Work toward fair redistricting in Texas

This op-ed piece appeared in The El Paso Times on Sunday, December 9th. It is written by El Paso Social Justice team member, Kathy Staudt.

“In Texas, voting districts often take strange shapes, deliberately designed to reduce choice for voters and therefore accountability to citizens. Often called “gerrymandering,” (a word derived from salamander), this process refers to how the majority in power draws political district boundaries to strengthen their party, to create safe districts for incumbents to be re-elected, and to reinforce racial and ethnic segregation. Gerrymandering is a national problem that hurts everyone, especially Latinxs and African Americans. 

In the 2016 general elections in Texas, some stark figures show the extent of this manipulation. In two-thirds of the state legislative seats, the candidate ran unopposed.  Ninety-seven percent of incumbent politicians easily won re-election in gerrymandered districts.  Warped district shapes exaggerate the partisan representative majority and under-represent the voter majority.  Consider the disregard for voters' preferences in figures on US Congressional seats in 2016: the “reds” cast 56% of the votes but achieved 70% of the districts!” Continue Reading


 Retired UTEP professor and El Paso Social Justice team member, Kathy Staudt

Retired UTEP professor and El Paso Social Justice team member, Kathy Staudt

Recommended by our colleague Kent Patterson

“As of December 1, 2018, Mexico has a new president. After decades of political struggle,  Andrés Manuel López Obrador assumed the nation's highest office amid celebration, an indigenous purification ceremony, rising expectations, scattered protests, and a full plate of thorny challenges facing a nation that has been broken in so many ways.

On the long road to the López Obrador presidency, thousands of activists for change were tortured, imprisoned, murdered, disappeared, displaced, and exiled.

… I encourage readers to check out the link to this photo essay that appeared over the weekend in Mexico's La Jornada daily, depicting key events  in López Obrador's political trajectory,  including many I personally covered on the ground in Mexico.”    

López Obrador: Treinta años en la lucha

 En 1988, Andrés Manuel López Obrador se une a la Corriente Democrática, encabezada por Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas y Porfirio Muñoz Ledo. Es candidato a gobernador en Tabasco, por el Frente Democrático Nacional. En la imagen está en campaña. El triunfo de la elección es otorgado a su contrincante del PRI, Neme Castillo. López Obrador escribe el libro "Tabasco, víctima de un fraude". Foto Tomás Rivas

En 1988, Andrés Manuel López Obrador se une a la Corriente Democrática, encabezada por Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas y Porfirio Muñoz Ledo. Es candidato a gobernador en Tabasco, por el Frente Democrático Nacional. En la imagen está en campaña. El triunfo de la elección es otorgado a su contrincante del PRI, Neme Castillo. López Obrador escribe el libro "Tabasco, víctima de un fraude". Foto Tomás Rivas




AMLO’s Inauguration and the Future of Mexico

  Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the presidential inauguration in Mexico City on December 1, 2018. (lopezobrador.org.mx)

Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the presidential inauguration in Mexico City on December 1, 2018. (lopezobrador.org.mx)

Written by Laura Carlsen in nacla.org

“In over two centuries of nationhood, Mexico has never seen a presidential inauguration like that of December 1, 2018. From the pre-dawn Indigenous ceremony to consecrate the bastón de mando—a wooden staff symbolizing government—that representatives of Mexico’s Indigenous peoples would later present to the new president, to the cultural festival that lasted into the night, Andrés Manuel López Obrador broke down pomp and circumstance and promised a new form of government. His most oft-repeated phrase: “I will not let you down.”

López Obrador began the day taking the oath of office in the Congress, as Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, president of the Congress, historic dissident politician and member of AMLO’s MORENA Party (Movement for National Regeneration), handed him the presidential banner. Former president Enrique Peña Nieto sat sour-faced and clearly uncomfortable on the congressional podium as the new president thanked him for not interfering in the elections, referring to the multiple frauds committed by Peña’s long-time ruling party, the PRI, in previous elections.” Continue Reading

SRO forum held last Sunday

Last Sunday's forum on The Future of Mexico attracted our largest attendance yet. The speakers Dr. Manual Miranda and Molly Molloy presented a few of the many issues ALMO must address, and an informative discussion followed.

An Intimate Look at Life Inside the Migrant Caravan from Time Magazine

 Central American migrants, who are part of the caravan that left San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Oct. 12, bathe and brush their teeth inside the Jesus Martinez stadium, in Mexico City on Nov. 5, 2018. Jerome Sessini—Magnum Photos for Time.

Central American migrants, who are part of the caravan that left San Pedro Sula, Honduras on Oct. 12, bathe and brush their teeth inside the Jesus Martinez stadium, in Mexico City on Nov. 5, 2018. Jerome Sessini—Magnum Photos for Time.

Written by Alice Driver in Time Magazine. Photos by Jerome Sessini-Magnum Photos for Time.

Even from a distance, you can see the scars—thick, deep marks scrawled across his face and scalp. Roberto Vaughan Ordáz, 42, plays with his dog as he recounts the injuries he suffered three years ago: eight bullets, including two to the lungs; tendons cut in his arms; a face that is no longer recognizable.

Back in 2015, Ordáz left his hometown of Viro in Bolivia, hoping to migrate to the United States. Instead, he was kidnapped in Chiapas, Mexico. He says his kidnappers shot him, cut up his face and arms with a machete, and left him to bleed out on the side of the road. Eventually, someone found him and delivered him to a local hospital.

Ordáz’s story is just one of many highlighting the threat that migrants traveling alone or in small families face along their journeys. Violence from gangs and cartels is a key reason why Central American migrants, who have long fled their home countries for the U.S., have begun organizing themselves into caravans, seeking safety by traveling openly together. Continue reading


Mexico's Future under the Lopez Obrador Presidency: Violence, Migration and the Mexico-U.S. Relationship

 Photo thanks to NPR

Photo thanks to NPR

Sunday, December 2nd, 2:30-4 pm

El Paso Library downtown, 501 N Oregon

Street parking is free on Sundays. Your best bet is to park east of the library and away from the ballpark and museum area.

Incoming Mexico President Andres Lopez Manuel Obrador, or "AMLO," will be sworn into office on December 1st,  He has promised to make major changes, among them reductions in violence and corruption, extreme inequality, and continuing dependence on the U.S.  AMLO's party, MORENA, has the majority in Congress. People are ready for change!  But will AMLO deliver?  What social and economic changes can we expect?  What does this all mean for the US-Mexico borderlands?  How will Mexicans living in the U.S. be affected by the policies of the new administration?  These and other questions will be addressed by the panelists, Dr Manual Miranda and Molly Molley, and members of the audience.

Dr. Manuel Miranda is the President of the El Paso Committee of Mexicans Abroad Who Support Morena, Lopez Obrador's party.

Molly Molloy is a professor, librarian, and author at NMSU. She is best known for her publications regarding violence in Mexico and her widely used Frontera List, which for years has tracked and documented homicides and other criminal activity in the Mexican border region.

Real America Versus Senate America

 Dorris Van Doren Library in El Paso, TX

Dorris Van Doren Library in El Paso, TX

An Opinion piece by Paul Krugman written in The New York Times

“Everyone is delivering post-mortems on Tuesday’s elections, so for what it’s worth, here’s mine: Despite some bitter disappointments and lost ground in the Senate, Democrats won a huge victory. They broke the Republican monopoly on federal power, and that’s a very big deal for an administration that has engaged in blatant corruption and abuse of power, in the belief that an impenetrable red wall would always protect it from accountability. They also made major gains at the state level, which will have a big impact on future elections.

But given this overall success, how do we explain those Senate losses? Many people have pointed out that this year’s Senate map was unusually bad for Democrats, consisting disproportionately of states Donald Trump won in 2016. But there was actually a deeper problem, one that will pose long-term problems, not just for Democrats, but for the legitimacy of our whole political system. For economic and demographic trends have interacted with political change to make the Senate deeply unrepresentative of American reality.

How is America changing? Immigration and our growing racial and cultural diversity are only part of the story. We’re also witnessing a transformation in the geography of our economy, as dynamic industries increasingly gravitate to big metropolitan areas where there are already large numbers of highly educated workers. It’s not an accident that Amazon is planning to put its two new headquarters in New York and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, both places with an existing deep pool of talent.” Continue reading

Donec id justo non metus auctor commodo ut quis enim. Mauris fringilla dolor vel condimentum imperdiet.
— Hope K.

Finding Solutions to Asylum Crisis: Fix the System and Partner with Mexico and Central American Countries to Spur Economic Opportunities

 Photo thanks to Sgt. Mark Otte/National Guard

Photo thanks to Sgt. Mark Otte/National Guard

By Doris Meissner in Migration Policy Institute online article

Resting his closing argument in the mid-term elections on stopping caravan migrants from “rushing” the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump ordered the deployment of more than 7,000 active-duty military to the border—more than triple the number of troops in Syria. And the administration is reportedly finalizing a presidential proclamation that would bar Central Americans from applying for asylum at all.

These responses, like other hardline immigration measures put forth by the Trump administration, seek a shock-and-awe solution to a problem that will not be solved by bombast. Today’s arrivals from Central America do not represent a national security threat or crisis; they are fleeing deep poverty, violence, and insecurity. To be sure, the rising number of families and unaccompanied children arriving in recent years is a serious concern, and the banding together of large caravans is a worrying development that the United States—in concert with its neighbors—must address. Continue reading

The Central Migrant Caravan Brilliantly Unpacked by Hope Border Institute

 Photo thanks to Canada Live News

Photo thanks to Canada Live News

FROM MIGRANT CARAVAN TO EXODUS: MYTHS, ORIGINS, IMPLICATIONS from the Border Observatory on October 26, 2018

“We still believe, or many of us do, what the Exodus first taught… about the meaning and possibility of politics: first, that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt; second, that there is a better place, a world more attractive, a promised land; and third, that the way to the land is through the wilderness. There is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching.”

- Michael Walzer, Exodus and Revolution (1985) (emphasis added)

 “The migrant caravan that is currently winding its way through southern Mexico headed to the US-Mexico border, has unleashed a storm of conflicting and often confusing coverage and analysis. This includes the targeting of the caravan by the Trump administration as part of its closing electoral strategy in the imminent mid-term elections, and its use as a pretext for the decision to send as many as 1,000 US Army troops to the border to address the “national emergency” that the caravan supposedly embodies. It is reported meanwhile that the administration is preparing to announce drastic new executive actions targeting Central American migrants- including asylum seekers- at the border that echo its reiterated Muslim and travel bansThese include apparent contingency plans within DHS for potentially using deadly force against the caravan, according to Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

 

Many research and advocacy organizations have circulated fact sheets or Q&A’s seeking to clarify key facts and context regarding the caravan, and to dispel the kinds of distortions that have prevailed. Our focus here is on outlining dimensions of the caravan that have received less attention or that are especially relevant to our work at Hope Border Institute within the context of the US-Mexico border region. What are the true origins of the caravan? What does the caravan tell us about Mexico’s role in regional migration policy? What is the relationship between the caravan and the still unfolding crisis of immigration enforcement that affects border communities? To what extent does the caravan provide a context for understanding the convergence between Catholic Social Teaching and human rights principles which is at the heart of our community-based research, advocacy, and leadership development agenda?” Continue reading

The American Dream Is Harder To Find In Some Neighborhoods

 Photo thanks to Mother Jones

Photo thanks to Mother Jones

On NPR. By John Ydstie. Great interactive map in this article.

Does the neighborhood you grow up in determine how far you move up the economic ladder?

A new online data tool being made public Monday finds a strong correlation between where people are raised and their chances of achieving the American dream.

Harvard University economist Raj Chetty has been working with a team of researchers on this tool — the first of its kind because it marries U.S. Census Bureau data with data from the Internal Revenue Service. And the findings are changing how researchers think about economic mobility.

People born in the 1940s or '50s were virtually guaranteed to achieve the American dream of earning more than their parents did, Chetty says. But that's not the case anymore.

"You see that for kids turning 30 today, who were born in the mid-1980s, only 50 percent of them go on to earn more than their parents did," Chetty says. "It's a coin flip as to whether you are now going to achieve the American dream."

Chetty and his colleagues worked with the Census Bureau's Sonya Porter and Maggie Jones to create the The Opportunity Atlas, which is available to the public starting Monday. Continue reading

Search for a new UTEP head must be inclusive

Op-ed written by Social Justice team member, Kathy Staudt in The El Paso Times. To learn more, please plan to attend the Social Justice forum this afternoon, 2:30 in the El Paso Public Library downtown.

The town hall meeting Kathy mentions has been scheduled for Tuesday, October 2, 12:15-2 pm in the Fox Fine Arts Recital Hall at UTEP.

 Dr Kathy Staudt

Dr Kathy Staudt

I have been proudly associated with UTEP for forty years. I have seen UTEP’s growth and the embrace of Mexican Americans and the borderlands region in its “Hispanic Serving Institution” designation. I believe in UTEP’s mantra: “Access and Excellence.”

A hearty thanks go to President Diana Natalicio for her high-quality leadership that put UTEP on the national and international maps for a full range of academic programs, innovative research, and the consequent social mobility afforded its graduates. Alas, many well-educated graduates leave El Paso due to better opportunities and far higher salaries elsewhere. To retain them, the business community should improve wages.

Who from the community will speak for higher wages in El Paso to retain our graduates? When the UT System announced the search committee’s composition, it promised community representation. However, those chosen are business people who influence the depressed wage structure in the region. Yes, we thank the major philanthropists among them. A full 83% of El Pasoans share Mexican heritage and the majority, bilingual ability to speak Spanish and English. We have too little representation from them.

Besides over-representation on search committees, businessmen overrepresent Texans in political appointments. UTEP, Texas Tech, and EPCC are the major higher education institutions in our community, offering a great variety of degrees at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels. University presidents ought to be able to lead educational institutions without the political polarization that exists in the US Congress. Yet such polarization and personal politics are what seem to have suddenly produced the resignation of Texas Tech President after an “informal vote of no confidence” by the political appointees on the UT Board of Regents. According to the Texas Standard, some are calling this “Regentgate.”

Those who dominate Texas politics know little about the borderlands and its people. The legislature hardly reflects the demographics of Texans. In the latest iteration of Texas Civic Health, the state ranks in the bottom five of states on political participation. We live in a society with ostensible equal opportunity for political voice, yet large campaign donations often influence successful candidates for elective office and appointments to public office. Continue reading

Lack of inclusiveness in search for next UTEP president causes concern

From the El Paso Times, an op-ed piece written by Social Justice team member, Oscar J Martinez. Attend forum on this subject to be held Sunday, Sept 23, 2:30 in the downtown library, 501 N. Oregon.

 Photo thanks to UTEP

Photo thanks to UTEP

With the impending retirement of Diana Natalicio, a search is now underway for the new University of Texas at El Paso president. Obviously, this is a matter of great interest to the community, and that is why we, the individuals whose names appear below, feel compelled to express our concern with the manner in which the Search Advisory Committee to the UT Board of Regents will be conducting the search.   

Our unique border location and bilingual/bicultural setting requires a highly qualified and experienced educator who understands well the needs of a UTEP student body that is nearly 80 percent Mexican-American and also includes over 1,000 students from Mexico. Beyond the campus, that person also must be well equipped to interface with the broader social, economic, and educational and challenges of our binational metropolis.

Will the search produce a candidate who can function proficiently in our unique border culture, who can inspire first generation Hispanic students to reach their full potential, and who is committed to and will fight to expand opportunities for all students? Continue reading

Forum: "The Future of UTEP"

 Photo thanks to UTEP

Photo thanks to UTEP

With the impending retirement of Dr Diana Natalicio, a search is now underway for the new UTEP president.  Obviously this is a matter of great interest to the community.  Our unique border location and bilingual/bicultural setting requires a highly qualified and experienced educator who understands well the needs of a UTEP student body that is nearly 80 percent Mexican American and also includes over 1,000 students from Mexico.  Beyond the campus, that person must also be well equipped to interface with the broader social, economic, and educational challenges of our binational metropolis.  Will the search produce such an educator?  Will UTEP continue to be a people’s university?  These and other questions will be addressed in this forum.

Panelists:

Carment Rodriguez, attorney, former director of the Texas Legal Aid in El Paso, UTEP graduate and long-time community leader.

Homero Galicia, small business owner, part time UTEP professor, and long-time community leader.

Richard Adauto III, Executive Vice President, UTEP

Details

Sunday, September 23, 2:30-4 pm

El Paso Public Library, downtown, 501 N Oregon

 Free street parking—best bet is to find spots east of the library and away from the ballpark.

Hope to see you there!

U.S. is denying passports to Americans along the border, throwing their citizenship into question

 Line at the Travis County District Clerk passport acceptance facility office on January 27, 2017.  Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Line at the Travis County District Clerk passport acceptance facility office on January 27, 2017.  Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

BY KEVIN SIEFF, THE WASHINGTON POST; run in The Texas Tribune:  

"PHARR, Tex. — On paper, he’s a devoted U.S. citizen.

His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.

But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.

As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown on their citizenship."  Continue reading

The trash you can see is just a tiny fraction of the plastic litter all around you — and likely inside of you

 Photo taken by Chris Joyce, NPR

Photo taken by Chris Joyce, NPR

 

They’re soil and compost, in oceans and lakes, in drinking water and beer, in fish and shellfish — bits of plastic tinier than one of these letters. They’re making their way into the food chain, turning a huge area in the Pacific into “a soup of confetti,” and transforming chemically as they break down in ways we don’t yet fully grasp.

"This happens all the time," says one researcher Continue reading.

Immigration Forum Attrachs Big Crowd

Probably the largest group we've seen at a social justice forum attended Sunday's presentations on "Our Broken Immigration System: When Will It be Fixed?" Speakers Ouisa Davis, Attorney, Dr. Josiah Heyman, and Dr. Guillermina Gina Núñez-Mchiri spoke eloquently and passionately about their particular fields of interest.

 Oscar J Martinez, Ouisa Davis, Josiah Heyman

Oscar J Martinez, Ouisa Davis, Josiah Heyman

 Guillermina Gina Núñez-Mchiri

Guillermina Gina Núñez-Mchiri

Forum: Our Broken Immigration System. When Will It Be Fixed?

 Photo thanks to Luis Hernández, Photojournalist

Photo thanks to Luis Hernández, Photojournalist

Sunday, August 26, 2018, 2:30 pm - 4 pm

El Paso Public Library downtown, 501 N. Oregon, El Paso 79901

Free street parking on Sundays: Best bet is to park somewhere east of the library and away from the ballpark.

Speakers:

Dr. Josiah Heyman, Director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies at UTEP and past president of the Border Network for Human Rights.  A distinguished scholar, he has written extensively about the border and immigration issues.

Dr. Guillermina Gina Núñez-Mchiri is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of Women's and Gender Studie at UTEP. Her work focuses on women and community development in colonias on the U.S.-Mexico border, ethnography, and service learning. She will be speaking on "No Safe Haven here," based on research she has conducted.

Ouisa D. Davis is a local attorney, former executive director of Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.  and an immigration policy analyst. She will speak on the historical development of immigration law and policy and the status of the current immigration law and process. 

"If we had not been of the middle class, we never could have come here legally"

Join us for a stimulating presentation and discussion on Our Horribly Broken Immigration System: When Will It Be Fixed?  This Sunday (8/26/18), 2:30-4 pm), El Paso Public Library downtown. Sometimes free parking is hard to find--best bet is to park east of the library and away from the ballpark.

 Martha Santamaria poses for photos Friday, July 20, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Martha Santamaria poses for photos Friday, July 20, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Central Americans seeking path to US have few legal options by Amy Taxin of the AP.  

Maria Santamaria made sure to follow the U.S. immigration rules.
She obtained a green card through her husband, came to the country on an immigrant visa and became an American citizen. When her sister came on a travel visa fleeing violence and civil war in her native El Salvador, she helped her get a green card to stay in the U.S.
That process took 16 years.
"If we had not been of the middle class, we never could have come here legally," Santamaria said. "They would never give a visa to the poor."  Continue reading

Why haven't all the families been reunited? Cruelty, pure and simple

The issue of immigration will be more thoroughly discussed at the next forum, Sunday 8/26 at 2:30 in the downtown library. Panelists: Josiah Heyman, Ouisa Davis and Guillermina Gina Núñez-Mchiri. Free street parking--easier to find east of library.

 Shoes and toys left by migrants at the Tornillo Port of Entry in Tornillo, Texas. (Brendan Smialowski/ AFP/Getty Images)

Shoes and toys left by migrants at the Tornillo Port of Entry in Tornillo, Texas. (Brendan Smialowski/ AFP/Getty Images)

From the LA Times; written by Brian Schatz.  "The failure of the U.S. government to reverse the kidnapping of thousands of children from their parents has been chalked up to incompetence. People want to believe that this act of extraordinary cruelty — and the Trump administration’s inability to fix it — stems from our leaders’ lack of experience or common sense.

But this too is a failure — of our collective imagination. The separation of children from their parents at the Southwest border is not simply a policy that has resulted in immeasurable harm, but a policy designed to inflict it. The government blew its Thursday deadline to reunite these families because it never intended to do so.

How else can we explain what has happened to these families? Some 14 million checked bags are managed by the Transportation Security Administration — and that’s just during Thanksgiving weekend. Even high school students can manage a coat check for an evening without losing everyone’s coats. They match each coat and owner with corresponding tickets, and do not store the coats outside the building, or even thousands of miles away from the event.  Continue reading