May marks the fourth anniversary of TODO Austin’s publication. As we launch volume five, I wish to thank our contributors, many of whom are recognized not only for their literary talents but for their work with charitable organizations and social causes.
Each of our writers, graphic artists and photographers deserve recognition for the positive effect they’ve had on our community. Sonia Kotecha and Monica Peña, just to name two, have recently been acknowledged with awards from the University of Texas Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for their generosity, leadership and service.
This month we continue our coverage of immigration reform and education. The issues are of particular importance at this juncture, with the federal government’s recent bipartisan effort to change immigration policy. At the same time, Austin’s voters are being asked to authorize the school district to issue up to $892.2 million in bonds. The issues are interrelated as they will have a direct effect on our children.
The Austin Independent School District states that 60 percent of the city’s students are Hispanic, with more than 54 percent from low-income families and 24 percent entering schools as English-language learners. As Chairman of the Board of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and as a former K-12 student in AISD, I’ve visited the issues up close and recognize the need for both comprehensive immigration reform and capital improvements in our schools.
Regarding the school bond election, four separate propositions will appear on the May ballot. With their passing, the average taxpayer will pay about $70 a year, or $5.83 monthly, for a home worth approximately $200,000. Property taxes on businesses will also increase at the same rate. Every AISD school would benefit from this proposed bond program. Election date is Saturday, May 11, with early voting through May 7.
On the subject of family immigration overhaul, while the family provisions in the proposed legislation in Congress eliminates the backlog, it also eliminates the opportunity for critical family members to reunite with their loved ones. We are deeply concerned that the proposed legislation caps the adult children category to those under 31 and eliminates the sibling category. These categories are critical to the family unit. Moreover, family reunification is the cornerstone of our legal immigration system and eliminating categories that have helped historically excluded communities is contrary to our commitment to family and equity.
In addition, the exclusion of LGBT couples and families from the family definition will perpetuate discrimination and exclusion that no longer has a place in American society.
Too many people have been left behind in Austin and instead of turning a blind eye (again), there is only one course to take with immigration reform and education, and that is to do what is right and essential to our well-being. It is inevitable that Austin will soon be a Hispanic-majority city. I believe history won’t look kindly on our past treatment of that demographic, as many individuals with power and influence have either largely hindered opportunities for minorities or operated without accountability and transparency. With the new 10-1 geographic district elections for Austin City Council, it is assumed we will begin to address some of those past and present missteps.
Two organizations that needs no pointing in the right direction are the University of Texas Performing Arts Center and the Long Center, the latter of which recently unveiled the first major bilingual website to market to the Latino community in Austin. Making the arts more accessible is exactly the kind of positive impact people can make in Austin. As Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez stated, “I applaud the Long Center and their commitment to creating and fostering diversity at one of the most visible and significant destinations our community has to offer. Latinos are a huge part of this community, and I believe their new bilingual website is furthering the progressive work they’ve already started in recognition of the importance of Latino involvement in the performing arts.”
You can make a positive difference for our community by voting “Yes” for the AISD school bonds and by supporting efforts that create a fair and quick pathway to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors.
We applaud those who are shattering barriers and giving back to the Austin community. We will continue to give you a voice, and challenge the status quo, here in the pages of TODO Austin.