WILN Opinion+:Roberto Tecpile, Mercedes Falk and John Rosenow

Welcome to another episode of Wisconsin Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Wisconsin. This week’s guests include three team members from the Fountain City-based organization Puentes/Bridges: Director Roberto Tecpile, President Mercedes Falk and Co-founder John Rosenow.

Like its name, this organization attempts to build bridges between farming communities and the people who immigrate to these rural areas of Wisconsin for work opportunities. Nearly six percent of Wisconsin’s labor force are immigrants, and a significant portion of this immigrant population goes into the farming industry. According to Rosenow’s own accounts, and a report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which included him and Tecpile, Latino immigrants are vital to Wisconsin’s dairy industry. 

To no surprise, Latino immigrants face language barriers with their employers, often relying on hand gestures or their phones to translate. 

“The desire to want to understand each other really helps a lot,� said Falk.

That desire prompted action. In 2001, a group of dairy farmers, including Rosenow, took a trip to Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico to visit a language school in the hopes of developing Spanish skills to better communicate with their staff. It was his idea to visit the workers’ family members.

While Rosenow was doubtful about the first trip, he soon realized the value in it when their visit brought out local Mexican media, who were astounded by their arrival. He was told that it was the first time they had ever seen U.S. employers visit their employees’ hometown. After a few more pioneer trips, Puentes/Bridges was incorporated two years later.

“It was like a once-in-a-lifetime experience,� said Rosenow, who will embark on his tenth international visit with Puentes this year.

“Even though there is a separate language, there’s so much that they have found in common and ways that they realize that they really connect with one another on a deeper level,â€� said Falk. 

The trips act as a cross-borders, immersive, team bonding experience. Tecpile says that he has learned a lot through his experiences with Puentes. Rosenow echoes this sentiment, sharing how Puentes has helped his relationships with his workers evolve.

“I’ve seen people die, I’ve seen people get married, I’ve seen people have children, I’ve seen the children grow up, I’ve seen the children come and work for me [as adults] after they were just little kids the first time I saw them,� Rosenow said.

“It’s always been a family-type thing,â€� he said. “And now the families are just from a different country.â€� 

Resources mentioned in this video: 

Puentes/Bridges website: https://www.puentesbridges.org

Puentes/Bridges on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/puentesbridges

Information on Workers Rights: https://www.puentesbridges.org/resources/worker-rights/

Derechos de los Trabajadores: https://www.puentesbridges.org/recursos/derechos-de-los-trabajadores/

Immigration System: https://www.puentesbridges.org/resources/immigration-system/

Sistema de Immigración: https://www.puentesbridges.org/recursos/sistema-de-inmigracion/

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Voters will choose District Council to improve public safety and police accountability

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health and democracy.

120 candidates filed petitions
 for Chicago’s newly-created District Council positions on Nov. 28, a few months ahead of the February 2023 municipal elections. City voters will be able to elect three members in their police district for the first time, along with the next mayor, city clerk, city treasurer, and alderpeople.

These positions form part of a new system for police oversight, accountability, and public safety in the city. Called Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS), this coalition encourages community engagement and input to hold police accountable and create safe neighborhoods. 

ECPS now oversees the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), and the Police Board.

“We believe that it’s necessary for the community to have not just a voice, but a decisive voice in what happens in their communities around policing and public safety,â€� said Dod McColgan, Co-Chair of Chicago Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARP). 

The ECPS ordinance passed through City Council in July of 2021. It was created by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) and Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) with support from thousands of city residents and several churches, labor unions, and community and faith-based organizations.

Under the ordinance plan, District Council positions were created in each of the city’s 22 police districts. Voters will be able to elect three members in their district in the upcoming local election, a total of 66 positions citywide.

District Council members will have several key roles:

â—� Serve as the eyes and ears of the community

â—� Hold monthly public meetings

â—� Collaborate in the development and implementation of new safety initiatives

â—� Get input on police department policies and practices

â—� Ensure that the city-wide Commission gets input from the community

� Nominate members of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability

“No, you can’t do that�

Report by Stephania Rodriguez, Depaul University

William Guerrero is a 21-year-old native of the Southwest Pilsen neighborhood and is running for District Council in the 12th District. He is the youngest candidate running for the position and is motivated by the needs of people in his community as well as setting an example for young people.

The 12th Police District includes east parts of Pilsen, parts of the West Loop, Near West Side and Wicker Park. Between 2019 to 2021, the district saw a substantial increase in carjackings and murders, according to Block Club Chicago.

“A lot of events have happened to the point where I see youth getting killed by the police,� Guerrero said. “And I’m like, ‘No, you can’t do that’. You signed an oath to protect and serve the community and by killing the kids … it’s not right.�

ECPS also created a city-wide, seven-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) that will decide CPD policy, establish public safety goals, and play a central role in selecting police leadership. Members on this commission are nominated by District Council members and the mayor, and are confirmed by City Council.

CPD, historically known for police misconduct and abuse, was placed under a federal consent decree in 2019, following a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014. This court-mandated settlement was initially set for five years but was extended out to eight years in March.

The early years of the consent decree were beset by missed deadlines and lagging compliance, according to WTTW.

“Long overdue� and a “step in the right direction�

McColgan said ECPS is the “most democratic police accountability structure that exists anywhere in the country.â€� 

“There are other attempts at civilian oversight in other cities– what makes ours unique is specifically cops being barred from participation,� McColgan said. “Frequently, when cities attempt to implement some form of civilian oversight, they want to bring police together at the table with residents and that is a table that is going to be by its nature tilted toward the police.�

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who supported the passing of the ECPS ordinance, said the new system is “long overdue� and a “step in the right direction.�

“This was something that Mayor Lightfoot campaigned on when she ran for office– civilian oversight of the police,� Sigcho-Lopez said. “In fact, Mayor Lightfoot promised to do this within the first 100 days in office. I mean, we’re barely implementing this towards the end [of her term].�

For the upcoming municipal elections, Sigcho-Lopez stresses the need to not only support progressive police accountability structures but also to demand that candidates running for mayor support police reform. 

“When people are campaigning as a progressive, I think that we have to ask people for a plan: what is the plan when it comes to working with ECPS? Working to hold CPD accountable and actually changing the practices of the department?,� he said. “Not to come and, unfortunately, as we saw in the last three years, to say one thing in public but do a separate, completely different thing when they’re governing.�

ECPS faced many struggles and opposition from city officials in informing the public about its existence before the ordinance passed last year, including obstruction from certain alderpeopleto get the ordinance passed. Now, McColgan says the city is “dragging its feetâ€� on informing the public on the District Council positions. 

“We’re spreading the word as much as we can about their existence,� McColgan said. “But any help that people can provide in spreading that word and letting people know, ‘when you go to vote in February, you’ll have a district council member on your ballot, and that’s the person that’s supposed to represent you and your community on issues of police accountability and public safety’.�

“[These are] really important issues that are relevant to all of us. So, pay attention to that, pay attention to who your district council members are.�

Stephania Rodriguez

Stephania Rodriguez is a Depaul University student majoring in Journalism and minoring in Latinx Media and Communication.

Stephania was one of six fellows in the inaugural Journalism Camp: Covering Race, Ethnicity, and Culture sponsored by the Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF).

The annual first-in-class free 12-week program led by the Owner/Publisher of the Latino News Network and twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Hugo Balta provides practical guidelines for fair and accurate storytelling.

IL Latino News partners with DePaul University and many schools of higher education in providing students mentoring and real work experiences.

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What is the State of Menstrual Equity in Illinois?

Scotland made international headlines in August becoming the first country to provide free period products to its citizens. While the U.S. isn’t there, legislation supporting menstrual equity has been cycling through multiple states increasingly over the last few years. Illinois has been progressive on this issue, becoming the third state to end the “tampon tax� in 2016, and introducing and implementing several bills into law in 2021 and 2022.

States highlighted in red currently implement the “tampon tax” on menstrual hygiene items such as pantyliners, tampons and menstrual pads.

With so many bills being introduced, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s become the law of the land. IL Latino News spoke to legislators and other parties involved to figure out who these laws are designed to support.

Low-income people

16.9 million U.S. menstruators live in poverty, making the price of hygiene products extra costly. Without government aid, some people in need rely on community-driven initiatives for pads, tampons and pantyliners. 

“I’m hoping that the bill HB 155 can close a part of that gap because right now you can get menstrual hygiene products in food pantries or little donation events here and there however, it’s not enough,� said House Representative Barbara Hernandez.

Rep. Hernandez introduced the bill to allow SNAP and WIC recipients to use their benefits to purchase diapers and period products. It is already a public act, effective January 2022. In theory, it would benefit a percentage of the 1,090,161 Illinois households receiving SNAP. In actuality, no one is benefitting right now. 

Because SNAP and WIC are federally funded programs, the state initiative cannot be enacted upon without a waiver approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. 

“I’ve been trying to contact a few Congress individuals that can push this to increase the funding for SNAP but also include menstrual hygiene products in SNAP in order for us to apply for this waiver and make it legal in Illinois,� said Hernandez.

People experiencing housing insecurity 

House Representative LaToya N. Greenwood sponsored the Feminine Hygiene Products for the Homeless Act in 2021, providing free products in all shelters that serve temporary housing to women or youth.

She said hearing stories of what people used to supplement products prompted her into action.

“The reusing feminine napkins, makeshift napkins, paper towels and newspapers, it was like where are we living? We’re living in the United States, why is this happening? I couldn’t comprehend it but I knew that it was something that needed to change.�

This law states that shelters are only required to comply if they have availability of funds in their general budget for products. Rep. Greenwood expressed her desire to follow up and hold institutions accountable.

“I think sometimes we pass legislation and we just think everything is going the way we intended it to go and then you find out it’s absolutely not going the way you intended it to go, so we need to have some real conversations about that with directors of departments to find out where we are at,� she said.

Public schools students

2017’s Learn with Dignity Act mandated public schools (grades 6-12) to provide free “feminine hygieneâ€� products in restrooms. 2021’s House Bill 156, led by Rep. Hernandez, switched the original gendered language to “menstrual hygieneâ€�, expanded coverage to fourth grade, and required boys and gender-neutral bathrooms to contain free products as well.  

“That one got the most pushback because the concept of the whole ‘what is a woman’ and ‘men don’t have periods.’ That was a big effort to create awareness, educate the public and really get people to get on board,� said Maureen Keane, Co-founder of She Votes IL.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) introduced girls+ and boys+ restrooms in 2021 as a gender-affirming initiative for students, despite backlash from some parents.

“The reality is that in a few years we might see more transgender youth and I want to make sure that we’re taking those steps ahead now to make sure that they feel comfortable going to those restrooms whenever they need,” said Hernandez.

“Our goal is really [to have products] in all buildings, all bathrooms,� said CPS Executive Director of the Office of Student Health and Wellness (OSHW) Tarrah DeClemente.

The products are stored in metal dispensers traditionally found in public restrooms. According to DeClemente, a supply chain issue of these dispensers has slowed the integration of free products in all required restrooms.

“All schools have product, it’s just a matter of getting it into the boys+ restrooms, but all schools have dispensers and products in girls+,â€� she explained. 

Anecdotal research by NPR Illinois suggested that products were not available in all public Illinois schools in 2020. IL Latino News is investigating the current status of implementation in CPS.       

Incarcerated Illinoisians

Rep. Hernandez’s HB 4218 passed in December, requiring all Illinois Department of Corrections facilities to provide menstrual hygiene products for free and as needed, for all incarcerated people who menstruate. 

She Votes IL worked heavily on drafts of this bill and Keene says they were adamant about including underwear as period supplies – an item that usually isn’t included on these lists and an essential that isn’t accessible to all committed people. 

“If you need new underwear you need to buy them at the commissary. If you need more than six pads you need to buy them at the commissary,� she said. Under the new policy, free underwear must be given free of charge, and upon request, including multiple requests.

“It’s a denial of basic human rights to expect incarcerated Illinoisans to manage on a limited supply, said Rep. Hernandez

The future of menstrual equity 

2022 closed with initiatives produced by Illinois legislators at the federal level.

“It’s picking up. People are being open minded about this and I know here in the state some people looked at me like ‘why are we talking about this? Why are we legislating about it?… But I realized that it is a big issue, not only in Illinois but across the country,â€� said Rep. Hernandez.

IL Congressman Sean Casten and NY Congresswoman introduced the Period PROUD Act of 2022 to make menstruation more affordable for all Americans. 

In the press release, Rep. Casten stated “The Period PROUD Act removes that cost-barrier for the 22 million women living in poverty and ensures that a period will never have to prevent someone from going to school or showing up to work. Menstruation is a natural process and the products it requires should be freely accessible.�


Publisher’s Note: “What is the State of Menstrual Equity in Illinois?â€� is part of a series of stories on period poverty in Illinois supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. ILLN Editor, Reporter Annabel Rocha was selected as a 2022 National Fellow to explore challenges impacting child, youth and family health and well-being in the U.S. 

Please consider participating in the Addressing Period Poverty or Abordando La Pobreza Menstrual surveys. We want to know your experiences dealing with menstruation and/or period poverty. In collecting this information, we hope to gain insight on how this issue affects those in our communities. 

We hope to use the data collected from this survey to shape our storytelling and provide the answers you most want to hear during our upcoming event with WBEZ “Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty?� on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

For more information please contact annabel@latinonewsnetwork.com.

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Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty?

About 26 percent of the world population menstruates. Shame and stigma inhibits education and access to essential hygiene products for people who menstruate, and it happens everywhere. In the U.S., nearly two-thirds of low-income women couldn’t afford tampons or pads in 2018. Period poverty particularly impacts low income and unhoused communities, as well as people in Black and Brown communities.

Join Illinois Latino News and WBEZ for a free virtual conversation defining period poverty and exploring its covert effects on people across Chicago and around the world. During the program, we’ll hear from panelists like Ida Melbye, the executive director of the Period Collective, and Abigail Suleman, co-founder of the Blood Buds UIC initiative, plus more. Reporter and editor of ILLN Annabel Rocha will host the event.

You can participate by sharing your experiences with menstruation through this survey.

SUGGESTION: Period Poverty In Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions

Publisher’s note: “Period Poverty in Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions� is part of a series of stories on period poverty in Illinois supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. IL Latino News Editor, Reporter Annabel Rocha was selected as a 2022 National Fellow to explore challenges impacting child, youth and family health and well-being in the U.S. 

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El Mercado Navideño

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Lower West Side is home to one of the country’s largest Mexican art collections, including more than 18,000 seminal pieces from ancient Mexico to the present.

The museum hosted its annual Mercado Navideño highlighting hand-crafted holiday gift ideas from Mexico including ornaments, nativity scenes, art, jewelry, apparel and toys.

Story by Citlalli Magali Sotelo, Columbia College Chicago

In 1982, Carlos Tortolero organized a group of fellow educators and founded the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, which opened its doors in 1987. The goal was to establish an arts and cultural organization committed to accessibility, education and social justice.

In 2001, the museum expanded to a 48,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Pilsen and in 2006 we unveiled a new name, the National Museum of Mexican Art.

National Museum of Mexican Art,
1852 W 19th Street, Chicago, IL 60608

The National Museum of Mexican Art also hosts cultural programs — including symposia, theater, dance, music, authors and performance companies — that share the rich diversity of the Mexican culture.

For more information click HERE.

Citlalli Magali Sotelo, is a 21-year-old Mexican-American and a first-generation college student. She is currently a junior at Columbia College Chicago and aspire to be a bilingual or trilingual journalist.

Sotelo is one of the students in the Creating the TV News Package class taught by Hugo Balta. Balta is the Publisher of Illinois Latino News, part of the Latino News Network.

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Volunteers Help Recently Arrived Migrants Endure First Winter

MA Latino News produces and amplifies stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Social and Community Context is the connection between characteristics of the contexts within which people live, learn, work, and play, and their health and well-being. This includes topics like cohesion within a community, civic participation, discrimination, conditions in the workplace, and incarceration.

Over the last month, thousands of migrants have crossed into the U.S. at the Texas border ahead of the expiration of Title 42, a pandemic policy that allows the U.S. to expel migrants in order to stem the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Cities and states led by Democrats are expecting an influx of migrants — and they’re worried they won’t be able to handle the surge.

“We have been navigating this all year,� said Denise Rincon, president of the Venezuelan Association of Massachusetts. “People are arriving without any resources. So we have had to deal with this the best we can. With our own money, our own resources. We’ve tried to do magic.“

Video by Danna Matheus

Volunteers like Arianny Ramirez welcome children and family members, many of whom like herself, are Venezuelan, bussed to D.C. from the southern U.S. border since April.

“Even though we’re far away from our country, Venezuela, we feel at home,â€� said Ramirez. “With that warmth, that love, the gaitas, the pan de jamón, the hallacas, and everything together. It’s very beautiful.â€�

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis infuriated Democrats and immigration advocates when he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fly about 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.

That happened in September. Now, only five out of those 49 remain on Martha’s Vineyard, and others have started new lives in different towns throughout Massachusetts — some in government housing and shelters and others in private homes. Nearly all of them have moved to other cities across the U.S.

The migrant issue hasn’t gone unnoticed in Congress. Special funding in the federal spending bill released this week could take the pressure off of cities like New York, Chicago and Washington, as they try to handle the rise in immigrants and the challenges to provide shelter, food and other basic needs.

Danna Matheus, originally from Caracas, Venezuela, is a first-generation immigrant; currently residing in the Washington DC area.

She is a Communications graduate from Frederick Community College and a Journalism student at the University of Maryland. Danna has experience as a news reporter for “The Commuter,� a student-run newspaper, and as a producer for “Discovering your Future,� a podcast that helps students to find their passion.

Publisher’s Notes: Danna is an Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) fellow in the 2022 class, Journalism Camp: covering race, ethnicity, and culture.

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) was founded in 2016 in honor of Hugo Balta’s maternal grandmother.

HZF is a not-for-profit organization that helps students offset the costs of higher education with scholarships. In 2021, the organization expanded its support of students to include the Journalism Camp.

Please consider making a donation to HZF: Support Journalism.

U.S. Smoking Numbers Down, but New Hampshire Teen Vaping on the Rise

Unless you’re in a Las Vegas casino, smoke-free public spaces have become the norm. Gone are the days of Joe Camel and the Marlboro man. With seemingly less representation in advertisements and TV shows, smoking generally seems to be a thing of the past.

However, experts say this isn’t necessarily the case. While the number of cigarette smokers is down – from 20.9 percent of U.S. adults in 2005 to 12.5 percent in 2020 – smoking of e-cigarettes and vaping is trending upwards.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 43 percent of New Hampshire twelfth grade males reported using electronic vapor products at least one day during the 30 days leading up to a 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

While nationally 27.5 percent of high school-aged youth said they used an electronic vapor product during the 30-day cycle, the number reached 34 percent for New Hampshire youth, according to DHHS.

Graphic courtesy of New Hampshire Department of Health & Human Services

“The kids are getting into a vicious cycle,” said Kim Coronis, policy and program manager of Breathe New Hampshire, citing the addictive nature of nicotine existing in vape products. 

New Hampshire law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes or e-liquids to anyone under the age of 21, although reporting by New Hampshire Public Radio showed that vaping is common even inside New Hampshire high school bathrooms. Students told NHPR that it’s easy to get vape products through older friends or stores that don’t ask for identification.

A national report by the Truth Initiative found that generally Black and Latino youth expressed higher levels of distrust for the tobacco industry. Only 3.8 percent of Hispanic-Latino high school students use cigarettes, but still, 23.2 percent use e-cigarettes.

Some groups cite the flashy design of e-cigarettes and the variety of candy-like, sweet flavors of vape liquids are what make the future of e-cigarette consumption dangerous.

“These are clearly being marketed towards a very specific demographic, and that demographic is youths,� said Dr. Jacob Kaslow, pediatric pulmonologist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

And while youth’s distrust for big tobacco tends to deter them from smoking cigarettes, many teens are not aware that vapes contain nicotine.

“This is vastly different than their understanding of cigarettes, right? Every child knows that cigarettes are bad,â€� said Kaslow. “That’s just been sort of ingrained in our public health ethos now, but this has not been the case or currently is still not the case for e-cigarettes.â€�


Cover photo: E-Liquids UK on Unsplash

MA Latino Homebuyer Guide: Stats and Resources

Editor’s Note: The following op-ed reflects MA Latino News’ focus on economic coverage—one of the social determinants of health—among the state’s diverse Hispanic-Latino populations. Economic stability and housing security are essential to one’s life and well-being.

Latino homeownership in Massachusetts has been on the rise in recent years. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos now make up nearly 12% of all homeowners in Massachusetts – and this number will only continue to increase.

Several factors are driving this growth in Latino homeownership within the state. For one, the state’s Latino population, in general, has increased in recent years and currently makes up nearly one-fourth of the state’s population. Furthermore, Latinos in Massachusetts have seen their economic prospects improve over time with increases in median household income and educational level.

Consequently, these two demographic changes have contributed to the overall rise in Latino homeownership within Massachusetts in recent years. This is good news for a historically underserved community in the mainstream real estate market.

If you’re considering buying a home in Massachusetts, the best time is whenever you are ready. The average rent in Boston has been significantly rising in recent years, and this trend appears to continue. Boston’s median rent is $3,772, while the median mortgage payment is $3,500.

Many resources and support programs are available to Hispanic American citizens in Massachusetts, and with the right help, you can turn your American dream into a reality. 

Check out these feel-good statistics for even more motivation:

Latino homeownership general facts:

  • According to a 2019 projection by the Gaston Institute, the Latino population in Massachusetts will grow to over 1.15 million by 2035 – representing around 15.3 percent of the state’s population. Moreover, the projection indicates that existing Latinos in Massachusetts are more likely to contribute to the future population than new immigrants.
  • According to the Urban Institute, Latinos will make up 70% of home ownership growth from 2020-2040, making them the growth engine of American home buying. In fact, Latinos will not only experience a higher homeownership rate over the next couple of decades, but they will also be the leading ethnic or racial group to do so.
  • The years following the 2008-2009 financial crisis and sub-prime mortgage meltdown saw a significant decline in Latino homeownership rates, with data from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) showing that by 2014, only approximately 45% of the Hispanic population still owned their homes. However, by 2020 that rate had rebounded to around 49%, similar to its pre-crisis peak. An improving job market and lower interest rates contributed to this recoil.
  • NAHREP reports that the average age of Latinos, at 29 years old, is a significant contributing factor to the increase in the homeownership rate. This is because the Latino population is, on average, 14 years younger than the general population.
  • U.S. Census Bureau data shows that in 2020, nearly half (43.6%) of Latino homebuyers were under the age of 34, compared to 37.3% of the general population. Today, nearly one in three Latinos falls into the primary home-buying years demographic (25-44). As the population of other ethnic groups grows older on average, that will result in more Latinos becoming first-time homeowners.

According to the above statistics, the Massachusetts housing market’s future looks promising for Latinos. But what does this situation look like for undocumented immigrants? 

Can undocumented immigrants buy a house in Massachusetts?

The short answer is yes, and the key lies in taxes. 

For the ones who do not have permanent residency, there is still a chance to purchase a home in the state as long as they have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)? It is a term used to describe a specific form of identification issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Other types of identification include the Social Security Number (SSN), Employer Identification Number (EIN), Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number, or Preparer Tax Identification Number. The IRS provides an ITIN to those who need a U.S. taxpayer identification number but do not have or do not qualify to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). 

Advantages & Disadvantages of Purchasing a House With a Tax ID Loan:


  • Social Security is not required.
  • Green Card is not required.
  • ITIN can be used to refinance mortgages.
  • Having an ITIN can help you build credit.
  • An ITIN loan is better than hard money loan.
  • Applying to an ITIN is easy, and the process is available online. It is easily done by filling out the W-7 form.


  • Although applying is easy, it can take up to 6 weeks to receive the official ITIN.
  • Higher interest rates.
  • Higher denial rates.
  • Most banks don’t provide Tax ID loans.
  • Tax ID loans require a higher down payment.

How to apply for a Tax ID Loan?

Once having an ITIN, the next step is to apply for a Tax ID loan with a lender. The process requires:

  • Proof of a sustainable and consistent income
  • Income verification
  • Credit history 
  • Down payment funds (usually, Tax ID loans require a 20% down payment, but a real estate agent could help you find a better rate).

It’s essential to prove your finances to show lenders you will be reliable and able to pay your loan payments.

Down Payment Assistance Programs in Massachusetts

If you’re considering purchasing a home, several down payments and closing cost assistance programs available locally and nationwide can help make the process easier. Let’s take a look at some of these programs to see if you qualify.

According to the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS, the median price for a single-family home in Massachusetts was $549,450 in March 2022, which is a 13.3% increase from the year prior.

For first-time home buyers in Massachusetts, saving up for a down payment can seem impossible when prices are constantly on the rise. It’s easy to feel like you’re always playing catch-up, but there are a few down payment assistance programs that can help make up for the difference.

Massachusetts Home Buyer Example:

Home Sale Price $549,450
Minimum down payment (3%) $16,483
20% Down Payment $109,890
Credit Score Average 732
Home Buyer Grant A 5% discount, with a cap of $15,000 or $25,000 (MassHousing)

The amount you’ll need to put down for a down payment on a home varies based on home sale price in your state. For conventional mortgages, the minimum down payment is usually 3% – but this may vary depending on your credit score.

Massachusetts First-time Home Buyer Loans

If you’re a first-time home buyer in Massachusetts looking to qualify for a conventional loan, you’ll need to be able to put down 20% to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI). However, don’t worry if you can’t reach that amount. There are still several options available that allow for smaller down payments. 

Many low-down-payment mortgage programs available require a down payment as low as 3%.

  • Conventional 97:

 If you want to apply for a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae mortgage, you’ll need a down payment of 3% and a credit score of at least 620. And usually, after just a few years of making your mortgage payments, you won’t need to pay for mortgage insurance anymore.

  • FHA Loan:

With a 3.5% down payment and a minimum credit score of 580, this loan is backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). However, you will be required to pay mortgage insurance until you refinance to a different type of mortgage, move, or pay off your loan.

  • VA Loan:

If you’re a veteran, service member, reservist, or member of the National Guard, you may be eligible for a VA loan. VA loans are some of the best, with zero down payment and no ongoing mortgage insurance. Credit score requirements vary by lender, but often 620 is the minimum.

  •  USDA Loan:

If you’re on a low-to-moderate income and looking to buy a home in a designated rural area, you may be eligible for a zero-down USDA loan. Credit score requirements vary by lender, but often 640 is the minimum. You may also be eligible for low mortgage insurance rates. Talk to your lender to see if you qualify.

  • Massachusetts State’s ONE Mortgage Program:

The ONE Mortgage program is a Massachusetts state program that helps first-time homebuyers purchase a home. The program provides a low-interest mortgage loan with no down payment or private mortgage insurance required. The loan is available to first-time homebuyers with certain income and credit requirements. The Massachusetts Housing Partnership, a non-profit organization, administers the program.

Here are a few more things to know about government home loan programs. Firstly, these loans are only available for primary residences – so if you’re looking to buy an investment property or a vacation home, you’ll need to look into other loan options.

Secondly, most programs allow you to use gifted money or down payment assistance (DPA) for your down payment and closing costs. A mortgage loan with such a low-interest rate could enable you to own your new home for a minimal out-of-pocket payment.

You can discuss your financial goals and home-buying plans with your lender if you’re unsure about which mortgage program to choose. The first step in your homeownership journey begins by talking to a real estate agent. A real estate agent can guide you in the direction that will benefit you the most and provide you with the necessary resources to succeed.

Massachusetts First-time Homebuyers Grants

First-time homebuyers in Massachusetts can take advantage of several state and federal support programs designed to help them afford their first home. Your real estate agent or loan officer can assist you in finding programs that may be available to you. 

Are you having trouble finding a down payment? Take a look at our list of affordable housing programs available to you.

  • The Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s “First-Time Homebuyer Grants” program offers grants for qualified first-time home buyers who fall into the low- to the moderate-income category of the “ONE Mortgage” loan program.
  • The Federal Housing Administration also offers a “First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit” program, which provides a tax credit of up to $8,000 for qualified first-time homebuyers. This tax credit is available to buyers looking to purchase a home for the first time and those who have not owned a home in the past three years.
  • MassHousing offers several options, each with unique features and eligibility requirements. Before you close on a loan, you’ll need to complete an approved first-time homebuyer class (also known as Homebuyer counseling). However, attending a free first-time homebuyer workshop makes more sense in many cases before deciding which lender to choose, committing to a buyer’s agent, or looking at homes. This way, you can learn about the entire process and get your questions answered before moving forward.

Attleboro, Barnstable, Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Peabody, Quabbin, New Bedford, Witten, Taunton, Westfield, and Worcester are some of the gateway cities that allow higher DPA amounts.

Boston Down Payment Assistance Program

As expected, Boston is the most expensive city in Massachusetts for residential property. However, the good news is that the Boston Home Center offers down payment assistance of up to $30,000 to people looking to buy a home in Boston. You must repay this loan in full if you refinance, sell, or no longer occupy the property as your primary residence.

No interest or monthly payments are required.

Eligibility criteria can be found on the website. The income limit is 135% of the area’s median income.

A family of four would pay $101,050 per year in Boston, according to the website.

Worcester Down Payment Assistance Program

In March of 2022, the median list price for a home in Worcester, Massachusetts, was $340,000 – an increase of 15.3% from the previous year.

If you’re looking to buy a home in Worcester, you’ll need to come up with a down payment. The amount you’ll need to put down will depend on the median price of homes in the area. To buy a $340,000 house with a 3% down payment, you’ll need $10,200. On the other side, with a 20% down payment, you’ll need $68,000.

The City of Worcester offers a down payment assistance program for eligible residents. You can get up to $5,000 to cover the affordability gap. There are income and asset limits, so be sure to review all details for all the information you need.

The government provides assistance in the form of a forgivable second mortgage to make homeownership more accessible. This means that borrowers don’t have to make monthly payments or pay interest on the loan, but they will have to repay the loan plus interest if the property is sold or transferred during the first three years of ownership. If borrowers don’t sell, refinance, or move within three years, they won’t owe anything.

Springfield Down Payment Assistance programs

If you want to buy a home in Springfield with a median list price of $239,900 in March 2022, you’ll need to come up with a down payment of between $7,200 (3% down) and $47,980 (20% down).

Springfield’s down payment assistance program offers up to $4,000 in financial assistance for your down payment or closing costs. This program has no monthly payments or interest charges since it is a forgivable second mortgage. Every year, a 20% interest rate is added to the loan and forgiven over five years. During those five years, however, you must repay the outstanding balance if you sell, refinance or move.

Choosing a Massachusetts Real Estate Agent

Trying to buy a property in Massachusetts? With the state’s housing inventory at an all-time low, a professional familiar with current listings can make a world of difference. They can help you find the right property at the right price and negotiate on your behalf to get you the best possible deal.Your real estate agent will be able to show you homes that fit your budget and meet your needs while also providing insight into the bidding process. In such a competitive market, having an expert can make all the difference. If buying a house in Massachusetts is one of your dreams, get in touch with a professional real estate agent today and begin the process.

Juan Cano, originally from Medellin, Colombia, is a real estate agent and investor in the area of Boston, Massachusetts. He has transformed how Latinos see real estate and uncovered the best ways to create wealth for his clients. Juan looks at every client’s situation as if it was his own investment. If he wouldn’t buy a property, he’ll let you know. He believes that alone we can move faster, but together we can get further. Juan offers free consultations for anyone looking to buy or sell a property in the area. Make sure you schedule yours!

To get in touch with Juan Cano, send him a message on Instagram via @realestatejuanc or reach out to him on his website https://www.realestatejuanc.com.

MA Latino News sees the public as more than just the audience; you are contributors. To that end, please take our brief survey to help shape our coverage in producing stories on the social determinants of health: healthcare and quality, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context, and economic stability.


Gentrifying Latino neighborhoods see taxes jump dramatically

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic stability means that people have the resources essential to a healthy life. Factors affecting economic stability include affordable housing; employment that provides a living wage; things that support employment, like worker protections, paid sick leave, and child care; and access to reliable transportation.

CHICAGO | Property taxes are up in Cook County; on average, homeowners saw an increase of 8 percent this year.

According to an analysis from Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office, taxes levied on real estate rose by 3.8 percent, to $16.7 billion, in 2021. The total amount billed countywide increased by $614 million over the previous tax year. As a result, homeowners are picking up $330 million.

Some gentrifying working-class Latino neighborhoods in Chicago saw their taxes jump dramatically. On the primarily Latino Lower West Side, homeowner’s median tax bill rose to $7,239 from $2,275 in 2020.

“The system is broken,â€� said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose 25th Ward covers much of the Lower West Side that saw the biggest hikes. â€œThis is simply unethical.â€� Sigcho-Lopez blamed corrupt politicians and called for reforms to the property tax system.

“‘My property tax is too damn high’ – they have to pass it on to the renters,â€� said Moises Moreno, who runs The Pilsen Alliance, a social justice organization. Moreno said homeowners will feel the effects of the spike first, and renters will feel it on their next lease.

Pilsen neighborhood (Pictures by Hugo Balta)

“There are still inequities in our property tax system and we need to straighten it out,â€� Pappas said. The increased tax burden is not shared equally. Homeowners will pay 54 percent of the rise, while businesses will pay 46 percent, the treasurer said.

Not all taxes are going up. Relief is coming to owners in predominantly Black neighborhoods. In West Garfield Park, homeowner taxes dropped by almost 45 percent. Decreases of $1,000 or more in commercial median taxes occurred on the South Side, including the Pullman, Burnside, Chatham, Calumet and South Chicago areas, reports The Real Deal.

Purple shows the parts of Chicago seeing the sharpest spikes in property taxes.
The areas in pink saw the sharpest drops. 
(Cook County Treasurer)

Pappas pointed to several reasons behind the hikes:

  • Tax increment financing districts
  • Rising property assessments
  • New state law allowing local governments to recoup losses from reassessed property taxes

The Cook County Treasurer called the law, known as a recapture provision, an “automatic tax increaseâ€� with “no oversight whatsoever.â€� That provision alone added $131 million to the county tax bill and accounted for one-fifth of the increase.

Pappas said the majority of property tax money goes to funding schools. To save homeowners from being priced out, she said county residents need to consider funding schools in other ways.

Property taxes also go toward infrastructure, public works projects, first responders, and more. Bills are calculated after several steps:

  • Local governments, including school and park districts, set their property tax levy to help pay for operations
  • The assessor sets the values of properties, then makes adjustments for exemptions or other incentives. 
  • The clerk then determines tax rates based on various levies and overall assessed values for each unit of government. 
  • The treasurer then sends out the bills, collects payments and distributes the money to local governments.

“The lack of political willingness to address this issue has cost us,â€� said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who represents the Lower West Side. “Thousands of residents have been displaced, and when is it going to be enough? 

Editor’s Notes: Homeowners can find their property tax bill by clicking HERE.

IL Latino News sees the public as more than just the audience; you are contributors. To that end, please take our brief survey to help shape our coverage in producing stories on the social determinants of health: healthcare and quality, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context, and economic stability.


This story was first published as “Neighborhoods Gentrifying Fastest See Property Tax Skyrocket� in The Chicago Reporter (TCR).

ILLN and TCR, partners in best serving the Latino community.

The post Gentrifying Latino neighborhoods see taxes jump dramatically appeared first on ILLN.

Winter Raises Concern For Families Of Color Experiencing Homelessness

RI Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of healthEconomic stability means that people have the resources essential to a healthy life. Factors affecting economic stability include affordable housing; employment that provides a living wage; things that support employment, like worker protections, paid sick leave, and child care; and access to reliable transportation.

PROVIDENCE—As over a thousand Rhode Islanders experience homelessness this winter, recent research shows that Hispanic-Latino and Black families disproportionately make up this statistic.

Although Hispanic-Latino residents make up 17.1 percent of the state’s population, they represent 38.6 percent of families living in emergency shelters and transitional housing. About 42.9 percent of unsheltered RI residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to 2022 data collected by the RI Coalition to End Homelessness.

The same study showed that Black residents represent 8.8 percent of Rhode Island’s population, but they make up 30.6 percent of families living in emergency shelter and transitional housing and 19.6 percent of families are living without shelter.

“As of November 3rd, there were 1,339 people in Rhode Island who were homeless, including 213 families who were waiting for a place in shelter and 507 people who were sleeping outside—a particularly worrisome statistic as the weather gets colder,� said Deputy Director Stephanie Geller of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT

Individuals and families seeking shelter or affordable housing should contact the RI Coordinated Entry System at (401)277-4316. The helpline currently offers assistance in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole.

“People can call if they’re at risk of being evicted, if they’re living in an unsafe situation and the people at the other end of the line can help connect them with a shelter, apply for affordable housing opportunities, or try to help them brainstorm other immediate solutions to their crisis,� Geller explained on RILN Opinion+.

Extensive research has shown that historically marginalized groups tend to be more vulnerable to experiencing homelessness. Some factors contributing to these disparities include higher unemployment rates, lower incomes, less access to healthcare, and higher incarceration rates among residents of color. 

“The reasons for the disparities are many and varied but tend to fall under the umbrellas of racism and caste,� according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Throughout American history, private actors have contributed to the status quo, but so has government via actions and inactions resulting in limited housing opportunities, suppressed wages, and other unhelpful outcomes.�

Although Rhode Island has reserved a total of $250 million of the 2023 fiscal year budget to increase affordable housing and homelessness prevention efforts, the state currently lacks sufficient shelter. 

$35 million of the investment is specifically reserved for developing housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. 

The largest obstacle to providing emergency housing is securing spaces for the construction of emergency shelters, as towns and cities continually resist the building of such shelters in their communities. 

Local advocates continue to demand that Rhode Island declare a state of emergency regarding homelessness, which would prioritize the construction of shelters and bypass zoning regulations standing in the way, according to The Brown Daily Herald.

“I know I’ve seen frost on the ground for the first couple of times this week,� Geller said. “I have a lot of concern for people who are trying to survive outside in their cars, or in tents, or in other places where people are not meant to be living, especially if they’re with children.�

RILN sees the public as more than just the audience; you are contributors. To that end, please take our brief survey to help shape our coverage in producing stories on the social determinants of health: healthcare and quality, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context, and economic stability.