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Education and immigration are top concerns for Latinos

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

Cleveland: Yvette McGee Brown, candidate for Lieutenant Governor, met with Latino leaders and youth at Julia De Burgos Center on July 16, 2010 to learn about the communitys concerns. She was urged to pay close attention to education and immigration reform.

My job is to be a sponge, I want to learn about what is happening in your community, said Brown.

Yvette McGee Brown

Hugo Urizar
said raising graduation rate is a key priority and countering hurdles of language deficiency, socioeconomic and lack of familial support or interest. Many of these students are first generation to complete high school or attend college, he said. 

Brown questioned what other factors contribute to the lack of interest in staying in school, In my experience, when a child is having trouble in school there is something happening at home that involves abandonment, she said.

In response Miguel Hernndez, a junior at Lincoln West High School, said the lack of role models, interest and encouragement are key reasons many of his peers dropped out. If people like you continue to talk to us and guide us we will stay in school, he said.

Hernndez added he could identify with her past and was inspired by her candidness to strive to be in a position like hers one day. After graduation he is looking to join the U.S. Marines.

Brown advised them to take in all the opportunities, Life goes really fast ... I didnt know what I wanted to be;  I just did not want to be poor, she said.

Brown graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Public Relations and went on to receive her law degree from the Ohio State University.

She told students fear of debt should not deter them from pursuing a university degree. It took me student loans and debt to finish my education but it was the best money I ever invested and when I graduated from law school I made more money than my mother; that is what education does for you, she said.

Brown candidly told students not all their peers will chose to a prosperous future and will hold them back; Ignore them.

L. Rafal Rodrguez said many education initiatives fail because they dont involve parents; If you want to access kids you have to start with the parents who themselves often dont have a high school degree.

He suggests encouraging parents to pursue and complete their GEDs, which would influence the youth directly. Rodrguez said any policies directed toward the Latino community fail to acknowledge the diversity within it. The needs of the Hispanic community in Akron are different than the needs of the Cleveland Hispanics; what works here may not work there, he said.

Brown with L. Rafal Rodrguez and Isabel Framer at Center

One issue that affects all Latinos uniformly is that of immigration reform and increasing racism as a result of the Arizonas SB 1070, said Isabel Framer. She said while undocumented immigrants only encompass 1 percent of Ohios population, certain communities are targeting all Latinos, forcing them to live in fear.

Farmer said political leaders and officials often chastise proponents of immigration reform by demanding they turn in those known to be without documentation, This is affecting our core values as Americans and allegiance with our community.

Brown said Gov. Ted Strickland is unequivocally opposed to Arizonas law and would never sign a similar legislation in Ohio. She admitted she has learned more about immigration issues on the campaign trail and was appalled to hear of Sheriff in Butler County (Jones) actively targeting minorities to provide proof of their legal status. Brown said people like him should be sued; You have legal tools at your disposal so use them.

She said there should be greater outrage in the country for the children who completed high school but cannot continue their education because their parents brought them here without documentation. Not to condone illegal immigration, but their children had no choice and there should be an option for them to earn citizenship, she said.

Urizar added that support for immigration reform does not equate open borders but sensible regulations. Rodrguez stated that racism often fuels anti-immigration sentiment. Recalling the case of a German teenager brought to the U.S. by his grandfather, who never sought to file for legalization and was granted a right to stay. There was an outpouring of support from the community but not one ounce of that is given to our kids in similar situations, he said.

Hernndez said he strongly dislikes being singled out as an illegal and even more so as just a Hispanic. I am proud to be a Puerto Rican but I want people to know me by my name not just as that Puerto Rican, he said.

Brown said more Latinos need to run for elected posts and should be winning in districts with large populations so the communitys voice is always heard.


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