Minimum Wage Increase Coming Soon to Federal Contractor Employees

USCurrency_Federal_ReserveEmployees of federal contractors who make minimum wage will soon notice a boost in their paychecks. Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Labor finalized a rule that increased the minimum wage for this group to $10.10. The Economic Policy Institute says the new rule sets a floor on wages for almost 20 percent of federal contractors earning less than poverty-level wages, mostly minorities and women. We wholeheartedly support this rule and are thrilled to see it finalized.

“NCLR commends the administration for raising the wages of employees who do business with the federal government,” said NCLR Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, Eric Rodriguez in a statement. “Not only is this the right thing to do to lift working families out of poverty and to help them keep pace with the rising cost of living, but it should also be a catalyst for Congress to boost the federal minimum wage.”

The new rule is estimated to affect 200k new workers and will apply to employees who work on new or renewed contracts issued after Jan. 2015.

Unfortunately, Congress failed to pass a similar minimum wage increase for all workers this year. Their inaction leaves nearly 28 million people, one-quarter of whom are Latino, at the current paltry rate of $7.25. We will continue to fight for an increase so that Latinos, and workers in general, don’t have to worry about earning enough to cover even their most basic expenses.

The Accidental Immigration Advocate

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Photo: United States Student Association

Giancarlo Tello. Photo: United States Student Association

Meet Giancarlo Tello, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient who has worked tirelessly to not only create opportunities for himself, but also for other aspiring Americans. When his DACA application was approved, he thought of his parents and their hard work and contributions and why they should be able to stay, live, and work in the U.S.

Giancarlo was born in Peru to caring parents who wanted a better life. At the age of six, he arrived with his family in the United States in search of that better life. Giancarlo quickly learned English and received good grades. By high school, he was taking honors classes and played on the tennis, soccer, and ping pong teams. Like many teenagers, Giancarlo dreamed of getting his driver’s license. After being one of the few students in his drivers’ education class to pass the written test on their first try, he ran home to tell his mother and ask her to take him to the DMV to get his permit. It was at that moment that Giancarlo first learned he was undocumented. He thought that it would only affect his ability to get a license, but as he grew closer to graduation, he found that being undocumented would present even greater hurdles.

As Giancarlo started to plan for college, he asked his mother what he should put on the applications when they asked for his social security number. She told him that he couldn’t put anything down, and that he might not be able to go to college at all.

Giancarlo was dismayed by this news. He had worked hard in school and had dreams for his future. “That’s when I started paying attention to the news and media. You start hearing those words, ‘illegals.’ You start being dehumanized, and you start being scared.”

His parents and family told him that he couldn’t tell anyone about his status. “Nobody in your school, not your best friends, your counselors, your teachers. You can’t tell anyone because you can be deported. Or we could be. You could be separated from your family.”

NJDREAMActCoalition_logo_560x292Giancarlo’s hopes for the future were dimmed until he learned that he could attend community college and pay as an international student. Because he couldn’t drive, Giancarlo would get dropped off at school by his father at 6 a.m. and then picked up after his father’s two jobs at 11 p.m. Being on campus for so many hours gave him the opportunity to get involved. He heard about the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition, which fought for passage of the DREAM Act. Working with them, Giancarlo had the opportunity to travel to the Capitol to lobby on the bill.

After earning his associate degree from Bergen Community College, he enrolled at Rutgers University–Camden. Giancarlo worked with other advocates to push for DACA, which had a profound effect on his life. Giancarlo received his DACA approval on Christmas Eve, 2013. While not permanent and definitely not perfect, DACA did provide him with the opportunity to work, get a driver’s license, and be protected from deportation.

Giancarlo then turned his activism toward passing a New Jersey state bill that allowed undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. His leadership skills were apparent and he was elected campaign chair of New Jersey United Students’ Tuition Equity for DREAMers. He organized legislative visits and orchestrated a call-in day to a democratic state senator who was holding the bill up in committee. By noon, the senator called Giancarlo and asked him to call off the call-in. The bill passed through the committee the following week and eventually was passed by both houses and signed by Governor Chris Christie.

DACA_anniversaryblog_pic1Giancarlo hasn’t forgotten other students and their families who haven’t benefited from DACA and the tuition law. He recently helped to create a scholarship fund for undocumented students at his university, and he is involved in advocating for President Obama to provide administrative relief for undocumented immigrants.

He urges President Obama to take executive action. And while Giancarlo longs to fulfill his biggest dream—to become a U.S. citizen—he urges other Latinos to register and vote. “Neither party should take Latinos for granted,” he said.

Giancarlo’s undocumented status led him to become an accidental advocate. “I felt I reached a glass wall and needed to do anything to break it,” he said. Our community is grateful Giancarlo has broken down that wall. We are all better for it.

We Applaud Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown for Signing Sentence Reform Bill


This past weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law, the California Fair Sentencing Act (SB 1010), legislation designed to reform the state’s drug sentencing laws to help end the disparities for communities of color who all too often face harsher penalties under the Golden State’s justice system.

SB 1010, which NCLR co-sponsored, will reduce the penalties for the sale of crack cocaine to two years, the same levels as those for powdered cocaine. Under previous sentencing guidelines, people of color often received longer prison sentences for selling crack cocaine. In fact, between 2005 and 2010, Latinos accounted for 20 percent of those serving time for possession with intent to sell crack, blacks accounted for more than 75 percent. With SB 1010 set to take effect in January, sentencing for the two offenses will be equalized and judges will be granted more discretion in sentencing someone to probation.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D)

Gov. Jerry Brown (D)

Gov. Brown, as well as the bill’s sponsors, State Sen. Holly Mitchell and State Sen. Ricardo Lara, are all to be commended for their efforts in making sure all Californians are treated equally under the law.

“For years California’s judicial system has been unfair to some of our most vulnerable socioeconomic communities, and too often it targets people of color,” said NCLR Vice President, California Region Delia de la Vara in a statement. “Today’s progress is a direct result of community leaders, nonprofit organizations and families working together for a just sentencing law. Though we celebrate this incredible accomplishment, we recognize that more work is needed to build a stronger community.”

Weekly Washington Outlook – September 29, 2014

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:



The House is in recess, returning the week of November 10.


The Senate is in recess, returning the week of November 10.

White House:

On Monday, the president will attend a Democratic National Committee event in Washington. In the evening, President Obama will host Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India for a private dinner at the White House. Vice President Biden will also attend.

On Tuesday, the president will host Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at the White House. The two leaders will discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, bolster security cooperation, and collaborate in activities that bring long-term benefits to both countries and the world. They will also focus on regional issues, including current developments in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. The vice president will also participate.

On Wednesday, President Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. The president looks forward to discussing with the Prime Minister Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, including the situation in Gaza; developments related to Iran; and the international effort to combat ISIL. Vice President Biden will also participate. In the afternoon, President Obama will welcome Sporting Kansas City to honor their 2013 MLS Cup Championship. In the evening, he will travel to Chicago.

On Thursday, the president will return from Chicago. In the evening, he will deliver remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s Annual Awards Gala at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

On Friday, President Obama will attend unspecified meetings at the White House.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending September 26


Week Ending September 26

This week in immigration reform: NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, encourages Latinos to register and vote in the November election; NCLR signs on to a letter to the President opposing family detention; NCLR posts another installment of the “Hanging in the Balance” blog series; NCLR blog highlights Affiliate organization, Enlace Chicago, the 2014 NCLR Midwest Affiliate of the Year.

–On National Voter Registration Day, NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, emphasizes the importance of the Latino vote: While recognizing many Latinos are frustrated with the political climate and might be tempted to sit out this year’s election, Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR, emphasizes that “the only way to ensure that both parties respect Latinos and address Hispanic priorities is to grow our electorate. That means we absolutely must vote this November.” Murguía’s blog post highlights the growing influence of the Latino electorate – the number of Latino voters has doubled since 2006 – and urges Latinos to make their voices heard at the ballot box on issues ranging from immigration reform to Medicaid expansion.

In the effort to continue increasing the number of Hispanic voters, NCLR partnered with Rock the Vote to develop a new, easy-to-use voter registration tool that will allow us to register voters, whether at home or on the go. In addition to the online tool, NCLR Affiliates across the country hosted local events to highlight the importance of Latino voter engagement. In California, NCLR Affiliate El Centro del Pueblo hosted a voter registration competition among universities including East Los Angeles College, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Northridge.

–NCLR signs letter to the president in opposition to family detention: NCLR joined with 167 other advocacy organizations in sending a letter to President Obama disagreeing with the Administration’s current practice of detaining families without bond and its intention to build additional detention facilities. The letter outlines numerous problems with detention including limiting access to fair hearings, jeopardizing detainees’ physical and mental health, and requiring the use of limited resources that could be used for human alternative to detention.

–Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago Hosts Event, “Immigration: Where Are We Now?“: NCLR’s Senior Midwest Regional Coordinator of Affiliate Member Services, Vanessa Uribe, was a featured panelist at an event covering current issues facing Latino immigrants and what individuals and communities can do moving forward. The event, put on by NCLR Affiliate, Erie Neighborhood House, explored the current political climate around immigration reform and Uribe spoke specifically to the national perspective. She was joined on the panel by Vero Castro with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Luis Roman with the Association of Latinos Motivating Action, and Giovanna Valdez with Latinos Progresando, also an NCLR Affiliate.


Vanessa Uribe, third from right

 –NCLR Continues ‘Hanging in the Balance’ series with the stories of two Latinas: In our latest blog post, NCLR tells the stories of Carla Mena and Karla Salgado. Mena, who arrived to the U.S. in 2001, is a 2012 graduate of Meredith College with a degree in biology. Salgado, arrived in the U.S. in 2009 at age 13 and has just begun her freshman year at the same institution. Both took AP classes and earned high grades in high school. Both volunteer on the Youth Council at El Pueblo, Inc., an NCLR Affiliate. While similarities between these two ambitious Latinas are obvious, one vital contrast remains – Mena is a DACA recipient whereas Salgado is ineligible because she entered the U.S. after 2007, missing the DACA deadline. With her work permit, Mena has been able to attain a job as a senior research assistant at the Duke University Global Health Institute’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research. Contrastingly, Salgado fears her dream of becoming a nurse anesthetist will never come true because of her undocumented status, saying “My status has broken my dream into pieces. I have worked hard to get where I am. I have scholarships to college but it will be in vain because I won’t be eligible to work when I get out. Please don’t tear my dreams apart. It’s not about politics. A piece of paper can change everything.” NCLR urges President Obama to provide relief to aspiring Americans like Karla.

–NCLR Highlights of work of Enlace Chicago, the 2014 NCLR Midwest Affiliate of the Year: NCLR’s latest Affiliate Spotlight focuses on Enlace Chicago, an organization that serves the Chicago community of Little Village, a working-class neighborhood. Enlace Chicago worked with local organizations to develop the Little Village Quality-of-Life Plan, which includes goals to support local and national immigration reform movements, to encourage partnerships between immigrant rights organizations, and to disseminate helpful, accurate immigration information to the community. Included in the Affiliate Spotlight is an interview with Enlace Chicago’s executive director, Michael D. Rodriguez, during which he talks about the work the organization is currently doing and how they hope to continue serving their community in the future.

Photo via

Photo via

Hanging in the Balance: A Tale of Two Latinas

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This is the story of two young Latinas with the same name, living in the same Southern city, one having recently graduated from college, the other just beginning there, both in the same field. The women immigrated to the United States as children with their parents and both learned as teenagers that they were undocumented. But because of decisions made far away from them, their stories are taking different paths and, without action, their futures are now looking quite different.

Carla Mena (r) with NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía

Carla Mena (r) with NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía

Meet Carla Mena and Karla Salgado. Carla Mena moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, from Peru in 2001, when she was 11. She quickly learned English after being put into ESL classes. A few years later in 2009, 13-year-old Karla Salgado arrived in Raleigh from Mexico. She began middle school and had to learn both a new language and a new culture. Both girls rapidly adapted and excelled in their classes. By high school they were taking AP courses and getting almost straight A’s.

As graduation approached, the young women, each an outstanding student, faced the same barrier: they could not afford the high out-of-state tuition at public universities and they were ineligible for financial aid as undocumented immigrants. Both girls had big dreams that were in danger of being crushed because of their immigration status. Luckily, both girls found a small school in Raleigh called Meredith College that sees the potential in all young women and welcomes diverse students. Carla graduated from Meredith in 2012 with a degree in biology and Karla started there last month declaring a biology major.

Karla Salgado

Karla Salgado

But here is where their stories diverge. Because Carla came to the United States earlier than Karla, she is eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Shortly after Carla graduated from college, President Obama announced DACA, which grants work permits and temporary relief from deportation to certain undocumented youth who meet specific criteria. With her degree, she was able to attain an excellent job as a senior research assistant at the Duke University Global Health Institute’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research.

In contrast, Karla arrived in the United States in 2009, missing the deadline for DACA by two years. Her dream is to become a nurse anesthetist. But without a work permit, Karla’s future is very uncertain and her contributions to America will be limited.

Despite their tenuous status in their adopted country, the young women’s commitment to their community remains strong. In recent months, Karla was appointed by Raleigh’s mayor as the youngest member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee. Carla is also giving back to her community and was recently selected to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Wake Health Services. Both girls also volunteer on the Youth Council at El Pueblo, Inc., an NCLR Affiliate.

“If you could just take the time to meet ten Latino families around the country, you would understand why we cannot wait. You would know why we need this now and not when it’s comfortable for you,” said Carla when asked what she would tell President Obama if she had the chance. “In the Latino community, our word means everything. A promise means a promise. It’s hard to get that trust back.”

Karla was equally eloquent. “My status has broken my dream into pieces. I have worked hard to get where I am. I have scholarships to college but it will be in vain because I won’t be eligible to work when I get out. Please don’t tear my dreams apart. It’s not about politics. A piece of paper can change everything.”

The two women have made a positive impact in their communities. Their teachers, employers, and classmates all support administrative action that will allow these young women to continue their contributions. Since Congress has failed to do its job, we need to stand up for our community and urge President Obama to provide relief to aspiring Americans like Karla.

These young women are our future; we must give them a future.

NCLR Affiliate Spotlight: Enlace Chicago

Enlace-Chicago-Logo_High-Res_377x197Our latest Affiliate Spotlight also happens to be the 2014 NCLR Midwest Affiliate of the Year: Enlace Chicago. Formerly known as the Little Village Community Development Corp., Enlace Chicago serves residents of Little Village, one of the city’s most densely populated and youngest communities. Residents of this working-class neighborhood, known as the Mexican Capital of the Midwest, support the quality of life of all Chicagoans, yet lack some of the essential opportunities to counteract the most pressing neighborhood issues. That’s where Enlace Chicago fills the gap.

We spoke with Enlace Chicago’s executive director, Michael D. Rodriguez, earlier this month to find out what this fine community-based organization does and how they hope to grow in the future. Visit Enlace Chicago’s website for more information about how you can support their work.

NCLR: What is Enlace Chicago? What is your mission, history? Can you tell us about the community you serve?


NCLR: As an NCLR Affiliate, Enlace Chicago embodies NCLR’s own mission. How is this reflected in the work you do every day? What does it mean to your organization to be an NCLR Affiliate?


NCLR: Enlace Chicago was recently awarded the 2014 NCLR Midwest Affiliate of the Year. What do you think contributed to that recognition?


NCLR: What projects or campaigns are you working on now, or are planning to launch soon?


NCLR: What do you think the people and the community Enlace Chicago serves would say about the organization and its work?


NCLR: Where do you want to see Enlace go in the next 10 years?


Seven Latinos Who Have Made Outstanding Cultural Contributions

This week, in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting some of our best and brightest Latinos from the world of literature, entertainment and food.

Luckily for us and the rest of the world, there is no shortage of Latino talent from which to choose and this list is by no means exhaustive. It does, however, offer a snapshot of some of the Latino community’s greatest cultural contributions. Here is our list, in no particular order, of seven Latinos whose contributions to culture have made the world a better place

Artist: Carlos Alvarez

Carlos Alvarez was born in Medellín, Colombia in 1969 and later immigrated to the United States in 1999. He focuses on still-life oil paintings or prints with ordinary, everyday objects. Some of his work is currently on display at the Smithsonian galleries during the month of celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.HHM_pic1

Actors: Edward James Olmos

It is hard to imagine either the US or Latino film cultures without Edward James Olmos. Although he was born in a Los Angeles, he grew up in a Latino community and is the son of a Mexican immigrant and Mexican-American mother. He has played famous roles in both Spanish and many American films and TV shows. One of his best role’s was as a teacher in the film Stand and Deliver (1988), in which he played a passionate high school determined to inspire his students to be passionate and finish school. Watch a clip below:


Musician: Los Tigres del Norte









This popular musical group is a band of Mexican-American brothers who have brought their traditional Mexican music into the mainstream American musical culture. Although they became popular in the 1970s and 1980s, they are still performing and touring throughout the country today. They are most renowned for their Chicano style, mixing a traditional, acoustic folk sound with a more upbeat vibe using electric guitar and bass. Take a listen to one of their hits:

Chef: Chef Marcela Valladolid

Although she was born in San Diego, Marcela Valladolid spent her childhood growing up in Mexico. She has traveled all around the world to follow her passion for cooking, including Paris, France and returning to Tijuana to found her own catering company. She has been a guest chef on many food programs on American television and today is a host of her own show titled Mexican Made Easy on the Food Network. Marcela Valladolid’s recipe for Tilapia Ceviche is a must-try!


Author: Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is often referred to as not just one of the best Hispanic authors, but one of the best authors in the world. Marquez was born in Colombia and spent most of his life living in Latin America. He often wrote short stories and journals, but was also a screenwriter at times. His way of storytelling has caught the attention of many audiences, not solely the Spanish-speaking world. With his storytelling, he developed the genre of “magical realism”, and through his words, he made magical events seem as though they were possible everyday occurrences. His story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is a prime example of this magical realism.


Poet: Jorges Luis Borges

Jorges Luis Borges was born and raised in Argentina, where he spent most of his life in the 20th century. Although he wrote short stories, essays, and served as a translator, he was most known for his poetry. Borges’ poetry was often deep and philosophical, forcing his readers to reflect and ponder on his words. Because of this effect and the beauty of his words, is always studied in Spanish literature and often studied in English poetry courses as well. It is hard not to discuss Spanish poets without Borges being at the top of the list. “La Lluvia” (“The Rain”) is a simple yet beautiful poem written by Borges in 1960.


Film Director: Gregory Nava

HHM_pic6Gregory Nava was born in San Diego, California, yet all of his filmography is inspired by Mexican and Hispanic cultures. Many of his films reflect the heritage and development of the culture in a modern world. The two films he is most famous for is El Norte (1983) and Selena (1997), which starred a young Mexican-American actress, Jennifer Lopez and the previously mentioned actor Edward James Olmo. He even won the NCLR ALMA Outstanding Latino Director award in 1997 for his film Selena! Watch the movie’s original trailer below: