Marie From Missouri

Laura Wides-Muñoz and one of the subjects of her book, Marie Gonzalez-Deel, sit down with Maria Hinojosa to talk about The Making of a Dream, which outlines the history of the Dreamer movement.

Marie’s family was outed as undocumented right after the September 11th attacks in 2001, when she reluctantly became an activist fighting for a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants.

She tells of the woes of being undocumented, while Wides-Muñoz shares why she decided to write this book and what she thinks will happen in Congress with immigration reform.

Featured image: Photo Courtesy of Laura Wides-Muñoz

Citing Racism, TPS Recipients Sue Trump Administration

Eight Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Thursday, claiming racism and discrimination were driving his decision to end the Temporary Protected Status program, also known as TPS. The lawsuit, filed by a Boston-based legal nonprofit, seeks to halt Trump’s attempt to end the program, which serves more than 240,000 Salvadorans and nearly 100,000 Haitians.

Under the president’s plan, those immigrants —who were granted protected status because of unsafe conditions in their home countries— would have to leave the U.S. by summer 2019. The plaintiffs cite tearing families apart and significantly decreasing tax revenue as some of the consequences of ending TPS. “Termination of TPS for El Salvador and Haiti would wreak havoc on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” the lawsuit states.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

NORTH AMERICA

During a roundtable about gun violence Thursday, President Donald Trump threatened to pull Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from California as punishment for the state’s “lousy management job” and “protection of horrible criminals.” Tensions between the Republican president and California governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, have increased since California became a “sanctuary state” last year.

THE CARIBBEAN

The governor of Puerto Rico announced Thursday that D.C.-based George Washington University will conduct a comprehensive, independent review of the deaths in Puerto Rico that are directly or indirectly related to Hurricane Maria. Although the official death toll remains at 64, reports from news sources and critics suggest that the toll is much higher.

Haiti has temporarily suspended Oxfam Great Britain from operating in the country pending an investigation into sexual misconduct committed by charity employees. The suspension is expected to last two months and follows Oxfam Chief Executive Mark Goldring’s public apology on Sunday, in which he vowed to double Oxfam’s safeguarding team.

CENTRAL AMERICA

Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence have been on the rise in Costa Rica since the first round of the country’s presidential elections earlier this month, according to local human rights groups. Frontrunner Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, an evangelical singer, has vocally denounced the legalization of same-sex marriage, bringing the issue to the forefront of the political debate.

NORTHERN ANDES

Retired colonel Hugo Aguilar, the cop who led the team that killed Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, was arrested yesterday on charges of illicit enrichment and money laundering. Aguilar, a former governor who from 2011 to 2015 served time in prison for his ties with right-wing paramilitary groups, had claimed he had no resources to compensate the victims. The authorities now accuse him of hiding a fortune of over $5.2 million.

Massive rallies were held in Bolivia yesterday in support and in opposition to President Evo Morales’ third bid for the presidency. Voters had rejected that possibility in a 2016 referendum, but the Constitutional Court a year later ruled in favor of it on the basis that the limit would impinge on the rights of current authorities to run for office.

SOUTHERN CONE

Argentina is relaxing its immigration application timeline to make it easier for Venezuelans who have trouble obtaining their paperwork from their country. Migration from Venezuela to Argentina has increased exponentially, going from about 1,500 residencies granted in 2011 to more than 31,000 last year.

GOT NEWS? Send the editors tips, articles and other items for inclusion in Today in Latin America to tips@latindispatch.com.

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Armed Groups Continue to Threaten Indigenous Communities in Colombia

Originally published on February 22 at Latin America News Dispatch.

TACUEYÓ, Colombia — Sparks flew into the air from a drill saw struggling through confiscated machine guns. On February 11, hundreds of people gathered for a community assembly in Tacueyó, Cauca to witness the weapons destruction ceremony. Indigenous leader Jaime Díaz proclaimed before the spectators, “Today, just as always, we will not allow any armed actors in our territory.”

In Colombia’s southwestern state of Cauca, many indigenous communities have been contending with violence for generations, living in the crossfire of numerous rebel guerrilla groups, state forces and right-wing paramilitaries. In the summer of 2016, the Colombian government signed a peace accord with the largest and oldest rebel organization, the FARC— Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia— a symbolic step toward ending the country’s 53-year armed conflict. But the public voted against the agreement in October of the same year, and the revised peace process has faltered, leading to new tensions that have left many communities as vulnerable as they were in the heat of war. A report by the Bogotá-based Institute of Studies for Peace Development, INDEPAZ, concluded that 170 human rights leaders were killed in Colombia in 2017, with the highest concentrations in Cauca.

Presidential candidate and former mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, arrived to Tacueyó several days before the assembly to speak about his campaign and proposals to finally stem the violence. “Every time one war ends in these lands, not a week nor a month, let alone a year passes before a new war is beginning,” he said. Petro arrived at the behest of Cauca’s indigenous movement, a nonviolent resistance effort by at least 100,000 people, which since the early 1970s, has sought to recover ancestral land and cultural sovereignty. Seated at a table among a group of indigenous leaders, he wore the red and green bandana of their organizing body, the CRIC, or Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca. His speech acknowledged the movement’s peaceful tactics through the conflict: “These are the geographic areas and communities that, for 30 years, were testimony and protagonists of peace after having lived the vicissitudes of war.”

The day before Petro’s visit, a new confrontation had broken out between dissidents from the FARC, who broke away from the peace process, and members of the CRIC’s nonviolent civilian defense network, the Guardia Indígena. Tacueyó is an indigenous resguardo or reserve, where land is collectively owned and native council authorities govern independently from the Colombian state—an organizing structure that supports bottom-up community protection. On Feb. 7, members of the Guardia were conducting their local patrols when they came upon a truck holding multiple machine guns, stockpiles of ammunition, and a grenade. Upon confiscating the weapons, ten combatants from a FARC dissident group called the FARC-FARC entered Tacueyó to retrieve their lost property, armed and ready to retaliate. The Guardia swiftly reported the situation over their walkie-talkies, and within the hour, hundreds of people from town had encircled them. The collective action affirmed what has been the indigenous movement’s posture of neutrality throughout the conflict; they extricate themselves from the war by not participating in armed struggle, but mobilize to forbid any group’s violent rule within their territories.

(Photo by Nemo Allen)

Beginning in 2015, when the peace negotiations led to a ceasefire between the FARC and the government forces, a period of relative calm settled in Tacueyó and its surrounding areas. But many people worry that what politicians have labeled “the post-conflict” has generated more struggles than it has resolved. Ezequiel Vitonás served as mayor of Tacueyó’s municipality, Toribío, between 1997 and 2000, some of the most violent years of the war. By Vitonás’ count, guerrilla forces took over Toribío more than 60 times during the conflict, with over 1,000 shootouts between rebels, police, and military personnel. Observing the evolutions of the war, Vitonás attributes the latest violence to failures in implementing the peace accord.

“The guerrilla complied and arrived to these areas, but the government did not hold up its end of the deal,” Vitonás said in an interview. The peace agreement established a pathway for members of the FARC to demobilize and re-enter civil life after remaining in UN-monitored “transition zones,” where they would disarm and receive protection from paramilitary retaliation. When the Colombian public voted “no” for the accord in a plebiscite, congress subsequently revised the document, yielding to the political right, who advocated a more punitive approach to handling the ex-guerrilla. Many concessions to the FARC, such as clemency guarantees, were eliminated. “So they [the guerrilla] suggest that it’s as if there was no accord, and from there, dissidents started leaving.” Vitonás described the deplorable state of the transition zones, many of which lack adequate shelter and sanitation for the demobilized guerrilla. A report by the International Verification Commission on Human Rights found that the Colombian government has not executed over 80% of the accords.

Further heightening resentments, the peace process was supposed to secure protection and political participation for the FARC, but earlier this month, the group announced that its commander Rodrigo Londoño—better known by his alias, Timochenko—would stop campaigning for president in response to a series of mob attacks. Part of the peace deal allowed the former guerrilla group to become a political party, and they have since rebranded themselves the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Common People. They demanded security through the transition—a request motivated by historical precedent; in 1985, after an earlier peace process, the FARC formed a political party called the Patriotic Union, or UP. Thousands of its members were systematically killed during the years that followed in an effort to wipe out the left. Many of the UP victims had never participated in the guerrilla, only agreeing with its social proposals rather than armed struggle. Now that the FARC’s entry into politics is again facing violent opposition, the parallels have stoked disillusionment and anger.

This backdrop has led many members of the FARC to opt out of the peace process altogether. Some left because of disappointments, others chose not to participate since the outset. In either case, the Colombian government considers these people “dissidents”—criminal individuals rather than members of a politically-driven guerrilla. Most of them have either absorbed into other rebel groups or formed new factions.  The resulting balkanization has made defense strategies for communities in the area more complicated. “It was easier before,” current governor of Toribío, Sifredo Bavi, said. “We only had the one guerrilla; now, there’s no way of knowing who’s who.” There are currently eight separate armed groups in the municipality, some of which have as few as 15 people.

Through the shuffling of allegiances, tensions are escalating over leadership and belonging, generating internal disputes. Upon evacuating their former strongholds to enter the transition zones, the FARC left a power vacuum, which different armed networks are now struggling to fill. Many of these areas are aligned with narcotics money. In January, six people were massacred in another indigenous resguardo just three hours south of Tacueyó called Cerro Tijeras. Narcotrafficking interests have motivated many people to split off from the demobilization process, reluctant to cede power and profit, which belonging to the guerrilla had secured for them.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army or ELN, have compromised their own peace negotiations after carrying out a wave of attacks. A year ago, the group announced that they would begin formal dialogue with the government to reach a permanent ceasefire. But on Jan. 29, President Juan Manuel Santos called off the talks after the rebel group detonated three bombs in the northern city of Barranquilla. Seventeen police officers died and 47 others were injured. In response to the decision, the ELN declared a national armed strike in mid February, which resulted in 16 violent actions throughout the country, including a public shooting and burned bus less than ten miles from Tacueyó in a town called Corinto.

The events suggest how conflicts are heating up on all sides—not just by ex-guerrilla but paramilitary networks that oppose the peace process for different reasons. Within the past week, a group called the Águilas Negras, or Black Eagles, released a death threat outlining various targets in Cauca: former guerrillas, left-leaning political parties, journalists, community leaders supporting peace initiatives, professors, congressional candidates, and numerous social organizations. The document ends by saying, “Sons of bitches, you have a week to leave Cauca. We will kill you all like rats.” Among the organizations targeted: ACIN, the Association of Indigenous Councils in the North of Cauca, a counterpart to the CRIC that presides over Tacueyó.

A leader from the ACIN who requested not to be named said that these threats are nothing new. Indigenous communities in Cauca have lived through war for generations. “We’re in this resistance no matter what happens. After all, we’ve been doing it for 500 years.”

George Washington University Team Will Now Conduct Recount of Puerto Rico’s Hurricane María Deaths

In collaboration with the Center for Investigative Journalism

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — After five months of defending his process to document the deaths caused by Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, Secretary of Public Security Héctor Pesquera was silent on Thursday, remaining mostly seated in a chair during a press conference where governor Ricardo Rosselló reassigned the responsibility of recounting to a group of public health experts from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

The governor, who has defended Pesquera unconditionally throughout the process, changed coursed and announced that in addition to the recount, the GW group will create an “objective” and “independent” study that will provide the government tools to prevent deaths in future hurricanes and recommendations to adapt the documentation processes of these fatalities. The two initial objectives of the GW group are to evaluate the processes that were used to document the deaths linked to María and to produce a new estimate in line with modern standards for reporting.

“Today we are proud to announce a collaboration with the University of George Washington, the Milken Institute, to collaborate with the government of Puerto Rico in order to assess and to further advance the science of estimating what the death toll, the possible death count, after the storm and after a devastating event like this, is,”  Rosselló said in English at the bilingual press conference.

Rosselló’s decision delayed the publication of a much-anticipated death recount report until May. That request to produce a report was initially assigned to Pesquera in December. In early January, however, an executive order said that the report would be originally published in March.

The new group, which will headed by epidemiologist Carlos Santos-Burgoa, will create a “completely independent” study, according to the GW team. The report will scientifically document the excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and María. It will also examine the death documentation processes used by Puerto Rico’s government agencies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency that provides the local government with guideline that are consistent with the standards in the United States and other international entities.

“Yes, there are many challenges. We are taking on this study several months after the event passed,” Dr. Santos-Burgoa said in response to media questions about how difficult it will be to begin a study at this stage.

When asked why the official death toll of 64 María deaths has been so low and if his administration was being pressured to keep that figure low, Rosselló insisted that there has been “no pressure to keep the number as is.”

“There was a public policy decision that was taken, that we would get the experts involved,” Rosselló said, “and that we needed to find those experts in an independent manner to evaluate the ongoing process. There is going to be a process whereby a lot of these other factors were not taken in directly in the protocol that we had, will be taken in.”

The governor was accompanied on stage by Santos-Burgoa and Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health. All three said that that from now on, the government of Puerto Rico will not interject in the process until the GW findings are disseminated and are made public.

“We have complete academic freedom. We will conduct this study with complete integrity. We will call it as we see it. That I promise you,” Goldman said.

According to their biographies, Goldman is an epidemiologist and has extensive experience in public health policy, particularly on the issue of pesticides. Santos-Burgoa is a public health expert on issues of equity and environmental risks in Latin America. When asked about who on the GW team has experience in mortality studies during natural disasters, Santos-Burgoa did not specify who, but said that there is experience on the team.

The study’s first phase will begin immediately and last three months. During this phase, which will cost the government of Puerto Rico $305,000, the GW team will analyze vital statistics from the island’s Demographic Registry and will publish a preliminary report with an estimate of excess deaths caused by Hurricanes Irma and María. The estimate will cover data between September 1, 2017 and February 28, 2018.

At the same time, according to Goldman and Santos-Burgoa, the GW team will identify cases to investigate in a second phase of the study. This would consist of interviews with relatives of the deceased or places like funeral homes and hospitals that might shed light on what caused a death. This second phase would take nine months to complete and would cost $1.1 million. It would also include GW recommendations to the government about what to avoid the next time a hurricane strikes the island and how to modify the documentation of deaths during natural disasters, with the goal of correcting problems in the current system. The funds needed for this second phase have yet to be identified, but Rosselló said that the entire GW study would be completed. The GW team added that it was looking into possible alternative funding sources for this second phase.

Goldman noted that the GW team was in conversations with the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Public Health with the goal of collaborating on the study.

The Rosselló announcement is the first time the government has assigned the analysis of hurricane-related deaths to independent public health and scientific experts. Since María devastated the island on September 20, 2017, reports by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI), in partnership with outlets like Latino USA and Latino Rebels, have chronicled stories of undercounted deaths. The CPI has maintained that the death count was being severely undercounted, especially during the first few weeks after María, when the official death count was at 16. CPI’s reports indicated that the death count could have possibly been in the hundreds, as stories of lost power, lack of health access and transportation problems become public.

Based on interviews with epidemiology and public health experts, the CPI also chronicled the complex task of documenting deaths during the island’s state of emergency.

In November, the CPI published its first analysis of uncounted deaths, and on December 7, using public health data, it reported than an excess of 1,000 deaths occurred in September and October of 2017, when compared to the same time period in 2016. On December 8, The New York Times published its own analysis.

Since those reports, Latino USA has been in constant contact with the Puerto Rican government for updates to the death count. As of January 4 (the last update Latino USA received), there were 1,194 more deaths in September and October 2017 combined when compared to 2016. September 2017 and October 2017 were the two months with the most deaths in Puerto Rico for the last three years.

“In three months, we should be able to answer that question at the point in time. Is it closer to 60 or 1,000? In fact, we’ll be able to answer with more precision than that,” Goldman said on Thursday.

In the past, Pesquera has characterized the investigations published by the CPI and other local, national and international media as “fiction” and insisted that epidemiologists were not needed for his analysis because “there was no epidemic” in Puerto Rico.

At the Thursday press conference, the governor, as well as Goldman and Santos-Burgoa said that the GW team will immediately begin the study and that Pesquera’s department will be limited to facilitating the GW team’s data needs from respective government agencies in Puerto Rico.

The CPI requested clarification from Rosselló’s press secretary Yeniffer Álvarez and Public Security press secretary Karixia Ortiz, as to whether this means that Pesquera is no longer the lead of the death recount process. Both said no.

“Pesquera continues leading the effort and coordinating. The scientific analysis is delegated to the George Washington University,” Álvarez said, noting that the validity of governor’s January 4 executive order will be extended to give the GW scientists 90 additional days.

It was not clear what the Pesquera team specifically produced in the more than two months it was in charge of the recount, nor whether that work will be made public. Álvarez was asked what will happen with the work done by the Pesquera group. She indicated that that the data collected so far will be shared with the GW team.

The governor’s January 4 Executive Order (2018-001) assigned Pesquera —in coordination with the Demographic Registry and the Bureau of Forensic Sciences— to establish a procedure that would review the deaths that occurred after Hurricane María and determine which post-storm deaths were related to the hurricane or not. Pesquera never explained what this procedure would be despite multiple requests from the CPI.

Special thanks to NPR’s Adrián Florido for providing the full audio of the Thursday press conference.

Bolivian Ex-President Will Stand Trial in US Court for Massacre

Former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada will stand trial next month in Florida. It will be the first time a former head of state faces a judge in the United States in connection with alleged human rights abuses. The trial is the result of a civil lawsuit alleging Sánchez de Lozada and his defense minister, José Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, both of whom live in the United States, were behind the extrajudicial killings by the Bolivian military of more than 50 people in El Alto, an incident known as the “October massacre.” The lawsuit argues that the two defendants had planned months in advance to intentionally use deadly force against protesters to quash political opposition.

The massacre took place during a period of protests, led by the Indigenous Aymara community, that became known as the Gas War, in reference to the government’s plan to export cheap natural gas to the United States through Chilean ports. The uprising, in conjunction with another protest known as the Water War, led to Sánchez de Lozada’s resignation and the eventual election of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president (who is of Aymara descent).

Morales’ government had requested that Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín (no relation) be extradited in 2008 but was denied by the U.S. State Department, because some of the charges lacked equivalency in U.S. law. A second attempt filed in 2013 was accepted in February 2016, and the lengthy process is still on underway.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

NORTH AMERICA

Construction work on the first portion of border wall approved under the Trump administration started today in Calexico, California. This is the first wall contract that has been awarded since President Trump took office, and its purpose is to replace two miles of an existing, smaller barrier. The federal government waived the need for environmental and other reviews on national security grounds, but the state of California filed suit against  the decision.

THE CARIBBEAN

After a trip to Cuba on Wednesday, six Democratic U.S. lawmakers urged the State Department to restore staff to the embassy in Havana. The staff were pulled last year after a bout of mysterious ailments among diplomats. A decision is expected on March 4th.

Citibank, one of the banks that drove the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) into debt, will now be paid, by a Washington-appointed oversight board, to consult on the utility company’s privatization. According to an analysis from the Action Center on Race and the Economy, Citi underwrote large parts of PREPA’s $9 billion debt, and at one point owned at least hundreds of millions of dollars in PREPA bonds.

CENTRAL AMERICA

Police in El Salvador arrested three high-ranking military officers on Tuesday in relation to the case of eight soldiers who were convicted last year of abducting and torturing two people, one of them a minor.

NORTHERN ANDES

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called for early congressional elections yesterday, just hours after the opposition coalition announced it plans to boycott early  presidential elections. The April 22 vote could mean the end of the opposition’s majority in the legislature. The Democratic Unity movement said on Wednesday it would not participate in a “fraudulent” presidential election, leaving Maduro with no strong challengers.

SOUTHERN CONE

In the first major demonstration in Argentina this year, nearly 200,000 people on Wednesday joined a massive march in Buenos Aires against President Mauricio Macri’s government. Speakers at the event, which was led by truckers and other labor unions, said the president’s policies are starving the most sensitive part of society and urged him to stop public sector layoffs and other austerity measures.

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Effects of Hurricane Harvey Impacting Mental Health of Houston’s Latinos

HOUSTON, TEXAS — Even before facing Hurricane Harvey last August, which is considered one of the costliest tropical cyclones on record, Karla had weathered many storms during her life. After enduring abuse at the hands of her father and other family members in Honduras, she escaped her home in search of a better life and to reunite with her mother in Houston.

St. Michael’s Homes for Children, a Catholic Charities’ shelter for unaccompanied minors, took the 14-year-old in as she waited to reunite with her mother. Karla received intensive counseling to help her cope with depression caused by her prior trauma and to help her come to grips with past suicide attempts and self-harm.

The young teenager finally reunited with her mother, but her joy didn’t last, as Harvey struck shortly after. According to a post on the Catholic Charities’ website, the first floor of Karla’s family home was severely flooded, and they were forced to evacuate. The family lost all their personal items, including a small sketchbook and crochet materials that Karla used as therapy.

She received post-disaster counseling from the organization intended to help calm her fears and provide the tools for her to move forward. Karla isn’t alone. Catholic Charities’ staff said thousands of people, including many children, were traumatized by flooding and displacement caused by Harvey.

To complicate matters, undocumented Latinos may refuse mental health services for themselves or their children for fear of risking deportations. In some cases, parents may not understand the benefits of counseling unless trusted professionals meet with them individually.

Catholic Charities Community Counselor Anabel Lucío Morales, MS, LPC speaks with a client during a counseling session. Morales is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) and is one of the many clinicians within Catholic Charities’ Counseling Services program that helps individuals and families cope with stress and anxiety after Hurricane Harvey. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities)

“Some of our promotoras [community health workers] told us of issues with neighbors not wanting to leave their homes after Harvey. This all stems from fear and distrust of others,” said Venus Ginés, president and founder of Día De La Mujeres, an organization promoting healthy behaviors in the Latino community by providing culturally and linguistically proficient services.

“Our promotoras had to get out into the community to not only educate people but navigate them to where to go to seek help,” Ginés added. “That’s been a difficult piece for us because [Houston] doesn’t have a mental health facility geared at Latinos.”

She told Latino USA that the organization stresses the importance of activities for children and families as they deal with a new reality.

“We may be faced with hardships but as a family, which is our cultural treasure, we’ll be able to solve a lot of issues,” Ginés said.

After Hurricane Harvey, some children experienced separation anxiety when they parted with family or pets. Younger children who may have already mastered potty-training began wetting their beds at night. Some had trouble sleeping. Other children were completely distracted at school. And some expressed their frustration through outbursts and tantrums or downright refusing to go to school.

“Some kids were not as expressive, were very reserved, and avoided talking about it,” Alejandra Restrepo, the lead school counseling clinician at Catholic Charities, explained to Latino USA.

The unique needs following Hurricane Harvey resulted in support from Mental Health America, which provided resources and information to Catholic Charities on how to handle post-disaster trauma. The organization follows a holistic model that also educates teachers and parents on how to help children of varying ages cope with this type of trauma.

Counselors began offering services via group sessions as soon as they were able to return to schools. Children in need of more intense and personalized counseling are still receiving services. In some cases, Restrepo said the organization is still working to identify children in need of counseling.

Día de la Mujer promotoras help Houston-area residents navigate resources at a September 2017 recovery fair following Hurricane Harvey. (Photo courtesy of Día de la Mujer)

Part of that identification comes from ensuring parents understand the counseling services they may qualify for and how those services work. Restrepo said community members are more likely to open up when spoken to in their own language and ensuring policies and procedures within a counseling agency place priority on their confidentiality.

“We have been in these schools for five years. I’ve spent hours with parents listening to their concerns, their fears, their questions about parenting,” Restrepo said. “When they realize what we’re doing is in the best interest of their child and we offer non-judgmental support, I think that’s when you break the barrier.”

But she said there is still work to be done. According to a survey conducted between October and November 2017 by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Episcopal Health Foundation, two-thirds of residents in Harvey-affected Texas Gulf Coast counties experienced property damage or income loss.

The study also found the effects were unevenly distributed with Black and Latino residents and those with lower incomes. Latinos were the demographic most likely to experience employment disruption resulting from the storm.

Nearly six in 10 Latinos who reported incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) reported losing their jobs or having their hours cut back. Latinos making above 200 percent of the FPL were almost twice as likely as their white counterparts to experience employment disruptions.

Loss of jobs, combined with fears of deportation in some cases, make Latinos especially vulnerable to depression and anxiety, advocates noted.

“They’re scared to look for resources, so they would rather stay in their house even though they know it has mold,” said Margarita Romo, a promotora for Día de la Mujer.

Romo personally knows of several cases in her community where Latina mothers have suddenly become single, one-parent households as their male counterpart has been deported. Other parents worry seeking mental health services could break their families apart when some members are citizens and others are undocumented.

In the meantime, Romo keeps her eyes and ears open when she goes to the supermarket, to the doctor or anywhere she finds Latinos who could use resources. She keeps fliers handy to pass out to them should they need information such as help paying their bills or accessing mental health services.

Chile Announces Defense Plan Against Bolivian Maritime Dispute

Chilean foreign minister Heraldo Muñoz spoke out about Chile’s defense plan against Bolivia’s maritime claim on Tuesday. Both countries will present their oral arguments on March 19 and 28 in The Hague, Netherlands, before the International Court of Justice, or ICJ. This is the final stage of a lawsuit filed by the Bolivian government in 2013.

The maritime dispute is over a century old, dating back to land seizures in 1879 during the War of the Pacific that cut Bolivian territory off from the sea. Recently, Bolivian president Evo Morales has accused Chile of making deceptive and unfulfilled promises under the governments of Sebastián Piñera and Michelle Bachelet on Bolivian access to the sea. Sacha Llorenti, one of the two officials representing Bolivia at the ICJ, states that Bolivia’s access to the sea is an “historical right” and is confident that the ICJ will rule in Bolivia’s favor. However, Muñoz, the Chilean minister, maintains that the dispute was justly resolved in a treaty signed in 1904, 25 years after the end of the war.

HEADLINES FROM THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

NORTH AMERICA

Javier Nava Soria , accountant of former Veracruz governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa, was extradited from Spain to Mexico on Tuesday . Nava Soria is considered to be one of the key men in Governor Duarte’s corrupt tenure as governor of Veracruz, which ended in Duarte’s early resignation and escape to Guatemala, where he was later captured and extradited. Nava Soria was detained by the Interpol in Spain on April 19, 2017, and on charges of organized crime and illegal handling of resources.

Ricardo Anaya Cortés, Mexican presidential candidate for the PAN coalition, was accused on Tuesday of money laundering. Anaya denied the claims, stating that they were part of a “dirty war” carried out by his opponent José Antonio Meade, from the PRI coalition. The president of the senate and member of Anaya’s political party, Ernesto Cordero, called for an immediate investigation into the accusation, stating that suspicions of wrongdoing by contenders for the presidency need to be investigated swiftly. According to a recent voter survey, Anaya is polling at second place, six points behind leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

THE CARIBBEAN

Five months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory is grappling with a rise in suicide rates and a battle over how much debt the already bankrupted island can handle. Meanwhile, lawmakers raised fears that the $16 billion aid package approved by Congress for Puerto Rico would flow to the island’s bondholders’ pockets, instead of toward their initial purpose, namely Medicaid and housing reconstruction.

CENTRAL AMERICA

The Latin American Financial Action Group, or GAFILAT, a regional anti-money laundering body recently released a report on Panama’s progress—and significant remaining gaps—tackling dirty money. After the Panama Papers investigation shed light on the lack of transparency and venality in financial centers, this new report shows there has been some legislative progress, although there is little evidence that the new laws actually stop offshore illegal activity, and highlights there are at least 500,679 Panamanian companies potentially being used for financial crime.

NORTHERN ANDES

Vice-President of Ecuador María Alejandra Vicuña said Venezuela should be present at the Summit of the Americas that will be held in Peru next April. She said Venezuela should be there to listen to recommendations and suggestions from other countries, and restated her country’s opposition to any kind of intervention, especially of a military kind. Currently, only Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador have expressed opposition towards the decision to exclude Venezuela from the summit.

A supermarket chain in Colombia was looted yesterday night after the Office of the Attorney General announced it was a money-laundering cover belonging to the FARC former guerrilla, the police had to order a curfew in some towns. The FARC, now a political party, denied any link to the supermarkets early today, if the Attorney General can prove the FARC are hiding money to avoid redressing it’s victims the peace process could flounder.

SOUTHERN CONE

Thousands rallied in front of the Argentine Congress on Monday to demand legal abortion. Activists from the National Campaign for the Right of Legal, Free and Safe Abortion led the protests with green handkerchiefs and flags reading: “Sexual Education to decide, Contraceptives to avoid abortion, legal abortion to survive.” According to official data, nearly 500,000 women have clandestine abortions every year in Argentina and this is the first cause of maternal-related deaths.

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Latinos Are Leaving Teaching Workforce at Higher Rates Than Other Groups, Study Shows

On Wednesday, The Education Trust released a report titled “Our Stories, Our Struggles, Our Strengths” that addresses the challenges of Latino teachers in the United States, which make up only eight percent of the teacher workforce, compared to the 25 percent of the nation’s students who are Latino.

“We decided to do this study because there is a lot of conversation about education diversity without educator voices of color, and we wanted to elevate those voices,” Dr. Ashley Griffin, director of research at The Education Trust, told Latino USA.

The data for the study was collected from a sample of 90 Latino teachers from five states, North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Florida and Texas; the overwhelming majority of the volunteer-based focus groups (90 percent) taught in cities.

According to the study, Latino teachers are the fastest-growing population entering the teaching workforce, but they are also exiting the profession at higher rates than other teachers. Griffin said that population shifts explain why there are more teachers entering the workforce. However, that doesn’t translate to retention. Many teachers shared stories about being expected to work overtime at their schools, or being discouraged to share their culture with students. They cited exploitation and disheartening work environments as reasons why they abandon the profession

“Even though students request and enjoy conversations about intersection, teachers receive pushback from colleagues and their administrators,” Griffin said. “They feel responsible to protect and safeguard their culture and enrich students who aren’t Latino, but have to constantly resist the notion that they can ‘only’ teach Latinos.”

Griffin added that much of their pro-bono work isn’t valued, like then they’re expected to serve as translators for other school services. “Many teachers do this out of commitment to their students, but it takes away from their class responsibilities. There is an assumption that the translation will take place simply because the teacher is bilingual,” she said.

The findings highlight the significance not only of non-Latino students to learn about other cultures from their teacher’s experience, but for Latino students to see themselves in their teachers. There are an estimated 20,000 teachers eligible for DACA, 90 percent of whom are Latino. These teachers, like many of their students, face the reality of losing their protected status.

“I can share bits of my life and my story with students, not as a way to say, ‘See, I did it. I was undocumented. I got to go to college,’ but to build solidarity,” said one teacher cited in the study.

“This is about supporting people of color, not just about adding them to the workforce,” Griffin said. “Diversity is critical to our educator workforce, and school district leaders need to understand the challenges of this population.”

The Education Trust is a non-profit which seeks to close education inequality gaps among students of color. The entire study is below.

Afro-Latinidad: Who Gets to Claim It?

February is Black History Month, and part of that history includes the contributions and experiences of Latinos of African descent—who have and are currently navigating what it means to be both Black and Latino in the United States. So to mark that, we revisit a conversation in which friends of Latino USA discuss their experiences of being Afro-Latinos. We asked some fundamental questions: What is Afro-Latinidad? And who gets to claim it?

Maria Hinojosa sat down with Amilcar Priestley, co-director of the Afro-Latino Festival and director of the Afro-Latino Project; writer/editor Marjua Estevez; M. Tony Peralta, contemporary artist and owner of the Peralta Project; and Jamila Brown, owner of HUE, for an honest and open conversation on Afro-Latinidad.

Featured image of the panel by Janice Llamoca