Thursday, December 23, 2010

Twitter shows what we care about while the ship goes down

I realized anew that I'm "out of it" when Mashable posted the top 10 Twitter Trends this week. While I'm preoccupied with issues of climate change, overpopulation, injustice and oppression...what are most people who have the money to access tech tweeting about?

Entertainment! Sports! Holidays! Social media!

Reminds me of the fabled Nero who fiddled while Rome burned.

I wonder that the pie chart would look like if every person across the planet could access Twitter?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

El Paso farm workers celebrate Christmas

It is handy at Christmas time that the Farm Worker's color is red because there are seasonal tablecloths at hand.

Annually the Sin Fronteras center in El Paso does its best to make the Christmas season a bit brighter for the agricultural day laborers they serve. This year's celebration also combined a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, postponed from December 12 due to illness of a key organizer.

Our Lady of Guadalupe's image carried in procession into the Farm Workers Center.

Devotions were prayer and sung with great care and reverence.

The noon meal featured a hearty posole, and the stew-like soup was so spicy that the ladies teasingly wondered how my gringa tastebuds were doing as I was about 25% through my big bowl. [Answer: Doing fine!]

Posole contained hominy and pork and is topped with raw veggies the individual could add to suit individual taste.

No caption is needed: the food was good and the eating was serious!
Music at high volume is a plus at Latino gatherings, here the speaker system is assembled.

The canned food and nonperishables that were given to El Centro for the Christmas season were divided up into individual "dispensas"--boxes and bags for the holidays. The ag workers earn shockingly little and have families to support, so every item of assistance is worthy.

Women prepare the donations for distribution.
Workers sign in for the party and file in past the festive, lighted tree.

There will be another gift-giving celebration that will include the children of the farm workers' families for  the Feast of the Epiphany in January. After all, the Kings (or Magi) were the ones who got the gift ball rolling, and the Latinos remember them better than others of us who have long -forgotten Christmas by then.

One of the staffer's children--adorable!

I am a helper who works behind the scenes in this project. Often behind a closed door, I don't associate with the farm workers directly much. But I just love to be with them, when I have the chance. Just their demeanor enchants me.

I did a quick tour around the room with my movie cam, with the intent of presenting each of them with a portrait photo. I may delete this soon, but for the moment, you can see their faces, too. [I realize that not everyone was appreciative of this impulsive, unannounced and--in all honesty--intrusive camera action. You'll see that too in the video. That's another reason why it may come down quickly. I believe they will like the photos, though. Their portraits are awesome.]

Only the best for La Virgen de Gualalupe.

Monday, December 20, 2010

After Senate's DREAM Act failure, Obama must step up to the plate

President Obama Must Take Immediate Steps to Protect 
the Rights of Immigrant Youth

Yes, I'm disappointed by the Senate’s failure to advance the DREAM Act. Congresspeople who voted against the DREAM Act betrayed our country’s core values of equality and human rights for children. They also squandered the energy and talent of thousands of youth who were raised in the US, have become leaders in their communities, and who want to commit their best to our nation. The Obama administration must not abandon these youth and their families.
The movement that brought the DREAM Act to this momentous vote was led by thousands of immigrant youth who worked unflaggingly in the service of our American values of justice and human rights. Their efforts inspired both the nation and the entire immigrant rights movement, a group which has faced increasing hostility as a result of the Obama administration’s harsh enforcement and detention policies. They deserve our gratitude, these young men and women, as does Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, who has fought for years to pass the DREAM Act.
However, the Obama administration must step up to the plate now. It must use its administrative authority immediately to ensure that all immigrant youth are able to continue to contribute to our communities and live safely in the United States. Obama must enact humane policies and end unjust enforcement programs that are tearing apart immigrant families and resulting in unnecessary and inhumane detention of thousands. Yes, I'm calling for a complete reversal of his policies. It is hard to believe that any president could be worse than George W. Bush, but Obama's policies on immigration actually have been.
I know that DREAM Act will one day prevail. We suffered a major setback last weekend, but I have no doubt that its time will arrive. 
Until it does, I insist that Obama do what he can to salvage a bad situation. I'm waiting for a change I can believe in.
I took some inspiration for this statement as well as some of the content from the statement of Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DREAMers to Congress: We won't stop fighting for what is right

Guest post by: The United We Dream Network
This morning, a bipartisan majority in the US Senate voted in favor of permitting debate on the DREAM Act. Unfortunately, 60 votes were needed and the measure will not move forward this year. We are thankful to the 52 Democrats and three Republicans who stood by us, and ashamed of the 41 Senators who voted to kill this critical piece of legislation that would create a path to legal status for up to 2.1 million young people in America.

We are disappointed and angry. Not only was the vote harmful to the nation, but the rhetoric used by many Members of Congress ignores reality in a disturbing way. Undocumented young people who need the DREAM Act are hard-working and full of potential. We have worked, and continue working, to get educated and be a positive contribution to society. We will remember in future elections who these senators were that chose to use their position in congress as a pulpit for hateful rhetoric, and failed to do the right thing for millions of young people seeking an education.

Our campaign may be coming to an end and a new stage in our movement for dignity and human rights is about to begin. We will continue fighting for our dreams, and we will be able to mobilize an army of dreamers. Some of them will be future doctors, engineers, educators, and business leaders that will create jobs and opportunities. Some of them will be future soldiers and generals to represent us in the military. All of them will fight for a stronger and more united America. Our hopes for the future are based on a history this nation of immigrants has already lived. That is why we hope, that is why we dream. We see the light while walking in darkness. We see the dawn before the rest of the world.

As undocumented leaders, we urge dreamers across the country to stay strong and healthy. This is a hard moment for all of us, but more than ever before we have each other to rely on. Sooner or later, the dream is coming true!
Source: The United We Dream Network

Friday, December 17, 2010

Virtual Vigil Light for Tomorrow's Senate DREAM Act Vote

VIRTUAL VIGIL for the DREAM Act! Change your profile pics to ... on Twitpic
A vigil light for the DREAM Act...
The Senate will vote tomorrow on the DREAM Act.

Will it pass? The only way to find out if we have the 60 votes needed is by forcing the vote. It’s worth recalling that when the vote was called in the House of Representatives most predicted we would fall short, and we won by a margin of 20 votes.  

GOP Senate leadership is trying to protect their members from having to take this vote. They even argued that taking votes during the Christmas season was sacrilegious. [Spare me!]

They don’t want to vote because they know, as does each and every Senator, that a vote against these talented young people will define them with Latinos and other immigrants the rest of their political careers.  

Millions of Latinos and other immigrants will be watching the vote on Saturday, and they will remember on which side of history they chose to stand. 

The vote will affect millions of lives and the future of our nation. This candle burns an all night prayer that the inevitable will arrive--not years from now, but tomorrow.

Sources: Immigration Forum, Border Action Network

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

History is alive in memorable Tortugas, New Mexico on December 12

Tortugas, New Mexico is a village that amalgamates a glorious mix of the historic culture and traditions of Hispanic and Native American peoples with newer Mexican customs. It climaxes every year during December 10-12, a three day festival for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Stop signs double as street signs in Tortugas. And Juan Diego is a VIP.

The Pueblo Indians, who farmed here centuries ago at the base of the Organ Mountains, eventually integrated so closely with Spanish blood that the two cultures wed in this annual ritual.

Tortugas is a small settlement, just south of Mesilla, NM. Not wealthy or powerful, this adobe hut bears witness to its humility.
 "Each resident of the village has enacted the pageant through a lifetime and it has become a strong urge as the season draws near, to fulfill those vows passed down to them by their ancestors. Preparations begin in November. Dances are rehearsed. Decorations are assembled. Sometimes new attire is made. Staying true to the symbol of Guadalupe everything is covered in roses." (Holy Adobe, Lenore Harris Hughes)

The small burg was burgeoning with people. Narrow dirt streets around the church.were lined for blocks with cars parked on both sides. 
The three days include all night vigils, many fires, feasting, multiple and extensive ritual dances, and a lengthy procession by all four dance groups and other village participants around the village. The group undertakes a four mile pilgrimage up Tortugas Mountain; some reportedly make this climb barefoot or even on hands and knees.

Juan Diego's decorated statue (foreground) reviews a plaza full of danzantes who perform before the image of Our Lady. Behind her the Tortugas Mountain (marked with an "A") is visible beneath the Organ Mountains on the horizon. [Click photo to enlarge]

On December 12, the parish celebrates a lengthy Catholic liturgy. The bishop himself presided and preached this year's Mass. I understand that he spoke to issues of social justice, including the evils of domestic violence as well as addressing the narco-violence now raging in Mexico. Of the latter, he reportedly stated that the United States is--not "part" of the problem--but "the source of the problem."

Malinches, small girls dressed in white, symbolize the purity of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (They receive their name from an Indian maid who traveled with Cortez in Mexico.)
The overwhelming aroma of the multi-colored roses engulfs the visitor who steps inside of the church. There the image of the Virgin that has been carried in procession is displayed for the devotions of the people.

The renovated tower of the simple but beautiful Tortugas church marks the center of the festivities.

We visited each of three of the dance groups who performed in areas adjacent to the church. The fourth group was taking a break at the community house "La Casa del Pueblo" (seen in the final photo on this post.) Each group wore elaborate, distinct costumes. Most all costumes prominently displayed the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

There were four plazas of dancing groups, all performing simultaneously.

Another of the dance groups--note their completely different costumes. Reflections of light reflecting from the objects they held sparkled across the Church's facade as they danced before it. Their movement is apparent in this photo as the men dance beneath the swath of colorful material (right). The choreography was so impressive. The dancing involved so many of so many ages and it lasted for extended periods of time without a break.

The village pastor, a Franciscan, added a touch of historical authenticity in his habit.
The community must work through many conflicts and disagreements. Although custom regulates the tradition, humanity enters in. A woman in the crowd hinted to me that a conflict was the reason that one of the dance groups enacted their dance apart from the others. The devotion has endured nevertheless.

Sounds of druming and the shaking of gourds is augmented by the rattle of the decorations on the costumes that rhythmically follow each action of the dancers.

In an effort to drive away evil spirits, the blast of shotguns periodically interrupted the sunny afternoon, startling unprepared observers.

Here--a few blocks away--another dance group exits "La Casa del Pueblo" (visible on the right) in formation, ready to begin anew another round of dance.

The elderly are respected and their experiences valued as they passed the information about the ceremonial to their young.

One elderly Tortugeno said, "The urge to fulfill the vow is as strong as life itself."
~Holy Adobe, Lenore Harris Hughes

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Senators to call to lobby for the DREAM Act--names and numbers here

Be on the right side of history! 

Call these senators to vote YES on Dream Act:

Murkowski, Lisa
DC: (202) 224-6665
Local: (907) 271-3735 

McCain, John
DC: (202) 224-2235
Local: (602) 952-2410

Lugar, Richard
DC:  (202) 224-4814
Local: (317) 226-5555

Landrieu, Mary
DC: (202) 224-5824
Local: (225) 389-0395 

Collins, Susan
DC: (202) 224-2523
Local: (207) 622-8414 

Snowe, Olympia
DC: (202) 224-5344
Local: (207) 622-8292 

Stabenow, Debbie
DC: (202) 224-4822
Local: (313) 961-4330 

McCaskill, Claire
DC: (202) 224-6154
Local: (314) 367-1364 

Baucus, Max
DC: (202) 224-2651
Local: (406) 657-6790


Ensign, John Eric
DC: (202) 224-6244
Local: (702) 388-6605

North Carolina
Hagan, Kay
DC:  202-224-6342;
Toll free: 1-877-852-9462

North Dakota 
Dorgan, Byron
DC: (202) 224-2551
Local: (701) 250-4618 

Conrad, Kent
DC: (202) 224-2043
Local: (701) 258-4648 

Voinovich, George
DC:  (202) 224-3353
Local: (216) 522-7095

West Virginia
Manchin, Joe
DC: (202) 224-3954
Local: (304) 264-4626

Not sure you want to call? Then, watch this:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Insiders’ Guide to El Paso--a border explorer’s new best friend

Border exploring has just become significantly easier with Insiders’ Guide’s newest offering: El Paso.

Megan Eaves, after returning to her roots in the Southwestern to compose her latest guidebook, puts the city of El Paso into the palm of the reader’s hand. Comprehensive yet compact, this first edition book covers all the basics of the Sun City and appropriately adds plenty of border flavor for accent.

Arranged in traditional travel guide format, each chapter treats a foundational aspect of the area. Together, they will help you arrive in El Paso, will orient you to border life, and will ease both your daily functioning and your access to the city’s special activities. All the anticipated topics are accounted for: transportation, border history and geography, accommodations, restaurants, nightlife, attractions, the arts, parks and recreation, “kidstuff,” shopping, and day trips from El Paso.

As an area native daughter, Eaves ably includes details others may miss. The “Close Up” sidebar articles, for instance, reveal local color and spotlight El Paso specialties. For instance, important personalities, both contemporary and historic, receive due focus—from Pancho Villa to Sandra Day O’Connor. The colorful murals, trademark bootmakers, and Tex-Mex cuisine are all explained in a clear, understandable text.

Some opinions and recommendations in the guide surprised me, and there were some with which I didn’t agree. But, that is wonderful. The best use of a travel guide is when it successfully points you in an interesting direction. This allows you the pleasure of experiencing the city for yourself and forming your own conclusions. Insiders’ Guide to El Paso steers you accurately to wherever your interests lead you.

El Paso is burgeoning with new development. While that's good for El Paso, it's difficult for book publishers who must meet deadlines. As a result, the city's new Union Plaza sector is notably missing from this guide. However, the guide's media section provides all the tools you need to obtain the latest information, on this or any other more recent development.

Whether you’re retiring here (as I did some years ago), relocating to El Paso or just visiting, with this book in your hand you’ll be holding a gold mine of information in a convenient format. I know that even as a seasoned new settler of the city I’ll be referring to mine often. The book is readily available on Amazon, just in time for incoming Sun Bowl game visitors and the influx of new troops to Fort Bliss.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love...on Soul mates

Image Credit: Soul Mates by Shelley Schoenherr
"...a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful."

Thus opines Richard from Texas, Elizabeth Gilbert's friend in her phenomenally successful Eat, Pray, Love.

Long story short: Elizabeth couldn't seem to recover from grief when her relationship with the man she considered her soul mate--her "perfect fit"--finally and permanently ruptured. However, Richard from Texas flatly observed:
"David's purpose was to shake you up, drive you out of that marriage that you needed to leave, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and additcions, break your heart open so new light could get in , make you so desperate and out of control that you had to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it. That was his job, and he did great, but now it's over.
Problem is, you can't accept that this relationship had a real short shelf life. You're like a dog at the dump, baby--you're just lickin' at an empty tin can, trying to get more nutrition out of it. And if you're not careful, that can's gonna get stuck on your snout forever and make your life miserable. So drop it."
Elizabeth protests. She loves David. She misses him. But Richard from Texas is relentless:
"So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, and then drop it. You're just afraid to let go of the last bits of David because then you'll really be alone, and Liz Gilbert is scared to death of what will happen if she's really alone. But...if you clear out all that space in your mind that you're using right now to obsess about this guy, you'll have a vacuum there, an open pot--a doorway. And guess what the universe will do with that doorway? It will rush in--God will rush in--and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed."
Perhaps some soul mates are too painful to be permanent. Certainly looking into the mirror isn't necessarily easy or pleasant. It may be uncomfortable, even downright painful.

Perhaps it could be true that the most important person you'll ever meet can't remain with you. Because it would not be good for either of you.

Who are the people who have opened us up to the universe, who have created doorways inside us allowing love to enter? Send some love and light every time you think about him or her--whether that person is near or far, whether here or gone.

It's the least you can do for the one whose mirrored image opened you and set you free.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't believe lies: DREAM Act is good for America

In a new report, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) paints a misleading financial portrait of the DREAM Act.  The report, entitled Estimating the Impact of the DREAM Act, claims that the bill would be a burden on U.S. taxpayers and would "crowd out" native-born students in the classroom.  However, the available evidence does not support either of these dire predictions.  In fact:

  • Institutions of higher education overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act, which would likely increase school revenues as students who would not normally attend college start to pay tuition.
  • The 10 states which, since 2001, have passed laws allowing undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition have not experienced a large influx of new immigrant students that displaces native-born students.
  • Most DREAM Act students would likely enroll in community colleges, most of which have open enrollment, based on a philosophy that all qualified students should have the opportunity to learn.   Historically, more than 80% of community college students hold full or part-time jobs, thus contributing to their own educations (and the tax base) even as they attend school. The American Association of Community Colleges estimates that state and local governmentsreceive a 16% return on every dollar they invest in community colleges due to the increased earnings of college graduates.
  • Legalizing DREAM Act students would increase beneficiaries' earnings potential, as well as the U.S. tax base.  A 2010 study by the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center estimates that the total earnings of DREAM Act beneficiaries over the course of their working lives would be between $1.4 trillion and $3.6 trillion. 
CIS's cynical mischaracterization of the DREAM Act is not only inaccurate, but hypocritical as well.  CIS frequently laments that so many immigrants to the United States have low levels of education, yet opposes a measure that would allow some of these immigrants to become more educated.  What alternative to the DREAM Act does CIS propose?  According to the Center for American Progress the cost to deport more than two million children and young adults who were raised in the United States would be $48.6 billion.  How is that sound fiscal policy?

The U.S. economy doesn't need more deportations; it needs more college graduates.  According to a recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, "not enough Americans are completing college... by 2018, we will need 22 million new college degrees-but will fall short of that number by at least 3 million postsecondary degrees, Associate's or better." The DREAM Act would help meet this need.

Source: Immigration Policy Center
Image Source: Faviana Rodriguez

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dream Act proponents sitting-in at Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson's office

supporter at Sen Hutchison's office on Twitpic
a supporter at Sen. Hutchinson's office
 (Twitpic posted by DREAM_Act
--Sit-in Still In Progress, 
No Arrests Made As Yet--
San Antonio- After initiating a state-wide hunger strike in support of the DREAM Act,  San Antonio DREAM Act supporters have escalated their actions and staged a sit-in at Senator Hutchison’s San Antonio office.  The students, which include DREAM-eligible youth and U.S. citizens, will not leave the office until Senator Hutchison commits to voting for the DREAM Act in the lame duck session.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” said My Le.  “I wish it didn’t have to come to this, but we don’t have any time to waste.”
“I wish I had celebrated Thanksgiving with my family and friends,” added Felipe Vargas. “But we’ll have our  Thanksgiving celebration when the DREAM Act passes.”
Lucina Martinez added, “We know that the Senator understands our plight, that she is sensible, and compassionate.  She voted for the DREAM Act in 2007, and her constituent responses were always favorable.  She’s only recently changed her tune.  We hope to remind her that our futures, that our lives depend on her support.” (emphasis mine, BG)
Below are the profiles of the four individuals sitting in at Senator Hutchison’s office:
Julio Lopez: His hometown is San Antonio. He is in his last year of undergraduate study at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is taking a double-major in Anthropology and Mexican American Studies and is an active member of  the Mexican American Studies Student Organization.

Lucina Martinez: Born in Mexico City but moved to Dallas, TX with her parents at age 6.  She is currently a sophomore at the University of Texas at San Antonio where she is double majoring in Women’s Studies and Mexican American Studies. She’s a DREAM Act beneficiary and is on her 20th day of the Hunger Strike.

Felipe Vargas: Currently finishing doctorate in History, Philosophy and Education Policy from Indiana University Bloomington. He is on the 20th day of the hunger strike.

My Le: Hometown is Saigon, Vietnam. She moved to the United States at the age of 5. She is not a DREAM Act beneficiary but a committed ally. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is double majoring in Art and Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies.
Not too long ago, Senator Hutchison was a supporter of the DREAM Act.  In 2007, the Senator made a compassionate floor speech in favor of the DREAM Act.  In June 2010, the Senator’s constituent responses in regards to the DREAM Act were positive, as shown by this excerpt from her June 2010 constituent response regarding the DREAM Act:
“Among our immigrant population, there are young people who were brought to this country as minors and have not yet attained legal status. These young people have attended and graduated from American high schools. They wish to attend or are attending American colleges and universities in order to enjoy prosperity. Their inability to garner employment following college graduation leaves them in an unfortunate position. I believe that we must find a way to help assimilate these college graduates into our country. In addition to the economic benefit of retaining college graduates in our country, there is a compassionate reason for us to try to work this out.”
For updates, visit the UTSA DREAM Act blog here:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

9 FAQs about the DREAM Act

Does the DREAM Act use taxpayer dollars for scholarships and grants to undocumented students?
No.  Undocumented youth adjusting to lawful permanent resident status are only eligible for federal student loans (which must be paid back) and federal work-study programs. They must work for any benefit they receive. They're not eligible for federal grants, such as Pell Grants.

Does the DREAM Act allow undocumented students to pay cheaper tuition than citizens?
No. The DREAM Act lets states offer in-state tuition to students registered under DREAM, but it does NOT guarantee cheaper tuition.  At most, the DREAM Act allows undocumented students to access the same benefits as their peers.
Does the DREAM Act give undocumented students and their families access to public benefits?
No.   [Typically, an immigrant must be here as a lawful permanent resident for five years before they can receive non-emergency federal assistance.]

Will the DREAM Act result in a mass amnesty?
No, the DREAM Act is not an amnesty. To legalize, individuals have to meet stringent eligibility criteria. They 
  • entered the United States before age 16; 
  • have been here for five years or more; 
  • not have committed any major crimes; 
  • graduate from high school or the equivalent; and 
  • complete at least two years of college or military service. 

Will the DREAM Act will spur more illegal immigration by rewarding undocumented youth?
No. The DREAM Act has clear cut-off dates, so it offers no incentives for more illegal immigration. [Economic conditions have far more impact on illegal immigration than specific pieces of legislation.]

I heard that the DREAM Act isn’t just for students, but will benefit people of all ages. Is that true?
Fact:  Because the U.S. has failed to address the question of illegal immigration for over a decade, an entire generation of young people’s skills and contributions is at risk. Consequently, the DREAM Act encourages immigrants 35 or younger to attend college or join the military, but they must still have entered the U.S. before they were 16 AND have been here for five years immediately preceding the date of enactment.

Some say the DREAM Act legalizes criminals and gang members and lets people who have already been ordered deported avoid the law. Is that true?
No. Immigrants convicted of serious crimes are ineligible for DREAM Act status. 

But does the DREAM Act let students cut in line in front of other lawful immigrants?
No.  DREAM Act students don't compete for visas with other applicants for legal permanent residence. The DREAM Act creates a separate program for students, requiring them to earn legal permanent residence by attending college or serving in the military for two years while in a temporary legal status.  DREAM won't affect the number of visas available or the time it takes to get a visa for those entering through traditional channels.

Will the DREAM Act diminish opportunities for U.S.-citizen students?
 According to the National Immigration Law Center:
Most undocumented students are likely to have zero impact on admission rates of native born students:  Since 2001, 10 states have made it easier for undocumented state residents to attend college by offering in-state tuition to those that qualify.  Many of the students that utilized this opportunity attended community colleges, which have open enrollment.  The small numbers of students who will attend 4-year universities aren't significant enough to affect the opportunities of others.
Institutions charged with education of our youth overwhelmingly support the bill. Well-established education organizations like the American Association of Community Colleges, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, National Educators Association, the College Board, as well as prominent university presidents/chancellors support the DREAM Act.
Source: Immigration Policy Center