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.

Hispanic-Leadership-Institute

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.”

“SAFE Act” Redux: A Bill That Encourages Racial Profiling Is the Wrong Approach to Immigration

The president’s executive actions will provide welcome relief for millions of American families who fear losing a loved one to deportation. But while this temporary fix alleviates some of the pain and suffering brought about by our broken immigration system, it is a far cry from the lasting solution that only comprehensive immigration reform can bring.

Heading into the new legislative session, we had hoped that Congress would pursue legislation that addresses the multitude of problems that exist within our outdated immigration laws. Yet in the short time that they have been in office, we have already seen House Republicans backpedal on this issue by attempting to dismantle the president’s deportation relief programs. Now they are considering bringing back the ironically named “SAFE Act,” or “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act” (H.R. 2278).

In contrast to its name, the “SAFE Act” will make living in America more dangerous for millions of families. This legislation gives state and local authorities the power to create and implement their own immigration laws, throwing an already chaotic immigration system into further disorder. It emphasizes an enforcement-only approach that focuses on locating, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants. It encourages racial profiling, which will inevitably lead to wrongful detention because anyone who “looks illegal” can be stopped, arrested, and detained. And it goes so far as to criminalize undocumented status, as well as the mere act of providing assistance to undocumented immigrants. Under this law, a church providing shelter to undocumented immigrants could actually face criminal prosecution.

Using deplorable legislation such as Arizona SB 1070 and the Sensenbrenner bill of 2005 as models for current immigration policy is not the way forward. Making racial profiling the law of the land threatens our civil rights, violates our core American values, and tramples on the constitutional principle of being presumed innocent until proven guilty. Threatening undocumented immigrants also erodes community safety because these individuals will be less likely to report crimes to the police.

We have seen Arizona and Alabama go down this misguided path of pursuing draconian enforcement bills. The results were the same: a slew of lawsuits and the dismantling of these racial profiling laws by the courts.

The House of Representatives has a responsibility to put forward sensible solutions to fix our immigration system, but the “SAFE Act” is not only unwise, it is downright dangerous. If we want to make progress on immigration, then the House should abandon the “SAFE Act” and focus on bipartisan compromise that takes a comprehensive approach to fixing our immigration woes.

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending April 25

Immigration_reform_Updates_blue

Week Ending April 25, 2014

This week in immigration reform: the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of provisions to Arizona’s SB 1070 that would have made harboring or transporting undocumented immigrants illegal; House Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) expressed their support for immigration reform; and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) sent a letter to Speaker Boehner reminding him that immigration reform legislation is in the nation’s and the GOP’s best interest.

–U.S. Supreme Court denied review of harmful provisions to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB 1070. On Monday April 21, the Supreme Court denied review to the provision in SB 1070 that would make harboring and transporting undocumented immigrants illegal. Lead Plaintiff, and NCLR Affiliate, Valle del Sol, along with other organizations n in Arizona worked tirelessly to push back against legislation that would have subjected many, including the Latino community, to racial profiling and discrimination. The provision had been previously blocked by the District Court in Phoenix back in 2012 and the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit also upheld the injunction.

–GOP House Reps. Aaron Schock and Adam Kinzinger back legal status for undocumented people.  On Tuesday April 22, Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) endorsed some form of legal status for undocumented immigrants in Chicago. While Rep. Schock had already mentioned his support for reform before, on a video testimonial aired at the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition event on Tuesday, he reaffirmed his support for reform including a path to citizenship. Kinzinger, in his video testimonial, stated his support for granting undocumented immigrants legal status. The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition event was a gathering meant to encourage House Republicans to act on reform this year and featured the likes of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, two former governors, and gubernatorial candidate Bruce Renner.

–House Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) sent a letter to Speaker Boehner urging him to allow a vote on immigration reform. Rep. King, who has been vocal in the past about immigration reform, sent a letter on April 23 to Speaker Boehner to act on the principles the GOP set out earlier this year regarding immigration. Rep. King states that immigration reform with a path to citizenship and strong border security is not only in the country’s best interest but also in the GOP’s best interest.

NCLR and Affiliates in Action.

  • Colorado: On Thursday April 24, the NCLARF hosted a roundtable discussion where the Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Regional Representative for the Department of Labor Dusti Gurule addressed the role of immigration reform in the business community. The speakers addressed the vital role immigrant workers play in the farming, agriculture, tourist, and high tech industries.
Charles Ward, Jenna Espinoza, Dusti Gurule, and moderator Aaron Cole from the Aurora Sentinel discuss immigration reform.

Charles Ward, Jenna Espinoza, Dusti Gurule, and moderator Aaron Cole from the Aurora Sentinel discuss immigration reform.

  • Florida: NCLR Affiliates continue to make calls and advocate for the passage of the in-state tuition bill, SB 1400.  The bill, which has already passed in the state House of Representatives, would allow graduates from Florida high schools to pay the in-state tuition rate at public universities, regardless of their immigration status.

 

SB 1070 Taken Down Yet Another Notch

SCOTUS_picEarlier this week, the Supreme court dealt another blow to supporters of the infamous anti-immigrant SB 1070 law. The court declined to review a specific provision of SB 1070 that would have made it illegal to transport or harbor undocumented immigrants. That provision had already been blocked by the U.S. District court in Phoenix and an injunction was later upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Were it not for the tireless work of our Arizona Affiliates, this case might still be making its way through the courts. The case was led by our Affiliates in Arizona, with Valle del Sol listed as the lead plaintiff.

NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, applauded the court’s decision in the statement below.

“The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold this injunction unequivocally affirms what we have known to be true since this law was passed in 2010: SB 1070 is an unconstitutional infringement on the civil rights of all Arizonans. This legislation is a reckless attempt to make racial profiling and discrimination the law of the land in Arizona, tarnishing the state’s reputation and needlessly costing millions of dollars to defend it in the courts. We applaud the efforts of our Affiliates in Arizona, including the lead plaintiff in this court case, Valle del Sol, and the supporting plaintiff, Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as our allies throughout the state. They have all tirelessly pushed back against this legislation in order to ensure that all Arizonans, especially Latinos, are treated by law enforcement fairly, with dignity and respect.”

Will Jan Brewer’s Veto Usher in a New Era for Arizona?

By Leticia de la Vara, Senior Strategist, NCLR Policy Analysis Center, Phoenix Office

Photo: George Takei Facebook page

Photo: George Takei Facebook page

This week, all eyes were on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) as yet another piece of hateful legislation sat on her desk awaiting her signature.  Yet rather than pandering to unsubstantiated fears—this time—Brewer made a choice that was right for all Arizonans by vetoing SB 1062.

SB 1062 would have allowed businesses to legally deny service to customers if their religious beliefs were burdened.  Although not explicitly stated, the bill was designed to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community.  As the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in this country, NCLR was appalled that this bill passed through the Arizona legislature.  An attack on the civil rights of the LGBT community is an attack on the civil rights of us all.

If this piece of legislation showed us anything, it’s that the Arizona legislature is completely out of touch with their constituents.  This revelation is not exactly news to NCLR, which recently fought to gut Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, which would have legalized racial profiling.

Contrary to the image of Arizona that the legislature has created, the Arizonans I know celebrate diversity and would not support a piece of legislation that seeks to discriminate against one group of people.  As we saw over the past two weeks, Arizonans were not willing to stay quiet.  Businesses, community leaders, and everyday citizens across the state pushed back against the extremists championing this bill.

We were especially lucky to have the business community come out in strong opposition to SB 1062.  Both Major League Baseball and the National Football League issued statements against the bill, voicing their strong support for the rights and inclusion of the LGBT community, and more than 80 companies, trade organizations, and other business groups, including Apple, signed a letter encouraging Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062. I’m sure the economic backlash that resulted from SB 1070 was weighing heavily on her mind as she contemplated whether to sign this piece of legislation.

Still, what’s more important to remember is that protecting a person’s civil rights should never be a business decision. While the economic argument can be particularly persuasive for certain legislators, we have to move beyond putting a price tag on our citizens’ rights.  We should oppose laws such as SB 1070 and SB 1062 because they lead to discrimination and racial profiling, not because they cost us millions of dollars.  These bills run contrary to the very principles that this nation was founded upon.

Governor Brewer said it best:  “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value.  So is nondiscrimination.”

While we celebrate this victory, we must also recognize the priorities that the Arizona legislature has clearly laid out and the chance that more bills like this will pass through this state house and senate.  But we can win if the LGBT community, civil rights groups, and immigrants’ rights advocates stand together.  Rooting out discrimination remains a long and arduous task in many areas of this country, but together we can make sure that legalizing discrimination is damn near impossible.