Tag: immigration

Interview With The Mayor

The Bridge News had the delightful honor of meeting and interviewing Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz. The interview was held in Killam Library, and conducted openly with students continuing on with their daily studies. Saenz was elected mayor in 2014, succeeding Raul Salinas. His term ends in 2018, but he plans on considering reelection. Saenz considers himself “different” than his predecessor. Unlike the previous mayor, he aims to remain neutral. Personally, Saenz has both liberal and conservative views like many Laredoans. When Saenz was elected, he came in as the outsider. He was the independent candidate coming from a professional career in law. He has good relations with the city manager, but he does acknowledge some of the gridlock in in city government. There is some divide between the Laredo establishment and new voices emerging in Laredo’s government. Saenz is one of one them, and understands the people who voted for him wanted change from the old institutions. With Laredo being a city that lives and breathes on economic trade, Saenz has been pushing for ways to create more and new jobs. Laredo’s populations grows by the day, and though he gave a modest number of 260,000, the city is probably pushing 300,000. With the city growing at a rapid rate, he understands that employment must also grow as well. Voter participation was also a large concern for the mayor. He takes note that many people in Laredo do not vote, which inhibits the democratic process. However, Saenz recognized the some of the political enthusiasm coming out of the presidential election. He was pleased with the amount of younger people becoming politically active, and hopes that their enthusiasm could reflect local politics as well. Likewise, Saenz was impressed in the student’s efforts to discuss local politics and be further involved with civil affairs. Concerning the city’s growth, Saenz has been working with different parties in looking to allocate funding and support into completing and maximizing Loop 20’s potentials. Performing these feats requires Saenz’ neutrality. He understands that to achieve such construction, he would have to cooperate with Democrats in the city and Republicans in the state legislature. Recently here on campus, a controversial petition was presented. The petition was originally intended to appear on the November ballot, and if passed, will add some strength to the mayor’s veto power. The petition comes as a reflex to some of the gridlock seen in the city council. Saenz does favor this. He understands that Laredoans elected him for a reason, and understands that legislations needs to get done. This gridlock cannot go on forever. He does not want the city’s government to look like the current U.S. Congress. Saenz was interviewed on FOX Business a few months ago where he was asked about some of the proposed plans by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Though he does not have full confidence that Republicans will be achieving the White House, he did share his thoughts on the matter. He strongly acknowledges that harming relations with Mexico would cause severe economic damage to Laredo, other border cities, and the state of Texas. Saenz also agrees with the state legislature on their opposition to Trump’s proposals. He also knows that the increased presence of federal authorities in Laredo, such as the Department of Homeland Security and possibly the military, would turn the city from the one of the largest land ports to a defense fort. Laredo’s international trade would become a service to the military industrial complex. Though the heavy rhetoric coming from the Republican field is supported among their voters, Saenz feels confident to know that Laredo, for the most part, rejects these ideals. “If you remove yourself from the border area, it is very easy to say ‘build a wall’,” said Saenz Saenz believes that the people of Laredo, who are immigrants themselves or first-generation Americans, understand the plight of national acceptance. Laredo is mainly a Hispanic/Mexican-American city, but he agrees that the city and its people would be very welcoming to other foreigners of different background. Laredo may be relatively homogenous, but it does excel in tolerance. “Laredo is very welcoming. We’re good people,” he said. Saenz is definitely a man who understand the city, and its needs. He stays and works here for a reason. He hopes that more people, especially the young and educated, will consider staying in and improving Laredo, a growing city that is still worth investing in.
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Centro Aztlan Provides Services For Local Immigrants

Many students on campus may not realize that their classmates are DREAMERS. No, I do not mean day dreamers, I mean DACA Dreamers. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals created in 2012, and it has become the safety net for many Dreamers that were brought to this country as children by their parents. Through DACA, these students are then able to attend college, gain employment, and are eligible for deferred action. According to the USISC website, “Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time.” DACA lasts 2-3 years, and is renewable. But how do these students get DACA? Where do they go? There are many organizations public and private which offer immigration services including DACA. These include lawyers, non-profits, and individuals that are accredited to file for others. It may be difficult for those in need to decide where to go, and how to choose, especially with such a sensitive topic, and that is why I chose Centro Aztlan. Centro Aztlan, also known as Asociación Pro Servicios Sociales Inc., is a safe haven for the marginalized population in Laredo. The undocumented, the elderly, migrant workers, all make their way to 406 Scott Street to find help. The organization provides low cost immigration services, along with many other services that we might take for granted such as filling out forms, translation. They even help with job applications. Centro Aztlan was founded in 1973, and its purpose was to “Operate exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, including but not limited to improvement of the condition of the poor, the underprivileged, and the victims of discrimination and alienation;” and they continue to do so today. Their clients range from young children applying for DACA, to the elderly who need help with their Social Security forms. What is unique about this organization is the welcoming atmosphere that they provide. The staff is small, with only 3 employees, consisting of Dora Negrete the administrative assistant, Rosa Morales the bookkeeper, and Angelica Lopez who works on the immigration cases. Lopez is an Accredited Representative who is certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals to work on immigration applications. I was able to use the services myself after my husband and I got married. We had known about the organization through family and friends, and decided it would be the best place to go for applying to get my husband’s resident card. We were given an appointment where we met Mrs. Lopez, and she explained all the requirements, what we needed to provide, and went over the fees versus the cost of services. The application process for us went smoothly, over the course of less than 6 months we had already gotten a positive result. Each case is different, and Lopez has had her share of difficult cases as well. She has worked with a blind couple where one partner passed away during the process, another where a client who was a resident left the U.S. to live in Mexico who had difficulty later on applying for his citizenship when he moved back. These cases and others are just a few of the success stories that the Centro has added to its long list of satisfied clients. Jose De Jesus Alvarado, a student of TAMIU, and writer for The Bridge, happens to be a Dreamer that took advantage of the immigration services provided by Centro Aztlan. Jose was brought to the U.S. when he was younger than 5 years old. His journey has been a typical one, with school always being a priority. Jose sought DACA as a means to continue his education at the university level. He is currently a senior studying Communication, which he might not have been able to do without the DACA mandate. He also took advantage of the services offered by the Centro, and was able to register for TAMIU right after graduating high school. The Centro Aztlan and Mrs. Lopez submitted the application on his behalf, and he is now not only attending TAMIU, but working two jobs as well. He is currently working for Aramark on campus, at the student favorite, Chick-Fil-A, as well as working part time at Pizza Hut. Unfortunately, the organization has recently been limited due to low funding. The primary source of income for the Centro comes from Gambit Bingo. The Bingo sponsors different non-profit organizations, and the Centro receives a share of the proceeds on certain days of the week. Additionally, the fees for client services also contribute to the funding. Another portion of funds comes from the PALE program, which is a program developed by the Mexican Consulate, which offers $10,000 annually specifically for DACA and VAWA cases. The staff has limited its hours of operation, from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., to now 8 A.M. to 2pm. The ladies that are dedicated to their work stated “Even if we are only able to open for one hour, we will be here, helping people.” It is the organizations purpose and mission that seem to keep the doors from closing, as both the clients and employees feel committed to their efforts. The Centro Aztlan is currently accepting donations, and is seeking support from the community to spread the word about what they do. Donations over $100 will receive an autographed poster print of Laredo born artist, Amado Peña’s work. Centro Aztlan gains its clients mostly by word of mouth, but they hope to change that in order to increase their client base and help even more people that may be disadvantaged in our community. It is important to be aware that not all students enter into TAMIU with ease, and that there are still many families in our city that are living in the shadows. Centro Aztlan is one of the organizations that is giving them a voice. For more information on donating or volunteering, please contact the office at (956) 724-6244.
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Alfredo Corchado Describes “The Tragic Beauty of Mexico”

For individuals living along the U.S.-Mexico border, the feeling of being caught between two worlds is almost inevitable. The struggle of balancing two cultures and two languages has been portrayed across all types of media. With subjects such as immigration and drug cartel violence making daily headlines, border towns and their residents are becoming an area of interest for reporters and researchers from across the world. Alfredo Corchado, a Mexican-American journalist based in Mexico City, is no stranger to this balancing act. His lecture, Still Midnight In Mexico? Mexico’s Challenges, Journalism and the Borderlands, and the New American Narrative was presented on April 13 in the Student Center Ballroom. “This region has helped define me as a person and a journalist,” said Corchado, who frequently visits Laredo. While mostly academic in nature, the lecture took a personal turn as Corchado recounted his experiences as an immigrant, migrant worker, and eventual journalist. These experiences provided the basis for his 2013 book, Midnight in Mexico. The book details his experiences as a reporter in the midst of the Mexican drug war, and what Corchado calls “the tragic beauty of Mexico.” Excerpts were read from the book, which Corchado joked smells of “tequila, crying, and Juan Gabriel” upon being opened. However,  all jokes aside, the circumstances behind his family’s move to the U.S. were heartbreaking. The drowning death of his two-year-old sister, Lupita, prompted his mother to consider leaving their hometown of Durango, Mexico for better opportunities across the border. “I left Mexico kicking and screaming,” he admitted. Corchado worked in the fields of California alongside his parents. It was in these fields that Corchado was approached by reporters.
Alfredo Corchado speaks to a full audience in the Student Center Ballroom on April 13th.
Alfredo Corchado speaks to a full audience in the Student Center Ballroom on April 13th.
“I was intrigued and touched that somebody wanted to give me a voice,” he said. Though he and his mother were permanent residents at the time, his mother feared the consequences of speaking out. Civil rights activist Cesar Chavez and his work with the United Farm Workers attracted national attention, but also resulted in the deportation of many Mexican workers. She didn’t want them to lose their chance at a new life. Still, the experience opened Corchado to the possibility of providing a voice for others. After moving to Texas and graduating from the University of Texas at El Paso, Corchado is now an accomplished journalist with bylines in several American newspapers, and the Mexico Bureau Chief for the Dallas Morning News. As an expert on issues found along the border, Corchado is often faced with having to add to the negative press Mexico receives. He admitted this was difficult at the beginning of his career. “At times I felt that I betrayed my country, but what could I do?” On a similar note, Corchado spoke of the struggles faced by Mexican and Mexican-American journalists in the midst of the ongoing War on Drugs in Mexico. Noting that Mexico is now considered the most dangerous country in the world to practice journalism, Corchado recalled his own brief scare with the drug cartels. While working on a story in Mexico, he received a call from a trusted source in the U.S. This source notified him that the Zetas planned to kill American journalists; Corchado was one of those named. They were eventually able to escape Mexico unharmed. Despite being a U.S. citizen at this point, he was told that he could still remain a target for cartel members, the reason being that he did not “look American.” “Being an American journalist does not protect me,” said Corchado. He also mentioned that the risks involved with his occupation were frequently the source of arguments with his mother. “You are only as naive as an American can be,” she once told him. “I won’t let the government ruin my children like it’s ruining my country.” Speaking for himself and his fellow journalists, he stated the following: “Our goal is to add border voices to the national debate. No story, no reporter is worth somebody’s life, [but] I write because I have hope for a better Mexico.” Yet the danger that comes along with being a journalist in Mexico does not deter Corchado from pursuing the truth.
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