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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.

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.”

Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, testified in a virtual hearing on Ensuring Free and Fair Access to the Ballot for the Committee on U.S. House Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections on April 1.

The hearing was held as 361 restrictive voting bills have been introduced in 47 states and as the U.S. Senate considers an expansive voting rights bill, the For the People Act, already passed in the House. Diaz was one of four witnesses that included Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Marcia Johnson-Blanco of the Lawyers’ Committee, civil rights advocate Deb Adegbile, and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

In the face of an avalanche of restrictive voting bills, Diaz argued that they come in response to the growth of a youthful and diverse American electorate.

“Oftentimes, when we talk about voter suppression, we focus on a set of jurisdictions that have long been bad actors in our law textbooks – places like Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida,” Diaz said. “But this frame too often leaves out an important fact: vote dilution, voter suppression, and the attack on Americans’ fundamental right to free and fair access to the ballot happens everywhere.”

Diaz received a medley of questions from Representatives Aguilar (CA-31), Leger Fernandez (NM-03), and Davis (IL-13) about the consequences of voter suppression tactics for Latino voters. Diaz argued that a vibrant democracy required that everyone have fair and equal access to practice their constitutional rights – and that it’s not entirely a coincidence that the growth of these restrictive bills comes from the very states where Latinos and voters of color were consequential to the 2020 election.

“Voter suppression is a feedback loop,” she said, and one that elected officials need to act to end.

——

Diaz, with support from Voting Rights Project staff and fellows, submitted written testimony in advance of the hearing that is now part of the Congressional Record.

 

UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and the Alianza for Youth Justice have released a new “Call to Action” report titled “The Latinx DATA GAP in the Youth Justice System.” This report shows that inconsistent data collection methods complicate race and ethnicity tracking across different stages in the youth justice system.

“As our country undertakes a long overdue reckoning on race and justice, it is critical that Latinos be included in the conversation,” said Sonja Diaz, Founding Director of the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative and one of the report’s co-authors. “Far too often we are overlooked, but to effectively address inequities in the justice system, especially the egregious disparities facing Black Americans, policymakers and advocates need accurate data on Latinx youth. This new report details the challenges of collecting data on system-impacted youth and offers a way forward so that leaders can craft viable solutions based on facts as we reopen our economy and transform failed systems.”

Findings:

1. Today, Latinx youth represent 25%, or about 8.3 million, of the total U.S. youth population between ages 10-17.

2. State agencies involved in the criminal justice system collect data that identifies Latinx youth inconsistently if at all, creating an incomplete picture of Latinx ethnic data.

3. States report racial/ethnic data inconsistently across the 3 points of contact: arrests, detention, and probation.

  • 42% of states did not report racial or ethnic data for arrests
  • 30% of states did not report racial and ethnic data for detention
  • 52% of states did not have racial or ethnic data for probation

To read the full report, click HERE.

To learn more about UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, visit: https://latino.ucla.edu/

The California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA LPPI staff gather for a photo that commemorates the second year of their partnership which aims to increase access to pertinent data science on Latinos.

By Celina Avalos and Sonja Diaz

On May 20, 2019, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) hosted its second annual California Latino Legislative Policy Briefing in Sacramento. The policy briefing, co-hosted by the California Latino Legislative Caucus and UCLA Government & Community Relations, featured research presentations by three LPPI faculty experts: Dean Gary Segura, Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and Dr. Arturo Vargas Bustamante.

The policy briefing was attended by 50 guests who are policy advocates, legislative staff, and community leaders. The meeting convened at La Cosecha in Sacramento where the group learned more about LPPI’s latest research findings and discussed policy interventions that could improve the lives of California residents.

LPPI expert Dr. Melissa Chinchilla and LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz introduce LPPI’s recent report on Latino homelessness to a packed house in La Cosecha.

Attendees heard from the LPPI faculty experts on a wide-range of domestic policy issues including voting, housing, and health. The issues discussed in the briefing are critical policy challenges that the California legislature is addressing through new lawmaking. Each issue has unique impacts on California’s plurality. Fortunately, LPPI’s legislative briefing provided a space for policy leaders to understand more clearly which policy solutions are better suited to address the disparities faced by Latinos.

Kicking off the policy briefing was Dean Segura, who presented his research on public opinion trends leading to the 2020 presidential election. In 2018, LPPI’s research documented a 77% increase in Latino votes cast. This increase was configured by looking at and comparing the midterm elections from 2014 to 2018. Dean Segura’s presentation expanded on trends identifying leading public opinion sentiments that influenced voters of color (Asian Americans, Blacks, and Latinos) on issues involving immigration, #MeToo, access to affordable health care, and support for gun laws. Largely, the 2018 election illustrated the upward potential of Latino vote growth in and beyond California. The numbers showed voters of color embraced Democratic positions on guns, health care, and immigration at higher rates than their white peers.

Next, Dr. Chinchilla followed with her research on homelessness in Los Angeles County. In her policy presentation on Latino homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla cemented the lack of accurate data on Latinos facing housing insecurity and reiterated the fact that this demographic group remains undercounted.

LPPI Policy Fellow Celina Avalos met UFW leader and advocate Dolores Huerta during visits to the State Capital discussing LPPI’s work on housing and health.

Highlighting findings from her LPPI report, Stemming the Rise of Latino Homelessness, Dr. Chinchilla shared that homelessness is not a one size fits all narrative. She stated, “Many factors contribute to the undercount of Latinos facing housing insecurity, like immigration status, economic vulnerability, and cultural and language barriers.”

Dr. Vargas Bustamante concluded the policy briefing with his work on the California Latino physician crisis, which addresses a key issue facing the state—the shortage of healthcare workers. Dr. Vargas Bustamante’s policy presentation integrated findings from his report, Latino Physician Shortage in California: The Provider Perspective. He shared, “As California’s plurality, Latinos will represent 44.5% of California’s population by 2050. However, currently only 4.7% of physicians in California are Latino.”

According to Dr. Vargas Bustamante, the contributing factors to the Latino physician shortage include: lack of financial support and opportunity, academic disadvantages, navigation, underrepresentation, and citizenship.

LPPI’s briefing provided a novel opportunity for leading policy stakeholders to engage in timely policy issues centered on the needs of the state’s plurality. This briefing builds upon LPPI’s legislative portfolio of engaging elected and appointed officials on critical policy issues with data and facts, breeding new research-practice partnerships and accelerating the capacity for evidence-based policy.