EL PASO – On Sat., Feb. 27, 2021, the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) convened and estimated 70 community delegates from the border region spanning across Texas and New Mexico in the annual General Member Assembly to reflect on the organization’s work over the past year during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and assess opportunities and challenges in 2021.
The Spanish-language convening coincided with BNHR’s 22nd anniversary of advocating and serving border communities and included an opening session live-streamed to the BNHR Facebook page featuring remarks from Congresswoman Verónica Escobar; Texas State Senator César Blanco; Texas State Representative Mary González; Former Texas State Senator José Rodríguez; El Paso County Commissioners David Stout and Ileana Holguín; and El Paso City Representatives Peter Svarzbein and Alexsandra Annello. The event also included the participation of representatives from diverse social justice advocates at the local, state, and national levels, including the Border Women’s Project; Border Agricultural Workers Center; El Paso Grassroots, Paso del Sur; Peace and Justice Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso; The El Paso Chapter, The Links, Incorporated; ARISE Adelante; La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE); Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice; and UnidosUS.
“I want to thank all of you for your incredible work – not just your work that you have done this past year, but the work you have done over two decades. Your work has paid off tremendously,” said Congresswoman Escobar in her live remarks. She went on to discuss the immigration reform bill that would provide a pathway to lawful status for the 11 million undocumented in the U.S., and is anticipated to be brought to the House floor for a vote the week of Mar. 8, and call on viewers to help push for the legislation’s passage by contacting their representatives in Congress when the bill is put to a vote in the House and Senate. “We are not going to stop the work we are doing until we have created a government, laws, and processes that recognize the dignity of every human being(…)We are on the brink of achieving what we have been working on for a very long time.” Hear the full remarks from Congresswoman Verónica Escobar in Spanish and English beginning at the 23:00 minute mark of the Facebook Livestream.
Bishop Mark Seitz also offered remarks in Spanish during the assembly thanking BNHR members for their “commitment and dedication, in particular, to those who do not have a voice in our community” and for “your efforts to reform immigration laws [and] work with the police so that they can actually serve our community.” The Bishop went on to reflect on the future, stating, “We will work together in the coming year with all parts of our community so that all are represented [and we can show everyone] what justice is, and what the road to peace is.”
During the private portion of the assembly hosted via Zoom, BNHR members collectively defined priorities for 2021 and evaluated the organization’s work, culminating in a unanimous vote of confidence in BNHR leadership, and the election and confirmation of Susie Byrd, former district director for Rep. Escobar, and Pastor Michael E. Grady, founder of the Prince of Peace Christian Fellowship Church and religious advisor to the NAACP, as the newest members of the Board of Directors, in addition to the re-election of Board Member Josh Bernstein.
Additionally, the BNHR members selected eight other community members to serve on the Board representing BNHR organizing regions and elected Rogelio Nunez of Proyecto Libertad and Rosemary Martinez of Farmworkers Border Agricultural Center/Proyecto de Mujeres Fronterizas as advisors to the finance committee of the Board.
“With our priorities established and our BNHR is ready to move forward to achieve transformative change for our communities in the border region and beyond. We are excited to have Susie Byrd and Pastor Brady, longtime allies of BNHR, join Josh Bernstein on the Board of Directors and provide diverse perspectives that will make our work even more inclusive and impactful in the years to come,” said Fernando García, Executive Director of BNHR.
Among 2021 priorities established by BNHR’s membership during the 5-hour long assembly are the demilitarization of the southern border; passage of inclusive federal immigration reform; the creation of an independent El Paso Police Department accountability commission; mutual aid COVID-19 relief fund for border families; conditional driver’s permits in Texas (with the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance – RITA); repealing SB4; alternative enforcement strategies in Texas; the development of a community ID program, and more. Watch the full recording of the public portion of the BNHR Annual Membership Assembly here.
This post was originally published on BORDER NETWORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS.