Hispanic Federation Fights for Civil Rights for All
The issues are as complex as they are diverse: immigration, environmental justice, the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, farmworker protections. These are just some of the issues that have been at the center of Hispanic Federation’s civil rights work during the first half of 2016.
Immigration – In November 2014, President Obama issued a number of important Executive Actions dealing with immigration and undocumented immigrants. In the months that followed, Hispanic Federation and member agencies met with federal, state and local government officials and agencies to prepare for the massive influx of questions and applicants this proposal generated. When anti-immigrant leaders challenged the President’s actions in court, Hispanic Federation joined an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold the programs. HF participated in coalition meetings, rallies, and gave testimony on the importance of passing DAPA and expanded DACA. Sadly, the Supreme Court’s recent deadlock (4-4) vote on the Texas v. United States case will effectively deny these administrative changes from being enacted during the Obama administration. In the face of the court’s actions, HF has launched a public education campaign to inform Latinos about the implications of the decision and the temporary relief opportunities that may exist for them and their families. HF is also redoubling its efforts to get Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform including a path for citizenship and relief for undocumented individuals.
In addition to the issues confronting undocumented immigrants, Hispanic Federation has been a leader in pushing the federal government to grant TPS Status to Ecuadoreans in the United States in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake that hit the South American nation in April. HF has also been a powerful voice calling attention to the continued arrival of child migrants from Central America and decrying the often-cruel conditions under which many of these children are detained in the United States.
Puerto Rico Debt Crisis – When Puerto Rico teetered on the brink of a financial meltdown, Hispanic Federation became a leading national voice on the need for federal action to address the island’s debt crisis. HF analyzed congressional legislation, issued policy letters, briefed members of Congress and partners, and built a national coalition to press for a solution to Puerto Rico’s $72 billion in debt. We were successful in removing or amending some of the egregious provisions in the PROMESA Bill, including ensuring the protection of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, preserving the National Environmental Policy Act for the Commonwealth, and limiting the impact of the federal financial oversight and management board. There is still more work to do. HF will work with Congress, the Obama Administration and the next President to address PROMESA’s shortcomings and to address largely ignored issues such as the island’s ongoing healthcare funding crisis and its economic development needs.
Environmental Justice – During the first half of 2016, Hispanic Federation increased its visibility and leadership on conservation and climate justice issues. As co-chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda’s (NHLA) Energy and Environment Committee, HF was a leading voice for the inclusion – for the first time in its history – of energy and environmental issues as an NHLA policy priority. The NHLA 2016 Policy Priority Agenda was released in a briefing on Capitol Hill attended by over 100 people. It has also proved to be an important education and advocacy tool in all HF advocacy meetings with policy leaders.
Additionally, HF had led efforts to draft NHLA letters to the President, various administration secretaries the National Park Service Centennial, designation of the Stonewall Inn as a historic park, and first-of-its-kind letter opposing riders to the Department of Interior appropriations bill that would weaken things such as the Clean Air and Water Acts. HF staff had major speaking roles at the GreenLatinos Conference, the Latino Leadership Summit on Climate Change and a congressional briefing), drafted opinion pieces on the environmental agenda of the Latino Community (HuffPost article link), and conducted face-to-face engagements with legislators on Capitol Hill.
HF is continuing to expand its partnerships with more coalitions and participating in a Centennial Coalition called The Next 100. The Next 100 focuses on having the next 100 years of public lands be more reflective of the demographic and ethnic diversity of the U.S.
Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (FFLPA) – Hispanic Federation led a broad coalition of community-based, religious, and labor organizations calling for the passage of the New York State Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, which would provide farmworkers with collective bargaining rights, 8-hour work days, overtime pay, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and other basic labor rights. Our efforts included participation in the 200 Mile March for Farmworker Justice (from Long Island to Albany), collecting over 8,000 signatures in a petition drive calling on the Governor and legislature to pass the bill, and organizing a rally at City Hall drawing over 100 participants including Cardinal Dolan, Kerry Kennedy and a host of labor, community and government leaders in support of the bill. While the bill failed to get a vote in the Senate this year, HF is already working to ensure this bill gets a fair hearing and is approved in Albany next year.