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.
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.
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.
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.
https://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Rosario-Majano-headshot-croped.jpg584500LA Social Sciencehttps://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/lass_logo-helvetica-281x300-1.jpgLA Social Science2022-10-31 14:08:502022-10-31 14:08:50LPPI Staff Bring Insights and Accountability to Policymaking
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
https://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Celina-Avalos-Jaramillo-headshot-500-sq.jpg500500LA Social Sciencehttps://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/lass_logo-helvetica-281x300-1.jpgLA Social Science2022-10-25 14:26:312022-10-25 14:26:31UCLA LPPI Policy Fellows Fight for an Inclusive Democracy
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.
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!”
https://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/UCLA-LPPI-CHCI-Conference-crop.jpg678678LA Social Sciencehttps://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/lass_logo-helvetica-281x300-1.jpgLA Social Science2022-10-05 10:48:142022-10-05 14:36:30LPPI Shines at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Conference
The DIG Conference is a convening of people from diverse backgrounds that aims to demonstrate the potential for structured peer-to-peer learning on this subject. This cross-section of attendee profiles encourages the advancement of data-centric solutions for public policy that are accessible, scalable, and pragmatic.
DIG is made possible thanks to the support of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA, the College of Social Sciences, the LA Social Science Initiative, the Anderson School of Management, the Ziman Center for Real Estate, and Impact@Anderson.
https://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/DIG-conference.png252600Assistant Editorhttps://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/lass_logo-helvetica-281x300-1.jpgAssistant Editor2021-06-18 23:59:562021-06-18 23:59:56RSVP for the UCLA Data-Informed Governance (DIG) Conference on July 7
As an economist and director of the California Policy Lab, Till von Wachter is continually spearheading research projects and policy recommendations related to labor and employment as well as homelessness, education and crime.
As the U.S. economy further slows because of how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced so many businesses to close, UCLA Newsroom asked von Wachter, who is also the associate dean of research for the division of social sciences in the UCLA College, to help parse through current employment statistics, why the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package called the CARES Act — which was signed into law March 27 — is so critical and what its immediate and far-reaching effects might be for U.S. workers and the economy.
https://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Till-Von-Wachter.jpg250350Contributorhttps://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/lass_logo-helvetica-281x300-1.jpgContributor2020-04-02 18:51:372020-04-06 18:13:07Q&A with UCLA California Policy Lab Director Dr. von Wachter on the CARES Act
LASS: Thank you for joining us today. Please tell us about yourself.
KU: I’m a third-generation, Japanese American, born and raised in Los Angeles. I’m a proud Bruin, having started my college education here at UCLA and then returning for my master’s degree in Asian American Studies, and then returning now, after 22 years of teaching at the University of Hawaii. I’m happy to be back.
LASS: I know you did some really important and impactful community-based research work while you were there. Can you talk about that and how you’re bringing that work to UCLA?
KU: Yes, I have a strong interest in community-based development and I worked primarily with Native Hawaiian communities over the past 22 years while in Hawaii. I was heavily involved in building community-university partnerships, some lasting the entire two decades. I gained a lot of lessons there, about how people at the university can engage with communities in a way that is empowering for them, that is mutually beneficial in terms of a co-learning process, and that leaves a long-lasting, positive impact in communities. I’d like to apply that through my position as a faculty member, as an instructor, and as the Director, here at UCLA Asian American Studies Center.
LASS: What plans do you envision for the UCLA Asian American Studies Center?
KU: As the new Helen and Morgan Chu Endowed Director’s Chair of the Asian American Studies Center, I’m working with our staff and faculty to launch a couple initiatives in the spirit of being relevant to the world and to our communities. One is a digital media initiative. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and we’ve collected a lot of primary source materials over the course of the last 50 years since we were established. I see our role as helping to push that out to the public over the next 50 years. We’ll continue the research and collection of historically important collections, but I really see the need to utilize the latest technologies and digital media to make this knowledge in Asian American and Ethnic Studies more accessible to the public and to the world.
The second initiative is focused on public policy. Though there is important work on Asian American and Pacific Islander policy issues being done at many universities, I’d like to see UCLA play a role in collaborating with others to further policy relevant research on Asian American and Pacific Islander populations. We have the critical mass of applied researchers here at UCLA. We have good models for policy centers that we can learn from. And, we have the strong infrastructure of UCLA and its standing in the public to be able to mobilize research efforts to make an impact on issues affecting our communities both in the realm of national public discourse and in local policymaking.
LASS: What about your own personal research interests?
KU: I’m working on several book projects, one based on the juvenile justice research and reform work I did in Hawaii and another on the history of urban renewal in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. I’m also very interested in race relations in Los Angeles, which I’ve done research on in the past.
To me, community development issues and race relations are very interconnected. I grew up in Gardena in the 1970s, which was named the most diverse community in the country at that time. And the 1970s was one of the most prosperous times in Southern California. Race relations was relatively positive compared to other places and other periods. So I grew up in somewhat of a bubble, thinking that race relations with as good everywhere else. And when I left Gardena, I realized that it wasn’t.
Fast forward to graduate school when there was growing controversy over the concentration of liquor stores in South LA, many of which were Korean owned. And there was the horrific incident in which Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by a Korean American grocer, which was a precursor to the civil unrest in 1992. I remember sitting in my dorm room when the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating were acquitted. And I watched my community and my city go up in flames. I had already been planning to study racial conflict at that time, but this sealed it.
So, when I returned to Los Angeles to do my dissertation work, I was really committed to understand racial conflict—how it escalates and how we could better handle it. But I was looking for a way to study day-to-day racial conflict, not necessarily explosive incidents, because it’s the day-to-day conflicts that then build up to these explosive moments. The most violent form of everyday racial conflict at that time was interracial gang violence, so I ended up studying a gang war between the Culver City Boys and the Shoreline Crips. I did a three-year ethnographic study of the gang war, which resulted in a book called The Truce: Lessons from an LA Gang War.
I think that many of the lessons from that gang war and from police and community responses to it are still very relevant today. I think we see a lot of problems today that stem from that same phenomenon where people are not able to see the world from other people’s point of view and work more collaboratively to address controversies that lead to racial tensions.
“I’m reminded of the period of history where my parents were incarcerated in US concentration camps during World War II. I think about all of the things that lead up to their incarceration and you see many of the same things happening today—the untethering of discourse from material realities, the demonization of different people from the top echelons of government.” – Dr. Umemoto
LASS: So what types of challenges do you see out there and how do you hope to address it?
KU: I think there are three major challenges many others here at UCLA, and I, are concerned about. One is the growing wealth gap and economic inequality of opportunities, between the haves and have not’s.
The second is the lack of better opportunities through which individuals and communities can engage in the civic decision making processes in ways that build capacity and lead to greater social justice.
And third, I think because of the tenor of national politics and national political discourse, we have a problem of people at the very top levels of government playing up racial divisions and implementing policies that target people of color and demean people of color and instill fear in communities of color.
I’m reminded of the period of history where my parents were incarcerated in US concentration camps during World War II. I think about all of the things that lead up to their incarceration and you see many of the same things happening today—the untethering of discourse from material realities, the demonization of different people from the top echelons of government. It’s the demonization of entire groups of people by those in the top levels of government, and the fanning of fear amongst the majority population about these groups, tapping the economic precarity that people feel, that leads to tragic consequences for the most vulnerable.
LASS: So with all that in mind, what’s the impact, through your own work and through the Center, that you’re hoping to make?
KU: I think one way that we can contribute to addressing these problems is to push out Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies—disseminating knowledge and educating students and the broader public about Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other historically marginalized communities. If we can nurture greater empathy, greater understanding, and greater respect towards all populations across society, then and only then is civic democracy and greater societal justice possible.
LASS: With that in mind, any parting words?
KU: Just that this is the only job I would have moved back home for. UCLA is the only university that I would have been interested in. I’m a strong believer in public education. I’m a product of the LA Unified School District. I’m a product of the California State University system and the University of California system. I think we play such a critical role in educating the next generation of thought leaders, changemakers, and citizens of the world who can make a positive impact. I think this is the right place to be at this time.
LASS: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your work and experiences with us.
Dr. Karen Umemoto was interviewed by Mike Nguyen, an assistant editor and contributor to LA Social Science.
https://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Karen-Umemoto-2017-1.jpeg320239webteamhttps://lasocialscience.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/lass_logo-helvetica-281x300-1.jpgwebteam2018-09-19 16:27:532018-09-21 13:35:44LA Social Science Presents “Conversations with Changemakers” Featuring Dr. Karen Umemoto