UnidosUS Annual Conference: An Intern’s Perspective

UnidosUS Annual Conference: An Intern’s Perspective

The UnidosUS annual conference creates a meeting ground for participants to discuss and focus on pressing issues that Latinos face daily from all over the United States. Special guests can share their knowledge on topics that impact the Latino community every day.

This year, I thought it would be great to add a spin to the blog I wrote last year by including thoughts from RDF staff.

Latinos & Homeownership

Janet Murguía, UnidosUS President, kicks off the conference with her opening remarks.

An impactful session during the conference was “The Big Bet: Latinos and Homeownership”, which discussed how gentrification has made housing unaffordable in once predominantly Latino neighborhoods, the gap in homeownership between Hispanic Americans and white Americans has continued to grow, and most of those being displaced are people of color, who typically have less income to be able to afford housing and renters who are often at greater risk for eviction.

Miguel Baca, RDF’s Investment Associate – Specialty Finance enjoyed the insightful analysis from the panelists in this session.

“Nilda Ruiz, President and CEO of APM, provided an interesting analysis on homeownership in Eastern North Philadelphia and the disparity and inequality faced among Latinos,” he said. “We must find ways to increase homeownership for Latinos and minorities to create generational wealth.”

The statistics in this segment were mind-blowing. In Philadelphia, in 2015, 50% of sale housing hovered around $80,000 to $100,000. From 2015 to 2019: 50% of those homes had increased in value, and we’re selling for over $200,000. This has not only happened in Philadelphia but other parts of the United States.

Family is just so central to the culture. A lot of what happened during COVID-19, for all families, was a need to have four walls that are safe. That is why having house values skyrocket is worrisome for the community.

RDF sponsors the second session of the immigration track: “Ready to Stay: Preparing for Legalization”

An Essential Path to Citizenship
Another great session titled “Immigration | An Essential Path to Citizenship: What’s Next?” discussed the current immigration landscape with a priority of essential workers and analyzed public opinions and political strategies.

If there were a better path to citizenship, it would allow Latinos to share their intelligence and skills in many job positions. There are many obstacles in the naturalization process, such as a lengthy process and unethical treatment.

Plus, the high cost can be especially harsh for families with lack of financial and social resources. It is not logical to have naturalization be so expensive while the main population that is going through the process is low income.

This session caught the attention of Chantal Martinez, RDF’s Staff Accountant, especially regarding the slow speed of solutions for immigration issues.

“Panelist Carolina Rubio mentioned that sometimes we do not realize that we can find the help and resources we need by thinking locally, simply talking to each other, and getting out there,” Chantal says. “There should be more information given to immigrants going through the citizenship process, especially from people that understand the struggle they are currently going through. If we had more open conversations with the people around us, we might find that many people out there have the same issues we have or have already solved them and have the experience that we need.”

President Joe Biden delivers a speech during the conference.

On a positive note, I think that it is amazing to have the President of the United States be a special guest speaker at the end of this segment. I hope for the sake of my Latino community that President Joe Biden keeps his promises and lends a helping hand to minorities.

A Multi-Racial Approach to Racial Justice
Another great session titled “Across the Divide: A Multi-Racial Approach to Racial Justice” focused on minority communities having an opportunity to unite around common concerns to deepen our impact. Panelists explored how we can come together and take a multiracial approach to justice for all communities of color.

Panelist Sonal Shah stated, “In order to move the conversation forward, we have to work together.” I think that communities of color must work together to solve a common issue that is stung in them. Other racial or ethnic groups might be shown to be more “important” or might have more spotlight. However, that is not true, what media does it try to put groups against each other when it would be most beneficial to have all groups tackle an obstacle that they both have together.

Attendees continue these great conversations on social media.

“It is empowering to listen to speakers talk about these struggles. When an issue is discussed and brought to light, it is more likely to cause a positive chain reaction. It takes a village to tackle a problem, and unity can mean power,” shares Isabela Quintero, RDF’s Community Impact Intern. “Organizations should go a step further and not only just discuss the issues and raise awareness but collaborate on a project, whether that be gathering supplies for immigration centers, volunteering at those shelters, or even raising money directly for not one cause but multiple that would impact more communities.”

I completely agree. I know that RDF is doing an amazing job getting involved with work that help the community. In the future, I see myself getting involved volunteering for immigration centers. That support was a great way to start a call to action to issues that are in our society.

Being present in these meetings has given me new insight into the way I look at things. I have learned so much from these sessions. They have opened my eyes to areas that need more advocacy in our community.

I enjoyed the UnidosUS 2021 virtual Conference. I look forward to a better year and have the luxury to attend someday in person. It is enlightening to listen to my co-works thoughts and input on the conferences. I hope that by watching the segment, you found one that you connect with and caused a flame to spark within you to help the community.

Natalya Merida

Natalya Merida, intern at RDF, is a junior at Moon Valley High School in Arizona. She is interested in a career in the medical field because of experiences she had at a young age seeing her parents struggle to communicate with their English-speaking physician. She is working alongside Ruby Marinez, RDF’s Executive Assistant Office of the President.

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