The Rio Grande Valley -- known for its long summers, endless rows of palm trees and beautiful Gulf beaches. The region is located in South Texas, and is home to a large and lively border community. The region is now also the tomb of hundreds of men, women, and children that die every year while attempting to cross the border.
Texas has emerged as an epicenter for death and misery in the south as border crossers deaths reach all-time high. Official statistics from the U.S. Border Patrol -- who are only able to offer a partial accounting of border deaths -- document a total 271 deaths for the fiscal year of 2012. Migrant deaths in Texas are now higher than all other border states combined.
The report explains how the deaths in South Texas result from a series of policies beyond just the border region, and criticizes the lack of standardized DNA testing and comprehensive criteria to count border deaths. This, the report claims, add to existing racial and ethnic disparities of Latinos.
Read more of the report's findings after the jump.
(Great event coming up from New Leaders Texas! - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)
New Leaders Texas began after the 2010 election when a group of Texans in their 20s and 40s took a look around the state and thought that the state needed a new direction. Some of these folks were Democrats, some Republicans, and a number independent. Many had never really been involved in politics or public life before.
The goal of New Leaders Texas was to foster the next generation of principled, capable leaders for our state - people who will be thought leaders and doers. Since then, we've hosted candid off-the-record leadership talks with the likes of Evan Smith and Kirk Watson and a meeting of mayors in South Texas to discuss regional issues. Now, we are proud to bring together a diverse group of government, community, and civic leaders for an expanded two-day dialogue about this vital, yet often misunderstood, region of our state.
On Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23, leaders from South Texas and beyond will gather in Edinburg for a frank discussion of border issues, education, energy and health care, with panelists including Congressmen Joaquin Castro and Filemon Vela and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who is also Saturday's keynote speaker.
We want to invite young and emerging leaders who would like to learn more about the South Texas region. It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican or neither. All that matters is that you care about our state and engaging in a straightforward dialogue with a variety of stakeholders.
Our generous hosts, Congressman Filemon Vela, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Rep. Mary González, Ambassador Lyndon Olson, Hon. Richard Garcia, Scott Atlas, Frank Drew, Matteson Ellis, Ramiro Garza, Aziz Gilani, Jared LeBlanc, Chuck Rocha, Kinan Romman, Mark Yzaguirre and Valley PAC, have allowed us to keep general admission fees low ($50) and even lower for city and state employees and students ($25).
Questions and sponsorship opportunities should be directed to Kathleen Thompson, firstname.lastname@example.org and 512.591.8683.
(Brian Stansbury is the President of the Board of New Leaders Texas)
In South Texas, gas companies are building hundreds of miles of uncharted private backroads that inadvertently provide a "pipeline to America for drug traffickers." The Houston Chronicle reports that previously inaccessible ranchlands are now traversable, allowing drug-stocked vehicles to pass Border Patrol checkpoints that "have long been the last line of defense for stopping all traffic headed farther into the United States."
Traffickers are taking advantage the gigantic Eagle Ford shale formation, which runs from Mexico to East Texas. In the southwest portion of Eagle Ford, traffickers are sending millions of dollars worth of drugs into the United States along these private energy roads by bribing truck drivers, gate personnel, and seemingly make clone copies of gas trucks to avoid suspicion among fleets of energy trucks using the roads. Authorities have also found stolen energy trucks used by smugglers.
In March, Border Patrol intercepted 18,665 pounds of marijuana on two bogus oil trucks travelling on private gas industry roads. One of the trucks was driven by an apparently bribed energy employee, and the other appeared to be a fake truck driven by a drug trafficker. Law enforcement fears there are many more such trucks carrying illegal materials across the border on these private roads. Tony Garcia, director of the South Texas High Intensity Drug Traffic Area, a law-enforcement coalition, is very concerned about the problem. He told the Houston Chronicle:
"Our biggest concern is how law enforcement is going to attack the threat. We cannot move Border Patrol checkpoints into those positions. It is pretty much up to your imagination what they could be moving through there. ... It is a bit of a dicey situation for us to deal with."
Border patrol agents are working to educate energy companies about potential encounters with drug traffickers. But there is a limited amount drug enforcement officials, who can't set up new checkpoints and are already strapped for resources, can do to stop the problem. Javier Pena, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Houston division, warned, "Once they get past the checkpoints, they are pretty much free."
This morning, the campaign of Tom Schieffer, a Democratic candidate for Governor, announced they had received the endorsement of nine South Texas legislators.
The group includes Senator Chuy Hinojosa of McAllen and Representatives Veronica Gonzales of McAllen, Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles of Alice, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville, Armando Martinez of Weslaco, Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, Aaron Pena of Edinburg and Tara Rios Ybarra of South Padre Island.
Senator Hinojosa becomes the first Democratic state senator to endorse a current gubernatorial candidate this year.
From the Schieffer campaign press release:
“Tom Schieffer is a lifelong Democrat and proven leader who is addressing issues critical to South Texas and the entire state – stronger public schools, a better health care system and a stronger economy. His focus is on bread and butter issues that will improve the quality of life for all Texans,” said Senator Hinojosa, chairman of the Senate’s Hispanic Caucus and a well-respected Senate leader on criminal justice issues and appropriations.
Schieffer's early support from former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa, a current DNC member and county party chair, likely was instrumental in securing the nine endorsements.
Update: Hank Gilbert's campaign has issued a hard hitting press release in response to Schieffer's endorsement roll out. In the interest of full disclosure, Gilbert's communications director is Vince Leibowitz, who has appeared as a guest writer on BOR in the past.
"That Tom Schieffer is releasing these endorsements this early is his campaign's tacit acknowledgment that Hank Gilbert is emerging as a serious threat to his nine-plus month effort. Schieffer's run for Texas Governor is stalled not only in South Texas but all across Texas because he is so closely associated with his friend and business partner, former President George W. Bush. This is yet another futile attempt to jump start a lackluster campaign, especially when the press and political pundits will wonder why he pulled the trigger on his major endorsements way before anyone begins paying attention to the race.
Tom Schieffer will be no better than George W. Bush on issues of importance to South Texas - much less all of Texas. Bush's lasting legacy for South Texas is skyrocketing unemployment, the continued lack of a VA hospital, and a border wall taking citizens' land and separating our communities. George W. Bush did not support the South Texas community when he was Texas Governor. He left this state in shambles before leaving the country divided, at war, and in the worst economic mess we have seen since the Great Depression.
South Texas deserves more than a continuation of the failed Bush/Perry legacy, which is all that Tom Schieffer has to offer."
U.S. Senate candidates Bill White and John Sharp have each announced endorsements from legislators in recent months. Of course, their election date has yet to be set (and is likely to be in May) while the Democratic primary is slated for March 2. The notion that Schieffer's announcement of the endorsements is surprisingly early may not add up given the recent actions of White and Sharp.
State Rep. Tara Rios Ybarra (D-South Padre Island), who defeated then-incumbent Democrat Juan Escobar in 2008, will be challenged by Kingsville restaurant owner and businessman J.M. Lozano in next year's Democratic primary.
Escobar, who according to the Rio Grande Guardian is expected to endorse Lozano, was heavily outspent by Ybarra after she received $100,000 from Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Like Lozano, Escobar lives in Kingsville.
In his interview with the Guardian, Lozano said he is a “moderate” and “fiscally conservative” Democrat. However, he said that as someone who was born and raised in rural South Texas, he knows the region needs investment because it can no longer rely just on oil and gas. “You need to know your community and its needs, whether it has a population of 5,000 or 500 and I do,” Lozano said.
Asked if he was concerned that the Austin lobby money would likely flow to the incumbent, Lozano said, no. “Her money is largely from Republicans and she is beholden to Republicans. For her to hijack a party label and to tell people she is a Democrat, that is misleading,” Lozano said.
Lozano announced his campaign on YouTube and Facebook. The YouTube video can be seen below.
Big Democratic fundraiser Alonzo Cantu held an event for White but said he had yet to decide whether he would support the Houston Mayor or former comptroller John Sharp.
Former Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia told the Rio Grande Guardian he was "enthusiastically" backing White.
“As Democrats, we need to focus on winning this race. We need to look at the future of Texas over the next 20 years. If we win this race it takes Texas on a very different path,” Garcia said.
Garcia ran through some of the reasons he believes Democrats should unite behind White.
“Bill White has excelled in everything he has done, as a managing partner in one of the most prestigious law firms in the country, as Under Secretary for Energy in the Clinton administration, as Texas Democratic Party chair, and as mayor of Houston.”
Garcia said White knows the Valley well having made a number of visits over the years as Under Secretary of Energy and Texas Democratic Party chair.
“In his speech, Bill said very sincerely that he would not neglect the Valley as others have done. We made him aware of the areas where we have been neglected, in terms of infrastructure, health care and education. We gave him examples. He assured us he will take care of the Valley,” Garcia said.
Garcia said it was important for Democrats to go with a “winner” in any special election for U.S. Senate. “John Sharp has not been able to clear the hurdle in his last two elections. Bill White keeps winning. If you want to know how strong and effective Bill White is, call someone in Houston. He has a 90 percent rating in the opinion polls,” Garcia said.
La Joya Mayor Billy Leo said he was supporting Sharp.
“I was the Lone Ranger in the room last night. I am sticking with Sharp. Bill White is good but John Sharp has been a friend for a long time," Leo said
Leo said that about tweny people, including state Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), attended the private event.