Supreme Court Says Only Congress Can Restructure Puerto Rico’s Debt

On the heels of a ruling saying that Puerto Rico is not a separate sovereign of the United States, a new opinion from the Supreme Court on Monday morning about Puerto Rico’s debt crisis reaffirmed that Congress is the island’s sole and final arbiter when it comes how Puerto Rico can resolve its economic woes.

The crux of the 5-2 decision, tweeted out by SCOTUSBlog, boiled down to this: even though the government of Puerto Rico passed a 2014 local Recovery Art bill that gave the island’s municipalities and public utilities the ability to declare some form of bankruptcy, the Court’s opinion (written by Justice Clarence Thomas) rejected that bill and concluded that bankruptcy statutes enacted by Congress cannot be rewritten.

Currently, municipalities in Puerto Rico cannot file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. A bipartisan bill called PROMESA (“promise” in Spanish) passed the House of Representatives last week and is now with the Senate. Despite gaining the support of the White House, the PROMESA bill has been criticized for some of its provisions, which includes a federally-mandate fiscal control board for Puerto Rico and reduction of the minimum wage for young workers. On July 1, the government of Puerto Rico is expected to default on a payment of $2 billion in bonds.

“Federal law, therefore, pre-empts the Recovery Act,” Thomas wrote at the end of his opinion.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, with support from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. At one point, Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, wrote the following:

“Congress could step in to resolve Puerto Rico’s crisis. But, in the interim, the government and people of Puerto Rico should not have to wait for possible congressional action to avert the consequences of unreliable electricity, transportation, and safe water—consequences that members of the Executive and Legislature have described as a looming ‘humanitarian crisis.'”

Here is the complete opinion:

LGBT Latinx Voices Speak Out Against Orlando Tragedy

News of Sunday’s Orlando mass shooting has resonated deeply with the LGBT Latinx community. As the City of Orlando continues to release the names of the victims killed at the Pulse nightclub, more and more Latino and Latina names are emerging on the list. Outlets like BuzzFeed and NPR are updating their sites with personal stories about the Orlando victims, and many are also speaking out.

Last night, Puerto Rican LGBT Pedro Julio Serrano told Latino Rebels that he was heading to Orlando on Monday morning, after finding out that one of his friends was a victim of the shooting. Serrano also said that many of the first victims identified were Puerto Rican.

“At least the ones I know who were killed were very much loved by their families,” Serrano said. “We’re going to raise their voices.”

As news of the tragedy dominated the Sunday headlines, National LGBTQ Task Force’s Jorge Amaro joined other leaders to condemn the attack:

“Now is a time for the whole nation to stand together against violence, against hatred, and against extremism of any kind. We must also resist and renounce any and all efforts to demonize entire faith communities,” Amaro said. “Words are weapons and now is the time for elected leaders to show real leadership by doing all they can to create an America free from gun violence and hate crimes. Our leaders must also act to eliminate all forms of discrimination that prevent LGBTQ people from helping our brothers and sisters in this time of need, such as donating blood.”

Many took to Twitter to also remind the media that the majority of the Orlando victims were Latino:

Others expressed that the current media narrative is ignoring the LGBT Latinx community:

Hispandering: Is It Over Yet?

With both parties knowing who the presumptive nominees are, it might feel like the surge of pandering to Hispanics (known as Hispandering), has wound down. But has it? We called up Lalo Alcaraz and Gustavo Arellano to talk about recent examples of Hispandering in the news. Alcaraz is the creator of the cartoon “La Cucaracha” and was a producer for Fox’s show “Bordertown.” Gustavo Arellano is the editor of OC Weekly, the author of the syndicated column “Ask a Mexican,” and was a consulting producer on “Bordertown.”

Major funding for Latino USA‘s election coverage provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Featured image form Donald Trump’s Facebook page

Don’t Forget About the State Races

Although the presidential election this November is getting most of our attention, candidates are running for state seats across the United States, and they’re trying to get voters’ attention. In Florida’s Palm Beach County, a seat is up for grabs in State House District 87, a majority-Democratic district. Latinos make up more than half of the residents there, but only a third of the voters.

One of the candidates running is a businessman from outside the district. Another candidate is a Latina from the district, who says the race is about more than just getting herself elected. She says it’s about getting Hispanics to see that they must vote in order to achieve equal representation in the Florida legislature. Without voting, they’ll remain on the sidelines despite their growing population numbers.

Major funding for Latino USA‘s election coverage provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Featured image: Virginia Savietto (photo by Verónica Zaragovia)

Data and Confused

The phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics” explains the fallibility of statistics, especially when they’re used to strengthen a weak claim. Statistics may seem like a foolproof science, but you should think twice before you accept a number at face value. And in this presidential election, there have been a lot of poll numbers thrown our way.

One particular poll result that grabbed people’s attention came from the Nevada caucus’ entrance polls, where Donald Trump won 44% of the vote from Latino Republican caucus-goers. But mainstream news outlets, the general public and Trump himself took that number and claimed that the presumptive GOP nominee had therefore “won the Latino vote” when in fact he won the vote of those Latino Republicans in Nevada who attended the caucus. And that group is not representative of all Nevada Latinos.

So why were some people so quick to apply this poll result to all Latinos? A lot of the confusion comes from the fact that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to numbers. In this segment, we take a look at what exactly goes into polling, how interpreting the numbers tend to go wrong and the future of this inexact science.

Major funding for Latino USA‘s election coverage provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Featured image: Donald Trump February 2016 election night rally in New Hampshire. (Photo by Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

José Díaz-Balart: Between Dos Mundos

Most election coverage people see in the United States is usually on mainstream English-language television networks. But there are millions of Spanish speakers in the U.S. who get their news from Telemundo and Univision. And in this particularly contentious year, we wanted to know how that coverage differs between one language and the other. So we spoke with probably one of the most recognizable Latino faces on television: José Díaz-Balart. He’s been a journalist for more than three decades both for English-language networks and Spanish-language television.

Major funding for Latino USA‘s election coverage provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Featured image: Telemundo/Gio Alma

The Greatest Jobs President?

Donald Trump says he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” But employees at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas say otherwise.

“He’s running for president, he’s trying to make America great again, he can start with us,” says Maria Jaramillo, a housekeeper at the hotel. “He can start negotiating our contract.” But Trump refuses to negotiate. Some have even experienced intimidation and harassment for fighting for the union.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump claims that unions love him, but his workers tell a different story.

Major funding for Latino USA‘s election coverage provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Featured image via

New June FIU/Adsmovil Online Tracking Poll with Latino Voters: Clinton 75%, Trump 17%, Other 8%

The latest online tracking poll of Latino voters by Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs and mobile Hispanic advertising company Adsmovil continues to show Hillary Clinton with a commanding lead over Donald Trump. In the June 2-5 survey (see previous results here), Clinton won the support of 75% of participants, with Trump getting 17% and 8% choosing Other.


The FIU/Adsmovil poll has been asking respondents the same question since April. Since then, both Clinton’s and Trump’s support has increased, with Other decreasing significantly.


This latest survey sampled 3,338 online Latinos. When asked about the poll’s methodology last month, FIU professor Eduardo Gamarra told Latino USA, “We are increasingly confident of the data, given its consistency week after week. We now have polled over 200,00 Latinos in a seven-week period and the results are consistent daily and weekly.”

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • Men: Clinton 75%, Trump 19%, Other 6%
  • Women: Clinton 74%, Trump 14%, Other 12%
  • Among 18-24-year-old Latinos, Trump’s support is at 27%. It is 26% with Latinos over 65.
  • 23% of Latinos think immigration is the most important issue this election season, with 22% think it is the economy.

You can read the full results below:

Supreme Court Decision Says Puerto Rico Is Not a Separate Sovereign of the United States

On Thursday the Twitter profile of the SCOTUS blog tweeted out a decision in the Supreme Court case of Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle et alwhich explored whether “whether the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the federal government are separate sovereigns for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The 6-2 decision concluded that Puerto Rico could not prosecute an individual for a crime that the United States has already prosecuted. The reason behind the decision? Puerto Rico’s current territorial status, a commonwealth, did not make it a separate sovereignty from the U.S. For this specific case, the government of Puerto Rico had argued that double jeopardy (which “prohibits anyone from being prosecuted twice for substantially the same crime”) did not apply to them. The Court disagreed.

Outside of the criminal law implications, the Court’s opinion, written by Justice Elena Kagan, revealed how the Court views Puerto Rico’s political relationship and status with the United States, one that continues to be debated. Here are some excerpts from the opinion:

And yet the result we reach, given the legal test we apply, ends up the same. Puerto Rico today has a distinctive, indeed exceptional, status as a self-governing Commonwealth. But our approach is historical. And if we go back as far as our doctrine demands—to the “ultimate source” of Puerto Rico’s prosecutorial power, Wheeler, 435 U. S., at 320—we once again discover the U. S. Congress.

And since the events of the early 1950’s, an integral aspect of that association has been the Commonwealth’s wide-ranging self-rule, exercised under its own Constitution. As a result of that charter, Puerto Rico today can avail itself of a wide variety of futures. But for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause, the future is not what matters—and there is no getting away from the past. Because the ultimate source of Puerto Rico’s prosecutorial power is the Federal Government—because when we trace that authority all the way back, we arrive at the doorstep of the U. S. Capitol—the Commonwealth and the United States are not separate sovereigns. That means the two governments cannot “twice put” respondents Sánchez Valle and Gómez Vázquez “in jeopardy” for the “same offence.”

The Court’s accompanying Syllabus that was released with Kagan’s majority opinion, but “constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court,” added more details that speak to how the Court views Puerto Rico’s political status (key points italicized in bold by Latino USA):

Conversely, a municipality cannot count as a sovereign distinct from a State, because it receives its power, in the first instance, from the State. See, e.g., Waller v. Florida, 397 U. S. 387, 395. And most pertinent here, this Court concluded in the early 20th century that U. S. territories—including an earlier incarnation of Puerto Rico itself—are not sovereigns distinct from the United States. Grafton v. United States, 206 U. S. 333. The Court reasoned that “the territorial and federal laws [were] creations emanating from the same sovereignty,” Puerto Rico v. Shell Co. (P. R.), Ltd., 302 U. S. 253, 264, and so federal and territorial prosecutors do not derive their powers from independent sources of authority. Pp. 5–11.

(b) The Grafton and Shell Co. decisions, in and of themselves, do not control here. In the mid-20th century, Puerto Rico became a new kind of political entity, still closely associated with the United States but governed in accordance with, and exercising self-rule through, a popularly-ratified constitution. The magnitude of that change requires consideration of the dual-sovereignty question anew. Yet the result reached, given the historical test applied, ends up the same. Going back as far as the doctrine demands—to the “ultimate source” of Puerto Rico’s prosecutorial power—reveals, once again, the U. S. Congress. Wheeler, 435 U. S., at 320. Pp. 12–18.

As LawNewz wrote about the decision on Thursday:

So even though Puerto Rico has sovereignty in terms of having self-rule, that sovereignty comes from the federal government so it isn’t separate. Kind of like a municipality not being separate from a state, because they get their power from the state. Therefore, double jeopardy still applies.

The decision is sure to add fuel to the fire in the debate over whether Puerto Rico should become the 51st state, as statehood would give them ‘separate sovereign’ status.

Here are the full Court documents pertaining to the Thursday decision:

Last Tenant Standing in East Harlem #NYC Fights the Tide of Gentrification

Raymond Tirado, the last tenant in an East Harlem apartment building, fights to remain in his childhood home, while the landlord attempts to demolish and replace it with a luxury development.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to upzone working class communities of color was pitched as an “affordable” housing strategy, but it has sent land values and rents skyrocketing in targeted communities like East Harlem, further incentivizing landlords to displace long-time tenants.