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HF's National Advocacy Day

All roads lead to Washington! On Sept 27th, Hispanic Federation convened 130 advocates in Washington to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. The goal was to convey issues of critical importance to communities of color directly to Congressional representatives. Participants came from ten different states, representing over 50 organizations. Although most were Hispanic Federation member agencies in Florida, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, there was significant participation from the Immigrants We Get the Job Done Coalition and the New York Communities of Color Coalition.

What was on the agenda? Immigration issues--including the passage of a clean Dream Act, extension of Temporary Protective Status, and opposition to unnecessary and wasteful border “security”—were a subject of serious conversation between advocates and members of Congress and congressional staff. In addition, participants called on Congress to protect the Affordable Care Act, enact criminal justice reform, and defend civil rights and environmental justice. The relief and reconstruction of Puerto Rico and the U.S. government response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding on the island was also an important topic of conversation.

“We need to increase our public presence in Washington,” said Hispanic Federation National Director of Advocacy Laura Esquivel. “There are so many pieces of legislation before Congress that will do great harm to Latino communities—from attacks on the ACA to immigration reform—that we have take a more public stand on these issues by visiting members of Congress and letting them hear and see the personal costs of these policies. We are in the middle of an “all-hands-on-deck” moment. Sitting by waiting for Congress to enact poorly designed and often malicious legislation isn’t an option.”

Over the two-day period, participants attended a welcome reception co-sponsored by Hispanic Federation and The Hill Latino. After a welcome by Calderon, the bipartisan speakers included Congressmembers Will Hurd (TX-23) David Valadao (CA-21), Michelle Lujan-Grisham (NM-01), and Joaquin Castro (TX-20).

The morning of the first advocacy day began with trainings from immigration, environmental, and advocacy experts. 25 small groups spent the morning and afternoon on Capitol Hill attending 53 pre-arranged meetings with congressional offices, which included meeting personally with Senators, members of Congress, and staff. There were an untold number of unscheduled “drop-bys” to leave material with target offices regardless of whether an official meeting was scheduled.

Our ‘One Voice” Luncheon, held in collaboration with our partners at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), brought together 250 people, (including 60 high school students), to listen to U.S. Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (NY), and the Congressional Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), as well as chair of the Congressional Asian American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressmember Judy Chu (CA-27). The luncheon was held in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Building.

“Congressional leaders were eager to hear from us,” said HF AVP for Policy Jessica Orozco. “But what made these two days even more special is that we were able to empower people so that they understood that our community has an important voice. As one participant told us afterwards, “Hispanic Federation did an impressive job. I can’t wait to come back for the next one.”