Affiliate Spotlight: How the NCLR Affiliate Network Contributes to Organizational Success

By David Castillo, Digital Content Manager, NCLR

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Jose Rodriguez (far right) accepts the 2015 NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award in Kansas City.

This month in the Affiliate Spotlight, we’re featuring El Concilio, our Affiliate based in the heart of the San Joaquin Central Valley of California. This Affiliate has worked hard to position themselves as the hub of resources for the Latino community for the past 48 years. With a strong commitment to community service and by establishing lasting relationships with other community organizations, federal, state, and local elected officials, El Concilio constantly works to improve the lives of those in their community.

Their work has not gone unnoticed. Last year, NCLR recognized El Concilio with our 2015 Affiliate of the Year award. The group is also hosting our upcoming NCLR Affiliate Network Peer Exchange, generously supported and made possible by the Ford Motor Company Fund. For El Concilio’s President and CEO, Jose Rodriguez, the Peer Exchange is an opportunity to share with other Affiliates their own best practices and policies that have helped turn this community-based organization into the cherished resource it is.

Rodriguez credits El Concilio's membership in the Affiliate Network with helping the organization grow.

Rodriguez credits El Concilio’s membership in the Affiliate Network with helping the organization grow.

El Concilio’s mission is simple: to improve the quality of life of Latinos in the Central Valley of California. It was founded in 1968 by a group of community activists and clergy who wanted to start an organization that would serve the growing migrant farmworker community. The original scope of Concilio’s work was limited to things like translation services, employment search assistance, and general advocacy. Over the years, however, it has expanded its array of services to include Head Start programs, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, civic engagement, and parent engagement programs, among others. Its humble beginnings included 28 employees and a one million dollar operating budget. Today, El Concilio boasts more than 200 employees, a $10 million operating budget, and it serves more than 25,000 people per year.

Rodriguez attributes much of El Concilio’s success to its membership within the NCLR Affiliate Network. “[NCLR’s Affiliate Network] contributed to our growth and success because we’ve been able to connect with other Affiliates. We’re able to learn from other orgs what they’re doing; how they’re solving some of the issues,” said Rodriguez. “NCLR leads the way by providing information to us and the research they do, which helps us then develop trainings. It has been the ace in our back pocket.”

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One of the areas where El Concilio shines is in its civic engagement work. Recognizing the need in the Central Valley, El Concilio has integrated civic engagement into everything it does. “A lot of times people think civic engagement is political and tend to shy away,” said Rodriguez. “We hope to help folks understand that it’s about advocacy and empowering our clients to be able to advocate for themselves and really educate them about what’s going on.”

At El Concilio, every client who walks in is greeted with the question of whether they’re registered to vote and if they have health care. This ensures that no opportunity is lost for those eligible to register to vote and gain health care. The group has also fostered healthy competition among its staff. Employee buy-in is critical to ensuring success, Rodriguez says. Every year El Concilio sets a goal of registering 2,500 people, and individual program teams set goals for themselves, too. The approach has worked and the organization often far exceeds its original goal.

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El Concilio was also a key player in the fight for the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights. The group was instrumental in organizing town halls with Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, and these town halls helped her develop the landmark legislation. Rodriguez hopes to share some of the wisdom behind their strategies for relationship- and network-building at the Affiliate Peer Exchange later this month.

It’s this spirit of sharing that Rodriguez finds most beneficial about the Affiliate Network and why he hopes as many Affiliates as possible can attend the convening. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to have received the NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award, because when you look at the Affiliate Network, there are some that are doing an extraordinary amount of work,” said Rodriguez. “Some are bigger than others, but at the end of the day, it’s about getting engaged and putting your best foot forward.”

If you’re an NCLR Affiliate, sign up and register for the NCLR Affiliate Peer Exchange. We’ll see you in Stockton, CA!

Making Sure California’s Retirement Plan Serves Latinos Effectively

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California Treasurer John Chiang speaks to NCLR Affiliates at Neighborhood Housing Partnership Services.

At the NCLR 2015 California Fall Regional Convening in Rancho Cucamonga, California, earlier this month, California State Treasurer John Chiang spoke to our Affiliate Network about the California Secure Choice retirement plan and how this program can help millions of Latinos in the state prepare for a financially secure retirement.

Close to 50 Affiliate organizations from across the state participated in the two-day convening, hosted by our Affiliate, Neighborhood Housing Partnership Services. There they engaged in peer-to-peer learning, networking, and heard from NCLR staff and partners for issue briefings on a number of policy topics.

Currently, only 29 percent of Latinos in California have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, making the Secure Choice individual retirement accounts (IRAs) an important policy for this segment of the American workforce. California Secure Choice, which was passed and enacted in 2012, would provide IRAs for workers whose employers do not offer a retirement plan. NCLR’s research on the state of Latino retirement, Enhancing Latino Retirement Readiness in California, finds that certain plan features could remove barriers many Latino workers face today in preparing for retirement, including automatic payroll contributions, the ability to keep the account when an employee changes jobs, and the plan’s wide reach—workers at companies with just five or more employees would be automatically enrolled in the plan.

Treasurer Chiang noted that the Secure Choice board is conducting research and engaging stakeholders across the state, including employers and community members, on the plan’s design specifics. NCLR will continue to follow these developments and keep Affiliates updated on opportunities to provide their perspective to help ensure implementation of Secure Choice in California will maximize Latino participation.

NCLR Affiliate Spotlight: People Are at the Heart of Hispanic Unity Florida

By David Castillo, Digital Content Manager, NCLR

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Community-based organizations exist to help people in myriad ways by making sure they have the necessary resources to live and prosper. To serve people well, the heads of such organizations must be thoughtful about the team they assemble to carry out the organization’s mission. For this month’s Affiliate Spotlight, Hispanic Unity Florida (HUF), having the right team in place is a source of pride.

“We serve more than 17,000 people annually in the areas of civic engagement, economic development, and education,” said Josie Bacallao, HUF President and CEO. “We also have an incredible team that has been with us for a very long time, at every level, who has incredible dedication and passion for the work that they do.”

Though the organization has experienced some rough, unexpected moments during the height of the Great Recession, dedication to HUF’s mission never waned among staff members, said Bacallao.

HUFLOGOIt’s a good thing, too, because HUF provides much-needed services to their neighbors. HUF’s mission is to empower people, primarily Latino immigrants, in becoming self-sufficient and leading productive lives. The group also works on helping immigrants become civically engaged, of which the first step is becoming a U.S. citizen.

“When you look at the continuum of immigrants to the U.S., whether you’ve been here for only three months or for 15 years, we help them with everything from learning English to transitioning into becoming a U.S. citizen,” said Bacallao.

Hispanic Unity Florida’s civic engagement work is especially important. Programs include an eight-week citizenship class and eight drop-in classes, both of which serve South Florida’s tri-county (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach) area. These two programs alone serve more than 1,500 people a year. Both are volunteer-run. HUF is also recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as a BIA—Board of Immigration Appeals—organization, which allows it to provide naturalization assistance. The majority of the 1,500 people HUF serves in this area become American citizens.

NCLR’s citizenship team has provided HUF with funding and technical assistance in its civic engagement work. HUF was able to grow from one class to nine and eventually have a strong enough program to be supported through U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. HUF attributes its success to NCLR’s support and guidance. HUF was also recently named 2015 Southeast Affiliate of the Year at NCLR’s Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

HUF2_blogsizeWhile HUF has been engaged in growing their civic engagement capacity, that work is just one of many services our Affiliate provides. From helping people enroll in a qualified health plan through the Affordable Care Act to providing employment services, no matter what their clients need, HUF staff and volunteers do their best to help them.

“We really take the time to discover what our client’s needs are in order to help them—there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Oftentimes, clients come in for just one service, for example just looking for a job, but many leave taking advantage of our many services and transform their lives in the process,” said Bacallao.

As for the future, HUF and its volunteer leaders are currently engaged in developing a strategic plan to map it out. They’re also working to close the Medicaid gap, as more than 800,000 Floridians still lack health coverage. Bacallao says they also plan to continue helping immigrants integrate into the community.

No matter what their programmatic work looks like going forward, one thing is for sure: HUF’s core mission will stay the same and they will continue to empower a new generation of Americans.

Highlights from 2015 NCLR Affiliate Regional Fall Meetings

Every fall, NCLR Affiliates come together at one of our four regional convenings across the country. These meetings give members of the NCLR Affiliate network an opportunity to share what we’ve been working on over the past year, as well as learn from each other on how to strengthen the programs we have in store for the future.

This year, participants engaged in discussions and presentations on a range of issues from health policy to housing and more. Below are highlights from this year’s meetings.

California

Texas

Far West/Midwest

Northeast/East

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending August 7

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Week Ending August 7

This week in immigration reform: candidates in the first GOP presidential debate miss the mark on immigration; additional polls find Americans support immigration reform; and an NCLR Affiliate urges elevating the immigration debate beyond inflammatory rhetoric.

First GOP presidential debate for 2016, a missed opportunity: Last night was the first GOP presidential debate for the 2016 election and 10 candidates took the stage. While immigration was a hot topic, few of the candidates chose to outline responsible policies that would garner broad support from the American public, like comprehensive reform. Instead, they suggested building a fence with a “big beautiful door,” getting control of the border, and Donald Trump doubled-down on his claims that immigrants are criminals. Watch NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía respond to those comments on MSNBC below.

Read more in a CBS News article, watch brief clips of statements in a NBC News video, or read the entire annotated transcript of the debate.

Additional polls reiterate Americans’ support for immigration reform: Not only do a majority of Americans support a path to legal status for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, but a majority of Republicans do as well. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 36 percent of Republican respondents favored reform that would eventually lead to citizenship, and an additional 17 percent favored a path that offered legal status, totaling 53 percent. Overall, 47% of respondents favored a path to citizenship, with a total of 64 percent supporting legal status of some kind.

Another poll found a majority of Americans believe immigrants contribute to society rather than cause problems (59 percent). In light of recent legislation in Congress that would punish cities for refusing to compromise community safety for controversial immigration policies, the poll found “most Americans think illegal immigrants are just as likely to commit crimes as U.S. citizens. Republicans, however, are somewhat more inclined to say illegal immigrants are more likely to commit crimes (33 percent) than U.S. citizens (11 percent).” Americans clearly know what statistics show: that first generation immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than their native-born peers, and second generation children of immigrants don’t commit crimes any more frequently than their non-Hispanic white peers. Current rhetoric from 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls flies in the face of these numbers, with front-runners supporting deportation policies and decrying “amnesty.”

NCLR Affiliate brings attention to economic and human dimensions of  immigration: Ricardo Sánchez, founder of the Latino/a Educational Achievement Project at Sea Mar Community Health Centers, an NCLR Affiliate, co-authored an op-ed outlining the importance of undocumented workers in the agriculture sector. The authors write: “We should appreciate and not vilify undocumented workers for the value they bring to state and national economies and the world’s food stream. In large part, because of undocumented workers, the U.S. agricultural system is lauded internationally for its productivity and quality, and we all benefit as consumers.

This should be the context from which immigration reform is debated and reformed, and Donald Trump should be dismissed as an attention-seeking, bellicose guy with bad hair and money who will never be president.”