Cesar Ruiz

The Project

Cesar’s (he/him/his) project will break down barriers to voting and enhance access to key political processes for underrepresented Latino communities in New York and Florida.

Historically, Latinos have been deprived of access to the franchise under policies across the country which suppress and dilute Latino voting power and minimize representation. Denial of language assistance despite federal and state protections, deficient representation in redistricting processes, and lack of community engagement in Latino communities ensure that Latinos, who are the nation’s largest racial/ethnic minority at around 18%, remain underrepresented in key political processes.

Specifically, in New York and Florida lack of civic engagement and education and non­participation in the redistricting process results in the underrepresentation of Latinos, as data shows that Latinos fall below the national average in a wide range of socio­economic indicators. Enhancing access to voting and the redistricting processes in both states will promote civic engagement, creating accountability to Latinx issues and communities.

Cesar’s Latinx heritage and upbringing motivate him to serve his community and to advocate for the range of issues impacting them.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Cesar will provide voter and redistricting education and outreach, to the most populous Latino districts and provide oversight and advocacy for compliance with state and federal election law, litigating voting and redistricting issues as needed in Florida and New York. Cesar will also help form coalitions with partner organizations to develop networks to better serve Latinos in Florida and New York.

Media

Safeguarding the Right to Vote for Latinx Community Members

Three Class of 2021 grads have been awarded the Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Access to voting and a voice in the redistricting process are critical rights that must be protected and held open for all given their importance in determining the everyday intricacies of our lives. Now more than ever we must stand up together and demand access, transparency, and accountability.

Cesar Ruiz /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Alex (she/her/hers) will help launch a network of pro bono legal clinics designed to curb the criminalization of homelessness by amplifying on-the-ground legal services for unhoused people while steering aggressive litigation and policy strategies.

More than 3.5 million people in the U.S. go unhoused annually—a rate that has steadily increased over the past several years and will only keep rising given the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, cities and states across the country are adopting “quality of life” laws—better understood as anti-homeless laws—that criminalize basic survival activities like sleeping, sitting, erecting temporary shelter, asking for money, and even sharing food in public. The scale is massive: every major city in the country currently has several of these laws on the books, leading to hundreds of thousands of citations, tickets, and arrests each year. The effects are disproportionately felt by Black, Brown, Indigenous, disabled, and LGBTQIA communities. These laws do not “solve” mass homelessness; rather, they serve only to trap very poor and unhoused people in cycles of poverty and criminalization, as well as stifle their ability to organize towards solutions that address the root causes of homelessness and poverty. 

Fellowship Plans 

Taking her lead from organizers and advocates long-established in unhoused communities, Alex will develop the specific legal infrastructure needed to build a network of legal clinics focused on defending against anti-homeless laws and challenging their discriminatory impacts. This legal infrastructure will ensure that the clinics can work in constant collaboration with each other across cities and states and that the information gleaned from their frontline work can steer and create aggressive impact litigation and policy strategies on a national level. An aspiring poverty law and civil rights attorney, Alex will also assist in litigation and direct representation where feasible.

Media

Three Class of 2021 grads have been awarded the Equal Justice Works Fellowship

So-called ‘quality of life’ laws are part of a long legacy of attempts to criminalize poverty, people of color, and homelessness—from anti-Okie laws to Jim Crow, sundown towns, and broken windows policing. These laws deny poor people’s humanity and attack their basic means of life.

Alex Matak /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow