Things That Matter

Regina Romero Is Tucson, Arizona’s First-Ever Latina Mayor And Supporters Are Celebrating

Voters in Tucson made their voices heard on Tuesday night by electing Regina Romero, the city’s first female and first Latina mayor. The three-term former Tucson City Council member ran on a campaign platform centered around combating climate change, improving the city’s infrastructure and education system, as well as expanding opportunities for immigrant communities. 

Romero, 33,  who is Mexican-American, captured the historic victory by claiming nearly 56 percent of the vote, according to Tucson.com. She beat out opponents Ed Ackerley, an independent who received 40 percent of the vote, and Green Party candidate Mike Cease, who got 4 percent. Romero beat out two other Democrats in the party’s primary back in August.

“At a time when our national politics have been sown with division, Tucsonans remain united by our shared desire to promote a safe, just and sustainable city that provides economic opportunity for our families and future generations. This movement is open to everyone — whatever your background, whatever your party, whoever you voted for — let’s work together! We will always be one Tucson — somos uno,” Romero said at her campaign victory rally.

Romero’s victory is significant not only because of her background but because of political impact in the state of Arizona.

Credit: @LatinoVictoryUS / Twitter

The mayoral victory for Romero is a landmark moment for the typically left-leaning city of Tucson. While its population is near 44 percent Latino, the city has never elected a Latino mayor since Arizona became a U.S. state. Only once before 1854 had a Latino ever held the office.

Mayra Macías, the executive director at Latino Victory, a political action group aimed at increasing Latino voting power, said that the victory is a historic moment for all, especially women. 

“Councilwoman Regina Romero shattered one glass ceiling when she became the first Latina elected to the Tucson City Council, and now she’s broken yet another one by becoming Tucson’s first woman and first Latina mayor,” Macías said in a press release. “Her groundbreaking election is a testament of who she is as a leader and all the incredible things she’ll accomplish for the people of Tucson as their new mayor.”

There is a number of key issues that Romero will be taking on as mayor including climate change and immigration. 

One of the first issues that Romero will take on as mayor is focusing on plans that the city can implement to respond to climate change.

If we want to move our economy to a progressive place, if we want to continue investing in our infrastructure, if we want to continue creating high wage, long term jobs we have to tackle climate resiliency in our city,” Romero told Tucson.com. “We are the second city that is heating up the most right after Phoenix and so we’ve got to work immediately on it.”

She will also be taking on a more controversial issue at hand in immigration. Voters in Tucson voted against a proposed sanctuary city initiative that Romero opposed as well. Instead, she plans to work on repeal the controversial state law of SB 1070 that allows police to determine the immigration status of any individual that they stop or arrest. Romero has long advocated for immigrant rights and says that the real issue at hand isn’t the title of sanctuary city but the bill. 

“The root of the problem is SB 1070, and we’ve got to demand in a unified front with a unified voice that Governor [Doug] Ducey and the state Legislature repeal SB 1070,” Romero said.

Democratic presidential candidates chimed in on the victory throughout the day relaying the message of the importance of representation. 

Credit: @JulianCastro / Twitter

Democratic presidential hopefuls Julián Casto, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders took to Twitter to congratulate the historic victory. Romero joins a wave of Latino firsts that have come in the last year when it comes to taking office.

“We need more Latinas to run, and win!” Castro, the lone Latino Democratic candidate, wrote on Twitter.

“Congratulations to @TucsonRomero, the first Latina mayor of Tucson, on her historic win last night—and to @LUCHA_AZ and the other grassroots community activists that fought hard for this progressive victory.” Sanders wrote. 

The mother of two children, who was born in Somerton, Arizona and graduated from the nearby University of Arizona, will now be the only Latina mayor in the country’s 50 most populous cities.

READ: Over 400 Oklahoma Inmates Were Released In Largest Commutation In History And Their Stories Are Powerful

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Arizona Congresswoman Says That Hispanics Are ‘Good Workers’ But Shouldn’t Get Vaccines Before ‘American Citizens’

Things That Matter

Arizona Congresswoman Says That Hispanics Are ‘Good Workers’ But Shouldn’t Get Vaccines Before ‘American Citizens’

Photo via Getty Images

Coronavirus infection rates are falling drastically, but a new debate rages on: how to quickly, effectively, and ethically distribute vaccines to as many people as possible.

Last week, Arizona Congresswoman Debbie Lesko stated that Hispanic people–despite being “good workers”–shouldn’t get vaccinated before “American citizens”.

“I worked with people that are Hispanic,” Rep. Lesko said “I mean they’re very good workers…We’re compassionate people, but for goodness sakes, we have to take care of American citizens, or people that are here legally, first.”

She continued: “I’m just not going to be able to explain to my senior citizens that we’re giving away the vaccines to people that (are) here illegally. I just think that’s totally wrong.”

“My Democratic colleagues are putting illegal immigrants over them,” Lesko said during the hearing. “If I read it right, all this amendment says is put Americans first. Put Americans first, and once they’re all vaccinated, then you can go to the illegal immigrants.”

The statement was made during a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing where representatives were debating an amendment to a COVID-19 relief bill.

The Republican amendment suggested prioritizing American citizens over non-citizens when it comes to getting vaccinated first. Democrats argued that purposefully excluding non-citizens from getting vaccinated would keep the virus from being properly contained.

“The vaccine has no clue about where you come from, whether you have papers, whether you’re considered a citizen or legal or not,” said Democratic Congresswoman from Illinois, Jan Schakowsky. “It makes no sense. This is dangerous.”

Arizona State Senator Martin Quezada told NBC News that Lesko’s statement “reeks of racism.”

“There are a lot of people of color in her district and for her to be disconnected and really that offensive about how she sees us, as nothing more than good workers and not entitled to equitable vaccine distribution,” he said.

When asked about her remarks, Rep. Lesko defend them to political outlet The Hill: “Taken in context, my remarks clearly were aimed at ensuring that seniors receive taxpayer-funded vaccines before illegal immigrants,” she said. “During debate on the amendment, after being interrupted several times, I said something that could be misinterpreted, but it certainly was not my intent.”

But it seems that it this point, Lesko is trying to do damage control. Just today, she tweeted out a picture of the local “Hispanic Advisory Board”, accompanied by a caption written completely in Spanish.

“Estoy orgullosa por el lanzamiento de nuestra Junta Asesora Hispana, la primera reunión fue anoche,” the tweet read. “Esta se enfocará en las maneras en que podemos servir mejor a los miembros de nuestra comunidad Hispana en Arizona!” (“I am proud of the launch of our Hispanic Advisory Board, the first meeting was last night. It will focus on ways we can better serve members of our Hispanic community in Arizona!“)

Serving a state that is 30% Hispanic, it seems like Lesko may now be regretting her previous comments…

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2020 Was The Deadliest Year On Record For Migrants Crossing The Arizona Border

Things That Matter

2020 Was The Deadliest Year On Record For Migrants Crossing The Arizona Border

There is no one reason for the record-breaking number of migrant deaths along the Arizona border with Mexico. Between the cruel border policies of the Trump administration, an increase in hostility by US Border Patrol toward humanitarian aid workers, and record-breaking heat in the state, all combined to create the dangerous and deadly conditions.

However, one thing is clear: more must be done to avoid the needless loss of life for those simply seeking a better opportunity for themselves and their families.

The remains of at least 225 people have been found scattered throughout the Arizona desert, so far.

2020 has been the deadliest year on record for migrants crossing into Arizona, with the remains of at least 225 people being discovered across the desert. This is a significant uptick from last year, when 144 remains were found; from 2018, when there were 128; and from 2017, when there were 124, according to data compiled by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office and Humane Borders, a Tucson-based human rights group. The previous record was in 2010, when 224 remains were found in the Arizona desert.

Since 1998, at least 7,000 migrants are believed to have died along the US-Mexico border, maybe many more, as record-keeping is patchy.

“These people are not just numbers,” said Tony Banegas, executive director of the Colibri Center for Human Rights, an organization in Tucson working to identify migrant remains and helps families find missing loved ones.

“These are human beings with families and aspirations. They went to great lengths to make the journey, [only] to become just a grave in the desert.”

Visualizing the numbers can be overwhelming to comprehend.

Credit: OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants / Humane Borders

Since 2013, migrant rights advocates and health officials have published an online database mapping the deaths of people identified as migrants in Southern Arizona. The public database was set up to help researchers, family members searching for a missing person, and humanitarian aid workers, who could use the information to identify where to leave more water. The map shows a red dot for every body recovered: 3,365 since 2001. 

The red dots, even for a single year, can look overwhelming. It’s important to remember each red dot represents someone’s loved one who died trying to reach the United States. 

Experts point to the record-breaking heatwaves that baked the Arizona deserts in 2020.

Arizona is no stranger to hot weather and most migrants who attempt the border crossing are well aware of the dangers the heat poses, but few come well-prepared.

According to Greg Hess, chief medical examiner in Pima County, “the heat is likely the biggest contributing factor for the uptick of remains that we are finding.” This year, Arizona broke many records with nonstop extreme heat for months, and with the least amount of rain during the summer.

But Trump’s cruel immigration policies also had an outsized effect on migrant safety.

Since March, the Trump administration used the pandemic to seal shut an already virtually closed U.S.-Mexico border to migrants who turn themselves in to border agents and to asylum seekers. These cruel and inhumane policies forced many of them to make the dangerous trek through the Arizona desert.

“They can’t apply for asylum, so their options are considerably cut down and they’re forced into more and more dangerous situations,” says Montana Thames, a humanitarian aid worker with No More Deaths, an advocacy group that seeks to aid migrants crossing in the desert. “Plus, wall construction is happening closer to Nogales and Sasabe, where there are more resources—so because of the wall constitution, they have to go to more dangerous and more remote parts of the desert.” 

Making matters worse, as part of the changes to border policy since the pandemic started, Border Patrol has been immediately sending people they apprehend in the desert, many of whom are already in bad shape—often dehydrated and disoriented—right back to the border to be released into Mexico.

Migrant aid groups also saw their work threatened by U.S. Border Patrol.

For years, the number one cause of death among migrants crossing through the desert has been exposure to the elements, resulting in hypothermia or hyperthermia. As a result, aide groups like No More Death have been leaving food and water and stations throughout the desert.

The organization has long had a functioning relationship with Border Patrol, and there was even mutual respect between the two. But this year, aid workers say previous agreements with Border Patrol seemed to go out the window.

Over the summer, Border Patrol raided a No More Deaths camp 10 miles north of the border that had been running since 2004. Heavily armed agents then conducted a second raid in the middle of the night just days later. The agents confiscated phones and records of the migrants who had passed through the camp.

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