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, March 25, 2020

Menendez Lauds Wins for NJ Workers, Hospitals, Small Businesses in Bipartisan COVID-19 Response Package

Senator: Bipartisan deal gives NJ, nation fighting chance at defeating COVID-19, restoring promise of our economy

$2T package includes direct payments & enhanced unemployment assistance for workers, unprecedented aid to small businesses, critical support for frontline hospitals & states

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the select bipartisan team negotiating the bill, issued the following statement on the agreement of a $2 trillion federal stimulus package to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic:

"I am relieved that bipartisanship prevailed at a time when the stakes have never been higher, and the lives of so many Americans are on the line.

“At the start of these negotiations, there was a strong possibility that the Senate majority would push through a trillion-dollar spending package that failed to shore up our fight against COVID-19, abandoned states like New Jersey on the frontlines of this pandemic, and left small businesses and working families behind while big corporations pocketed massive bailouts.

"Fortunately, we fought back, we stood our ground, and today we have a bipartisan deal that gives New Jersey and the nation a fighting chance at defeating COVID-19 and restoring the promise of our economy.

"First and foremost, this package will deliver billions of dollars of aid and loans to hospitals so that our doctors, nurses, and frontline health care workers have the resources they need to conduct testing, treat the sick, and ultimately save lives.  The wealth of our nation hinges on the health of our people, and there’s simply no path to long-term economic prosperity that does not begin with defeating COVID-19.

"Secondly, this legislation responds to the urgent needs of states like New Jersey, which has already spent billions of dollars battling the nation’s second-highest number of COVID-19 cases.  I’m proud to have fought for the state stabilization funds in this deal, which will ensure New Jersey’s state and local governments are not bankrupted by the battle against a global pandemic while maintaining essential critical services, like emergency response, during this critical time.

"Finally, this bipartisan package comes to the aid of small businesses and workers suffering as a result of the drastic, but vital social distancing measures we must take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and ultimately save lives.  Direct payments will help working families weather this storm, and I’m pleased that Democrats successfully fought to ensure low-income Americans aren’t shortchanged in the middle of a national crisis.

“We also secured major improvements to unemployment benefits.  For the first time ever, employers will be able to furlough workers instead of outright laying them off, enabling them to keep their health benefits while receiving an additional four months of enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government.  This will not only keep working people afloat, but also ensure they have jobs to return to once this crisis is behind us.

“We also won an unprecedented $377 billion pool of economic aid for America’s small businesses.  These low-cost and forgivable loans will help New Jersey’s restaurants, retailers, and other local businesses make payroll, pay rent, protect jobs and ultimately drive our recovery.

"Congress had an obligation not just to respond to this crisis quickly but to do so in a responsible way.  When spending a trillion-plus dollars of American taxpayer money, we cannot afford to get it wrong and we must always stand up for what’s right.

“There is much more work to do to ensure the safety and economic wellbeing of our residents and communities, and I stand ready to fight for New Jersey’s priorities in Washington.”


·        $260 billion for workers.  An extended and expanded Unemployment Insurance program increases the maximum unemployment benefit amount by $600 per week above one’s base unemployment compensation benefit through July and ensures that workers who are laid-off or out of work, on average, will receive their full pay for four months. It ensures that workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed and workers in the gig economy. 

·        Direct payments to families.  $1,200 for most individuals, $2,400 for couples and $500 per child.

·        $377 billion for small business.  A priority for Sen. Menendez, these funds would be used for forgivable loans and grants to small businesses and non-profits so they can maintain their existing workforce and help pay other expenses during this crisis, like rent, a mortgage or utilities. 

·        $150 billion for hospitals, health care facilities.  A priority for Sen. Menendez, this includes a massive new grant program for hospitals and health care providers, personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new construction to house patients, emergency operation centers and more.  Additional funding is also dedicated to increased Medicare payments to all hospitals and providers to ensure that they receive the funding they need during this crisis, and new investments in our country’s Strategic National Stockpile, surge capacity and medical research into COVID-19.

·        $150 billion state and local government stabilization fund.  This critical funding will be a temporary lifeline to states and communities that are seeing huge budget holes that have been created by the economic slowdown and response to COVID-19.  While more work needs to be done, this $150 billion fund is a strong down payment that will keep communities going and ensure they have the resources to respond to this public health emergency. 

·        $230 billionemergency appropriations.”  Funding ranges from billions for hard-hit airports, increased aid to municipalities, funding for child care, nutrition for seniors, housing assistance, support for local school and colleges, and for the National Guard to support to the hardest hit States and territories.

o   $25 billion for transit systems. These dollars can be used to supplement revenues due to steep declines in ridership and to cover additional costs of coronavirus-related cleaning products and labor.

o   $400 million in election assistance.  Funding for the states to help prepare for the 2020 election cycle, including to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in-person by providing additional voting facilities and more poll workers.

o   $7 billion for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs. Funding will help low-income and working class Americans avoid evictions and minimize any impacts caused by loss of employment, child care, or other unforeseen circumstances related to COVID-19.  Funding also supports additional assistance and for people experiencing homelessness.

o   $30 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support the on-going functionality of school districts and institutions.

o   $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus.

o   $6.5 billion in Federal funding for CDBG, the Economic Development Administration, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help mitigate the local economic crisis and rebuild impacted industries such as tourism or manufacturing supply chains.

o   $10 billion in grants to help our nation’s airports as the aviation sector grapples with the most steep and potentially sustained decline in air travel in history.

o   $4.3 billion to CDC to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, including for the purchase of personal protective equipment; laboratory testing to detect positive cases; infection control and mitigation at the local level to prevent the spread of the virus; and other public health preparedness and response activities.

o   $1.4 billion for deployments of the National Guard to support up to 20,000 members of the National Guard, under the direction of the governors of each state, for the next six months in order to bolster state and local response efforts.

o   $19.57 billion for VA to provide equipment, tests, and support services necessary to provide veterans with the additional care they need at facilities nationwide.

o   $45 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund.  More than doubling the available funding, to provide for the immediate needs of state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, as well as private non-profits performing critical and essential services, to protect citizens and help them recover from the overwhelming effects of COVID-19. Reimbursable activities may include medical response, personal protective equipment, National Guard deployment, coordination of logistics, safety measures, and community services nationwide.

o   $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile supplies of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which are distributed to State and local health agencies, hospitals and other healthcare entities facing shortages during emergencies.

o   $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to bolster domestic supply chains, enabling industry to quickly ramp up production of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other urgently needed medical supplies, and billions dollars more for federal, state, and local health agencies to purchase such equipment.

Sen. Menendez and other Democrats fought to achieve the following improvements from the original bill put forth Sunday by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

·        $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for operating costs once a small business or non-profit has applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
·        $17 billion for SBA to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.
·        Allow rent, mortgage and utility costs to be eligible for SBA loan forgiveness.
·        $30 billion in emergency education funding and $25 billion in emergency transit funding.
·        Four months of enhanced unemployment insurance, instead of 3 months.
·        $55 billion increase in support for our healthcare system.
·        $150 billion for a state and local Coronavirus Relief fund.
·        $30 billion in additional funding for the Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to state and local governments, as well as private nonprofits providing critical and essential services. 
·        Ban stock buybacks for the term of the government assistance plus one year on any company receiving a government loan.
·        Establish robust worker protections attached to all federal loans for businesses.
·        Create real-time public reporting of Treasury transactions under the Act, including terms of loans, investments or other assistance to corporations.  
·        Add a retention tax credit for employers to encourage businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis.
·        Provide income tax exclusion for individuals who are receiving student loan repayment assistance from their employer.
·        Eliminated $3 billion bailout for big oil.
·        Eliminated “secret bailout” provision that would have allowed bailouts to corporations to be concealed for six months.
·        Saved hundreds of thousands of airline industry jobs and prohibited airlines from stock buybacks and CEO bonuses.

Click Here for the full list of Sen. Menendez’s actions to protect New Jersey families during the COVID-19 outbreak.


Sunday, March 1, 2020

Elección Latina and Ready to Run

LUPE PAC is sponsoring the first ten women to register for Elección Latina, a pre-conference session of the New Jersey Ready to Run® Campaign Training for Women.   
About Elección Latina and Ready to Run®
Elección Latina participants attend a half-day session that targets issues of particular interest to Latinas running for political office. They then attend Ready to Run® to learn about the nuts and bolts of working on a campaign.
Ready to Run® features two tracks for women at different points in their political careers: 
Track 1 - I'm Ready to Run, Now What? 
Track 2 - I'm Not Ready to Run Yet, But... 
Full conference details are available here.

Op-Ed: Victory Seen in Fight over Affordable Housing in NJ

Op-Ed: Victory Seen in Fight over Affordable Housing in NJ

Nearly 350 towns have now reached settlements with fair-housing advocates, paving the way for thousands of new residences

After years of struggle, New Jersey can finally mark an important victory in the fight for fair and affordable housing.

Years of inaction from Trenton had helped make our state — one of the most expensive in the country — even more segregated. But decisive action by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2015 helped break through the gridlock, reviving our fair-housing laws, known as the Mount Laurel doctrine, by giving the courts jurisdiction over enforcement.

Four years later, almost all of the 350 towns that sought court approval for their housing plans have reached settlements with advocates and civil-rights leaders to clear the way for the construction of tens of thousands of new homes for working families, in safe neighborhoods that are close to jobs and good schools.

Our state is now a national leader in the fight for affordable and inclusive housing. New Jersey has done much in such a short period of time to ensure that wealthier communities are opened up to people of all races and income levels.

With thousands of new homes being built across the state, good jobs and schools will soon be in reach for families locked out of opportunity by restrictive zoning rules that artificially drove up the cost of housing.

These new homes represent a renewed sense of promise and the hope for a bright future, giving parents and grandparents a leg up in the struggle to lift their children out of poverty.

And they prove the naysayers wrong.

Unfounded fears

For years, powerful forces within our state kept us from making progress in the fight to address New Jersey’s affordable-housing crisis, claiming that expanding opportunities for low-income families and breaking down barriers of racial exclusion would somehow hurt middle-class families.

Instead, we’re learning that our communities are stronger when blighted office parks and empty strip malls are redeveloped into vibrant mixed-use communities that reduce sprawl and increase affordability with diverse housing options, like apartments and starter homes.

The affordable-housing process established by the state Supreme Court didn’t just cut through years of Trenton gridlock. It also brought towns to the table with advocates and nonprofits to come up with creative solutions that leveraged new reforms at the state level.

Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy instituted changes to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, a federal program administered at the state level that funds affordable rental-housing projects. The administration’s reforms ensured millions of additional dollars would flow to projects in wealthier, whiter suburban communities to tackle the problem of racial segregation — while still preserving funds to rebuild urban centers.

We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this major civil-rights victory without leadership from the governor, the courts and our legislative leaders. Sticking with the court process has gotten shovels in the ground and opened doors to high-opportunity communities.

More work needs to be done

But as far as we’ve come, there is still more we can do to ensure we take full advantage of this historic opportunity.

The Legislature and the governor must work together to combat insidious racial barriers that can prevent families of color from moving into these new homes.
We need to pass strong new protections that ensure that New Jerseyans aren’t excluded from housing opportunities because of prior criminal convictions.
Affordable-housing opportunities are also sometimes difficult to track down for working families. We need a central clearinghouse that residents and advocates can turn to.

And we still need to build on the work Governor Murphy and the Legislature have already done to tackle the current foreclosure crisis by converting vacant and abandoned residential properties into new affordable-housing opportunities.
The new homes being constructed as a result of the Mount Laurel doctrine won’t end our state’s housing crisis. Far more people need access to safe, affordable homes than exist in our state.

But the fair and aggressive enforcement of our fair-housing laws provides real opportunities for tens of thousands of families.

It’s time to celebrate this milestone while continuing the fight so that every New Jersey family, no matter their race or income, has the ability to live in a community with good schools and jobs.

Christian Estevez is president of the Latino Action Network, a statewide advocacy organization.

The 2020 LAN Legislative Conference

The 2020 LAN Legislative Conference 

Our annual conference was a success! We celebrated a decade of advocacy! Hispanic leaders from across the state convened at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark to discuss the major issues affecting their respective communities.

Governor Phil Murphy Spoke about the great work he has that has helped Hispanic families in New Jersey such as signing bills raising the minimum wage and providing driver’s licenses to the undocumented.

 The Reverend Charles Boyer was our keynote speaker. A long-time advocate of social justice, Boyer spoke about the great work being done.

Our panels on political involvement, immigration, education, labor, criminal justice, the census, poverty, housing, youth activism, health, and women's health sparked lively debates and connected advocates.

“This great conference was a success thanks to the strength in collaboration of many entities and the diversity in strengths. The Latino Action Network is only as effective as the people that make up our membership. By bringing together grassroots organizers and leaders like you, LAN harnesses the natural talent and energy that already exists in our community. Working together, we turn that collective power into community action,” said Vice President of Membership Maria Andrade.

And while much remains to be done, LAN is happy to celebrate the victories it has won over the years fighting to improve the lives of Hispanic families in the state and ending solitary confinement.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Governor Murphy Signs Driver’s License Bill into Law

Governor Murphy Signs Driver’s License Bill into Law
Culmination of a 15-Year Struggle

LAN President Emeritus Frank Argote-Freyre receiving pen from Governor Phil Murphy during Bill Signing Ceremony.

Governor Phil Murphy today signed the law permitting undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, the culmination of a 15-year advocacy campaign by the Latino activist organizations across New Jersey.

“Since the founding of the Latino Action Network in 2009, this has been our number one legislative priority,” said Christian Estevez, President of LAN. “Governor Murphy’s signing of this bill is a landmark moment for our community and the entire state of New Jersey. It makes our state a more humane and safer place to live. The coming together of a wide range of constituencies made this possible. It challenges the tone of intolerance set by President Trump at the national level.”

Estevez noted that the list of allies both in government and on the activist side that helped make it possible is long. In addition to Governor Murphy, key allies were Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, and State Senators Teresa Ruiz, Nellie Pou, Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Ron Rice and Nia Gill. Key allies in the African American community included NAACP NJ State Conference President Richard Smith, Charles Boyer, leader of Salvation and Social Justice and Eric Dobson of the Fair Share Housing Center.

Frank Argote-Freyre, President Emeritus of LAN and a professor of Latin American history at Kean University made the following statement: “This is a historic moment for the Latino community of New Jersey. It is a moment when the organizing power of the community reached a new level. I am confident it will be seen as a turning point in the struggle for self-empowerment by generations to come. We are fortunate at this time to have a Governor willing to show courage in the face of unrelenting attacks on the immigrant community by a shameless President. His support for our community will be long remembered.”

The Latino Action Network 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.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

2020 LAN Legislative Conference

Join the Latino Action Network Legislative Conference to celebrate 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! 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Governor Murphy Strengthens Expungement Reforms and Provides for Pathway to Automatic Expungement


Governor’s Conditional Veto Also Requires Sealing of Marijuana Offenses and Allows for “Clean Slate” Expungements for Those Who Have Clean Records for Ten Years

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today conditionally vetoed Senate Bill No. 3205, which would institute several major reforms to the State’s expungement law and allow individuals convicted of certain offenses to petition a court to remove information about those offenses from their criminal records. As described in more detail below, the Governor’s recommendations require the creation of a system for automatic expungements for those with clean records for at least ten years, and allow for judicial sealing of low-level marijuana offenses, ensuring that individuals cannot have those convictions used against them in the future.

“I applaud the sponsors’ commitment to social justice, and their efforts to correct historic wrongs inflicted on our communities by a criminal justice system that has at times unfairly, and harshly punished individuals,” said Governor Murphy. “Providing relief for those who have served their time, and lifting the constraints placed on them from finding meaningful work, and providing for their families following a conviction and time served is a priority that I share with legislative leaders and advocates.”

“However, I believe this bill can go further for the cause of justice, and I am hopeful that we can move forward together with a bill that provides a path to automatic expungement and allows for relief for those convicted for those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses,” Governor Murphy continued. “I will continue to work with the Legislature build a more complete system of expungements, so that more New Jerseyans are given a second chance and can better reintegrate into our society.”

Clean Slate Expungement System

The Governor’s changes would require the State to implement an “automated clean slate expungement system” – an automatic system of expungements for individuals convicted of multiple crimes who have had a clean record for at least ten years, obviating the need for an attorney or the need to engage in a paperwork heavy administrative process. In order to meet the bill’s implementation requirement, the Governor’s changes establish a task force to study the technological, fiscal, resource and practical issues and challenges involved in developing such a system, and to provide recommendations on how to create the system.

As an interim measure to help those who have had clean records for at least a decade, the Governor’s changes recommend that a clean slate petition process be available for the limited period between the bill’s effective date and the implementation of an automated clean slate expungement system.  The bill calls for a $15 million supplemental appropriation to the Department of Law and Public Safety to support its processing of clean slate expungement petitions. 

Marijuana and Hashish Convictions

As passed, S3205 establishes an expedited expungement process for certain minor marijuana, hashish, and paraphernalia convictions. While laudable for its social justice aims, such a process may have the unintended and unfair effect of delaying the review of standard expungement petitions. The Governor’s changes therefore suggest having the court immediately seal an individual’s record upon the disposition of charges for possession or distribution of a small amount of marijuana or hashish or related drug paraphernalia.  Further, the Governor’s change would ensure that the sealed marijuana or hashish convictions cannot not be used for sentencing purposes in any other case.  This process provides relief while avoiding delays.

Changes to Existing Expungement Procedures

The Governor’s changes would require the State to establish an electronic expungement filing system that would streamline expungement processing, eliminate filing fees to petition for an expungement, and eliminate the current expensive requirement on individuals to send notices of the petition to various law enforcement agencies. These changes would lift the financial and time-consuming burden on individuals seeking relief.

The Governor’s changes also recommend incorporating amendments suggested by the Administrative Office of the Courts, which address technical and procedural issues identified by the Judicial Branch, which is responsible for conducting the expungement petition filing and hearing process.  The Governor’s changes suggest modifications from the Department of Treasury that are designed to facilitate the collection of fines in response to changes in the bill that shift responsibility from the courts to the Department. 

Advocates expressed their support for the Governor’s conditional veto.

“The NAACP has been involved in the cannabis conversation solely because of its connection to civil rights,” said Richard T. Smith, President of the NAACP New Jersey State Chapter. “We believe that the wrongs committed by the war on drugs and its agents can not begin to be repaired until people can have their lives back from senseless low-level marijuana offenses. We are glad to see the Governor's office conditionally veto this bill in hopes of making it stronger and the language clearer. The NAACP looks forward to working with the Governor's office to ensure that everyone will have open access to free and expedited expungement."

“This is a major step towards the restoration of thousands of lives,” said Reverend Charles Boyer. “Governor Murphy continues to show his commitment to unravel a punitive system disproportionately inflicted upon people of color. This is robust; this is a commitment; this is real.”
"On behalf of the Latino Acton Network we celebrate not only this legislation but also Governor Murphy’s conditional veto that adds automatic expungement for individuals who have had stayed crime and conviction free for ten years or more," said Cuqui Rivera, Criminal Justice Reform Chair at the Latino Action Network. “The stigma surrounding a criminal record is debilitating in so many aspects of one’s journey that to rebuild their lives after time served is virtually beyond possible. As advocates in criminal justice reform for the last 2 decades, we have worked long and hard on this very legislation. Thank you to ALL in the legislature, the administration and the advocate community who have worked so hard to realize this victory. It takes the Village. 

“Governor Murphy's conditional veto puts our state on the path to ensure that New Jerseyans burdened with criminal convictions – disproportionately people of color – will no longer need to navigate an onerous legal system to obtain the well-documented benefits of expungement," said Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. "Instead, they will be able to expunge their records as soon as they become eligible. In the coming months, the ACLU-NJ will work hard to guarantee that the task force created by the CV provides recommendations, and that the Legislature takes up legislation, to create a fairer and more efficient system for expungements."

Read the conditional veto here.