Congress Wants You to Believe Dodd-Frank is the Problem. Don’t Fall For It.

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy Strategist, NCLR

At a the National Journal event this week,  experts discussed the state of sustainable homeownership, housing finance reform, and potential solutions to systemic problems in housing. Reforming Fannie and Freddie is of critical importance to the Latino community, who will comprise half of the housing market by 2020—but we wonder why the National Journal is leading the discussion and Congress isn’t. These topics should be the central focus in Washington when it comes to improving the housing market. Instead, Congress is trumpeting this misinformed notion that Dodd-Frank is the cause of all our problems.

Dodd-Frank was the comprehensive legislation that was passed to prevent total economic collapse seven years ago. It stopped the bleeding and helped lay the foundation for a better economic system for consumers and honest dealers. To build on its successes, we must now direct our attention to how the secondary housing market is managed. That is, how do Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and thus taxpayers, avoid being left with all the liability and none of the benefits should another crisis rear its head?

Congress has attempted to take on housing finance reform in several iterations only to be stymied by gridlock. We know there is a way. In its joint report with the Center for American Progress, Making the Mortgage Market Safe for America’s Families, NCLR outlined a research-based roadmap to a broad, accessible, and affordable housing market. For example, there is a dire need for a fully funded Market Access Fund (MAF) to promote broader access to mortgage credit and to foster new and safe mortgage products as a way of increasing access. The MAF would also fully fund the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF)—a state block grant program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, designed to increase and preserve the supply of rental housing for very and extremely low-income families. We finally saw advances in this department late last year when the FHFA announced plans to fund both the NHTF and the Capital Magnet Fund. This is just the beginning, though.

Along with adequate funding, a new housing finance system needs a robust regulatory mechanism to monitor for safety and soundness, consumer protection, and access and affordability. While national experts grasp the importance of an improved housing finance reform system, Congress continues to use Dodd-Frank as a scapegoat. They are wasting time and taxpayer dollars, while never getting to the real issue at hand.

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending October 3

Immigration_reform_Updates_blue

Week Ending October 3

This week in immigration reform: NCLR hosts a panel about Latinos and the November midterm election; NCLR posts another installment of the “Hanging in the Balance” blog series; National Journal publishes an op-ed by NCLR’s Charles Kamasaki; President Obama addresses immigration reform at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual gala.

–NCLR hosts panel discussion about the upcoming midterm election: NCLR convened a discussion to highlight the power of the Latino vote and the potential for Hispanic voters to decide close races. In a press statement , Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR said “There is a misconception that Latinos won’t matter this election cycle because it’s a midterm election and they are apathetic toward both parties. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We are continuing to grow our voting numbers in areas where critical races could be determined by less than a 1 percent margin of victory. How candidates engage in outreach toward our community and handle issues important to Latinos, such as immigration, will undoubtedly impact this high-stakes election cycle in which both parties are fighting for control of the Senate.” The panel was comprised of experts from NCLR, Latino Decisions, Voto Latino, and the Center for American Progress. Audio of the entire discussion is featured in NCLR’s recent blog post.

–NCLR continues ‘Hanging in the Balance’ series with the story of DACA recipient turned advocate: In our latest blog post, NCLR highlights the tale of Giancarlo Tello, a DACA recipient who came to the U.S. from Peru at age six. While growing up, Giancarlo took honors classes, played sports, and received good grades. He didn’t even know he was undocumented until his mother told him after he asked her for a ride to the DMV to get his driver’s permit. He continued to encounter other hurdles because of his status, especially when applying for college because he didn’t have a social security number. Giancarlo continued his pursuit to continue his education and began attending Bergen Community College, where he became involved in the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition and earned an associate degree. He then enrolled at Rutgers University-Camden and continued advocating for DACA and a New Jersey state bill that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. Giancarlo urges President Obama to provide relief to other students and their families through executive action and highlights the importance of a strong Latino electorate, saying “Neither party should take Latinos for granted.”

–National Journal publishes an opinion piece by NCLR Senior Cabinet Advisor, Charles Kamasaki: In a new op-ed, titled “Critics Say Executive Action on Immigration Would Be Unprecedented. They Forget Their History.” Charles Kamasaki, examines past executive actions by presidents to alter the immigration process and notes that since the mid-1970s, presidential discretion has been exercised more than 20 times. He writes, “The record is clear: Presidents of both parties have used discretionary powers on multiple occasions to protect various groups from deportation for an enormously wide variety of reasons. Except for temporary conditions, Congress acted later—often years later—to ratify the president’s decisions.” A longer version of the piece, with endnotes, is available here.

–President Obama speaks at the annual Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Gala: President Obama was introduced at the CHCI gala by Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) who said “We look to you, Mr. President, for big, bold, unapologetic administrative relief for millions.” The president addressed executive action on immigration at this year’s CHCI gala, promising to act after the midterms but before the end of the year, according to a Washington Post article. President Obama recognized the frustration of the Latino community with his delay in relief and emphasized the need for Congressional action, as an administrative one would only be temporary and vulnerable under a new Administration. Thus, to ensure lasting reform, the President urged Hispanics to get out and vote, noting that only 48 percent of voters turned out in 2012, and saying “the clearest path to change is to change that number.  Si, se puede … si votamos.  Yes we can … if we vote.”

Ending the $2.13/Hour Tipped Minimum Wage Will Narrow the Latino Pay Gap

By Ricky Garza, Communications Coordinator, NCLR

Photo: Torbakhopper

Photo: Torbakhopper

While cities across the country are fighting for increases in the minimum wage, thousands of servers are stuck earning the shockingly low federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour. Unlike the standard minimum wage of $7.25, the tipped minimum wage has remained unchanged for 23 years, forcing workers to rely on tips for the majority of their income.

For these workers, who are disproportionately Latino, $2.13 per hour plus tips is rarely enough to make ends meet.

In a recent National Journal piece, tip work and insufficient pay are a fact of life for Jimmie Luthuli, a tipped worker earning $2.77 in Washington, DC. Though federal law says tipped workers earning less than the standard minimum wage after tips must be paid the difference—called the tip credit—Jimmie Luthuli often makes far less. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 83.8 percent of full-service restaurants surveyed by the Department of Labor violated tip credit provisions.

Fortunately, some states have countered such labor violations by revising their minimum wage laws for tipped workers. In eight states around the country, the tipped minimum wage has been abolished in favor of a single minimum wage for all workers, tipped or otherwise. According to a new study from the National Women’s Law Center, these states have made progress in closing the pay gap between Latina workers and White men and reducing poverty rates between men and women.

In states that maintain separate tipped and standard minimum wages, the pay gap is larger. For these states, Latinas working full-time earn $0.51 on every White male worker’s dollar, a wage gap of $0.49. For Latinas working in states with a single minimum wage for all works, the pay gap falls slightly to $0.47. Although the decrease is small, the study underscores the fact that minimum wage policies have real implications for reducing racial pay disparities.

Beyond this, the report also found female tipped minimum wage workers in states without a separate tipped minimum wage have poverty rates 33 percent lower than in states with tipped minimum wages of $2.13 an hour. While women still had higher poverty rates than men in all states, ending the tipped minimum wage made a significant difference in lowering these rates.

The tipped minimum wage should end and be replaced with a strong living wage applicable to all workers. Policymakers from city halls to statehouses to Congress should ensure no one working full-time is forced to live in poverty. For Latino families, raising the minimum wage for all workers would represent a significant step in the fight against poverty and the persistent racial wealth gap. It’s time to end the unconscionably low tipped minimum wage and give all workers the robust living wage they deserve.

For Latinos, the Deportation Crisis Is Personal

Activists at more than 50 rallies around the country this weekend urged the White House to freeze deportations and stop dividing families.

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza

Violetta Markelou Photography 2011Sometime in the next few days our country will reach a troubling milestone—the 2 millionth deportation under the Obama administration.

Beginning with our 2007 report, Paying the Price, which documented the enormous impact that deportations have on U.S. children who are left behind, the National Council of La Raza has expressed deep concern over the devastating effects that a record number of deportations have had on Latinos.

Read the full article at NationalJournal.com

Educating First-Generation Americans

Delia Pompa photo

Delia Pompa, Senior Vice President, Programs, NCLR

National Journal’s Education Insiders blog features our very own Senior Vice President for Programs, Delia Pompa.

Each week, National Journal’s Fawn Johnson poses a question about the latest education news to the blog’s insiders. This week, Johnson asked about how we can adequately educate first-generation Americans, or “first-gens.”

Below is Johnson’s question, followed by Pompa’s response.

What is the difference between first-gens and other college students? Is the Hollywood version of a backpack toting 18-year-old campus freshman be an anachronism? What can elite colleges do to recruit nontraditional students, and how successful can they be at it? What can state and local governments do to support community colleges that educate the bulk of the first-gens? Is there a way to change the equation and make sure more of these first-gens are at elite schools, and maybe even more “traditional” students are at community colleges?

Delia Pompa:
Meeting the needs of first-generation Latino students in our colleges and universities must be a national priority. Among all racial and ethnic groups, Latinos represent the highest proportion of first-generation college students, yet they are less likely to earn degrees. Latinos in 2008–2009 accounted for only 12.4 percent of all associate’s degrees, 8 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, 6 percent of all master’s degrees, and 3.8 percent of all doctoral degrees. To correct these persistently poor outcomes, significantly greater dollars must be invested in programmatic interventions that positively impact the perseverance and retention of Latino students.

We know that first-generation Latino students are often less prepared for the academic, social, and financial requirements of college. Efforts that intentionally impact the academic and social development of students for a smooth college transition are key. The recipe for increasing the proportion of first-generation students who complete college includes: opportunities for accessing targeted tutoring services and advisement, participating in peer-led study networks, and engaging in sustained mentoring relationships to navigate a new culture and environment. Equally important is the need for campus environments to recognize the presence of a less traditional student body and take steps to meet that population’s distinctive academic and social needs. These efforts are most successful when they include the use of data to drive curricular improvements, enhance student supports, and increase cultural competence in relationships between students and their faculty and advisers. Finally, sufficient financial aid for first-generation Latino students is essential to ensuring that students aren’t forced to choose between focusing on their studies and focusing on employment to make ends meet.

Our nation’s future economy and social fabric depend on college completion for all first-generation students.

Go to National Journal’s site to read the rest of the responses from other education experts.