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February 21, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
By: Maite Arce
For Latinos, the 2012 tax return presents significant opportunity. In fact, the potential impact of key legislative changes for the nation’s fastest growing population is unprecedented.
Starting in 2014, many people — not just Latinos — who do not have health insurance may be able to receive a subsidy based on their household income and family size to help with the cost. Eligibility for assistance can be determined from an individual’s 2012 tax return, which can also streamline the insurance plan enrollment process with a health insurance exchange. With the individual mandate requiring nearly everyone to have health insurance in 2014, a key component of Affordable Care Act is the health insurance exchange — a marketplace where consumers can shop for a health insurance plan.
Latinos are by far the least insured demographic in the nation. For 2011, the U.S. Census estimated that 30.1 of Latinos are uninsured, compared to just 11.1 percent of whites. This lack of coverage is compounded by the fact that Latinos are 165 percent more likely to live in areas where environmental concerns can lead to greater health complications, according to the American Lung Society.
As for immigration reform, it is expected that both political parties will support a reconciliation of unpaid taxes as a prerequisite on the path to citizenship or legal residency. While plan details are still being discussed, it will likely require individuals to submit tax documentation for multiple years — an individual will need to provide an accurate tax history as part of the application process.
Unauthorized Latinos have long been chided for not filing taxes. But what is often overlooked is that state and local taxes paid in 2010 by households headed by unauthorized immigrants totaled $11.2 billion, according to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy.
For the majority of Latinos, however, it’s not a question of not wanting to pay taxes (many do!) but rather a lack of understanding, not having an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), concern about immigration status or fear of the process. In fact, many Latinos who we meet have paid into the system for years, but never filed taxes.
In several of the countries from which our Latino immigrants come, the tax system is a wholly different process or not even enforced at all. Others have worked with unskilled tax preparers who miss even the most obvious deductions or those who add fraudulent deductions to inflate returns. Language barriers only exacerbate these issues.
This is why our campaign, “Prepárate Para Un Futuro Mejor (Prepare for a Better Future),” to educate Latinos on the U.S. tax system has been so successful. This tax season we will hold over 150 free tax seminars in coordination with Latino faith leaders as partners within the community and provide access to bilingual tax experts. Since 2010, we’ve provided tax education and information to over 50,000 Latinos. Our emphasis is on the importance of building an accurate tax history and being a good contributor.
By looking at future economic factors, the importance of this education becomes evident. Latino buying power is expected to reach $1.5 trillion in 2015, according to a recent Nielsen report. The U.S. Census estimated that there are more than 2.3 million Latino business owners contributing more than $350 billion to the nation’s economy.
Furthermore, the Latino population is expected to double to 100 million by 2050, and tax contributions will grow along with it. Affordable health care and immigration acceptance may be incentives for Latinos to file taxes, but the benefit will help our nation’s tax income grow and improve the lives of many.
November 19, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
Latino Groups Commend Decision By Interior Secretary to Restrict Oil Shale Operations and Protect Colorado’s Water Supply
Clean water and healthier communities scored a crucial victory in Colorado on November 9, when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to protect the state from oil shale speculation.
On Nov. 9, the Department of the Interior released a plan that would require oil shale companies to provide solid proof that their activities will balance the state’s economic and environmental needs before starting any commercial exploitation. Reversing a Bush-era decision that would have given industry free reign on 2 million acres of public lands, BLM’s plan effectively protects 1.6 million acres of public land, as well as areas of critical wildlife habitat.
Latino organizations, including the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) and Nuestro Río, welcomed the Salazar decision and reminded the public about the Latino community’s overwhelming support for protection of public lands and the safety and reliability of their water supply.
“We needed a smart approach to oil shale development and Secretary Salazar deserves credit for making this a priority for Colorado, and for the state’s Latinos, which make up a significant portion of the state’s population and depend on the Colorado River and water supplies for their quality of life and economic opportunity,” said Maite Arce, executive director of HAF. “Costly, water-hungry oil shale speculation would put Western families’ health and safety at risk.”
According to a recent Sierra Club national survey conducted in cooperation with NCLR, more than nine in 10 (92%) Latino voters agree that they “have a moral responsibility to take care of God’s creation on this earth —the wilderness, the forests, the oceans, lakes and rivers.”
Also, the survey found that nearly seven in 10 (69%) Latino voters support presidential designations of more public land as national monuments.
“The Colorado River doesn’t just run through the Southwest, it runs through our culture and it nourishes our lives,” said Andrés Ramírez, Director at Nuestro Río. “Saving the Colorado River is about protecting our Latino heritage and promoting our future.”
Indeed, a survey by Colorado College conducted in Western states earlier this year revealed that 87 percent of Hispanics believe we can protect the environment at the same time we work for a strong economy.
In addition, the poll found that 89 percent of Hispanic respondents agreed that resources must be invested in preserving their state’s land, water and wildlife, regardless of the current budgetary crisis.
Estimates by the Government Accountability Office have projected that full-scale oil shale development could require more than 123 billion gallons of water each year, enough water for more than 750,000 households. Additionally, the mining and processing of oil shale can leach toxic metals and pollutants, such as lead and arsenic, into rivers and groundwater. BLM’s plan takes a step in the right direction by limiting the amount of public land that could be subjected to oil shale development. Rather than promoting high-risk, high-cost technologies like oil shale, we need to begin the transition to clean, efficient fuels that benefit both our economy and our land, water, and public health.
- By Javier Sierra
Article from SierraClub.org
October 24, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
The Hispanic Access Foundation and Environmental Learning for Kids took over 60 youth, including a majority of Latinos, to Colorado’s Browns Canyon in July 2012. The trip inspired many of the students to take action. In September 2012, eleven of the Denver-area high schoolers traveled to Washington, DC to meet with their elected officials, including Sen. Mark Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet, the director of the National Park Service, representatives from the Department of Interior, White House officials and others. This video documents their journey.
October 12, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
By Chelsea Weikart Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — As 19-year-old Annalisa Martinez put it, “It’s our job to be leaders.”
She made the comment after she and a group of her peers from a Catholic parish in Denver met with Colorado’s U.S. senators on Capitol Hill for an environmental cause: urging federal protection for Browns Canyon in Colorado.
Ranging in age from 12 to 19, the Latino youths from Denver’s St. Cajetan Parish and an organization called Environmental Learning for Kids were brought together by the Washington-based Hispanic Access Foundation.
Maite Arce, executive director of the foundation, founded the nonprofit after growing up as the child of Mexican immigrants who had trouble accessing information and resources in their new country.
The foundation has partnerships with mostly faith-based community groups, such as St. Cajetan, to organize events and programs that inform Hispanics about education, voting, the environment and other issues, as well as to promote responsible citizenship and community involvement.
St. Cajetan is one of the oldest Hispanic Catholic parishes in the Denver Archdiocese.
Over a three-day visit in Washington in mid-September, the youths’ schedule included a meeting with Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, to express their concern for Browns Canyon and to promote scholarships for Hispanic students.
The canyon, southwest of the Denver metro area, is a popular place for hiking, camping, viewing wildlife, fishing and white-water rafting. Udall has proposed that Congress designate it as national monument or wildlife preserve.
It’s a place the youths and many others have grown to love, they said. Last year, the Hispanic Access Foundation and Environmental Learning for Kids sponsored a fishing education day there; 250 families participated in the trip, the first of its kind for many in the group. This past summer, 68 youths and their parents went on a camping trip to the canyon.
Udall has said giving a special designation to Browns Canyon would bring jobs to the state and put the area “on the map” and attract visitors. It also needs protection, advocates say, because illegal roads in the area have led “to erosion and habitat destruction.”
Linda Sosa, a spokeswoman for St. Cajetan, said considers herself a second mother to the seven 12- to 19-year-old girls she brought to Washington.
Hispanic immigrants to the United States “don’t know the systems. I don’t want that for these kids,” she said, adding that the Catholic Church has a role in educating Hispanics about how government works. “The church is more than prayer, we can be the voices outside the church.”
Sosa has taught catechism classes for 30 years at St. Cajetan, which was established in 1922. Her involvement has given her a connection to parish youths.
All but two of the St. Cajetan girls were on their first trip to Washington. Speaking a mix of English and Spanish throughout the day, several of them mentioned to a Catholic News Service reporter they were “missing the mountains.” Money for their trip came from a combination of fundraisers, parish donations and matching funds from the Hispanic Access Foundation.
The summer camping trip to Browns Canyon gave them a chance to see wildlife and to go white-water rafting on the Arkansas River — and it sparked the youths’ interest in protecting the canyon. They began asking Sosa what they could do, which led to her teaming up with the foundation and coordinating the trip and a chance to talk to Udall and Bennet.
Arce told CNS that the group’s interest in the outdoors and the environment is reflected in a 2012 survey on Latinos and the environment, conducted by the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza. Nine in 10 respondents said people “have moral responsibility to take care of God’s creation on this earth — the wilderness, and forests, the oceans, lakes and rivers.”
During a picnic lunch in Lafayette Park across from the White House, where they headed later that afternoon to talk to staffers, Annalisa Martinez told CNS that Udall and Bennet “were very involved in hearing what we had to say.”
The oldest in the group, she is finishing an associate’s degree in early childhood education.
Her niece, 12 year-old Anastasia Martinez was the youngest. She’d like to become a geologist or horse trainer.
“My mother and I grew up in those mountains,” she said. “If they were destroyed it would break our hearts.”
Jennie Hurrieta, 17, told CNS the group had a lot of support from St. Cajetan Parish, especially from its pastor, Theatine Father Tomas Fraile.
“Father Tomas was very supportive, he baptized all of us, he really wants us to succeed,” she said, adding that the priest encourages them to be leaders in their community and their church. “This world isn’t ours, it’s God’s, we are preserving it for future generations,” she added.
“Linda Sosa and the students are doing a wonderful job going to D.C. and talking to senators,” Father Fraile told CNS later in a telephone interview. “If we Christians and Catholics believe in God, we have a moral responsibility to take care of God’s children the same way we have the responsibility of taking care of the whole of God’s creation.”
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 28, 2012 by Jennifer Brandt
Eleven Latino high schoolers and six parents from Denver visited the District of Columbia to encourage their elected officials to protect Browns Canyon by providing it with monument status and to preserve other Colorado outdoor locations. The students also met with White House staff, representatives from the Department of Interior and the director of the National Parks Service.
“These kids are vocal champions for the outdoors,” said Maite Arce, executive director for Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF). “They are eager to make a difference for Browns Canyon – they are inspired to fight for its protection so that other young people will be able to enjoy it in the future.”
The students met with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who is spearheading the effort to afford permanent protection for Browns Canyon, and Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO), who successfully led the charge to designate Colorado’s Chimney Rock as a national monument.
“These Latino youth learned the power of their voice when they participate in public policy,” said Linda Sosa, an educator with St. Cajetan Catholic Church. “Browns Canyon and other public spaces have become a passion for these kids. They want to see other generations enjoy what they’ve been able to experience.”
The participants of the visit, which was arranged by HAF, included eight students from St. Cajetan Catholic Church and three from Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK). In July, these same students attended a weekend rafting trip in Browns Canyon organized by HAF and ELK, which helped to teach leadership skills and develop these youth as environmental stewards.
Browns Canyon has become a popular destination, but the area has been degraded by illegal roads leading to erosion and habitat destruction in one of the country’s last remaining unprotected wilderness areas. In the 2012 Colorado College Western States Survey, Latino voters expressed stronger pro-conservation views than their Anglo-counterparts. For example, 75 percent said they would support the creation of new parks and monuments in their states.
The voices of the students were also heard by key presidential advisors including Nancy Sutley, chair of the President’s Council for Environmental Quality, John Jarvis, director of the National Parks Service and representatives for Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
“This has been a dream of ours – to be able to go to Washington and build the skills, confidence and knowledge of our church’s youth,” said Sosa. “They know they can achieve their dreams by having access to our nation’s leaders, and becoming leaders themselves in fighting for what they believe in.”
Source: Hola Arkansas