Over the past 20 years residents of Montana Vista, a Colonia located on the outskirts of El Paso, Texas, felt like a forgotten community because of the poverty, the isolation of the area, and the difficulty to get access to county and state representatives.
They appealed to the then pastor of San Juan Diego Catholic Church, Father Ed Roden-Lucero, who was a longtime leader and co-chair of EPISO, for support in getting much needed basic services and infrastructure for their community.
They began by discussing efforts to get water, wastewater, parks, single-member voting districts for the Clint Independent School District, and for the extension of Greg Rd. to Edgemere Blvd.
The initial request for the extension of the road was for convenience, not safety. However, when a serious accident occurred that closed the only entrance to this community for more than 8 hours during the day, they saw the urgency in pushing elected officials for the extension of Greg Rd to Edgemere. They held accountability sessions with candidates and obtained commitments from the then newly elected county commissioner, Vince Perez. Leaders attended meetings and hosted hundreds of house meetings with the constituency to push for the safety improvements and extension of the roads.
On the day of the accident there was no access in or out of the Montana Vista area for a whole day. The only way out or in was to take a one-hour detour to Horizon Blvd and then through back roads. It was chaos for parents taking their children to school, buses picking up and dropping off children, and people going to and from work. The extension of Greg Rd. became the only solution for the safety of the community.
Today we gathered with Fr. Ed Roden-Lucero, leaders of San Juan Diego, residents of Montana Vista, and county commissioner Vince Perez at the opening of the new four lane road with bike routes, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping. Together we all celebrated the accomplishment of the extension and the countless hours of work that the leaders and residents invested to make their community safer.
EPISO Organizes Nonpartisan Accountability Assembly in Advance of Early Voting for Midterm Elections
EPISO and Border Interfaith quizzed 10 of the candidates vying for seats on the El Paso City Council and County Commissioners Court about their positions on a local jobs program, immigration, infrastructure, and restorative justice Sunday.
The accountability session, an El Paso election season tradition staged by... El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization and Border Interfaith...was held at Christ the Savior Catholic Church...in Northeast El Paso.
Each candidate is asked to give yes or no answers to four questions, and is then given 1.5 minutes to explain their answer. About 300 people attended Sunday's event.
[Photo Credit: Sara Sanchez, El Paso Times]
Details on candidate commitments in first article below.
"In light of ...sacred traditions and in light of our immigrant story as a nation, EPISO and Border Interfaith call upon the federal government to negotiate a fair and humane immigration reform policy that serves the common good of both our country and those who seek a better life here, fleeing from fear and violence in their countries..."
Read Statement below:
EPISO, Border Interfaith Call for Human Immigration Policy, El Paso Times [pdf]
[Photo Credit: Mark Lambie, El Paso Times]
With teaching provided by senior IAF organizers Sr. Maribeth Larkin and Joe Rubio, 83 leaders and potential leaders from religious congregations, educational institutions and nonprofits across El Paso convened at Christ the Savior Catholic Church for two-days of leadership development training. Full write-up below.
Said the El Paso Times, "Grassroots representatives democracy was at work Sunday in the Lower Valley."
Over 600 leaders from El Paso institutions of Border Interfaith and EPISO, assembled at St. Paul Catholic Church to challenge six candidates for US Congressional office to support a "fast-track" pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, and to support air quality cleanup along the border through funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Candidates were also called on to support universal health care and advocate for Medicaid expansion. All candidates to US Congressional District 16 appeared and publicly pledged to support the El Paso IAF's position on these areas.
Community leaders challenged candidates for County Judge and Commissioners Court to make the University Medical Center of El Paso and its health clinics "safe havens" for immigrants, to support Medicaid expansion and to support "fair chance" hiring legislation. Most candidates agreed.
Rev. Pablo Matta closed the session by calling on all leaders to get out the vote in advance of the March 6 primary election. "That is the important part — to get out and vote and get 10 people to vote!"
Op-Ed by Rev. Ed Roden-Lucero, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and co-chair of EPISO
The commemoration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth has just passed. As election time approaches in Texas, his words, which follow, summon us to participate in the democratic process: “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it.”
Locally, much has been said about El Paso’s historically low voter turnout. Lincoln’s words are a reminder of democracy’s gift: Voters own the process and the result. Elected officials are not their own boss. Those who are elected to public office are governed by those who vote. The greater the number of people that vote, the greater is the level of accountability required of those who are elected.
Understand the Issues, Know the Candidates, Vote, El Paso Times
Over 20 years ago, a developer in the City of El Paso bought acreage in a plot of land, an undeveloped “island” landlocked by, but not included within, El Paso’s municipal lines. The developer recorded the purchase with the County, but then -- unbeknownst to anyone -- illegally partitioned the land and sold the reduced-sized lots to low-income families without providing certificates of occupancy.
120 families built their homes in the Norma-Georgia-Seventh-La Mesa colonia, having little idea they had purchased and were residing in illegal subdivisions. Because the land was not part of the City, and illegally partitioned in the County, neither local nor state entities assumed responsibility for ensuring access to safe water.
In radio coverage by the Texas Standard about the governor zeroing out the Colonia Initiative Program’s nearly $860,000 budget, a story about the success of the El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Committee (EPISO) emerged.
When Fr. Ed Lucero-Rodin first arrived in El Paso in the 1980s he reported being “shocked by the living conditions …[with] people using centuries-old wells for non-drinking water and DIY septic-tank systems.” He joined EPISO, which equipped him to tackle issues like sewage seeping into the groundwater which caused many in his congregation to get sick.
After decades of success in fighting for water and sewage infrastructure in the colonias, he can now point to a street named after him in a subdivision that used to be a colonia. All the streets in the subdivision are named after El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO) leaders who successfully fought to bring water and waste service to this area.
As Funding Dries Up, Colonia Residents Struggle Without Basic Services, Texas Standard [pdf]
Civic academies organized by religious institutions of EPISO and Border Interfaith drew upwards of 50 parishioners per session ready to learn how to use their civil rights to protect family members from deportation. At a recent session, Rev. Pablo Matta, the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church told parishioners “You are not alone.” He additionally explained, “We are not asking anyone to violate the law. We are using the laws that exist.”Read more