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.

Credit: @RepEscobar / Twitter

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.

Credit: @vgescobar915 / Instagram

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

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

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Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Photo via Getty Images

Students at a high school in Aledo, Texas are being disciplined after the administration discovered they held a mock slave auction on Snapchat where they “traded” Black students.

Screenshots of the Snapchat group show that these unnamed students “bid” on students of color, ranging anywhere from $1 to $100.

One student in particular was priced at $1 because his hair was “bad”. The screenshot also shows that the group chat’s name changed regularly. The group’s name started as “Slave Trade” then changed to “N—-r Farm”, and finally to “N—– Auction”.

Upon learning of the mock slave auction, the Daniel Ninth Grade Campus’s principal wrote a note to parents explaining the situation. Principal Carolyn Ansley called the mock slave auction “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment” which “led to conversations about how inappropriate and hurtful language can have a profound and lasting impact” on people.

Many people felt that the school principal downplayed the gravity of the mock slave auction. Not once did she mention the word racism in the letter that she sent out to parents.

“Calling it cyberbullying rather than calling it racism… that is the piece that really gets under my skin,” said Mark Grubbs, father to three former Aledo ISD students, to NBC DFW. But Grubbs, along with many other Aledo parents and community members, say that the incident didn’t surprise them.

In fact, Grubbs said he had to take his children out of the Aledo ISD school system because of how much racist harassment his children were facing. “A lot of racism,” he said of his son’s experience at the school. “My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter.”

After the backlash to the initial statement, Superintendent Susan Bohn finally released a statement condemning the racism and “hatred” of the mock slave auction.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,’ Bohn wrote. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

The problem with “policies” like these is they fail to target the issue of racism at the root. Hate speech may be “prohibited”, but if a child is displaying racist behavior for whatever reason, the bigger problem is the way that they have been educated and indoctrinated. Slave auctions have no place in 2021.

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Texas Republicans Are Recruiting An ‘Army’ of Poll-Watchers To Go Into Black and Brown Precincts To ‘Fight Voter Fraud’

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Texas Republicans Are Recruiting An ‘Army’ of Poll-Watchers To Go Into Black and Brown Precincts To ‘Fight Voter Fraud’

Photo via Getty Images

The GOP’S voter-suppression tactics in Georgia have been gripping the nation. But now, the media is also turning its attention to other voter-suppression tactics in the rest of the country. Now, Texas Republicans are taking the heat.

According to Common Cause Texas, Texas Republicans are planning on recruiting thousands of volunteers create an “election integrity brigade”. They want the “brigade” to go into Black and brown neighborhoods in Houston and “fight voter fraud”.

A Texas GOP presentation was leaked that outlined plans to send an “army” of poll-watchers to Black and brown precincts.

“I’m trying to encourage and recruit, as a precinct chair, about 30 people in my precinct who will have the confidence and courage to come down in here…,” said an unnamed GOP official, pointing to majority non-white urban areas, “…in these areas where we really need poll-workers. Because this is where the problem is occuring.”

“So me finding poll-watchers out here, it helps, but it’s a pretty safe precinct”. He said this while pointing to majority-white Houston neighborhoods.

The video inspired outrage among people who saw these tactics as blatant attempts to suppress the voting rights of POC.

“The impetus for releasing [the video] right now is there are some bills in the legislature that seek to empower poll watchers in some really scary ways,” said executive director of Common Cause Texas, Anthony Gutierrez, to NBC News. “And also at the same time, take away the power of the presiding judge at the poll site from being able to remove a disruptive poll watcher.”

“It’s very clear that we’re talking about recruiting people from the predominantly Anglo parts of town to go to Black and Brown neighborhoods,” said Gutierrez to The Washington Post.

“This is a role that’s supposed to do nothing but stand at a poll site and observe,” he added. Why is he suggesting someone needs to be ‘courageous’?”

This “election integrity brigade” comes on the heels of a problematic election bill the Texas Senate just passed.

According to NBC News, the bill “bans overnight early voting and drive-thru early voting” and also “empowers partisan poll watchers.”

“It’s part of the intimidation, the confusion, the antics that (the Republican Party) has engaged in for so many generations that culminated in President Trump asking people to overturn the election,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to CNN.

“What they’re doing is filing bills that are essentially a poll tax that weaponize the election system against our own voters,” she continued. “And what they’re proposing is absolutely tragic and reminiscent of the worst of what we’ve seen in Texas and across the South since Reconstruction.”

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