Families Reunite at U.S.-Mexico Border In “Hugs Without Borders” (VIDEO)

Families temporarily reunited at the U.S.-Mexico border in a video titled “Hugs Without Borders,” posted by AJ+ on Thursday. A gate in the border fence temporarily opened in Ciudad Juárez allowing dozens of families split between Texas and Mexico to reunite with loved ones without a visa. Hope Border Institute’s Dylan Corbett, who was present for the reunions, said, “We are demanding a stop to deportations, we are demanding a stop to policies which divide families, we are also demanding an end to the rhetoric we are hearing from some presidential candidates: hate, racism, xenophobia.” Corbett added, “This is not a place of hate.”

Change Is Coming for Controversial Voter ID Law in Texas

Voter ID laws require citizens to bring specific forms of ID with them when they go to the polls to vote. Over half of the states in the United States have some kind of voter ID law on the books.

The Texas voter ID law, introduced in 2011 as Senate Bill 14, is one of the most stringent voter ID laws in the country. Recently, the law has been the subject of controversy and multiple court cases.

The law requires that voters bring one of seven forms of ID with them in order to vote on election day. It also created a process whereby people who do not have one of the valid forms of ID could apply for an Election ID Card through the state’s Department of Public Safety.

Proponents of the law see it as a necessary protection of the democratic process. Critics say the law discriminates against certain groups and thereby violates The Voting Rights Act. Recently a federal court ruled in favor of the law’s critics, and ordered that the state of Texas provide a fix before this November’s election.

Reporter Jonathan Hirsch looks at problems with the law, and some of the possible remedies.

Major funding for Latino USA‘s election coverage provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Featured Image by Jonathan Hirsch.

Mexican American Textbook Wars in Texas

In Texas, where half of all public school students are Latino, the State Board of Education (SBOE) is in the process of approving a new Mexican American studies textbook. The proposal for the textbook was approved two years ago after a petition for a separate curriculum for Mexican American studies was denied in 2010.

“The official curriculum in the state of Texas underrepresents and misrepresents the historical presence of Mexican origin people in this country as well as women and African Americans,” said Emilio Zamora, a professor of Mexican American history at the University of Texas at Austin.

That’s important, because Latino students who learn about their cultural history are more likely to graduate from high school, according to a University of Arizona study in 2015. In the United States, the dropout rate for Latinos is almost three times higher than it is for non-Latino whites.

Only one textbook has since been submitted for review, but it has attracted scrutiny for its contentious handling of Mexican American history. Zamora fears that it will cause more harm than good.

“It was very offensive that they would select people that are not trained or professional historians in the field of Mexican American history,” he said.

The textbook has been submitted by a new company called Momentum Instruction.

Cynthia Dunbar, a member of Momentum Instruction who also served on the SBOE in 2010, says her company hired authors who could review the history fairly.

“They did not want a biased or a skewed viewpoint, they did not want liberally biased, but neither did they want conservatively biased. They wanted people who were willing to just go out and exhaustively review every side of the issue,” she said.

Texans have until November to submit comments about the book, at which point a committee will review them and make recommendations to the SBOE. If recent history is any indication, it’s going to be a big fight.

Featured image of the textbook in question. (Photo by Brenda Salinas)

Carmen Tafolla on Empowering Mexican-American Youth Through Writing

Carmen Tafolla is the Poet Laureate of Texas and the author of numerous works of poetry, short stories, and children’s books. She has devoted her year as Poet Laureate to teaching children in the poorest districts in Texas and empowering them to become writers.

She speaks passionately about the importance of creating a literary and educational culture that allows Mexican-American children to fully embrace their identity, and she underscores the importance of positive representations of Mexican-Americans in literature and film. Her poetry is both visceral and thoughtful, and Tafolla often performs these poems in character, allowing an audience to fully experience the poem. As part of this interview, Tafolla performs as Tere, a first-grader who is forced to change the pronunciation of her name.

Featured image of Carmen Tafolla (Photo by Magdalena Yznaga)

Juan Cortina: The Texas Renegade You’ve Never Heard of

One day in Texas in 1859, a man named Juan Cortina happened to be passing by a coffee shop on his horse when he saw the Brownsville sheriff hitting a Mexican man over the head with his pistol. Cortina got off his horse and got into a standoff with the sheriff to defend the farmhand. Cortina ended up shooting the sheriff in the arm and rode away with the farmhand, who happened to be Cortina’s former worker.

This started what became known as the “Cortina Wars” between Mexican landowners and Anglo settlers in Texas. The Mexican landowners were outraged that the white people in the area were attempting to claim their land and Mexican laborers were tired of being discriminated against. So Cortina made his home into the headquarters for the resistance movement for a couple of years.

He was eventually defeated and forced to flee to Mexico City.

Most people have never heard of this “Rio Grande Robin Hood,” but for those who have, many remember him as a hero while others begrudge his violent tactics.

Featured image: Juan Cortina (DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

The Risk Of Reaching Dropouts

National estimates say that fewer than 70 percent of Latinos and African Americans graduate high school. In Austin, Texas, there’s a charter school dedicated solely to teaching dropouts and helping them graduate. But the state says the school doesn’t meet academic and financial standards. The school, American Youthworks, is at risk of getting shut down.



urlJoy Diaz has been a reporter with KUT on and off since 2005. Since joining KUT, Joy has covered education, healthcare and immigration. She is now the station’s city reporter. Originally from Mexico, Joy moved to the U.S. in 1998 when her husband Luis was transferred from his job in Mexico City to train workers in a telecommunications plant in Virginia. While there, Joy worked for Roanoke’s NPR station WVTF.




Photo by Joy Diaz

Don’t Mess With Tejanos

“If it weren’t for the Tejano, Texas would be Ohio,” says Andrés Tijerina, a scholar of Texas history at Austin Community College. Tijerina argues that Texas culture – the boots and the hats, the mavericks and mustangs – all traces back to the state’s Mexican and Spanish roots.

 The Spanish first entered the Southwest searching for the seven cities Cíbola, a mythical and wealthy nation believed to exist in the American interior. They found no golden cities, but they did decide to stay and claim the vast territory for Spain.

The Spanish brought cattle ranching and cowboy culture to Texas – many had learned it in the shrublands of Western Spain. The Anglo-Americans who began settling in Texas in the 19th century were adopted Tejano ways. After the Texas War of Independence, those Anglos began to take over Tejano ranches, often murdering whole families and moving on their lands.

Some would call it ethnic cleansing. In this segment, we begin with the story of the search for Cíbola. Then, we speak with scholar Andrés Tijerina about how the narrative around Texas history has long ignored their contributions to the state.



Andres Tijerina

Andrés Tijerina, a native of Ozona, serves with distinction as Professor of History at the Pinnacle Campus of Austin Community College. He is author of Tejanos and Texas Under the Mexican Flag and Tejano Empire: Life on the South Texas Ranchos, and has edited several other works. Dr. Tijerina is a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association and an active presenter to gatherings of historians throughout the state. His writings have appeared as chapters, articles, and book reviews in journals ranging from the Southwestern Historical Quarterly to the American Historical Review.




 Photo of Austin’s Tejano Monument, courtesy of Marlon Bishop

Diversity on Trial

Race-conscious admissions policies have opened the college doors for many Latino students. Now, Fisher v University of Texas at Austin, a case soon to be decided by the Supreme Court, may change how schools are allowed to factor in race. Latino USA host María Hinojosa speaks with Angelo Ancheta, a law professor at Santa Clara University and the Counsel of Record for a Friend of the Court brief filed in the Fisher case.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com/SalFalko.


Angelo N. Ancheta is the director of the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center at Santa Clara University School of Law. He is the former Director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, and the former Executive Director at the Asian Law Caucus. Mr. Ancheta served as the Counsel of Record for the Friend of the Court Brief filed by the American Educational Research Association in the Fisher v University of Texas at Austin case.


With border enforcement front and center in both immigration reform proposals, security and migration issues are stepping into the limelight. The Washington Office on Latin America found that South Texas was different from other border regions. Senior Associate for Regional Security at WOLA Adam Isacson explains the findings—and reveals the sometimes deadly truths.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Adam Isacson is a key member of WOLA’s Regional Security Policy team. He is a leading expert on defense, civil-military relations, and U.S. security assistance to the Americas. He collaborates on Just the Facts—a constantly updated source of information and analysis of the United States’ often troubled relationship with Latin America’s militaries. He helped found Just the Facts in the early 1990s.

Mr. Isacson has co-authored dozens of publications, including “Ready, Aim, Foreign Policy” and “Waiting for Change,” which examine the increasing role of the military in U.S. foreign policy. He has testified before Congress on international drug policy, Colombia’s conflict, U.S. military aid programs and human rights, and has organized several congressional delegations to the region.


Catherine Rentz, who produced Latino USA’s October 2012 report on sexual assault and other abuses within immigrant detention centers, gives us an update on changes to legislation to report, investigate and prosecute these crimes.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Catherine Rentz is a reporter and documentary filmmaker in residence at the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington D.C. She’s produced several documentaries for PBS FRONTLINE about the airline industry, environmental resources, retirement finances, U.S. intelligence apparatus and immigration.