The Latino Action Network is a grassroots organization composed of individuals and organizations that are committed to engaging in collective action at the local, state and national levels in order to advance the equitable inclusion of the diverse Latino communities in all aspects of United States society.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Register HERE for 2015 Annual Latino Action Network Legislative Conference

2015 Annual Latino Action Network Legislative Conference

You are cordially invited to the Latino Action Network’s Annual Legislative Conference. The conference will take place on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at the Crystal Room, Robert Treat Hotel Conference Center in Newark, New Jersey.

The event will include a full program, with keynote presentations and dynamic workshops with panels discussing a full array of issues of great importance to New Jersey's Latino community.

Our Keynote Speakers will be:

NJ Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and NJ Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

Breakout panels will cover the following subjects:

  • Immigration Issues
  • Education: K-12 and Financial Aid for DACA
  • Health Disparities and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
  • Affordable Housing
  • Labor Issues
  • State Budget Process

We expect an audience of over 200 persons, including Latino elected officials, civic and community leaders interested in developing a shared vision for New Jersey.

This Legislative Conference is hosted by the Latino Action Network (LAN) in collaboration with The Latino Institute, Inc., a private, non-profit, charitable organization, and the Latino Coalition, a member organization of the LAN.

Please click in HERE to register for the LAN Legislative Conference or go to:

You can also contact Carmen Torres at973-273-0273 or via email at if you have any questions about the program.

We are looking forward to presence, as we work together to benefit the Latino community.

N.J. must stop Gov. Christie's defiance of state's Fair Housing Act: Opinion

N.J. must stop Gov. Christie's defiance of state's Fair Housing Act: Opinion

By Frank Argote-Freyre and Richard T. Smith

Star-Ledger January 13, 2015

For the past five years, the Christie Administration has, at every turn, tried to undermine New Jersey’s Fair Housing Act, which guarantees that communities cannot use unfair land-use laws to keep out lower-income families, seniors and people with special needs. It is clear Gov. Chris Christie is opposed to this law. He called the original lawsuit that led to it, brought by two local chapters of the NAACP against Mount Laurel Township, an “abomination.” The NAACP acted, at that time, to prevent the displacement of a vibrant African-American community with a long history in the region.

It is unfortunate the Governor believes this lawsuit was inappropriate. The Christie Administration has gone so far as to obstruct and refuse to enforce laws emanating from that original civil rights decision. This is a dangerous precedent. Christie appears deeply committed to undermining the principles of the law and circumventing the legal system. First, he went to the Legislature and tried to change the law, but they refused to undercut basic civil rights protections. Then he went to the courts and tried to argue he did not have to comply with the law. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in September 2013 that he did. So now the Governor is attempting to defy both the Legislature and the courts by simply not acting in accordance with existing laws.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue on Jan. 6. The Court thus should move forward with the only realistic option in front of it – allow the courts to directly hear fair housing challenges, instead of having them stalled in an administrative process going nowhere.

In its September 2013 decision, the Supreme Court ordered the Christie Administration to "eliminate the limbo in which municipalities, New Jersey citizens, developers, and affordable housing interest groups have lived for too long.” It required the Christie Administration to develop new rules to implement the Fair Housing Act within five months.

Christie appears deeply committed to undermining the principles of the law and circumventing the legal system.

On the last day of that five-month period, the Christie Administration asked for an indefinite extension to develop rules. The Supreme Court granted an extension, but put a time limit on it, saying that if rules were not finalized by Nov. 17, then the Court would consider taking steps to enforce the law through the court system directly.

The Christie Administration next proposed rules that were transparently ridiculous. Towns' fair housing obligations would be based on a spreadsheet that was supposedly “lost.” Land in Monmouth County was mislabeled as being in Ocean County. The State disregarded its own official growth projections to manipulate housing requirements so they were as low as possible. The state also assumed that growth would only occur and lower-income people would only live on undeveloped farms or forests, when in recent years the majority of development in New Jersey has been redevelopment of existing land in places like Montclair, Summit and Red Bank.

After public hearings drew angry responses and the Christie Administration received more than 3,000 comments, they refused to make changes to correct these flaws. But fortunately, half the members of the Council on Affordable Housing, which had ultimate authority over the proposed rules, refused to go along with such an obvious attempt to undermine the Fair Housing Act. As such, no rules were adopted by the Nov. 17 deadline, and the State failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s deadline even after the extension.

Now, the Supreme Court is considering what to do next. There must be no more extensions or delays. Tens of thousands of people waiting for a decent place to live - a number made significantly bigger after Superstorm Sandy - have waited long enough. The Christie Administration’s process is a dead end, and the regulations that were proposed were not a good faith response. It is time for the courts to ensure that their decisions are followed, and directly enforce the state’s fair housing laws since the Christie Administration apparently refuses to do so.

Frank Argote-Freyre is president of the Latino Action Network and Richard T. Smith is president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference.

The original article can be found at:

Monday, December 15, 2014

N.J. correctional facilities should stop honoring ICE detainers: Opinion

The following Op-Ed was written on behalf of the Latino Action Network by LAN Steering Committee member John P. Leschak, Esq. and appeared in today's Star-Ledger. 

N.J. correctional facilities should stop honoring ICE detainers: Opinion

December 15, 2014
By John P. Leschak

For many years, we have had two systems of justice in New Jersey and in other parts of the nation: One for immigrants and another for everybody else.

At the heart of this unjust system are the detainers placed on suspected undocumented immigrants by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency of the Department of Homeland Security. A detainer is a legal request by ICE to hold an individual, most often picked up for minor offenses, even after they have posted bail. These detainers can lead to the incarceration of individuals for weeks and months without a proper hearing on the charges against them.

As President Obama forcefully stated in his recent national address, we need to move away from a deportation policy that breaks up families. The current detainer policy is a vestige of a flawed system.

These detainers are immoral, unjust and most likely illegal, according to a federal appeals court, that ruled earlier this year that they violate the U.S. Constitution. The court found that the federal government cannot force states and municipalities to honor these detainer requests and unjustly jail immigrants.

To be clear, before a court releases anyone charged with a criminal offense, an assessment of flight risk must be made and an appropriate bail set. It is important to note that a person charged with a crime – a minor or major offense – is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. This same legal protection extends to everyone. In addition, immigration matters fall under a separate area of the law and a determination of status in this country follows a very different legal process.

Given these facts, the Latino Action Network calls on all New Jersey correctional institutions to stop honoring ICE detainers. We echo the call of the American Civil Liberties Union that has already begun to champion this effort. Currently five New Jersey counties have decided to stop honoring ICE detainers. (Middlesex, Ocean, Union, Burlington, and Camden).

If the injustice of illegal detention were not enough, the economics of improperly detaining immigrants should give local and county governments pause to question their current policies. State, county and local correctional institutions are not reimbursed for detaining these individuals and, therefore, the cost falls solely on local taxpayers.

Furthermore, holding immigrants for federal immigration authorities exposes local governments to lawsuits. Our Constitution protects any person from being deprived of liberty without probable cause, and without due process of law. Because ICE detainer requests are not supported by a judicial warrant, jails act illegally when they detain people based on them.

This legal liability is real. A Pennsylvania county recently paid $95,000 in damages for illegally detaining Ernesto Galarza, a U.S. citizen, for three days. All of this money had to come from the county coffers since the federal government told them they did not cover it. Also, in Oregon, a county paid $30,000 to Maria Miranda-Olivares, who was held in detention 19 hours after her criminal case concluded.

In the aftermath of these lawsuits, more than 250 jurisdictions, across the nation, have stopped complying with ICE detainer requests. It is time that all of our county jails and state prisons follow suit and decline to detain immigrants in the absence of a warrant issued by a U.S. magistrate.

Rejecting immigration detainers is morally right and has the added benefit of making good economic sense.

John P. Leschak, Esq., is a member of the Latino Action Network Steering Committee.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Latino Action Network and Coalition Partners Reach Agreement with Christie Administration to Set Aside Additional Sandy Relief Funds for Working Poor Families

Latino Action Network and Coalition Partners Reach Agreement with Christie Administration to Set Aside Additional Sandy Relief Funds for Working Poor Families

For Immediate Release: May 30, 2014
Frank Argote-Freyre, President – 908-670-0552
Christian Estevez, Executive Vice President – 973-418-7012

The Latino Action Network announced today that it has settled a fair housing complaint that it jointly filed with the NJ NAACP and Fair Share Housing Center challenging the State of New Jersey’s distribution of federal disaster recovery funds. The agreement reached with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the State of New Jersey requires significant changes to the use of federal funds for Hurricane Sandy recovery. The agreement is available on the Latino Action Network’s website here : LAN Hurricane Sandy Agreement

“This settlement will help Spanish-speaking New Jerseyans and others who are still out of their homes get information that wasn’t provided to them before, said Frank Argote-Freyre, President of the Latino Action Network.  “Spanish-speaking staff will be available at every recovery center and homeowners and renters will be given the chance to live in or closer to their homes that were damaged. We have one more chance to get this right, and I am hopeful that this agreement will help the state do a better job.” 

The agreement requires changes to the recovery effort which address the needs of Latinos, African-American and working poor families impacted by Sandy that have not been addressed to date. In response to erroneous information on the State’s website that had incorrect deadlines, the State is required to make its Sandy website fully bilingual, and provide equal access for people whose primary language is not English from the first day of applications for new programs. In response to findings that Latinos and African-Americans were rejected from the State’s main homeowner rebuilding program, the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation [RREM] program, significantly more often than white non-Latino applicants, the State will reexamine all applications to make sure that applicants were not unfairly rejected. In response to a lower share of resources to renters displaced by Sandy, who are disproportionately Latino and African-American, the State will dedicate at least $240 million in additional immediate help and longer-term rebuilding funds to renters impacted by Sandy.

“Working poor families impacted by Sandy should have the same rights as everyone else to rebuild their homes and lives,” said Christian Estevez, Executive Vice-President of the Latino Action Network. “This agreement will help make the Sandy recovery more fair and inclusive.”

Key terms of the agreement include:

  • Provides a minimum of $215 million in addition to $379 million previously allocated to build replacement homes for people impacted by Sandy, and for the first time sets firm targets for prioritizing the most impacted communities in New Jersey, especially the three most impacted counties, Ocean, Monmouth, and Atlantic, to ensure that people are not forced to leave their communities permanently as a result of the storm;
  • Establishes a $15 million pool for immediate help for renters who are still displaced from Sandy, which can be used for up to two years while replacement homes are being built;
  • Requires a re-review of the applications of everyone rejected from the RREM program, responding to information that nearly 80 percent of rejected applicants whose applications were reviewed were incorrectly rejected, with rejection rates 2.5x higher for African-Americans and 1.5x higher for Latinos;
  •  Requires the State to provide equal access to non-English speakers for all programs funded with HUD’s disaster recovery funds and to build a bilingual website for all programs;
  • Provides that as new programs open, there must be equal access for applicants whose primary language is not English from day one;
  • Requires compliance with Section 3 requirements, which provide a preference for local contractors to do federally funded work and access the job opportunities over out of state contractors;
  • Provides an additional $10 million in addition to $50 million previously allocated to help people with special needs impacted by Sandy;
  • Provides enhanced outreach to low- and moderate-income communities that have been underserved by the recovery to date, including enhanced partnerships with community groups and housing counseling to help people who are facing financial distress in recovering from Sandy, and integrates outreach to Spanish and Portuguese speaking communities into this outreach process;
  • Provides a minimum of $10 million to help people in manufactured homes recover from Sandy and rebuild or replace their homes, including the heavily Latino portions of Moonachie impacted by Sandy;
  • Allows applicants to get funds without a substantial damage letter previously required by the state, which has been a particular problem for Latinos in the Ironbound section of Newark and elsewhere, and allows both renters and owners to show concrete proof of damage through other means such as home inspections if FEMA calculated damage incorrectly;  
  • Requires the State to comply with the Open Public Records Requests related to Sandy in a timely fashion and to provide more public information to make sure Sandy funds are being distributed fairly.
The Latino Action Network and other complainants were represented by Kevin D. Walsh and Adam M. Gordon of Fair Share Housing Center based in Cherry Hill, NJ and Michael Allen of the civil rights firm Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC, based in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Latino Action Network Honored to Receive "Latino Higher Education Advocate of the Year" Award from The Latino Institute, Inc.

Latino Higher Education Advocate of the Year Award Presented to the Latino Action Network by the Latino Institute, Inc. on April 9, 2014 in Trenton, New Jersey.
--Trenton, NJ
 April 9, 2014

Members of the Latino Action Network were honored to join The Latino Institute at their opening Luncheon at the Latinos and the Future of Higher Education conference that was held on April 9, 2014 at the Lafayette Yard Hotel (formerly the Marriott), in Trenton, New Jersey.  The keynote speaker at the luncheon was Dr. Alberto Acereda from Educational Testing Service (ETS). He spoke on the issue college affordability and retention.

Prior to the keynote speaker, The Institute recognized the Latino Action Network (LAN) and the New Jersey DREAMERS with Awards as the "Latino Higher Education Advocates of the Year".

The Latino Institute President,  Bill Colon, cited LAN’s contribution to the effort to pass the New Jersey DREAM Act, which makes In-State Tuition rates available to undocumented college students in New Jersey, as the key factor in selecting the Latino Action Network to receive their “Latino Higher Education Advocates of the Year” award.  Frank Argote-Freyre, President of the Latino Action Network, humbly accepted the award on behalf of the organization and all of the LAN members that contributed to the overall effort that led to the passage of the New Jersey DREAM Act.

"The members of the Latino Action Network are honored to have received this award from The Latino Institute.", said Argote-Freyre after the event.  "We are also honored to have been able to work with so many organizations, including The Latino Institute and the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition, to pass such important legislation that will make the dream of obtaining a college education a reality for so many talented and dedicated students in our community."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rally for Comprehensive Immigration Reform at Liberty State Park

The time is now for immigration reform!

On Saturday, April 6, the Latino Action Network is joining a statewide rally to demand commonsense immigration reform. People are coming together by the thousands at Liberty State Park in Jersey City to demand that Congress fix our broken immigration system. The rally will be family friendly with lots of multicultural entertainment.  Will you join us? 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Free shuttles to the rally will be available from the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Liberty State Park stop.

Will you join us?  Click here to RSVP and receive more information about buses in your area that you can join to reach the event.

Together we can send a message that:
  • The time is now for a realistic path to citizenship
  • The time is now for reform that keeps families together, raises standards for all working people, and keeps the economy strong.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Daniel Santo-Pietro, LAN Public Policy Chair, delivered testimony on behalf of the Latino Action Network to the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.   He focused his comments on the 12 items that have done the most harm to working families during the last three budget cycles.  The "Destructive Dozen", as Daniel called them, remain in the Governor’s FY2014 Budget. Daniel ended his testimony by calling for the passage of the In-State Tuition bill that would help immigrant students get a college education and urging the legislature to negotiate with the Governor to resolve the "Destructive Dozen" budget items and move our State forward.  Please read Daniel's testimony below:

MARCH 20, 2013

The Latino Action Network is a 501c4 organization with a Steering Committee comprised of Latino leaders from across the State from unions, community organizations, academia and professional backgrounds.  Our President is Frank Argote-Freyre, a well known historian and activist.  We are a membership organization with students and many other Latinos counted among our ranks.  We maintain a separate PAC and Foundation using social networking tools to involve a broad cross-section of people.  Our testimony and other documents can be accessed at our website and on our Facebook page.

Our testimony comes from the perspective of low to moderate income working families and owners of very small businesses who constitute the majority of Hispanics, a community that is often voiceless in Trenton .  Hispanics are approaching 25% of the population of New Jersey and increasingly they are actively pursuing their interests both nationally and locally. 

The Latino Action Network wants to draw your attention to the Destructive Dozen. We want to focus on the 12 items that have done the most harm to working families during the last three budget cycles.  The Destructive Dozen remain in the Governor’s FY2014 Budget.  We hope the Governor will reconsider his strategy of hurting the poor and helping the rich and we urge legislators to use their considerable power to probe the relevant departments during hearings and make changes in the budget where possible. The Governor never met a rich man he did not want to shower with tax breaks. His compassion for the wealthy knows no limit. The time has come to create a Commission that would investigate these trends and determine how a rich state like New Jersey can reverse them.


  1. New Jersey has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the country.  Yet budget proposals for training and other employment initiatives are too few and far too little in dollars.  One such initiative led by the Hispanic community, Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers, saw their modest $500 thousand eliminated from the budget.  The Governor still seems to depend on grants to corporations to generate more jobs, but there is no convincing evidence it has worked in the past.
  1. The Governor’s veto of the minimum wage increase weighs most heavily on working families. LAN is in favor of the minimum wage increase to $8.25/ hr and will support it if it is on the ballot in November.  Combined with the Governor’s failure to move ahead on the increase of the State EITC, these two steps are a painful one-two punch to working families.

  1. Governor Christie in his first budget underfunded the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) by $1.6 Billion. This year Governor Christie’s proposed budget provides flat funding for 200 districts, mostly those that are economically disadvantaged.  The SFRA was a bi-partisan compromise that created a funding formula that allowed funds to follow the child no matter which district where they were enrolled.  The Governor’s arbitrary changes to the Formula reduce the weight given in the SFRA to at-risk children and English learners.  These changes mean that schools with large numbers of Hispanic children, mostly urban schools where working families have their children enrolled, will have to meet their formidable challenges with less resources.  Last year the legislature took out language in the Budget that would have permanently changed the formula, but left the revised funding formula intact.  This year you must correct the problem of appropriating less and less money to the children who need it most.  This is the type of basic mathematics that anyone can understand.

  1. In the context described above the proposed $2 Million for Opportunity Scholarships is a cruel joke.  It will help a few private schools with their enrollment but take away resources from the schools that must educate the overwhelming number of children of working families.  The voucher approach is not what New Jersey schools need to improve.

  1. Preschool funding in the Budget does nothing to expand preschool to districts that have sizeable number of children from working families.   The preponderance of evidence shows that the preschools opened in the 31 previous Abbott districts under court order have been a resounding success.  Hispanic children from lower income families, some with limited English, have caught up with other children in reading skills, vocabulary, even exposure to science and math.  This allows them to begin K-12 with a much greater chance to succeed.  The evidence is so great that President Obama has called for a national effort to provide preschool to all children.  We expected this budget at least to propose funding for more districts who want to expand preschools for at-risk children as a part of the public school program.
  1. Last year the Department of Human Services made eligibility for wrap-around child care so strict as to eliminate many families.  This service allowed working families to bring their children to preschool early and pick them up after three as needed to accommodate their working hours.  The new requirements caused many low income families to drop this service and in some cases to take their child out of preschool altogether. The most onerous is demanding verification of income with paystubs or W-2s that many Hispanics who work in micro businesses and part-time employment cannot satisfy.  The logic of preventing a few people from getting undeserved benefits by cutting off thousands from needed child care eludes me.  This is yet another blow to working families struggling to educate their child.

  1. The scarcity of funding for community after-school programs has left a void for many working families.  The addition of $1 million in the DOE budget for these programs will hardly replace programs previously cut from the budget or put in operation the needed programs to protect and nurture children who live in dangerous neighborhoods.  Please demand the details of this program and determine whether it will meet the demand for this service.

  1. The Governor’s decision to carry out the expansion of Medicaid which is a key element in ObamaCare was the right one.  Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the federal government will pay 100% of the cost to insure over 300,000 low income parents and childless adults.  On the other hand the Governor’s disparaging remarks in his Budget speech about the Affordable Care Act was misguided.  If fully implemented, the ACA has a goal of reaching near universal coverage and could cover about 800,000 low and moderate income New Jerseyans bringing the percentage of uninsured down from almost 20% to 8.8%, according to the State Center for Health Policy.  This is a goal worth achieving.

  1. The Center for State Health Policy identified Hispanics as the most significant segment of the “Changing Insurance Buying Public”, and among the most challenging to communicate with effectively.  The Governor vetoed the creation of a state-run marketplace for health coverage, but the State still has to cooperate fully with the federally run marketplace and support starting in October 2013 an enrollment process simple and accessible to working families who need it most.  The failure to include any funds in the State Budget for public education outreach aimed at working families who need assistance to understand what they have to do to gain coverage is a major missing piece.  Federal funding will pay for phone and on-line customer service, media announcements and a limited number of “Navigators” who will help people fill out forms, but community education and even door to door outreach is the key to getting eligible people subsidies to buy the health insurance available through the Marketplace starting January 2014.
  1. In the past three budgets, there have been deep cuts in community based programs aimed at low income Hispanics.  Cuts to the Division of Youth and Family Services partnerships with Hispanic community organizations, and elimination of Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers that taught English and computer skills tso that women, many immigrants, could secure employment, are among the more egregious examples.  The governor’s budget offers no hope of increases that will correct this unfortunate mistake of the last three years.  Now when Jose is having a problem with unscrupulous landlords, his limited English means he no longer has a place in his community to turn to for counseling about his rights.  Maria an 80 year old living alone no longer can get help with doing chores or some one to check on her well being.  Jaime has no after school program that his local community agency used to offer and has become a latch-key child because his parents have to work.  These are all examples of real damage to families caused by the Christie campaign against working families.

  1. Most regretful, the Governor dismantled the one agency in State Government aimed at giving Hispanics a voice in the State bureaucracy, the Center for Hispanic Policy (CHPRD).  He reduced its funding by 75% to $1 million and moved it to the Secretary of State where its mission was changed from supporting Hispanic initiated community programs to a vague small grant organization with virtually no interest in supporting Hispanic community initiatives.  LAN urges legislators to recommend changes to the performance of CHPRD.

  1. Finally, we end with the issue of taxes.  Last year the Governor proposed an across the board income tax cut, which would have given working families peanuts while offering the wealthy a bonanza.  Fortunately, it was not implemented.  The Governor speaks often of his effort to control increases on property taxes, a tax that weighs heavily on working families whether they own or rent a home.  We strongly urge him to abandon income tax cuts and concentrate on bringing property taxes down significantly.  Otherwise, working families will always be at a huge disadvantage. 

Some people call 2013 the Year of the Hispanic.  A Latin American Pope who has a love for the poor and a major drive for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Washington to relieve all Americans from the broken and unjust immigration laws are two good signs. We even expect New Jersey to join Texas and California in granting all our immigrant children In-State Tuition.  We urge the legislature to negotiate with the Governor to resolve the Destructive Dozen budget items and move our State forward.

Presented by Daniel Santo Pietro, Chair Public Policy
Latino Action Network, PO Box 943, Freehold, NJ 07728