WEC’s Spindell tours low voter turnout, reveals Republican suppression strategies

Democrats and voting rights advocates are calling for Robert Spindell, member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, to resign after celebrating low voter turnout among marginalized communities in the 2022 elections. 

“…We can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas,� Spindell wrote in an email to fellow Republicans that was shared by Urban Milwaukee on Jan. 10.

Spindell, who served as a fake elector for former President Donald Trump, is now facing immense backlash from state Democratic leaders and community organizers for his comments. “We don’t need election officials bragging about voter suppression, encouraging it enthusiastically as he has done,â€� Democratic state Senator Kelda Roys told WI Latino News. “He needs to resign or Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, who appointed him, needs to remove him.â€�

Spindell is yet to resign or be removed from his post, and denies that he was celebrating voter suppression in his email. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces De La Frontera in Milwaukee, is unconvinced.  

“He’s proud that voter suppression efforts are working to limit the voting rights of Latinos and other people of color,â€� she said. 

For Neumann-Ortiz, Spindell’s lauding of voter disenfranchisement represents a pattern of behaviors and beliefs of Wisconsin’s Republicans.

“Here in Wisconsin, the Republican Party has really been dominated by the interests of big business,â€� Neumann-Ortiz said. “To hold power, they were part of supporting the architecture of one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.â€� 

Wisconsin is victim to some of the most “extreme partisan gerrymanders in the United States,� according to Princeton University’s gerrymandering project

Republicans control nearly two-thirds of the state’s legislative seats, despite a strong Democratic presence. Voters reelected Democrat Gov. Tony Evers in 2022, beating his Republican challenger 51 percent to 48 percent. In eight of the last nine presidential elections, the Democratic candidate won the statewide vote in Wisconsin.

“If one party was winning the majority of the statewide vote, you would think that they would be represented about the same in the state house,â€� said Sam Liebert, Wisconsin State Director of All Voting is Local. 

Liebert says the gerrymandering that plagues Wisconsin disenfranchises the state’s marginalized voters the most. 

“It’s called ‘cracking and packing,â€� Liebert said. “You have a lot of brown and Black people who are in districts that are 80 percent plus Democratic. But then, most of the Republican districts are 53, 54, 55 percent.â€� 

With Republicans controlling the gerrymandered legislature, Roys says that lawmakers snowball their suppression efforts to retain power by making it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots. 

“Over the last 12 years… the gerrymandered Republican legislature has worked systematically to limit access to early voting and absentee voting by implementing voter ID laws,â€� Roys said. “We know in Wisconsin that people in urban areas are much less likely to have driver’s licenses, and that’s the primary ID that people need to vote.â€� 

Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which was passed in 2011 under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, is among the strictest in the country. It’s widely credited as the reason the state’s voter turnout was so low in the 2016 election, particularly among racial minorities in urban areas.

But in the 2022 election, state Sen. LaTonya Johnson said that voting in Wisconsin was even more stringent. 

“The ballot drop boxes that were legal during the presidential election were deemed to be illegal for this election,� Johnson said. “Then, they made sure that absentee voting was taken down from six weeks to two weeks – we used to have six weeks to vote absentee.�

State Republicans performed well for their efforts in this past election. They achieved a supermajority in the state senate after a net gain of one seat, and fell just short of a supermajority in the state assembly with a net gain of three seats. 

Their success was, at least in part, due to the tactics that made Spindell so proud in his email.

“The Republican strategy has been very apparent for a while now,â€� Neumann-Ortiz said. “Instead of trying to win Latino and African American voters on policy issues and the issues that they care about, they’ve used a strategy of both voter suppression and manipulation.â€�

Roys urges these voters not to be discouraged, but to fight back.

“Be angry,� Roys said. “Use that anger to organize your friends and neighbors to go vote. There’s a reason that they’re working so hard to silence your voices.�

Spindell did not respond to multiple requests by WI Latino News for comment.
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Cover photo: Connor Betts, Unsplash

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Erik Uebelacker is a journalism graduate student at DePaul University and the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The DePaulia. Find him on Twitter at @Uebey.

The post WEC’s Spindell tours low voter turnout, reveals Republican suppression strategies appeared first on WILN.

Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty? — Recap and Resource Guide

An estimated 300 million people menstruate around the world on any given day. Still, the stigma surrounding this normal bodily function contributes to the cycle of period poverty that leads many without the products and/or knowledge they need to maintain a healthy period.

Illinois Latino News and WBEZ Chicago collaborated on the January 31 virtual event Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty? to explore this issue. Beyond defining period poverty, the event strived to illustrate its effects with video interviews featuring first-hand accounts and expert panelists at both the local and national level. Responses from the Addressing Period Poverty survey shaped the content of this conversation, by catering to the information respondents said they wanted to know.

Panelists included:

Abigail Suleman, Co-founder of Blood Buds and MPH student at UIC

Ida Melbye, Executive director of the Period Collective

Damaris Pereda, National programs director, PERIOD.

Dr. Sameena Rahman, Obstetrics and gynecology specialist at the Center for Gynecology and Cosmetics 
Yesenia Raithel Vargas, Certified Nurse Midwife at Esperanza Health Centers

Menstruating people in Chicago describe what period poverty looked like in their lives.

One key finding of the survey highlighted the misconception of what period poverty is. Of 204 responses, 48 percent of people said that they have struggled to pay for period products, but only 39 percent said that they have experienced poverty. If someone has struggled to pay for period products, then they have in fact experienced period poverty.

“Period poverty for those who live on the street looks very different from period poverty for somebody who has most of the things that they need but, maybe there’s a month here and there where they can’t afford product that they need…� said Ida Melbye, co-founder of The Period Collective.

We asked survey respondents what words or phrases they associated with their periods.

Stigma drives negative associations with menstruation and prevents people from openly discussing it. Pain. Discomfort. Embarrassing. Dirty. Gross. Sad. These are some of the most common words respondents of the Addressing Period Poverty survey said that they associated with their periods. Especially in Black and Latinx communities, who are most affected by period poverty, many menstruators are taught from an early age to keep their periods private.

“My mom would always tell me nobody should know when you have that, no one,â€� said 51-year-old Trinidad Elisa Sanchez, who is originally from Chicago but now lives in Houston, Texas. 

This suppression has lasting effects. Instilling this taboo prevents folks from learning how to best care for their bodies or use menstrual products the recommended way. It also keeps those in need from seeking resources to help and leads to lasting internalized shame.

“I think it started my journey to not liking myself at that age, actually,â€� said 27-year-old Chloe Story from Elk Grove, California.  

This community conversation covered a variety of additional topics from access to products to gender norms and sexual health education. The full Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty? can be viewed on both IL Latino News and WBEZ’s Youtube channels. Follow this link to rewatch the event in Spanish.

IL Latino News has created the list of resources below to continue this conversation and help point those in-need of products to local organizations who are able to help.

Organizations offering period products 

The Bloc (during their food pantry, every first friday of the month): ​​https://theblocchicago.org

Fourth Presbyterian Church Meals Ministry: https://www.fourthchurch.org/meals/index.html

Gyrls in the H.O.O.D Foundation: https://gyrlsinthehood.com

Nourishing Hope (ask for hygiene products): https://www.nourishinghopechi.org/get-food/

Nourishing Hope (free home delivery for seniors and people with disabilities): https://www.nourishinghopechi.org/get-food/home-delivery/

The Period Collective: https://theperiodcollective.org

If you’d like to add an organization to this list, please contact annabel@latinonewsnetwork.com

Learn more about menstruation and period poverty

Glossary for the Global Menstrual Movement: https://period.org/uploads/Global-Glossary-for-the-Menstrual-Movement-v1.3.pdf

It’s a Curse: Menstrual Shaming Needs to End Everywhere by Dr. Sameena Rahman: https://garnetnews.com/2019/01/15/its-a-curse-menstrual-shaming-needs-to-end-everywhere/

Information about menstrual cups: https://www.heygirls.co.uk/education/give-a-cup-a-go/

Locate your local PERIOD chapter: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1cruPkPyZvCo8PBmM8avJoLujqYIuctCP/edit#gid=443025411

Menstrual Hygiene Day: https://menstrualhygieneday.org

National menstrual equity legislation: https://allianceforperiodsupplies.org/period-legislation/ 

She Votes IL Menstrual Equity in IL Toolkit: https://www.shevotesil.org/current-initiatives.html

Tampon Tax Tracker: https://allianceforperiodsupplies.org/tampon-tax/

What is Menstruation?: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/menstruation

Queer period activists: https://www.thefemword.world/the-word/queer-period-activists

Your first period: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/your-first-period

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Publisher’s Note: This event was supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Editor, reporter Annabel Rocha was named a 2022 National Fellow and committed to a series focused on period poverty in Illinois. 

More reporting on period poverty in Illinois by Rocha and Illinois Latino News

Period Poverty in Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions

ILLN Opinion+: Ida Melbye, The Period Collective 

What is the State of Menstrual Equity in Illinois?

Addressing Period Poverty survey

Encuesta Abordando La Pobreza Menstrual

The post Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty? — Recap and Resource Guide appeared first on ILLN.

New Hartford Play Features All Latinx Cast and Creative Team

HARTFORD—Theatergoers can expect a striking new play featuring an all Latinx cast and creative team beginning this Friday. 

Queen of Basel takes place within the Latinx community during Miami’s Art Basel as an adaptation of August Strindberg’s classic play, Miss Julie.

“I couldn’t be more excited to make my TheaterWorks Hartford debut with a play showcasing such vivid, flawed, and imperfect characters with a dynamic, female protagonist at its core,� Director Cristina Angeles commented. “Latinx stories are rarely seen on stage, and I hope this is just the beginning of a much longer conversation surrounding our varied, lived experiences, and the art that is created as a result.�

Written by Playwright Hilary Bettis, Queen of Basel will run February 3-26 at TheaterWork Hartford’s historic property at 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT. 

The play will also steam on demand from February 19-26. 

“When planning the 2022-2023 season, I felt it was essential to include a story that speaks to our Latin community,� Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero shared. “It’s human, it’s raw, it’s completely compelling — and it’s in that engagement that we are also provoked into important conversations about privilege, race, power, and color.�

Set in Miami’s Art Basel, the performance follows real estate heiress Julie after she tangles with her mogul father during an event thrown at his South Beach hotel.

“Julie plots her next move…with Christine, a waitress who recently fled violence in Venezuela, and Christine’s fiancé John, an Uber driver with ambitions,� reads the press release. “This explosive elixir of power, class, and race within the Latinx community examines the timelessness of love and betrayal in this bold new play.�

The cast features actors Silvia Dionicio as Christine, Kelvin Grullon as John, and Christine Spang as Julie.

Queen of Basel is recommended for those over the age of 18 as it contains strong language and adult content. 

In-person tickets range from $25 – $65 and can be purchased online at twhartford.org or by calling (860)527-7838. The theater’s COVID-19 Policy is also available at twhartford.org.

TheaterWorks Hartford and CT Latino News have partnered to host a weekly ticket giveaway throughout the play’s run. 

Every Wednesday at noon, a trivia question will be posted via one of CTLN’s social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The first person to submit the correct answer at info@latinonewsnetwork.com wins TWO tickets. 

Learn more about the contest HERE.

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News is proud to partner with TheaterWorks Hartford in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities. 

COVID and a Return to Normal? Cementing Inequities in the Latino Community

WI Latino News produces and amplifies stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic Stability is vital to affording lifestyle choices and paying for quality medical care that keeps people healthy. A well-paying, steady job is critical for food security and housing stability. Savings are essential for managing chronic conditions or emergencies.


their January 2023 meeting, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Group will consider instituting COVID vaccines as an annual fall event like the Turkey Trot, Trick-or-Treating, and the flu shot.

Beyond the FDA, the mask and distancing mandates have been mostly lifted.

Restaurant reservations are now hard to come by. Securing one feels like winning at bingo. Airline flights are overbooked. Sporting and entertainment venues are jam-packed with fans.

When you toss all these changes together, they offer good news for businesses, government taxing bodies, and, let’s be honest, the mental health of millions worldwide.

But the real message is clear.

COVID is here to stay as a normal part of daily living.  These changes broadcast that it is time to behave like it is 2019.

Headline: It is time to learn to live with COVID and return to normal!

This scenario ignores a significant set of COVID consequences that, if left unattended, will cement inequities. COVID broke, exposed, and then exacerbated existing social and economic structures. It dismantled much of what seemed to be working while intensifying inequities disproportionately impacting marginalized communities.

For example, when food and entertainment venues were closed, childcare settings shuttered, and personal services such as landscaping and housekeeping were eliminated, many Latino families lost significant income that allowed them to survive. With the loss of income, providing for the basics became a struggle. In many instances, families could not pay basic essential expenses such as food and housing.

The impact of COVID on the Latino community highlights what must be addressed to reset to what some call the new normal where equity is a reality rather than a theoretical ideal or a moral goal.

Latinos create their own social safety nets because they often are not afforded access to publicly funded programs.

With the highest labor force participation rate of any racial and ethnic group, they fund their social safety nets by working at low-wage jobs — often more than one — in areas such as maintenance,  food service, unskilled manufacturing, childcare, and food processing plants. They also live in multigenerational and often multifamily households. Taken together, these conditions allowed them to get by. COVID shattered all this.

In 2019 just under half of Latinos in the workforce earned less than $15 per hour. Yet also, in 2019, the median household income for Latinos was $56.113, or about 74% of the median white household income. In 2019 Blacks had a median household income of $46,073, about 61% of whites. The median household income for Asians was $98,174, or about 23% higher than for whites.

With a high percentage of workers earning less than $15 per hour, why is the Latino median household income not lower?

Answer: Several workers living in the same household hold multiple jobs. Intergenerational and multifamily households with multiple workers working more than one job contribute to total household income.

And while Latinos have returned to work, the economic decimation from COVID left many families with significant debt that likely would not have been incurred if they could earn a higher wage or had public support to help them through rough times. During a community forum in 2022, a woman explained: “Many could not pay the rent, others … got into debt. People have no idea how they are going pay off all these debts.â€�

COVID dramatically exposed the economic fragility of many Latinos. When the pandemic hit, Latino Decisions reported that half of the Latino households had approximately $500 in the bank. Latinos were the racial and ethnic group with the lowest household liquidity.

How is it that a group with relatively high median household income, the highest labor force participation rates, a homeownership rate nearing 50%, and ever-growing consumer spending power finds far too many of its members thrown into an economically weak position?

The answer is found in what COVID exposed.

COVID made vivid that Latinos represented a large portion of the essential low-wage labor force – our home health aides, factory workers, and food service providers. As critical workers, they did the work that needed to be done and thus contributed to overall economic growth and stability. But COVID also cracked open that low-wage essential workers were not proportionately benefiting from the financial gains they produced for others.

Simultaneously, COVID exacerbated many Latinos’ housing, employment, and economic conditions.

Many Latinos live in very challenging conditions. They work in high-risk, essential jobs. Because of their lack of liquid assets, they need to work. Research shows that as a group, they have low rates of health insurance and participation in publicly funded social welfare programs. Many also live in crowded housing.

Almost three years into COVID, we continue to avoid openly and fairly addressing these structural inequities which guaranteed COVID disproportionately impacted Latinos.

We need to acknowledge the endemic structural inequities that characterize how far too many Latinos live.

As we move forward, two different choices present themselves.

We can pretend to return to some imaginary normal and behave as though it is 2019.

Or we can choose to work to remedy the ongoing inequities in the Latino community so that they will not be further intensified.


Header photo by Ella Ho Ching/Cronkite News. 

Publisher’s Notes: COVID and a Return to Normal? Cementing Inequities in the Latino Community was first published on The Edge.

Noreen M. Sugrue is currently the Director of Research at the Latino Policy Forum. Before joining the Latino Policy Forum, she was a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author or co-author of many articles and book chapters. Her international and domestic research focuses on immigration, immigrants, gender, health care, and the workforce centering on inequity, inequality, and distributive justice. In addition, she analyzes and evaluates the construction and implementation of social policies to address and redress inequities.

Do you have an idea for an Opinion-Editorial? We want to hear from you. Email us at Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com

The post COVID and a Return to Normal? Cementing Inequities in the Latino Community appeared first on WILN.

Ticket Giveaway Contest

CT Latino News (CTLN) is proud to partner with TheaterWorks Hartford in presenting Queen of Basel, making its New England premiere on Feb. 3-26.

Queen of Basel, written by Hilary Bettis and directed by Cristina Angeles, is an adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie set within the Latinx community during Miami’s Art Basel.

Cast of Queen Of Basel: Christine Spang (Julie), Kelvin Grullon (John), Silvia Dionicio (Christine)

You can find out more about the play and how to get tickets by clicking HERE. Also, you have an opportunity to win tickets each week, for the run of the show.

Rules/Guidelines

Every Wednesday at Noon EST, you will get a chance to win two tickers by being the first person to correctly answer a trivia question.

The first question will be shared at Noon EST via CTLN’s Facebook page on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.

Participants will have 30 minutes to send their answer to info@latinoneesnetwork.com.

The first person to send the correct answer to the trivia question, wins two tickets and will be notified by CTLN on how to collect them

Please note TheaterWorks Hartford will try to accommodate tickets for the winners’ preferred performance as best as possible (based on availability).

GOOD LUCK!!


CT Latino News produces and amplifies stories and initiatives focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Social and Community Context refers to the settings in which people live and work, and it includes relationships between people, as well as the connections between people and institutions (social, religious, cultural, and occupational).

The Journey for a New Life: A Venezuelan Asylum Seekers Reveal Chicago’s Sanctuary City Integration Limitations

On a cold October night in Chicago, Javier Collina searched for shelter after traveling for six weeks by foot, bus, truck, and train from Colombia to the United States. Collina fled Venezuela earlier in 2022 due to the unlivable situation in Venezuela fueled by an economic crisis. The economic inflation fluctuated and even reached as high as 65,000% in 2018, according to the BTI transformation index

“I couldn’t feed my family when I lived in Venezuela or Colombia,â€� Collina said. 

Collina was initially turned away from the Salvation Army Freedom Center in Humboldt Park, one of nine shelters paid for by the City of Chicago and managed by the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS). Staff at the shelter told him they were full.

“I will sleep on the floor,� Collina pleaded. So, he did.

Collina is one of  3,854 Venezuelan asylum seekers to arrive in Chicago since Aug. 31, as reported by DFSS. Those fleeing Venezuela are part of the second-largest migration crisis in the world, according to the United Nations

Inadequate communication between city and state officials fell on the shoulders of asylum seekers searching for work and a new life. Abrupt and unannounced changes to shelter locations within the Chicago area and unseen indoor shelter conditions reveal a sanctuary city with an unsustainable long-term plan. 

A comprehensive plan is necessary to provide for these migrants, said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez. “[The City and State] are coordinating efforts without disclosing what is really going on in these locations,â€� he said. 

 The Reverberation of No Communication

In late August, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bussed Venezuelan asylum seekers from Texas to sanctuary cities such as New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. This was without any notice to Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker. 

Lightfoot and Pritzker publicly welcomed the migrants, per Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance, and condemned the unannounced and disorderly decision by Abbott.

“The other states may be treating them as pawns; here in Illinois, we are treating them as people,� Pritzker said in a speech he gave on Sept. 14.

Gov. Pritzker’s asylum seeker welcome speech, initiating a disaster proclamation two weeks after they first arrived. Pritzker enlisted the help of the National Guard

During a Committee on Budget and Government Operations meeting on Oct. 15, DFSS Commissioner Brandie Knazze said the department is applying for a $16 million grant to support Chicago’s nonprofits for migrants. This grant would come from a $150 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) food and shelter grant. 

The City of Chicago set aside a $5 million contingency fund to cover costs associated with Venezuelan asylum seekers. It’s unclear how much has actually been spent between Aug. 31 and Dec. 1, according to Rose Tibayan, the director of public affairs, at Chicago’s Office of Budget Management.

After the asylum seekers arrived at Chicago Union Station, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) coordinated health screenings at intake centers. After a few days at intake centers, the asylum seekers were relocated to either hotels in suburbs under the state’s jurisdiction or shelters in the city managed by DFSS, Marisa Kollias, spokesperson for IDHS, said.

In early September, Burr Ridge Mayor Gary Grasso found that Pritzker sent dozens of asylum seekers to the Hampton Inn hotel in his suburb without any warning.  Similarly, Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson was unaware of the decision to house asylum seekers at La Quinta Inn in his village, according to the Elk Grove newsletter, in September.

Letter from Mayor Grasso sent to Gov. Pritzker on Sept. 14.

“We can empathize with these refugees and want to help them, but we cannot do that effectively unless we properly communicate,� wrote Grasso.

The asylum seekers lived in Burr Ridge for 11 days before moving again to another location, according to a Burr Ridge Village press release.  

The La Quinta Hotel in Elk Grove is a two-hour train ride Northwest of downtown Chicago. 

People staying at the hotel are seen exiting the lobby to smoke cigarettes. After entering the hotel, we confirmed Venezuelans were staying there.  Credit: Kala Hunter.

“I directly asked the mayor’s office and state representatives if I could visit the shelters to verify the conditions that the refugees are under. Not once was I given the opportunity to see these facilities,â€� said Sigcho-Lopez.

The Unsustainable Process

The Chicago Mexican American center Little Village Community Council (LVCC) aims to serve the community through social services. The placement of asylum seekers in the suburbs was nonsensical, LVCC President Baltazar Enriquez said.

“The mayor put them as far as possible, [away from] Latinx neighborhoods like Little Village, Back of the Yards, or Pilsen,â€� said Enriquez. 

Caption: Yorvi Rivas, 35, describes his journey from South America at a Subway in Little India. (Credit: Kala Hunter).

Yorvi Rivas, an asylum seeker from Venezuela, was in a shelter in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood and accessed free legal assistance and a CityKey. He found these resources through northside city nonprofit Centro Romero. 

CityKey is a government ID that has benefits, including transit passes and discounts from business partners and prescription drugs. Since August, the Chicago City Clerk has printed 9,000 CityKeys that help Chicago residents, including asylum seekers, according to the Office of the City Clerk.  

However, CityKeys are not available to asylum-seekers placed in the ten state-sponsored suburbs.

Hidden Conditions Within 

Rivas resides in a makeshift shelter that was once a public library. The shelter accommodates over 100 asylum seekers and lacks basic necessities, said Rivas.

“We have the option of using a shower at another location, but it can take up to an hour to travel to and from; so I just don’t shower,â€� Rivas said. 

Sigcho-Lopez and Enriquez said they encountered challenges trying to check the conditions within city and state shelters. Sigcho-Lopez visited a shelter in Harvey after not receiving any response from officials. 

“What I saw was shameful,â€� said Sigcho-Lopez. 

The children at this shelter were not able to go outside, he said. Sigcho-Lopez also heard reports of drug use inside the shelter. The asylum seekers at the shelter have since been relocated to Bridgeport. 

City shelter placement is also unreliable. Rivas said he has been moved 15 times. 

The Salvation Army, where Collina stayed, addresses emergency homelessness, drug addiction, rehabilitation and other social welfare programs, according to the organization’s official website.

“They aren’t helping them find jobs, and they are not interested in these people,� Enriquez said. “[It] has become like a little jail.�

The Salvation Army and DFSS declined to be interviewed about the conditions within the shelters. 

The Salvation Army at 825 N Christiana Ave where Collina eventually found refuge. As of Nov. 16, 2022, asylum seekers were no longer being housed in this shelter. (Credit: Kala Hunter).

They Are Here to Work

“They [Venezuelan asylum seekers] want to work,â€� said Immigration Legal Assistant Frank Sandoval with the Spanish Community Center, a United Way nonprofit agency. “That’s why they are here.â€�

An isolated Holiday Inn on Cumberland Avenue has given refuge to family asylum seekers since September. (Credit: Kala Hunter).

Delmar Janampa and his wife, Nairubi Janampa, were sent to the Holiday Inn near the Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Oct. 4, nearly two months after the family left South America on foot. Nairobi Janampa interviewed to work as a cleaning person at a hair salon a few blocks from the hotel.

Yorvi stood outside a Home Depot near his shelter with a sign that said, “I am looking for a job,â€� and found a painting job that lasted only a few weeks. 

Collina had no legal help in applying to seek asylum since arriving in Chicago. He is working at a restaurant under the table, meaning he receives payment in cash and isn’t registered in the employer’s payroll. 

Janampases, Collina, Yorvi have one year to apply for asylum since entering the United States, according to Sandoval. 

“What usually happens is that asylum seekers come by themselves, and they fend for themselves,� said Helena Olea, a human rights lawyer at Alianza Americas, a network of migrant-led organizations.

Eduardo Caceres translated interviews for Collina and Yorvi, and Johan Gotera translated for the Janampases.

Collina helps hold the Venezuelan flag between two other Venezuelans at an Illinois Venezuelan Alliance (IVA) meeting at the University of Illinois Chicago) Credit: Kala Hunter.

Sidebar

Between 2014 and 2020, the Venezuelan economy shrank by two-thirds due to failed social policy, spurring a humanitarian crisis causing 9.3 million Venezuelans to go hungry, according to Human Rights Watch. 

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro committed human rights violations ranging from the persecution of political opponents, to attacks on demonstrators, and killings in low-income communities, according to Human Rights Watch.  

Maduro rose to power in 2014 and maintained it through censorship, repression, and electoral manipulation. In 2018, Maduro was reelected despite the condemnation of an unfair election. Throughout the last eight years, 7.1 million Venezuelans, 25 percent of the country, have fled to neighboring countries such as Colombia and Peru, according to the United Nations.

In May, Title 42, which prohibited migrants from entering the country out of

concern for the spread of contagious diseases, was terminated. This allowed thousands of Venezuelan and other South American asylum-seekers to enter the country for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Two ways of obtaining legal work authorization are possible in the U.S. One way is by applying for Temporary Protective Status. The alternative is to apply for asylum. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides both asylum and TPS cases. 

According to the data-clearing organization at Syracuse University, only 7.2% of the 3,720 asylum seekers who arrived in Chicago in September and October applied for asylum.

The asylum application process can take anywhere from six to nine months and require a professional to help navigate, said immigration legal assistant Frank Sandoval. 

Temporary Protective Status is available to Venezuelans due to the severe humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. On July 11, USCIS extended TPS for Venezuelans by 18 months. The extension is in effect from Sept. 10, 2022 to March 20, 2024. 

Between January 2021 and Oct. 21, 237,000 Venezuelans attempted to enter the U.S. In September, 34,000 Venezuelans entered Texas, according to the Migration Policy Institute. 

Since December of last year, New York City has received 32,000 migrants from Texas, more than eight times the amount than Chicago. Washington D.C. received a total of 8,400 Venezuelan asylum seekers since September of last year.

New York Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency on Oct. 7. Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has employed 147 members of the New York National Guard. 

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested help and was rejected twice by the National Guard. The D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine stated $150,000 designated funds as grants to six local groups for expenses related to housing, clothing, and transportation, according to a Sept. 1 press release

Thousands of asylum seekers ended up in the shelter system. NYC opened an 84,000-square-foot tent camp on Randall’s Island, according to the New York Times on Oct. 22. 


Cover Photo: Volunteers help migrants bused from Texas to Washington, D.C. endure their first winter. Credit: Danna Matheus


Kala Hunter is an environmental journalist passionate about climate change mitigation and environmental justice. Kala writes about regenerative food systems, endangered species, and urban forestry. She is currently earning her Masters in Journalism at Northwestern University. 

www.kalahunter.com

Chelsea Zhao is a graduate student of health, science and environment journalism at Northwestern University. Her previous work appeared in Cicero Independiente, Southside Weekly, and the Caregiving magazine. She is passionate about topics of environmental racism, climate change and sustainability. 


Publisher’s Note: Illinois Latino News is dedicated to covering the social determinants of health. A social determinant of health approach has seldom been applied to immigration. A report in Annual Reviews finds that global patterns of morbidity and mortality follow inequities rooted in societal, political, and economic conditions produced and reproduced by social structures, policies, and institutions. The lack of dialogue between these two profoundly related phenomena—social determinants of health and immigration—has resulted in missed opportunities for public health research, practice, and policy work. 

Part of Illinois Latino News’ (ILLN) mission is to provide mentoring and real work experiences to students. ILLN also amplifies the work of others in providing voice and visibility to the Hispanic-Latino community. ILLN is grateful to collaborate with schools of higher education like Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications in fulfilling that commitment.

The post The Journey for a New Life: Venezuelan Asylum Seekers Reveal Chicago’s Sanctuary City Integration Limitations appeared first on ILLN.

AARP Announces 2023 Community Grants

Granite State nonprofits and government entities looking to enhance their community impact may be eligible for AARP’s 2023 grants, the Purpose Prize Award and the Community Challenge Grant.  

The AARP Purpose Prize Award aims to support 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations in their community efforts. 

AARP will select five winners to receive $50,000 each and up to ten fellows who will receive $10,000 each. Winners and fellows will also receive a year of technical support to help expand the scope of their work. 

“The AARP Purpose Prize award recognizes applicants who go beyond individual volunteering to take on a specific social problem in a sustained, systematic, and measurable way that aims to make the world a better place for us all,� said Christina FitzPatrick, AARP NH State Director. “All across New Hampshire, people 50-plus are using their life experience to give back in ways that elevate their communities and the world. The AARP Purpose Prize award seeks to recognize these leaders.�

Nonprofit founders or co-founders must be 50 years or older to be eligible, learn more at AARP’s website. The deadline to apply is February 28, at www.aarp.org/apply

The 2023 AARP Community Challenge offers nonprofit organizations and government entities a variety of grants—ranging from $500 to $50,000—for quick-action community projects. 

These grants look to support permanent physical improvements in the community, new programming pilots or services, and temporary demonstrations that lead to long-term change.

Since the program began in 2017, 18 NH organizations have been recipients of the Community Challenge Grant, according to AARP NH Associate State Director of Communications Pamela Dube.

In 2018, Manchester Connects received funding from the Community Challenge to develop more recreational space along the Merrimack River. 

“We were super excited to get the AARP grant because it allowed us to make this a place where people want to spend time. It can really now be a destination,â€� said Manchester Connects Co-Chair Sarah Jacobs. 

Unlike previous years, the 2023 Community Challenge offers three different grant opportunities including Flagship Grants, Capacity-Building Microgrants, and Demonstration Grants. 

Interested applicants can register for the Q&A webinar on February 8 at 2PM to learn more about the grant program and its application process. 

Applications are being accepted until March 15. Selected projects will begin late June and are expected to be completed by late November. 


Editor’s Notes: AARP New Hampshire and New Hampshire Latino News are partners in providing greater visibility and voice to local Hispanic-Latino communities. 

State commission calls for dismantling structural racism in Mass. prisons, jails

Structural racism is rampant in the state’s prisons and jails, a special legislative commission found in a study released today.

The 71-page report, based on several site visits and dozens of interviews with current and former inmates and correctional staff, concluded that racism pervades policies, programs and the culture in both the state’s prisons and its county jails. Inmates of color told commissioners about unequal access to medical and mental health care and waiting longer for job placement than their white counterparts. Non-white inmates were routinely given lower-paying janitorial work instead of more desirable and higher-paying jobs in metal work and dog training, the report stated.

The Special Legislative Commission on Structural Racism in Correctional Facilities, led by state Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Marlborough) and former state Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Boston), was charged with investigating the treatment of people of color incarcerated at state and county correctional facilities. More than 11,500 men and women are incarcerated across the state and county correctional system, whether serving sentences, awaiting trials or detained under federal programs.

From disciplinary actions to health care and educational access, people of color — along with non-English speakers and LGBTQ people — experienced worse conditions than white people, according to the report.

Read the full story at GBH News.


Publisher’s Note: This story is an aggregate from GBH, Massachusetts Latino News’ (MALN) partner in providing greater visibility and voice to the Hispanic-Latino community.

Addressing Juvenile Justice System Disparities

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day from RILN; today reminds us of the progress we have made and the progress that lies ahead in intersectional racial equity in areas such as the U.S. adult and juvenile justice system.

Historic civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested 29 times in his lifetime. His time spent in prison shed light on the racial disparities within the criminal justice system – disparities that persist 60 years later. 

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress,� he wrote in 1963, Letter from Birmingham Jail.

While there’s been in-depth research and discussions on the unequal representation of Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous people in the U.S. criminal justice system, advocates are calling attention to the power behind juvenile justice entities. 

“Without that recognition that children and youth have unique needs or will understand and respond differently than adults, we miss a huge opportunity to rehabilitate and promote the future well-being of our youth and communities,� RI Kids Count wrote in Centering Youth Voice in Juvenile Justice Reform.

In the United States, about 1,995 youth are arrested every day, according to The State of America’s Children 2020 report

These youth may be placed on probation or removed from their homes and sent to correctional institutions or other residential facilities. Experts have pointed out major issues with juvenile facilities including exposing youth to further violence and maltreatment, a pervasive overreliance on confinement, along with glaring racial and ethnic disparities. 

“Youth commit only a small portion of the nation’s crime…[and] has also been going down for many years,� according to the Campaign for Youth Justice. “Despite this drop, the United States has the highest rate of youth confinement of any developed country. In 2010, there were 173 youth for every 100,000 in confinement. However, 39% of those who are in confinement are there due to a technical violation of probation, drug offenses, public order offenses, status offenses, and low level property offenses.�

Various reports have all found that youth of color and those with disabilities, along with LGBTQ+ youth are highly overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. 

As of 2021, “Black youth are nine times more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence, American Indian/Alaska Native youth are almost two times more likely, and Hispanic youth are 40 percent more likely,â€� according to the Children’s Defense Fund.   

Research experts estimate between 30 percent to 85 percent of incarcerated youth have a learning disability, making students with disabilities almost three times more likely to be arrested than their peers. 

LGBTQ+ youth make up five to seven percent of the youth population, but 13 to 15 percent of the juvenile justice population, according to the Center for American Progress

RI KIDS COUNT REPORT: Key Findings & Recomendations

Last month, RI Kids Count published Centering Youth Voice in Juvenile Justice Reform. The report highlights the experiences and perspectives of Rhode Island youth (14 to 21 years old) who have come into contact with the juvenile justice system. 

An event to explore and discuss the report’s findings was hosted on Dec. 11 and is available to watch HERE.

Major takeaways included the need to address “the trauma many youth have experienced and continue to experience… unequal access to legal representation and the ability to pay fees…[and] racial and ethnic disparities at all points in the juvenile justice system.�  

Youth participating in the focus groups said they felt intimidated by the entire family court process and did not have a voice in their own case. 

“I think each judge needs to understand that they are talking to a kid…this kid doesn’t know you, so they are uncomfortable,â€� said one youth participant. “They don’t know you and then they’re being watched by other people too. So, it puts you in a place where you don’t really feel like answering.â€�

A community-based alternative to family court are Juvenile Hearing Boards, a process that promotes restorative justice.

“The open dialogue afforded by restorative justice opportunities gets at the root cause of a youth’s actions by centering their voice in the narrative,â€� according to the 2022 report. 

All nine focus group participants identified as youth of color. The groups spoke on experiencing racism in encounters with policing, courts, detention, and probation. 

“We should all be equal and the consequences should all be equal. It shouldn’t be based on your skin or how the judge is feeling that day,â€� said one participant. 

The publication’s recommendations include that more people of color are recruited in all areas of the system and objective screening tools such as the Risk Assessment Instrument are considered at arrest. 

Overall, participants who have been to the Rhode Island Training School said the experience was counterproductive and harmful to their wellbeing—especially to their mental health.

“When I went in there, I wasn’t even 18… but it did change me,â€� said one youth participant. “That’s why I changed, because I was by myself a lot like I couldn’t be around nobody no more…I was just… in my room, depressed, by myself, just like, damn. Then I started being anti-social…â€� 

Child advocates worry that such programs restrict youth’s development instead of providing effective rehabilitation. 

“…treating kids like little adults obviously always does nothing but tarnish them and hurt them and not give them [a] chance to change while their brains are still developing, and their emotional responses are still growing,â€� one caseworker told RI Kids Count.

On crime prevention, participants called for more accessible after-school activities, career entry opportunities, and adult role models from their communities who can relate to them. 

“…The reason why kids are getting into trouble right now, because they don’t have…well everything runs on money… you have to pay for the YMCA, Boys & Girls Club…we don’t have money…we don’t have a job…all we can do is get into trouble,â€� said one youth participant. 

Learn more about the publication’s findings and recommendations for juvenile justice reform at rikidscount.org. 

Proposed Bills Bring Affordable Housing and Tenants Rights to the Forefront

Legislation surrounding New Hampshire housing is pushed to the forefront in early 2023, with House Speaker Sherman Packard creating a temporary legislative committee specifically for housing-related bills. 

Tenant rights is a hot topic, with some proposed bills prohibiting discrimination against potential tenants using Section 8 vouchers and implementing rent control. 

According to New Hampshire Legal Aid, there is currently no law that regulates how much a landlord can increase the rent on a tenant. Without a written lease that legally binds the rent amount, landlords are free to change rent prices at their disclosure.

Census data showed that 47 percent of renters in the state are paying 30 percent or more of their household income toward rent. And affordability isn’t the only issue. Reports have found that there is a serious lack of available rental units. Five percent is considered a balanced rental market by New Hampshire Housing. New Hampshire’s vacancy rate is currently 0.5 percent.

“Rent control is a bad idea. It’s been proven over and over again that it worsens the problem it is trying to control. Any idea that is restricting business is going to end up causing more harm than they are fixing. If you aren’t creating more housing, then you are looking at the wrong place,� said Nick Norman, director of legislative affairs for the landlords group Apartment Association of NH.

In Manchester, officials recently held a meeting to discuss solutions to the homeless crisis after the city announced plans to clear 45 tents from an encampment formed around the Families in Transition shelter.

“The city faces a homelessness crisis, and the problem is the lack of shelter models of low barriers for people to access,� said Adrienne Beloin, Director of Homelessness Initiatives.

In response, the city added a temporary 40-bed warming station at William Cashin Senior Activity Center. 

A 2021 report by the NH Coalition to End Homelessness estimated that there were 4,682 houseless individuals that year. That same report found that nine percent of the state’s homeless population is Hispanic. According to their analysis, because only four percent of New Hampshire’s general population identifies as Hispanic, Hispanics in New Hampshire are over two times more likely to experience homelessness. 

Notable 2023 Housing Bills

  • HB95: Enables municipalities to limit rent increases and/or require a period of notice before increasing rent
  • HB 117: Allows for eviction of a tenant when a lease is up, and requires a 30 day’s notice
  • HB 283: Places a limit on application fees to prospective tenants to $35 or the cost of conducting a background check, whichever amount is less
  • HB 379: Provides attorneys for low-income evictees 

_________________________________________________________________________________Photo: RODNAE Productions, Pexels