Latino civil rights advocate Leo Pierson joins Ohio Citizen Action board

Leo Pierson (right) after helping to secure Cincinnati resident Bernard Pastor’s release from federal detention. Pastor (left), a teenager who came to the U.S. at three years of age, was jailed and threatened with deportation for failing to produce a driver’s license after a fender bender.

CINCINNATI – Ohio Citizen Action is pleased to welcome Leo Pierson to our board of directors.  Leo  is an expert on immigration policy and an immigrant and Latino civil rights advocate. “I was moved to join the board because as a part of a new generational wave of Latino American citizens, I have grown up in a political environment that not only requests, but demands personal engagement with the crucial debates in our communities and country, ”  Leo says.  “The environmental debate is not a silo issue, it directly engages questions regarding the long-term health, well-being, and sustainability of our population. It touches on concerns regarding food production and consumption, water access issues, air-quality, long term health care, appropriate housing and education excellence.

“I bring a new perspective to the board, one that includes not only the traditional definitions of diversity, but one that seeks to represent Ohio’s fastest growing constituency base. 75% of Ohio’s population growth over the past 10 years has been driven by an increase in the Latino population; 50% higher than national trends. Such rapid demographic shifts can make it difficult for developed institutions to “keep up”. On the other hand, new populations—due to cultural and linguistic distinctions—often have trouble understanding how to best navigate existing structures in their new home communities or even to simply include themselves in already on-going conversations—political or otherwise. As a child of an immigrant, a native born citizen and a person who has built my life’s work around both understanding and translating the complexities of specifically Latino immigration to the United States, I often act as a bridge between cultures and between existing institutions and new Americans, which are often foreign to each other. In that sense, I do not seek to be a voice for the Latino community, but rather to bridge the gap between two communities of which I am very much a part: Ohio’s environmental progressives and Ohio’s new Latino Americans..

Leo is a member of the Cincinnati board of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), sits on the LULAC state board as Dir. of Civil Rights and is an advisor to the national board as a member of the LULAC National Committee on Civil Rights. Leo is an adjunct professor of sociology at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, has given guest lectures on immigration policy at Xavier, University of Cincinnati and Chase School of Law, and  has made frequent media appearances in Cincinnati, as well as the BBC, NPR and Conservative Talk Radio. Leo is the first Latino board member/ Vice-Chair of the Cincinnati Citizens’ Complaint Authority.

Melissa English, Development Director, Ohio Citizen Action