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Immigration, U.S. census, health care issues highlight workshop topics at 14th Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference, April 25


By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent


All those months of long nights of planning are finally coming together for community activists and leadership coordinators Mike and Dina Ferrer as this weekend’s 14th Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference rapidly becomes a reality.


Hosted by C.H.I.P. (Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues & Progress) and under the leadership its president Joel Arredondo, the all-day event is held on Saturday, April 25, 2009, in the Spitzer Conference Center at the Lorain County Community College at 1005 Abbe Road North in Elyria, Ohio.

Joel Arredondo


In addition to a full range of workshops and presentations, the conference features cultural entertainment performances by comedian Alex Ortiz, and musical and dance presentations by Justo Saborit (Cuban musician, artist, composer), Adriana & Orlando (Colombian artists with tango presentations) and Minas Katsantouris & Company (international).


The evening gala and dance on Saturday evening is at the Lorain Party Center at 2501 Leavitt Road in Lorain.


Another highlight is a Youth Leadership Tract hosted by the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA) and LULAC. Richard Romero, Board Chair of OCHLA, and Ezra C. Escudero, the commission’s executive director, are among the many community leaders who are speakers and panelists at the conference.


Tickets for the conference, gala and dance are $70, while admission to the conference only is $35. That is also the price for college students wishing to attend all three components of the program.


Registration for the conference begins at 7:30 a.m. with the programs running from 9 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. U.S. Congresswoman Betty Sutton (D-OH) of the 13th congressional district and Lorain Mayor Anthony Krasienko will be among the speakers welcoming the attendees.


Doors open for the evening gala with a cash bar at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m. The cultural entertainment program is scheduled from 7:30 until 9 p.m. when the dancing begins. The gala runs through midnight.


There is a free reception open to the community at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 2009, at the Stocker Center at the Lorain County Community College campus. There will be an art exhibit entitled  “Sueños y Esperanza,” featuring the art of José R. Alicea, along with the Prayer sticks and sculpture of Mario Kujawski.


Here are a few selected highlights of what attendees can expect.


Guadalupe Lara
Guadalupe Lara
, LMSW, Regional Migrant Partnership Specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau in the U.S. Department of Commerce, will conduct a workshop on the 2010 Census: Beyond the Fear.


Lara, who works out of the Commerce Department’s regional office in Detroit, has responsibility for Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia. She noted that Michigan is the state with the largest number of farmworkers.

“I will address the issues of census mistrust and under-representation,” says Lara. “Part of my job is to connect people with leaders of organizations providing services to migrants. I tell them about the census and how we can partner with them. We want to be on target with our mission to count everybody next year, and I will show some of the tools and forms we will be using.


“I will answer any questions they may have about the census and show how it impacts the monies paid to states for programs by the federal government. I know that there is some element of fear in the community for a variety of reasons, especially for Latinos who have gone through an ICE raid,” acknowledges Lara.


Because of her focus upon migrant workers, Lara has worked closely with organizations such as the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and its president Baldemar Velásquez. Lara began life as a migrant worker and received a migrant scholarship for college in Texas.

Guadalupe Lara


Lara received her professional training as a social worker and worked in that capacity for 27 years. She retired in 2006 as Corporate Director of Social Work at the Detroit Medical Center with responsibility for eight hospitals on the campus including Children’s Hospital.


She is also well known to many Detroiters for her award-winning work as the producer of two Latino community shows broadcast over WDET Public Radio from 1980 to 1994


“I have come full circle,” she explains. “This is like a gift, a coming home for me. This is such a time of hope. There are so many dreams for the Latino community as we have the potential for immigration reform and a comprehensive health care plan.”


Ezra C. Escudero and Murray Bilfield
Ezra C. Escudero, the executive director of the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, and attorney Murray Bilfield, Managing Partner of Murray Bilfield and Associates LPA and a noted expert on immigration affairs, will co-moderate the Immigration Workshop.


“What I will be offering is an informational update on my personal take and from my perspective,” Escudero tells La Prensa.  “My comments have to be personal because the commission has no official stand on federal immigration policy,” he adds. 


That’s where Bilfield says he plans to pick up the slack by focusing upon issues such as “what are the elements of comprehensive immigration reform and what would be the economic impact of comprehensive immigration reform?


“Two weeks ago, both the U.S. Senate and the House introduced the Dream Act, legislation to provide amnesty to children of undocumented parents and a vehicle to provide the opportunity for children of undocumented parents to get into college and when they finish college provide a path to citizenship. There has been a widespread consensus for that program,” says Bilfield.


He also points to the recent statement by President Barack Obama as reported in the New York Times that immigration reform is still a top priority.

But Bilfield is particularly excited by several other promising developments. “Last week both the AFL-CIO and the Change-to-Win unions wrote and released letters supporting immigration reform as the path to citizenship. Realistically, both unions also see the potential for more dues-paying union members as a result.

“And even Karl Rove is now supporting the need for immigration reform,” notes Bilfield.

Murray Bilfield,



Irvin Delvalle and Community Health Partners

The workshop on Linking the Uninsured & Underinsured to Healthcare Resources is being presented by Irvin Delvalle, MSW, the Outreach Specialist of Community Health Partners.


“This month is Minority Health Awareness Month,” says Delvalle, adding that

“45 million Americans lack health insurance.

“The focus of this workshop is going to be upon resources such as those offered by Ohio’s Jobs and Family Services program and hospitals. Many people are not familiar with the methods of getting access to health care. If people are uninsured or just don’t have enough insurance, they just don’t go for medical treatment. Information is often just not readily available,” explains Delvalle.


He points to outstanding community efforts such as that by Catholic Health Care for providing services to the poor and underserved through CareNet in Toledo.


“We at Community Healthy Partners serve the Latino community by providing interpretative services and translating material to make healthcare more accessible to the Spanish speaking community,” says Delvalle.


He wants to call the Lorain Latino community’s attention to a program sponsored by Community Health Partners on Sunday, April 26 from 9 a.m. until noon at Sacred Heart Chapel, 4301 Pearl Avenue in Lorain.  “Health care tests will be offered and parishioners can just come into the church auditorium after services,” says Delvalle.


Minority Health Disparities
The conference will also feature a workshop on Minority Health Disparities: Impacts and Solutions featuring five panelists including Andres González, Diversity and Community Outreach Director of the Cleveland Clinic.

Mr. González informed La Prensa that he will address several important issues, including:


1) Healthcare disparities have created inequities for Hispanics/Latinos in Northeast Ohio. “As Latino leaders/providers, we must engage in dialogue with the Healthcare providers to discuss the importance of providing cultural and linguistic services to our community members.”


2) “Healthcare providers must continue providing education as it relates to access to care, primarily in the area of preventive care vs. emergency care. Hispanics/Latinos should be accessing services via their primary care rather than emergency physician. It is important for a patient to establish trust and a relationship with a primary care provider,” said González. 

Andres González


Other topics included in the CHIP leadership conference include: Civil Rights and Equality for Puerto Rico, Foreclosure Prevention and Intervention, and Human Trafficking.


The unsung heroes of the annual Hispanic Leadership Conference programs are

Mike and Dina Ferrer, who have coordinated all 14 conferences.


“The history of the conference goes back to when it started with the old Lorain Ford plant’s UAW Hispanic Council, Local 425 and Local 2000.  When they first came forward, they said they did not want to be seen only as autoworkers who did not contribute to the community, so they asked what they could do,” recalls Mike Ferrer.


“I was then with El Centro, a provider of social services in Lorain. I talked with Local 2192 and also the workers at the Brook Park plant who wanted to give back to the community. Because I had worked with the National Council of La Raza, I decided we would put on our first conference like La Raza.


“So we dealt with issues such as ‘how can we do our jobs better?’ and continuing education.  Now we deal with issues like housing and human trafficking. Our motto is ‘Opening doors.’


“Since 2006, the program has been hosted by C.H.I.P. That was made necessary because when the plant closed the union membership transferred to Kentucky. Over the years, more than 15,000 people representing more than 4,000 organizations throughout the United States have attended this conference.


“This year, we expect more than 500 participants and 100 students to attend from the five-state area of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, and Michigan. We now have 55 collaborating organizations taking part in this event,” says Ferrer.


For more information, sponsorship opportunities, and registration contact Michael & Dina Ferrer, conference coordinators at 440-336-1501 or 440-989-1178 or via email:  [email protected].


Internet: Visit CHIP at www.chiplorain.org

Justo Saborit at www.justosaborit.net

Adriana & Orlando at www.dancesport.com/studio_staff_details.php?staff=46

Minas Katsantouris at www.letsdancecleveland.com/dance_instructor_katsantouris.php

Ohio Commission of Hispanic/Latino Affairs at http://ochla.ohio.gov/

Murray Bilfield at www.1800abogadoohio.com

Community Health Partners at www.health-partners.org

10th Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference: https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2005/April%2013%202005/Hispanic%20Leadership%20Conference%20this%20weekend.htm

12th Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference: https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2007/042007/CHIP.htm


Dina Ferrer


Mike Ferrer







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