Things That Matter

Here’s Why Housing Advocates Are Warning Against Amazon’s Impact On Affordable Housing

After months of speculation, Amazon announced that the locations of its second headquarters will be in Long Island City, New York, and Arlington, Virginia. The announcement has been met with criticism from local community members and officials that say the influx of tech workers would fuel gentrification and hurt lower-income populations. Newly elected Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been one of the most vocal public officials to condemn Amazon for moving to Long Island. Ocasio-Cortez represents the 14th Congressional District of New York, which borders the district that includes Long Island City, and says the move “is extremely concerning to residents here.”

Residents and real estate watchers are monitoring the impact Amazon will have on rent and living costs in both New York and Virginia.

Housing displacement was a platform issue that Ocasio-Cortez ran on and is a vocal advocate for affordable housing. She took to Twitter to voice her displeasure about Amazon’s announcement. Ocasio-Cortez said that “shuffling working class people out of a community does not improve their quality of life.” Community members fear that Amazon’s decision to set up shop in New York will hasten gentrification, increase housing prices and displace current residents.

Northern Virginia realtor Jen Walker told NBC Washington that there has already been signs of the “the Amazon effect” on the local real estate marketplace. “They woke up this morning, saw the Amazon announcement and they decided they wanted to move forward with a contract,” she said. “They said, ‘We’re going to get priced out if we don’t do this now.'”

Alex Howe, a member of the group runs the website NoVa Says No to Amazon, echoed a similar message as Walker saying that the real estate market will drastically change now that Amazon is here. “Those already prospering will flourish and those who struggle in our region will be further pushed out and erased,” Howe said. “If Amazon comes here, it should be on our terms and they should pay their fair share in our community if they expect to set up shop here.”

Amazon says it will invest $5 billion and create more than 50,000 jobs across the two new headquarters locations but some are questioning if the company will follow through.

Rising home prices and cost of living have been huge concerns for many communities across the U.S. in places like San Francisco and Seattle, where Amazon is already established. Amazon says their new headquarters will generate millions of dollars in revenue and jobs opportunities. Yet many don’t see it that way as tech companies have been known to price out many long-time residents and hire from outside local communities.

“We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia,” Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said in a statement. “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”

Since Amazon’s arrival, Seattle has become one of the most expensive cities to live in the U.S, forcing many Latino and black residents to move to far-off suburbs.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in New York to voice their displeasure with the announcement of a new headquarters.

On Wednesday, protesters gathered near Amazon’s soon-to-be headquarters in New York City to voice their concern over the multibillion-dollar incentives being awarded to Amazon. Protesters warn of the potential impact it will have on their community.

Ocasio-Cortez has echoed many residents worries and said she is concerned not just about Amazon specifically, but rather about the relationships that the government has with its citizens and corporations.

“This isn’t just about one company or one headquarters. It’s about cost of living, corps paying their fair share, etc,” she wrote on Twitter. “It’s not about picking a fight, either. I was elected to advocate for our community’s interests – & they’ve requested, clearly, to voice their concerns.”

Mitú reached out to Amazon but there has been no response as this time.


READ: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory Lap Rallies To Abolish ICE, Erase Student Loan Debt And Keep Organizing

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Push For A Bernie Sanders Presidency Might Just Be The Fight We Need

Things That Matter

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Push For A Bernie Sanders Presidency Might Just Be The Fight We Need

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As the 2020 presidential election draws ever nearer, the stakes are growing significantly higher for the candidates of both major parties—and quickly. In the case of the Democrats, the top four candidates (Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg) are all closely ranked in New Hampshire and Iowa, and it’s no secret that Iowa is a particularly important state when it comes to forecasting election season. This week, the Des Moines Register poll showed Sanders with a mild lead in this Midwest state, a stat that bodes well for him in the coming months—well, at least, it might. At this point in the game, it’s really impossible to guess what’s to come, especially in the midst of the chaos surrounding our military conflict with Iran and the impeachment of President Trump.

In addition to a millennial-friendly position on a wide range of issues—from healthcare reform to student loan forgiveness—many folks are speculating about Senator Sanders’ success resulting from his endorsement by none other than AOC herself.

Credit: J Pat Carter / Getty Images

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Sanders back in October, and ever since, she’s stood alongside him in several early-voting states, drawing major crowds in Nevada, California, New York, and, of course, Iowa. Sanders’ approach to policy may already pique the interest of the millennial generation, but AOC is, herself, a millennial—she speaks to this age group from her own perspective as a progressive young person, appealing to her peers with firsthand knowledge of what matters to them most. She’s impassioned, savvy, likeable. And she’s not just exciting the millennial demographic—she’s appealing to all kinds of Democrats.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a leader in the progressive movement,” said Jeff Weaver, longtime adviser to Sanders. “She is broadly popular, frankly, among Democratic voters. She is particularly strong with young voters, voters of color. She’s an important national voice and adding her weight to the political revolution is a real coup for us.”

It’s definitely clear that AOC and Sanders are making waves across the country, establishing powerful connections with legions of unlikely and diverse Democratic constituencies. And as they continue to generate energy and excitement, people are starting to wonder: Will AOC ultimately inherit the progressive movement headed by Sanders? Will she occupy the White House one day?

Credit: Kevin Kuo / AP Photo

Again, no one can answer these questions right now. But in the meantime, the political duo is leaving a powerful imprint on enthusiastic delegates, paving the way for what might end up being a highly productive race for the Democratic socialists. With that said, it’s important to remember that Joe Biden is currently favored in Nevada and South Carolina, placing him and Sanders in a sort of limbo, hovering at a similar point  in the race. But if one of them ends up gaining early momentum, either candidate could potentially emerge as a singular favorite by the time Super Tuesday arrives in March.

Waleed Shahid, a former aide to both Sanders and AOC, acknowledged the pair’s recent visit through California, saying that Sanders would benefit from further establishing himself within the Super Tuesday state—a move that would allow him to expand his already strong position among Latino voters. (In surveys of Latino Democrats, Sanders typically polls first or second.) And AOC is, without a doubt, boosting his ratings among this demographic: to make sure their message is being heard, she’s been delivering campaign speeches entirely in Spanish to Latino crowds.

Even if there’s no way to predict AOC’s future role in the Democratic party, there have been hints as to what might come to pass if Sanders is chosen as the Democratic candidate for this year’s election.

Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

In an election endorsement interview with The New York Times Editorial Board, Sanders said that it was “a little bit premature” to name a running mate, as the first nominating contest is still weeks away. But he continued by saing, “I think Joe [Biden] has had eight years as vice president: probably enough.” He added, “I believe in diversity. I believe and know that my administration and my cabinet will look like America looks like. I’m not going to tell you who it’s going to be.”

While Sanders may be trying to keep his plans on the down low (he isn’t wrong, after all—it is a bit early to start naming potential running mates), it’s clear that he and AOC have a similar vision and a sincere, collaborative chemistry. Plus, he did tell ABC in November that she would “play a very, very important role — no question” if he becomes president. He has even taken to occasionally citing remarks by AOC during his speeches, reiterating that they share a parallel perspective for the future of our country. At this point, all we can do is speculate about a Sanders/AOC ticket. Ya veremos!

14-Year-Old Latina Student Developed Technology Allowing People To Ask Alexa Immigration Questions In English And Spanish

Things That Matter

14-Year-Old Latina Student Developed Technology Allowing People To Ask Alexa Immigration Questions In English And Spanish

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Alexa, am I allowed to get a driver’s license? Alexa, how long does it take to get a visa? These are the kinds of questions immigrants are now able to ask the virtual Amazon assistant in Spanish and English, thanks to “Immigration Bonds,” an Alexa Skill created by a 14-year-old Latina.

Suguey Carmona, a high school student at KIPP Brave High School in Austin, Texas, developed an Alexa Skill that allows English- and Spanish-speaking immigrants to get answers to questions related to their rights.

Carmona first developed an interest in coding after taking a computer class in the sixth grade. She then joined Hello World, a K-12 computer science program based in Austin and San Francisco. She became exposed to different programming languages and discovered a way to meld her love of coding with an idea to help out immigrant families in her community.

The 14-year-old set out to help her own friends and family with this app.

I chose to work on this technology because I see my own friends and family who have questions and who are struggling to make a living, and I thought maybe I should do something about it,” Carmona, whose family is from Mexico, told NBC News.

Carmona’s technology helps create a judgement-free safe zone for people to ask questions freely.

Language barriers and lack of access to information can be a major source of confusion for immigrants and can prevent them from accessing the services they need, according to numerous studies. Carmona’s technology addresses those challenges by providing a judgment-free zone to ask questions at people’s pace and in their own language.

The teen worked on everything, from research to coding, to develop “Immigration Bonds.”

After interviewing people about their most pressing immigration questions and conducting research on the logistics of obtaining paperwork, finding employment and navigating other areas of life as an immigrant, Carmona began working on the technology, which she named “Immigration Bonds.” And so began a monthslong process paved with coding challenges. “I’d work on it for hours each day,” Carmona said. “I’d start a new paper and it would crash and break and I’d be like, ‘Oh, shoot. Now I have to start over again.”

Sabina Bharwani, the founder of Hello World, said that her team assisted Carmona on her app but they also let her struggle, which “made all the difference” when the teen was successful.

“Suguey struggled to use the Alexa interface, which is usually used by developers with 10-15 years of experience,” Bharwani said. “It was a steep learning curve, but when she mastered it, it meant more.” Throughout this time, Carmona experimented with different ways to present the technology. She said she wasn’t sure if she wanted it to be a video game for children or a phone app, but she ultimately decided on issuing it as an Alexa Skill because she liked “how you didn’t need certain keywords for it to work.”

Alexa would reply no matter what you respond,” Carmona said. “The problem with text boxes is that if you don’t put in certain words or phrase things a certain way, it won’t read it and that can make it really complicated for people who are trying to use it to get answers.”

After developing a prototype, Carmona tested the technology with her friends and family and made adjustments as she saw fit.

Once Alexa users download ”Immigration Bonds,” they can ask Alexa questions directly, as they would for Apple’s Siri or other voice-automated technology. For example, if a person wants to know whether they can apply for a driver’s license depending on their immigration status, the app will respond by asking them where they live, for example, so that it can provide the user details based on their geographical location, as laws differs by state.

Latinos are vastly underrepresented in computer science.

Latinos in computer science (aka. coders) only make up 7 percent of the STEM workforce, according to a 2018 study from the Pew Research Center. And at Google — one of the largest tech companies — only 1.4 percent of its new tech hires in 2019 were Latina and less than 4 percent were Latino. This is why stories like Carmona’s  draw attention to the importance of endeavors like Hello World and Computer Science Education Week — which recently took place globally from Dec. 9-15 — which foster students’ interest in computer science.

Those who are interested can download the “Immigration Bonds” app on the Alexa Skills store on the Amazon website.Though the technology was published in the Amazon app store earlier this year, Carmona plans to keep adapting it and eventually publish it as an Apple app too.