White House Hispanic Community Action Summit

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In collaboration with Arizona State University, the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit will connect senior Obama Administration officials from diverse policy areas with community and Latino leaders to discuss issues in the Hispanic community in Phoenix and across the nation. Dr. Kent Scribner, Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent and a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, State Representative Anna Tovar, State Representative Ruben Gallego, and Jonathan Koppell, Dean of ASU College of Public Programs discuss the summit, President Obama’s visit to Arizona, and issues affecting Latinos in the Valley.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. President Obama made a visit to the valley this week to the Intel plant in Chandler. He said he wants a reinvestment in American manufacturing and a return to American values of hard work and responsibility. This weekend, senior Obama administration officials from diverse policy areas will be talking with people and leaders about issues critical to the Hispanic community in the valley and the nation. In a moment, we will talk to Latino leaders who will be attending the summit who also met with President Obama in Chandler, but first, here is what Latino leaders had to say about the first White House Hispanic policy conference held in July last year.

Cid Wilson: This was the first ever gathering of Latino leaders from around the country that could interact and exchange ideas with members of the Obama administration, and in all of the key cabinet appointee areas. And many of us learned a lot which allow us to go back to our communities and constituents and let them know what we're doing and how we can be better partners with the administration.

Adam Ortiz: This has been a tremendous opportunity for us to take the concerns we're seeing and hearing every day from the residents of our county and be able to give feedback so that policymakers at the highest level and we found is that all day that they have been open and receptive and knowledgeable and today broke down stereotypes people have people in Washington being out of touch.

Ruben Gallego: We do this or a yearly basis and love it see policymakers on the state side, not the federal side, follow up and see if we can come up with more ideas for the next policy conference.

Rev. Eve Nunez: We have the benefits of being able to partner with the administration and talking to people one-on-one, and see the faces behind the emails and get answers so the partnership has been wonderful and the programs they've offered organizations has been wonderful.

Eddie Aldrete: It's just as important for the White House and the administration to reach out to community leaders as it is for -- leaders as it is for community leaders to provide feedback to the White House. When you have these events you have a good exchange, sometimes we learn things and sometimes the White House learns things and it's the beginning of a dialogue that can take it to a local level and that's where it's critical.

José Cárdenas: Here with me to talk about the president's visit to Arizona, the summit, and issues affecting the Hispanic community here in the valley, are Kent Scribner, superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School district. He was also appointed to serve on the president's advisory commission for Hispanic education. Also here is State representative Anna Tovar. Jonathan Koppell, Dean of the ASU College of Public Programs. And State representative Ruben Gallego. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." Dean Koppell, ASU is the host the event. Give us an overview and explanation why it is important for ASU to be involved.

Jonathan Koppell: ASU is a co-host with Maricopa County community colleges and we're excited to be working with them on work on this White House community action, which takes place Saturday at 8:30 in downtown Phoenix and we think it's a vital event to connect significant large community in Arizona with the federal policy apparatus and there's a tendency to look at Washington as a far-away place which doesn't have much to do with things in our neighborhoods and yet so many areas of federal policy are vitally important. Whether we're talking about things that do get attention, like immigration, but if we think about housing and financial and education policy, all of those things have real importance not just for the Hispanic community but all of the communities in -- the Hispanic communities but all of the communities in Arizona.

José Cárdenas: I understand that people can attend on the day of, don't have to be registered?

Jonathan Koppell: That's right. It's intended to be a substantive engagement between the representatives of the Obama administration and folks from the Hispanic community in Arizona. It's not a bunch of speeches, it's time it roll up your sleeves and sit down and see what problems are that demand attention and the solutions that the administration should be looking at particularly to address the problems as they exist in Arizona.

José Cárdenas: Representative Gallego, the summits in other cities, they're the ones that took place in July. Tell us about that conference and how these summits came to be as a result of it.

Ruben Gallego: It was the first summit ever so I was glad to be the guinea pig for that. We had a lot of deputy leaders of different departments coming in and had a working day where we rolled up our sleeves, and got into small groups and talked about the subject matters that are really important within the Hispanic community. And we kind of broke up into groups and working groups and came up with policy ideas and/or even nonprofit ideas that we can work with as a partnership across -- you know, across federal, state and local jurisdictions. It really was something that was really, really beneficial and a lot of us once you were done, asked the White House especially in our commentary afterwards that we expand it across the country and bring it to local communities so we can get our local communities even more involved in bringing the solutions that the Latino community needs.

José Cárdenas: Beneficial in what sense?

Ruben Gallego: I think it focused on our community and the problems -- focused the idea -- our best ideas and best people on the problems in our community and connected us to the people in the White House that could affect change and a lot of times we have great ideas and send it to a nameless kind of person in whatever department. By actually meeting the people receiving the emails and going to actually put your words to action, it inspired a lot of us to continue working with the White House as well as in our communities to fix the problems. Like childhood obesity and things like that.

José Cárdenas: Talk about the summit we're going to have on Saturday. The kinds of people attending from Arizona and the administration officials who will be there.

Anna Tovar: Well, on Saturday, we'll have over 250 community leaders from education, healthcare, economy sector as well. And we're joining together for a common purpose and that's about finding solutions within our community. And we're tackling various different subjects, as far as healthcare, immigration, our economy. We're coming together to find solutions and to have a real conversation. Like Representative Gallego said, we have great ideas, the people in our community that know the problems and we have the solution and it's great that the Obama administration sends top-level officials to come and have those real conversations with us. You know, they're not going to be easy. We may not agree, but we're going to sit down at the table and have that -- at the table and find the solutions.

José Cárdenas: You're going to have a bunch of people there, how do you manage that in a way that -- by the end of the day you feel you've accomplished something?

Anna Tovar: They're broken into task groups and education would have one, jobs and the economy would have one, healthcare, we would be broken up into different groups.

José Cárdenas: People self-select?

Anna Tovar: Yes, and what they would -- maybe have the most experience in. And that way, we would be able to have smaller groups and be able to focus on number one, the problems and finding the solutions.

José Cárdenas: Superintendent Scribner, education keeps getting mentioned as one of the topics and it's a important one. Is there any more to say? We had the two-day conference in Washington. The issues are fairly obvious. What is this summit on Saturday add to the discussion?

Dr. Kent Scribner: I think the summit provides an Arizona perspective and certainly from Phoenix, we don't want to be like other large metropolitan areas. Large districts have historically looked at low-income Latino student populations as districts in schools that have a deficit model. And we're trying to look at our fastest student population in Arizona, invest in their assets and we know that school districts that are successful in investing in their students and looking at them in terms of the academic opportunities and pushing rigor and creating programs that are more relevant and creating relationships within the school and outside of the school setting as well. And -- and I think that the Obama administration understands that Latino education success is American education success. Certainly in Arizona that's the case.

José Cárdenas: Part of this is to educate the Obama officials. In Arizona, what would you tell them this difference, based on your experience, you're three years into your superintendency.

Dr. Kent Scribner: Certainly, I would say it's incredibly important we shift of the paradigm. Looking at our students as not having a deficit but asset assets. They're bilingual and resilient and collaborative and those are characteristics that Fortune 500 companies are looking for. They're the future adults of Arizona. 1.3 million students in Arizona school, almost 50% of those, K-12 are Hispanic and if we compress that, K-3, it's 65% of Arizona students are Latino. We had better do a better job of educating them because they're our future workforce for tomorrow.

José Cárdenas: The same question to the other three of you. What is there about Arizona, the Hispanic issues here that might be of news to the administration, maybe starting with you.

Jonathan Koppell: Well, I think there's -- emphasizing the sameness and differences. One of the things --

José Cárdenas: And you, I would think, would have a good sense of that. Coming from Yale most recently and -- and now in Arizona.

Jonathan Koppell: Yes, and I think that it's important giving a voice to Hispanic constituencies in Arizona is not to the exclusion of other constituencies. Many of the issues that differentiate Hispanics in this state differentiate Arizonans from the rest of the country. The housing situation and the way the economy is virtually paralyzed because it's tied to housing, I think uniquely affects Hispanics but it affects all Arizonans and understanding, breaking the jam on housing and allowing the economy to reset is vitally important to people in this region. Whether they're Hispanic or some other group. So I think it's important to be clear that the value in having Hispanic summits in different cities is to find the ways in which with the interests of Hispanics vary. We can't act like it's one monolithic group across the country. Many ways, the issues of Hispanics in Arizona are the issues of Arizonans in general.

José Cárdenas: What do you want them to understand by the end of the day on Saturday?

Anna Tovar: I want them to understand Arizona's uniqueness when it comes to Arizona citizens, specifically, the Latino community and helping us target not only -- getting out to vote, but knowing the issues and the solutions that can come to the state. I mean, for instance, I know of two mayors of a small city that will be attending and I think it's a perfect opportunity for small mayors of cities to come in and really, you know, have the conversations with small cities because truly, small cities and small businesses are at the backbone of Arizona and creating, you know, our recovery so it's great to have them at the table providing the solutions and conservations.

José Cárdenas: Representative Gallego, let's talk about the president's visit. He came to Chandler the day after the state of the union address. First, he met with a full of local leaders, you were one of them. What did you talk about?

Ruben Gallego: An Iraq war veteran and marine corps veteran, the war in Iraq, I think it's important to remind -- doing such a good thing like that and told him that we in Arizona, especially the Democratic caucus are ready to work with him to create more jobs and bring more jobs home. There are laws that hope we can pass the statehouse level or amplifying the message, we're ready to work with him and look forward to creating more jobs here in Arizona and in the country.

José Cárdenas: Representative Tovar, you had a separate conversation with the president.

Anna Tovar: Yes, I had a conversation, focusing on jobs. And creating jobs here in Arizona. Talked about being a former teacher, and creating a stable education system, that's ready to move our students forward into the next century. And also, as a cancer survivor, I did thank him for his -- you know, his leadership on cancer research and his healthcare initiative.

José Cárdenas: Superintendent Scribner, the president's speech in Chandler, tell us about it.

Dr. Kent Scribner: Again, the focus is that our K-12 system can to longer focus on the goal of high school graduation. We cannot be a system in Arizona and the United States that focuses simply on standards that graduate students from high school. We have to be focusing on all students, middle achieving and upper achieving and tying it back to Saturday's visit with the Latino student population it clearly is inextricably linked. It's not an Latino issue, it's an American issue and his speech in terms of college, career preparedness, when these high paying, high demanding jobs are created, that we have the workforce to fill those jobs and do not have to import talent from around the world. That we're developing it locally in our state and city and throughout the country.

José Cárdenas: So a repetition to a certain extent of the issues he touched on in the State of the Union Address. What about immigration?

Dr. Kent Scribner: With regard to immigration in the schools from our perspective, the -- the overwhelming issue is among adult, yes, we have -- I was encouraged by his comments with comprehensive immigration reform. Particularly with Dream Act students. We think it's an injustice they were brought to the country and raised and Americans through and through, as president pointed out to be denied the opportunity to continue their education. Particularly in an economy that's growing in -- in a circumstance where we need future high-tech workers and people who can contribute to our -- to our economy and not be a drain on it.

José Cárdenas: Representative Gallego, on the subject of dreamers -- the president is being criticized as not saying anything different than he did a year ago and nothing happened last year and nothing will happen this year and just looking for Hispanic vote.

Ruben Gallego: For one, they have to take into context everything the president has done, especially with respect to the jurisdictional -- I'm sorry, the discretion he's given to the DOJ to only deport people in the country that are dangerous felons and that are here illegally. That's a big step. Two, it's also important he gets credit for actually talking about the Dream Act. There are a lot of detractors who would love to have him stop the Dream Act. We know who stopped the dream act. It was the Republican senate with the filibuster that stopped the vote from happening. It we don't push it, it's no longer a political issue and we're letting off the legislators off the hook, killing the dream of hundreds of thousands of students who are Americans except for the circumstance of where they were born.

José Cárdenas: Increased enforcement, you talk about a change in deportation policy but the numbers are up in terms of number of people deported. Far more than in his predecessor's administration. Is that a valid criticism?

Anna Tovar: I think it is, but at this point, we have the -- the immigration system is broken and needs fixed. And Arizona itself cannot handle the task and should not be implementing laws to try and fix that, because we've known from the past, you know -- by passing S.B. 1070 that it's been detrimental to the economy and educational system and needing the reform at the federal level is an absolute must for Arizona.

José Cárdenas: And Dean Koppell, immigration has been a big issue, we're often described as ground zero. Is there any benefit to focusing on that issue? Hasn't everything that needs to be said been said?

Jonathan Koppell: I don't think that's ever true and I think there are different groups within Arizona that have different views on immigration and one of the things that I think is most interesting for someone who doesn't know about Arizona from the outside, but to come in and say, even the opinions within the Hispanic community on immigration are non-monolithic. And you'd get different answers to the questions you just asked the panelists depending on who you ask in the community. I think it will be hard to have substantive action from a federal policy point of view on the immigration front. You may have heard there's an election coming up and I think that President Obama and the Republican candidates are carefully calibrating their position to find that right spot between the various constituencies that have these different positions. It's complicated. It's not a left and right thing. There are many different points. Right now it's hard to imagine how we'll find a bold new direction because being honest about the electoral context, that's tricky to do.

José Cárdenas: Probably not much is going to happen, it's an election year.

Jonathan Koppell: I think that's reasonable.

José Cárdenas: Arizona is in the spotlight for two reasons. The State of the Union Address, the emotional and moving hug between the president and Representative Giffords and then his visit to Chandler. A bit of a dustup with Governor Brewer. What's going on there?

Anna Tovar: I would first say that I'm very disappointed how the governor took this opportunity to present Arizona. You know, time and time again, Arizona is presented in a negative aspect. You know, and the country.

José Cárdenas: And perhaps we should elaborate. She presented the president with a letter, a request for an upcoming meeting and different account what is ensued but clearly an exchange occurred.

Anna Tovar: Today is a perfect example how the governor needs to stop this political bickering. This absolutely needs to stop. I mean, today would have been the perfect opportunity for her to sit down with the president, you know, put party politics aside and focus on Arizona and creating jobs here in Arizona and pushing that forward. Instead, she took the opportunity, you know, to get herself in the spotlight as far as trying to make it a political issue here so I was very disappointed to see that. Because the president did come with great expectation to come here and highlight Arizona and manufacturing jobs and, you know, this -- pointing fingers at each other gets Arizona nowhere. House Democrats, we definitely believe that's one of our -- our -- you know, priorities this session is stopping the political bickering between each party. And let's get down to work and really push Arizona forward. And one of the ways is with jobs.

José Cárdenas: Representative Gallego, anyway that is happening as a result of the discussions on Saturday -- by the way, will you have Republicans in attendance?

Ruben Gallego: We'll have Republican attendees. Don't know if we'll have Republican legislators but the invites were sent out to them also. The chances of that happening, we don't know. We have to keep trying. And I think the biggest disappointment about Jan Brewer acting the way she did, she had a perfect opportunity to ask the president for something that truly matters to Arizona -- job creation. To lift regulation to create jobs and create a highway to create more jobs. Instead, playing by the 2010 playbook and she was -- in her letter, requesting him to visit the border. For her -- I would prefer for her to ask him to visit a plant or roadway that needs built but instead, she wants to play derisive politics. And the president talked about in the State of the Union Address, and the governor is a perfect example what's wrong with Washington D.C. She wants to score little political points.

José Cárdenas: To be fair, there seems to be a difference in opinion who picked this particular fight. Superintendent Scribner, your appointment announced this week, tell us about that.

Dr. Kent Scribner: It was a great honor. The president -- actually, the White House in the early '90s, George H.W. Bush started the office for Hispanics -- excellence in education for Hispanics, it's not a new phenomenon. I was appointed with academicians and practitioners and from Princeton and UCLA and some very impressive people and it's an honor for me to be participating on the commission. We're looking for programs and design elements of programs that are successful in their efforts to educate Latino students and excel their -- their -- their achievement. And try to replicate those throughout the country.

José Cárdenas: And Dean Koppell, we're almost out the out of time. A wrap-up of what you hope to see of the discussion on Saturday?

Jonathan Koppell: I was thinking about the point Kent made about the strengths of the students, not seeing it as a deficit but a strength. We can broaden that to Arizona generally. I'd like the lessons of things that have worked in Arizona, made the Hispanic community robust, we can take those lessons and broaden them to a federal level. Not only as a opportunity to give our list of wants and needs but here's the things we've done in this city, this state and say this is what you should be doing at the federal level. View it as a positive opportunity and not just -- not just a negative opportunity.

José Cárdenas: And on that note we'll end our interview good luck on the summit. Thank you all for joining us to talk about it tonight on Horizonte.
That is our show for tonight, from all of us here at Horizonte. I'm José Cárdenas have a good evening.

Dr. Kent Scribner:Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent, member, President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics; Anna Tovar:State Representatives; Ruben Gallego:State Representatives; Dean Jonathan Koppell:ASU College of Public Programs;

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