2018 Annual Report Spotlight: Making Grants to Protect Equal Rights

January 3, 2019

As we enter 2019, it is important to reflect on the important work that was accomplished last year. With this in mind we will be highlighting stories from Voqal’s FY 2018 Annual Report: Be Nimble in the coming weeks. In our first entry, we take a look at efforts by Voqal grantees to push back on attacks on equal rights.

The past couple of years have been a difficult time for many underrepresented groups. Political forces have conspired to deny their voices and limit their rights. Fortunately, Voqal has been well-equipped to assist the groups on the front lines of the fight to protect those most at risk.

Empowering Young Latinos in Texas
Jolt is a Texas-based, multi-issue organization that builds the political power and influence of Latinos in American democracy. With support from Voqal, Jolt quickly built a movement of young Latinos aimed at pushing back against policies like SB4 in Texas, one of the harshest anti-immigration laws in the United States, that reduces the rights of Latinos.

The effective empowerment of Jolt’s members is perhaps best exemplified by 16-year-old Viri Sanchez, a DACA recipient who joined Jolt because she was tired of seeing her community attacked by state legislators. Sanchez graduated from the Jolt’s Leadership Institute course and helped lead its Quinceañera protest at the Texas Capitol. This protest and performance against SB4 used song, dance and poetry by Jolt members to highlight the problems with the law. Led by individuals like Sanchez, the event went viral reaching an estimated 50 million Americans. While the fight to repeal discriminatory policies like SB4 isn’t over, this effort showed the true power of Latino youth to protect the rights of their community.

Leveraging Latinx Power to Protect Net Neutrality
Presente.org advances Latinx power and creates winning campaigns that amplify Latinx voices and foster inspiration for freedom, equity and justice. Over the last year, Presente.org’s political arm, Presente Action has been the leading Latinx voice on net neutrality. Its members have taken more than 200,000 actions to defend and protect the open internet, including submitting tens of thousands of comments to the FCC, making thousands of phone calls and showing up to protest FCC Chairman Pai’s public appearances. And this work has real consequences.

Presente successfully fought for the release of Juan Gaspar-García, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala with Down syndrome, from ICE detention. His sister Dolores launched a petition on Presente’s SOMOS digital organizing platform asking Sen. Marco Rubio to protect Juan from deportation. This petition led to hundreds of Presente members taking action that led to Juan’s eventual release! Without the free and open internet provided by net neutrality, the digital organizing tool (SOMOS) that made this possible could not exist.

Providing Support for Dreamers
An affiliate of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund, advocates directly for federal immigration reform policies that provide a road to citizenship for all aspiring citizens and to make it possible for them to fully integrate into the social, economic and political fabric of the United States. With support from Voqal, the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund worked with its coalition partners to provide Dreamers much needed policy support in a political environment that has rapidly put their status at risk.

The success of this work was clear during the federal government shutdown that occurred on January 19. After two continuing resolutions, the government shutdown because the Senate could not agree to a deal. The main point of dissent was the Dream Act. After many months of pressure from organizations like NILC, allies in Congress — Democrats and Republicans — would not vote to continue funding the government unless protections for Dreamers were included in the deal. Immigration policy had finally become a top congressional issue and congressional allies felt initial pressure to get something done. While the shutdown ultimately ended without concrete legislative progress on the Dream Act, the efforts of NILC helped create a moment in history that brought the movement closer to its goal.

Voqal continues to envision a more socially equitable world. The efforts of grantees like these to empower and engage individuals to fight for their rights gives us hope that such a vision is not only possible, but likely. To learn more about Voqal’s work in Fiscal Year 2018, read the full annual report.