The Latino vote and where we go from here

Last week, we at the Latin American Coalition held a 2012 Post-Election Press Briefing & Reception at Packard Place, a facility in downtown Charlotte that gives entrepreneurs and creative visionaries space and opportunity to create and innovate. Co-founder, Dan Roselli, welcomed the crowd and shared Packard Place’s three guiding principles: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Community.

As we look to the kind of Charlotte and North Carolina we want to live in, these principles could also serve as a vision for a prosperous and inclusive community. Packard Place is a living, breathing reminder of how when you give everyday folks an opportunity, they tend to do something remarkable.

However, opportunity is something that is often hard to come by for mixed status immigrant families- folks who work hard for their children and their communities. During the briefing, two of our remarkable activists, Selene Medina and Mary Espinoza, eloquently shared their stories and their struggle for opportunity.

Selene spoke of her personal challenges and limited opportunities as a high-performing student who happens to be undocumented. It is hard to fathom why states like North Carolina continue to require undocumented students- no matter how talented or brilliant-  to pay triple tuition rates; a barrier to entry far too high for most immigrant students or families. We are only hurting ourselves, our economies, our communities when we institutionalize poverty for the fastest growing population in our state.

Mary spoke of the deep pain of being a U.S. citizen who worries about what will happen to her undocumented family members- who call Charlotte their home and who are at risk of being deported. Our community can no longer say we support family values and strong economies while simultaneously shattering thousands of families by cruelly and permanently separating mothers, fathers, sons and daughters from their loved ones.

However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The November 6th election was a marker for the escalating power of the Latino vote. This surging unity and renewed commitment will not cease until we achieve immigration reform that supports equal access to education and keeps our families together.

Furthermore, there is growing consensus that equal access to education is both the right thing and the smart thing to do in our country. 58% of voters in Maryland passed their state’s version of the DREAM Act– becoming the 13th state to allow undocumented students pay instate tuition. This speaks to more than the Latino vote- it speaks to Americans coming together to create opportunity and equity in their communities.

So what about here in North Carolina? What will the coming years look like for us?

It is clear that our voters do not want to walk in the footsteps of extremism. North Carolina will no longer pander to the hate-mongers who are panicked by demographic shifts. North Carolina will no longer abide politicians who dehumanize immigrant families to score political points. We call on our elected officials to seek prosperity and safety- not at the expense of Latino and immigrant families- but as partners with Latino and immigrant families.

The fact is, at 18 years old, Mary and Selene- activists, students, and children of immigrants- have done more for their community than most. It is only right that we demand that those we have elected into office to live up to the example set by Mary and Selene.

The Latin American Coalition is making the following demands of our elected officials:

1. We call on local Charlotte officials to dismantle the 287(g) program which perpetuates racial profiling and tears immigrant families apart.

2. We call on North Carolina officials to abandon their attempts to bring bring economically devastating and unconstitutional Arizona and Alabama-style anti-immigrant policies to our state. Instead we ask them to seek immigrant affirming policies that strengthen our industries, create equal access to education, and support working families.

3. We call on Congress and the President to pass immigration reform, restoring the core principle of family unity and creating a path to legalize the status for hard working immigrants who are contributing to our economy on a daily basis.

Given the demonstrable power of the Latino vote and the increasing support of immigrant-affirming policies around the country, we believe that these demands will be met and achieved if we can come together our around a shared vision of opportunity.


Send in the clowns

By Lacey Williams, Youth Programs Manager

On November 3, 1979, five protest marchers were shot and killed in Greensboro by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.  The marchers had been attempting to organize black industrial workers in the area.

Nearly 33 years later, members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) and local members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), are planning to rally in Charlotte against “illegal” immigration. According to the NSM, the United States should put an end to all non-white immigration and should forcibly remove non-white people from the country. While the message (“immigration”) may be new, the target is still the same (“non-whites”).

It’s hard to believe that such groups still exist in 2012, let alone still slither out of the backwoods to make a rally in the big city. It’s important to note that, nationally, white supremacists are gaining in numbers, even if their target audience is shrinking as a whole in our country.

Nevertheless, local immigration advocates will be pushing back on these white supremacists. This Saturday, advocates will meet the NSM and KKK head on to counter-protest their hate speech and dangerous ideology. And they will be dressed as clowns.


Yes, clowns.

Holding signs exalting “White Flour,” “Kite Power,” and “Dwight Howard,” activists will confront hate with humor.

The reason?

While racism and hate are serious business, hate groups coming to our city is just ridiculous. To quote a popular internet meme, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”  So if they plan on bringing their clown convention to Charlotte and make a mockery out of civic discourse while there is real policy work to be done, then we plan to supply the clowns and extra-awesome mockery. Moreover, to hold a belief in white supremacy is to be worse than a clown. The type of rhetoric these groups espouse does not work to move our country forward. We reject such divisiveness.

And while many will say that advocates protesting these white supremacists are only lending credence to the groups, we respectfully disagree. Hate should never be left unchallenged since silence so often is construed as consent.  We must also not forget that there are only shades of difference that separate these hate groups from elected officials like Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James and Arizona State Senator Russell Pierce, both opponents of immigrants, both outspoken racists.

We choose not be silent, but we also choose to battle their hate with humor. And clown noses.

Our clown convention will start at the Children and Family Services Center at 2:30 p.m. We will walk over to Old City Hall at 3pm.  We’ll be bringing the clowns to clown convention that is white supremacy.

Luis Zarco & Familias Unidas Update

Yesterday, among falling leaves and sun rays, more than 100 people gathered outside the immigration court in Charlotte in support of Jose Luis Zarco, who faced his final court hearing that threatened to separate him from his family. Representatives from the YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, Nueva Vida Church, Action NC, the Latin American Coalition, and many more spoke on his behalf. They spoke of his kindness and involvement with his community, of his devotion to his wife and children, and of his belief in God that carries him from day to day.

With only minutes until he was to walk into the courtroom and face the judge that would determine his and his family’s future, Luis addressed the crowd. With a quiet voice and few words he thanked everyone for their support and was hopeful that at the end of the day he would walk out of the courthouse and into his family’s arms. Almost 3 hours later, Luis did walk out of the courthouse and into his family’s arms. The judge, having heard the testimony and evidence from Luis’s attorney and ICE counsel, will now consider the information and deliver a final decision on January 8th, 2013.

So we continue to wait. Like Luis we are hopeful that in the end he will stay here in Charlotte with his family. We are also hopeful that we will be a little bit closer to ending the unjust deportations that separate families.

Join us in the fight to stop family separations. Add Familias Unidas Charlotte NC as a Facebook friend or call 704-916-9853 for more information about upcoming Familias Unidas events.

Únete y a Familias Unidas

By Mariciela Preto (Familias Unidas) & Digna Arroyo

Familias Unidas es un grupo que cuenta con el apoyo de La Coalición Latinoamericana y Acción NC, que luchamos para evitar las deportaciones injustas de nuestros seres queridos y abogamos por nuestro derecho de mantener nuestras familias unidas. Este grupo tiene como propósito fundamental concientizar a la comunidad anglosajona que vinimos a este país para aportar a la economía con nuestro trabajo, que somos gente respetuosa y no presentamos peligro para la comunidad ya que no somos violadores de las leyes que existen en este país. Brindamos apoyo a las familias que se encuentran con el problema del proceso de la deportación y proveemos soluciones positivas para afrontar este problema. Es de conocimiento de todos que estamos pasando por procesos difíciles. Muchas familias han sido separadas, hijos se han quedado solos y han sido ubicados en hogares sustitutos porque sus padres han sido deportados. Como residentes de este país, no podemos dejar que otros tomen decisiones por nosotros.

Te invitamos a que te unas a nuestro grupo de luchadores para detener las deportaciones y abogar por nuestros derechos. No te rindas y no temas a las represalias porque somos un movimiento pacífico en busca del mejor bienestar para todos. No permitas que te quiten tus ideales. Apoya y hazte sentir en este país que tanto amas. Si quieres un mejor bienestar aquí debes hacer algo. Apoya a los que no tenemos temor por luchar. Ayudemos aquellos como Luis Zarco. No esperes estar en la situación similar y bríndanos tu apoyo, más tarde tú podrías necesitar nuestra ayuda. Únete a las familias que abogamos por permanecer unidas en este país. Recuerda, del cobarde no se ha escrito nada, solo los valientes hacen la diferencia. Haz la diferencia también. Únete ya. Te esperamos.

Si tienes preguntas o necesitas ayuda puedes comunicarte a la línea de Familias Unidas al 704-916-9853.

Si no quieres la deportación, familias unidas es la solución

The drive to register new voters


By Lacey Williams, Youth Programs Manager

United 4 the DREAM members Pali Sikisi and Estefania Ventura Arrazola had a mission this fall: register 1,500 youth to vote in 6 weeks.

Pali, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just gained his citizenship and will be able to vote this year.  Estefania, a DREAMer from Mexico, is a potential beneficiary of Deferred Action.  Both have been on lobbying trips to DC and Raleigh.  Both see the importance of political and civic engagement.

“I hope that as we registered these young folks to vote, we also activated their drive to make sure that their voice is heard,” said Pali about the registration drive. “We might not change the world but maybe we can empower someone who does”

In 2010, a new law was passed allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote in North Carolina.  The result has been an influx of 60,000 youth voters who will be able to vote in the upcoming election.  This law is special because it guarantees a teen who turns 18 after the registration deadline but before election day the right to vote if he or she pre-registers.  In most states, that teen would have to wait until the next election year to vote.

Pali and Estefania spent their weekday mornings going to 17 schools, sometimes twice, to ask students one simple question, “Are you registered to vote?”

With the help of students, teachers and administrators at various Charlotte-Mecklenburg-area schools, Pali and Estefania — the Dynamic Duo — got young people excited about registering to vote.

“I wanted to be involved in voter registration this year because it’s important for everyone who is eligible to vote to vote. Especially people who come from mixed status families,” says Estefania. “I can’t vote.  Voter registration is my contribution.  My voice can be heard through their vote.  That’s how the community can come together and help each other.”

Here are some of the milestones we reached during the voter registration drive:

+ We broke 1,000 voter registrations at Berry Academy of Technology.

+ We met our goal at Butler High.

+ We broke the 2,000 registrations mark at Mallard Creek High.

+ We registered the most voters in one day and broke 2,500 registrations at Hopewell High School.

+ “Unaffiliated” — the party most students preferred when registering to vote

Mes de concientización del cáncer de seno

By Armando Bellmas, Director of Communications

Cada año, aproximadamente 14,000 mujeres hispanas son diagnosticadas con cáncer de seno. De esas, según las estadísticas, aproximadamente 83% sobreviven por lo menos 5 años si se hacen un examen anual.

Magbis Love, educadora de salud de seno de Carolinas HealthCare, nos visita en La Coalición cada mes para hablar con nuestros clientes y educar a la comunidad hispana acerca de los factores de riesgo de cáncer de seno, las señales y síntomas, y sobre todo enseñarles a hacer el autoexamen. También proporciona información acerca de las clínicas donde se pueden realizar el examen clínico del seno y la mamografía. “El principal beneficio es crear conciencia de la importancia de establecer planes de salud como exámenes clínicos y disminuir los factores de riesgo como consumo de alcohol, obesidad, inactividad, uso de anticonceptivos, y reemplazo hormonal”, dice Magbis.

La importancia de los autoexámenes y la habilidad de detectar el cáncer de seno temprano es clave. “El conocer la técnica de autoexamen le dará destreza a la mujer a detectar cualquier bulto por insignificante que parezca”, aconseja Magbis. Durante las próximas actividades y charlas con Magbis aquí en La Coalición el 31 de octubre de 2012, participantes podrán practicar con modelos de senos para detectar los bultos. “Los tratamientos contra el cáncer de seno se están mejorando cada año. Por eso poder detectar la enfermedad temprano es tan importante”, recomienda Magbis.

A pesar que las mayores incidencias ocurren en la raza blanca, las mujeres hispanas fallecen más de cáncer de seno. “Las razones pudieran ser tan diversas como no tener un plan de salud a falta de recursos para los exámenes o falta de conocimiento acerca de la enfermedad. La idea es prevenir y detectar temprano para que nuestras madres, hijas y hermanas no fallezcan,” enfatiza Magbis.

Recuerde, el miércoles 31 de octubre de 2012 Magbis estará en La Coalición a la 1:00 de la tarde para informar acerca del cáncer de seno. Tendremos antojitos para todas las participantes, actividades para aprender más y una charla para educarse acerca la salud del seno. Gratis.

Working with Rock Stars

By Jess George, Executive Director

It is rare to have an Immigrant Rights organization that works with rock stars, but we do.

Every year our The Latin American Coalition brings world renown musical artists to our Latin American Festival. Last year, legendary Columbian rockers, Aterciopleados, brought their alternative, social justice rock to Charlotte. This year the iconic, multi-platinum, Spanish rock band Jarabedepalo will headline the festival. If that wasn’t enough,  Latin Grammy award winning funk band Los Amigos Invisibles from Venezuela will also perform this year.

But the staff of the Latin American Coalition boasts quite few “rock stars” as well — folks who have great talent and diverse passions that extend outside of the work we do every day. Here are a few:

Tony Arreaza, our Cultural Events Manager, is a rock star, quite literally, in his own right. Tony has been musician and a promoter of Latin music in the Southeast for over two decades. His passion for and knowledge of Latin music earned him the title of one of Charlotte’s most influential promoters by Creative Loafing in 2011. His efforts to cultivate a more vibrant Latin music scene in the Southeast have also been featured on NPR, MTV Latino, Paste Magazine, and MUN2.

Lacey Williams, the Coalition’s Director of Youth Programs, also moonlights as “Lace of Spades,” the coach of the Charlotte Roller Girls, Charlotte’s women’s flat track roller derby team. Lacey is also the co-founder of CRANE (Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality), a grassroots coalition of activists and community members that work for civil and social equality for Charlotte’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community.

Armando Bellmas, the Coalition’s Director of Communications, is a photographer and music lover. He shares his passion for both on his blog: Be Still Please. Armando also hosts Ecléctico, a show on Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood Community Radio that “lovingly blends English and Spanish music and culture.” His unique mixture of old and new and Spanish and English has earned him Creative Loafing’s 2012 Critic’s Pick for Best Radio Show.

Briana Duggan, our Cultural Events Coordinator, is a contributor to Charlotte’s NPR affiliate, WFAE. Bri has covered the colorful and quirky through her pieces on the Swiss Bluegrass duo The Krüger Brothers, an eclectic general store called Renfrow’s Hardware, and a video blog of the Democratic National Convention.

Sharon Cheng, a Paralegal with our Immigration Law Clinic, is an accomplished pianist. Playing piano since she was was four-years-old, Sharon has cultivated a lifetime love a music which spilled over into choir and musical theater. Sharon received a scholarship to study music at Furman University where she got her Bachelors in Fine Arts.

David Arroyo-Garay, the Workforce Development Coordinator, is an athlete on a mission. Since 2010, David has completed four triathlon sprints, one marathon and is preparing for his first half Iron-man. His most proud accomplishment to date has been completing a 200-mile bike ride to raise money for TPAN (Test Positive Aware Network) to support people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.

It is always a joy to work with capable and passionate people who love their work, but I consider myself particularly lucky to work alongside these dynamic and multi-talented individuals. Of course these are just a few of the incredible staff members who work at the Latin American Coalition. Come visit us, volunteer with us, celebrate with us, and get to know our team of rock stars.

Convertirse en ciudadano

By Silvia Falconi

En un año donde se llevarán a cabo elecciones presidenciales es más importante que nunca convertirse en ciudadano estadounidense. Este paso nos da la oportunidad de participar en la democracia estadounidense a través de nuestro voto. Pero, como inmigrantes, no podemos votar sin antes convertirnos en ciudadanos de Estados Unidos. Aquí es donde La Coalición le puede ayudar con ese paso importante: nuestro taller de ciudadanía es gratuito y se realizará el 20 de octubre de 2012. Usted califica para el taller y la naturalización estadounidense si:

  • Ha sido un residente permanente por mínimo de 5 años y habla, escribe, y lee inglés en un nivel intermedio, o
  • Está casado/a con ciudadano estadounidense y ha sido residente permanente por al menos 3 años y habla, escribe, y lee inglés en un nivel intermedio.

Al llegar al taller, uno de nuestros voluntarios lo registrará y le entregará materiales pertinentes a su solicitud. Otro voluntario repasará su solicitud para eliminar posibles errores e inconsistencias. Al eliminar fallos o errores, está listo para proceder. Se reunirá con un abogado de inmigración o representante legal, quienes ofrecen sus servicios voluntariamente. Aquí es donde se le indica si está listo para presentar su solicitud. Si no se puede completar el proceso, sabrá exactamente qué debe hacer para corregir la situación y poder completar su solicitud.

Conversando con el señor Luis, quien asistió el taller del mes de mayo, nos hizo saber lo contento que había quedado con el proceso. “La dinámica y fluidez con la cual se llevó a cabo el taller fue excelente,” dijo Luis. “No todos te ofrecen ese nivel de servicio tan detallado, y mucho menos la oportunidad de hablar con un abogado, y sin cobrarte.” Luis se aprovecho de los materiales de instrucción adicionales que se ofrecen en el taller. De ellos puede estudiar las preguntas, respuestas, y detalles cívicos para aprobar el examen de ciudadanía. Luis no dejó de alabar a nuestros voluntarios. “Con toda la paciencia del mundo, ayudan a las personas que necesitan un poco mas de atención a sus aplicaciones.” Luis ya presentó su aplicación y espera su primera cita de naturalización. ¡Suerte, Luis!

El proceso de ciudadanía es arduo pero no imposible. Con un poco de paciencia y  buena voluntad de su parte, La Coalición lo ayuda. Llame al 1-888-839-8682 para más información o para registrarse.