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 http://enlacechicago.org/about/

Photo via http://enlacechicago.org/about/

Hanging in the Balance: A Tale of Two Latinas

Hanging in the balance-01

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.