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.

2021 LAN (Virtual) Legislative Conference


The Latino Action Network’s annual Legislative Conference is the largest gathering of Hispanic community organizers and public policy advocates in the state of New Jersey. The 2020 conference was attended by over 350 activists and elected officials from every corner of our great state. As we head into this new year, we are looking forward to continuing to address the political and social issues that affect all Latinos living in our communities.

The conference will take place on Saturday, March 6th, 2021, VIRTUALLY

The Latino Action Network’s annual Legislative Conference is the largest gathering of Hispanic community organizers and public policy advocates all around the state of New Jersey. The 2020 conference was attended by over 350 activists and elected officials from every corner of our great state. As we head into this new year, we are looking forward to continuing to address the political and social issues that affect all Latinos living in our communities.

The conference will take place on Saturday, March 6th, 2021, VIRTUALLY

The schedule will include a full day’s program, with keynote presentations from federal and state legislators plus dynamic workshops with panels discussing a full array of issues in accordance with our legislative agenda for 2021 and beyond.

These VIRTUAL PANELS will focus on immigration, political empowerment, workers' rights, criminal justice, and many other topics. We are asking those who register to consider attending two of these panels based on their interests and legislative priorities. 

The Latino Action Network is looking forward to your presence during our annual conference, as we work together to advocate for the Latino community all around the state of New Jersey.

This event 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 Latino Action Network.

*NOTE* LINK to Latino Action Network 2021 Annual Legislative Virtual Conference will be sent to registered participants only.





9:00 am – 9:15 am - “Doors Open”


9:15 am - 10:00 am - Introductions and Speakers


10:00 am - 11:15 am - Workshop Session “A”


11:25 am - 12:40 pm - Workshop Session “B”


12:50 am - 1:30 pm - Closing Speakers



Workshop Session “A” 

(10:00 AM - 11:15 AM)


1.   Labor

2.   Health

3.   Immigration

4.   Disability Rights

5.   Environmental Justice

6.   Education


Workshop Session “B” 

(11:25 AM – 12:40 PM)


1.   Housing

2.   Criminal Justice Reform

3.   Political Empowerment

4.   Income Inequality

5.   Youth Activism

6.   Social Services



Workshop Session 1 (10:00 am – 11:15 am)

Labor: Fighting for Latino Workers’ Rights to Health & Safety During COVID

Moderator: Henry Pena, Chair, Latino Action Network Labor Committee and State Director, U.P.L.I.F.T.


Sara Cullinane, Executive Director, Make the Road New Jersey

Roberto Cabanas, Field Director, New Jersey Communities United

Latinx workers have a long history of struggling for decent wages, safe working conditions and a voice at work.  The COVID-19 pandemic has put an extra strain on Latinx workers, and immigrant workers in general, who tend to work under the most dangerous working conditions.  Seemingly safe work environments have become the front lines due to COVID.  Our panelists will discuss actions taken by Latinx workers to protect their own health and safety on the job and for access to aid that is available to other workers.  They will discuss how unionized Latina workers used the power of their union and their new contract to fight for safe working conditions.  They will also discuss organizing campaigns led by other workers excluded from federal aid and the fight to win enforceable workplace safety protections during COVID.



Health: Disparities of the COVID Pandemic in Latino communities

Moderator: Dr. Ann D. Bagchi, Chair, Health Committee, Latino Action Network


Beatriz Oesterheld, Executive Director & CEO, Community Affairs & Resource Center

Nayeli Salazar de Noguera, Program Outreach Manager for COVID Vaccination, New Jersey Department of Health

The Health panel will focus on disparities of the COVID pandemic in Latino communities. Dr. Ann Bagchi will talk about the structural determinants of health and how they lead to disparities in COVID vaccine distribution. Ms. Beatriz Oesterheld will discuss how community partnerships can improve vaccine uptake in Latino communities. Ms. Nayeli Salazar will discuss how the New Jersey Department of Health is addressing COVID testing and vaccination in Latino and other minority communities.



Immigration Policy 1996 - 2021: How We Got Here and Charting the Road Ahead


Moderator: Katy Sastre, Campaign Strategist, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice


Deyanira Aldana, Immigration Lead, Make the Road NJ - DACA recipient and former national organizer on DACA campaign with United We Dream

Chia-Chia Wang, Organizing and Advocacy Director, American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program

Robert Matos-Moran, Outreach Specialist, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez

Since the passage of the 1996 immigration laws, hundreds of thousands of immigrants have been deported from the United States. The average annual number of people deported in recent years is almost four times more than in 1996. The 1996 immigration laws greatly increased the opportunity for family separation through detention and fast track deportations and significantly contributed to the criminalization of entire swaths of the immigrant community, with a profound impact on immigrants from Latin America and Latinx communities in the United States. Our panelists will provide an overview of the harmful effects of the 1996 laws, some of the gains we have made at the federal and state level since then, and how much further we have to go to make the United States a truly inclusive nation that lives up to its ideals. We will discuss the ways in which states have stepped in to address gaps at the federal level, including important wins for the immigrant community over the last few years in NJ. The panel will close with recommendations for current and future avenues for involvement at the local, state, and federal levels.


Disability Rights and Advocacy: Fighting for Inclusion, Awareness, and Equity


Moderator: Javier Robles, Executive Vice President, Latino Action Network and Founder, New Jersey Disability Action Committee 


Millie Gonzalez - President, Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies

Colleen Roche, Board Chair, Alliance Center for Independence

The history of disability and civil rights as it relates to the Latinx community has been fraught with successes and challenges. Long-time disabled advocates and experts will discuss the Disability Rights Movement and the tools they have used to increase inclusion, awareness, and equity. Panelists will discuss some of the individual and collective efforts they have taken on behalf of New Jerseyans with disabilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This workshop will provide participants with practical tools to affect systems change for all people within and beyond our communities. 



Environmental Justice: Latinos on the Frontline of Pollution and the Climate Crisis


Facilitator: Cynthia Mellon, Chair, Environmental Justice Committee, Latino Action Network


Maria Lopez Nunez, Deputy Director, Ironbound Community Corporation:

Melissa Miles, Executive Director, NJ Environmental Justice Alliance

Anthony Diaz, Founder, Newark Water Coalition

One definition of Environmental Justice is the “fair” distribution of environmental benefits and burdens.” Yet, across the U.S., Latinx and Black communities are disproportionately burdened with polluting facilities and practices. Nowhere is this more starkly evident than in New Jersey. We will hear about the latest struggles and what NJ’s new Environmental Justice law may have to offer, along with ways to support communities on the frontlines of pollution and the climate crisis.



Education Equity: Bridging the Widening Divide

Moderator: Christian Estevez, President, Latino Action Network


Sharon Krengel, Policy & Outreach Director, Education Law Center

Elise Boddie, Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School

Julie Larrea Borst, Executive Director, Save Our Schools

The inequities in public education have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  For Latinx and other students of color, the digital divide has widened, and overall quality of instruction has suffered.  The social safety net provided by schools in poor communities of color has been disrupted.  Our panelists will discuss the impact that the current crisis has had on the education and overall lives of Latinx students.  This panel will look back at the educational disparities that already existed and were only made much worse by the pandemic. They will also look forward toward what must be done to not only return our students to a pre-pandemic “normal”, but rather to move our kids closer to true educational equality.



Workshop Session 2 (11:25 am – 12:40 pm)

Housing: Facing the Eviction Tsunami


Moderator: Frank Argote-Freyre, President Emeritus, Latino Action Network


James Williams, Director of Racial Justice Policy, Fair Share Housing Center

Connie Pascale, Vice President and General Counsel, Legal Services of New Jersey

The Coronavirus Pandemic has devastated communities of color across the nation and in New Jersey. People of Color are dying in disproportionate numbers and those that survive are facing economic devastation. Aside from the disease, food insecurity and an uncertain housing picture are the two most ominous threats facing the community. For the time being, Governor Murphy has placed a moratorium on evictions but what happens when it expires? How will impacted tenants be able to pay their back rent? What plan does New Jersey have to address the housing crisis? This panel explores the steps that government and advocates need to take to avert a humanitarian crisis.

Criminal Justice Reform: The Struggle Continues

Moderator: Cuqui Rivera, Criminal Justice Reform Committee Chair, LAN


Hon. Linda Greenstein, NJ Senator, LD14

Rich Rivera, Vice President, National Coalition of Latino Officers

Edwin “Chino” Ortiz, Executive Director, Returning Citizens Support Group, Newark NJ

Experts and Advocates will discuss criminal justice reform in New Jersey. We will distinguish between legislation and the implementation of many criminal justice historic laws passed in NJ of late. We will describe the good, the bad, the ugly, and how to support the work ahead. There will be an inclusive discussion on the incredible challenges faced to protect and further criminal justice reform in 2021 and beyond. We will have a no-nonsense dialogue about the significant reductions in the prison, halfway house, and juvenile facilities populations and its implications for so many newly entering back into the community. We will describe the conditions of those who remain in prison in a COVID world. We will give concrete recommendations on how to get involved and what resources are available.


Political Empowerment: Navigating the “Perfect” Storm


Moderator: Javier Robles, Executive Vice President, Latino Action Network


Christian Estevez, President, Latino Action Network

Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, President, LUPEAction

2021 was destined to be a pivotal year in New Jersey politics even without the pandemic.  Every decade, New Jersey must deal with the process of Legislative Redistricting during the same year that all members of the State Legislature are up for re-election.  This year the Governor is also up for re-election.  Add to all of this, the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays in the collection of Census data that has resulted in a delay in New Jersey getting the data it needs to begin the redistricting process.  This convergence of forces has created a “perfect storm” that Latinos must navigate as we continue to struggle for increased representation at all levels of government.  Our panelists will unpack these moving parts and lead a discussion amongst participants regarding the challenges we face and what we must do collectively to overcome them.



Income Inequality: How We Can Shape a Better Future


Moderator: Renee Koubiadis, MSW, LSW, Executive Director, Anti-Poverty Network of NJ and Steering Committee member, Latino Action Network


Elisa Charters, President and Co-Founder, Latina Surge and Steering Committee member, Latino Action Network

Evelyn Liebman, Advocacy Director, AARP New Jersey

Women, and especially Latinas, are overrepresented in lower income categories due in large part to wage and educational inequality. However, there are steps that organizations and individuals can take to mitigate these gaps. Further harming Latino families is the fact that New Jersey did not increase its WorkFirst NJ/TANF grants for over 31 years in a program that can be punitive, thereby contributing to a steep decline of 91% participation and eligibility. This means that many families are not receiving this vital assistance to climb out of deep poverty or to weather the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the other critical needs for individuals and families impacting their health, safety, and financial security before and during the pandemic is access to and affordability of utilities, including gas, electric, water, internet, and phone service.  In this workshop will focus on the intersections of these vital issues for the well-being of Latino families and new developments that can help shift access and move towards economic and social justice.


Youth Activism: Including Latinx Youth Now for a Better Tomorrow

Moderator: Maria J. Andrade, Vice President Membership - Latino Action Network


Valeria Posso, Youth Leaders Organizer, Latino Action Network Foundation (LANF) 

Nicole Mendez, Latinx Youth Organizing Trainee, LAN Foundation

Jennifer Garcia, Latinx Youth Organizer Trainee, LAN Foundation

Student engagement is central to the equitable integration of public schools in New Jersey.  By bringing their unique experiences and insights to this work—as those most directly and immediately affected by education inequity—Latinx students have the potential to significantly deepen our collective understanding of the racial and class inequities that plague New Jersey public schools and to lead the way in transforming them. The Latino Action Network Foundation (LANF) in collaboration with Salvation and Social Justice are currently setting the stage for student engagement and leadership to advance solutions that they identify. We will discuss how engaging Latinx youth in community and political activism now will impact our community over the next 10 years and beyond.


Social Services: Latino CBO’s and the Pandemic Response

Moderator: Dr. Jesselly de la Cruz, Executive Director, Latino Action Network Foundation


Beatriz Oesterheld, Executive Director & CEO, Community Affairs & Resource Center

Daniel Santo Pietro, Vice President of Public Policy, Latino Action Network

Latinos were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 pandemic including the social and economic stressors during a statewide shutdown. However, Latino-based community based social service organizations remained at the front lines of the pandemic response. From creating virtual to limited in-person services, Latino CBO’s struggled to meet the increasing need and demand for social services and supports. As trusted community messengers, how can Latino CBO’s collectively organize to garner the funding to bridge the gap in services for Latinos in NJ? This workshop will focus on integrating a community action strategy toward meeting the community needs from vaccines, community access to testing, equitable care, supports for people across the lifespan, and other basic needs.