Hispanic Caucus News

Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus Statement on Virginia’s Recent Unfolding Events

In light of recent findings about his past behavior, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam must immediately step down for the good of his constituents and for the greater society. The discovery of an old yearbook photograph depicting someone, possibly a younger Mr. Northam, in “black face” while posing next to a person in a Klansman costume has shocked his constituents both at home and abroad. Voters of the Commonwealth living in all parts of the world – regardless of political preferences – deserve to have elected officials in 2019 who reject hatred, racial inequality, and social situations where degrading someone because of his or her skin color is somehow considered “jokingly” acceptable.

For this reason, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus believes there has been an indisputable breach of the public’s trust, and therefore stands with our brothers and sisters in the Virginia Democrats’ Latino Caucus in demanding the governor’s resignation. While not as widely known, Hispanic-Americans have also for over a century faced hate crimes and racism from white supremacist groups.

Furthermore, the state’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, who also faces a questionable past of racial indiscretions, should also immediately vacate office for the same reason. While these revelations about the governor and attorney general have made it impossible for them to lead effectively both as public servants and role models of the values that the Democratic Party strives to project, we will closely monitor the latest news stemming from the lieutenant governor’s situation.

Both Latinx Virginians living overseas and the global Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus strongly believe there must be a consistent high standard of behavior expected from our elected officials. If we are to make progress as a society on the deep and sensitive issue of race, there can be no exception.


A Huge Thanks To The Thousands Of Tax Survey Participants

The Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus would like to thank everyone who completed the 2019 Non-Resident Taxation Survey. The information collected will be used to advocate for congressional reforms to relieve the burden of taxes, banking, financial account reporting, securities and other laws that discriminate specifically against Americans living abroad.

It is clear that Congress needs to better understand the Americans abroad community. In order to bring legislators to an understanding of citizenship-based taxation, we need to educate them about who we are and how we are affected by discriminatory tax policy.

Next month, Democrats Abroad will visit Capitol Hill to relay the survey data to Congress, offering evidence of how the current tax system restricts Americans living abroad in regards to tax filing costs, banking, and investing in our countries of residence. We will do the same in May to ensure they hear our voices from abroad.

If you have any questions about the survey, please email: 2019ExpatTaxResearch@gmail.com. Your support for this research and for Democrats Abroad's tax reform efforts is deeply appreciated.

Thanks again,

Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus

___

Agradecimiento a todas las personas que han contribuido a completar la Encuesta de Impuestos de No Residentes

El Caucus Hispano de Democrats Abroad desea expresar su agradecimiento a todas las personas que completaron la Encuesta de Impuestos de No Residentes de 2019. La información recopilada se utilizará para abogar por reformas en el Congreso con el objeto de aliviar la carga de las obligaciones impositivas, bancarias y de información relativas a cuentas financieras y de valores, así como de otras leyes que discriminan específicamente a los estadounidenses que viven en el extranjero.

 

Read more

Hispanic Caucus Statement on Recognizing Ana Hernández Blackstad

From the 1960s to the elections of the 115th Congress, a pro-Latino voice was missing from the Democratic Party’s overseas constituency. Nearly two years ago, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus was finally born, a group which focuses on advocating for policies in the U.S. Hispanic community’s best interests.

From the beginning of the caucus’ existence, Ana Hernández Blackstad, of DA-Czech Republic, made history by stepping up to lead this new group of volunteers with committed activism into the 2018 mid-term elections by becoming the first Hispanic Caucus chairperson. In early 2019 after several accomplishments under her belt, Ana passed the baton to another member to fill the caucus leadership role while she joined the caucus steering committee.

During her tenure as chair, caucus membership increased by almost 2,000%, from 27 members to nearly 500. In early 2018, Ana assisted in translating English-to-Spanish voter registration materials for Spanish-speaking U.S. voters living abroad. Also under her leadership, the caucus sponsored a resolution amending the Democrats Abroad Platform section on trade, which passed the Democratic voting body unanimously. In the run up to Election Day, she began an online podcast for caucus members that included discussions with guests from Hispanic-American activists and politicians to bring their message, and ours, to a broader audience.

Ana embodies the values of the Hispanic Caucus and is exemplary of what we can achieve through dedication and commitment. We thank Ana for all of her hard work as the former chair and look forward to achieving even more together with her continuing involvement with caucus leadership. ¡Adelante!


Un Congresista Quien Merece un Gran Agradecimiento

By Nick Buffie (DA-Colombia & USA)

A little over a year ago, Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois) announced his retirement from the United States Congress. Known affectionately as “El Gallito” to many of his supporters, Gutiérrez has stepped aside after 34 years of public service, 26 of which were spent in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The now-retired congressman was born on December 10, 1953, in the working-class neighborhood of Chicago known as Lincoln Park. The son of an assembly-line worker and a taxi cab driver, Gutiérrez grew up around the same people whose interests he would later serve as a member of the U.S. Congress.

Since winning a U.S. House seat in 1992 and becoming the first Hispanic-American from the Midwest elected to Congress, Gutiérrez has been the House of Representatives’ most visible champion on the issue of immigration. Having been directly involved with immigration reform advocates on the ground, Gutiérrez has been arrested multiple times for peaceful protesting, clearly never afraid of voicing his opinion on an issue considered a priority by Hispanic-Americans.

Because of his fierce passion for passing comprehensive immigration reform, he voluntarily vacated his seat on the powerful Financial Services Committee to instead focus on addressing immigration full-time on the Judiciary Committee.

However, despite Gutiérrez’s dedication to the immigration fight, much of his success as a legislator has come from tackling other issues. Gutiérrez has had four bills signed into law by presidents of both parties. He addressed head-on the issues of: the Trump administration’s hurricane response to Puerto Rico, the future political status of Puerto Rico, consumer protections such as legislation he previously sponsored, and much more. As a true friend to Puerto Ricans and indeed all U.S. Latinos, it is not surprising that he was often endorsed by immigrant groups, veterans, organized labor, and LGBT organizations.

Although he is now retired from Congress, Gutiérrez has stated that he plans on moving to Puerto Rico in the coming months and assisting any way he can with the recovery of the still-heavily-damaged U.S. territory.

Given his decades of remarkable public service advocating for immigration reform, working to resolve the legal status of “Dreamers,” and ensuring that the millions of Puerto Rican voices are heard by policymakers, the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus wishes Mr. Gutiérrez and his wife, Soraida, the best in all their future endeavors. As the Trump administration continues to ramp up its mistreatment and abuse of immigrant families, Congress will miss his passionate and humane voice.

With the close of the November 2018 elections, Gutiérrez’s seat in Congress has been filled by a fellow ally in the fight for immigration reform. Representative Jesús “Chuy” García, a progressive Hispanic-American Democrat, has pledged to continue the fight for working families in Illinois’ 4th Congressional District.

Additional reading: Former Congressman Luis Gutiérrez authored a 2013 memoir titled, Still Dreaming: My Journey from the Barrio to Capitol Hill.

Michael Ramos (DA-Australia) contributed to this article.


Hispanic Caucus Chair and Vice Chair Joint Statement on the General Election Results

Ana Blackstad, Chair of the Democrats Abroad Hispanic Caucus, today stated her thoughts on the General Election:

“La Ola Azul (“The Blue Wave”) made landfall on Tuesday night in a big way! Although Democrats didn’t win every race, the number of Latinx people in office across our nation as a result of this election should make us all proud. Some of the highlights from Tuesday for me:

  • “Donde votar,” Spanish for “Where to vote,” was Google's top search on election morning
  • According to early exit polls, the overall number of voters in yesterday’s election was 12 percent Hispanic. The previous high in midterm elections was 8 percent for Hispanics, in 2006, 2012 and 2014 alike.
  • The number of Hispanic eligible voters totaled 29.1 million for this election, the highest on record
  • Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia will be the first Texas Latinas in Congress
  • Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico will be the first Latina Democratic Governor in US History
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will represent New York as one of the two youngest women ever elected to Congress

I want to thank the members of the Hispanic Caucus of Democrats Abroad for all their efforts in getting out the vote this year. Together, we can achieve great things.  ¡Adelante!”

The caucus Vice Chair, Michael Ramos, also offered his post-election night reflections:

“There is so much for our members to be proud of after witnessing historic gains in places previously thought to be districts where Democrats had no business being in. Despite subtle attempts of voter suppression, Latinos voted early in large numbers and on Election Day. For too long, too few Latinos have had access at the decision-making table of elected officials. That’s now changed.

I’m encouraged about having representation at all levels of government more reflective of the American people. In looking at Congress, our party successfully flipped more than enough seats to take back control of the House of Representatives which means that at least one chamber will finally do its constitutional duty of serious oversight on the scandal-plagued Executive Branch. It also wasn’t surprising that sensational Latinx representative-elects like Chuy García from Illinois, Veronica Escobar from Texas, Anthony Delgado and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell from Florida all did amazingly well. Moreover, Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will be returning in January as well, ensuring that the voices of America’s Hispanic minorities will keep fighting on the issues impacting their families and communities.

On the state and local levels, there were also tremendous victories for Latinx candidates. For example, we have Michelle Lujan Grisham in New Mexico – a fantastic Latina governor-elect with a proven track record of representing her constituents well. We have Catalina Cruz, a young Latina and former “DREAMer” who won big in a seat for New York’s General Assembly. The list goes on and on. From governors’ mansions to school boards, Democrats and Latinos fared pretty well.

It’s no secret that we would have loved to have seen a Senator-Elect O’Rourke in Texas, or a Congresswoman Matta in California, but unfortunately not every race swung the way we had hoped. I am especially disappointed in the successful re-election of some individuals such as a widely-known racist congressman in Iowa, a body-slamming congressman from Montana, and a California congressman currently under indictment, among others. Nevertheless, I expect most of us to take a few days to reflect on the election and be thankful for our gains, and then roll up our sleeves and restart our momentum in preparing to support quality candidates to oust more Republicans and the current occupant in the White House.

Overall, I hope our caucus members are also pleased with the results of this election given the hard work our activist brothers and sisters have put in to ensure that as many Americans as possible had voted. Whether it’s encouraging American expats to vote, doing voter registration for our fellow citizens abroad who speak only Spanish, or working with our Democratic colleagues back in the home district, I look forward to continue organizing and working to get out the vote.”


Hispanic Heritage Month: No Stopping Nydia Velázquez

By: Michael Ramos, DA-Australia

No recognition of notable Latinos and Latinas during Hispanic Heritage Month should go unnoticed without mentioning the incredible congresswoman who represents New York’s 7thCongressional District, Nydia M. Velázquez. The 7thDistrict has large Hispanic, Polish and Jewish populations and encompasses the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the northwest side of Brooklyn, and a sliver of Queens, making it among the most diverse constituencies in the nation.

Born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Velázquez earned her way through college in both Puerto Rico and New York and eventually became a congressional staffer for former U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). In 1992, she became the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress and she has impressively earned re-election twelve times since.

As a member of Congress, Velásquez’s legislative accomplishments are numerous. She has had nine bills signed into law by four different presidents, both Democratic and Republican. Over the years she has served on several committees, caucuses and task forces within the U.S. House of Representatives. Her colleagues on both sides of the aisle greatly respect her encyclopedic knowledge on financial and business issues.

Read more

DREAMer Abroad

Author: Anonymous

I am a DREAMer.

My memories of Mexico form a valuable base for my identity and childhood; I'm proudly Latina. Despite this, over half of my life was spent in another country - the U.S. There is no comparison to me between my Mexican self and my raised-in-the-U.S. self. I consider both to be parts of a whole, a reason for which the politics of both countries are so important to me. I sing both anthems proudly, and have spent all of my life playing the "prove-it” game.

"I love the U.S." - "Prove it." 

"I can speak Spanish." - "Prove it."

"I know all the states and presidents." - "Prove it."

Part of the reason why I identify as both American and Mexican, despite not having legal American documents, is that while a child, seemingly overnight I found myself in the U.S. Though jarring, the differences to me came at a time during which I was so young and adaptable that I simply accepted and embraced them. This was the beginning of a lifelong juxtaposition between my adoption of American identity and everyday remembrance of my Mexican culture.

As I became an adult I became more and more involved in U.S. politics. I knew I wanted to do my part to help bring progress to this new country. So I joined Democratic groups and volunteered to raise money for the community, from art programs to LGBTQ advocacy, to assisting people in translation work from the age of 10. I fell in love with the country and I learned to balance the two worlds that I lived in. Before I knew it, however, the word "home" brought to mind not Mexico, but my place of residence in the U.S.

I was limited in what I could do compared to U.S citizens. The biggest difficulty, and also my biggest dream, was to get into college. I had done well in high school, and as graduation neared I confidently told my friends that I had college all figured out. They had all been accepted, I was in all of their classes, and I was a notorious know-it-all. So there was no reason for them to doubt me. Despite my confident remarks, I knew all along I was undocumented in a state that did not allow anyone without documents to attend college. After graduation I hid from my friends and waited for a miracle.

Then came the DACA program.

I got a Social Security card and stepped outside, for once not afraid to see an ICE vehicle. For the first time I could get a driver’s license and a job, just like everyone else. Nonetheless, because I did not qualify for student aid or in-state tuition, I still could not go to college. When I found this out it was certainly a major setback, but one I decided I would overcome. I would save up for as long as it took by taking on several jobs. I was determined that nothing would stop me.

While I worked two jobs for several years I began to see my savings grow. I had optimism that I would, though slowly, accumulate what I needed. During my free time I passionately devoted my efforts to encouraging civil action for the progress of healthcare, sexual assault awareness, and immigrant rights. It was well known that I was left-leaning and politically active, for which the people around me began coming to me for insight and advice on current issues.

Elections came, and with it changes to the community I had known for so long.  In 2016, an overnight proliferation of prejudice against me left me stunned. I'd encountered racism before, even as a child, and knew how to brush it off. Yet this was more frequent and closer to home. Close friends, their families, coworkers, customers, complete strangers, people I had grown up with abruptly took offense to my existence. I was told to show my visa, questioned about my legal status, slurs were directed toward my sister, and one older man even became angry when I wouldn't provide him with my birth certificate at a bookstore, to name a few incidents.

I hoped that this would be over once the election was  passed. I was nervously watching the election that night. To my friends who could vote, I had voiced the importance of their choice. Unfortunately a large number of my friends did not vote, as they did not feel there was anything to worry about. They did not believe me when I explained that my own safety was at stake. Having not experienced first-hand what I had for the past few months, perhaps they believed my perspective to be melodramatic.

Either way, we all know how the election turned out. I didn't feel safe, and neither did my family. We agreed to stop telling people we are from Mexico. Still, I couldn't hide my hair, my eyes, or my color, and the aggressions got worse. I would go home every day tired and angry, dreading having to answer the question, "But where are you really from?", and the subsequent haranguing.

One night I received a message from someone I had gone to school with:

"I hope you get deported."

I was furious, and determined once more.

My goal was to get to school and it didn't matter how many racists I encountered, nothing would stop me.

But I did encounter some more bumps along the way. When the announcement came that DACA was going to be scrapped, a part of me panicked, while another part shut down and carried me through the double shift I had that day. When I got home I stayed up all night researching, trying to figure out a way in which I could guarantee that I would be okay. By this point I was exhausted, frustrated, terrified, and heartbroken. The thought of four more years of this was overwhelming.

My health took a dive as I felt my grasp on my world, my community, my safety and my future slipping. There was no way I would be capable of surviving in the U.S. without DACA. Without the ability to work, my savings would only carry me so far.

A year ago I left my home and over 15 years of familiarity. I dream every day of going home and hugging my family and seeing my friends, and driving to my favorite spot by the ocean. Yet it was a choice that I was forced to make due to the DACA’s existence in doubt. Today I continue to be involved in U.S.-related events, and working on helping from where I am. According to my research, because I applied for DACA after I was 18, I now have a 10-year ban from the U.S. I find this devastating, yet, encouraging. I am determined to go back, this time a more capable and knowledgeable individual. Meanwhile I hope to continue raising awareness of the problems faced by minorities - problems that can be solved by ensuring to choose candidates for elected office who have the best interest of everyone in mind. Though I am not American, I deeply care for the U.S. and its people, a feeling I know I share with over 800,000 other DREAMers. I hope to see better developments in education, healthcare, social issues and infrastructure as the years go by.

I hope that the other thousands of DREAMers will be given the chance to become citizens of the nation they call home. I know from experience the amount of passion and dedication that one invests in the community one cares about. Without a doubt DREAMers are an invaluable, irreplaceable asset to American society, and giving them the opportunity to become official citizens would profoundly benefit their lives and the nation as a whole. I know it can be done, and have full faith in the people of the U.S. and those abroad to vote to make it happen. I can't wait to be back once more to fight for equity and change with my family by my side.

First things first: go to college. Nothing can stop me.


Hispanic Heritage Month: Acknowledging Legendary Educator Jaime Escalante

By: Nelleke Bruyn, DA-Costa Rica, and Michael Ramos, DA-Australia

Born in South America on New Year’s Eve in 1930, Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutiérrez was an immigrant, an educator, and a mentor. Against all odds, Escalante opened the eyes and minds of hundreds of East Los Angeles students. Most of Escalante’s students were economically disadvantaged, gang members, and labeled as “unproductive citizens of society.” Sadly, at the age of 79, he passed away on March 30, 2010 after a bout with bladder cancer. But his story is important and his contributions enormous. Any recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month should not be complete without touching on Jaime Escalante’s inspiring story.

He was a certified math teacher in his native Bolivia, but struggled to learn English. After traveling with his wife, Fabiola, from La Paz to Puerto Rico and then on to Los Angeles five decades ago, Escalante continued with his dedication of teaching mathematics to America’s youth. It was at this point that the majority Mexican-American students from Garfield High School – an inner-city school where weapons, drugs, unwanted pregnancies, and other challenges faced many teenage students – first met Escalante in their classroom in 1974.

At the time, Garfield High’s reputation was far from a quality institution of learning; in fact, it was in danger of losing its official approval to even operate. But with Escalante’s help, students who began with only a basic understanding of addition and subtraction began to progress to enormous lengths in taking mathematics seriously, asking inquisitive questions, studying outside of classroom hours, taking summer school, and eventually solving complex equations and working with calculus functions, standard deviations and derivatives. In short, Escalante turned around the school’s math program from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best.

Escalante’s story was told in the inspiring 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” which starred Edward James Olmos as the protagonist and Lou Diamond Phillips as one of the “unteachable” students. In 1982, 18 of his students took and passed an AP (Advanced Placement) Calculus – college-level mathematics. The test administrators claimed that the Garfield students “must have” cheated. Absolutely outraged, Escalante counter-claimed that his students’ exceptional mathematical abilities were overshadowed by their low-economic class and skin color. Not to be discouraged, 12 students were chosen to re-take the AP Calculus exam with different questions, and they passed again. In fact, 5 of them earned top scores.

Escalante ended up teaching math in Los Angeles for many years. Among Escalante’s graduates is Erika Camacho, Ph.D. Before she took his algebra class, she recalls that her only goal was to be a cashier. Nowadays, she is a distinguished math professor at Arizona State University. Similar stories of amazing accomplishments can be said about Escalante’s other former students, many of whom went on to become American scientists, engineers, architects, and university students – something once thought unthinkable for students at Garfield High. Other math teachers from around the country have incorporated his successful teaching methods.

Given the evidence of his thriving education strategy, there can be no doubt that Escalante was a transformational leader in the L.A. Latino community. In short, he made his students believe in themselves when the rest of society didn’t want to. In 1988, President Reagan awarded Jaime Escalante the Presidential Medal for Excellence. On July 13, 2016, the U.S. Postal Service introduced a Forever Stamp commemorating Escalante for his invaluable service to his community.

Despite the hard work of America’s mathematics teachers, most of them, unfortunately, will not go down in history books as notable Americans, but one name we should never forget is Jaime Escalante: someone who finally broke through to “uninterested” and “unteachable” high school students and taught them ambition and triumph when they believe in themselves and give their best in applying math skills.


Hispanic Heritage Month: Paying Tribute To Gonzalo Curiel

By: Nelleke Bruyn, DA-Costa Rica

 

As a voter from the Hoosier State, I would like to recognize the contributions of a notable Hispanic-American from my home region named Gonzalo Paul Curiel. Curiel was born on September 7, 1953, in East Chicago, Indiana—an area with a large Mexican-American community and steel mills aplenty. His parents originally emigrated from Mexico, first moving to Arizona before settling down in Indiana. Curiel graduated with his BA from Indiana University, and after hard work, completed his law degree at Indiana University’s Law School.

As a young federal prosecutor in the Narcotics Enforcement Division, he led a task force in busting a drug cartel which included inside cartel information of an assassination attempt on his life. This threat meant that Curiel had to live under federal protection for a time. Despite this, Curiel ended up working 17 years as a prosecutor

In building his positive reputation in the courtroom, then-Governor Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) appointed him to the San Diego County Superior Court in 2006 where he worked until a few years later when President Obama (D) nominated him to serve as a federal judge.  He was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2012.   

Judge Curiel has never put politics ahead of country when it comes to deciding cases. He has worked tirelessly in interpreting the law to the best of his ability, including drawing praise from members of both major political parties. Unfortunately, his expertise in judicial procedure drew ire from the current president. In 2016, Judge Curiel—a natural-born American citizen—was the political target of Donald Trump in calling him “a Mexican” and thus implying he could not competently decide court cases in Trump’s favor because “he’s of Mexican heritage.” Legal experts were critical of Trump’s original attacks on Curiel, viewing them as racially charged, unfounded, and an affront to the concept of an independent judiciary.

Still, with an unwavering dedication to fulfilling his role as a federal judge, Curiel has continued to be a key figure in decisively ruling against the now-defunct Trump University and the presidential demands of a “big, beautiful border wall.”

Proud of his ascent to the federal judiciary, the people of East Chicago, Indiana respect and admire Judge Curiel. Many Americans may only know him as “that guy who President Trump attacked,” but Indianans know him as “the guy who didn’t back down from his job even though racial slurs were thrown at him.”

 


Hispanic Heritage Month: Recognizing the Valuable Contributions of Eva Savala

I currently live in the Melbourne suburbs but vote in Illinois’ Seventeenth Congressional District, or as the locals call it, “The Fightin’ 17th.” This is an area in the Midwest where workers are proud to be unionized, farmers are gratified to know their agricultural products feed Americans from coast to coast, and Hispanic-Americans participate in all levels of government, reflecting the 17thDistrict’s diversity with pride.

In honor of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, I would like to pay tribute to someone else from this area of Northwest Illinois, Eva Savala. Savala is one of many notable Latinx activists from a town called East Moline located in the heartland of America.

Eva Savala was born in Iowa nearly a century ago to Mexican immigrants who struggled to make ends meet. Like millions of other Americans with brown skin, she herself experienced tough times during the 1950s and ‘60s when being a woman and a minority meant facing extreme discrimination within the community and the workplace. Nevertheless, Savala secured a job in a plant which manufactured truck parts, often facing sexual harassment at work. Wanting to persist on the job in order to bring home a livable paycheck, Savala eventually ran in a 1973 election to be a union leader within the United Auto Workers (UAW), and her political activism skyrocketed from there. An unwavering dedication to registering voters and fighting for fairness in the workplace led to her advancement in the UAW ranks, and time and again she earned the trust of Democratic officials.

Read more