Latino Public Policy

Latino Public Policy is a strategic research partnership between the Latino Center for Leadership Development and the John Goodwin Tower Center for Public Policy and International Affairs. America is in the midst of a fundamental, Latino-driven, demographic shift. Latinos will represent more than 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050 and will represent 70 percent of the workforce growth between 2010 and 2020. This partnership aims to increase the study of public policy issues that are faced by Latino communities within the U.S. and to generate thoughtful solutions. 

For general inquiries, please email us at For the latest updates on research, events and experts visit the Latino Public Policy blog.


The SMU Tower Center-LCLD Research Partnership is an exciting and ambitious initiative with the objective of employing rigorous social science research to understand the growing challenges and opportunities the Latina/o population faces in the United States. The partnership provides an avenue for the linking of research to practice, an opportunity rarely given to scholars. As postdoctoral fellows, Danielle Casarez Lemi and Jennifer Cook's involvement with the LCLD specifically situates them within a community of Latina/o local, state, and federal elected and appointed officials. Moreover, as public academics, they have the unique opportunity to engage in important conversations and collaborations with policy practitioners who are in a position to drive change and tackle important issues for Latinas/os.

Danielle Casarez Lemi studies race and ethnic politics, political behavior, and identity politics within legislative institutions. She is especially interested in how skin tone, racial ambiguity, and racial identification all impact how voters evaluate minority candidates and how legislators understand their work. Her work has been published in Politics, Groups, and Identities.

Jennifer A. Cook is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Tower Center for Public Policy and International Affairs at Southern Methodist University. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut in May, 2017, and specializes in the study of im/migration, il/legality, and social change in transnational Mexico. Based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico and Connecticut, Cook’s dissertation examines the way Mexican lawful permanent residents engage with the family-based immigration system. Specifically, the dissertation shows that “legal” Mexicans use family legalization as a strategic tool to improve the long-term welfare of their families. Cook is currently working on revising her dissertation for publication as a book manuscript, tentatively titled Lawful Permanent Migrant: Legality and Mobility in Transnational Mexico. She also teaches courses on Latino immigration and cultural diversity in the U.S. for the Department of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University.

About the LCLD

The Latino Center for Leadership and Development was formed in order to bring light to Latino thought about today's state of affairs and to develop innovative solutions to the issues Latinos and the broader community face. Under the leadership of Miguel Solis, president, the Center strives to develop the next generation of leaders driven by thoughts, values, and experiences that will improve the Latino community. For more information, visit the Center's website.

The Criminal Justice System and Latinos in an Emerging Latino Area

By: Dr. Betina Cutaia Wilkinson

Interrupted Family Ties: How the Detention or Deportation of a Parent Transforms Family Life

By: Blanca Ramirez

“It is hard right now”: High School Educators Working with Undocumented Students

By: Dr. Marisol Clark-Ibáñez and Carolina Valdivia

Administrative Perspectives on Dual Credit

By: Dr. Hugo Garcia, Dr. Jon McNaughtan,Yvonne Harwood & Dustin Eicke

Philanthropy and Immigration Enforcement: The Role of Grantmaking on Nonprofit Influence During Secure Communities

By: Dr. M. Apolonia Calderon, political science, Texas A&M University

Protecting Children? Assessing the Treatment of Unaccompanied Minors in the U.S.

By: Chiara Galli, sociology, UCLA

Do Latinos Still Support Immigrant Rights Activism? Examining Latino Attitudes a Decade After the 2006 Protest Wave

By: Dr. Sophia Jordan-Wallace, political science, University of Washington and Dr. Chris Zepeda, ethnic studies, UC Berkeley

Speaking in Tongues? Toward a Clearer Understanding of Language Effects on Latino Public Opinion

By: Dr. Efrén O. Pérez, political science, Vanderbilt University

Border Enforcement and Civil Rights Along the Texas-Mexico Border

By: Esther Reyes, PhD Candidate, University of Texas at Austin

Latina Immigrant Women and Children: Impact of Detention and Lack of Services

By: Dr. Laurie Cook Heffron, Dr. Josie V. Serrata and Dr. Gabriela Hurtado

Are Asian Americans Who Have Interracial Relationships Politically Distinct?

Danielle Casarez Lemi, SMU, and Augustine Kposowa, University of California, Riverside

Key finding: People with interracial partners are more likely to care about racial issues, less likely to favor co-ethnic candidates and to belong to ethnically concentrated civic groups, and are no more likely to be concerned about immigration or favor a pathway to citizenship.

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The Politics of Latina/o Faith: Examining Religion as a Political Cleavage Among Latinas/os

Alicia Reyes-Barrientez

Key takeaways from Dr. Reyes-Barrientez's research:

  • A majority of Latinas/os self-identify as conservative and yet affiliate with and vote for candidates of the Democratic Party.
  • Latina/o evangelical Catholics and Latina/o evangelical Protestants maintain similar religious beliefs and behaviors.
  • Latina/o Catholics are more likely to express a strong sense of group consciousness and more likely to vote for the Democratic Party than Latina/o Protestants.
  • Latina/o evangelical Catholics are more likely to express a strong sense of group consciousness and more likely to identify with the Democratic Party than Latina/o evangelical Protestants.

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Framing Immigration: An Overview of Persuasive Messaging Strategies for Political Communicators

 Aileen Cardona-Arroyo

Research conclusions:

  • News of immigrant protests increases Latinos/as’ welcoming policy attitudes
  • News of immigrant protests increases non-Latinos/as’ restrictive policy attitudes

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Apply for a LCLD-Tower Center Latina/o Research Grant

Next application cycle will open Spring 2019

The Latino Center for Leadership Development (LCLD) in partnership with the TOWER CENTER at SMU is now accepting proposals for research grants. This research partnership is committed to understanding the growing challenges and opportunities the Latina/o population faces in the United States. While we are open to supporting research on any academic topic related to the Latina/o community, the partnership will prioritize research projects with public policy implications in areas such as immigration, criminal justice, education, poverty, health, economy, infrastructure, urban planning, civil rights, housing, LGBTQ rights, and inequality. Faculty and Ph.D. students in any discipline are welcome to apply. Proposals can funded for up to $10,000.

Jorge Baldor, Founder of the Latino Center for Leadership and Development  

Caroline Brettell, Ruth Collins Altshuler Professor, Department of Anthropology, SMU

Jennifer Cook, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Tower Center

Eric Cedillo, Cedillo Law

Nathan Cortez, Adelfa Botello Callejo Endowed Professor of Law in Leadership and Latino Studies, SMU

Neil Foley, The Robert H. and Nancy Dedman Chair in History, SMU

Patty Garcia, Vice President of Programs and Operations of the Latino Center for Leadership and Development

James Hollifield, Academic Director of the Tower Center

Danielle Lemi, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Tower Center

Miguel Solis, President of the Latino Center for Leadership and Development