As the nation passes through a difficult economic period, MALDEF has worked closely with our partners in the civil rights community to address many of the challenges facing Latino workers and families. For Latinos, the economic downturn has been especially difficult as families struggle to keep their homes and workers are being laid off with limited opportunities for future employment. The challenges ahead will not be easy and MALDEF will work with partners in Congress and the Obama Administration to ensure that full economic recovery reaches the Latino community.

Troubled Assets Relief Program

In September 2008, the Bush Administration and Congress sought to provide relief to struggling banks through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Legislation in the United States Congress focused on providing assistance to banks struggling to stay afloat as a result of the foreclosure crisis. Because the root of the current economic crisis lies in the ability of homeowners to pay their mortgages, MALDEF, in partnership with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and others in the civil rights community, reached out to Congress to seek assistance for homeowners. In particular, MALDEF sought inclusion of provisions to allow homeowners facing foreclosure the ability modify their loans. Though the final bill only provided for voluntary loan modification by banks, MALDEF is continuing to work with Congress to address the needs of the thousands of Latino homeowners that are facing foreclosure.

In October 2008, MALDEF reached out to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on the implementation of the TARP program. In partnership with our friends at the New America Alliance, MALDEF requested that the Secretary provide meaningful opportunities to women and minority-owned businesses in the implementation of the program. The over 2.2 million Latino-owned businesses play a critical role in our economy and must be included in the recovery of our nation’s markets. MALDEF will continue to work with Obama Administration Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner to advocate for inclusion of women and minority-owned businesses in any federal rescue plan.

American Recovery & Reinvestment Act

In early February 2009, President Barack Obama signed in to law the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, which seeks to stimulate our nation’s struggling economy. This stimulus bill includes a variety of programs that will be helpful to Latino families, such an expanded Make Work Pay credit that assists low income workers, the expansion and modernization of unemployment insurance, and significant resources for state stabilization funds, which will ensure that critical state programs and benefits remain available. In addition, the stimulus includes large investments in job training and education. In partnership with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), MALDEF reached out to the Administration and Congress early in the drafting of the stimulus bill to ensure that the concerns of Latino workers and families were addressed.

U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) were critical partners for the Latino community in the stimulus debate. Rep. Grijalva introduced an amendment to the Rules Committee in the United States House of Representatives to target stimulus funds for English language learners and farmers. Though unsuccessful, this amendment highlights the needs of our community in the current economy and will be helpful for future advocacy on implementation and distribution of stimulus funds. Sen. Menendez was successful in stopping anti-immigrant amendments concerning Employer Electronic Verification System (E-Verify) and ensuring that the Make Work Pay tax credit includes immigrant taxpayers.

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act includes much needed support for Latino workers and families. Upon implementation of the stimulus, the Obama Administration must work to ensure that resources invested in job training and education reach Latino workers and children. MALDEF will continue to work with Congress and the Obama Administration to assist with this implementation of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act in order to ensure that full recovery reaches our community.

MALDEF Advocates For Latinos On Economic Recovery Legislation

Following is the main text of this month's newsletter.

MALDEF Advocates For Latinos On Economic Recovery Legislation

Final Bill Provides Minimal Protections for Latino Homeowners

OCTOBER 8, 2008 — This past week, MALDEF worked closely with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and leading civil rights organizations on the Wall Street rescue legislation. While issues surrounding bank mergers and corporate failings dominated the news, the impact of the current economic crisis on the Latino community is underreported but strongly felt. That is why, beyond our priority issues of immigration, education, voting rights and the like, it was important for MALDEF to work with others in the civil rights community and urge Congressional leaders to address the needs of working families and homeowners.

Latinos are already feeling the pain of the economic downturn and should not have been overlooked as Congress focused on economic relief. As the Pew Hispanic Center reported earlier this year, Latino unemployment rose from 4.7% in the first quarter of 2007 to 6.5% in the first quarter of the 2008. Since then, the situation facing the community has worsened. According to Department of Labor data released Friday (with more data to be reported this week), Latino unemployment jumped from 5.6% to 7.8% from September 2007 to September 2008, including one quarter (24.9%) of Latinos aged 16 to 19. Financial troubles faced by industries, such as housing construction, and states, like California (now with the third highest unemployment rate, 7.7%, behind Rhode Island and Michigan), affect Latinos especially hard. Furthermore, Latino homeowners, many of whom were targeted with subprime loans and other predatory lending practices, remain at a high risk of foreclosure.

The civil rights community and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus issued a joint letter urging the inclusion of homeowner protections in the economic recovery legislation. MALDEF, with the National Council of La Raza, League of United Latin American Citizens, Urban League, Asian American Justice Center, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and others, also issued separate letters to the Senate and House leadership seeking assurances for the following:

  • An aggressive and systematic approach to permit parties to modify the terms of loans as a prerequisite to loan purchase by federal agencies. In other words, the taxpayers should not be called upon to acquire a loan unless homeowners and borrowers are afforded relief;
  • Restoring the authority of bankruptcy courts to modify loans as a last resort; and
  • A mandatory moratorium on foreclosures for the limited period of time before the financial rescue plan takes effect.

While these measures were not included and Congress has adjourned without also extending unemployment benefit eligibility, there are still steps that can and must be taken. For the current mortgage crisis, these steps include holding field hearings to better understand the plight of homeowners nationwide; investing in financial counseling programs for at-risk communities; and establishing an oversight board for this recovery package that takes into account the perspective of minority communities. It will now be left to the 111th Congress to pursue an agenda that protects working families and provides the necessary economic opportunities for Latinos. MALDEF will continue to provide financial counseling programs for community members and advocate in Washington, DC and around the country to ensure that Latinos are not left behind as efforts to respond to the current economic crisis continue.

Civil Rights Groups Call On Congress To Assist Homeowners In Its Economic Recovery Package

Ensuring that homeowners can modify their loans is essential to stabilizing the economy

August 30, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) joined with national civil rights organizations from the Asian Pacific American and African American communities in a letter to leadership in the United States House of Representatives and Senate. The letter calls upon Congress to assist homeowners during the current economic crisis. (See Attached).

The initial failure to pass urgently needed relief provides an essential opportunity to add provisions that will ensure Americans of the safety and protection of their homes.

“Wall Street's weakness is felt by all Americans, including Latinos. The bail out must not lock out Latinos from their homes or from the economic protections afforded Wall Street,” said John Trasviña, President and General Counsel of MALDEF.

“Like all Americans, Latino families stand to benefit from a well-functioning Wall Street. However, no rescue package is complete without addressing the needs of millions of homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR.

To best address the needs of homeowners, the letter demands that a final recovery package include a systematic approach to enable families to modify loans purchased by the federal government; improvements to our nation’s bankruptcy laws to allow for courts to modify loans; and a moratorium on foreclosures while we wait for a rescue plan to take place.

“We call on Congress to pass a bill that will protect homeowners and American families, strengthen our financial system, and re-regulate the industry to ensure that the financial recklessness and predatory practices that led to this crisis will never be repeated,” said LULAC National President Rosa Rosales.