The Latino community in Madison continues to gain a voice in the racial disparity movement, taking further action to research its concerns in education, health and safety.
When the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families published the Race to Equity report last fall, there was a huge response from the community to find ways to reduce the disparities between black and white people in Dane County.
The council recently started the same process in gathering data comparing the same disparities of health, education and criminal justice between the white and Latino community, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, said.
Salvador Carranza, senior academic planner at the University of Wisconsin System, said the Latino Support Network of Dane County serves to engage various leaders and organizations in the Latino community by hosting a monthly forum to discuss Latino issues.
“Basically it’s a forum where everybody that has anything to do to serve the Latino community comes together to share knowledge, to share experiences, to ask for advice and work with everybody else,” Carranza said.
Carranza also serves as president of the Latino Education Council, which works to assist students in gaining access to a college education. The barriers that many Latino students face in going to college is based on immigration status, Carranza said.
Carenza told the story of a top valedictorian in the Milwaukee Public Schools district, a “math genius,” who faced the barrier of out-of-state tuition to get into a university. With the help of individuals at UW-Milwaukee, this undocumented valedictorian was able to attend UW-Milwaukee with a $10,000 scholarship, he said.
“Fortunately, that skill won’t be wasted, but how many are? It makes no sense,” Carranza said. “We are hurting ourselves and our states. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and we are wasting a lot of great minds.”
Undocumented students had been eligible for in-state tuition rates under a program signed into law by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, but Republican Gov. Scott Walker eliminated the program in his first budget in 2011.
President Barack Obama has since issued the temporary deferment of prosecution for undocumented immigrants, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows students who meet certain education requirements without a criminal history to stay and attend college, he said.
“Since Walker came in, there’s been several states that have actually passed resident tuition for undocumented students,” Carranza said. “We are the only state that instead took it away — the only state in the nation that is going backwards instead of forwards.”
The Latino Education Council seeks to assist students in working around these barriers, connecting many students with scholarships, Carranza said. He added one of the ways students are able to access higher education is by first attending Madison College or Edgewood College for affordability.
Bidar-Sielaff serves as co-president of the Latino Health Council, which focuses on health issues in the Latino community, including higher rates of diabetes and obesity, teen pregnancy, HIV and STDs.
The cause for the disparity in these health issues often times is related to immigration status, she said. There is a higher rate of uninsured Latinos, which creates barriers to health care access.
The next step the city must take is to have a more comprehensive conversation and discuss more specific action that can be taken, Bidar-Sielaff said.
UW is also getting involved in the process. Bidar-Sielaff said there have been many research projects at the university on issues important to the Latino community.
These organizations are always trying to bring students to community events, she said, with the goal of allowing Latino students to feel welcome at a school that is majority white.