 2020 launch event. “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 was 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 Asm. Gonzalez. “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 childcare 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.

UCLA LPPI expert Dr. 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 childcare and job training would be essential in reducing workforce inequities for Latinas.

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, UCLA LPPI expert Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón provided testimony from 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,” Ramón said, 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.”

The Unseen Latinas public hearings series also discussed the challenges that Latinas face in breaking into the legal field, with expert testimony from UCLA LPPI expert Jennifer Chacon. For example, the California Supreme Court is another glass ceiling for Latinas, where one has never served as a justice.

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.

Uriel Serrano is a PhD candidate in Sociology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is currently a Teaching Associate in the UCLA Department of Sociology. His research explores questions around race and gender, children and youth, social movements and resistance, neighborhood institutions, and abolition and intersectionality in the context of carceral violence. His work is grounded in theories of intersectionality, critical youth studies, and critical carceral studies to examine political mobilization by Black and Latinx youth, gender ideologies, carceral logics, and youth-well-being in an inner-city context. Mr. Serrano examines how carceral systems and logics function, persist and are challenged, and how experiences differ across social contexts and social locations.

 

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The UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report received a $250,000 allocation in the California state budget. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, the funds will support the overarching goals of UCLA’s Hollywood Advancement Project, which produces the Hollywood Diversity Report. It is the industry’s only longitudinal analysis that connects the relationship between the diversity of key jobs in Hollywood films and television productions with the spending power and appetites of increasingly diverse U.S. audiences.

“Numbers don’t lie,” Asm. Carrillo said. “The UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report holds the data needed to effect change for both below- and above-the-line workers, which is why it was critical to leverage our state’s budget to support it. As efforts to expand production and bring back these jobs to the state via California’s Television and Film Tax Credit continue, those efforts should be reflective of the diversity of our state.”

“We’re in our 10th year of data collection and every year we show that audiences gravitate to content that feature diverse casts and creators, ones that reflect the diversity of the American demographic,” said Dr. Ana-Christina Ramón, director of research and civic engagement for the UCLA division of social sciences and co-author of the Hollywood Diversity Report. “This new support from the state budget will be instrumental to our ongoing efforts to comprehensively track who is getting key jobs in Hollywood, and expand the ways we show how that reality has an impact not only the bottom line for studios themselves, but for the economy at large.”

The Latino Film Institute (LFI), which this year named Dr. Ramón its inaugural scholar, played a key role in the process. Edward James Olmos, LFI Founder and Board Chairman, Rafael Agustín, LFI CEO, and the LFI Board of Directors championed for the report to receive the funding. “Latino communities are particularly underrepresented at all levels of critical Hollywood jobs both in front of and behind the camera,” said Mr. Agustín. “We’re grateful to collaborate closely with UCLA as we seek to reckon with this fact and work toward meaningful change.”

To read the full UCLA Newsroom story, click HERE.

To read the Deadline story, click HERE.

Here at UCLA, community engaged scholarship is not an option – it is an imperative. Los Angeles is a profoundly diverse, multicultural city and a gateway to the rest of the planet. In the Division of Social Sciences, we take our location and our embeddedness in Los Angeles very seriously. The findings that come out of our research are findings that can be applied to real world community problems. In this sense, we are engaging LA to change the world.

 

LA Social Science is pleased to share this video highlighting two researchers, Dr. Jason De León and Dr. Jessica Cattelino, and the important community engaged scholarship they are leading in the social sciences.

As a public institution, our work is ultimately in service of you, our community. By engaging LA, we are changing the world.

UCLA Labor Center‘s Director Kent Wong, was recognized as one of the “Giants of Justice” yesterday, June 3rd, by the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE). CLUE “is an organization that brings together clergy and lay leaders of all faiths with workers, immigrants, and low-income families in the cause of a just economy that works for all and protects those most vulnerable.” Director Wong was honored along with faith leaders and community activists in Southern California who inspire others to build a just and sacred society.

LA Social Science would like to congratulate Director Wong for this well deserved honor.

Darnell Hunt, Ph.D.

Dean, UCLA Division of Social Sciences

Professor of Sociology and African American Studies

Invites you to attend the

Dean’s Salon

2021 Hollywood Diversity Report: Lessons Learned

Monday, June 7, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. PDT

Live Streaming via Zoom

featuring a conversation with

Ana-Christina Ramón, Ph.D.

Director of Research and Civic Engagement, UCLA Division of Social Sciences

Amberia Allen, Ph.D.

Writer and Comedian

Nancy Wang Yuen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sociology, Biola University

moderated by

Darnell Hunt, Ph.D.

Dean, UCLA Division of Social Sciences

Professor of Sociology and African American Studies

 

RSVP Here: https://ucla.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_TE0VA8alTpSplOvMsAW12Q

Please submit your questions in advance of the webinar via email to:
hnadworny@support.ucla.edu (by Friday, June 4th at 12:00 p.m. PDT)
Instructions to join the webinar will be provided once your registration has been confirmed.

UCLA LPPI Founding Director Sonja Diaz in conversation with Juan Cartegena, president and general counsel of Latino Justice – PRLDEF.

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 last week as our nation’s leading Latino elected officials, advocates, academics, and media personalities convened to grapple with the issue of criminal justice — an issue of intense national debate since last summer. Hosted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (UCLA LPPI), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Drug Policy Alliance, and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, the convening Activating Justice Through a Latinx Lens” was aimed at 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 aimed at 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 UCLA LPPI.

Crimmigration panel moderated by Jonathan Jayes-Greene of the Marguerite Casey Foundation and featuring Jacinta Gonzalez (Mijente), Greisa Martinez Rosas (United We Dream), Jennifer M. Chacón, (UCLA) and Abraham Paulos (Black Alliance for Just Immigration)

With conversations led by UCLA LPPI faculty experts such as Dr. Jennifer Chacón, over 1,000 participants tuned in to hear from a multiracial cadre of 40 speakers covering topics from ending youth incarceration, to the movement to defund the police, to the intersection of the criminal legal and immigration systems — all through a Latinx lens. Featured speakers like renowned journalist Maria Hinojosa and author Julissa Arce created the opportunity for lively discussions about the opportunity to create new, 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 Paula Nazario, a UCLA LPPI fellow and one of the lead organizers for the convening.

Opening Plenary Moderated by Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa with Author and Education Advocate Julissa Arce, MacArthur Genius Award Winner and UCLA LPPI Faculty Member Dr. Kelly Lytle-Hernández, UCLA, Judge Natalia Cornelio for the 351st District Court, Harris County Texas and David Luis ‘Suave’ Gonzalez, host of Death by Incarceration and The Suave Podcasts

One of the most engaging discussions of the two-day convening was the opening plenary and break-out sessions that followed. The panel discussion, which featured UCLA LPPI faculty and scholar Dr. Kelly Lytle-Hernández gave attendees key insight into the impacts of the criminal legal system on Latinos, the structural racism propping up our entire system of incarceration, and how the criminalization of immigrants is working to further expand systems of mass incarceration rather than contract them. The subsequent 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 within these systems.

Over the course of the convening dialogue continually underscored the immense data and knowledge gap that obscures the true impact of the criminal legal system on Latino individuals, their families and their communities. It also highlighted that if this gap persists there is a risk of creating solutions that fail to address challenges unique to Latinx individuals who are systems-impacted and recreating inequities that exist in our current criminal legal system.

The two-day meeting closed out with a conversation with Juan Cartegena, president and general counsel of Latino Justice PRLDEF. During that discussion he highlighted that while our criminal legal system hasn’t changed much in the past five decades, we are on the precipice of big change — change made possible by communities who see an unprecedented opportunity to fundamentally transform our 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,” said Cartegena. 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.”