The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of The United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden:
On behalf of the 15 million Latinos in California, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude for leading with moral clarity, integrity, and urgency at this historic moment in our nation’s history. Today marks a new beginning for millions of families that have been burdened with the heaviest toll of this current pandemic and its economic fallout.
With heavy hearts and profound loss, we look towards a new day of healing, rebuilding, and re-emerging from this painful season of trials and tribulations. With grit and determination, we arm ourselves with hope, love, and culture to lead our nation forward to a more just economy and equitable democracy.
These past five years, our resolve has been tested, but we remain grounded in the values that have kept us steady in the midst of the storms. As political targets of hate starting in late 2015 to serving as essential workers in a global pandemic, we have not lost sight of what matters most to our families, communities, and nation. Compassion, faith, service, equity, and justice are the values that kept us anchored.
As our 46th President of the United States, the task of leading our nation through this global pandemic, economic crisis, the reckoning of racism in our democracy and a perilous climate, will be no small feat. The Latino Community Foundation stands with you and remains ready to work with your Administration. As the only philanthropic entity in California on a mission to unleash the civic and economic power of Latinos, we look forward to organizing, mobilizing, and strategizing to rebuild and live up to the promise and ideals of our nation.
With the same urgency you have already declared, we have outlined below the core priorities for our communities in California. We also extend a special invitation to you and Madam Vice President Kamala Harris to a listening session with Latino families and youth from the communities hardest hit by the pandemic and the economic crisis.
We invite you to join us for a conversation on how we can leverage the strengths, assets, and leadership of our communities during your first 100 days in office.
Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Latino community has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, Latinos are three times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts. The tragic loss is a culmination of decades of underinvestment and unresolved health, wealth, and education inequities in our communities.
Nowhere are these stark inequities more pronounced than the state of California. More than 1.1 million Latinos have contracted COVID-19. Even though Latinos make up 39 percent of the state’s population, they account for 55 percent of COVID-19 cases, and 46 percent of all related deaths.
As your Administration executes a national strategy to end this pandemic, we are grateful that equity will guide the coordination and implementation process, particularly for essential workers. With this in mind, we submit the following recommendations for the state of California:
• Expand testing and tracing efforts that prioritize hard-hit, low-income regions with significant Latino populations like the Coachella, Imperial, and San Joaquin Valleys.
• Work with federally qualified community health centers, Latino nonprofit and grassroot organizations, and their networks of community health workers, to reach the most vulnerable families. It is critical that we invest in trusted messengers and respected Latino-led organizations to lead and speed up testing, tracing, and vaccinations efforts.
• Establish at least 12 federally-supported vaccination centers in our state – that will prioritize vulnerable, including essential workers, as well as rural, indigenous, and immigrant communities.
• Collaborate with trusted state and community leaders, and ethnic media, to amplify a culturally relevant public education campaign that informs communities of the importance and ease of getting vaccinated. It is critical, we combat misinformation and mistrust of the vaccine as it relates to cost, health effects and hesitation because of immigration status.
• Work with partners like the California Community College System to recruit, identify, and hire public health workers, proactively solicit Spanish-speaking applicants, and allow qualified non-U.S. citizens to apply for these roles.
Reviving the American Economy
The economic fallout of this pandemic has wreaked havoc in predominantly Latino communities across the state. Unemployment among Latinos remains disproportionately high and Latino small businesses have shuttered and been forced to close their doors. Too many tax-paying immigrant families have been excluded from disaster relief assistance since the pandemic first started nearly a year ago.
Before this pandemic, Latino small business owners accounted for the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the country, creating jobs and contributing $700 billion to the U.S. economy each year. It is imperative that Latino workers and Latino small-business owners receive direct and robust relief to weather the economic impacts of this pandemic. Latinos are critical to a nation that must re-emerge with a more just and equitable economy. The recovery of Latinos in California will have ripple effects on how quickly and strong we re-emerge from this crisis. We urge you to include the following in the American Rescue Plan:
• Include tax-paying undocumented immigrants with Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) as part of the low-income families that will receive the additional $1,400 stimulus checks. These families contribute $9B in payroll taxes and they have served as essential workers throughout the pandemic—ensuring we have food and basic needs met.
• Boost financial support of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and other mission-based lenders that specialize in working with those populations underserved by the traditional banking industry.
• Incentivize banks to invest in CDFI’s that specialize working with Latino and immigrant entrepreneurs and investing in capacity building and technical assistance programs that help these small business owners qualify for procurement contracts.
Restoring America’s Ideal as a Nation of Immigrants
Over five million essential workers are undocumented immigrants. The Golden State is home to nearly three million undocumented immigrants, the most in the nation. Now is the time to enact comprehensive immigration reforms that honors our values, safeguards our economy, and protects our public health.
Thank you for prioritizing this topic throughout your campaign. We are eager to see you marshal the presidential pulpit to act with urgency on immigration. After four years of being scapegoated and targets of political attacks of the previous administration, we must counter these violent acts of hate and fear against our communities with the strongest message of healing, restoration, and unity. We strongly support the following actions as critical steps to restoring our ideal as a nation of immigrants:
• Working with the United States Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants that includes immediate protections for essential workers and DACA and TPS recipients.
• Revoking the implementation of the public charge rule.
• Closing for-profit detention centers, directing your Department of Justice to investigate abuses stemming from the family separations crisis, and providing federal support for the unification and restoration of families separated at the border. This begins with bringing families together and must continue with the provision of culturally appropriate mental health resources to heal the trauma thousands of children have experienced these past years.
Combatting the Existential Threat of Climate Change
2020 was a record-breaking year for wildfires in the state of California. Harrowing images of Latino farmworkers set against the backdrops of smoke were seared into the public consciousness as more than 2.1 acres burned in the Golden State, breaking the record it set in 2018.
Latinos and other communities of color in the United States continue to feel the effects of climate change more acutely than the general population. This is why mobilizing the resources and the will of the federal government is urgent. In addition to rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, we respectively ask that your Administration prioritize the following:
• Coordinate immediately on wildfire prevention measures with the Office of California Governor Gavin Newsom in advance of the 2021 Wildfire season.
• Invest resources to strengthen the infrastructure of Latino communities—by equipping Latino-led organizations and Latino leaders with the tools, information, and financial support to prepare and prevent the devastation caused by wildfires. This also includes investing towards a just recovery in communities impacted by climate change—prioritizing the rebuilding of affordable housing and the sustainability of land where communities of color reside and work.
• Roll back harmful executive orders from the previous administration and establish greater opportunities for local input on climate change.
Moving Forward Together
The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) stands ready to work with your Administration to execute these priorities and lead with boldness and moral clarity for such a time as this. LCF has largest network of Latino philanthropists in the country and we have invested over $15 million to increase Latino civic engagement and political leadership in the state. We have led the largest campaigns to mobilize the Latino vote, ensure a fair and accurate census count, and worked with state government for an equitable distribution of state funds.
For the past ten months, LCF has been at the forefront of philanthropic efforts to ensure Latino communities across the state access the immediate relief they need. From TODEC Legal Center in the Coachella Valley to the Center for Farmworker Families on the Central Coast, LCF works with the largest network of trusted Latino-led organizations to deliver the resources, build the capacity, and amplify the strengths of our communities.
We are relieved and thrilled to be working with your Administration to lead us out of one of the darkest seasons in our nation’s history. We look forward to working together to build a stronger, more inclusive America. It is our duty and our hope to restore the soul of our nation.
With profound respect,
Jacqueline Martinez Garcel
Chief Executive Officer
Latino Community Foundation
(Photo Credit Alex Wong Getty Images)