Winning Institutional Support for Immigration Reform: Youth and Voter Engagement in Riverside

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February 7th, 2010 | Trackback | English, articles | 1 Comment »

UCR DREAM Campaign The Stage

The Latino Riverside County population in California, which consists of 43 % of the population, only accounts for about 20% of the registered voters and represents 15% of voter turnout. These low levels of civic participation reflect the inequity that still exists within Riverside and similar counties across the country. Mr. Francisco Solá, a Riverside resident and community leader, recognized that a permanent and local effort was needed in the Riverside area, and he established the Riverside Latino Voter Project (RLVP) in September 1995. Since its founding, RVLP has registered and mobilized approximately 5,000 Latino voters, partnered with 35 local organizations and conducted over 100 voter registration drives.

RVLP’s work is anchored with the student volunteer core at the University of California at Riverside, the most racially diverse university of the entire UC system. An added focus of RLVP is to engage the increasing Asian immigrant community and in particularl the Asian youth. The University of California, Riverside has the largest Asian American student population of all UC campuses who make up 42% of the student population. UCR’s diversity in conjunction with the other Riverside area higher education institutions, provides the opportunity for RLVP to incorporate projects that continue to increase the number of immigrants and youth voter registration and participation.

“There are disturbing levels of hostility against immigrants in Riverside, in particular from some elected official who campaign on anti-immigrant rights platforms” says Mr. Solá, Founder and Chair of the Riverside Latino Voter Project. “This helps fosters an environment where you see a proliferation of anti-immigrant sentiments and the presence of extremist groups like the Minutemen and even public rallies by Neo-Nazis.”

The 2009 Victory: Continuing the Work of 2008

In 2009, one key focus for the work of the Riverside Latino Voter Project was the passage of the DREAM ACT (Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act) to help individuals who meet certain requirements have the opportunity to go to college or join the military and have a path to citizenship, which they otherwise would not have without this legislation.

While the DREAM ACT is no longer an active bill in Congress, the work of the Riverside Latino Voter Project achieved important results in increasing the consciousness and local institutional support of federal immigration reform in Riverside County. The Dream Act Coalition developed with the Riverside Latino Voter conducted local forums on immigration reform at three high schools, three universities, and in two community locations. Students and youth voters, largely based at UC Riverside, conducted lobbying visits with elected officials, higher education administrators, school board members, city council members and prominent community leaders and organizations. They conducted a survey of 150 voters to gauge their support of the Dream Act. RLVP obtained the endorsement of Riverside Community College Chancellor , Dr Gregory Gray, and University of California Riverside Chancellor, Dr. Timothy White.

Alejandra Monroy Profile of a Grassroots Leader: Alejandra Monroy

Alejandra Monroy is a critical student leader with the Riverside Latino Voter Project and the Dream Activist Coalition at UC Riverside. She has been instrumental in the RLVP oral history project and putting on the PODER conference for parents and students. Says Ms. Monroy, “We see the connections between attacks on immigrant families and attacks on working and middle class students with the recent proposed UC fee increases. We know our rights. We know what’s important. The election of Barack Obama gave me the confidence to strengthen my leadership. We’re continuing full steam ahead in 2010!”

Best Practices

  • Making the Connections: one of the first things to observe about the Riverside Latino Riverside Project is their integrated approach – they register local student and resident voters, mobilize them to vote, organize them to engage with their elected officials, and have built a permanent, year-round civic engagement program. Says Mr. Solá, “There is a voting component to all public policy issues that has to be recognized. University fees are approved by Regents who are appointed by elected officials. Elected city council members approve immigration check points in Riverside. When we make these connections, it becomes a lot easier to recruit volunteers to our organization and to convince local residents to vote.”
  • Youth Leadership Development: RLVP emphasizes the long-term value of investing in youth leadership, who often become activists for the rest of their lives based on the formative experiences at UC Riverside and with RLVP.
  • Organizational Networks: Addressing issues of broad interest such as the Dream Act allows RLVP to expand its organizational networks. For many years Riverside has not had a significant presence of organizations involved with immigrant social justice and political rights. Several labor, religious and immigrant organizations are now partnering with RLVP projects and campaigns. It is common for organizations interesting in expanding to Riverside area to share and network with RLVP members and resources.

What’s Ahead

The Riverside Latino Voter Project is currently working to develop a Riverside-based immigrant civic engagement coalition and preparing for its work on voter engagement and immigration reform advocacy in 2010.

For more information about the Riverside Latino Voting Project, contact Francisco Solá at [email protected] or 951-780-7206.

One Response to “Winning Institutional Support for Immigration Reform: Youth and Voter Engagement in Riverside”

  1. 2009 Success Stories in Immigrant Integrated Voter Engagement in San Diego, Riverside, Union City and San Francisco - Mobilize the Immigrant Vote! Says:

    [...] Winning Institutional Support for Immigration Reform: Youth and Voter Engagement in Riverside [...]

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