Hispanic Caucus News

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.

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Hispanic Heritage Month: Honoring The Notable Contributions Of Serena Auñón-Chancellor

Onward, Upward, Over and Out: Serena Auñón-Chancellor,
Hispanic Hoosier Astronaut

 

By: Nick Buffie, DA-Colombia & USA

I am originally from Bloomington, Indiana – an area southwest of Indianapolis with a booming arts industry – but have spent a significant amount of time in Latin America. For the vast majority of Indiana’s history, Hispanic-Americans played a behind-the-scenes role in the cultural and economic life of the state – but that now appears to be changing. Between 2000 and 2017, the Hispanic share of the population more than doubled. As of 2016, the state’s Hispanic employment rate was 69.3 percent, far higher than the overall employment rate of 62.0 percent and the white employment rate of 62.6 percent; even if Hispanics once stood on the outside of the Hoosier economy, today they are as integrated as any other group of Americans.

One clear Hoosier success story (“Hoosiers” are people from Indiana) is Serena Auñón-Chancellor – a Hispanic doctor, engineer, and astronaut who was born in Indianapolis. Her parents are both Cuban, and her father immigrated to the United States in 1960. For this Hispanic Heritage Month, I would like to take a moment to honor this incredible Latina by sharing a few of her accomplishments and contributions to our nation.

Dr. Auñón-Chancellor has led a truly remarkable life. Her educational background is as dense as it is impressive: she has received a B.S. in electrical engineering from George Washington University, a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Texas Medical Branch, and a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

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Hispanic Caucus Statement on the Supreme Court Justice Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh

Contributors: Carlos Colao, Ana Blackstad, Michael Ramos

 

With the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Trump has nominated Brett M. Kavanaugh, who currently serves as a circuit judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, as Kennedy’s replacement on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Hispanic Caucus of Democrats Abroad strongly opposes Judge Kavanaugh to fill such an important lifetime appointment role.

Time and again Judge Kavanaugh has sided with corporations, those violating human rights and civil rights, and polluters. In fact, Kavanaugh appears to be on friendly terms with everyone except people of color.

Judge Kavanaugh’s record on Latino issues specifically may not be so obvious—but what is well known is his consistent anti-immigrant stance. Dissenting on the Agri Professor v. NLRB court decision, Kavanaugh made clear his negative thoughts on undocumented immigrants as workers in America. He offered similar thoughts in Garza v. Hargan in his opinion of an underage immigrant seeking an abortion. Put simply, immigrants and their rights should be protected by our federal government, not shunned, as Kavanaugh’s views repeatedly demonstrate. 

With the president himself currently under investigation by the FBI, this judicial nomination should not proceed. Despite these troubles, Senate Republicans wish to expedite Kavanaugh’s appointment without a single hearing to date. This is far from the desire of the American people, including those of us who live outside the U.S. but still have a voice in government.

Upon reviewing Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial record, it is clear that the president nominated Judge Kavanaugh because he would most likely be a rubber stamp for the president’s many anti-Latino positions. For this reason, all senators should oppose this nominee with extremist views for the vacant associate justice position on the United States Supreme Court. We encourage all Americans living abroad to contact both of your U.S. senators and take action as instructed here.

 

Para la versión en español: https://www.democratsabroad.org/declaracion_caucus_hispano_kavanaugh


Widespread Effects of Family Separations on the Latino Community in the U.S.

10,000 people marched against US family separation policies on June 30, 2018 in Minneapolis,MN.
Image: Fibonacci Blue on Flickr licensed under CC by 2.0.

 

As a second-generation American and daughter of a Chilean immigrant mother, I grew up with dinner table discussions about how my mother’s accent was the butt of a joke in the office that day. Though my mom was a permanent resident of the United States for 35 years and adopted an American lifestyle, she was often treated as an outsider by people whose families emigrated a few generations earlier.

After college, my bilingual capabilities led me to my first non-profit job working with the Latino community. I spent 4 years equipping Latin American immigrants with the skills to be successful entrepreneurs at a microfinance organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After that I spent two years with the American Red Cross managing a regional program focused on bilingual disaster services for the Latino community.

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We must protect all children within our borders

The Hispanic Caucus of Democrats Abroad stands firmly against the Trump administration and the GOP congress’s continuing inhumane policy of separating innocent children from their mothers at our borders.

The United States sets the global standard for what is acceptable for human rights and habeas corpus. As Americans living overseas we have a unique perspective on how our country is viewed: it is clear we are losing our moral authority to lead the world’s democracies by example. It’s time for a change.

 

The Republican Party controls the presidency, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and a majority of governorships and state legislatures. Blaming Democrats or citing a non-existent law requiring children to be treated like animals does not fool anyone about the cruelty of today’s Republicans.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ outrageous comment about this policy being "ordained by God," and Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ compliant defense are the ultimate hypocrisy by the party that claims to be the righteous purveyors of family values and life.

The party of Donald Trump must be held to account. The only sure way to do this is to vote for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. It is the only ethical and moral choice for a nation that values a civil society. Democrats unequivocally oppose this policy of destroying the lives of children.

To request your ballot, visit www.votefromabroad.org


Trade Resolution Sponsored by DA Hispanic Caucus Passes DPCA Voting Body Unanimously

Tokyo—Last Sunday at its international annual general meeting (AGM) held in Japan, voting representatives within Democrats Abroad (DA) unanimously passed a resolution on trade sponsored by the DA Hispanic Caucus. The resolution calls on the Democratic National Committee to urge members of Congress to support export opportunities to not only small- and medium-sized businesses, but also to women- and minority-owned American businesses.

An amendment was offered to include language on unions and collective bargaining, which was also adopted by the voting membership.

Chairwoman of the DA Hispanic Caucus, Ana Hernandez Blackstad (DA-Czech Republic), commented, “Passage of this resolution is proof that our party is stronger when its diverse members add their voices to the conversation. This resolution is pro-U.S. minorities, pro-women, pro-U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses, and, thanks to the amendment offered by the chairwoman of DA-Japan, pro-labor. We couldn’t be more thrilled about achieving this task in our first year of existence as a caucus, and I’m truly proud of the work we’ve done thus far.”

After debate on the resolution during the second day of the AGM, caucus leaders made revisions to improve it and satisfy remaining questions surrounding it. It was resubmitted for debate and passed the body with full support on the AGM’s final day. “The evidence is clear. Multiple studies confirm that too many U.S. export deals do not go to U.S. business owners who deserve it. President Obama once remarked, ‘Don’t bet against the American worker.’ I fully agree with him and would take it a step further in saying that betting on America’s women- and minority-owned businesses is also not only a sure bet, but an act of patriotism by the federal government in supporting export trade opportunities for these disadvantaged groups,” stated Michael Ramos (DA-Australia), vice chair of the Hispanic Caucus.

The resolution will be presented at the 2020 DA annual general meeting, where the Hispanic Caucus aims to amend the DA Platform with the resolution’s new proposed trade text.


JOINT STATEMENT FROM THE CHAIR AND VICE CHAIR

March 23, 2018

On March 20th, Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) introduced a highly controversial bill which has quickly gained national attention. The bill, H. Res. 791, would recognize the birthday (March 31st) of civil rights and labor leader César Chávez as being "National Border Control Day." 

The bill presently has zero co-sponsors which suggests that not even fellow House Republicans want to be on record as supporters of denigrating the Chicano activist's milestone achievements.

Chávez proudly served in the U.S. Armed Forces and later testified before Congress. In addition, he, along with other notable Americans such as Dolores Huerta, led the United Farm Workers in fighting for fair wages, health care coverage, safer working conditions, pension benefits, and better employer-employee relations.

Simply put, this legislation is an insult to the legacy of Mr. Chávez, a natural-born U.S. citizen. As a recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom, Chávez was a person of unquestionable integrity and character.

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A Year In Review & Forecasting 2018

 

Democratic Brothers and Sisters,

Another year gone, another full agenda on our activist radar. So what’s been happening and what can you expect the Hispanic Caucus to be involved in? Please keep reading for answers…

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

There are four relevant bills currently pending in Congress that affect DACA enrollees, one of which, the Dream Act, is the ideal legislation Democrats have been pushing Republican leaders to hold a vote. Protecting Dreamers is simply the right thing to do, and their stories are indisputably and uniquely pro-American. To summarize the issue, Obama created DACA through executive order, Trump utilized his presidential authority to rescind the program, and now the fate of nearly 800,000 Dreamers lies in the hands of congressional Republicans. We must not stop fighting for these individuals. Why is passing the Dream Act critical? Gracias to our DNC rep, Orlando, for passing along this great video explaining it.

Keep in mind that comprehensive immigration reform is still urgently needed, but don’t expect Republicans to work in a bipartisan manner anytime soon as their go-to policies include “build the wall,” “no funding for sanctuary cities,” “increased border patrol,” “ban refugees from Muslim countries,” etc.

Tax Reform

Unfortunately for many Americans and indeed for all Americans living abroad, the GOP Tax Scam is now law (P.L. 115-97). Don’t be misled – the new law is a massive giveaway to millionaires, billionaires, Republican campaign donors, and corporations already sitting on massive record profits. Instead of actually helping America’s working-class, congressional Republicans voted to put America over a trillion dollars in yet more debt, open up drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, kill the health care mandate in the Affordable Care Act which essentially means healthier people will not voluntarily pay for coverage and therefore destabilize the insurance market and increase everyone else’s health premiums, and the list goes on and on. The absurdity alone of this new tax law is enough to justify booting out every single Republican in the next election.

Other Important Issues

Sheriff Joe Arpaio – President Trump pardoned this highly-controversial Arizonan. From blatant racial profiling to false accusations about President Obama’s birth certificate to total abuse of power in office, Arpaio is a symbol to many Americans of who should be jailed, not entrusted with elected office and enforcing the law while disrespecting civil rights.

Charlottesville, VA – The president of the United States failed miserably to adequately denounce the hateful rhetoric and detestable violence of Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.

Cabinet – Pitifully, there is only one high-ranking person of Hispanic descent in the Trump White House: U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta.

Virginia’s House of Delegates – Latinas were elected for the first time, increasing much-needed diversity in the commonwealth’s legislature representation.

Puerto Rico – The devastation from the summer’s hurricane season led to mass dysfunction from the White House leadership and—quite despicably—rolls of paper towels being thrown by our Commander-in-Chief to fellow U.S. citizens desperately pleading for help. Keep an eye on Carmen Yulín Cruz, currently mayor of San Juan, as a rising Democratic star.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus – The CHC consists of all Democratic members of Congress. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) attempted to join the caucus but was rejected after it was determined he was doing it simply to appear more “bipartisan” in his own tough congressional race. The Democratic Party does not have an official position on this particular issue, but several persons I’ve spoken with have mixed feelings on this occurrence. Perhaps this topic merits further discussion if anyone is so inclined..?


Congressional Legislative Scorecard for 2017

Please take a few moments to see how your members of Congress voted on key bills affecting the Hispanic community.

(Methodology: How is this scorecard determined? Only items voted on by the full House or Senate chamber are included. Not included are other congressional actions or inactions such as co-sponsoring particular bills, speaking out on an issue, committee votes, or condemning Republicans.)

House of Representatives

6/29/17 – H.R. 3003, No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill is an extreme enforcement proposal which blurs the lines between federal immigration enforcement and local police.
Democratic position: VOTE NO.
Click here to see how your representative voted.

6/29/17 – H.R. 3004, Kate’s Law. This bill is another unnecessary measure which expands already-severe penalties for immigrants who re-enter the U.S., and thus waste resources and simply lead to an increase in the prison population without addressing other aspects of overdue immigration reform.
Democratic position: VOTE NO.
Click here to see how your representative voted.

9/14/17 – H.R. 3697, Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act. This bill creates new rules for preventing entry to or deporting immigrants based on the mere suspicion of gang affiliation.
Democratic position: VOTE NO.
Click here to see how your representative voted.

12/20/17 – H.R. 1, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This bill is possibly the worst to come out of Congress in a decade. It would have been more accurate to call it the “Tax Cuts Only for the Wealthy, No Tax Reform for Americans Abroad, and Massive Giveaway to Corporations Act.”
Democratic position: VOTE NO.
Click here to see how your representative voted.

Senate

2/7/17 – Confirming Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education

Democratic position: VOTE NO. She was and still is completely unqualified, is simply a long-time Republican donor, does not believe in LGBT fairness and equality in schools, and remains unclear as to whether she even believes in wanting the U.S. public education system to succeed.
Click here to see how your senators voted.

2/17/17 – Confirming Scott Pruitt as U.S. Administrator to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Democratic position: VOTE NO.
Click here to see how your senators voted.

4/7/17 – Confirming Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court
Democratic position: VOTE NO. Gorsuch is an arch-conservative who has consistently sided with corporations over workers, and has an overall record of unpopular judicial decisions.
Click here to see how your senators voted.

12/20/17 – H.R. 1, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Democratic position: VOTE NO.
Click here to see how your senators voted.


There were many other issues of importance which were also voted on in the first half of the 115th Congress – raising the debt ceiling, the continuing resolution, appropriations, the numerous attempts to gut ObamaCare and more, but for the sake of keeping the above list short, I just focused on those bills.

Of course, there were some happier moments from 2017 which brought pride to the Hispanic community and raised awareness of Latinos. Disney’s “Coco” was (and still is) a box office smash, “Despacito” rocked the air waves, the Latino cast of Broadway’s “Hamilton” toured the U.S., and other notable moments happened in politics, the arts, and education.

Things to do in 2018

The new year brings a few special congressional elections, must-pass spending bills to keep the federal government operating, reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, “entitlement reform” (this is GOP code for slashing Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security—expect several take-action items from us on this), possibly another #GOPTaxScam v. 2.0 in April, and likely a huge transportation-infrastructure bill in Congress. Although transportation is not necessarily an expat issue, it is massively relevant to the Hispanic community which deserves its fair share of public transportation service with taxpayer dollars. Expect Congress to work on a massive “farm bill,” too. We will keep an eye on these and all other issues that could pop up which directly affect us living abroad. In addition, we will continue to closely monitor issues affecting the U.S. Hispanic community.

Starting with winning gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, Democrats all across the country—with our help—have been winning state legislative seats, local races, and even a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama—something unthinkable to political experts even a year ago. We will need to carry on this momentum and redouble our efforts in 2018 in order to take back Congress. This starts with repealing and replacing Republicans.

For items shown below which pertain to you, please mark these dates on your calendar (hopefully you’re now using the fantastic DA Women’s Caucus calendar!).

* Jan. 2018 – Every single member of the DA Hispanic Caucus should triple-check and update your voter registration status to ensure your eligibility to vote, and also request a ballot for the upcoming several primary elections. Please don’t delay this action! And similar to changing the battery in your ceiling fire detector, it’s that time of the year where you should log on to the DA web site and update your details if anything’s changed, such as your U.S. voting address and which newsletters you want to subscribe to.

* Jan. 2018 – Please consider answering our chair’s call for assistance in either writing a testimonial or recording a short video about why you plan to vote. Contribute in either English or Spanish!

* Jan. 30, 2018 –Trump will make his first official State of the Union address. (Last year was an “address to the nation” type of speech.)

* Feb. 27, 2018 – Primary for special election for Arizona-8 congressional seat.

* Mar. 13, 2018 – Special election for Pennsylvania-18 congressional seat. The Democratic candidate is Conor Lamb – let’s get him some support!

*Apr. 24, 2018 – Special election for Arizona-8 congressional seat.

* May 2018 – The DA Hispanic Caucus will turn 1 year old. Pat yourself on the back and eat some “Freedom Fajitas” or “Tío Sam Tamales.”

* May 24-27, 2018 – DA international annual general meeting (open to all members of DA). Are there any Hispanic Caucus members planning on attending? Please let Ana and I know!

* June 2018 – U.S. expat taxes and FBAR forms due.

* Aug. 7, 2018 – Primary for special election for Michigan-13 congressional seat.

* Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, 2018 – Hispanic Heritage Month

* All throughout 2018 – Always a great cause if you can spare any donation is to contribute money on the DA web site. No other organization supports both the work of U.S. Democratic interests and the interests of Americans living abroad.

* Nov. 6th (Tuesday) – ELECTION DAY

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I will resist, rise, organize, and commit to vote. Will you join me in this New Year’s resolution?

Michael Ramos
DA Hispanic Caucus