EL PASO—Since its grand opening in December of last year, the Mustard Seed Café near downtown has worked hard to keep its commitment to the El Paso community by assuring that “everyone eats.”
Founded by close friends Christi Brown, Patsy Burdick, and Shelley Speicher, the pay-what-you-can eatery is the only one of its kind in the Sun City. It allows patrons to enjoy nutritious entrées and side dishes for less than full price. Customers can also pay for meals by briefly volunteering their time in the kitchen or garden. “We want to make this quality of food available to everybody in the community regardless of their ability to pay for it,” said Brown. The café is non-profit, which allows guests to pay well below the suggested price of $3 for a side dish to $10 per entree.
EL PASO — Rene Delgado came home on a Saturday afternoon with a sore throat. The next day, his family noticed that he was becoming unresponsive so they took him to see a doctor in Juarez where he was diagnosed with the flu — the H1N1 strain. He was then taken by ambulance to Del Sol Hospital where he was admitted into the intensive care ward on January 11. He died there three days later. The civil engineering student at the University of Texas at El Paso was 22 years old.
EL PASO — As he sits at a faded-black dining room table, a man in his mid-twenties stares at the front door, his reflection visible from the dirty tabletop where a brown paper bag holding his lunch rests. His eyes dart focusing from one end of the room to the other as if he’s never been there before, sitting upright, inspecting the room. He specifically chose the seat with the best view of the front door, which he never stops looking at for more than a moment, because he says he is hardwired that way. He seems uneasy even though he has been here hundreds, if not, thousands of times, only four doors down from his childhood home. Esteban, 26, served four years in the United States Marine Corps and did two tours in Iraq.
EL PASO – Berenice, six months pregnant, remembers how she was trying to relax on her bed after a long day at work when she heard her husband enter the room. Rolling on her side as he began to hit her, she shielded her body so his blows would not hit her swollen stomach. Then he demanded that she get up and clean the house and “act as a maid” even though she already has a full time job. Soon after this incident several years ago, she became the sole provider for her family, which included her husband, his mother and other extended family. Today, looking smart in a green pea coat, it is hard to imagine that Berenice is a survivor of domestic abuse. She says her daughter gave her the impetus to step out of her dangerous domestic abuse cycle.
SOCORRO, TX — Nestled on a dusty road in a small town of roughly 33,000 residents, sits a brightly colored hair salon tucked to the right side of a 7-Eleven. Bright red and royal blue stripes decorate the hair salon building, conveying a sense of patriotic awareness. Inside the shop, 40-year-old Lizdemar Najera greets customers with a smile and a hug, offering a variety of hairstyles at low costs. Taped on one wall is a sign with her mantra:
“I am Lizdemar: I am brave, compassionate, humble, easy to teach, optimistic, conscious, I feel a genuine pride in my appearance and in my work.”
Najera’s sweet personality and attitude of tender loving care hide her once dark past. The mother of four was a victim of domestic abuse, not once but twice in both of her marriages.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the Republican Party are getting an earful from Democratic congressional members and Hispanic leaders and organizations for saying they do not trust the president to enforce immigration laws and forecasting that immigration reform isn’t likely to pass this year, if ever. Fair Immigration Reform Movement spokesperson Kica Matos said in a press release that FIRM’s efforts last year to gain House Republican support for reform were unproductive. “Persuasion got us only so far,” said Matos. “From now on, any lawmakers who do not support it should expect relentless confrontations that will escalate until they agree to do so.”
America’s Voice spokesperson Frank Sherry stated that Republicans should recognize that selecting a presidential candidate next year could create serious division within the GOP. “It’s now or never for the Republican Party,” he said, and to oppose reform carries the risk being perceived not only as anti-Hispanic, but also against Asians and other immigrants.
EL PASO — When Nona’s Pizza Bar opened last summer there was no grand opening celebration and no traditional ads were bought to promote the new restaurant. The Sun City found out through the new “word of mouth” —Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The storefront was ready on Sunday evening and they opened the following day to a good crowd without missing a beat. Once a picture of Nona’s famous LED “El Paso” sign was posted on social media, everyone wanted a piece. If used correctly, social media can help build a small business in El Paso through these networks.
Javier, a 35-year-old from Hidalgo, Mexico, was en route to New York where friends were going to help him find work. He had planned on returning back home after a few years working in the United States. Javier never made it past the border. He was apprehended by Border Patrol officers in January 2012 as he attempted to cross into the United States near Nogales, Sonora. Javier is one of many recently repatriated migrants from Mexico who have detailed physical, verbal and psychological abuse—including beatings, sleep deprivation and racial slurs—by Border Patrol officers after being apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border.
EL PASO — When Juan García Aleman, an 87-year-old retired shoemaker who worked for the boot-making Tony Lama Company for 20 years moved here from Juarez in the 1950’s he didn’t need to speak or read English in the workplace. Jesus Saucedo, a 29-year-old who was born in California but went to Mexico with his parents at age three, now lives here and struggles as a community college student with limited knowledge of English. He says he has difficulty communicating effectively at his fast-food job and is hesitant to pursue a leadership position. Their personal stories, different in many ways, are connected because of the language barriers they faced as residents of a border city that is predominately Hispanic and bilingual. For example, U.S. Census statistics from 2010 show that 75 percent of El Pasoans speak Spanish at home, and only 24 percent of the city’s 700,000 resident are monolingual speakers of English.
WASHINGTON – A new program will allow thousands of young immigrants to go to college without having to worry about money. Donald Graham introduced TheDream.US, a new scholarship fund, at a press conference Tuesday. It will give full-ride scholarships to more than 2,000 DREAMers over the next decade. “It will be terrible for them and for our country if we don’t help them,” Graham said. “There is no telling what many of them will achieve in their lives.”
Young people described as DREAMers are those brought to the United States when they were children.
Washington, D.C.- Skipping some opening tributes that quoted the profound words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on his Jan. 20 birthday, some 150 black and other youths picked up shovels and trash bags to take direct action. Student volunteers from Howard University and members of Impact DC, a multiracial civil engagement group that shapes upcoming leaders, joined U.S. Secretary of Interior Sarah Jewell in spending a chilly morning clearing debris and raking leaves that littered the King monument site along the Tidal Basin. Last year, then-Secretary Ken Salazar and department specialist Celinda Pena initiated the effort. Back again this year, Peña said, “Martin Luther King Jr. represents everyone in his message which is duty and service.
WASHINGTON – Michelle Obama brought a backup to a film screening at the White House Wednesday as part of her campaign to encourage children to go to college. Singer and songwriter Alicia Keys co-produced the film, “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” which a group of teachers and other educators watched and discussed. Keys and a teacher led a discussion of the film, and Obama talked to the crowd about her reaction to the film. “The minute I got through watching this movie, I said, ‘I’m going to screen it at the White House,’” Michelle Obama said. “This is the movie that should begin the conversation that is already happening on what it is we have to do to invest in kids in this community.”
The film tells the story of two grade-school boys who are living with the day-to-day struggles of fending for themselves in the Bronx.
Border Patrol agents routinely violate the constitutional rights of local residents in southern Arizona when they stop drivers at interior checkpoints on major highways and state routes near the border, according to an official complaint filed Wednesday. The complaint sent to Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties alleges that checkpoint agents conduct searches and detain people without justification, and use immigration enforcement as a pretext for “fishing expeditions” for potential criminal activity. The American Civil Liberties Union complaint details alleged violations against 15 U.S. citizens. It is the latest in a series of complaints about the checkpoints, where drivers passing through are ostensibly stopped and asked if they are U.S. citizens. A group of Arivaca residents recently presented a petition to the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector chief, Manuel Padilla Jr., asking him to remove one of the three checkpoints that surround the town.
EL PASO – A group of people gathered at the Union Plaza downtown on a recent Saturday morning to browse through and buy arts, crafts and food delicacies at the weekly Downtown Artists and Farmers Market. One vendor in particular stands out from the displays of original, unique hand-made art works because it doesn’t have a canopy overheard like the others. This stand belongs to Seok-Kiew Koay, 58, a designer and maker of bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and rosaries who has been a regular at the farmer’s market since 2011. “I’ve been doing this (jewelry) for 15 years and this hobby has become my job. I enjoy it,” said Koay as she held up one of her necklaces.
EL PASO — To most people Pancho Villa is a legendary character from Mexican history, but to Ruth McDonald, a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, Villa is a real man who hurt her family when he kidnapped her great aunt in the early 1900s from the family ranch in Chihuahua, Mexico. The great aunt was never heard from again but left an often-repeated story of male dominance and abuse that was told across the generations by the women in McDonald’s family. Given her family’s experience of violence and injustice against women, McDonald has chosen to focus her teaching and writing on how some Mexican women are lured into sex trafficking and how young people in general struggle to survive daily under adverse conditions
“Regrettably sex trafficking also occurs locally,” said McDonald “The United States not only faces a flood of international preys but also has its own home-based problem of interstate sex trafficking of minors.”
A native of El Paso, she is well aware that fear, suspicion and brutal violence, as well as sex trafficking now overrun once commerce-friendly Ciudad Juarez. She has devoted her career to educate students and the public about the plight of women who live on the Mexico side of the border and often uses real life examples in the classroom, like the recent sex trafficking court case in El Paso of Charles Marquez, who used ads in a newspaper and the Internet to recruit young women and children for sex trafficking purposes. His arrest was part of “Operation Cross Country,” a national effort targeting underage prostitution that netted the arrests of 104 alleged pimps in cities across the United States, according to law enforcement officials.
EL PASO — On a warm Saturday night in September a merger of education and religion was taking place at the home of Cyrous and Ruhi Heydarian in the affluent Diamond Point Circle neighborhood of west El Paso. A group of about 30 men and women of all ages, some Hispanic, some Iranian others anglo, gathered in their living room for a “devotional” of the local Bahá’í Faith Community. The multicultural, multiethnic group of devotees was discussing Chicana feminism, a topic led by one of their three college age daughters, Nazanin. The local Bahá’í Faith community consists of people of various backgrounds, and despite their limited numbers a massive amount of positive energy circulates amongst them. They began with a PowerPoint discussion about that night’s subject, Chicana feminism, the group listening so intently that one could hear the crickets singing in the night outside.
EL PASO — Almost four years ago, founders of La Semilla Food Center went on a mission to build a more sustainable and self-reliant food system in the El Paso-Las Cruces, NM, border region. In 2010, Aaron Sharratt, Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman, and Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard created a small community garden in Anthony, New Mexico. Today they farm land, create policy to help local farmers, and organize numerous community outreach programs.
“They took on a task that seems monumental to me, but because people in our region are so unfamiliar with food justice issues and food systems. It takes a lot of education,” said Catherine Yanez, La Semilla Program and Outreach Coordinator. “We’ve already seen a difference in the people that we’re engaging; we’re seeing that light bulb turn on.”
Within their community outreach programs, La Semilla hosts many youth projects. And through them La Semilla has engaged more than 800 local children.
Convoy of Hope, audio report by Nancy Lorain Watters
EL PASO – The rainy, windy, and freezing weather didn’t stop the Convoy of Hope from going far and beyond the
call of generosity on its first visit to El Paso. Many families in the area went to the El Paso County Coliseum on November 23 and stood in the cold in the hope of getting some much needed groceries at no cost. The Convoy of Hope is an international faith-based non-profit organization that delivers food and provides many services to underprivileged people in the U.S. and around the world. Hal Donaldson founded Convoy of Hope in 1994 in Springfield MO, after members of the community joined forces to help him and his family recover after a drunk driver killed his father and incapacitated his mother. El Paso Convoy of Hope spokeswoman Lorayn Melton said that the needy families that attended the event were the guests of honor.
CALEXICO, Calif.–She packs up the pet crates, medical records, her passport, and up to four—of her seven—dogs at a time. Her armament and precious cargo are stuffed into her car for passage into Mexico and the often-precarious return to the U.S.
For Elva Lomas, that is what a typical veterinary visit consists of. “Going over [to Mexico] isn’t even hard for me,” Lomas said. “Having a SENTRI pass, I can take and bring my dogs really easily, and since I have all these dogs it’s just cheap and easy for me.”
Lomas has been traveling to and from Mexicali for years—by car and on foot—to have her beloved dogs cared for by Mexican veterinarians who charge far less for the same services and medicines than their American counterparts do. She is among a new crowd of Americans looking for lower-cost health care, not for themselves, but for their four-legged companions. “Medical tourism” in Mexicali typically comprises physician care as minor as root canals and as major as plastic surgery, the pursuit of less expensive pharmaceutical goods, and even veterinary care. Mexicali Mayor Francisco Perez Tejada said more than 150,000 U.S. visitors in 2010 generated more than $16 million for the local border economy. For people like Lomas, a trip across the border is a small sacrifice for an affordable price. Lomas pays about $50 dollars a month on dog food alone. Adding required annual shots, initial spaying and neutering, and any emergency care and medication her dogs might need could drift expenses into the four-digit range every year on this side of the border.
EL PASO – During the Labor Day weekend Sun City Music Festival earlier this year, a 17-year-old girl from Houston was taken to a local hospital after an adverse reaction to the synthetic street drug Molly, short for molecule. Fortunately, she survived her encounter with the dangerous designer drug unlike other users across the U.S. over the past decade. On the same Labor Day weekend in New York City two revelers at the Electric Zoo electronic dance festival suffered fatal overdoses caused by Molly. These incidents may have been related to a rash of overdoses in the northeast United States blamed on a bad batch of the designer drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Molly also known by the street name Mandy, is the powdered form or crystallized form of methylenedioxy methamphetamine or MDMA.
Editor’s note: This story was previously published on the Chicago Reporter. In 2010, the head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency told his staff to focus on deporting the most dangerous and violent undocumented immigrants. But an investigation by The Chicago Reporter found little change in the percentage of these deportations since then—nationally and in the agency’s Midwest region, which includes Chicago. John Morton, who stepped down as director of the agency this past summer, issued the directive in a June 30, 2010 memo. Yet between 2010 and 2012, the number of people removed from the country who committed a serious felony or violent crime—what officials call the “priority 1” category—actually decreased slightly from 9.5 to 8.7 percent, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement data analyzed by the Reporter.
EL PASO – An estimated 30,000 Mexicans murdered or missing and widespread institutional corruption are just two aspects of a never-ending war on drugs that the Mexican government continues to fight. “The drug war is more than a justice issue, it is a social issue; a lot of words and not a lot of action,” said Jose Villalobos, assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso’s department of political science, speaking recently at UTEP about the Mexican drug war. Three other political science UTEP professors – Tony Payan, Kathleen Staudt, and Anthony Kruszewski collaborated with multiple scholars in the U.S. and Mexico to compile and publish A War that Can’t Be Won: Bi-national Perspectives on the War on Drugs, which looks into the history of the drug war. A War that Can’t Be Won includes contributions from scholars on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border, providing a unique perspective on the many dimensions of the crisis that has affected residents of both nations, particularly those who live and work in the borderlands. Payan said that organized crime in Mexico has many layers that include drugs and killings, but it is much more than that.
EL PASO – Una familia del norte de México se estableció en El Paso sin imaginarse que tras 20 años de vivir en Estados Unidos tratando de lograr el “sueño americano” encontrarían el éxito en las mismas tortillas que cocinaban en su viejo hogar. Gerónimo Hernández, 49, y su esposa Bertha Alicia, 41, dejaron su ciudad natal de Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, en el año 1993 con el propósito de progresar económicamente. Ellos tenían un rancho donde cosechaban diversos vegetales pero apenas les rendía lo suficiente como para mantenerse. La pareja planeaba tener hijos pero sentían que era casi imposible con los ingresos que tenían. Así fue como los dos decidieron emigrar a los Estados Unidos y probar su suerte en un área en las afueras de El Paso llamada Westway.
EL PASO – Roger V. Gonzalez has been to every continent except Antarctica in the last 30 years. He has traveled through almost 30 countries and 48 states of the union. Although he has seen most of the world and experienced many cultures, he says he’s been most affected by encounters with hundreds of men, women, and children with missing limbs because of poor health or accidents that have led to amputations. “It’s really hard to see those who are disabled,” said Gonzalez, 50, a UTEP engineering professor who recently was nominated as Global Humanitarian Engineer of the year. He is also the founder of LIMBS International, a nonprofit founded about 10 years ago that offers affordable prosthetic solutions to amputees around the world.
EL PASO — In the dense tropical rainforest, nature softly enveloped the group of students — the wind sifting through braches and leaves, the singing of myriad insects and birds — a potent reminder that they were not in Texas anymore, but in Kutai National Park in the island of Borneo, in the East Kalimantan region of Indonesia. “In 2009, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in communication at UTEP and was still somewhat uncertain where my life was going. I had been admitted to the master’s program at the University of Colorado, but had no clue as to what I wanted to study,” said Carlos Tarin, 27. “Indonesia changed all of that.”
A college student’s life consists of homework assignments, computer issues and dreaded group projects. It’s unfortunate that not a lot of students are aware of the diverse opportunities for advancement offered by their universities.
EL PASO – La tesis con la que introdujo López Portillo una conferencia este pasado jueves 7 de noviembre en la Universidad de Texas en El Paso fue simple: “Más seguridad, más derechos humanos.” Pero, pese a la simplicidad de esta propuesta, dijo que llegar a implementarla en un contexto mexicano sería sumamente complejo. El experimentado periodista y analista político López Portillo, junto con su organización Instituto Para la Seguridad y la Democracia (INSYDE) buscan promover una reforma estructural de la policía en México. López Portillo habló, entre otras cosas, de la vieja lucha por “recontextualizar” la agenda de seguridad en México, la cual actualmente es solo “un espacio para la reducción del ejercicio de otros derechos.”
Explicó en tono reflexivo que “México presenta una transición democrática fallida…pensábamos que elecciones libres y competidas nos darían gobiernos de calidad. Pensábamos que la posibilidad que se fragmentara el poder iba a dar competencia de gobierno para generar gobiernos de calidad. Pero hoy, la noticia que tenemos es que nos ha fallado la fórmula.”
Para López Portillo, el problema de la policía y la seguridad en México radica en una profunda crisis en la política mexicana que “está generando y reproduciendo instituciones fallidas.” Esta competencia por el poder sin reglas ha desorganizado al régimen político mexicano generando así vacíos de poder y “no hay vacío de poder que no sea llenado de alguna manera,” comentó.
EL PASO – The Border Network for Human Rights held its eighth annual Day of the Dead Procession along the Cesar E. Chavez border highway on Nov. 1 to remember those who have perished while trying to enter the United States and show their support for comprehensive Immigration Reform. “As the Day of the Dead looms, we take this day to remember the immigrants who unfortunately lost their lives while crossing the border,” said BNHR director Fernando Garcia. “We should never forget them; we will be here honoring them every year because if we forget about them their deaths will be in vain and more people will lose their life.”
The non-profit BNHR, along with nearly 150 El Pasoans of all ages, marched from Bowie High School through Central El Paso and along the border highway that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juarez. Participants carried coffins made out of cardboard, religious crosses, lit candles and banners to express their support for immigration reform. Although the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that grants a path to citizenship to undocumented residents last summer, the bill is currently stalled in the House of Representatives and unlikely to be discussed this year.
EL PASO – Supporters of Anonymous occupied the sidewalk in front of the Courthouse here on Nov. 5 protesting the growth of the federal government and the disproportionate power of big corporations in the United States. Anonymous supporters participated in the Million Mask March, which swept the globe in urban cities such as, Washington, D.C., London, Tokyo and Sydney. Protesters in major cities such as D.C. experienced arrests and police resistance. Organizer of the international march Christine Anne Sands said that she had asked for a permit in Washington, D.C. and had been waiting to receive one to prevent negative attention that has given the Hacktivist group a shady reputation.
EL PASO – Five unique and experienced voices were heard at the University of Texas at El Paso this week discussing the seemingly eternal drug war and the government policies that fuel it that has plagued the U.S.-Mexico border region in recent years. The participants included UTEP professor and author Dr. Howard Campbell, former DEA agent Gilberto Gonzalez, UTEP Communication professor Andrew Kennis, Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez, and U.S. Representative Beto O’Rouke (D., El Paso). The event, called “Drug Policy on the Border and Beyond: Dangers Facing Journalists, Obstacles Facing Policy Makers” organized by Kennis, added to the growing discussion by policy makers, law enforcement, public officials and journalists on how to end the war that has claimed thousands of lives in Mexico and led to increased anti-drug enforcement along the U.S. side of the border. Hernandez, an investigative journalist in Mexico who has done some of the best coverage of the drug war and published a book, Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers, in English and Spanish, drew upon her extensive research to discuss the strong connections between the drug cartels and the Mexican government. She also spoke of the importance of the drug economy to the people of Mexico.
EL PASO — It sounded like a fiesta, but between the laughter and loud chatter the group of some 80 Latina women examined the existential questions of identity and women’s rights. Organized here recently by Wise Latina International the women, who live on the U.S.-Mexico border, were challenged to identify, debate and find solutions to the challenges of maintaining self worth and contributing to their communities in the face of obstacles such as getting a good education and creating a productive life for themselves and their families. Two summits at the El Paso downtown library over two weeks specifically addressed and developed an agenda for a Latina Women’s conference here scheduled for the spring of 2014. The first summit hosted approximately 70 local women from diverse walks of life. The second summit attracted over 80 women.