Iowa Latino Leaders Address Long-Standing Issues At Capitol Event

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LULAC Iowa members at LULAC Day at the Iowa State Capitol 2021. Photo Tar Macias / Hola Iowa
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By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio News

Members of Iowa’s largest Latino advocacy organization addressed longstanding issues and problems facing the state’s Latino communities at the state Capitol Wednesday.

At their ‘Day on the Hill’ event, the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), discussed eight main legislative priorities its members want state lawmakers to address.

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  1. Education
  2. English Plus
  3. Environment and climate change
  4. Health
  5. Immigration
  6. Workers’ Rights
  7. Economic Opportunity
  8. Citizenship and voting

LULAC leaders urged state lawmakers to consider each topic and how they pertain to Latinos when forming policy. They recommended granting drivers’ licenses for all, regardless of citizenship status, improving language access to resources pertaining to the above topics and valuing the benefits Latinos bring to the state.

“We are also here today to commit to action. We’ve been talking about some of these issues for a long time,” LULAC State Director Nick Salazar said. “And so when we talk about policy change, we don’t need half measures, or piecemeal legislation. We need bold legislation to address several of these issues.”

He explained many times, issues facing Latino communities face other populations as well, but they may disproportionately affect Latinos. LULAC representatives spoke in detail about how each priority can be improved with the support from state leadership and Latino communities throughout the state.

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Mónica Reyes, LULAC Iowa’s deputy state director for women, pointed to lawmakers on the floor above as she spoke about immigration policies in the state.

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“Those people are there and are showing up every day to work and write laws that directly impact Latinos in the state of Iowa. And we need to hold them accountable, be part of that process, share our stories and make sure that we are making we are being a part of those decisions,” Reyes said.

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Salazar and Reyes were joined by other speakers: Ed Moreno (LULAC West Liberty), Marlén Mendoza (LULAC Iowa City), Joe Henry (LULAC Des Moines), Patricia Ritchie (LULAC Denison), Sergio Pérez (LULAC Diversity Officer), Caleb Knutson (Office of Latino Affairs), Rob Barron (Latino Political Network). Iowa Reps. Ras Smith and Eddie Andrews provided a legislative update.

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All speakers talked about the importance of Latinos continuing to participate in government to ensure Black and brown voices are heard.

Some speakers discussed their opposition to a few bills recently passed or currently being debated that limit voting access, complicate immigration procedures and bar some types of diversity training.

“We’re also in support of banning racial profiling on a state level in denounce the inaction of the governor and Republican-controlled legislature, which broke its promise to ban racial profiling,” Joe Henry, LULAC state political director, added.

Latinos make up one of the largest ethnic groups in Iowa. More than 6 percent of the state’s population identifies as Latino.

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