Consumer Protections Are Under Attack!

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy and Communications Strategist, NCLR

CFPB_LogoLatino families have benefitted from consumer protections that were created to prevent another economic crisis. These protections were established through the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. As you may know, Dodd-Frank created a new federal agency solely dedicated to serving the consumer—the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Since the CFPB opened its doors in 2011, we have seen a more consumer-focused economy for the 21st century.

Many families have already benefitted from the CFPB:

  • It made wiring money abroad easier and more transparent.
  • It eliminated many bad credit card practices.
  • It wiped out many mortgage lending tricks and traps that got us into the housing crisis.

These successes are very important to ensuring that families, not just the banks, thrive. Unfortunately, they are under threat by policymakers striving to roll back strong regulations. Take a look at some of the changes being proposed:

  • Impairing the Bureau’s strong leadership. One problematic proposal is to replace the CFPB’s director with a less effective team of five commissioners. Historically, five-member boards have hobbled decision-making and increased gridlock.
  • Chipping away at its funding. As with every banking agency, the CFPB’s independent funding insulates it from the partisan attacks. Dodd-Frank established this funding stream of nontaxpayer dollars for the Bureau from the Federal Reserve.
  • Imposing unwarranted bureaucratic burdens and diminishing authority over nonbanks. In 2010, Congress gave the CFPB authority to oversee previously unregulated entities, such as debt collectors, remittance providers, and payday lenders—industries that have taken advantage of consumers with high fees and unscrupulous practices.

Many of you helped achieve these victories for families by supporting the CFPB. We need your help once again. Lend your name to our petition and help protect the CFPB from these harmful proposals!

President Obama’s Immigration Town Hall — Full Video

Last night, President Obama joined MSNBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart for an immigration town hall. The president answered some tough questions from Diaz-Balart and the audience and reiterated his defense of his administrative relief. Watch the full video below.

Living the American DREAM: Emilio Vicente

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Today we are starting a weekly series highlighting people who have come forward and applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as those who will be coming forward to apply for expanded DACA or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Since President Obama announced DACA in 2012, more than 638,000 people have received deferred action, meaning they can live without the fear of deportation and continue their contributions with a work permit. While DACA does not provide a path to citizenship, we know that it has been transformative as recipients are able to pursue their dreams and improve their economic well-being.

The expansion of DACA and DAPA has brought hope to millions of immigrants and families, including those who were initially unable to apply for DACA because they were over the age of 31. The president’s plan to expand DACA and establish DAPA would let up to 5.2 million more people live without the fear of losing a loved one due to deportation policies. When he announced that he was using his legitimate authority, we heard from our network that administrative relief would change their lives and keep their families together.

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Emilio Vicente (in blue) with Eva Longoria (left), NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, and MSNBC anchor, Jose Diaz-Balart (right) at the 2013 NCLR Annual Conference

One person who has benefited from DACA and who has created incredible opportunities to give back to his community is Emilio Vicente. Emilio grew up in North Carolina and is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We met him back in 2010 when he was regularly traveling from North Carolina to Washington, DC, to share his story with his senators and urging them to support the DREAM Act. Emilio became a regular at his senators’ events; the senators and their staff knew that he was there to deliver a message of the DREAM Act’s implications for him and for his state. He continued his advocacy efforts for immigration reform, joining NCLR during the National Latino Advocacy Days in 2011, and serving as a member of the NCLR Líderes Youth Advisory Committee. He also participated in a town hall panel at the NCLR Annual Conference in New Orleans alongside NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía and Eva Longoria.

During this time, Emilio has worked at competitive internships in Seattle and Washington, DC, and has raised money for scholarships for undocumented youth. Last year, Emilio ran for UNC student body president and drew the attention of national press in doing so. The New York Times reporter who spent time with him during the campaign described Emilio as a “one-man whirlwind of engagement.”

On what DACA has meant for him, Emilio said:

“DACA for me means not being under the threat of deportation at any moment and being able to use my degree once I graduate. I can also sleep better at night knowing that my brothers and sisters-in-law, who qualify for DAPA, won’t be deported and separated from their families at any moment. We need a humane immigration bill that is permanent but until then, DACA and DAPA will protect many of us from the separation of our families.”

Once he graduates in the spring, Emilio hopes to continue advocating for immigration reform in Washington, DC. Receiving DACA will allow him to put his incredible talent and experience to use—so Washington better look out!

President Obama’s myRA Retirement Plan Holds Promise for Latinos

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy and Communications Strategist, NCLR

USCurrency_Federal_ReserveLatino families often have fewer opportunities to save for retirement than their White counterparts. Two-thirds of Latinos are employed by companies that do not offer any type of retirement plan at all. In fact, many work in low-wage jobs for small, private companies or in industries where retirement savings plans are not commonly offered, such as construction, hospitality, and maintenance. Working for an employer who does not offer a retirement plan presents considerable obstacles when trying to save for the future. There are solutions, though.

In early 2014, President Obama created the myRA plan by executive order. The myRA is a public retirement plan that provides savings opportunities for workers at companies that do not offer retirement programs. It gives individuals the opportunity to save for retirement, supplementing existing IRAs, Roth IRAs, and 401(k) retirement accounts. This savings vehicle has several unique, attractive characteristics that address some of the reasons why Latinos are disproportionately excluded from workplace retirement plans. These include:

  • Automatic deposits. This simplifies savings and mitigates administrative costs, making the plan more cost-effective for employers and employees.
  • Small payments. An initial investment of just $25 is required to open a myRA, and subsequent contributions can be as low as $5. Many retirement plans have high thresholds and leave out people of modest income. Lower payment parameters help families achieve more reasonable, incremental savings goals.
  • Principal protection. Contributions—the money workers put into the myRA account—will never decrease in value. While the rate of return would be relatively low compared to private funds, the government would guarantee that none of the initial principal would be lost.
  • Nominal penalties. Contributions can be withdrawn at any time, cost-free and without penalty. Earnings can be withdrawn tax-free after five years and once the saver is 59 and a half years old. This is important, as many Latino families with 401(k) plans are more likely than Whites to take early withdrawals.
  • Portability: The myRA account is not tied to any one employer. This is especially promising for younger workers who are expected to hold as many as 15 to 20 jobs throughout their career.
  • Generally cost-free with no fees. One must invest $25 to open an account, but this goes into savings. There are no real fees or hidden costs. This is essential, as other plans frequently have confusing fee structures and hidden service costs.

To further motivate families to save, the president enhanced the myRA program by proposing to expand access for part-time workers who are normally excluded from retirement plans. The administration aims to fuel these new measures by closing loopholes that serve the very wealthy. These proactive measures, in tandem with improved outreach, should enhance retirement outcomes for the workers most in need.

Weekly Washington Outlook — February 23, 2015

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will meet in pro forma session. No votes are expected.

On Tuesday, the House will consider three bills under suspension of the rules:

  • H.R. 212 – Drinking Water Protection Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Latta/Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • H.R. 734 - Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise/Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • H.R. 1020 – STEM Education Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith/Science, Space, and Technology Committee)

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

  • S. 227 - Strengthening Education through Research Act (Suspension of the Rules) (Sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander/Education and the Workforce Committee)
  • H.R. 529 - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve 529 plans (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins/Ways and Means Committee)
  • H.R. 5 – Student Success Act, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. John Kline/Education and the Workforce Committee)

It is possible that members may also vote on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Senate:

On Monday, Senator Hoeven (R-N.D.) will deliver Washington’s Farewell Address (a Senate tradition). Later in the day, Senators will vote for the fourth time on a procedural motion to bring up H.R. 240, the House-passed Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.

White House:

On Monday, the president will meet with the National Governors Association. In the afternoon, he will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony in the Oval Office. At this event, President Obama will receive the credentials from foreign Ambassadors recently posted in Washington. The presentation of credentials is a traditional ceremony that marks the formal beginning of an Ambassador’s service in Washington.

On Tuesday, the president will host the Amir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, at the White House to discuss political, economic, and security issues of mutual concern.

On Wednesday, President Obama will travel to Miami to participate in an immigration town hall hosted by Telemundo and MSNBC.

On Thursday, the president will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, president and the first lady will host a reception celebrating Black History Month in the East Room.

On Friday, President Obama will welcome President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to the White House to discuss a wide range of topics including the ongoing Ebola response, the region’s economic recovery plans, and other issues of mutual interest.

Also this Week:

Appropriations – The Senate plans to try again to advance a House-backed bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security until September 30. The measure includes five amendments approved by the House that would block implementation, defund, and otherwise undermine the President’s immigration actions from late last year. Democrats and Senator Heller (R-Nev.) have held their position on the need to pass a “clean” spending bill and have blocked this same vote three times already. Several other Republican Senators have also suggested passing a clean bill including Senator Rubio (R-Fla.) and Senator Kirk (R-Ill.). The precise path forward remains somewhat unclear, given that Speaker Boehner has so far insisted that the House has acted and it is now up to the Senate. In light of last week’s ruling in Texas, it is possible there could be a compromise short-term continuing resolution. The current DHS spending bill expires February 27. If Congress fails to act, the agency has indicated up to 30,000 employees will be furloughed.

Immigration – As the Senate considers funding DHS, the House has planned two hearings related to Administrative Relief. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet Wednesday to examine enforcement priorities, including apprehension and detention. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will hear from a panel of law professors on the constitutionality of the president’s actions on immigration.

Education – This week, the House has scheduled a vote on the Student Success Act, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last reauthorized as No Child Left Behind). In its current form, it would weaken accountability systems and performance standards put in place in the last rewrite. It is possible that members may also vote on an amendment that would eliminate annual assessments in favor of assessments once in elementary school, middle school, and then high school that has bipartisan support but is opposed by civil rights and business groups. The House will also vote on legislation related to STEM education and education research. In the Senate, HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are still working on a compromise to reauthorize ESEA. While these talks are ongoing, the Committee has planned a hearing on higher education on Tuesday.

Budget – Members of the Cabinet will continue to appear on Capitol Hill this week to defend the President’s budget request. House Appropriations subcommittees on Wednesday will hear from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

Tax – The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday with a number of public policy professors speaking to the economic benefit of tax reform. In the House, the Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Wednesday will hear from the Department of Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George and National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson. On the House floor, members will vote as soon as Wednesday on a bill from Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) to expand tax-advantaged college savings plans under section 529 of the tax code.

Nominations – The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on Thursday on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the Attorney General.

Banking – Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will appear on Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. She is expected to receive questions about the Fed’s transparency and accountability.

Labor – The White House is expected to back a Department of Labor proposal this week that would establish a fiduciary standard for advisers and brokers giving advice about retirement savings. Labor Secretary Tom Perez has said that the rule will be open for stakeholder comment in the coming months.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Feb. 20

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Week Ending February 20

This week in immigration: a District Judge temporarily halts the implementation of new administrative relief programs and the federal government will appeal; advocates continue to help individuals and families prepare to apply for relief; and a webinar next week will provide updates on implementation. NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Hill, and Univision, among others.

District judge temporarily blocks implementation of expansion of DACA and DAPA programs; federal government will appeal: This week a judge in Texas issued an order that temporarily blocks implementation of expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents). This does not affect the DACA guidelines that were announced in 2012 and individuals who are eligible under those guidelines can continue to apply. “We disagree with the court’s decision and believe a higher court will reaffirm the legitimacy of administrative relief, siding with countless legal scholars that the president was well within his authority to act,” said Janet Murguía. See the press release here.

The federal government responded quickly to the decision with statements from President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Johnson stating that they disagreed with the decision and the federal government would appeal. The Department of Justice will seek a stay asking the court to allow the programs to move forward while the administration pursues an appeal. Stay tuned to NCLR for updates.

Upcoming webinar: The Committee for Immigration Reform Implementation (CIRI) is hosting a free webinar, “Administrative Relief Update,” on Friday February 27, 2015 at 3:00 pm Eastern / 2:00 pm Central / 1:00 pm Mountain / 12:00 pm Pacific. This webinar will discuss the lawsuit and Texas district court order to stop implementation of expanded DACA and DAPA; and how organizations and the community can respond. The panel will cover:

– The process, timing and implications for the lawsuit;
– Community education and helping our clients prepare for the future; and,
– Strategies for practitioners with potentially eligible clients who are in detention or proceedings.

To register, visit https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3522713574246405633.

NCLR Affiliates and allies continue to help individuals prepare to come forward to apply for expanded DACA and DAPA: Despite the ruling from the District Court Judge, organizations across the country continued to hold information sessions and workshops this week to help individuals get ready to apply for expanded DACA and DAPA.  For example, NCLR Affiliate, TODEC, hosted a workshop in Perris, California. NCLR staff and NCLR Board Member Mary Alice Cisneros attended a press conference in San Antonio with Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) encouraging the community to use this time to continue to gather the necessary documents to come forward and apply for expanded DACA and DAPA.

Coming up next week: We have been following closely the ongoing debate in Congress over funding the Department of Homeland (the agency is currently funded through February 27).  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is planning to have a fourth vote on the House passed legislation that includes measures blocking DACA and DAPA.  It is expected that this vote will also fail and all the Democrats will oppose the bill.

Also next week, President Obama will be at a town hall event to discuss immigration in Miami on Wednesday held at Florida International University led by Telemundo and MSNBC host José Díaz-Balart.

New Report Shows Improved Latino Educational Achievement, Persistent Disparities

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The Latino dropout rate has seen a steady decline over the last two decades to an all-time low of 12.7 percent among 16-24-year-olds–less than half of the 1993 rate of 27 percent. These findings were released in a new NCLR education brief, “Latinos in New Spaces: Emerging Trends and Implications for Federal Education Policy.” The publication comes just as Congress begins debating the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the student population, and by 2023, they will represent almost 30 percent of all students enrolled in U.S. schools.

“Latino children have made important strides in our schools, and their educational achievement is attributed to their own hard work, along with rising academic expectations and standards by school districts, administrators, teachers and parents,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation, NCLR. “The data show why the civil rights community has supported increased accountability and standards-based education reforms for the last two decades.”

As of 2012, Latino students had a high school completion rate of 73 percent, which was an increase from 61 percent in 1993. Between 2000 and 2013, the percentage of eighth-grade Hispanic students who achieved or surpassed proficiency levels in mathematics more than doubled. College attendance has also reached a record high: Hispanics enrolled in postsecondary education increased from 13.4 percent in 1972 to 37.5 percent in 2012.

While these gains represent significant improvements, more is needed if Latinos are to reach parity with their peers. In reading proficiency, only 22 percent of Latinos score at or above proficiency, compared to 46 percent of their White counterparts. They are also less likely to be enrolled in preschool. Fifty-seven percent of of Latino three- to five-year-olds were enrolled in preschool, compared to 66.7 percent of Whites and 65.8 percent of Black students.

“The gains that Latino schoolchildren have made are impressive, and it’s important that we continue to build on this success. That is why we must ensure that Congress passes a robust ESEA that maintains a commitment to equity in our schools and vital civil rights protections,” said Rodriguez. “A decade ago, national education policy put a spotlight on Latinos and English language learners, which led to increased accountability and standards that have produced results. Reforms should make our schools better and ensure that all children have an equal chance at getting a good education.”

Read the whole report below:

NCLR Affiliate Spotlight: Valle del Sol

By David Castillo, New Media Manager, NCLR 

Valle-del-Sol-Youth-PicLive life inspired: for 45 years, NCLR Affiliate Valle del Sol has worked to live up to this motto, which is emblazoned on their headquarters building in Phoenix. Their tradition of caring for the community via health care, human services, and leadership development programs has earned the organization many accolades over the years. An impressive list of programs and health care offerings makes it easy to understand why Valle del Sol is considered such an important asset to the Phoenix metro area.

Last year, Valle del Sol served more than 25,000 men, women, and families. It predominately provides primary care and behavioral health services to the community. In fact, just last year it was recognized as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike, a distinction the group has been working on for more than three years. According to the latest annual report, as a FQHC Look-Alike, Valle del Sol “supports the delivery of comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care services to low-income, underserved, and special populations.” As the primary care provider for so many Latinos in the Phoenix area, the group has keen insight into the health care needs of the community.

“What we see is that there is a need for more access to health care clinics and other health care environments,” said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Valle del Sol’s chief development officer. “And there is a need for funds to make that accessibility possible.”

One of the key aspects of Valle del Sol’s health care service is that they offer integrated care, meaning they offer mental and behavioral health care along with primary care in an effort to give their patients the best of both worlds.

“Having both mental health and behavioral health issues addressed while also being able to go see a doctor for disease management, vaccinations, a cold, etc., makes us a valuable asset for the community,” said Galindo-Elvira.

The health care services certainly stand out at Valle del Sol and are integral to the organization’s success, but they are also are just a snapshot of its full range of services. In addition to its health care offerings, Valle del Sol also operates a community resource center for parents to help them gain important life skills. Their Connect 2 Lead program also introduces youth ages 13–17 to the concept of leadership and of being a service to the community while also addressing any behavioral health issues.

For Galindo-Elvira, this leadership program, the African American Leadership Institute, and the Hispanic Leadership Institute comprise some of Valle del Sol’s achievements. For 27 years, Valle del Sol has run the Hispanic Leadership Institute (HLI), which has provided an environment for Latinos and people of other diverse backgrounds that is full of learning opportunities designed to create systemic change. Part of HLI’s mission is also to diversify nonprofit boards and municipal commissions. The institute has helped Valle del Sol garner recognition, including as a “Leader of the Year in Social Services” and an overall “Leader of the Year” by the Arizona Capitol Times. The recognition is certainly warranted. Rubén Gallego, one of the institute’s graduates, was recently elected to Congress, something that Galindo-Elvira says the congressman always shares with audiences and prospective participants.

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Hispanic Leadership Institute participants.

“It was a real affirmation of the work we’re doing in building the next generation of Latino and diverse leaders,” said Galindo-Elvira.

Another proud achievement for the organization came last year. As the lead plaintiff in the case against SB 1070 (the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act), Valle del Sol was successful in working with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) to get the Supreme Court to decline taking a case on behalf of the state of Arizona.

“Valle del Sol agreed to be part of the lawsuit because of the impact SB 1070 would have on the community,” said Galindo-Elvira. “It was also the right thing to do to be opposed to a law with the potential to harm the Latino community. We’re proud of that work.”

Youth-VdS-CloudsIt’s no wonder that NCLR has recognized Valle del Sol twice in the last three years as our Far West Affiliate of the Year; being an NCLR Affiliate is something in which the organization takes great pride.

“Being an Affiliate of NCLR, it doesn’t matter how big or small you are,” said Galindo-Elvira. “We recognize that being part of NCLR is being part of something big. Being able to extend our voice, whether in Congress or the White House, we have a national presence.”

As for the future, Galindo-Elvira is confident Valle del Sol will continue its grand tradition of caring for the community and become an even greater asset to Phoenix and to NCLR.

“We want Valle del Sol to continue being the champion, the cheerleader, and the change-maker for Arizona, one that addresses health care, human services, and leadership development needs.”

Education + Health: Keys to Empowering the Latino Community

Highlights from the #SaludTues Tweetchat on 2/17/15, hosted by @SaludToday
(cross-posted from @SaludToday)

You May Still Have an Opportunity to Get Covered!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a special opportunity for those who experienced challenges enrolling in health insurance through the marketplace. This special enrollment period began on February 16 and ends February 22. For more information on who may qualify, visit www.healthcare.gov/blog/open-enrollment-is-over or call 1-800-318-2596. Don’t delay!