Did you know that Carmelo Anthony is Latino? Neither did I until a few days ago. Actually, if you found out that he is of mixed descent — Puerto-Rican through his father and African-American through his mother — you might say to yourself that he isn’t “really” Latino. It might be because you think that Latinos, who can be any race, are not really black, or that anybody who is even partially of black descent is unequivocally “black.” For instance, President Obama is of mixed heritage, yet he is almost always viewed as unequivocally black. It might also be that because of the sport Anthony plays, the black portion of his heritage unconsciously takes precedence.
As a result of the excitement among Asian-Americans sparked by the rise of Jeremy Lin, I wanted to find a similar source of ethnic pride for myself and mi gente Latina. My search was not in vain as I found Carmelo as well as Trevor Ariza and Charlie Villanueva, both men of Dominican descent. I also found that the Lopez brothers — Brook and Robin — are of Cuban descent. And I might as well name the only other two native-born Latinos currently in the NBA, according to the NBA’s Spanish-language website, “enebea.com.” Udonis Haslem and Renaldo Balkman are both of Puerto-Rican descent.
There are also an additional 20 foreign-born players categorized as Latino or Hispanic, including Spaniards, in the league, according to the website. Here you will notice Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Ricky Rubio. Interestingly, it also includes J.J. Barea despite the fact that Puerto-Ricans born on the island are technically native-born Americans. The 27 may not be as lonely as the one and only Asian-American in the league, but it is still a small number compared to the number of black and white Americans playing in the NBA. So why aren’t there more Latinos in the NBA? Is it that, like white men, Latinos can’t jump? Are we not tall enough? (I can certainly attest to that.) The answer is probably fairly complicated, involving numerous factors beyond physical attributes — the most significant of which is, I believe, culture.
The fact that most of the Latinos in the NBA are foreign-born seems to support this theory. Whereas native-born Latinos do not see fellow Latinos like them playing in the NBA, Latinos in other countries (who, by the way, do not generally self-identify as Latinos) — although naturally exposed to the NBA — do not face the same sort of lack of cultural models within their own countries. It explains why the few foreign-born Asians in the league in recent years — Wang Zhizhi, Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian among others — outnumber the one American-born Asian who has played in the league in recent memory.
Not many Americans were even aware that foreigners played basketball too until the past decade when foreign national teams such as Argentina, Spain and Greece started beating the Americans in the Olympics and other international basketball competitions. Foreign leagues have gotten so good that many NBA stars considered playing in Europe or China when the NBA lockout threatened to foreclose on the season. The success of national teams from other countries, including countries where we would consider the players Latino or Hispanic such as Spain and Argentina, against American teams often replete with black players shatters the conceptions that we tend to have about who is good at basketball. After the “Dream Team” of 1992 and Michael Jordan, people around the world wanted to be like Mike and the Americans, and they have made great strides in realizing this.
The truth is that basketball is a very democratic sport. Like soccer, it does not require much equipment. It is why so many black kids in poor inner-cities play basketball and not other sports. Many Latinos come from similarly poor backgrounds and play basketball, but I believe the lack of Latino cultural models in the NBA or even collegiate level prevent them from looking at the sport as anything more than recreation. Furthermore, Latino kids may not necessarily focus their skills on basketball like black kids because there is also the allure of soccer — that other democratic sport which is ever-popular among Latinos. It is an established sport among many Latinos in a similar fashion that basketball is for blacks.
The consequence of these tendencies is to harden stereotypes about who is good at what sport, and this consequently influences the perceptions of scouts. Basketball scouts looking for the next Michael Jordan might underestimate the abilities of non-black players. It is part of the reason why people are so surprised by Jeremy Lin’s success. According to my basketball savvy roommate, it also explains why a kid playing on the basketball team at my old high school is not getting as much attention for his game as perhaps he should be getting. He averaged over 30 points per game this season and had 49 and 50 point games in the playoffs. He also happens to be a Mexican immigrant which is what the media attention seems to focus on.
From my experience, it also seems that there is not an expectation among Latino families that their kids could or even should grow up to be professional athletes. Of course, I speak from my experiences within a Mexican family and community. Latinos are not a monolithic group. Whereas Mexican families may not see any sport — except maybe soccer — as a viable career option, perhaps baseball is seen differently among Dominican and Puerto-Rican families. And as the ethnic origins of Latino NBA players seem to indicate, perhaps playing basketball is something that Dominicans and Puerto-Ricans might aspire to more than Mexicans.
Ultimately, these expectations would derive from the presence or lack of cultural models. Perhaps the current trend of more Latinos — although mostly foreigner-born — in the NBA points the way to a future where we might see a more significant presence of native-born Latinos playing professionally. Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Ricky Rubio inspire heightened coverage of the NBA on Spanish-language television, which adds greatly to their perception as models.
So like the Asian community, the Latino community can indeed find a source of pride in the league — in fact, it can find many of them. But this is precisely the reason that the Latino community will probably never witness its own version of Linsanity. The fact that there are already successful Latinos in the league eliminates the possibility that some phenomenal Latino basketball player would burst onto the scene and capture as much attention as Lin has. One is just a special kind of number.
AHAA has released its second comprehensive study which revealed a positive connection between corporate Hispanic marketing and revenue growth specific for Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and CPG-based retail companies. In fact, the data showed a significant difference in the revenue growth rate attained by CPG companies which designate a higher focus to the Hispanic market than those corporations who focus less.
"This new information is compelling because the data indicates that the Hispanic market can be a big determinant in corporate success," said Roberto Orci, chair of AHAA and CEO of Acento Advertising. "CPG companies not only want to gain market share among their competitors but they also want to provide growth and stability for their investors - investing in Hispanic marketing is a clear strategy in achieving that two-fold objective."
The study analyzed the top 500 overall U.S. advertisers between 2006 and 2010. The regression model showed similar correlation findings and significance levels for the CPG set of companies when tested against the full sample of consistent top advertisers for the same time period. The study found, with a 95 percent confidence level, that among CPG brands, the share of overall marketing resources dedicated to the booming Hispanic segment explains about a third of their overall revenue growth.
"The connection is clear and very significant," said Dr. Cristina Garcia, professor of statistics at USC, who oversaw the methodology of the study. "The study found evidence that the proportion of resources a company, irrelevant of market category, puts behind Hispanic consumers is an essential driver for sustainable growth performance."
Effective growth leaders consistently put higher focus on creating solid relationships with the valuable Hispanic consumer base. Conversely, CPG underperformers tend to overlook Hispanic growth opportunities resulting typically in sluggish growth, and by consequence, slower value creation to their shareholders.
Approximately 39 Consumer Packaged Goods companies and retailers were included in the final study, a subset of 211 public companies with consistently advertised in Hispanic media between 2006 and 2010. The study identified seven companies as best-in-class, driving the highest overall organic revenue growth from their consistent leading efforts in the Hispanic market, including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Ralcorp, Groupe Danone, Nestle, Walmart, and Walgreens. Other companies analyzed include Clorox, Unilever, Kimberly-Clark, Target, Church & Dwight, CVS, Hormel, PepsiCo, Kellogg's, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Sara Lee, Fortune Brands, Rubbermaid, NutriSystem, ConAgra, Campbell's, Hershey's, Loreal and Estee Lauder, among others.
Hispanics are the ideal staples consumer
Accounting for 17 percent of the U.S. population and boasting $1.2 trillion buying power, Hispanics are the ideal staples consumer. Not only do they represent 56 percent of the U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2010, but they spend more time and money per trip to the grocery store than the national average, they bring more family members with them to shop, and they tend to be more brand loyal with a lesser emphasis on price point.
Boasting much larger households (3.8 persons per household compared to 2.5 for non-Hispanic households), Hispanics also have an annual household formation rate six times faster than that of non-Hispanic households (2.5 percent compared to 0.4 percent). In fact, according to a recent study by Credit Suisse, over the next 10 years, Hispanic households' food at home expenditures are estimated to grow at a 5.7% average annual rate compared to just 2.5% for non-Hispanic households. This makes Hispanic marketing a strategic imperative for CPG companies and their retail counterparts.
The younger age and larger Hispanic household size contributes to Hispanic households having the highest consumer spending potential for necessary spending on Food at Home and Personal Care. Hispanic Food at Home cumulative lifetime spending is over 50 percent higher than that of non-Hispanic White, while Hispanic Personal Care cumulative lifetime spending is about 33 percent higher than that of non-Hispanic White.
Takeaways and implications
The Hispanic market has moved from opportunity to a required corporate strategy for sustainable growth. Wall Street analysts have said that "Hispanic marketing strength may be one of the best indicators for whether management teams are doing 'next frontier' thinking or just trying to fix yesterday's problems."
The AHAA study shows that brands that focus on Hispanic marketing with determination and discipline are most likely to see more rapid topline revenue growth than those who are not as focused on this market.
While allocation is being measured in this study, sound evidence demonstrates that consistent-significant Hispanic marketers drive superior revenue growth among CPG manufacturers and retail. This research underscores that companies must deliver consistent integrated approaches and do not benefit from one-offs or translations of general market campaigns. While proper ad spend above-the-line is basic, it is only part of the puzzle.
"Hispanic media spend across all disciplines should be more broadly defined as corporate-wide holistic investment in this growth segment, reflecting the most appropriate cultural insights and developing integrated marketing strategies from product innovation to customer experience in order to leap-frog corporate revenues into an accelerated growth rate," said Carlos Santiago of Santiago Solutions Group, who conducted the study for AHAA.
Ad spending data was collected from The Nielsen Company. The study was commissioned by the AHAA Research Committee and executed by the Santiago Solutions Group, a growth strategy consultancy with methodological review by Dr. Cristina Garcia, professor of statistics at USC. AHAA analyzed all 35,000 U.S. advertisers and their allocation trends to Hispanic media for five years between 2006 and 2010. Each parent company was matched to the available published financial revenue data, and calculated 2006-2010 compounded annual growth rates. Various regression analyses were applied to identify any correlation between the percentage of advertising allocation dedicated to Hispanic and the company's compounded annual revenue growth rates. Companies which did not have consistent published financials such as venture capital firms, companies which had restated their earnings, non-profit organizations and companies which grew on acquisition sprees rather than consumer driven growth were eliminated from the final regression set.
If your family hails from Latin America and you live in a battleground state, brace yourself: politicians have finally woken up to the importance of your vote. President Obama’s re-election, pundits say, may depend on an outpouring of support from the barrios of the West and Southwest.
Yet attracting Hispanic votes may require more investment, in more places, than either party anticipates. For all the hype about the Hispanic vote in 2012, the aftershocks of the recession may have created a logistical barrier in many states for voter registration.
New numbers suggest that previous predictions of between 11 and 12 million Hispanic citizens voting in 2012 might be overly optimistic, said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. Barring a major investment in registration, turnout, or both, that's about 10.5 million votes cast.
Gonzalez dug into the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and found that Hispanic voter registration dropped from 11.6 million to 10.9 million in 2010. Voter registration typically speeds up in presidential election years and slows down in "off-year cycles," he says, but for over half a million voters to drop off the rolls is a big interruption of a twenty-year trend of rising Hispanic voter registration.
“What we think is happening is that the recession, and in particular the housing and foreclosure crisis really knocked the heck out of the Latino community,” Gonzalez said.
Unemployment and foreclosures caused a big spike in mobility, he said, as Hispanics moved to find work or a new home -- an activity that causes a loss of voter registration.
It’s hard to tease out voter registration data, experts say, because many states don’t ask citizens to declare their ethnicity when they register. The Census’ Current Population Survey relies on self-reporting, which can lead to inaccuracies. It’s also hard to infer why registration levels might have fallen.
But an anomaly in a pattern the survey has been tracking for decades deserves attention, said Ricardo Ramírez, a political scientist at Notre Dame University.
Given demographic pressures, “There shouldn’t be a drop, there shouldn’t even be a stabilization, there should be continued growth” in voter registration, Ramírez said. He said that mobility compelled by the recession is the likeliest explanation for the drop, although tougher voter registration regulations could also have had an effect.
The impact on the presidential race shouldn’t be huge, experts and advocates say. Seventy-two percent of Hispanic voters say they voted for Barack Obama in 2008, according to polling agency Latino Decisions, and the Obama for America campaign has made it clear that it will fight for this crucial constituency.
But a drop in Hispanic voter registration could impact downballot races, or make the Obama campaign’s task more difficult, Gonzalez said. And it certainly makes life harder for advocates working in states, like California and Texas, that aren’t competitive on a national level but are where about half of America’s Hispanics actually live.
“Remember, the battleground states only represent about one in five Hispanic voters,” Gonzalez said. “You can’t just depend on presidential campaigns to reverse this trend.”
Eight states with big Latino populations experienced “significant declines” in the number of registered Latino voters between 2009-2010, Gonzalez found: California, Texas, Nevada, Florida, Washington, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Florida lost 141,000 registered Latino voters, according to his analysis. California lost 238,000. Texas, New Jersey and New Mexico lost about 100,000 voters apiece.
Voter registration advocates say they’re already struggling to close the massive gap between Hispanic citizens eligible to vote and Hispanic citizens who are registered to vote. In a year when political action committees are raking in millions of dollars of donations, advocates say interest in funding basic voter registration work seems lower than ever.
Recent years have brought “a devastating, and I mean devastating, decline in the interest to fund voter registration drives,” said Lydia Camarillo, vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.
Ben Monterroso, national executive director of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, said he’s hopeful that his organization will attract more funding as Election Day nears. But he, like other advocates, emphasized the size of the need, and said that new voter registration laws in states like Texas and Florida have made it harder for many groups to operate.
More than half a million Hispanics become eligible to vote each year, according to Latino Decisions. Many of them will be teenagers turning 18. While 9.7 million Hispanic citizens voted in 2008, another 7.9 million were eligible to vote but didn't register to do so, according to the Census Bureau. Eighty percent of registered Hispanics cast a vote in 2008, according to the Census.
“In general, when you add up the balance sheet on electoral expenditures, voter registration is a minimal part of that equation-- even though it is critical to sustaining our democracy,” said Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, Director of Immigration and Civic Engagement at the National Council of La Raza. “For the Latino community, where you have a lot of people coming of age, that’s extremely problematic.”
Looking ahead to 2012, Latino Decisions predicts a registration gap of over 8 million citizens who need to be registered; NCLR predicts 9.6 million. If Gonzalez’ numbers are correct, the gap may be even greater.
It’s obvious that Hispanic turnout rises when advocates invest in registration and politicians invest in outreach, Camarillo said. Just look at the Hispanic mobilization that helped save Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Nevada seat in 2010.
“If you don’t expect Hispanics in other states, like Colorado and Nevada, to turn out without resources, why do you expect Hispanics in Texas to do that?” Camarillo asked.
There’s also an X factor, analysts and advocates say: the presence, of absence, of anti-immigrant rhetoric from Republicans at the local and national level.
One outlier in Gonzalez’ data? Arizona gained 200,000 registered voters. The recent mobilization of Arizona’s Hispanic community, analysts say, is tied to anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation in the state.
It’s the same pattern that mobilized California’s Hispanics in the 1990s, said Gonzalez. “Frankly, the Democrats were the beneficiaries of a catastrophic short-term Republican strategic blunder,” he said of California.
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum did little to ingratiate themselves with Hispanic voters when they called for tougher immigration enforcement while debating in Arizona last month, analysts say. The Obama for America campaign has a video on its website that highlights former Massachusetts Governor Romney’s opposition to the DREAM ACT.
But Obama’s failure to pass the DREAM Act—despite Democratic control of both houses of Congress—and the record number of deportations under his administration has soured the Hispanic community on the candidate they backed in 2008, advocates say.
Linda Vega, a Houston lawyer and founder of Hispanics Ready to Vote, heads one of the few conservative groups working to register Hispanic voters in Texas. Vega contends that apathy and low turnout, rather than low registration rates, are the real problem facing the Hispanic community. Another problem she sees is confusion.
“They show disappointment in the Obama administration. They feel they have been lied to, let down,” Vega said. “With the Republicans, they are shocked. Bush never spoke that way. Nor did Governor Perry,” she said, referring to the primary season’s escalation of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The president might have his work cut out for him, Vega said, particularly as he has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform and has increased the number of deportations.
“He really expects the Hispanic community to come out and vote for him,” Vega said. “I think he might be shocked.”
Latinum Network today announced the official launch of VozLatinum, a new online community leveraged by marketers who want to get to know the U.S. Hispanic consumer. Capturing valuable quantitative and qualitative insights on this growing demographic, VozLatinum provides a unique research capability for more than 80 corporate clients such as The Clorox Company, ConAgra Foods, Hallmark, and Nestle USA.
Using leading edge online tools, VozLatinum enables corporations to conduct a range of custom and targeted research activities in English and Spanish, including discussion forums, ad testing (video & print), package testing, attitudinal and behavioral research, and more.
"We're constantly looking for new ways to leverage the full power of the network," said Latinum co-founder Michael Klein. "VozLatinum enables us for the first time to directly connect our clients to the voice of the Latino consumer, and also to give the community a powerful platform to speak to so many of the brands they care most about."
The launch of VozLatinum is a great complement to Latinum's three pillars that help companies maximize their multicultural ROI: strategies and insights, peer-to-peer solutions and commercial collaboration.
"VozLatinum proved to be a reliable research alternative that provides clients with enough flexibility to gather valuable, deep consumer insights in a fast and cost-effective fashion," said David Cardona, Multicultural Team Leader at The Clorox Company. "Once again, the Latinum Network strengthened their membership support by providing us with tools to enhance our consumer understanding."
A service available to all Latinum Network clients, VozLatinum is representative, bilingual, and includes both English- and Spanish-speaking consumers across all levels of acculturation, geography, and demographic makeup.
"Online communities are becoming an increasingly powerful research and consumer co-development tool, but the resources and expertise required for the intense engagement, prohibit most companies from using them in the Latino segment. By launching the VozLatinum community, we're addressing a gap in the market for cost-effective, timely, and high quality consumer insights," Klein noted.
Elcira Bermudez had simple dreams growing up. The University of Texas-Pan American alumna wanted to be a United States citizen.
“When we came to America, we came here illegally and we were always afraid to be deported at any time,” Bermudez said.
Her destiny would surpass her wildest expectations. The young girl did not realize then she would become a pioneer for female Hispanics.
Bermudez rose through the engineering ranks and is now a driving force behind Raytheon Company, a major defense government contractor for the armed forces and a global leader in defense and homeland security. She works on the contractor’s multi-spectral targeting systems as the operations lead.
Bermudez’s voyage began in Guatemala where she and her five siblings were born. When she was 10 years old her family made a terrifying journey into the United States and eventually settled in Edinburg in search of a better life. Times were tough and money was scarce, but Bermudez said her mother labored tirelessly in restaurants to support them.
“My mother worked extremely hard to give all her six children what we needed and she taught me the most valuable lesson which is my work ethic,” Bermudez said. “Arriving from an extremely poor country, opportunities and success in America only come to those who work hard and don’t give up.”
Bermudez took that lesson to heart. Though she knew no English, Bermudez quickly picked up the language and excelled in her classes. In junior high she was selected for a unique program at UTPA, the Educational Talent Search (ETS), a federally funded outreach program for early intervention.
“I owe a lot of my education success to ETS,” Bermudez said.
In high school, Bermudez discovered her enthusiasm for mathematics in a pre-calculus class at Edinburg North High School.
“It was with Mr. Jesus Mata. It was his passion for math and the format he used to teach in classes that sparked my interest initially in the engineering field. I remember him always telling me that I should go into engineering,” she said.
After high school, Bermudez’s illegal immigrant status came full circle. Her family received a letter from the U.S. Immigration Department that would decide their fate. They were summoned to court.
“Thank God we were officially welcomed to America by the judge and I will never forget the words she told us. She said the doors of opportunity are wide open and it is up to you to go get those dreams,” Bermudez said. “Since then, I don’t just dream, I dream big.”
That is when Bermudez followed her high school teacher’s advice and enrolled at UTPA.
“UTPA offers one of the top engineering programs and the staff made sure we were not only book smart, but provided real life scenarios for the students to be involved in,” Bermudez said.
Even so, school was a struggle. Classes were complex and Bermudez said her family could not even afford a home computer so she spent hours poring over her books on campus.
“It was very difficult for my mother to understand why I spent several hours studying. I practically lived at the University to complete all my engineering projects,” Bermudez said. “It was a huge sacrifice, but I would do it all over again.”
Her dedication paid off. Bermudez graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Engineering degree. She also managed to squeeze in a little romance. Bermudez met her husband at UTPA when they were both freshmen.
“We didn’t really start dating until he was a senior. We were both fully focused on our school and career. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in electrical engineering,” she said.
Bermudez later earned her master’s degree in engineering at Southern Methodist University. The 31-year-old now lives with her husband in McKinney, Texas and is a manufacturing engineer for Raytheon's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. She has been with the company for six years.
It was not easy to break into the male-dominated field, but Bermudez said Raytheon was the perfect fit.
“Being a female Hispanic engineer seemed to be a major challenge, but luckily for me, Raytheon Company is a leader in diversity initiatives. My team members value my opinions and business decisions and I always feel included,” Bermudez said.
Bermudez said she is also honored to be included as one of UTPA’s Pillars of Success. The University recognized the new handful of inductees Feb. 17 during its Alumni Ball.
“I am very humbled to receive this award. This award gives me more visibility and I hope to continue to reach out in the community to make a greater impact with Hispanic education,” Bermudez said.
She is already an avid volunteer in her community serving as a mentor for youth and new employees. Bermudez works diligently to deliver the Raytheon MathMovesU program to students as a means to motivate them to seek math, science, and engineering degrees. She has received a number of awards and recognitions including Raytheon's 2011 Women to Watch Award.
Bermudez credits two things for her success: perseverance and ambition.
“One must not give up in the face of difficult moments or become despondent, but always have the drive or ‘ganas’ to succeed,” she said.
Now that we are well into the New Year, I thought it would be worthwhile to provide an update on the state of the Hispanic online market. Overall, the market continues to be rich and vibrant and the data points to a clear opportunity for online marketers in 2012. Narrowing Digital Divide
Most importantly, the digital divide appears to be narrowing. In January 2012, there were 33.5 million Hispanics online, or a full 15% of the total US online market. Compare this to the 2010 US Census that pegs the Hispanic population at 16% of the total US population. What’s more, the Hispanic online market is growing three times faster than the general market online. Based on this trend, it is likely that Hispanics will over-index in terms of online penetration in the relatively near future.
Not only do Hispanics make up an important part of the US online market, their demographic characteristics are compelling for marketers as online Hispanics are more likely to be in the key household formation process. A quick comparison between online Hispanics and non-Hispanics illustrates this point: • 59% of online Hispanics are under 35 compared to 50% of non-Hispanics • 65% of online Hispanics have children vs. 57% of non-Hispanics • 28% of online Hispanics have 5+ persons in the household vs. 24% of non-Hispanics
Although online Hispanics earn less than non-Hispanics they are relatively affluent when compared to the aggregate Hispanic market. 60% of online Hispanics earn more than $40,000 per year and a solid 25% earn more than $75,000. Growth in Bilingual and Spanish Language Online Usage
It is a fact that there is a relative lack of Spanish language content online and Hispanics, regardless of language preference, tend to consume more online content in English. Today, 53% of online Hispanics say that they use the Internet primarily in English with 28% indicating they use it in both English and Spanish with the remaining 19% using the Internet primarily in Spanish. What’s interesting is that the growth in Bilingual and Spanish language usage of the Internet is far outpacing English language usage as shown below. I anticipate that this trend will continue in the near future as more Spanish content is developed and more Spanish preferring Hispanics come online.
Continued Hispanic Passion for Social Media
Online Hispanics continue to be heavy users of social media driven by their relative youth, need to stay connected with family and friends within and outside of the US and desire to create and consume culturally relevant content in English or Spanish. Not only are Hispanics over indexing in their usage of established platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, they are also flocking to new platforms such as Google +, Tumblr and Pinterest.
Now that you have read this post, I am sure you will agree that online Hispanics should be part of your 2012 plans.
The valedictorian of a Florida high school who was close to being deported has won a reprieve from the Department of Homeland Security, which is deferring action for two years.
Attorney Nera Shefer's office received notification from the Department of Homeland Security Tuesday that Daniela Pelaez was given a deferred action for two years.
Pelaez, 18, came to the United States from Colombia with her family when she was four years old. She has applied to several Ivy League universities and wants to become a surgeon. She has a 6.7 grade point average.
A judge denied her request for relief from deportation last Monday.
Students at North Miami High School rallied around her, holding a protest over the judge's decision and an online petition that collected thousands of signatures. The protest drew more than 2,600 students, teachers and community members who held banners and chanted “Justice for Daniela," according to the Miami Herald.
Press reports said the turnout in support of Pelaez was one of the largest immigration protests in South Florida since President George W. Bush first proposed the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants in 2004.
She is also supported by Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Pelaez became a flashpoint of the raging national, years-long debate over what to do with the many undocumented youths across the country who were brought illegally by adults, grow up in the United States, and face deportation or encounter barriers when they try to go to college.
Efforts to pass legislation, called the DREAM Act, to allow such youths a chance to legalize their status if they meet a strict set of criteria -- including graduating from high school, then either attending college or serving in the military -- have failed to pass in Congress.
The Obama Administration last year said it would overhaul the deportation process to prioritize tracking down and expelling undocumented immigrants who have criminal backgrounds or pose a threat to national security. The administration, which is rolling out the new deportation approach in phases, said it would review the deportation cases of other undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the country as children and who had no say in the decision to come to the United States illegally.
Larry Jurrist, a school administrator, told WSVN that he would like to see Pelaez continue her education in the United States.
"She has a brother whose been serving for two years in Afghanistan and Iraq, so here's her brother out defending the country, and a judge telling her, 'Oh, but you don't deserve to be here,'" he said to the station.
"It doesn't make any sense."
Pelaez says she is excited by the Department of Homeland Security's action, but that it is also bittersweet because it is a temporary solution.
The San Antonio Independent School District filed a complaint with the UIL on Tuesday regarding a chant by Alamo Heights students after a boys basketball game against Edison High School on Saturday.
Heights students chanted “USA! USA!” after the Mules won the Region IV-4A championship against Edison at Littleton Gym on Saturday.
Edison's roster is predominantly Hispanic.
The chant lasted for about five seconds. Alamo Heights head coach Andrew Brewer silenced the students as soon as he heard them.
SAISD athletic director Gil Garza filed the complaint with the University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas public schools. It was the second year in a row that a complaint about racially motivated chants was filed after the Region IV-4A basketball tournament.
A similar incident occurred last year in a game between Cedar Park and Lanier high schools.
“A bunch of kids made a poor decision, but we can't ignore it,” Garza said. “Our community is fed up.”
Alamo Heights ISD Superintendent Kevin Brown said he has apologized to SAISD officials. Heights students who were involved in the chanting will not be allowed to attend the Mules' Class 4A state semifinal game against Dallas Kimball on Thursday.
Brown said some of the Heights students who took part and were disciplined are Hispanic.
“Unfortunately, after the game, we had a handful of students who made a bad decision and we're very sorry it happened,” Brown said. “They made a mistake and we're going to use this as a learning experience.”
Alamo Heights and Edison are less than four miles apart.
Edison coach Art Vela said his players were already in the locker room and did not hear the chant, which took place about three minutes after the game ended.
In last year's incident, Cedar Park students chanted “USA, USA,” and “Arizona, Arizona,” the latter being a reference to the controversial immigration bill passed by that state. Leander ISD officials formally apologized.
“What's different is that Cedar Park's chants were throughout the game, and Alamo Heights took immediate action,” Garza said. “But it's really frustrating that kids work so hard to get to this level and there's another group of kids degrading them.
“They not only ruined it for us, they ruined it for their own team.”