Help decide the future of Northwest El Paso land and Lost Dog Trail

Photo by Jorge Salgado

Photo by Jorge Salgado

Written by David Crowder in The El Paso Inc.

Early voting for the May 4 elections starts Monday, and on the ballot is a rare voter-initiated proposition to stop the development of 1,007 acres the city has had big plans for in Northwest El Paso.

The proposition will let voters do what El Paso City Council members do when they approve or reject an ordinance. But this one took two petition drives and 3,800 signatures to reach the ballot.

It’s a skimpy ballot, but also includes, depending on where you live, elections for the El Paso Community College Board of Trustees and four school districts – El Paso, Ysleta, Socorro and San Elizario – along with Horizon City’s mayor and Town Council.

The 1,007 acres have 25 miles of trails worn by use or cleared by volunteers, including the popular Lost Dog Trail, just off Redd Road where it turns into Northern Pass Drive.

The land is undeveloped and belongs to the Public Service Board, which oversees El Paso Water, and the city has never spent public money to alter or maintain it.

That’s how supporters of the proposition want to keep it.

But the city has had detailed plans for the development of much of that area for more than a decade and has moved ahead with the creation of a tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, to help that development. Continue reading

Consider contacting your City Rep about the plan to squeeze MACC into the library

Photo taken by Aaron Montes at recent Social Justice Forum

Photo taken by Aaron Montes at recent Social Justice Forum

Op-ed in The El Paso Times: “Our main Downtown library is precious space. That space is being cut by 40 percent to make room for a Mexican American Cultural Center. City bureaucrats decided to put both the existing book collection and literacy center in the "first sub-basement" of the building. The relocation downward constitutes nearly 17,000 square feet of library space, according to city figures at their March 3 presentation. City Council representatives approved this plan last fall perhaps without bothering to read the details. The city's plan raises more questions than it answers.” Continue reading

Pushing Back on Presidential Pick: A serious article from Inside Higher Ed.com

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“Faculty members and students at the University of Texas at El Paso are raising concerns about the sole finalist chosen to be their next president, saying both the candidate and the process deserve more scrutiny.

At an institution where 80 percent of students are Latinx and another 4 percent are Mexican nationals, the University of Texas System Board of Regents' choice of Heather Wilson -- a white Republican former congresswoman and Trump-appointed U.S. Air Force secretary -- is generating resistance.

“They just didn’t give a damn about the interests and the values of the student body at the university -- and the population at large here in El Paso,” said Oscar Martinez, a retired history professor.

The opening for a new president comes as UTEP’s longtime leader, Diana Natalicio, 79, prepares to step down later this year, after 31 years on the job.

Wilson’s nomination as UTEP’s next president could be approved as early as March 29. In the meantime, her first appearance on campus last week generated student protests, and a Change.org petition that asks the regents to remove Wilson as finalist has garnered more than 9,000 signatures.

Faculty say they weren’t consulted on the decision and question what they call a secretive selection process. UTEP’s Faculty Senate has yet to formally interview Wilson or any of the other three purported semifinalists, and faculty members said they are in the dark not just about who made it that far, but about how the committee chose Wilson, a former defense and security consultant who represented central New Mexico for a decade in Congress. Wilson admits she didn’t set foot on the El Paso campus until earlier this month.” Continue reading

Boost border security by spending that $8B to cut drug crime in the U.S. and Latin America

US-Mexico border at El Paso/Ciudad Juarez when Pope Francis visited.

US-Mexico border at El Paso/Ciudad Juarez when Pope Francis visited.

An opinion piece from the Dallas News, written by Social Justice team member Mark Lusk, Josiah Heyman and Amy Bach.

Josiah Heyman is director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies and a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso. 

Mark Lusk is a professor of social work at UT El Paso.

Amy Bach is an assistant professor of literacy at UT El Paso.

About 20 faculty members of the UT El Paso Center for Inter-American and Border Studies collaborated and signed this column, written for The Dallas Morning News. 

The language of emergency creates panic around the border and does not serve the public good. As scholars and residents of the border, we could reply that the U.S. side is safe and that migrant apprehensions are historically low, though rising. But that is insufficient. We know real insecurities exist, but not ones that a wall will solve. 

To enhance border security, we must address problems, not symptoms. We need to untangle the knot of criminality, violence, guns, drugs and migration tying the United States and Latin America. Strategic initiatives can improve safety and well-being, and it is toward these that we should dedicate our billions in public money.

Most migrants arriving at the border seek asylum, a form of legal immigration. Northern Central American countries Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras report some of the highest rates of homicide in the world, and gang violence, extortion, forcible conscription and intimidation are epidemic. As Doctors Without Borders informs us, these countries experience "unprecedented levels of violence outside a war zone." Our research shows that these people are forced migrants, similar to those who flee war or natural disasters.

The border wall money should address the circumstances that motivate people to undertake a 2,000-plus mile journey.  Continue reading

City’s Plan to Take Nearly Half of the Main Library for Cultural Center: Good Idea or Bad

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Sunday, March 3rd 2:30-4 pm

El Paso Public Library downtown, 501 N. Oregon

Speakers:

*Jaime Esparza, DA; representing the Mexican American Cultural Institute
*Marsha Labboda, President, Friends of the Main Library
*Gretchen Trominski, Member, Friends of the Main Library
*Tracey Jerome, Director, Museums & Cultural Affairs Dept.
*Sam Rodriguez, City Engineer

The City Council/Mayor's plan to take nearly half the space of the downtown library to make room for the Mexican American Cultural Center is highly controversial.  Apart from the widespread objection to the diminishing of the library, Mexican Americans strongly object to not having a separate building for the Center.  Community consultation on this matter has been minimal, and Council representatives who voted for the plan last September have thus far ignored opponents of the plan.  This meeting offers both supporters and opponents of the plan to explain their positions.


Parking Note:  Best bet to find free parking is to park somewhere north and east of the library and away from the ballpark. 



Forum: City’s Plan to Take Nearly Half of the Main Library for Cultural Center: Good Idea or Bad

Photo thanks to El Paso Times

Photo thanks to El Paso Times

Sunday, March 3rd 2:30-4 pm

El Paso Public Library downtown, 501 N. Oregon

Speakers:

*Jaime Esparza, DA; representing the Mexican American Cultural Institute
*Marsha Labboda, President, Friends of the Main Library
*Gretchen Trominski, Member, Friends of the Main Library
*City Council Rep? TBA? Cissy Lizzaraga--declined; *City Council Rep Peter Svarzbein—declined;

*City Council Rep Claudia Ordaz Perez--invited, has not responded

The City Council/Mayor's plan to take nearly half the space of the downtown library to make room for the Mexican American Cultural Center is highly controversial.  Apart from the widespread objection to the diminishing of the library, Mexican Americans strongly object to not having a separate building for the Center.  Community consultation on this matter has been minimal, and Council representatives who voted for the plan last September have thus far ignored opponents of the plan.  This meeting offers both supporters and opponents of the plan to explain their positions.


Parking Note:  Best bet to find free parking is to park somewhere north and east of the library and away from the ballpark. 



“City leaders, keep your hands off downtown library”

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Op-ed written in The El Paso Times by Carmen Rodriguez and Oscar J. Martinez

This is to make it known, especially to local government leaders, that there is very strong opposition in the community to the city’s plan to take away 40 percent of the Downtown public library in order to make room for the Mexican American Cultural Center. We have heard such opposition over the last several months during petition drives, in public forums and as part of our involvement in the creation of Community First, a new coalition of local organizations, leaders and activists.

It is felt that the implementation of the city’s plan will seriously damage the library, an institution that El Pasoans love and want to keep whole. Apart from the mutilation of the building, the drastic shrinkage in space will inevitably result in a reduction of services. A major fear is that the children and teen sections, which are located in the part of the building where the MACC is slated for placement, will shrink and wind up in the basement. Currently, the children and teens entities are jewels that provide exceptional learning opportunities for our young people. Our kids deserve the best. Do not hurt them by butchering the library.

And what about the MACC? We have no doubt that, once informed of the facts, El Pasoans would overwhelmingly support the cultural center having its own building. Certainly a “signature” project for the city deserves as much. The truth is that the city had little interest in a cultural center and embraced it only to gain support for passage of the bond in 2012. It is important to remember that in 2000, the voters supported a Quality of Life Bond that provided for the improvement and expansion of the library. But now a slate of new city representatives has no problem diminishing the library and undoing what voters supported in the past. Where is the fairness in that?

If the city is not willing to do justice to the MACC, it should at least drop its plans to shove it into the library. The members of the Mexican American Cultural Institute, who worked for years conceptualizing the cultural center, have come to the same conclusion. They see preservation of the main library as a top priority as well and would rather continue working for a standalone cultural center that is first class and will bring pride to the city.

We ask El Pasoans to join the Community First Coalition, currently comprised of the following organizations, in rejecting the city plan to mutilate the main library: Social Justice Education Project, Paso del Sur, Friends of the Main Library, Mexican American Cultural Institute, Wise Latina International, LULAC Council 228, and the Hope Border Institute.

Carmen Rodríguez is an attorney and Oscar J. Martínez is a retired professor. Both are involved in the ongoing effort to expand the Community First Coalition.

Next forum: Gerrymandering and Social Justice: Toward Fair Redistricting

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Strangely shaped electoral district maps, with boundaries that advantage the party in power and their incumbents, undermine our right to equal representation, overall democracy, and prospects for social justice-orientated representatives to win elections and work for policy reform. Just think about the El Paso district that spans all the way to San Antonio.

Panelists include:

*Jesús Valdez, League of Women Voters Outreach Committee Chair
*Connie Crawford, League of Women Voters
*Eric Willard, Attorney at Law
*Paulina Lopez, Partnership Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau (Dallas-Denver region, including El Paso)

The panelists will speak about state and local redistricting prospects. They will be asked to respond briefly to the following questions: What is the problem? What is to be done? What can WE do?

El Paso Public Library downtown, 501 N. Oregon

2:30-4:00 on Sunday February 24

Remember that best bet to find free parking is to park somewhere north

and east of the library and away from the ballpark. 

Migrant children draw their gratitude for El Paso’s kindness

Written by Bob Moore in Borderzine: Reporting Across Borders

Since early October, the El Paso has seen an influx of asylum seekers released to the community after processing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thousands of people – mostly families from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, but also from Cuba, Nicaragua and other nations  – have passed interviews in which they have shown credible fear of persecution if returned to their home countries. They now face an immigration court process that could take years to determine their fate. But for the time being, they are legally entitled to live in the United States.

Upon release by ICE in El Paso, their first stop is a “hospitality center” run by a nonprofit called Annunciation House, which has provided services to migrants for more than 40 years. The hospitality center can be at a church, school or motel. (The locations are not disclosed to the public for the safety of the migrants.)  Asylum seekers are given a room and three meals per day, which often are prepared by volunteers from in the area. Most families stay a day or two before boarding a bus or plane to join family elsewhere in the United States.

One hospitality center features art work created by children who have stayed at the shelter in recent days. The art is a mixture of approaches and messages. Common themes are faith, hope for the countries they have fled, and gratitude for those who helped them in their time of need.

Migrants fall for false promises

Written by Angela Korchurga in the Albuquerque Journal. She was recently in Guatemala talking with families about why so many believe now is the time to migrate and looking into why smuggling networks are taking large groups to the remote Antelope Wells border.

Vendors at an open-air market in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala, prepare to close their stands after a busy day.  From the Albuquerque Journal

Vendors at an open-air market in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala, prepare to close their stands after a busy day. From the Albuquerque Journal

CIENEGA GRANDE, Guatemala – Martina Alvarez sat at a wooden table in her small tortilla shop and lamented the exodus of families from Guatemala headed for the United States, including some of her own relatives.

“They left eight days ago,” Alvarez said. “They said they are going to turn themselves in to immigration authorities there, to ask for help.”

One of those asking for asylum is a young mother who departed with her 5-year-old boy.

Deep poverty and violence – including extortion by street gangs, impunity and government corruption – are real factors influencing Guatemalans to migrate.

But these days there is another driving force: smugglers actively promoting their services with the promise that parents who make it across the border will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

New Mexico’s Bootheel has become one of the newest routes used by coyotes taking people to the U.S. border. Since Oct. 27, large groups totaling more than 5,370 people have arrived in Antelope Wells. Most are parents with children, or minors traveling alone from Guatemala, according to Border Patrol.

“Nobody leaves because they think it’s going to be easy,” said Luis Argueta, a Guatemalan filmmaker who has produced a trilogy of documentaries exploring migration issues.

Spurred by smugglers, Guatemalans who may have contemplated leaving for the U.S. see this as their moment.

“It is a fact if you arrive at the border with an underage child your chances of being admitted temporarily are very high,” Argueta said. Continue Reading