Labor Day Spotlight: Young Latinos Want Better Career Opportunities, but Face High Unemployment

Five years after the Great Recession, employment prospects are better than they were during the crisis, but there are still millions of people in the United States looking for stable, full-time work. Like other communities of color, Latinos bore the brunt of the economic downturn and haven’t fully recovered yet. The unemployment rate for Hispanics, one of the fastest-growing and youngest segments of the U.S. workforce, hoversNILSL_Feb14_blogpic_latinostudents at around 8%, higher than the national average. Latino workers, especially those without a college education, are also heavily clustered in industries with low-paying jobs. Unfortunately, age can often compound those challenges, making the job hunt even tougher for young men and women of color in the millennial generation.

Overall, millennials—young adults between ages 16 and 30—are struggling more than other groups to find work. With less experience under their belts, young men and women are at a disadvantage compared to more seasoned candidates and therefore face much higher rates of unemployment. Earlier this year, NCLR released a report, Giving Them an Edge? The Effects of Work Experience on the Employment Prospects of Latino Young Men, which showed that even within the millennial generation, significant disparities exist between the unemployment rates of young men and women of color and their White peers.

Millennial Unemployment Rates by Age and Race/Ethnicity, 2012

  Latino Black White
Age Male Female Male Female Male Female
16–19 34% 31% 49% 43% 24% 20%
20–25 15% 16% 29% 25% 13% 10%
26–30 10% 12% 21% 19% 8% 7%

Source: NCLR calculations based on the 2012 American Community Survey, one-year sample.

To gain a better overall perspective on the job market for young Latino men and women, NCLR has also been reaching out to both employers and jobseekers. Large-scale employers in our network are weighing in on what they value in younger employees. The most important qualities include an openness to learn, a knack for technology, and a high value for corporate social responsibility. On the jobseeker side, younger Latino workers have shared their experiences and concerns with NCLR regarding their employment prospects through multiple polls and surveys conducted over the past few months.

In more encouraging news, a survey of registered Latinos released at the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference showed that respondents in the 18–39 age bracket were generally more positive about the overall economic outlook of the country, with 65% reporting that they believe the economy has gotten better over the past five years and close to half saying that their personal finances have improved. However, that positivity didn’t necessarily extend to their employment outlook. Just under half of respondents noted that they were either worried about someone in their household losing his or her job or were already unemployed, and more than 75% said that they were very concerned about career advancement opportunities.

Job quality is also an important issue for millennials. Last week, through our mobile network, NCLR conducted a survey of about 250 Latinos, ages 16–30, asking them whether they’d rather make $40,000 a year working at a job they love than make $100,000 working at a job they think is boring. More than 60% agreed that they’d rather work at a job that they love. That isn’t to say that Latino millennials are content working for lower wages. In a separate question, more than 85% of participants said that they would be more likely to vote for an elected official who voted to raise the minimum wage. Latinos represent only 15% of the workforce, yet comprise approximately 24% (6.8 million) of the 27.8 million workers who would benefit from boosting the minimum wage to $10.10.

This Labor Day weekend, NCLR wants to hear from you. If you missed our text survey, comment on social media to weigh in on our poll questions! While you’re there, let us know what you think could be done to help secure better opportunities and quality jobs for young Latino men and women.

Against the Odds: the Common Core Is Leveling the Playing Field for Latino Students

By Leticia de la Vara

Once again it’s back-to-school season and in my family that means a seventh-grade daughter and more than a little bit of eye rolling from her. This also means another year of the Common Core State Standards at her school.

I could explain the Common Core to you, but the Council for Great City Schools has put together an excellent short video that explains what it is.

As a single mother with a Latina attending school in a city, I am well aware of the statistics stacked against my daughter’s success.

Here’s what she’s up against:

  • Only 71% of Latino students graduate from high school on time with a traditional diploma.
  • This is compared to 83% and 93% of their White and Asian peers.

This low graduation rate undercuts the increasing demand for highly educated and trained individuals who can compete in today’s global economy. As a result, a disproportionate number of Latinos are left unprepared for college and unqualified for good jobs. This is why the switch to the Common Core was music to my ears. The Common Core framework allows for my daughter to rise above statistics by allowing her teachers to create lesson plans and classroom activities that more closely model real-life situations and also allow her teachers to more quickly assess areas to focus on for each child’s individual success.

My daughter’s school began implementing the Common Core last year and I quickly noticed a difference in my daughter’s study habits. It was clear to me that an emphasis was being placed on understanding the process, or the “why,” behind how things are done, a fundamental part of everyday experience. Before the Common Core, classrooms moved children through rote memorization and recitation, regurgitating information rather than processing or analyzing. Yet in college and work we are constantly faced with situations that require us to think up solutions—even more so for children. It’s comforting, as a mother, to know that schools are making a shift that will impact my daughter’s success in the future.

As another school year begins, I’m excited to know that schools across the country are allowing children to embrace their natural curiosity and use it as a cornerstone to educational achievement.

CCSS_Share_01I believe in the potential for the Common Core to create a more equitable K–12 experience for our children. But as raising children will teach you, change doesn’t happen overnight. That is why I am fully committed to supporting my daughter, her teacher, and her school with the Common Core State Standards. It’s time to step up to the challenge of overhauling the education system and step into a new way of learning. We all have a role to play. Parents, students, teachers, and the community should support standards that will improve opportunities for Latino youth and prepare them for the world of tomorrow.

Living In Fear of Losing My Best Friend

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By Brenda

As a teacher, I have seen firsthand the devastation families suffer due to deportation. About 4.5 million U.S.-citizen children have a parent who is undocumented. Every day, these children fear that their parent or parents may not be there when they come home from school. The emotional toll of having a parent deported impacts these children both emotionally and academically. Parents usually make the decision for their children to continue attending school in the United States, as they know education is paramount for success in life. I often pose the question to my students, “How many of you have heard your parents tell you to go to school and study hard so you do not have to work as hard as I do?” In 17 years as an educator I have never had a student fail to raise her or his hand. Deported parents often make the supreme sacrifice of leaving their children in the United States in the hope that they will have a better quality of life.

Immigration reform would ensure that families can live without the anxiety of having a loved one taken from them. That is why we need legislation that would permanently provide a solution. However, since Congress has failed to pass legislation, President Obama should do everything that he can to make sure that millions of hardworking immigrants with strong ties to the United States come forward, register with the government, work legally, and pay their fair share of taxes.

This would include my husband. We have been married for nine years and have not been able to regularize his immigration status. My husband is an amazing man with much to offer this country. He regularly volunteers with a local nonprofit organization as well as with the Humane Society. He is a productive member of society; however, I live in fear that he could be detained.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with stage Forward Graphicfour breast cancer. My husband was my primary care giver through chemotherapy, surgery, and months of radiation treatment. He attended each and every one of my appointments. My husband tended to me when I was too weak to get myself a glass of water. His care was instrumental in my ability to overcome the disease for which I still receive monthly treatment. I cannot imagine my life without him. President Obama must act so that I could live without the fear of losing my best friend and partner in life.

NCLR Joins Leading Civil Rights Groups in Call to End Racial Profiling

In the wake of the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, concerns about racial profiling, including profiling of the Latino community, have once again become part of a much-needed national conversation on how to reform the frayed relationship between communities of color and law enforcement. In this vein, NCLR has joined with The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, as well as more than 100 other organizations representing a broad array of communities affected by and concerned with these issues, in calling on Congress and the Obama administration to end the practice of racial profiling.

Racial profiling has had a devastating effect on communities of color, particularly young men of color, and it has been toxic to the trust between law enforcement and their constituents which must exist if we are to ensure public safety for all. Steps we are calling for include updating the Department of Justice’s guidelines regarding the use of race in state and local law enforcement and urging Congress to vote as soon as possible on the unconscionably delayed “End Racial Profiling Act.”

Read the full statement here.

Affiliate Spotlight: Five Questions for Congreso de Latinos Unidos

The Affiliate of the Year Award is made possible through the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund.

For this month’s Affiliate Spotlight, we travel to Philadelphia, home of our 2014 Affiliate of the Year, Congreso de Latinos Unidos. We caught up with them after the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference in July and asked them to answer five questions about who they are, what they do, and where they’re headed. Enjoy!

NCLR: What is the history and mission of Congreso? Who do you serve? What services do you provide?

Congreso: Our mission is to strengthen Latino communities through social, economic, educational, and health services; leadership development; and advocacy. Over the last five years we have served more than 56,000 unduplicated individuals. Sixty-five percent of our clients are Latino and 33% are Black. Our programs are diverse and include an associate’s degree program; afterschool programs reaching 800 students in grades K–12; GED classes and testing; a federally qualified health center; Pennsylvania’s first Latina domestic violence program; health promotion and wellness; financial literacy; housing counseling; social services; a K–8 dual language charter school; an HIV/AIDS program that conducts testing, provides prevention education, as well as medical case management and meals; and a partnership with the United Way to provide resources for the elderly.

NCLR: This year, Congreso was named NCLR’s Affiliate of the Year, a high honor from NCLR for exemplary work. What has receiving this award meant to the staff at Congreso? How will it shape how you do your work going forward?

Congreso: We are honored to receive the 2014 NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award. As an NCLR Affiliate since 2000, we have turned to this impressive network of Latino providers countless times for partnership opportunities, best practices, and peer exchanges. As a Top Workplace in the Philadelphia Region, our staff’s overwhelming response to what keeps them at Congreso is their direct impact on the Latino community. To be recognized for this work by a national organization, and specifically among the nearly 300 Affiliates who are equally impacting the lives of Latinos throughout the nation, was a meaningful honor. Moving forward, this award emphasizes our commitment to working with partners from all over the country. Fulfilling our mission to strengthening Latino communities is not confined to geographical boundaries, and if we can do so elsewhere by helping smaller nonprofits build their infrastructure or measure outcomes, we are thrilled to begin with the NCLR Affiliate Network.

NCLR: What do you think are some of the most pressing issues facing the community you serve? What do you think Congreso’s role is in helping to solve these problems?

Congreso: Residents of Congreso’s service area experience disproportionate rates of poverty compared to the rest of the city. Fifty-four percent of residents in zip code 19133 (where the majority of Congreso’s clients reside) are living in poverty. It also has the dubious distinction of having the lowest median household income ($14,586) in the city (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013). Our service area also shows other indicators of economic hardship, including one of the largest concentrations of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families recipients in Pennsylvania (PA Dept. of Public Welfare).

Since 2008, Congreso’s service area has also experienced a disproportionate fall in housing prices (The Pew Charitable Trust, 2011). Eastern North Philadelphia is encompassed in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District and in 2011, 99,000 (61%) of children under age 18 lived below 150% of the federal poverty line (Kids Count Census Data, 2000).

Reinforcing these indicators of economic hardship, Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, which encompasses this area, reported the highest rate of food hardship (31.2%) in the state and is ranked fourth highest in the nation (the national rate is 18%) (Food Hardship—Data for the Nation, States, 100 MSAs, and Every Congressional District, 2011). We are in the 10th poorest congressional district in the United States, and the poorest in Pennsylvania (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009).

In 37 years, Congreso has evolved to meet the diverse needs of this community. However, in addition to meeting their current needs, we use our client-centered Primary Client Model (PCM™) to build on the great capacity we see in this community to become self-sufficient, establish short and long-term goals, and provide a continuum of services that will help clients achieve them. Our strategies are both preventive and remedial. Faced with a 50–60% Latino dropout rate, for example, we founded an evidence-informed dropout prevention program at Edison High School, which only has a 38% high school graduation rate. Knowing that the barriers to graduation start long before 12th grade, we also founded a bilingual K–8 charter school to help solidify students’ educational aspirations before they reach high school. As our ability to influence their choices post eighth grade was affected by limited high-quality options, we are now pursuing the expansion of our charter to include a 9th–12th grade continuum.

NCLR: What major initiatives/campaigns are you gearing up for in the near future?

Congreso: Our 2015–2020 strategic vision includes:

  1. Expanding our K–8 charter school to include a high school. This includes launching a capital campaign to open the fourth building on our campus and developing the curriculum for a high-achieving charter high school.
  2. Extending our educational continuum to include early childhood education and Head Start.
  3. Growing our data consulting work, which currently serves nonprofits throughout the country.
  4. Continuing to expand our services outside of Philadelphia County. This past year, for the first time in its history, Congreso is providing direct services outside of Philadelphia. (our clients come from throughout the region, but this is the first time we are delivering services elsewhere).

NCLR: Where would you like to see Congreso go in the next 10 years?

Congreso: In 10 years, we hope to continue to strengthen Latino communities by expanding our programs, services, and thought leadership throughout the nation while growing our impact on the progress of Latino Philadelphia. In 37 years, we have developed a significant level of expertise in specific areas, and we want to help minimize the learning curve for smaller nonprofits in areas where Latinos are just now arriving and growing. There are many areas around the nation whose infrastructure is ill-prepared to deal with an influx of Spanish-speaking populations or who lack strong case management and outcomes measurement models. We are leaders in these areas, and want to be a resource for the ultimate benefit of Latino communities everywhere.

About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education, and American heritage and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in 30 countries. For more information, visit the Ford Motor Company Fund website.

We Salute the U.S. Air Force

This past December, the NCLR familia sent 150 comfort packages and also letters of support to our men and women in the U.S. Air Force who were deployed to Afghanistan. Recently, the Air Force awarded us with the beautiful globe below in appreciation for our efforts. 

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We salute all the men and women serving in all branches of the military and we thank you for your service!

An Undocumented Military Spouse: The Story of Fanny Lopez

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“When Our Troops Serve, Their Families are Serving, Too.” So says the slogan of Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama’s national initiative to bring attention to the needs of military families. But what happens if a family member is undocumented? Does this mean that they are serving their country any less?

This was the challenge faced by Fanny Lopez, the wife of U.S. citizen David Martinez, a member of the Army Reserve. After their marriage in 2008, David hoped to sponsor his new wife for a green card, but Fanny was ineligible because she had entered the United States without authorization as a child.

Fanny Lopez and David Martinez

Fanny Lopez and David Martinez

“So, why are you still undocumented?” Fanny was often asked. Her friends and family could not believe that an army wife was struggling to get a green card. After all, it is expected that being married to a U.S. citizen should automatically grant you legal status, even more if your spouse is fighting for our country.

Two years after they married, David was deployed to Afghanistan with his reserve unit. He left the United States with uncertainty about what would happen to Fanny while he was gone. He was stationed thousands of miles away from his wife and felt powerless to help. This stress weighed heavily on him and at times distracted from his mission. Fanny also felt the stress of her husband’s deployment.

“My world turned upside down. I started thinking about all of the things that could happen while he was gone,” said Fanny.

While David served on the front lines, Fanny was home worrying not only about her husband’s safety, but also about her own because she knew that she could be deported at any time. Yet Fanny continued to provide emotional support for David and tried not to show her concern.

“We are constantly reminded that our husband’s mental and emotional readiness depends on us,” said Fanny.

In addition to her other responsibilities, Fanny was also an excellent college student. One of her professors, who knew of Fanny’s situation, sent her an article from the New York Times that discussed an internal memo from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services about a little-known process called parole in place (PIP). This program provides a path to a green card for undocumented immediate family members of U.S. military personnel. The aim of the program is to promote family unity and secure the readiness of the soldiers.

David needed to be in the U.S. at the time of application, which was impossible while he was stationed in Afghanistan. So while he was gone, Fanny researched the complicated process and waited for David to return home safely.

“Back in 2010, there was almost no information about PIP and the application process,” said Fanny. “It was so uncommon that even immigration lawyers had no knowledge that it existed.”

Fanny_HIBblog_560x372A year later, David returned home uninjured. But as with many veterans, David had a difficult time readjusting to civilian life. He leaned on Fanny for support but also worried about her future in the United States. Fanny remained strong for her husband because she knew that, regardless of the situation, undocumented family members are still expected to support their soldiers.

At the same time, Fanny and David hired a lawyer, Isabel Martinez, who helped them research parole in place. Together they fought through the maze of red tape for a year and a half. In September 2013, they succeeded in getting her green card.

Fanny and David believe that regardless of her immigration status, as an Army wife, she has provided a service to this country.

“Our soldiers have fought for this country and the least they deserve is to have the certainty that their families will be protected no matter where they are,” said Fanny. “After all of our sacrifices, our service to this country must be honored.”

Today, Fanny is no longer at risk of being deported, but she worries about other undocumented immigrants, including her close relatives and friends, who face the threat of deportation and separation from their families. She continues to work with immigrant rights organizations that fight to stop deportations and seeks to empower undocumented immigrants in the Chicago area.

“It is unacceptable that we have to deal with a broken immigration system,” she said. “We all deserve a chance to live free from the fear of deportation. We all deserve resources that will allow us to provide a better life for our families.”

Forward GraphicWant to show your support for Fanny and the millions like her? Sign our petition to let the president know the time for administrative immigration relief is now!

New Report Reveals Impact of Health Coverage Gap on Texas Latinos

Image: Ray Bodden

Image: Ray Bodden

A new report released today with the San Antonio Hisapnic Chamber of Commerce reveals the negative impact of not expanding Medicaid in Texas, especially the effects on the Latino community which comprises 50 percent of the state’s uninsured population.

The report “Closing the Health Care Coverage Gap in Texas: A Latino Perspective” shows that Texas, home of the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured in 2012, has the potential to help nearly 600,000 Latinos by expanding Medicaid.

“Despite broad public support and the clear economic benefits of Medicaid expansion—including an estimated boost in the state’s economic output by $67.9 billion during fiscal years 2014–2017 and generating an additional 231,000 jobs in Texas by 2016—the state of Texas has chosen to reject federal funding to expand the program and has yet to bring forth a viable alternative to bridge the coverage gap,” said Leticia de la Vara, Senior Strategist, NCLR. “It is unacceptable that our most vulnerable populations and the very workers we count on to stimulate the state’s economic engine lack the critical coverage that they need to remain healthy,” said de la Vara.

“It’s time to take a step in the right direction and expand access to care for more Texans; it’s the right thing to do to move Texas forward,” said Ramiro Cavazos, President and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Expanding access to health care will help create robust communities, allowing opportunities to reduce incidences of persistent health concerns.”

Read the whole report below:

President Obama Must Act on Immigration Reform

The refusal of House Republicans to act on immigration reform leaves the president with no choice but to act. Join us in telling President Obama it’s time to bring relief to the country and millions of aspiring Americans now! Sign our petition today!
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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending August 15

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Week Ending August 15, 2014

This week in immigration reform: New poll findings reflect growing support for children fleeing violence in Central America; Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales voices support for executive action on immigration reform; NCLR celebrates 2nd Anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program through a new installment of its “Hanging In the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans” blog series.

–NCLR commemorates 2nd Anniversary of DACA. This week NCLR celebrated the 2nd Anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by highlighting the positive impact the program has had on the more than 587,000 people who have received it. Our blogs this week have explored the tools and resources to better navigate the DACA process; featured the stories of DACA recipients who have benefitted from the temporarily relief; and looked at the need for President Obama to use his executive authority to expand relief from deportation.

Learn more about the DACA impact here and check out this week’s installment of “Hanging in the Balance: Stories of Aspiring Americans” here.

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–Former White House Counsel urges President Obama to act on border crisis, immigration. In an op-ed for USA Today, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales voiced support for President Obama’s potential use of executive authority to address the humanitarian crisis along the southwest border. The former White House counsel also expressed concern over the impact congressional inaction and bickering have had on the children fleeing violence and our broken immigration system, and urged Congressional leaders move forward in crafting a comprehensive immigration plan.

–New poll reflects growing compassion for plight of child refugees. Results from a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll reveal a growing percentage of Americans support allowing the child refuges remain in the United States for some length of time. Poll findings showed 51 percent of respondents believe the unaccompanied children should be allowed to stay in the U.S. at least temporarily, including 38 percent who believe they should be sheltered and cared for until is it safe for them to return home.