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Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Latino Action Network President Christian Estevez issued the following statement in reaction to the appointment of Laura Matos to the New Jersey Apportionment Commission:
We thank New Jersey Democratic Party Chairman LeRoy Jones for appointing a Latina to the New Jersey Apportionment Commission. Laura Matos is a prominent member of our community and has a long, successful track record in state politics and public affairs. Latinos represent more than 20 percent of the New Jersey population, and from the beginning of this process, we have called on the Commission to properly represent our state’s diversity.
While this appointment is a good first step toward representation, it is critical that in the coming weeks the Commission work closely with advocates to develop a set of state legislative maps that properly represent our state and our community and build on the gains we made during the last legislative reapportionment process. Our state is the most diverse in the nation, and our Legislature must reflect that fact.
Friday, September 17, 2021
The Latino Action Network (LAN)
today announced its endorsement of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy for
Citing a long list of accomplishments, members of the Latino Action Network stated that Phil Murphy kept his promises and deserves another term as Governor of the State of New Jersey.
“The Latino community has accomplished more with Phil Murphy than we have under any other Governor in the history of New Jersey”, said Latino Action Network President Christian Estevez. “Governor Murphy has been a great partner in helping us move forward on a myriad of policy issues that have languished under previous administrations.”
“The Latino Action Network gives Governor Murphy special credit for his support for our key priorities including his signing of bills providing financial aid for DREAMers, driver’s licenses for immigrants, and the establishment of a fund to assist those that were excluded from relief during the pandemic,” he added.
LAN policy leaders provided more examples of the process the Latino community has made in partnership with Governor Murphy.
“We have made great strides under Governor Murphy in the area of housing equity and tenant protections. Just this summer he signed sweeping protections for tenants economically devastated by the pandemic. He also supported and signed legislation that restricts the ability of landlords to look back into the past criminal records of prospective tenants. Everyone deserves a chance at redemption. We look forward to another four years of Governor Murphy’s progressive agenda,” said Frank Argote-Freyre, President Emeritus and Chair of LAN Housing Committee
“Governor Murphy has signed numerous historic criminal justice reform and social justice bills into law, like the legalization of cannabis and the Emergency COVID Bill that humanely released several thousands of our sisters and brothers from incarceration in 2020. We look forward to working with the Governor on the implementation of these laws and continued progress on others,” said Ana “Cuqui” Rivera, Secretary and Chair of LAN Criminal Justice Reform Committee
“In September 2020, Governor Murphy signed into law New Jersey’s Environmental Justice law, which is the strongest measure in the nation to protect overburdened communities from pollutants. The law defines overburdened communities as those where a high percentage of residents are low-income, minority, and with limited English proficiency. This welcome law will make Latino communities stronger, healthier, and more resilient,” said Cynthia Mellon, Chair of LAN Environmental Justice Committee
“Over the last few years, Governor Murphy’s leadership has improved the lives of low-wage and poor families in New Jersey through expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an increased minimum wage, improvements in the Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) program, access to free college, and other interconnected supports for basic necessities. With these strong policy changes, residents have a greater quality of life and we have a stronger economy for all,” said Renee Koubiadis, Chair of LAN Equity Committee
“While we are extremely proud of all we have accomplished so far with the Governor, we know that we still have much work left to do,” concluded Estevez. “That is why the Latino Action Network has endorsed Governor Phil Murphy for another term and will do everything in our power to help him win re-election.”
LAN is a broad, statewide coalition of Latino organizations dedicated to political empowerment, social justice, the promotion of civil rights, and the elimination of disparities in various areas including education, health, housing, and employment. It was founded in 2009.
Monday, August 30, 2021
(The Op-Ed below was written by Frank Argote-Freyre, President Emeritus and Housing Committee Chair of the Latino Action Network.)
In New Jersey, too many families and individuals are fighting uphill battles to meet basic needs, including the need for quality affordable housing. Due to the Mount Laurel Doctrine, towns throughout the state are legally required to provide affordable housing units for low- and moderate-income residents. As a result of this doctrine, thousands of working poor families have found housing across New Jersey.
The success of the Mount Laurel Doctrine bothers some folks in the suburbs and wealthier communities who now must share their piece of paradise with — gasp — poor people of all complexions.
A recent opinion piece, “New Jersey must do better on housing policy to aid low-income families,” smeared the Mount Laurel Doctrine as a lucrative tool for developers that does not fulfill the intent of municipalities to provide affordable housing opportunities.
What does the author, a philosophy professor from Fordham University, suggest? He proposes incentives to rehabilitate housing in areas in “need of renewal.” Why? So, more people are not “crammed” into his suburban town of Caldwell. His solution was tried for two decades in the late 1990s and early 2000s and led to ongoing segregation. There is nothing wrong with renewing impoverished areas, but maybe, working poor families might also want to live in the suburbs?
For years, low-income people were excluded from participating in economic growth in our state. New Jersey towns saw populations grow, new housing developments built, and new businesses established. All this occurred as municipal land regulations excluded affordable housing opportunities, keeping those unable to pay for a home out of the community.
Imagine being unable to access decent housing, a safe neighborhood, or a good school simply because your family does not make enough money. The discriminatory zoning practices that existed throughout the state prior to the Mount Laurel Doctrine displaced poor residents who ended up being systematically left behind.
In January 2017, after multiple cases over many years, the New Jersey Supreme Court finally deemed exclusionary land-use unconstitutional and required every municipality across the state to provide realistic affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents.
But years of exclusionary practices will take a long time to rectify.
There are now over 300 municipalities, across New Jersey, working to address the lack of affordable housing. Local officials in these towns know their obligations regarding the number of affordable units they must create. They are working to redevelop or build affordable housing through public planning processes. Towns are utilizing a mix of strategies to increase housing availability, finding creative ways to meet affordable housing obligations with projects well suited to the community.
This planning is important, for the demand for housing in New Jersey is great. Approvals for new housing are not thrust upon local communities from on high but are the result of local decisions about what is best for each community. The Mount Laurel Doctrine serves as the mechanism that ensures communities and properties do not price out low- and moderate-income residents. How each community meets their obligation is theirs to determine, so long as their obligation is met.
New Jersey is a desirable place to live. Over the past century, we have experienced consistent population growth that continues to this day. To fully realize our potential as an inclusive state where economic growth is achieved, we need to ensure that all New Jerseyans have the chance to live wherever they want, and that means having access to the sublime pleasures of suburbia.
We have a long way to go to ensure access to affordable housing for all, but with each individual and family who moves to a new town, the vision for a fair and equitable New Jersey comes closer to reality.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
LAN President Christian Estevez spoke at the second New Jersey's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) hearing. The following is his testimony:
Good Morning, my name is Christian Estevez and I am the president of the Latino Action Network.
In the coming years, we will see many studies that try to figure out why Latinos were overrepresented by the negative impacts of this pandemic. However, those of us on the ground in the community see the causes first hand. We know that Latinos were more likely to work in jobs that did not allow them shelter in place by working from home. At the height of the pandemic, Latinos continued to work on the front lines providing essential services to New Jerseyans at great risk to their lives. Too many did not survive. For those that did survive, too many ended up worse off than they already were prior to the pandemic.
As the Governor has said on many occasions, the pandemic did not create inequity in communities of color, but it has laid those inequities bare.
Latino Community based organizations have a long history of providing much-needed direct outreach and social services to hard-to-reach Latino and immigrant communities throughout New Jersey. However, funding to these organizations which has always been inadequate has been severely cut over the past decade.
If we are to make sure that all New Jerseyans participate in the recovery from this pandemic, we have to make additional investments in communities that were already behind prior to the pandemic and have fallen further behind during the pandemic.
The Latino Action Network asks that American Rescue Plan funds be used to:
- Provide an additional $2 million to the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research, and Development targeted for direct services. These services should include expanding the capacity of community-based organizations to provide affordable immigration legal services and multi-service outreach in Latino communities. These multi-service programs will help offset the gap in COVID-19 testing and vaccination among Latino immigrants, as well as identify families in need of mediation for other basic life needs.
- Provide sufficient support for the Fund for Excluded New Jerseyans so that all people left behind from aid that are in need are able to access relief. Each individual that was excluded from aid during the pandemic should receive a $2,000 payment. Furthermore, many workers who lost their jobs were excluded from aid and have not received a penny in unemployment insurance, despite the fact that undocumented workers have paid more than $1.3 billion into the system over the past ten years in New Jersey. The Fund for Excluded New Jerseyans should also provide unemployment-like benefits in the form of $600 per week payments to workers that lost their jobs during the pandemic but do not qualify for unemployment insurance due to their immigration status. The total cost of this program is approximately $989 million.
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer, in what should have been a routine arrest, has ignited a national debate over the practices of police departments across the country and in New Jersey. One year after Floyd’s death, an AP-NORC poll shows 45% of Americans believe police violence against the public is extreme or very serious.
The shooting death of 14-year-old Adam Toledo by Chicago police has brought police violence against Latinos to the forefront and UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza) is partnering with Black Lives Matter groups to call attention to the disproportionate rate of Latino deaths at the hands of police officers (27 deaths per million residents for Latinos) versus 36 per million for African Americans and 15 per million for whites).
While many local departments continue to cling to and defend outmoded policing practices, the Latino Action Network recommends the following actions, which we believe will substantially reduce police violence and bring law enforcement strategies into the 21st century:
• Require each county and each municipality of 100,000+ residents to establish Civilian Complaint Review Boards under the control of the Administrative Office of the Courts, with subpoena and investigatory powers as approved by a judge of the Superior Court.
• Review and update currently available trainings/regulations on de-escalation techniques.
• Eliminate “qualified immunity” for all local and state law enforcement officers.
• Develop guidelines for tiered disciplinary actions for misconduct.
• Enforce mandatory use of body cameras and discipline officers who turn off or manipulate the device in order to obscure an interaction.
• Reverse the militarization of police department weapons, vehicles, tactics, and equipment.
• Establish police-mental health collaborations to minimize the use of police officers in situations involving people with mental health or substance use disorders.
• Pass laws that require forfeiture of pension for public servants who commit egregious violent acts or felonies and use forfeited funds to improve community/law enforcement relations.
• Provide “active bystander” training to encourage officers to intervene when witnessing misconduct by another officer and increase safe reporting systems to protect officers who report misconduct.
• Update licensing and decertification standards to increase the professionalization of law enforcement personnel.
• Conduct psychological, culturally appropriate screening of recruits and officers, perform periodic reviews and retraining, as needed.
• Provide greater and more effective supervision of officers in the field.
• Emphasize the use of non-lethal methods to immobilize and restrain suspects and control crowds. Increase funding for research into the development of new methods for non-lethal restraint of violent or dangerous suspects.
• Increase diversity of police personnel at all levels through statewide mandates that prioritize diversity in recruitment and hiring practices.
LAN Board Member, Community Advocate, & Diversity Business Leader Elisa Charters Appointed to NJIT Board of Trustees
Elisa Charters, a stalwart for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) and a dedicated alumna of New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has been appointed to its Board of Trustees.
Charters, a first-generation college student-athlete who attended NJIT with support from its Educational Opportunity Program, said, “I cannot express how extremely proud I am in this moment — as a daughter and first to attend college, as a mother of a daughter and son, as a wife of an NJIT alumnus (Brian Charters M.Eng. ’93) and most especially as a Latina advocate and professional representing other multicultural women who led before me and those who will follow.”
Charters is a principal in the consultancy EAC Business International and president of Latina Surge, a national nonprofit advocacy organization that she co-founded in 2015. Her NJIT roots run deep, as she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees here, has served on the Board of Advisors of its Martin Tuchman School of Management since 2014 and this year became a charter member of its Hispanic and Latinx Leadership Council (HLLC). The HLLC partners with corporate leaders and prominent community and professional organizations like the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of N.J. as it seeks to enroll more Hispanic and Latinx students and fuel NJIT’s drive to earn the federal designation of being a Hispanic-serving institution.
Charters personifies NJIT’s actionable goals in its strategic plan, as the university works to achieve DEIB across its core priorities of students, faculty, research, resources, and prominence. As the third Latina to serve on the Board, this appointment represents another concrete step toward progress.
“The Trustees and I look forward to the significant contribution that Elisa will make,” NJIT President Joel S. Bloom said. “She embodies the best of NJIT: smart, driven, passionate, and a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And Elisa’s dedication to her alma mater is exceptional.”
In addition to her degrees at NJIT — a bachelor’s in environmental science/science, technology, and society in 1992 and a master’s in environmental science/chemical engineering in 1993 — Charters holds a master of international affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, a graduate certificate in commercial real estate, development and finance from New York University, professional certification in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University’s ILR School and ABA paralegal accreditation from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Charters has also served on the Essex County Planning Board; Columbia University’s Task Force on Belonging; the Latino Alumni Association of Columbia University, where she is president; the Board of Advisors of the Feliciano School of Business at Montclair State University; and the Board of Regents at Delbarton School. She’s passionate about volunteering to serve women and children at risk, as a global network leader within the Lean In organization, a sustainer of the Junior League of Montclair-Newark, and a Latino Action Network Steering Committee member.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s appointment of Elisa to NJIT’s Board marks her third gubernatorial appointment. She previously served as vice-chair of the Board of Directors of the N.J. Health Care Facilities Financing Authority under former Gov. Chris Christie and on the N.J. Minority and Business Advisory Board under former Gov. Jon Corzine.
Earlier in her career, Charters spent 14 years at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which hired her directly from NJIT’s Career Development Services. While there, she held a series of progressively responsible roles — from management fellow to lead negotiator for site acquisitions and operations in the redevelopment of the World Trade Center and ultimately, assistant comptroller for Port Commerce financial services. She also served as president of the Port Authority Hispanic Society, a Latinx employee affinity group.
Charters began her term as a Trustee this month. NJIT’s 15-member board is chaired by alumnus Robert C. Cohen ’83, ’84, ’87, the president of digital, robotics, and enabling technologies at Stryker.