North Carolina’s HB2 Spurs NCLR Regional Convening Location Change

HB2 protestors sit on the steps of the North Carolina Museum of History during the Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Photo: Nathania Johnson

HB2 protestors sit on the steps of the North Carolina Museum of History during the Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Photo: Nathania Johnson

You can now count NCLR as one of the many businesses and organizations protesting North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law known as HB2. This week we announced that NCLR would be canceling its Northeast/Southeast Regional Leadership Convening scheduled for this October in Raleigh. Instead, we’ll be moving our meeting to Miami, a city where no such discrimination has been codified into law.

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Let’s Focus on What Matters

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Photo: Gage Skidmore

Photo: Gage Skidmore

It seems that we in the Latino community are not exempt from this election’s silly season. This week Buzzfeed published an article stating that the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA)—a 25-year-old coalition of the 40 largest Latino organizations in the country—was “kicking out” Presente, an online organization that aims to amplify Latino voices, because of its attack this week on HUD Secretary Julián Castro. This is false. And apparently reporting from the future, kos of Daily Kos took this unsubstantiated and unconfirmed rumor as fact and even ascribed motivations to why it was done: “old school” Latino organizations objecting to criticism of a Latino leader.

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And Justice For All: Building Relationships for Immigrant Communities

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC Legal Center

By Danny Turkel, Digital Coordinator, NCLR

Founded 31 years ago, the Training Occupational Development Educating Communities Legal Center (TODEC) has been an advocate for immigrants’ rights in California’s Inland Empire. The organization was instrumental in advocating and lobbying for the successful passage of AB 60, a 2013 California law authorizing driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. While some decried the law, thousands of people already driving in California were able to take state mandated driving tests and become officially certified to drive in the state. Public safety aside, the law provided more than just a state-issued license. For the first time, many undocumented immigrants were able to take their children to school without fear of tickets, arrest, confiscation of their vehicles, or even deportation.

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC, described the fight to make sure all Californians can live their lives productively and effectively.

“We just celebrated the one-year anniversary of the passage of AB 60, which is
the California driver license law for undocumented immigrants. There were situations where the police would be outside the schools in the mornings and afternoons, giving tickets, and once they found out a parent didn’t have a driver’s license, they would take their vehicle away,” said Gallegos. “The parents felt that they were being targeted. A high percentage of families living in the area were undocumented.”TODEC logo

The confiscation of the family car had a detrimental impact: children weren’t able to get to school, nor parents to work.

Compounding the issue, the various police departments in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial counties were less than receptive to working with the community to address the driver’s license issue, among others.

“Once AB 60 passed, one of the sheriffs in an area we serve said that his department wouldn’t respect the law, but through building relationships and sitting down and discussing our constituents’ side, he finally agreed that he would uphold the law and allow his officers to do so as well,” said Gallegos.

Relationship-building has been a tool consistently invoked in the fight against police abuse, and while that may seem obvious to an observer, those working on the ground to correct the police violence epidemic see it as the most valuable tactic available. Once both sides of the debate sit down to discuss their views and issues, the debate softens and workable solutions are usually found.

“Relationships are important—not only with the police officers and captains, but also with the sheriffs because they are elected officials and it’s very important for them to see that the community is paying attention to them as well. That brought a lot of accountability.”

Ending abusive policing tactics is a challenge we must undertake as a nation if we wish to live in a peaceful, trusting society. Allowing distrust and violence to become ingrained in our collective lives would undermine the basic tenets of our democracy.

And Justice For All: Engaging People through Community Policing Programs

By Danny Turkel, Digital Coordinator, NCLR

In spite of the narrative playing out in most cities, Octavio Villalobos is one police officer who’s working to build trust between the police and his community. As the head of the Kansas City Police Department’s Community Policing Program, Villalobos is tasked with conducting community outreach to show residents how they can partner with the police department in ridding their neighborhoods of crime.

“We assess the problems affecting the community systemically with quality of life issues and we try to partner with the community and resolve those issues before they become issues of crime,” said Villalobos.” We try to deter it, problem solve it, or use law enforcement to clean it up, and we do all that in partnership with the community.”

In Kansas City, community policing includes doing things not usually thought of as traditional police duties. For Villalobos, that means building showers for day laborers in the program’s office, or attending little-league games and schools events, and assisting in the rebuilding of community infrastructure. Doing these things, Villalobos says, has demonstrated to the community that their goals are intertwined with those of the police in improving the neighborhood.

“As soon as we initiated that and started doing outreach, the community members started to respond like, ‘Wow, that was an act of compassion,’” said Villalobos. He notes that as that relationship has strengthened, community members have been much more willing to assist police in deterring and investigating crime.

Villalobos praises his department leaders with being “ahead of the game” in recognizing the need to involve the community in their police work, as well as hiring police officers who are representative of the community they patrol.

Before the civil rights movement, Kansas City was marred by race-based tension and segregation. Because of this, Villalobos says, the police department began learning to operate through a community-based approach much earlier than most other cities.

An early emphasis on recruitment from the inner city allowed for greater representation on the force. This allowed a young Octavio Villalobos to view policing as a career in which Latinos could be successful. He also stresses the need for police departments across the country to make it known that they are not “an occupying force in the neighborhood,” but rather a partner dedicated to improving the lives of community members.

Any law enforcement approach must involve tackling the issues from both sides, stresses

Kansas City, MO Image courtesy of Caleb Zahnd.

Kansas City skyline as Night Descends
Image courtesy of Caleb Zahnd.

Villalobos. The leaders of the police department must work with the most vulnerable members of the community.

Villalobos’ experience in Kansas City demonstrates how police departments can yield positive results, reduce incidents of police abuse, and increase public safety through an investment and a commitment to engage with Latino communities.

Sen. Schumer Introduces Bill to Curb Puerto Rico Debt Crisis

Yesterday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill that would extend to Puerto Rico the same bankruptcy protections available to states. Watch:

“I rise today, deeply troubled, by the dire economic, financial, and health care situation in Puerto Rico. The island is facing a financial crisis, a health care system on life support, and the situation grows dire each month. Puerto Rico is $73 billion in debt already and large bond payments will continue to come due next month, and in the months to come. Sadly, as Puerto Rico’s economy and health care system has floundered, residents have started to flee their homeland. As the economic situation worsens, the population shift from the island to the mainland will continue until the only ones left are those who don’t have the resources to move. At that point we’re going to have a humanitarian crisis on our hands, if there isn’t one already.”

Sen. Schumer’s bill was blocked by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), however. Mr. Hatch indicated that an alternative solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis would be introduced soon.

We’re following developments on Capitol Hill as the crisis unfolds. Check back here often for more updates.