Alex Padilla, California’s First Latino Senator, on Needing to ‘Walk and Chew Gum’ in Washington
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Alex Padilla wearing a black suit sitting down speaking into a microphone

By The New York Times

He was appointed to fill Kamala Harris’s seat and will take office as his state struggles with record Covid rates, especially in the neighborhood he grew up in.

As Kamala Harris steps into her role as vice president and out of her Senate office this week, the Democrat Alex Padilla will become the first Latino senator from California, a state where Latino residents make up 40 percent of the population, and will be one of six in the Senate. Mr. Padilla, who has been California’s secretary of state since 2015, is heading to Washington at a time when the country — and California — is deeply mired in the pandemic and a sluggish vaccine rollout. His own political career began with

(Image Credit -Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

immigration activism, and he believes that the country needs a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants. He said he was confident that the Senate would be able to focus on an impeachment trial and the pressing need to get the pandemic under control — “we will walk and chew gum at the same time.”

These are lightly edited excerpts from the conversation.

California is roughly 40 percent Latino, yet you’re the first Latino senator from the state. Why do you think that took so long? What does it say about California and the political influence of Latinos?

I don’t know if I have a 170-year answer to that question, but it’s a big moment for the Latino community in California. I’m sure there’s a lot of researchers and academics with various theories. I just know that it has just added to the sense of urgency with which I’m prepared to tackle the job.

A lot of big issues need attention — increasing access to health care, combating climate change, a comprehensive immigration reform, closing the education gap. But for the time being, it’s all through the lens of Covid, in recognition of the devastation the damage has caused for far too many families, far too many communities, especially Latino communities and other communities of color.

Let’s talk about the pandemic. Los Angeles is currently an epicenter of the pandemic, and Pacoima, the neighborhood you grew up in, is an epicenter of that epicenter. What can the Senate do about that?

Read the full article at The New York Times.

US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visits Houston after raising millions for Texas relief
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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has raised millions of dollars in relief money for Texas relief organizations that are working to help those still in need after suffering from the historic winter storm.

The New York lawmaker appeared Saturday at the Houston Food Bank to help distribute supplies and food.

Ocasio-Cortez’s effort is in partnership with 12 Texas organizations getting on-the-ground relief to residents.

She set up the donation website to where contributions will be split evenly between the following the organizations: South Texas Food Bank, Food Bank of West Central Texas, ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition), Feeding Texas, Corazon Ministries, Family Eldercare, Houston Food Bank, Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, North Texas Food Bank, Central Texas Food Bank, Southeast Texas Food Bank, and The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center.

“These groups are working around the clock to assist houseless, hungry and senior Texans in Travis and Dallas County, and beyond,” the website states.

Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t been the only leader stepping up to the plate. Astros’ Alex Bregman will be hosting a water distribution event Saturday to help those who have been without water for days.

Read the original article at  ABC 7.

Air Force Orders New Review Into Racial, Ethnic Disparities
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image of the military solder and a helicopter in the background

The Air Force inspector general will do a second investigation into racial and ethnic disparities across the force, service leaders said Friday, expanding the review to include gender and additional racial categories such as Asian and American Indian.

The latest review comes just two months after the IG released a report concluding that Black service members in the Air Force are far more likely to be investigated, arrested, face disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct. The December report found that “racial disparity exists” for Black service members but that the data did not explain why it happens.

The new study also reflects broader campaigns within the Defense Department and the Biden administration to root out extremism and racism. President Joe Biden declared domestic extremism an urgent national security threat in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The crowd that breached the building as lawmakers were preparing to certify the election was overwhelmingly white and included members of far-right groups.

Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth, who ordered the latest review, said the IG will go directly to Air Force and Space Force service members for input. A survey that will go out to the force soon will look at several different categories: Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and gender.

Read the full article at HuffPost.

Alejandro Mayorkas Confirmed As First Immigrant, Latino To Head Homeland Security
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Alejandro Mayorkas during a speech wearing a black suit

The Senate voted to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas as the secretary of Homeland Security, putting a department veteran at the helm of the Biden administration’s plans to reverse hard-line policies implemented by former president Donald Trump.

KEY FACTS

Born in Cuba and raised in California, Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

The confirmation comes as President Joe Biden seeks to undo four years of a “zero tolerance” approach toward immigration under the Trump administration.

Mayorkas was confirmed 56-43, mostly along party lines. He was the first Biden nominee to face a filibuster from Republicans, which the Senate voted to break on Thursday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Biden administration is expected on Tuesday evening to announce a Homeland Security Department task force aimed at reuniting migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

KEY BACKGROUND

Mayorkas will grapple with a Homeland Security Department that has been plagued by high turnover in leadership positions and vacancies. A Senate-confirmed appointee has not led the department since Trump pushed Kirstjen Nielsen out in 2019. Mayorkas will also face domestic security threats that have come to light following the Jan. 6 insurrection led by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol. In a memo released last week, the Department of Homeland Security warned “ideologically-motivated violent extremists” could “continue to mobilize or incite violence.”

CHIEF CRITIC

Several Republican senators lambasted Mayorkas ahead of the confirmation hearing, raising alarm about his time as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. A 2015 DHS Inspector General Report found that Mayorkas appeared to give politically powerful individuals special access to an investor visa program. “I’ve voted for several of President Biden’s mainstream cabinet nominees,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter early Tuesday. “But his choice to run Homeland Security was blasted by the Obama Administration’s own Inspector General for running an immigration law favor factory for powerful Democrats. Bad pick with major ethics issues.”

Read the original article at Forbes.

Latino Inaugural 2021 celebrates the resilience and power of U.S. Latinos ahead of Biden’s inauguration
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Latino Inaugural 2021 poster Biden and Harris

By Brittany Valentine for Al Dia News

To commemorate the upcoming Inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration, the Hispanic Federation has brought together more than 50 Latino organizations to support the historic event.

“Latino Inaugural 2021: Inheritance, Resilience & Promise” is part of the official five-day slate of programming from the Biden-Harris Presidential Inauguration Committee.

Latino Inaugural 2021 is an hour-long special that will

(Image Credit – latinoinaugural.org)

feature musical performances and inspirational docu-shorts to uplift the Latino community and portray all the contributions they have made in this country.

Actress and activist, Eva Longoria Bastón is set to host the event, and many more big stars will make appearances, including Becky G, Ivy Queen, Rita Moreno, and Edward James Olmos.

There is also an impressive list of musical performances.

Lin-Manuel and Luis Miranda will perform a touching tribute to Puerto Rico, All-Star Tejanos United will perform “America The Beautiful,” and Gaby Moreno and David Garza will perform “Fronteras.”

Much like the “Momento Latino” televised event that aired on CBS in October, this special is focused on telling the stories of Latino excellence, resilience and strength. It will honor members of Latino communities who kept the country running smoothly during the pandemic as members of the frontline essential workforce.

In addition to the celebrity guests and musical performances, several political figures will be in attendance. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto, Robert Menendez and Ben Ray Luján, Senator designate Alex Padilla and Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Raul Ruiz will join the special to add to the messages of hope, unity and gratitude.

Henry R. Muñoz III, founder of Momento Latino and executive producer of the program, expressed his excitement at welcoming the new administration..

“Latino communities face existential threats every day – from the disproportionate spread of COVID-19 through our communities, to the requirement that we work essential jobs without essential benefits, to the fear of our democracy falling apart and the constant threat of deportation and family separation. We are gathering to celebrate Latinos’ contributions & our power in the country and to honor the next era of American leadership in President Biden and Vice President Harris,” he said.

The program is co-hosted by 52 of the country’s largest and most influential Latino organizations, including Voto Latino, She Se Puede, Justice for Migrant Women and the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Some of the sponsors include DoorDash, Telemundo, Comcast NBCUniversal, Microsoft and Primo TV.

Read the full article at Al Dia News.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus urges Congress to vote on national Latino museum in spending bill
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“The lack of full Latino representation,” Latino lawmakers wrote, “has created real blind spots that neglect the role Latinos have played.”

Supporters of the National Museum of the American Latino are making another attempt to get Congress to pass a bill to establish its creation. Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah blocked voice votes to create a Latino museum and a women’s history museum last week, spoiling years of effort.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter Monday to House and Senate leaders urging them to include the

                                                                       (Image credit – NBC News)

National Museum of the American Latino Act, HR 2420, in the $1.4 trillion spending bill that Congress is trying to agree on to prevent a government shutdown. The act only starts the process for the museum, which must include a feasibility study, private fundraising and site location studies.

“Latinos have contributed significantly to America’s success while overcoming systemic discrimination, and our stories have been largely erased from U.S. history,” said Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, who is completing his term as caucus chairman. “The fact that Mike Lee, a United States senator, has no knowledge of the Latino experience further demonstrates the need for a Latino museum.”

Read the full article at NBC News.

Gov. Baker Taps Dalila Argaez Wendlandt for Supreme Judicial Court
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Judge Dalia Argaez Wendlandt

Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday nominated Appeals Court Associate Justice Dalila Argaez Wendlandt to a seat on the Supreme Judicial Court, paving the way for her to become the first Latina to serve on the high court bench.

In a press conference, Baker highlighted Wendlandt’s thoughtfulness, collegiality and judiciousness in tapping her for the seat, one of two on the court Baker has been deliberating over.

“The judges and lawyers with whom we spoke uniformly support Judge Wendlandt,” Baker said. “She’s the total package. She’s patient, even-keeled and down-to-earth.

“Her fellow justices know they can depend on her and have said that her decisions are true to the law and the facts of each case and demonstrate her open-minded approach to the issues.”

The move comes days after Baker nominated Associate Justice Kimberly Budd as its next chief justice.

Along with the associate justice seat that Budd will vacate if she is confirmed, Baker also has to fill the seat that will open later this year with Judge Barbara Lenk’s retirement. Doing so will mean Baker has appointed all seven justices of the top court, if his nominees are confirmed.

Baker said the court has indicated that its members would like to Baker to fill the two seats by the end of the year, which the governor said he would try to do.

Baker appointed Wendlandt to the Appeals Court bench in 2017 to fill the seat that opened up with Elspeth Cypher’s elevation to the SJC. A New Orleans native and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, Wendlandt graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at MIT before attending Stanford University Law School.

Wendlandt thanked her parents for giving her the opportunities she has had, saying she hoped to make them proud with her role on the court.

The Governor’s Council, which will vet Wendlandt for the SJC post, unanimously confirmed her for the Appeals Court.

Before becoming a judge, Wendlandt was a partner in the intellectual property litigation group at Ropes & Gray LLP. She clerked for Judge John Walker Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit after graduating law school in 1996.

Last Thursday, Baker repeatedly highlighted Budd’s ability to listen to others and collaborate as he nominated her for for chief justice, paving the way for her to

“More than ever, we need her leadership,” Baker said, noting that her nomination comes amid a pandemic as well as ongoing calls for racial justice. “This court needs to led by someone who listens.”

Continue on to NBC Boston to read the full article

Photo Credit: Getty Images, Boston Globe

Latinos gain a Senate seat with Ben Ray Lujan’s win in New Mexico
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Representative Ben Ray Lujan

Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan won the U.S. Senate race in New Mexico, bringing the total of Latino senators to five.

“Thank you, New Mexico! Tonight, our campaign showed that people power can elect the son of an ironworker and a public school employee to the Senate,” Lujan tweeted early Wednesday. “I’m grateful for every vote we earned — and no matter who you voted for, it will be my honor to work for you in the Senate.”

Lujan, who gave up his seat in the House to run for the Senate, led in the polls for much of his campaign against Republican Mark Ronchetti, a television meteorologist. Lujan succeeds Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat who did not seek re-election.

According to NBC News’ exit poll, Lujan defeated Ronchetti by about 5 percentage points.

With his win, Lujan joins an elite group of Latinos in the Senate: Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas and Democrats Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, who made history in 2017 as the first Latina elected to the Senate.

Continue on to NBC News to read the full article

Record number of Native American women elected to Congress
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Sharice Davids giving a speech

The 117th Congress will have a record number of Native American women after voters elected three to the House of Representatives.

Democrats Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member representing New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, a Ho-Chunk Nation member representing Kansas, both retained their seats after becoming the first Native American women elected to Congress, in 2018.

They are joined by Yvette Herrell, who is Cherokee. Herrell, a Republican, beat the Democratic incumbent Xochitl Torres Small for her New Mexico congressional seat.

The wins for Herrell and Haaland mean that New Mexico will be the first state to have two indigenous women as congressional delegates. The state also became the first to elect women of color as all three of its delegates in the US House of Representatives.

According to a Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) report, 18 indigenous women were running for congressional seats this year – a record in a single year. Native American women made up 2.6% of all women running for Congress this year, the highest percentage since CAWP started collecting data in 2004.

There have been four Native Americans in the US Senate and a handful of indigenous US representatives. All were men until Haaland and Davids were elected in 2018.

Continue to The Guardian to read the full article. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Bill Clark

Young Hispanic and Latino Voters are Pushing for Increased Voter Turnout
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A latino man at a polling place

Community organizations across Western New York are making the push to get people to vote as Election Day, on November 3, gets closer. This includes the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York.

Esmeralda Sierra is the president of the organization. She told 2 On Your Side’s Karys Belger she’s been helping spread information about voting at the handful events the organization has hosted since the COVID-19 Pandemic started.

She says there’s also been a push to spread information digitally.

“We’re trying to promote to our Facebook, to our Twitter, and our LinkedIn the importance of voting,” she said.

A Pew Research Center report says Hispanic voters will make up the largest Non-White, eligible voting population in this election.

With this knowledge, Sierra says it’s important to make sure every one of those voices is accounted for. She also says she’s noticed increased eagerness among younger voters who are eligible to vote.

“You can see that the younger generations are excited. They’re not afraid to make themselves heard,” Sierra said.

Lilian Mancancela, a recent graduate of the University at Buffalo agrees. She tells 2 On Your Side she’s eager to see the number of Hispanic voters who will head to the polls.

“I’ve always been someone who pushed others to get politically engaged and I’ve also wondered why that wasn’t the case in previous years,” Mancancela said.

Mancancela’s parents immigrated to the United States from Ecuador and she says that experience helped shape her passion for politics. She’s also noticed the increased attention being given to Hispanic voters and she wants to make sure her peers know their votes will make a difference.

“I think it’s long overdue but I’m glad it’s happening at the moment and I think it’s a great opportunity for underrepresented groups to get out there.”

Mancancela is one of the thousands of young voters making up what Pew Research Center says is the most diverse electoral population to date.

Continue to WGRZ to read the full article. 

Sacramento Hispanic Chamber launches tech assistance program for minority-owned businesses
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Business buildings in Sacramento

The Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is launching a wide lineup of resources and technical assistance to help minority-owned businesses during the pandemic.

The chamber announced the launch of its “#JuntosSacramento” campaign, which translates to “together Sacramento,” on Monday. The campaign is aimed at bringing together all corners of Sacramento’s Latino community, which includes immigrants and people who draw their heritage from a mix of countries and languages, said Cathy Rodriguez Aguirre, CEO of the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber.

Minority-owned businesses have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic, as they may have lower cash reserves and less access to banking resources to buoy their businesses.

The effort includes one-on-one consulting, resources on digital marketing and financial planning during the pandemic and job training programs.

The Sacramento Hispanic Chamber received about $615,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, dollars for the initiative. Those dollars arrived from a $3 million grant that the Sacramento Inclusive Economic Development Collaborative received from the city of Sacramento. The Sac IEDC was formed two years ago, and includes 15 groups within it like the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber and several property business improvement districts.

“Hispanic and minority owned businesses have been a historic pillar in the growth of Sacramento and our mission is to help the region recover from the impacts of Covid-19 by supporting the community through increased services and new, innovative programs,” Rodriguez Aguirre said, in a prepared statement. “Through our partnership with SAC IEDC we will be able to help foster more business development and spur economic growth.”

The program includes a free, six-part webinar series on topics like digital marketing, financial planning and disaster preparedness. The series starts on Oct. 23 and runs every other Friday, and will be conducted in Spanish and English.

Continue to the Sacramento Business Journal to read the full article.

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