President Moran on the Huffington Post: Voter Purges in Florida

By Jossie Flor Sapunar on 07/25/2012 @ 06:30 PM

LULAC National President Margaret Moran and Civic Engagement Manager Ulises Gonzalez register a newly sworn-in citizen at the special naturalization ceremony at the 2012 LULAC Convention.

Yesterday, LULAC National President Margaret Moran was featured on the Huffington Post. Discussing voter purges in Florida, she speaks about Governor Rick Scott and his newest attempt to disenfranchise voters, including the Latino community. The gravity of the situation in the Sunshine State is not to be understated since Latino voters are being threatened as we speak.

Read on to discover her post.

Voter Purging in Florida Targets Latinos and New Citizens


Posted by Margaret Moran 07/24/2012 3:41 pm

Today in Florida, there is a new obstacle designed to deter our community from voting. In the hunt to locate non-citizens on the voter rolls, Florida's Governor Rick Scott is now accessing a federal database of immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will now allow Florida to use a law enforcement database called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) to verify the citizenship of voters.

The SAVE Database was created to determine eligibility for government benefits and now be adopted to determine voting eligibility. Short of a state-run voter purging campaign, which had stopped because of its reliance on faulty information, the voter purges will now be allowed to continue to the detriment of U.S citizens whose names were mistakenly on a list. DHS officials had previously denied access to the database, claiming that the information on SAVE is not current and does not provide comprehensive data on all eligible voters, including the native-born.

To use the SAVE database, the state must provide a "unique identifier," such as an "alien number" for each challenged voter, not just names and birthdates. A Florida voter whose citizenship is challenged will get a certified letter; if they fail to provide proof of citizenship within 30 days, they are to be removed from the rolls. Voters who do not respond by mail will have their names posted in a newspaper ad and be given another 30 days to respond.

With less than four months until the Presidential election, a 30 day response hardly seems sufficient time to correct government mistakes. For low income communities, taking time from their employment to answer a letter or meet with an official regarding their mistaken ineligibility to vote may be an unaffordable luxury.

This aggressive and expensive attempt to rectify what is being identified as a systemic problem of non-citizens on the rolls, begs the question: What is the problem? According to the Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud is rare. The non-partisan public policy and law institute released a publication that found, "Usually, only a tiny portion of the claimed illegality is substantiated-- and most of the remainder is either nothing more than speculation or has been conclusively debunked" (p 3). The failure rate of Governor Scott's previous attempt at voter purge upholds the findings of the study. The vast majority of voters on the purge list are citizens, many of whom are new citizens.

When urged by elected officials, the unrelenting drive to purge voters translates into efforts to suppress people in lower socioeconomic echelons of society from voting. Florida has one of the largest immigrant populations of any state, and more than half of the people on the first purge list had Hispanic surnames, states the Tampa Bay Times. Latinos are considered a crucial voting bloc in the presidential race; their suppression would decide the victor in November.

Additionally, since the SAVE Database is updated so infrequently, we fear that many new citizens' names may not make it to the SAVE list. New citizens may fear troubling their newly-obtained citizenship and be deterred from voting. What motivation would they then have to visit the polling booth this fall?

Despite the documented evidence that proves the faulty criteria that could prevent thousands of eligible voters from exercising their rights, Governor Scott is proud of what he considers a "step in the right direction," even stating it as a "significant victory for Florida and for the integrity of our election system."

In a country with 38% voter turnout, the federal government should be working with state governments, enabling people to vote --not preventing eligible voters--of any race--from voting at all.

From the Annals of the White House: Highlights from LULAC Convention 2012

By Jossie Flor Sapunar on 07/24/2012 @ 03:30 PM

The White House has featured the Future of Puerto Rico Town Hall from the 83rd Annual LULAC Convention. Written by Michael Strautmanis, the Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to the Senior Advisor, this blog stresses the importance of continued commitment to Puerto Rico and the fight for its future, which can only be achieved by working together.

Highlights of the President’s Unprecedented Commitment to the People of Puerto Rico


Posted by Michael Strautmanis on July 23, 2012 at 03:05 PM EDT

Over the weekend I reread a thank you note from LULAC President Margaret Moran and Executive Director Brent Wilkes for my participation in the Puerto Rico town hall meeting during LULAC’s annual conference two weeks ago. What a great opportunity to work with a strong National organization that engages the Latino community on so many important issues.

My participation was meaningful on two accounts. First, it is always great to get out of Washington and hear directly from members of our community about the impact our policies and programs are having on real people’s lives. Second, I have a personal family connection with Puerto Rico – both my father and brother live in Vieques, a magnificently beautiful municipal island off the eastern coast of the main island of Puerto Rico. I have visited my family there many times and consider it my second home.

Now in a lot of ways, my family’s story is pretty unique. Every family’s story is unique. But at the center of all of our stories is the basic promise that defines our country - the idea that hard work will pay off, responsibility will be rewarded and that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you can make it if you try.

Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, speaks at a Puerto Rico Town Hall meeting at the annual conference of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC). (Photo Courtesy of the League of United Latin American Citizens)

The problem is that before the financial crisis of 2008 it was becoming harder and harder to own a home, put your kids through college, and save a little for retirement. Then we were hit with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression – and while we are recovering from that crisis, we still have a long way to go.

When President Obama took office, our nation was losing 750,000 jobs a month. Today, the private sector has now added more than 4 million jobs in the last 28 months. We still have a long way to go, so we cannot afford to turn back the clock now.

President Obama has fought hard for the people of Puerto Rico. He is the first president to make an official visit to Puerto Rico in nearly 50 years. And as he put it in San Juan last June, he included Puerto Rico not just on his itinerary, but in his vision of where our country needs to go.

Of course, one element of this is Puerto Rico’s status. The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status has articulated a clear principle: Puerto Rico’s future should be determined by the people of Puerto Rico. And the President has made it clear that once they make a clear choice on status, he will support that decision.

But President Obama knows that status is just one of many issues Puerto Ricans grapple with every day, which is why he made sure that the Affordable Care Act included provisions to help individuals and families on the island access quality, affordable health care. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, Puerto Rico will receive $900 million dollars to expand coverage to their residents and across the country approximately 9 million Hispanics will become eligible to receive help to get the coverage they lack today.

The President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico also proposed new recommendations for everything from investing in education to strengthening broadband access to improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The Task Force’s economic development group has helped small businesses, for example, connecting small businesses in Puerto Rico with small businesses in New York, giving entrepreneurs in both places a better shot to succeed.

The Task Force has been actively engaged in implementing the report’s recommendations. Recently, the Public Safety Working Group, led by co-chairs Assistant Secretary Betsy Markey (DHS) and Associate Attorney General Tony West (DOJ), accompanied Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to Puerto Rico to engage the local community and local and federal law enforcement stakeholders to addresses the issue of drug related violent crime on the island. The working group will soon have concrete steps that will deal with that very pressing issue.

Beyond the work of the Task Force however, President Obama has elevated Puerto Ricans to some of the most important positions in government. He appointed Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, where she has already made a significant impact. He appointed Mari Carmen Aponte as ambassador to El Salvador. When her nomination was held up, he sent her anyway, and a few weeks ago, the Senate finally confirmed her to her post.

Standing up for the rights, the dignity, and aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico is the right thing to do. Because as I learned growing up, and as you all know so well, the people of Puerto Rico are a part of our American story - they are entrepreneurs that create American jobs, artists that weave their talent into the American culture and soldiers that put their lives on the line for the country that we love in every conflict our nation has faced since World War I.

I don’t need to tell you that writing the next chapter in that story is not going to be easy – but working together we can make it everything it should be. That’s why I participated in the Puerto Rico town hall meeting. President Obama knows that he can’t do it alone – government can’t do it alone. Let’s work together to make sure that America is always the kind of place where a kid from Chicago, or New York, or Florida, or San Juan can dream big, knowing that hard work will pay off, responsibility will be rewarded, and that in America, you can make it if you try.

Michael Strautmanis is the Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.

Cuidado de salud: la ley nueva y mejor

By Jossie Flor Sapunar on 07/18/2012 @ 12:00 PM

Tags: Jossie, Flor, Sapunar, ACA, affordable, care, act, healthcare, salud, medica, ley, nueva, seguro, medicare, medicaid,

Ahora que la ley de la reforma de salud esta disponible, Latinos deben informarse para obtener los beneficios auspiciado por la ley.

Una joven de 22 años de edad Sara Mayo tiene dos trabajos para pagar sus estudios de la universidad. Porque ninguno de los dos trabajos es de tiempo completo, no recibe seguro médico a través de su empleo—a pesar de que necesita la cubertura para sacar un doloroso tumor estomacal. Pero, la Ley de la Reforma de Salud asegura de que ella recibirá la atención médica ahora que puede estar inscrita en el seguro medico de su papá.

De los cincuenta millones de hispanos en los EE.UU., nueve millones de hispanos califican para cubertura médica bajo la Ley de la Reforma de Salud. Ahora que la Corte Suprema declaró que ésta ley es constitucional, organizaciones como LULAC tienen que continuar a educar a las familias e individuos latinos sobre los beneficios y sobre el proceso de inscripción a un plan de seguro medico. Aun así, muy poca de la población hispana sabe sobre los beneficios auspiciados bajo esta ley y de la manera en que le beneficie a su familia o a si mismos. Sin embargo, hay varios beneficios que han estado en efecto hace dos años. Por ejemplo, un padre puede tener a su hijo en su plan de seguro medico hasta los 26 años de edad. Una mujer puede obtener servicios preventivos sin costo, ni copago o deducible. Estos servicios incluyen consultas de bienestar de la mujer, una mamografía para detectar el cáncer de los senos, diabetes gestacional para mujeres embarazadas, cáncer cervical, y muchos más (para ver la lista completa, visite aquí). Para asegurarnos que las comunidades latinas puedan aprovechar estos servicios para que vivan una vida más saludable, tenemos que trabajar juntos para educar a nuestros vecinos, amigos, familiares, colegas, y a nuestras comunidades a estar preparadas para inscribirse en los intercambios de seguros a fines del 2013.

En un estudio auspiciado por la organización FamiliesUSA, 2,175 estadounidenses murieron prematuramente al mes en el año 2010 por el solo hecho de no tener seguro médico. Para esas personas y familias latinas que ahora mismo se encuentran en la situación de no tener seguro medico, el gobierno está trabajando con los estados y las compañías que ofrecen planes de seguro médico para que ofrezcan una variedad de planes a costos más razonables para familias de diferentes categorías de ingresos en el año 2014 – esto es lo que se conoce como los intercambios de seguros.

La ley protege contra los abusos de las compañías de seguro médico. Una compañía de seguro médico ya no puede limitar o negar beneficios o denegar cobertura a individuos a menores de 19 años simplemente por tener una condición prexistente. A las personas con condiciones prexistentes se les ofrece un plan de cuidado de salud que prohíbe a las compañías de seguro medico la imposición de un límite de por vida en dólares a los beneficios médicos que uno recibe. Antes de la implementación de la ley, más de 105 millones de estadounidenses tenían seguro médico con límites definidos, pero ya no será así. No se puede poner límites a la cantidad que se paga al año por obtener servicios para el tratamiento de una condición médica. Bajo de la Ley las compañías tienen que proveerles cobertura de seguro médico al público sin barreras. Además, es ilegal cobrarle más a una mujer simplemente por ser mujer, asegurando que todos, sin importar el sexo, puedan recibir atención médica adecuada.

Los jóvenes pueden recibir cubertura médica bajo el seguro de sus padres hasta los 26 años de edad. Esta provisión cubre más de 2,5 millones de personas. Los niños latinos representan la mitad de todos los niños en este país sin seguro médico, pero esta provisión les ayuda a mejorar su salud al tener la opción de obtener servicios médicos de una manera mas rutinaria y tratar cualquier enfermedad en vez de esperarse hasta cuando estén graves para que vayan al doctor. Esto ayuda a los niños que se enfoquen en tener éxito en sus estudios y no preocuparse por sentirse mal y no poder hacer algo para mejorarse.

Bajo la Ley de la Reforma de la Salud, la protección para la tercera edad se ha agrandado. 5,1 millones de personas con Medicare han ahorrado un promedio de $635 de los gastos de las recetas médicas con rembolsos y descuentos hasta el 50% en medicamentos genéricos.

Los cambios instigados por la Ley de la Reforma de la Salud se realizaran en el año 2014, pero uno puede recibir varios beneficios ahora mismo. Asegúrense de visitar aquí (o por si quieres en inglés) para ver las opciones disponibles bajo la Ley de la Reforma de Salud. ¡Infórmese ahora mismo!

Walk the Walk: Policy Should Reflect American Values

By Jossie Flor Sapunar on 07/11/2012 @ 07:00 PM

Tags: Jossie, Flor, Sapunar, LGBT, Latinos, support, marriage, equality

LULAC Dallas Rainbow Council 4871

LULAC Dallas Rainbow Council 4871 is a model to follow for passion, commitment, and mobilization.

Though our country has made advancements in civil rights, too many people continue to face discrimination. Today, people of color are not the only ones that must contend with discriminatory practices. Members of the LGBT community face adversity, but they are quickly gaining momentum—and allies.

LULAC, a group that has long advocated for LGBT civil rights, passed a resolution on marriage equality at the National Convention in Orlando, Florida, thus continuing to uphold its mission of comprehensive support for the Latino community.

Yesterday, LULAC as part of a coalition of prominent Latino organizations launched the Familia Es Familia campaign to focus on eliminating the stigma associated with LGBT in the Latino community. The campaign will also fight for same sex marriage equality by fostering dialogue and associations; and increase support and acceptance through community engagement.

The general public is taking notice of minority groups’ increasing support for the LGBT community, even stating that Latino support has outpaced that of the general population. Advocating for LGBT, however, is not limited to only the Latino community, as some have swiftly stated; the reality is that the majority of the population supports marriage equality. The Center for American Progress released material that supports exactly this finding: marriage equality is now a mainstream value.

Although minority organizations and the LGBT community carry the weight of discrimination and intolerance, every individual ultimately shares a unique commonality that binds us as one people. The human factor has become a too powerful bond to ignore.

The support is present, but what is missing is universal and overwhelming action across, not only the minority groups, but every other American that believes in equality and justice.

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