Things That Matter

Who Is Rep. Veronica Escobar? The Congresswoman Representing El Paso, Texas And Fighting For Her Community

In the wake of the terrible events in El Paso, Texas, Veronica Escobar, the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 16th congressional district, has become notorious for her solidarity with the victims (her constituents, of course) and for being the public face of the Democratic Party in Texas in the aftermath of the mass shooting. A proud Latina woman, she ran on a platform of inclusivity in a border town that sits across Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent cities in the world due to failed neoliberal policies, the move of factories from Mexico to other parts of the world, and insecurity product of the cartel wars. The shooting in El Paso hit particularly close to home, of course, and her response has been dignified, yet strong. Escobar won the general election on November 6, defeating Republican Rick Seeberger to become Beto O’Rourke’s successor and the first woman to represent the 16th. In the 2018 elections, Escobar and Sylvia Garcia became the first Latina congresswomen from Texas.

Veronica Escobar had a blunt response to Trump after the mass shooting in El Paso.

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She didn’t hold back on MSNBC’s Morning Joe: “Words have consequences. The President has made my community and my people the enemy. He has told the country that we are people to be feared, people to be hated. I hope that [Trump] has the self-awareness to understand that we are in pain, and we are mourning, and we are doing the very best in our typical, graceful, El Paso way to be resilient. And so I would ask his staff and his team to consider the fact that his words and his actions have played a role in this.” 

Following her statements, Escobar has received death threats.

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She told The New Yorker just after the El Paso massacre: 

“Are these threats you have been getting related to immigration stuff? Yes.
Can you say more about them? I would prefer not to. But they were death threats”. 

And then:

“Have you spoken with either the President or Greg Abbott, the very pro-gun governor of your state? I have not spoken with the President and frankly don’t care to. I was at a press conference [on Saturday] where the governor was in attendance.”

Escobar is close to the other politician from El Paso: Beto O’Rourke. She actually is his successor. 

O’Rourke has had an equally strong response to Trump in the wake of the shootings. As The New York Times Reports: “Mr. O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, where the other shooting killed 22 people, continued to focus on a question he had been asked late Sunday about whether there was anything Mr. Trump could do to make things better in the wake of the shootings. In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he said that the President had exhibited ‘open racism’ — an ‘invitation to violence.’ ‘Anyone who is surprised’ by the violence, Mr. O’Rourke said, ‘is part of this problem right now — including members of the media who ask, ‘Hey Beto, do you think the President is racist?’ ‘Well, Jesus Christ, of course, he’s racist,’ he said. ‘He’s been racist from day one.’” Tough times call for equally tough words.

Escobar is certain the Border Wall is a mistake.

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As a force of opposition against Trump in a border city, Escobar has been critical of the proposed Border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. She told SindiGate media in 2018 that the federal government has not been in contact with the community regarding the wall: “This is really disturbing. The federal government does absolutely no outreach. They don’t inform the community and they don’t communicate with anyone. They’re just coming in and they’re going to erect this wall without any sort of engagement with anybody. Walls, in general, are not a solution to the challenges and the opportunities that come with migration and immigration. What we have seen in our country for a long time is a desire to portray communities like El Paso as unsafe places that need to be controlled and sealed off. We are never going to have a completely sealed off border, nor should we. Instead of talking about public policy solutions, we have a federal government that wants to erect costly, unsightly walls.”

Escobar is a face of what people are calling the new congress that represents what the U.S. looks like.

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Alongside political rising stars such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Escobar is part of the new face of American politics that includes women of color and of diverse religious backgrounds. Escobar and her peers have offered a counterweight to Trump and the Republican Party and promise to keep disrupting the echelons of power (in the best possible way) for years to come. Will one of them eventually become POTUS herself?

But Escobar didn’t come out of nowhere: she has a long history in politics in El Paso.

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Escobar was experienced in politics and knew what the El Paso constituents needed way before she decided to run. She was an executive in nonprofit organizations and then worked as the communications director for El Paso mayor Raymond Caballero. Here, she met Beto O’Rourke and started a joint effort to make Texas politics more inclusive and a more accurate representation of the actual population. She was elected as  county commissioner for El Paso County in 2006 and El Paso County Judge in 2010

Escobar has led marches against immigration policies.

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Alongside Beto O’Rourke, Escobar has led high profile protests against immigration policies. In June 2018, for example, Escobar and O’Rourke led protests in Tornillo, Texas, against the Trump administration family separation policy. 

She has a message of hope, but also a will to be combative.

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Escobar painted a true but dark picture of the current political times when she was elected: “This really is a critical juncture in American history for all of us: not only Latinos but women, African-Americans, the LGBTQ community. We’re at such a significant crossroads that it’s almost too much to comprehend. It’s a dark time in American politics. We’re living with a government that is literally working against our communities”

Escobar is not afraid to speak when others may hold back or side with the popular opinion.

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She continued: “This administration has targeted Mexicans and Central Americans in particular, in the cruelest, most dehumanizing ways whether it’s a tweet denying the deaths of Puerto Ricans, or separating children from their families … We’ve never been witnesses to anything like this. So in many respects, I think it’s these politics of cruelty that have inspired a new generation of leaders on a federal level. There’s a wave of women and people of color who are running and winning. It’s a silver lining to a very dark cloud.”

And when she is fed up, Escobar is comfortable muttering “No mames.”

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It was clear what she was saying “no mames” as Trump delivered his State of the Union address.

When Escobar isn’t leading protests or trying to change policies, she is spending time with her family.

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Escobar has two kids with her husband Michael Pelters. She said after winning the election: “For Latinos, mothers are the center of the family. It’s a strong matriarchal society that puts a lot of faith in women, so I feel we have latitude in expanding [our] leadership. Having grown up with the strong powerful force that is my mother, I never saw limits despite knowing the challenges. I’m surrounded by a lot of love and support – I couldn’t have raised children alone or run my campaign alone – and this loving community keeps me going.”

READ: These Parents Dropped Off Their Daughter At Cheer Practice To Go Back-To-School Shopping, Now Their Three Kids Are Orphans After The El Paso Shooting

A Substitute Teacher In Texas Had Sex With Her Student In Her Parents’ Home

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A Substitute Teacher In Texas Had Sex With Her Student In Her Parents’ Home

Pasadena Texas Police Department

Olivia Huerta, 23, was arraigned Thursday on second-degree felony charges of an improper relationship with a student and sexual assault of a child between the ages of 14 and 16. She’s being held on a bond of $40,000.

The assault happened sometime between January and April of 2018 when Huerta was substituting for a social science teacher at Pasadena Independent School District’s Sam Rayburn High School. A year later, the then 16-year-old victim told his friend what happened, and the friend told school administrators, who called the police, according to the report by KPRC.

The unnamed victim told police that the two were talking via Snapchat.

Credit: Pasadena Texas Police Department

Police reports show that the student alleged that the two had exchanged phone numbers. They texted and had conversations through Snapchat. Later, when police were questioning Huerta, they say she confessed to the crime. She also voluntarily gave her phone to police to show the text conversations between the two. Police say the conversations allude to the inappropriate relationship.

The student couldn’t remember the teacher’s name and described her to police as a short, curvy Latina. After showing him several photos of Latina substitute teachers employed by the school district at the time of the incident, he identified Huerta. She was arrested after admitting to the relationship.

They had sex at Huerta’s parents’ house.

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The victim told police that Huerta and he walked from school to her parents’ house, where they had sex. It was a one-night-stand that left the student a victim of sexual assault and pedophilia.

When the allegation came to light, the school district immediately removed Huerta from campus.

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In a statement made to KPRC2, school district officials made it clear that anyone accused of sexual assault is not welcome on school campuses. “Upon receiving the allegation, the administration at Sam Rayburn High School immediately notified district administration and the Pasadena ISD Police Department. The accused individual was promptly removed from campus and is no longer employed by Pasadena ISD.”

The story and its implications are being lost on some people who are reading about it.

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In a Facebook comment under the story, AJ Hernandez asked (edited for grammar), “So my question: Why don’t they blast the student as well? After all, didn’t the student go along with it? I blame the kid as much as well.” Many people in the comments seem to think that Huerta “looks like a child as well,” and that the age difference isn’t “so bad.” One Laura Montaño agreed with Hernandez, commenting, “They just act like the victims so they won’t be held accountable for their actions! How is it that teenagers are able to go to jail for murder but are victims when it comes to sex???? Makes no sense! Yeah, adults should know better but she looks like a child to me as well!”

Someone named Maestro Salchicha responded defending the child from the online fury saying, “Because kids are kids and ultimately victims of these adults who know better.”

The legal age of consent in Texas is 17 years old.

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The legal age of consent across the United States varies from 16 years old to 18 years old. There are also “close in age” laws, that allow for a minor to consent to sex with an adult who is closer in age. In Texas, the age of consent is 17 years old, and the close-in-age law provides an age exemption if the person is no more than 3 years older than the minor.

In case you missed it, consent isn’t always consent if the person says “yes.”

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In certain power dynamics, consent isn’t always able to be given freely. Employers sleeping with their employees are frowned upon because of the financial pressure for the subordinate to ‘consent.’ Other forces besides a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are at play. The individuals must be weighted equals in the power dynamic.

In 2003, Representative Helen Giddings (D), introduced a bill that bans sex between students and teachers within the same school district. This all means that Huerta’s victim was not legally able to give his consent, given his age, and a victim of the student-teacher ban.

If you have any information about the case, you can call the Pasadena ISD Police Department at 713-740-0200.

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Men are flooding the comments with, “Where these teachers when I was a teenager attending class?” One woman mocked the onslaught of jokes with a comment, “Derp “wEaR wErr dEEz TeeCheRs WiN eYe WuZ N sKoOl” Someone else commented, “All the men in these comments disgust me.” A child was raped by a teacher in Pasadena, Texas last year. That’s never okay.

READ: One San Francisco Man Used The New Snapchat Filters To Nag A Police Officer For Attempting To Sleep With A Minor

Texas Man Convicted For Beheading His Sleeping Roommate And Killing Roommate’s Girlfriend

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Texas Man Convicted For Beheading His Sleeping Roommate And Killing Roommate’s Girlfriend

@deannaboyd / Twitter

After spending more than five hours deliberating on the verdict, a Texas jury has found Hector “El Cholo” Acosta-Ojeda guilty of capital murder for the killings of Erick ‘Diablo’ Zelaya, 26, and Iris Chirinos, 17. Prosecutors said Acosta-Ojeda shot his roommate, Zelaya, twice in the head while he slept. He then used a machete to behead Zelaya and left his severed head on a trail near Arlington, Texas’s AT&T Stadium. Zelaya’s girlfriend, Chirinos tried to flee the scene of the gruesome murder, but Acosta-Ojeda fatally shot her. 

Acosta-Ojeda, 30, pleaded not guilty to the crime and did not take the stand.

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In closing arguments, Acosta-Ojeda’s defense attorneys, Bill Ray and Gary Smart, told the jury that no weapon was linked to Acosta-Ojeda. They argued that the presence of so many other people in the house leaves room for reasonable doubt. They also argued that authorities did not offer a proper reading of Acosta-Ojeda’s Miranda rights, which tell a person under arrest that they have the “right to remain silent” and that, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” By that waive of rights, any confession Acosta-Ojeda made was nullified. 

Still, The Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney (ADA), Kevin Rousseau, argued, “He confessed to every single aspect of this case,” according to the Star-Telegram.

Prosecutors argued that the motive was linked to another shooting, which occurred in May 2017.

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In a series of strange events, Acosta-Ojeda’s home was targeted by gunmen while he and others were sleeping. Moments later, Zelaya and young Chirinos arrived, laughing. The very next day, someone burned down Acosta-Ojeda’s home. ADA Rousseau learned that Zelaya had confessed to being a part of the shooting just hours before Acosta-Ojeda executed him in his sleep.

After Acosta-Ojeda killed the couple, he buried them in a shallow grave in the backyard, but not before he beheaded Zelaya with a machete. He put the head in a trash bag, made a sign, and rode his bicycle, with a severed head in hand, to what was left of his home. There, he left his friend’s severed head along with a sign that read, “La Raza Se Resreta y Faltan 4,” which roughly means, ‘the race, or group, must be respected and only four remain.”

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, which will be determined in a sentencing hearing Wednesday.

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While her family has yet to speak out about the incident, friends have posted to her Facebook page, saying “God rest your soul. Prayers to your family.. god sees your true beauty, he will judge the criminal that did this to you… RIP.” Folks continue to post to her page, years later, with thoughts like, “I miss you babygirl. RIP,” and “Missing you like crazy, love you lil sis.”

If the jury doesn’t reach a unanimous decision on capital punishment, Acosta-Ojeda will receive mandatory minimum sentencing of life imprisonment without parole.

Members of the alt-right have tried to use the story to further anti-immigrant rhetoric.

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“Look at the face of the people crossing our border every day to seek that better life. Why behead in Mexico when you can behead in America?” tweets Clayton Freeman. “Democrats want people like this in America!
SIC,” tweeted another woman. A Facebook post sharing the news on the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office page had just one comment: “Hang him!”

Acosta-Ojeda is implicated in another murder case that opened just one month after he killed Zelaya and Chirinos. 

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Acosta-Ojeda is accused of robbing and murdering 34-year-old Triston Ray Algiene. In October 2017, Algiene’s mutilated body was found, cut in half, and buried in concrete in the foundation of a vacant home. Another man, Felipe Eduardo Ortiz, is also accused in the murder. The two had been renting rooms in the house they chose to bury the body under. Authorities suspect that Ortiz and Acosta-Ojeda had set up the meeting with Algiene to appear as a drug deal, but planned to rob and murder him. According to a report last year, Algiene was then tied with duct tape and rope and beaten into giving the PIN number to his debit card. Now-deceased Zelaya and Chirinos allegedly were tasked with withdrawing money from the ATM. They called Acosta-Ojeda, who allegedly got angry and killed Algiene. They dug a hole in the bedroom, sawed Algiene’s body in half, and covered it up. By the time investigators arrived, the house had been remodeled and up for sale. 

READ: The Murder of a Teen Mom By Her Boyfriend is Raising a Discussion Around the Prevalence of Femicide in Abusive Relationships