Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New over-the-phone language interpretation breaks old barriers at school

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A new program contacted me to share that they offer Instant, over-the-phone interpretation to help schools reach out to parents in over 170 languages. TransACT will offer its customers -- now in about one quarter of the nation's school districts -- immediate access to over-the-phone interpretation services for registration and welcome center events, parent meetings, parent-teacher conferences and disciplinary hearings.

TransACT is a partnership born of Language Line Services, an established interpretation and translation service, and TransACT Communications, a company that helps K-12 school districts deal with compliance issues in communicating with limited-English speaking parents.

"Language Line Services shares our mutual goal of breaking down any barriers to parent involvement, one of the most important factors in improving schools and student performance," said Rick Passovoy, president and CEO of TransACT Communications. "School districts rely on our expertise, and now we have eliminated the language barrier by making conference calls or face-to-face meetings with parents available in any of 170 languages."

Language Line Services currently works with 95 percent of the 911/emergency market in the United States, as well as businesses, government agencies and banks. TransACT, meanwhile, offers Web-based solutions to more than 3,500 school districts nationwide to help meet federal parent notification requirements, with forms and documents available in up to 20 languages.

“Language should not be a dividing line, especially when it comes to the education of our children,“ states Louis Provenzano, President & CEO of Language Line Services.

I did not receive any recompense for this blog post. As a former educator, I found TransACT’s service both intriguing and useful. I could have put this to good use in dealing with refugee families from Viet Nam. As technology progresses, I hope we see increasing ease in communicating across the divisive Tower of Babel-type language lines.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A message for you from "ordinary" women in Juarez

No one in Juarez is ordinary.

Juarez itself is extraordinary. It is filled with extraordinary stories and occurrences. The violence that happens there should not happen anywhere. But there is always more to a story than a simple telling will relate.

Thus, the dilemma--whether one is a border journalist or merely a fronterista:
how to communicate the extraordinary horror without neglecting the extraordinary heroism?

In this post, some women in a poor Juarez neighborhood will speak for themselves. The question posed to them by a group of visitors from the U.S.: What message do you want us to carry back with us?


Their responses follow [all added emphasis is mine]:

  • Tell the people there that the only thing the media covers is all the violence in Juarez. They don't tell you about all the good people here and places like this Center [Centro Santa Catalina] that make a difference in our lives.

  • Tell them that the murders are not the only violence here. We also suffer the violence of hunger and poverty. Many people eat only one meal a day now because there is no work.

  • Let people know how important education is to us and our children. It's only by keeping our children in school that we can keep them away from the violence. This Center helps us do that.

  • We want you to thank your college and your parents for letting you visit us! Thank you for believing in us! [B.E. notes: Very few visitors are now willing to come to Juarez. Non-profits--and those they assist--suffer from this isolation and lack of support.]

  • Remember that the United States has a share in our problems. The weapons being used by the murderers come from the US; the drugs that are being sold go to markets in the US. We didn't create this problem by ourselves and we can't solve it alone.

Two footnotes:  Centro Santa Catalina is a border group that my husband and I support in our charitable giving. It does good work in an extraordinarily dangerous environment. 
The unnamed Mexican women pictured in the photo above are not associated with Centro Santa Catalina; their photo is simply an illustration for this blog post.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A New Plan; Since the State of [fill in blank] is running short of money

The following resolution will be submitted to the Minnesota House of Representatives by state congressman Bill Hilty from the district surrounding Carlton. It came to my attention via Veterans for Peace/Chapter 27.

The resolution's authors, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Bill Hilty, want as many progressives as possible to submit it to various local organizations for official endorsements. That, they think, might help win it approval in the hostile pro-war, Republican-dominated Minnesota House and Senate.

For non-Minnesotan, of course, this idea could surely be adapted to other states by simply changing the dollar figures. 



Resolution Calling for Re-ordering of Priorities:

Whereas Minnesota is faced with a $5.028 billion budget shortfall; and,

Whereas past budget cuts have resulted in painful reductions in essential services and future cuts would further erode the quality of life for and, in fact, endanger the lives of many citizens; and,

Whereas many cities and communities in Minnesota are laying off police, firefighters, teachers and other essential employees; and,

Whereas past budgets have been balanced by cutting social services, under‑investment in essential infrastructure, and other measures that push the crisis onto local governments and the poor; and,

Whereas Minnesota taxpayers even during these times of economic crisis and fiscal austerity are poised to pay the equivalent of the entire state biennial budget, more than $35 billion over the next two years, for their share of the Defense Budget of the Federal government; and,

Whereas Minnesota taxpayers alone have already spent more than $27.5 billion, and will spend $8.4 billion more over the next two years for the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and,

Whereas 58 cents of every dollar of federal discretionary spending is devoted to military purposes; and,

Whereas military spending priorities at the national level negatively impact budgets and quality of life at all levels of government and society; and, 

Whereas our nation desperately needs to better balance its approach to security to go beyond military defense and include the economic, social, and environmental needs of our communities, state, and nation;

Therefore be it resolved that we, the Legislature of the State of Minnesota call on Senators Klobuchar and Franken, and Representatives Walz, Kline, Paulsen, McCollum, Ellison, Bachmann, Peterson and Cravaack as well as Congressional leadership and President Barack Obama, to shift federal funding priorities from war and the interests of the few, to meeting the essential needs of us all. 

Approved [date]

By Jack Nelson-Palmeyer and Bill Hilty

Image credit: Poster for sale at Syracuse Cultural Workers website

Monday, April 4, 2011

Border Patrol agent questions drug war, Loses job!

Drugs and the Border <----Click here for the podcast.

The Mexican ambassador is not the only one to lose his job for speaking the truth. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent Bryan Gonzalez had two years of experience and excellent performance reviews when the Border Patrol terminated his employment after learning that he had political opinions about drug legalization and immigration. He’s now a client of the ACLU-New Mexico, and he was featured today on “The Story” by American Public Media [Click link at the top of this post to listen to his very powerful story!]
Patrolling near Deming, New Mexico in April 2009, Gonzalez pulled his vehicle up next to a fellow CBP agent. In the course of a casual discussion concerning the drug-related violence in Mexico, Gonzales remarked that he believed that legalization of drugs would be the most effective way to end the violence. He also told the other agent that, as a former dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, he understood the economic factors that drive migrants to cross the border without documentation to seek work.
Word of Gonzalez's opinions quickly spread to his supervisor, who told the Joint Intake Command in Washington, D.C. Internal Affairs soon launched an investigation, and the Border Patrol terminated Gonzalez in October 2009, just weeks before his probationary period would end.
The termination letter stated that Gonzalez held "personal views that were contrary to the core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication, and esprit de corps."
"I was terminated not because my service was inadequate, but because I hold certain opinions that are shared by millions of my fellow Americans," said Gonzalez. "I am no less patriotic or dedicated to excellence in my work because I respectfully disagree with some of our current border enforcement policies. It was wrong for the U.S. Border Patrol to retaliate against me for exercising my free speech rights guaranteed by the very Constitution I swore to uphold."
ACLU-NM seeks a declaration by the court that the Border Patrol violated Bryan Gonzalez's First Amendment right to free speech, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
"Firing a public servant because of their political opinions is an egregious violation of the First Amendment," said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. "We cannot require nor should we expect uniformity of thought within our law enforcement institutions. Purging the ranks of government employees who fail "ideological purity" tests is about as un-American as it gets."


Information Source: ACLU press release

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Border artist Bruce Berman delivers the news "feel"

Bruce Berman (Google profile image)
On my "wish list" of people I've yet to meet is professional photographer Bruce BermanAfter beginning his career in Chicago, he has focused  for the past three decades on the border of El Paso/Juarez, living now only three blocks from the international bridge.

Berman, like me (only much earlier in life), relocated to the border. And he fell in love with it, and he hated it, and he still does. "It's complicated," he says, "like any relationship." 


Of all I read and survey--both of and from the border as well as Mexico--his words and images grab me with more frequency than most. In fact he says that The Border Blog, on which he collaborates with web master Manuel Rivera, is not meant to be a news source as much as it is a news feel.


Berman is a professor of journalism at New Mexico State University, specializing in documentary photojournalism. His one-man exhibition at UTEP last year--at which I spent a blissful afternoon--was a prelude to a projected "Border Stories" book. 


I'm preparing to return to Iowa now for the spring and summer, and in the process of sorting through accumulated papers, I discovered the program from Berman's 2010 UTEP exhibit, prompting this post.


The border is filled with amazing people. They are the most compelling reason for my fall/winter return. In the meantime, I will content myself with reading Border Blog. And I hope you will visit it, too.