Sac Bee: It’s not just immigration. How Latino leaders want to participate in pandemic recovery

July 23, 2020

By: Kim Bojorquez 

The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative released on Thursday a set of policy recommendations aimed at policymakers and political leaders to improve opportunities for Latino communities and push them towards a road to an “equitable recovery” in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 38-page agenda, titled the 21st Century Latino Agenda, focuses on climate change, voting rights, health, immigrant rights, education, housing, criminal justice and economic opportunity.

“We offer a blueprint to meaningfully include Latinos in recovery efforts that recognizes the unique challenges they face and their importance in the success of our state and our country,” said Sonja Diaz, the founding executive director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, during a virtual press conference announcing the agenda’s release.

The agenda was put together after the Latino policy initiative convened 80 prominent Latino leaders on July 15 to discuss the biggest issues facing U.S. Latinos amid the coronavirus crisis.

While immigration continues to be a key issue for Latino communities, Diaz emphasized it is not the only one Latinos prioritize.

“The fact is, every issue is a Latino issue,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who chairs the California Latino Legislative Caucus. “A lot of times people don’t talk about the Latino agenda and think about climate change. We took that on.”

Gonzalez said she, along with Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, is using the policy recommendations to look at future legislation in California.

One of the first issues the agenda addressed was climate change, environment and public health. The report says 60% of U.S. Latinos reside in four states that experience extreme climate events, referring to wildfires and droughts in California, rising sea levels and floods in Florida and New York and hurricanes in Texas.

“The climate crisis and pollution from fossil fuel combustion are a public health emergency, and the impacts disproportionately affect people of color,” according to the agenda.

Durazo, D-Los Angeles, who oversees one of the most Latino-populated districts in the state, said it was important to release the agenda ahead of the presidential election. The agenda will be shared with presidential candidates, as well as national, state and local leaders.

When it comes to voting rights and political representation, the agenda recommends improving access to voter participation for what could be the “largest non-White electorate in 2020.”

The agenda calls for the end of voter suppression in the U.S. by increasing ballot access and institutionalizing voter education as a government function, especially as the pandemic curtails the traditional voting system. It also advocates that all voters, particularly voters of color, be able to cast a ballot during the pandemic without risking infection to themselves or poll workers.

“A likely inaccurate decennial census count and the upcoming 2021 redistricting cycle make voting rights and political representation a paramount concern for Latinos,” the report says.

The agenda also includes solidarity with the Black solidarity amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in police custody in Minnesota.

Cástulo de la Rocha, president and CEO of AltaMed Health Services, said there is still work to be done to unite Black and Latino communities and hopes the agenda serves as a step to demonstrate the Latino community’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Both Black and Latino communities are subject to significant disparities in many areas, particularly in health outcomes,” he said. “All of us must demand equity and break down the systematic racial barriers that stand in our way of our opportunities, social mobility, and our very existence.”


Contact the Reporter: Kim Bojorquez / 916-321-1126 /