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Weekly Washington Outlook – April 14, 2014

Congress Instagram

What to Watch This Week:


The House:

The House is in recess, returning Monday, April 28th.

The Senate:

The Senate is in recess, returning Monday, April 28th.

White House:

On Monday, the President will host an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House.  On Tuesday, the President and the First Lady will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.  On Wednesday, President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to Leetsdale, Pennsylvania for an event on the economy.  On Thursday, the President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride.  A cycling event to help Wounded Warriors restore their physical and emotional well-being, the Soldier Ride also raises awareness of our nation’s Wounded Warriors who battle the physical and psychological damages of war.  On Friday, the President will meet with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion.  Later, he will welcome the United States Naval Academy Football Team to the White House to present them with the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

Also this week and beyond:

Emergency Unemployment Compensation – Last week, the Senate approved a five-month retroactive extension of lapsed unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.  Moving to the House, Speaker Boehner has made clear that he would only bring a paid-for extension to the floor and that it must also include job-creation measures.  There has been some speculation that an extension could include a compromise on job training programs or business tax cuts, but the Speaker has made no comment on specifics.

Budget/Appropriations – This morning, the Congressional Budget Office will release a new budget baseline.  This will be an update of CBO’s revenue forecasts from February and should also include revised estimates of the coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  On Thursday, CBO says it will have its analysis of the president’s latest budget request.

HealthThe President announced on Friday morning that Secretary Sebelius is stepping down as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services.  She will be replaced by current Director of the Office of Management and Budget Sylvia Matthews Burwell.  Burwell is widely expected to be confirmed.  It is not yet clear who will replace her OMB.

Housing Finance ReformThe Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a mark-up of the Johnson-Crapo housing finance overhaul bill for April 29th.  In recent weeks, a number of high-profile editorials have taken aim at the bill’s deficiencies.  The Wall Street Journal on Monday morning chimed in and suggested that Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Crapo should “go back to the drawing board.”  Full text here.

EducationThe House Education and Workforce Committee last week marked-up a bipartisan bill to reauthorize and modernize charter school programs (H.R. 10).  Ahead of a pending floor vote, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) instructed his colleagues to visit charter schools in their districts to build further support for the measure.  The focus on school choice for House Republicans is also part of a broader campaign to make the GOP more appealing to minority voters.

Minimum Wage – A procedural vote to advance a minimum wage hike has been postponed again and is now expected in the Senate sometime in early May.  However, the next work period in the Senate is now likely to be dominated by judicial nominations and several bipartisan measures, including the long-stalled Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill.  As a result, it is possible that a vote on minimum wage could be put off once again.

Tax ReformFollowing the recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he plans to bring to the floor the so-called “extenders package” approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week.  The measure extends retroactively the majority of tax credits that expired at the end of the year.  In the House, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp is instead examining making certain tax credits permanent rather than going through the annual extenders exercise.

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending April 11


Week Ending April 11, 2014

This week in immigration reform: New reports document that the majority of the people deported under the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement efforts have never committed a crime or only had minor infractions, such as traffic violations; President and CEO of NCLR Janet Murguía wrote in the National Journal that the deportation crisis is personal to Latinos; and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to encourage him to enforce and enhance the protection of immigrant families under the administration’s current prosecutorial discretion policy.

–The New York Times and TRAC talk deportation numbers. This Monday April 6th, the New York Times published a report based on internal government records that demonstrates who gets deported. Two-thirds of the 2 million deportations involved people who had committed minor infractions, traffic violations, or who had no criminal record at all. On the other hand only 20%, (394,000 cases) involved people convicted of drug-related offenses or more serious crimes. TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, also analyzed records released by ICE regarding the 2.3 million deportations. Their findings indicated that for FY 2013 only 12% of all deportees had been found to have committed a serious offense. More than half of the total 2.3 million had charges regarding immigration or traffic violations.

–President and CEO of NCLR, Janet Murguía tells both political parties that for Latinos, the deportation crisis is personal. Janet Murguía offered insight into the devastation deportations have on families and children. Murguía stressed the need to hold both the President and Speaker Boehner accountable. In the past two years 200,000 parents of U.S. citizen children have been deported posing taxing challenges on younger Americans. Murguía also mentions the repercussions for both parties in the short and long term if there is no personal, real, or meaningful action to mend our broken immigration system.

–The Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. On April 9th members of the Hispanic Caucus and Jeh Johnson engaged in a discussion over prosecutorial discretion efforts previously carved out by the administration. The CHC also presented the Secretary with a memo detailing measures the Obama administration could take under the current law to protect immigrants and American families from deportations.

NCLR and Affiliates in Action

  • Florida: On Monday and Tuesday, NCLR Affiliate, RCMA and NCLR staff visited state lawmakers in Tallahassee to encourage the passing of legislation that would help Florida youths. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of RCMA and others, the in-state tuition bill (SB 1400) has passed the Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee. The bill will now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then the Senate floor. ImmReformUpdate_4_11_2014_pic1Five RCMA 8th grade Latina students join Sen. Garcia (FL-36) as they lobby for KidCare/Medicaid Expansion, In-state Tuition and drivers licenses for DACA recipients
  •  Across the Country: NCLR Affiliates TODEC, El Pueblo, and CARECEN participated in rallies to stop deportations this past weekend in California, Raleigh NC, and Washington D.C. ImmReformUpdate_4_11_2014_pic2About 20 youths from El Pueblo and the Youth Power Program protesting against f deportations in Raleigh, North Carolina.ImmReformUpdate_4_11_2014_pic3
    NCLR Affiliate, TODEC rallying against deportations April 5th in California

A Second Chance for Justice

By Leticia Tomas Bustillos, Associate Director, Education Policy Project, NCLR

ModelsForChange_1Several years ago I attended a dedication ceremony for a new grant-funded program that would enable young men to acquire valuable skills in the trades: electrical work, plumbing, cabinetry, and others. As I walked around the cavernous room looking at the impressive displays of student work, I had to remind myself that I was at a juvenile detention center and that the 20 students in brown jumpsuits had been incarcerated for various offenses. What was not so difficult to forget were the faces of the incarcerated—all young men of color.

At this particular facility the statistics painted a bleak picture: over half of the young men were Latino and nearly one-quarter were Black. Of those, as many as 40 percent were identified as special needs and 40 percent were English language learners. These statistics are not unique to this setting, but rather evident in national figures which show that Latinos represented nearly one-quarter of all juvenile offenders in a residential facility in 2011. In fact, research indicates that Hispanics are 16 percent more likely than their counterparts to be adjudicated delinquent, 28 percent more likely to be detained, and 43 percent more likely to be waived to the adult system. More recent research of national trends suggests that despite juvenile justice reforms in the last decade, young men of color are more likely to be remanded to secure facilities, thus composing the largest population under confinement.

How these high-school-aged youth landed in the detention center I can only imagine, as our conversations were limited to their projects, the courses they were taking to acquire new skills, and what they hoped to do with these skills. What we do know is that systems which aim to be fair, such as our education and criminal justice systems, can perpetuate and exacerbate challenges unique to Latino youth, who are at tremendous risk of failing academically and falling prey to dangerous social situations, including drug abuse and gang affiliation. Data from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division make evident that Latino youth are more likely than their peers to be suspended and expelled from our schools. Such outcomes may be explained by overexposure to under-resourced, overcrowded schools with teachers and counselors who are often ill-equipped to address the unique academic, financial, cultural, and socioemotional challenges these students face daily.

Despite the bleak picture, however, there is reason for hope. The skill-building program in this California juvenile detention center provides youth with practical experiences that would yield gainful employment upon release or, for those returning to school, credits toward graduation. In Philadelphia, Men In Motion In the Community (MIMIC) offers guidance and assistance to Latino youth who are at risk of dropping out of school or having contact with the juvenile justice system. Across the country, the Models for Change initiative has spearheaded investments in key areas of reform for the Latino community, including aftercare, community-based solutions, and dual-status youth, to name a few. Above all, with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Models for Change aims to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and promote a more fair juvenile justice system.

Latinos in our country account for 16 percent  of the total population, and by 2035 one out of every three U.S. residents will be Latino. Today, 34 percent of Latinos are under the age of 18 and one in four students in K–12 schools in the U.S. is Latino. The future of our nation depends more on the potential of Latino children than ever before. While reform does not happen overnight, we can enact practices and funding mechanisms to support efforts that prevent our youth from engaging in risky behaviors, urging them to instead focus on academic and social pursuits that lead to safe, healthy, productive futures. For youth who are currently in the system, practitioners can implement high-quality educational and vocational programs that deliver skills applicable to the 21st-century workplace.

The focus must therefore be on educating young people and not always on incarcerating them. These kinds of programs support positive youth development, reduce the likelihood of recidivism, and facilitate the integration of youth back into our communities. However, it is imperative that community leaders and law enforcement work together to replace the image of a juvenile “justice” system that solely punishes with one that allows youth to correct their mistakes and envision a more hopeful future.

The young men I spoke with talked about becoming plumbers, carpenters, and electricians and even building their own homes. Others talked about the importance of reading their builder’s manual and how they had to improve their math and reading skills to get through their courses. Still others, who had never experienced academic success in a traditional setting but now have found it, talked about going to college for the very first time. These young men of color did not speak of reform or even change; they talked of second chances and new opportunities. Through reform, we can give them both in the name of justice.

A Bump in Students’ Wages Would Give Them the Break They Need

By Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Min_Wage_2_FINAL_72 DPIWe’re back for the second installment of our minimum wage truth-telling video blog series. This week, the focus is on how increasing the minimum wage would benefit working students. You might assume we’re only talking about teenagers, but the truth is:

  • The average age of minimum-wage workers is 35 years old.
  • Four out of five minimum-wage workers are at least 20 years old.
  • About 44 percent of minimum-wage workers have some college education.

In an effort to shed light on the fact that many working students are often their families’ primary breadwinner and have to balance work with investing in their future, we’re featuring GOAL Academy leadership staff in this week’s video.

GOAL Academy, an NCLR Affiliate, is a Colorado-based, tuition-free, public online charter school that serves mostly Latino students that are designated at-risk. On average, the students are in their late teens and early twenties, and come from low- and moderate-income families. Given the students’ limited educations, they are typically relegated to jobs that pay at or below the minimum wage. However, the students’ increasing need to work in order to cover basic living expenses weakens their ability to invest more time in their studies.

Students who work can’t afford to lose time in the classroom, given that low educational attainment impedes a large number of young workers—especially Latinos—from accessing full-time, well-paying jobs with career paths. In 2008, only 57.6 percent of Latino children who entered ninth grade completed high school with a regular diploma, compared to 78.4 percent  of White children and 82.7 percent  of Asian youth. Hispanics who enroll in postsecondary education often battle the astronomical costs of higher education, yet often receive less financial aid. This inequity puts an even greater burden on Latino college students either to finance their own education or to apply for student loans, or to drop out of college.

Raising the minimum wage would help ease the pressure on working students by allowing them to work fewer hours, earn more money, and not struggle to pay for basic living expenses like food. These workers, along with millions of others, are waiting on Congress to take action on raising the minimum wage. In light of the Senate delaying the vote on the “Minimum Wage Fairness Act” (S. 1737) once again this week, we want to hear from you. Tell us your minimum wage story!

I Have Nothing to Hide: Government Surveillance Does Not Concern Me

By Irasema Garza, J.D., Policy Advisor, NCLR Policy Analysis Center

Photo: Mike M, Creative Commons

Photo: Mike M, Creative Commons

The old adage that nothing is certain in life except for death and taxes is no longer entirely correct. With the advent of new and emerging technologies, we can add government surveillance to the list. Our daily activities are routinely tracked and our private information collected, sold, and shared without our knowledge or consent. It has also become common for federal and state governments to track our daily activities through the Internet, our cell phones, GPS devices, license plate scanners, and stingray technology.

Many Americans find government surveillance unacceptable and a clear violation of constitutional rights. A survey by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research found that a vast majority of participants, including Latinos, strongly agreed with the proposition: “I have nothing to hide, so government surveillance does not concern me.” The survey respondents also reasoned that, unlike private companies who track Internet users for profit, the government’s motivation is to protect the country from terrorists and criminals.

Assuming that crime prevention is justification for government surveillance, I wonder how many people in the “ I have nothing to hide” category would feel differently if instead of unwarranted Internet or phone surveillance, police officers routinely looked into people’s homes through unobstructed windows and opened doors as a way of monitoring criminal activity? What if police routinely entered homes to make sure no criminal activity was taking place? What if this practice was more common in Latino and Black neighborhoods? Most of us would find this type of unwarranted government behavior unacceptable, unconstitutional, and un-American. Yet, electronic government surveillance is as intrusive, and the criterion used to justify it just as broad. Electronic spying is simply a far more efficient way for our government to keep tabs on millions of people. But, unlike the hypothetical above where Fourth Amendment protections apply, the laws protecting Americans from electronic government spying have not kept up with the pace of technology and are weak at best.

Photo: Mike Licht

Photo: Mike Licht

Weak regulatory oversight coupled with technology that facilitates the secret collection of detailed information about a person or group should concern all Americans, but particularly Latinos, Blacks, and other vulnerable populations. Racial profiling remains a persistent challenge in minority communities, and high-tech surveillance heightens the risk of law enforcement discriminatory practices.

Most of us don’t have anything to hide from the government, but we should all be concerned about the potential harm of a government monitoring us for slip-ups, or for who we associate with. To be clear, law enforcement should be able to use technology that can help prevent terrorism and other crimes, but legal and regulatory safeguards are needed to protect against constitutional violations. Unregulated mass government surveillance of Americans runs counter to the values of a democracy and a country founded on the principles of liberty and freedom from government tyranny.

In Search of SOMOS

By Rafael Collazo, Campaign Political Director, NCLR

George I. Sanchez students

It has been a rough winter in the East. After months of back-breaking shoveling and hoarding rock salt for survival, I was looking forward to a break from the cold. So, I shivered at the thought of going to upstate New York for a trip after it was booked. Indeed, I was met with a bitter blast as I arrived in Albany, New York, but things quickly heated up as SOMOS El Futuro, the conference I was there to attend,  got underway. SOMOS is a biannual event organized by the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force of the New York State Assembly and Latino leaders throughout the Empire State. SOMOS raises awareness of state policy issues from a Latino perspective. This year, featured speakers included New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

New York has played an integral, sometimes divisive, role in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) debate. And, rather unsurprisingly, the CCSS featured prominently at SOMOS. The CCSS are a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy. The standards were created by a state-led effort of teachers, parents, administrators, and education experts working together to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, their careers, and life, regardless of where they live.

After adopting the New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards in 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo has come under fire from across the political spectrum over concerns around implementing the standards. The headlines have highlighted the attacks coming from the tea party, conservative ideologues, and even more progressive groups like the teachers’ unions. But what do Latino New Yorkers think about the Common Core, and how can NCLR help raise their voices in this heated debate?

Dia de Los Ninos 2013The SOMOS Conference answered many of those questions. There exists a passionate cadre of Latino elected officials, educators, and activists who believe Latino students can thrive with higher expectations, but who want to ensure that implementation sets up our children for success. I also encountered education activists that see the new standards initiative as a concrete example underscoring the historical inequities Latino children and English Language Learner (ELL) students have experienced in New York schools. Leaders such as Vanessa Ramos of our Affiliate, the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, have thoughtfully developed recommendations for both the State of New York and New York City on best practices for supporting Latino/ELL students within the Common Core Standards framework. Through my conversations with these inspiring champions, it became clear that Latinos in New York are ready to raise their voices in the Common Core State Standards discussion and are welcoming to NCLR’s support in this effort.

While frigid outside along the banks of the Hudson River, the camaraderie and resolve I encountered at this year’s SOMOS Conference warmed me up for sure and excited me for what the future holds. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with leaders like Vanessa Ramos. Together we’ll make it clear that Latino children are ready to take on higher expectations.

With Obesity Rates in Decline, It’s Time Reduce the Risk for Latinos

By Carla Plaza, Policy Analysis Center, NCLR

NMHM14_idea10_maiandra_2April is National Minority Health Month and that provides a a great opportunity to talk about obesity in our community. Although a recent study demonstrates that the nation is making progress in reducing the rate of obesity among preschool children, Latino children remain at greater risk of being overweight or obese than their Asian, Black, and White peers. Being overweight or obese as a child can lead to serious chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, and heart disease. NCLR remains committed to better understanding the various factors that contribute to poor health outcomes within the Hispanic community. Considering nearly two out of five Latino children between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese, we will continue to propose policy and program recommendations that improve the health of Latinos, especially children.

Because children living in poverty are at higher risk of being obese, NCLR is currently working on a project that teaches families how food assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, make higher-quality, nutritious food more accessible. Preliminary findings demonstrate that Latinos understand the importance of healthy eating, what constitutes “good nutrition,” and what it means for their children. However, Latinos face numerous barriers in accessing these benefits and continue to face hurdles in obtaining affordable, healthier groceries.

We are also interested in how food and beverage advertising can reduce childhood obesity rates. There is considerable scientific evidence demonstrating that marketing and advertising to children has definitive effects on taste, preferences, and consumer behavior. For example, in 2005, the Institute of Medicine conducted a literature review examining the impact of food and beverage marketing on youth. The ensuing report held that marketing and advertising not only shape children’s direct spending on food and beverages but also indirectly influence their parents’ and family members’ purchasing decisions. Furthermore, it was identified that high-calorie and low-nutrient food and beverage products are predominantly advertised and marketed to youth.

Child  in the gardenGiven that one in five children in the United States is Hispanic and that Hispanic children are the fastest-growing segment of the child population, it is important to understand how the advertising and marketing of products are influencing the health of our children. NCLR applauds the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which has developed category-specific nutrition criteria for 10 different product types that governs the foods and beverages marketed to children under the age of 12. Eighteen companies participate in this initiative, many of which are NCLR’s corporate partners.

Recently, NCLR’s President and CEO, Janet Murguía, spoke at the Partnership for a Healthier America’s “Building a Healthier Future” Summit. During the summit’s opening session on equity, Murguía shared the disparities that exist for Latinos across the spectrum of life, including health, well-being, and education. She highlighted the importance of partnerships to seek solutions for reducing disparities, as well as working with local, trusted community members to educate the Latino community about healthy behaviors and choices. Ms. Murguía also commended First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts drawing attention to food marketing and advertising.

We will keep you updated on our work to improve healthy eating, reduce obesity among Latino children, and explore the role of food marketing in influencing behavior.