Latino USA

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Growing Up Jesús

In Latin America, it’s a name like any other. But here in the U.S., Jesús is a name that could still raise an eyebrow. So Latino USA producer Michael Simon Johnson spoke with a handful of Jesúses to find out what it’s like to grow up with the holiest name in the book.

 

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michael-johnson-headshot-150x150Michael Johnson was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He spent most of his childhood making music and groaning when his parents put on NPR in the car. So naturally he graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Sound Design, moved to New York and made his way into public radio. As an engineer, he has worked for Afropop Worldwide, WNYC’s Radio Rookies, and Jazz at Lincoln Center. He commits much of his time to working on radio and multimedia projects but can often be found playing the bass, rock climbing, and traveling.

The Cost Of A Quinceañera

A quinceañera, or “sweet fifteen,” can be a glitzy affair with rituals to mark a girl’s transition into womanhood.

MTV Tr3s documented the crossover of the coming-of-age tradition in its series “Quiero Mis Quinces”.

As the Latino population in Las Vegas has grown over the past decade or so, so has the business of quiceañeras. Families might empty their pockets to throw a party, sometimes bigger than a wedding, for their little girls.

 

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Kate Sheehy is a Multimedia Journalist with a focus on documentary style radio reporting covering Immigrant issues and marginalized communities. Sheehy has reported for public radio stations in California, New York, Washington, D.C. and most recently Las Vegas, where she was part of a bilingual reporting team called Fronteras: The Changing America Desk.

Tell us your Election Day stories

Decision day has finally arrived after a long, contentious campaign season. We urge all our listeners who are registered voters to exercise your civic right and let your choice be known at the polls.

Did you vote early? Do you live in a battleground state? Did Hurricane Sandy displace you from your polling site? What was the craziest, most inspiring, most unusual thing you saw out there? Post pictures and tell us all about it below, or call our listener line 646-571-1228 and please tell us your name and where you’re calling from.

Image courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz.

Fi2W Commentary: Immigration Not Debated But Still Important

The debate last week between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, like the first presidential debate, did not tackle immigration. A few folks, seeing the digits on their computer clocks near the 90 minute mark, tweeted out loud, “Will immigration, LGBTs, and women be mentioned at all?” Martha Raddatz, the moderator, did ask about abortion at the end, but clearly immigration was not a top domestic issue for her. I suspect it isn’t for the debaters either.

Interestingly, two reports reveal that immigration is not a top issue for immigrant communities either.

The Pew Hispanic Center released a report Thursday that rates education, jobs and the economy, and health care as the top three issues for registered Latino voters. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said the issue of education is extremely important to them, followed by 54 percent who cited jobs and the economy, and 50 percent who cited health care.

Earlier this month, initial findings from the 2012 National Asian American Survey was rolled out showing that the economy is also the most important issue for Asian Americans, followed by unemployment, health care, and education. Fifty-two percent of survey-takers said the economy was the most important problem facing the country today. Close to 20 percent pointed to unemployment, five percent cited health care, and four percent cited education.

Nonetheless, politicians and political parties should not take these numbers as an indication that immigration is not important to communities of color. After all, the majority of foreign-born individuals living in the U.S. – 40 million or 12.9 percent of our population – are from Latin America and Asia. About 1 in 4 children belong to families with at least one immigrant parent.

The Pew Hispanic Center study found that immigration is extremely important personally to a third of Latino registered voters.

The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), a coalition of 31 grassroots Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) organizations, recently released its policy platform which stresses the importance of immigration to Asian communities.

We are talking about family members, friends, and neighbors after all, loved ones who would benefit from a reformed immigration system. The party that shows genuine concern for immigrants and their families by pushing for rational reform will reap support and votes beyond this election cycle.

Pew’s findings confirm what we all know: the Democratic Party has a lock on Latinos. It appears that in the past year alone, there was a sharp rise in the share of Latinos who identify the Democratic Party as the one that has more concern for Latinos. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed say this, up from 45 percent in 2011. This is no surprise considering the virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric spewed during the Republican presidential primaries.

As for Asians, there is still the need to stress that they are a voting bloc that cannot be ignored. Although AAPIs overall do tend to lean Democratic, the 2012 National Asian American Survey shows that the party does not enjoy the loyalty of most and certainly not all Asians. There is enough room for the GOP to come in and win more Asians to their side.

Immigration may be ignored during the remaining debates and will most likely be invisible in the flurry of last minute campaign messages, but it is an issue that will not go away.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr

Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

Fi2W Podcast: For Latino Voters it’s Immigration & the Economy, Not Necessarily in that Order

Fi2W’s John Rudolph sat down with Chung-Wha Hong of the New York Immigration Coalition and Mark Hugo Lopez of the Pew Hispanic Center to preview the discussion we’ll be hearing next Thursday, October 18 at the “Unlocking the Latino Vote” town hall
at The New School.

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The Latino vote could determine who becomes the next president. According to Lopez, Latinos helped Obama in key states in 2008 and Harry Reid in Nevada in 2010. Most Latinos don’t live in this year’s battleground states—at least half of all Latino voters live in California or Texas—but in contested states like Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, demographic shifts since ‘08 have pushed up the share of Latino eligible voters. This could have a major impact, Lopez says.

The Latino vote is closely tied to the issue of immigration but the economy, education and healthcare are all issues Latinos respond to strongly.

One of the reasons immigration ranks so high says Hong is that it remains unresolved. In 2008, Obama promised to pass reform within his first year in office. Instead he oversaw a record number of deportations. Jobs and healthcare, she says, are important but “immigration remains a litmus test for whether a candidate cares about Latinos.”

“If a candidate comes out opposing the DREAM Act, it’s not just a policy position,” she says.  DREAMers represent the pride and joy of Latino and immigrant communities and if someone comes out against the DREAM Act, like Romney did, it has major repercussions. For this reason, Hong doesn’t expect Romney to get the 40 percent support among Latinos that George W. Bush got.

According to Lopez, the economic downturn has had major ramifications for Latino communities: Right now more Latino children live in poverty than any other group – a first for Latinos. More wealth was lost in the recession by Latinos than any other group. And while there has been improvement in Latino unemployment, it is still two points above the national average of 7.8 percent.

But Lopez says, despite being hard hit by the downturn there remains strong support for the president across every Latino demographic group, except the traditionally more conservative groups like Cuban Americans and protestant Latinos.

According to Hong, support for Democrats among immigrants is not a given. However, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has proven very popular. Close to 100,000 young people have applied, meaning a large bloc of people will soon be getting work permits and protection from deportation.

Click the image to RSVP for the townhall discussion.

According to Hong, a vast majority of immigrant citizens know someone who’s undocumented and consequently know someone who’s eligible to get a work permit through DACA. Similarly, says Hong, the movement in many states to disenfranchise minority voters through shorter voting hours and stricter ID laws could backfire. When people feel attacked, as they did in Nevada in 2010 and in Arizona now, she says, it is a powerful motivating factor to show up and vote.

According to Lopez’s research, a majority of Latinos say they would support Obama over Mitt Romney in a head to head contest. Democrats are still seen as the better party for Hispanics than Republicans and polls have shown stable support for Obama among Latinos over the last ten months. But how many Hispanics will vote? Hard to predict, but because of demographic changes, Lopez thinks it’s likely we will see more Latino voters than we did in 2008.

Hong thinks health care tends to be overlooked when discussing issues Latinos care about. Obama’s health care reform, when implemented, will see an 18 percent increase in the number of Latinos covered. Many Latinos work in places where employers don’t offer healthcare and, Hong believes, Romney’s pledge to repeal Obamacare will lose him support. But how Romney talks about immigration reform, as he’s promised to do in the upcoming debate could greatly affect how Latinos vote in November.

The Oct. 18 town hall is cosponsored by Latino USAAmericas Society/Council of the Americas, and the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs and Global Studies programs.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund.

Aaron Leaf is a freelance writer and editor who has reported on human rights issues from Zambia, Liberia, Canada and Peru. He is a graduate of Ryerson University and the former editor of Ricepaper, a journal of Asian Canadian arts and culture.

Immigration News Picks: Latino Voters Might Swing Arizona, Utah Has Had Just 745 DACA Applicants

In Arizona, backlash against anti-immigration legislation SB 1070 could mean a major increase in Latinos voting for Democratic candidates. A Latino Decisions poll of Latino voters in Arizona finds that eighty percent would vote for Obama, while just fourteen percent said they would vote for Mitt Romney. This is in a state where Latino voters are much more enthusiastic about voting than the national average.

Speaking at the launch of the poll sponsored by America’s Voice, Rodolfo Espino, Associate Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University, explained the results:

“Latino voters in Arizona expressed frustration towards both political parties immediately following the passage of SB1070. As we head toward the 2012 Presidential election, the feelings of frustration by Latinos have tilted more against Republican candidates and enthusiasm for Democratic candidates has moved up. This has made the general elections in Arizona more competitive than many initially anticipated.”

Check out their interactive Latino Vote Map at latinovotemap.org and our conversation with a Latino Decisions analyst from last month about Latino candidates and their influence on Latino voting patterns.

While Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA has proven popular nationwide with 82,000 applicants in its first month, the response in Utah has been surprisingly small.

Marjorie Cortez, in the Deseret News reports:

“Fear of immigration officials is keeping young illegal immigrants away from the federal government’s deferred action program, with only 745 people applying in Utah during the first month of the program.”

Virginia, by comparison, had 1,954 applicants during the same time period, New York 6,637 and California 20,786. Cortez quotes Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, a DACA supporter, saying that applications in his state are lower than anticipated due to uncertainty over the election. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has said he would repeal the program if he is elected.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.

Aaron Leaf is a freelance writer and editor who has reported on human rights issues from Zambia, Liberia, Canada and Peru. He is a graduate of Ryerson University and the former editor of Ricepaper, a journal of Asian Canadian arts and culture.

Who wins in November? Romney, Obama or Latinos? Find out Oct. 18

 

Thursday, October 18th
6-8pm | The New School
55 W. 13TH ST. | THERESA LANG CENTER

Latino voters are expected to play a pivotal role in the presidential election, just as they did in 2008. This town hall event will explore the tensions in the complex relationship that has evolved between the Latino electorate and the presidential candidates. Will economic concerns such as unemployment and housing foreclosures guide at the voting booth? Will the candidates’ immigration policies dominate? Or will large numbers of Latinos simply sit out this election? Understanding the political cross-currents buffeting Latinos today will provide valuable insight on the probable outcome of the election, as well as political and policy implications for the nation over the next four years.

A CONVERSATION WITH:
Maria Hinojosa
 President, The Futuro Media Group
Jordan Fabian Political Editor, Univision News
Chung-Wha Hong Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition
Mark Hugo Lopez Associate Director, Pew Hispanic Center
Fernand Amandi Partner, Bendixen and Amandi Intl.

In partnership with

 

Fi2W Commentary: Campaigns Blitz Latino Voters with Ads, But Will it Change the Race?

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney are stepping up efforts to reach Latino voters ahead of the November 6th election. Last week Obama and a strangely tanned Governor Romney appeared on Univision to answer questions in a town hall-type forum. Their campaigns are also churning out ads directed at Latinos.

In this post I’ll explore what’s different about these ads and whether they can make a difference in the race.

Romney is concentrating on key battleground states like Florida and Nevada where the Latino vote could swing the election. In a recent Florida ad, produced in both Spanish and English, Romney’s favorite Latino poster-boy Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) talks about how Romney has promised to save Medicare. This is a tactical change for a campaign that until now has mainly talked to Latinos abut the economy, the issue that regularly tops polls of Latino concerns.

Romney has largely stayed away from the immigration question when speaking to Latinos, since his anti-immigration rhetoric during the primaries turned off many Latino voters. During the Univision town hall, moderator Jorge Ramos repeatedly pressed Romney on immigration, but Romney remained vague about what he would actually do as president regarding unauthorized immigration.

Another theme that Romney is using to woo Latino voters is disillusionment. The Romney camp knows that about 70 percent of Latinos currently support the president. However, many Latinos feel let down by Obama because he didn’t keep his 2008 promises to create an easier path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants through comprehensive immigration reform.  In a Romney ad airing in Colorado and Nevada called “Ya No Mas” sad-faced Latinos talk about how Obama makes a lot of promises with his pretty words, but doesn’t follow through with results. Their disillusionment is why they are going to vote for Mitt Romney.

Why the change in focus? It could be because Romney’s support among Latino voters is actually shrinking. Only 24 percent of Latinos say they will definitely vote for the GOP candidate, down from 30 percent a few weeks ago. One of the reasons for this decline may be Romney’s now famous “47 percent “ talk in which he said that 47 percent of Americans are freeloaders that live off government. The Obama camp has seized on this in their new campaign ads.

In an ad from the SEIU/Cope Super-PAC, Romney is shown during the GOP primaries saying that most Latino immigrants just want to sneak across the border and get a free government handout,  a comment that is reminiscent of his “47 percent” remark. The ad is airing in states throughout the West that have large Latino populations like Nevada and Colorado. Obama’s supporters want to underscore the problem Romney has with Latinos, that they don’t believe he represents their values and interests. Democrats also want to remind Latinos about some of the anti-immigration statements Romney made during the primaries.

The Obama camp is also attempting to shore up their support among Latina women. In an ad produced by the campaign, Mexican-American actress Eva Longoria urges women to get active in the campaign because, she says, women stand to lose many of their reproductive rights if Romney is elected. In the spot, Longoria also mentions that Obama appointed two women to the U.S. Supreme Court. In another ad, also produced by the campaign, a Latina lawyer named Nydia Mendez talks about how Romney opposed Sonya Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination. Another Democratic ad features popular Spanish-language talk show host Cristina Saralegui saying that Romney only wants to continue Bush’s failed policies.

In addition to the issues, both campaigns are subtly attempting to appeal to Latino voters on racial and socio-economic grounds. Watch Romney’s “Ya No Mas” ad above. Notice anything? The Latinos in the ad are almost all of European origin. The Romney camp probably believes that the segment of the Latino population that is more likely to vote for him, besides the disillusioned, are those that are better off financially.

One legacy of Spanish colonial rule is that the upper classes in Latin America are overwhelmingly white. Take for example the Cuban exiles that came over in the ’60s. Though Cuba’s population is roughly half European and half Afro-Cuban, the first few waves of Cuban exiles were almost entirely white because they were largely from the upper classes. You see this in many other Latin American societies as well. Look at the telenovelas on Univision or Telemundo. The majority of the main characters, usually rich, are light skinned and light eyed while the servants are darker skinned.

By comparison, the Obama ads feature many darker skinned Mexican-Americans. These ads are running in the West where the majority of Latinos are Mexicans who, the assumption goes, are from the working class and middle class.

Will these tactics and changes in strategy work? Are Romney’s attempts to reach out to Latinos going to increase his popularity among this key group of voters? It’s possible, but unlikely. Obama’s massive lead will be hard to overcome. Even though the Romney campaign has spent more money on their Latino outreach than any other Republican candidate in history, it hasn’t done him much good. Though they spent less money on outreach, George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2004, and in 2008 John McCain won the votes of 31 percent of Latinos. It just goes to show that in the end it comes down to the candidate. And in the case of Mitt Romney, many Latinos just don’t like him.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund.

Jack Tomas is a writer, filmmaker, and editor working in New York. He’s originally from Houston, TX where he earned a BA in Theater and Communication from The University of St. Thomas. Later, he received an MA in Media Studies at The New School. Jack has worked several years as a professional filmmaker and his films have appeared in several film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The LA Comedy Shorts Festival, and The New York Independent Film Festival. He has also worked as a professional blogger since 2009 writing for Guanabee.com, Tuvez.com, Egotastic.com, and Directorslive.com. He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife Marybec and two cats.

Fi2W Commentary: Congress’s Green Card Debate – Should Highly Skilled Immigrants Get Priority?

Yesterday, House GOP members tried and failed to pass legislation meant to keep the best and the brightest foreign students in the United States — at least the ones who earned doctorates from our better universities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Authored by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the STEM Jobs Act would have provided up to 55,000 green cards a year to STEM graduates who agree to work for at least five years for a US employer in a related field.

The bill made sense since we desperately need the talent to stay competitive in the global economy. In a letter addressed to President Obama, 165 university leaders warned that “one quarter of US science and engineering firms already report difficulty hiring, and the problem will only worsen: the US is projected to face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree workers in scientific and technical fields by 2018.”

House Democrats however, blocked the bill because it would have eliminated thediversity lottery green card program, and reallocated up to 55,000 diversity visas to new green card programs for the STEM graduates.

A “Dear Colleague” letter circulated Tuesday by leaders of the Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Asian Pacific American, Black, and Hispanic Caucuses – argues that the STEM Jobs Act would effectively eliminate a legal immigration path for some groups, particularly those from African nations, “whose residents were issued approximately 50 percent of such visas in recent years.”

While the Tri-Caucus leaders and other Democrats agree that there is a need to keep STEM graduates in the United States, they contend that “the zero-sum approach of House Republicans, where we are forced to rob Peter of his visa so Paul can wait in a shorter line, is poor policy with poor prospects for becoming law.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who has put forth a bill similar to Smith’s, but which keeps the diversity lottery program intact, charges that that the GOP’s sudden enthusiasm to pass a bill before Congress’s campaign recess is purely political.

“Democrats strongly support STEM visas, and we believe there is a unique opportunity here to craft a balanced, bipartisan bill that can pass the Senate,” Lofgren said. “But the Republicans have instead chosen to rush a partisan bill that has no chance of becoming law to score political points. It seems the only reason our colleagues have chosen to pursue this strategy right before an election is to attempt to appear more immigrant-friendly and to curry favor with high-tech groups.”

In a statement released last night, Smith expressed his disappointment.

“Unfortunately, Democrats today voted to send the best and brightest foreign graduates back home to work for our global competitors,” Smith said. “Their vote against this bill is a vote against economic growth and job creation.”

A bill that would have allowed foreign talent to stay in the country and contribute to our competitiveness and prosperity makes sense, whatever the political motivations behind it might be.

However, as policies are crafted to address our nation’s workforce needs, our lawmakers have to acknowledge that we also rely on other kinds of talent and labor, not just STEM graduates.

“America’s economy needs the skilled farmworker as much as it needs the skilled engineer,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, in a statement. Indeed, our farms are faltering due to lack of farm hands, thanks in large measure to anti-immigrant policies and sentiment.

“Despite the abundant harvest, asparagus growers had to leave 10 percent of their crop in the field this year due to lack of pickers,” complained Ralph Broetje, President of Broetje Orchards in Washington state, one of the largest privately owned orchards in the country. In a press release from the National Immigration Forum, Broetje said “The skilled labor source that we depend on is rapidly disappearing. If Congress does not act soon, U.S. farms will move their operations to other countries that are more cost-effective and have an adequate labor supply. If you look at that apple juice label and see where it’s coming from — it’s already happening.”

“Right now, all across America, there’s a flurry of activity on farms. And there’s a flurry of activity in Congress to provide STEM visas,” said Craig J. Regelbrugge, Co-Chair of the Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform in the same release from the National Immigration Forum. “At the end of the day, we don’t just need STEM, we need STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture and Math.”

What we really need is a sane and rational approach to reforming our immigration system. Not to mention a functioning Congress which has our nation’s best interests in mind. Unfortunately, it looks like we will not be getting either any time soon, regardless of the outcome of the November election who ends up controlling the House.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr.

Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

Fi2W Commentary: The Choice is Clear for Immigrants

American voters are faced with a stark choice, not only about who will lead the nation in the next four years, but about what our shared future will be like. At the deepest and most profound, it is a decision about what America stands for. About what we stand for.

The conventions in Tampa and Charlotte – the crowds, the platforms, and the speeches – provided the contrast. Immigrants, their families and their communities now have to decide with whom they will cast their lot. Which party and ticket will assure them of their proper place as Americans and help them secure their American dream?

I’d like to think that the answer is obvious, and the numbers show that a majority of immigrants do know who has their interests in mind. But there are some who for whatever reason refuse to see the truth.

A woman immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, worked hard, and sacrificed in order to help her family back in the Philippines and those who came with her. She has accomplished a lot: rising up the ranks in the company where she has worked for decades, and supporting her family here and abroad.

In so many ways she has accomplished her American dream. But as a middle-class woman of color, she has also been held back. She has been denied promotions in spite of her credentials and hard work. Countless times has she complained of less qualified men surpassing her for jobs she can do with her eyes closed. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this was because of her gender. I wonder how much of it had to do with her ethnicity and accent.

She was supposed to retire a couple of years ago but the Great Recession happened. Her investments and the value of her home went under. She has little choice but to keep waking up at the crack of dawn, getting on a commuter train, and putting in her eight hours. She is tired but she does what needs to be done.

And she blames Barack Obama. She faults the man who signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act and who fought hard to keep our country from falling into a financial abyss. The man who wants to safeguard Social Security and Medicare for older Americans like her.

She listens to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. She is a hardcore Republican. She believes that Democrats promote dependency on government and that so many abuse system. She refuses to see and admit who is really responsible for her setbacks.

I doubt she watched the Democratic convention. I wish she had. She would have seen so many other Americans of color like her. Not as tokens but as valued members whose voices are heard. She would have learned of policies that safeguard and promote her and her family’s well-being. She would recognize her own family’s story in the struggles and successes of Michelle’s and Barack’s families. She would have heard the man she despises tell her that he thinks of her and her family when making hard decisions. She would have been assured that no one gets a free ride but that together we can create a better future. She would have heard the President’s passionate argument that “no American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity they have earned.”

Like many other immigrant Americans, she will go to the polls on November 6 and cast her vote. How I wish she realizes who really sees her, hears her, and embraces her as an immigrant and as a woman. It should be crystal clear to her who has her and her family’s future in his heart and mind. Sadly, it isn’t.

You can follow Erwin de Leon on Twitter or read his blog.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr

Erwin de Leon is a Policy Researcher and writer based in Washington, DC. He writes on immigration, LGBT, and nonprofit issues. You can follow him on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon.

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