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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

2020 LAN Legislative Conference

Join the Latino Action Network Legislative Conference for a decade of advocacy. This will be a conference to remember!

About this Event

The LAN Legislative Conference is the largest gathering of Latino community organizers and public policy advocates in the State of New Jersey. Last year's conference was attended by over 350 activists from every corner of the state. The conference will include a full program, with keynote presentations and dynamic workshops with panels discussing a full array of issues in accordance with our Legislative Agenda for 2020.

Register here for free! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Latino Action Network Urges New Jersey Follow New York and Pass Driver’s Licenses Bill

NEWARK-The Latino Action Network (LAN) President Christian Estevez called on the New Jersey Legislature to follow the example set by New York Monday and pass a bill granting undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses.

"On Monday, New York made access to drivers licenses for our immigrant brothers and sisters the law of the land. Now it's time for New Jersey to stand up and act,” said Estevez.

Our communities deserve justice: every week that passes, more families are separated. Plus, our state loses hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue.

“To our legislators who condemn Trump's inhumane separation of families: we need you to use your power to ensure no family fears deportation when they drop their kids off at school or drive to work. On behalf of the 1.8 million Latinos in NJ, we call upon our state’s elected leaders, to pass S3229/A4743 without delay,” said Estevez.

LAN is a broad, statewide coalition of Latino organizations dedicated to political empowerment, the promotion of civil rights, and the elimination of disparities in the areas of education, health, and employment. It was founded in 2009.

Monday, April 29, 2019

2020 census concerns in Camden — where ‘thousands’ avoided 2010 count — reflect worries nationwide

(LAN’s Jesselly De La Cruz was quoted in this article, which originally appeared on, on the 2020 Census and the importance of counting everyone)
Protesters in DC
Protestors at the Supreme Court in Washington

Camden’s population a decade ago was 77,344, according to the 2010 census. But Mayor Francisco Moran knows that wasn’t right.

"I can tell you there are thousands of folks who have not allowed themselves to be counted,” he said at a forum Wednesday night in Camden, where local residents and statewide nonprofit groups expressed concerns about the census, which begins next March.

Communities across the country are working to make sure all their residents are counted, since population determines how the federal government distributes hundreds of billions of dollars to local governments, how voting districts are drawn, and how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House.

Local governments have formed commissions to explain the importance of filling out questionnaires and reach populations that are traditionally undercounted.

At the New Jersey Complete Count Commission’s last scheduled meeting of the year Wednesday, residents raised questions that echoed concerns expressed throughout the country. They included:

What role will the proposed citizenship question play?

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments as it decides whether the 2020 census can ask for residents’ citizenship status. The court’s conservative majority seemed willing to defer to the Trump administration’s plan to do so.

Dozens of state and local governments and the Census Bureau believe the citizenship question could deter millions of people, especially immigrants, from answering the questionnaires. That would depress population counts and diminish the political power and funding of local governments, particularly those with large immigrant populations.

Federal judges in Maryland, California, and New York — where Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Philadelphia joined others in suing the Trump administration — have ruled against the addition of the question.

The Trump administration argues that the question is necessary to know how many residents are citizens.

Jesselly De La Cruz, executive director of the Latino Action Network Foundation, asked that state and local governments focus on earning the confidence of communities shaken by the prospect of the citizenship question. The Census Bureau has emphasized that federal law prohibits it from sharing personal information it collects.

Local governments are recruiting “trusted community leaders” to persuade residents to fill out census forms.

Regardless of whether the question shows up on forms next year, Census Bureau employees have said damage already has been done in terms of creating a climate of mistrust around the census.

Will the resources be available?

Peter Chen, policy counsel at Newark, N.J.-based Advocates for Children of New Jersey, noted that other states have already distributed millions of dollars to nonprofits for census outreach in their communities. He urged New Jersey to quickly get money to organizations.

"This is going to require an enormous effort,” Chen said.

Two bills introduced in the Senate and Assembly in February ask for $9 million for New Jersey groups to help get residents counted.

How will the Census Bureau reach hard-to-count communities?

Each decennial census undercounts certain populations, such as young children whom adults may not think to include, people who move often, people who are homeless, people living in poverty, and racial and ethnic minorities.

Governments across the country have been working on strategies to persuade hard-to-count populations to fill out their questionnaires. Those plans include working with faith and community leaders, translating information into many languages, collaborating with schools to teach students and parents about the census, and opening census offices in areas where participation in the past was low.

For example, in one census tract in Camden, less than one-third of residents filled out their forms in 2010. So they’re getting special attention.

Moran, Camden’s mayor, said an accurate count in Camden “is paramount to us.”

"The strain on services in the city is tough for us when we have limited resources,” he said.

Who will do the counting?

The Census Bureau plans to hire from 400,000 to 450,000 census takers to follow up with people who do not fill out their questionnaires.

Cheryl Bolden, a supervisory partnership specialist for the Census Bureau, reassured New Jersey Complete Count commissioners and residents that the bureau is hiring people to work in their own neighborhoods for these positions.

"We are totally and completely dependent upon local involvement,” she said.

Most of the bureau’s job fairs have been in North Jersey, but Bolden said more will be coming to South Jersey.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Control gentrification in Jersey City now, community leaders say. Residents are being pushed out of their homes.

(This Op-ed originally appeared on on 4/18/19)

Jersey City skyscrapers
Long-time residents of Jersey City are being pushed out

By Richard Smith and Christian Estevez
With skyrocketing rents outpacing what most ordinary people can afford, Jersey City should be coming to terms with the fact that its residents are being priced out and forced out.

Developers who are making unfathomable amounts of money building homes for wealthy new residents have no incentive to solve this problem. It is time for Mayor Steven Fulop and the City Council to adopt an effective policy that requires developers to make at least 20 percent of new homes affordable as a way to curb the gentrification that is emptying Jersey City of longtime residents. In the case of city-owned land, or when public subsidies are used, the percent should go above 20 percent.

For decades, our state’s urban cores suffered from disinvestment, while wealthy suburban communities boomed. This disparity, driven by many towns’ exclusionary zoning laws, has helped make New Jersey one of the most racially and economically segregated states in the country.

As New Jersey’s urban communities revitalize, working families and communities of color in places like Jersey City are at the losing end of a real estate market that pursues profits over fairness and high rents over fair rents.

After living in Jersey City through challenging decades of disinvestment, lower-income African American and Latino families are being particularly threatened with displacement as investment floods in.

While we welcome additional investment in New Jersey’s cities, it must not come at the cost of displacement and homelessness. Our elected officials have an obligation to prevent the negative impacts that rapid gentrification has on our state’s most vulnerable communities.

Jersey City’s elected leaders must act – or they risk turning the city into an exclusive enclave of the rich and powerful.

It is irresponsible that Jersey City has added thousands of new apartments in recent years, rewarding developers with lucrative density increases, without putting inclusionary zoning requirements in place to protect lower-income families – as permitted under state law.

Left to their own devices, powerful developers will build housing for people earning over $100,000 annually and call these units “affordable.”

But that is not where the greatest need is.

Jersey City must target new affordable housing requirements to protect families earning as little as $20,000 to $45,000 per year – where the need is greatest.

And officials must prevent new requirements from being undermined by loopholes that would allow developers to wriggle out of their affordable housing requirements.

An effective fair housing policy must focus on housing – not be subverted as a tool to meet other goals while allowing gentrification to take over the city.

Mayor Fulop’s press releases and social media posts in recent years have claimed that his administration is going to address this issue. Most recently, the mayor wrote on social media last November that “Jersey City will be enacting an inclusionary zoning ordinance like many other major cities. … It is very close to becoming reality and will be a huge benefit to keeping Jersey City a special mixed-income community.”

But to date, there has been no real progress. While the mayor’s promises go unmet, developers are making Jersey City a “special” community for New York transplants who think nothing of paying $1 million for a condo – at the expense of the city’s African-American and Latino residents.

Indeed, while Jersey City stands still, other nearby cities have put in place protections for longtime residents and adopted equitable housing policies, including Hoboken, Newark and Union City. These ordinances require homes to be affordable at the lowest possible ranges.

Hoboken is even in the process of strengthening its affordable housing ordinance.
These gentrifying communities have benefited from the leadership of mayors like Dawn Zimmer, Ravinder Bhalla, Ras Baraka, and Brian Stack. Yet in the face of incredible progress, Jersey City, which has the greatest potential and the highest need, lags behind.

The time for Jersey City to adopt an effective housing policy has arrived.
We urge Mayor Fulop and the City Council to do what should have been done long ago: Adopt an inclusionary zoning ordinance that ensures that all residents of Jersey 

City benefit from the private market interest in the city. The ordinance should require all developments to have a minimum of 20 percent affordable housing. No buyouts, no loopholes, and no scams.

We need legislation that forces developers to address the negative consequences of gentrification. And we need it now.

Christian Estevez is president of the Latino Action Network and Richard Smith is president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


red school house

A Court-approved agreement reached with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) will provide clear pathways to graduation for all current high school juniors and seniors. The agreement was negotiated by the Education Law Center and the ACLU of New Jersey on behalf of several civil rights and parent advocacy groups, including the Latino Action Network, Latino Coalition of NJ, Paterson Education Fund, and NAACP NJ State Conference, that successfully challenged high school graduation testing requirements imposed by the NJDOE in violation of state law.

On December 31, 2018, the Superior Court, Appellate Division, invalidated the graduation assessment regulations enacted by the NJDOE in 2016, which included the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) end-of-course exams, because they violated statutory requirements for “exit” testing to obtain a high school diploma. In January, the NJDOE filed a motion for partial reconsideration, asking the Court to amend its order to address graduation requirements for current juniors and seniors.

In response, the groups that brought the case sought broader relief and highlighted the fact that the NJDOE’s request would leave thousands of students, who had not yet satisfied the testing mandate, without clear options to fulfill the requirement and earn their diplomas.

The agreement filed today will ensure all high school students in the classes of 2019 and 2020 have clear pathways to achieve a New Jersey diploma. The agreement postpones the effective date of the Court’s decision invalidating the graduation testing regulations and allows all juniors and seniors to use the rules defined in the regulations for the class of 2019—the broadest set of options—to fulfill the graduation testing requirement.

The agreement will also provide the NJDOE with time to propose new graduation testing rules for the classes of 2021 and 2022, current freshman and sophomores, that comply with statutory requirements and provide fair notice to affected students.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement that safeguards the graduation rights of seniors and juniors who relied on the rules invalidated by the Court,” said Jessica Levin, ELC Senior Attorney. “We look forward to working collaboratively with State officials to develop appropriate graduation policies for future classes.”

For more information about the lawsuit challenging the high school graduation regulations, click here.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


15 an hour hearing

JANUARY 24, 2019
Christian Estevez, President
Latino Action Network
2560 U.S. Highway 22, Suite 322
Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
Phone: (973) 418-7012

Good morning, my name is Christian Estevez and I am President of the Latino Action Network.  We are a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to mobilizing New Jersey’s Latino community to seek greater social, economic and educational justice. The Latino Action Network has been working with a broad coalition of organizations that are committed to helping New Jersey’s working poor by getting the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour.  

I thank you for the opportunity to testify today in support of Assembly Bill A-15 which raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour within 5 years for most workers.

While we believe that it would be more beneficial to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour immediately, the pace set forth in this bill for the implementation of the increase is a compromise that we feel we can live with.  It is imperative that we achieve a living wage posthaste.

We also remain concerned about those that will be left behind by this bill, especially farm workers and those that work for small businesses.  The bill collectors do not treat people differently based on where they work.  A gallon of milk costs the same for the person that works for the big corporation and the person that works for the small business or on a farm.  No discounts are given because you earn less.

While this bill is not perfect, we feel that we must support it because the status quo cannot be allowed to continue.

It is unacceptable that hard-working people, including a disproportionate number of Latinos, continue to struggle to meet the most basic of needs.  A person earning the current minimum wage in New Jersey of $8.85 per hour would barely earn $18,000 per year if they worked full-time.  That is below the poverty line as set forth by the federal government for a family of three.  The reality is that the average family in New Jersey has 2.7 children.  That means that in a family with 2 children, both parents would have to work full-time jobs just to keep their heads barely 
above the poverty line if they were both earning the minimum wage. Given that New Jersey is one of the most expensive states to live in, earning just above the federal poverty line is just not enough.  Unfortunately, this is a reality for far too many New Jersians.

Latinos are overrepresented amongst low wage earners:

Latinos constitute 17 percent of New Jersey’s population, yet account for 29 percent of low-wage earners that would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage according to a report issued by New Jersey Policy Perspective, an independent nonpartisan think tank that promotes shared prosperity and widespread economic opportunity in the Garden State.  According to the National Employment Law Project, almost 60 percent of Latino workers make less than $15 per hour. 

These numbers speak to the scope of the problem that low wages pose to Latino working families.  While low wages negatively impact workers from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, Latinos are the group that is most disproportionally impacted by this problem.  

The scale of the impact that low wages have on the Latino community can be seen in our schools where Latino parents have a difficult time participating in their children’s education since many have to work two or three jobs just to keep their families above water.  As a result, many Latino students fall further behind academically, making it harder for them to get into college so that they can compete for the high-skilled, high-wage careers that are in demand in New Jersey. Instead, far too many young Latino workers are relegated to low-skilled, low-wage work just like their parents.  

We have an opportunity to break this cycle by passing common-sense legislation that raises the minimum wage in New Jersey to $15 per hour within the next five years.  If we do not act now, we will relegate too many of our working families to poverty and foreclose on the futures of more generations of the children of the working poor.  

Raising the minimum wage will not only help Latino working families, but it will also help Latino owned small businesses and local economies since it will put more money in the pockets of consumers that will spend those dollars on their families’ necessities.  This additional economic activity will lead to job growth and increased profits in communities that are still struggling to recover from the recent economic crisis that was caused by wild speculation on Wall Street.  Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will deliver economic stimulus to Main Street where it is needed the most.

We at the Latino Action Network urge you to vote Assembly Bill A-15 favorably out of committee and we hope that your colleagues will support all of New Jersey’s working families by voting in favor of this bill when it reaches the floor of the Assembly.

Thank you.