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, July 28, 2021

Testimony By the Latino Action Network at the New Jersey ARPA Virtual Hearing II

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.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted New Jersey’s Latino Community, with Latinos having the highest rates of COVID infection and COVID-related deaths.  For those of us in the Latino community, this is not just a statistic.  Over the past year and a half, we have lost far too many family members and friends to this deadly virus.  I will not even try to list those Latinos who were close to me that perished during this pandemic because my time allotment today will not allow it.

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. 
The State of New Jersey is in a unique position to make investments that will make sure that Latinos get to participate in the State’s recovery.  We ask that you do so.

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.