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Colorado to Washington, DC: Advocating for the Environment

October 24, 2012 by  

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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.

New Monument to Honor Cesar Chavez

October 3, 2012 by  

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By Catharine M. Hamm, Los Angeles Times Travel editor

Cesar E. Chavez, the son of migrant laborers whose nonviolent struggle for farm laborers’ rights won him comparisons to Gandhi, will be commemorated with a new national monument in Keene, Calif.

President Obama is expected to travel to Keene on Oct. 8 to formally establish the monument, the 398th park unit in the U.S. (A national park generally has “outstanding scenic feature or natural phenomena,” according to the National Park Service website. “National monuments, on the other hand … contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest.”)

The Chavez monument will be at a site known as Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), in the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains. It was here that the United Farm Workers of America was founded in the 1970s, an organization in which Chavez played a pivotal part. Chavez and his family also lived here until his death in 1993. He is buried here and the new monument will include his gravesite.

As a labor activist, Chavez helped farm workers achieve wage increases and better working conditions. He believed in nonviolence and often fasted to accentuate his points. A water-only fast in 1988 was said to have damaged his health.

In the Los Angeles Times obituary for Chavez, state Sen. Art Torres said: “He was our Gandhi. He was our Dr. Martin Luther King.”

In the obituary, then-President Clinton said, “The labor movement and all Americans have lost a great leader with the death of Cesar Chavez. An inspiring fighter for the cause to which he dedicated his life, Cesar Chavez was an authentic hero to millions of people throughout the world.”

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DREAMers Happy About DHS Announcement

June 15, 2012 by  

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The Obama administration announced today that it will offer indefinite reprieves from deportation for young immigrants who were brought to the country as minors and meet other specific requirements.

The move, hailed by immigration advocates as a bold response to the broken immigration system, temporarily eliminates the possibility of deportation for youths who would qualify for relief under the DREAM Act, giving Congress the space needed to craft a bipartisan solution that gives permanent residence to qualifying young people.

In a statement from the White House, President Obama said the policy was “the right thing to do,” calling DREAMers “Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every way but one: on paper.”

According to a memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security, immigrants may apply for a two-year renewable grant of “deferred action” if they entered the United States before age 16; are younger than 30; have lived continuously in the United States for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor; and are currently in school, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. Although not granted lawful immigration status, recipients will be able to obtain work permits under existing regulations.

Today’s memo, issued by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, comes almost exactly one year after the release of a memo from ICE Director John Morton setting forth an extensive list of factors for agents to consider when exercising prosecutorial discretion. The so-called “Morton memo” was initially hailed by immigrant advocates, who believed it would prevent the removal of foreign nationals who would have qualified for relief under the DREAM Act. Calls for bolder executive action grew stronger, however, after an ongoing review of pending removal cases yielded disappointing results and examples continued to surface of immigrants being denied prosecutorial discretion despite compelling circumstances.

Although not defined under federal regulations, deferred action has long been used by U.S. presidents to prevent the removal of immigrants for humanitarian reasons. Contrary to some headlines, immigrants who are granted deferred action—which can be revoked without notice at any time—will not receive “immunity” from removal. In addition, although they will be permitted to apply for work permits, immigrants who receive deferred action will not receive green cards or any other lawful immigration status, will not be permitted to sponsor family members, and may be unable to travel abroad.

According to the memo and a Q&A released by the administration, immigrants who are not currently in removal proceedings will have to submit applications demonstrating their eligibility for deferred action. Meanwhile, immigrants who are currently in removal proceedings will be eligible for deferred action, even if they previously declined an offer of “administrative closure” under the ongoing case review process. Although eligibility determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis, administration officials said that immigrants who satisfy the criteria in the memo should presumptively be granted deferred action.

Secretary Napolitano’s memo comes two weeks after nearly 100 law professors sent a letter to President Obama outlining his authority to provide temporary relief from deportation. The announcement also comes on the thirtieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe, which held that states cannot exclude undocumented schoolchildren from elementary and secondary schools.

Congress Answers Latino Youth’s Call for Environmental Change

December 22, 2011 by  

Our country’s steadfast efforts to protect the environment this year finally paid off last Saturday when Congress granted $322.9 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to protect lands and jobs in 2012. This is a $20 million increase from last year’s budget and reflects the widespread support for the fund.

In 2011, Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) worked with Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) and other organizations to push for more funding for LWCF. HAF learned that 95 percent of Latinos supported full funding for LWCF and that 9 in 10 Americans wanted Congress to stop siphoning funds for the program.

Denver Latinos enjoying the outdoors at Rocky Mountain National Park.

“Hispanics are passionate about their public parks and open spaces,” said Maite Arce, HAF’s executive director. “Parks are often the center of family activities, gatherings, and even their careers. As such, their protection ranks high on Hispanics’ priority list.”

Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation contribute $1.06 trillion annually to the U.S. economy and support 9.4 million American jobs, which equates to one out of every 15 U.S. jobs, according to the LWCF Coalition.

LWCF is an important tool for protecting the nation’s parks, wildlife refuges and recreational areas. It uses a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas leases instead of taxpayers’ money to protect parks and open spaces across the country.

The fund is also important because it encourages Americans to get outdoors by protecting federal lands and waters, wildlife habitat, and close-to-home parks, said Frank Hugelmeyer, Outdoor Industry Association’s president & CEO.

In July 2011, HAF partnered with ELK to hold a free day of trout fishing and lessons in aquatic ecology and conservation at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver where more than 250 Denver Latinos took part.

In 2011, 95 percent of Latinos supported full funding for LWCF.

HAF collaborated with ELK again in August to hold a round table discussion with 50 Latino youth and their families at the Rocky Mountain National Park. There, the organization discussed ways youth and their families could further engage in enjoying and advocating for parks, wildlife habitat and the outdoors.

And in October, representatives from HAF personally delivered letters from Colorado Latinos to the White House asking President Barack Obama to oppose proposed cuts to LWCF in the fall.

After a year of hard work, HAF is seeing its efforts come to fruition. But, it will be up to the community to continue to fight for LWCF funding.

“Despite this strong show of support in the 2012 budget bill, the Land and Water Conservation Fund continues to be funded well below the $900 million that is deposited each year into the trust fund from offshore oil and gas royalties,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society.

“President Obama’s budget recommended full funding for LWCF at that $900 million level, and we urge Congress to work toward that goal in fiscal year 2013 and beyond.”

Read the LWCF Coalition’s press release to learn more.

Stay tuned for ways to get involved in HAF’s efforts for environmental change in 2012!

Colorado Latinos, Youth Call on Obama to Support Great Outdoors

September 13, 2011 by  

DENVER, Sept. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Denver-based nonprofit Environmental Learning for Kids and Washington, D.C.-based Hispanic Access Foundation have launched an education and outreach campaign that has introduced Denver-area Latino youth to the great outdoors, and empowered them to call on President Obama to protect it.

“Latino youth are the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Kim Weiss, education coordinator for Environmental Learning for Kids. “These young people have the knowledge, skills, and self-confidence to reach out to the President and ensure he helps to protect our parks, wildlife, and natural resources for future generations.”

On the heels of the launch of President Obama’s new America’s Great Outdoors initiative, which aims to reconnect people to their public lands, the organizations jointly hosted a July event at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver. More than 250 Latinos from the Denver area enjoyed a free day of trout fishing, and lessons in aquatic ecology and conservation.

In August, a group of 50 Latino youth and their families gathered at Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado, to discuss ways youth and families might be further engaged in enjoying and advocating for parks, wildlife habitat, and the outdoors.   An issue top of mind for the group are the critical budget cuts proposed by Congress this fall to the 45-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund; an important program highlighted in the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.  The Fund relies on fees paid by companies drilling offshore instead of taxpayer monies to protect Rocky Mountain and other parks, wildlife refuges, and open spaces across the country.

Recent polling indicates that 9 in 10 Americans want Congress to stop siphoning funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Ninety-five percent of Latinos want it fully funded.

Latino families and youth from across Colorado have written letters in Spanish and English to President Obama, requesting that he oppose devastating cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund this fall. Representatives of Environmental Learning for Kids and the Hispanic Access Foundation plan to deliver the letters in-person to the White House and Secretary Salazar later this month.

“We realize President Obama and the Administration are committed to learning from and working with young people to build a strong future for Americans to come,” said Maite Arce, executive director of the Hispanic Access Foundation. “Protecting our land and water is critical to a healthy future.”

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