This month was originally designated by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 to honor the legacy of prolific author, teacher, and advocate Bebe Moore Campbell.
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Awareness Month serves as an opportunity for us all to raise awareness of the unique mental health needs of people of color.
What happens at the intersection of mental health and one’s experience as a member of the BIPOC community? While the experience of being BIPOC in America varies tremendously, there are shared cultural factors that play a role in helping define mental health and supporting well-being, resiliency and healing.
Part of this shared cultural experience — family connections, values, expression through spirituality or music, reliance on community and religious networks — are enriching and can be great sources of strength and support.
However, another part of this shared experience is facing racism, discrimination and inequity that can significantly affect a person’s mental health. Being treated or perceived as “less than” because of the color of your skin can be stressful and even traumatizing. Additionally, members of the BIPOC community face structural challenges accessing the care and treatment they need.
According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, BIPOC adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness, hopelessness and feeling like everything is an effort. BIPOC adults living below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those with more financial security.
More likely to use emergency rooms or primary care (rather than mental health specialists)
Barriers To Mental Health Care
Socioeconomic Disparities Socioeconomic factors can make treatment options less available. In 2018, 11.5% of BIPOC adults in the U.S. had no form of health insurance.
The BIPOC community, like other communities of color, are more likely to experience socioeconomic disparities such as exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources. These disparities may contribute to worse mental health outcomes.
Stigma Negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who live with mental health conditions is pervasive within the U.S. and can be particularly strong within the BIPOC community. One study showed that 63% of BIPOC people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. As a result, people may experience shame about having a mental illness and worry that they may be discriminated against due to their condition.
For many in the BIPOC community, it can be incredibly challenging to discuss the topic of mental health due to this concern about how they may be perceived by others. This fear could prevent people from seeking mental health care when they really need it.
Additionally, many people choose to seek support from their faith community rather than seeking a medical diagnosis. In many BIPOC communities in the U.S., the church, mosque or other faith institution can play a central role as a meeting place and source of strength.
Faith and spirituality can help in the recovery process and be an important part of a treatment plan. For example, spiritual leaders and faith communities can provide support and reduce isolation. However, they should not be the only option for people whose daily functioning is impaired by mental health symptoms.
Provider Bias and Inequality of Care BIPOC people have historically been negatively affected by prejudice and discrimination in the health care system in the US. And, unfortunately, many BIPOC people still have these negative experiences when they attempt to seek treatment. Provider bias, both conscious and unconscious, and a lack of cultural competency can result in misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. This ultimately can lead to mistrust of mental health professionals and create a barrier for many to engage in treatment.
BIPOC people may also be more likely to identify and describe physical symptoms related to mental health problems. For example, they may describe bodily aches and pains when talking about depression. A health care provider who is not culturally competent might not recognize these as symptoms of a mental health condition. Additionally, BIPOC men are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders or PTSD.
How To Seek Culturally Competent Care
When a person is experiencing challenges with their mental health, it is essential for them to receive quality care as soon as the symptoms are recognized. It is equally important that the care they receive is provided by culturally competent health care professionals.
While we recommend seeking help from a mental health professional, a primary care professional is also a great place to start. A primary care professional might be able to provide an initial mental health assessment and referral to a mental health professional if needed. Community and faith organizations may also have a list of available mental health providers in your area.
When meeting with a provider, it can be helpful to ask questions to get a sense of their level of cultural awareness. Providers expect and welcome questions from their patients or clients, since this helps them better understand what is important in their treatment. Here are some sample questions:
Have you treated other BIPOC people or received training in cultural competence for BIPOC mental health? If not, how do you plan to provide me with culturally sensitive, patient-centered care?
How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment?
Do you use a different approach in your treatment when working with patients from different cultural backgrounds?
What is your current understanding of differences in health outcomes for BIPOC patients?
Whether you seek help from a primary care professional or a mental health professional, you should finish your sessions with the health care professional feeling heard and respected. You may want to ask yourself:
Did my provider communicate effectively with me?
Is my provider willing to integrate my beliefs, practices, identity and cultural background into my treatment plan?
Did I feel like I was treated with respect and dignity?
Do I feel like my provider understands and relates well with me?
The relationship and communication between a person and their mental health provider is a key aspect of treatment. It’s very important for a person to feel that their identity is understood by their provider in order to receive the best possible support and care.
If finances are preventing you from finding help, contact a local health or mental health clinic or your local government to see what services you qualify for. You can find contact information online at findtreatment.samhsa.gov or by calling the National Treatment Referral Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).
In collaboration and permission of the Trevor Project we share some thoughts…
This BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, the Trevor Project collaborated with several individuals who are LGBTQ people of color to offer advice to youth on how to navigate the intersections of their identities and protect their mental health. HRC Foundation and the University of Connecticut released the largest-of-its-kind survey ever of more than 12,000 LGBTQ teenagers across the nation, revealing in distressing detail the persistent challenges so many of them face going about their daily lives at home, at school and in their communities.
LGBTQ youth of color and transgender teenagers experience unique challenges and elevated stress — only 11 percent of youth of color surveyed believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively in the U.S.,
and over 50 percent of trans and gender expansive youth said they can never use school restrooms that align with their gender identity;
More than 70 percent report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week;
Only 26 percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms — and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people;
Sixty-seven percent report that they’ve heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people
But there is help in the thoughts of others:
“Healing begins with you, and it is quite a journey as well, but it is worth it. You are worthy of so much. Always remember that.”
“I have learned that I do not need to find an exact mirror of myself in order to be valid or to find kinship and community. I can find resonance within myself, and I can find pieces of myself within others.”
“There is space for who you are and who you identify as. And that space that you probably know and want to explore is exactly where you will begin to flourish.“
“Being honest with who you are and how you feel is a big step into being confident in who you are and how you feel.”
“I wish someone told me that it’s okay to not be perfect all the time. I wish someone would’ve said to me, ‘go live your life unapologetically. You MATTER.”
“I believe that while life saving organizations like The Trevor Project fill gaps in mental health infrastructure, we can all do our part to destigmatize mental health conversations in our own context.”
In Alamogordo there are options for help: Crisis And Access Line Call for support and resources1-855-NMCRISIS (662-7474) Toll Free 24/7/365
NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DOH Address: 1207 8th Street Alamogordo, NM 88310Phone: 575-437-9340Fax: 575-434-6629
“I think the Recall for Couy Committee should look at the legal side of it because those signatures they get on the Mescalero Reservation, I don’t see how they could be used in a recall if I’m already been banished,”Griffin told a local radio station during an interview on July 13 that he questions the legality of the signatures gathered on the Mescalero Reservation since he was banned last fall.
Griffin apparently has forgotten or is unaware of the plight to vote for Native Americans or that there is even precedent for elected officials to be banished from stepping foot onto a reservation, but the Native American Voters still have the right to vote for or against that individual, even if the individual is banished from tribal lands represented.
Native Americans see themselves as patriots. They’re the demographic with the nation’s highest participation in military service. Yet profound differences separate some of their values from those of mainstream America. Many Indigenous people do not support the dominant society’s fiercely maintained system of racial and financial privilege of which Griffins comments allude to. Platforms with health- and community-focused planks are what interest most Native American voters per polling and Mr. Griffins absences from the district, focus on Cowboys for Trump and infatuation with the Trumpian theology don’t bold well for most Native American voters within the district.
The banishment of Couy Griffin from the Mezcalero Apache Reservation was an act, by the tribe, to get his attention. The banishment was to let him know of their displeasure in his actions as a representative in local government. Though driven by his rhetoric, the tribe’s stance of banishment is statement of his ineffectiveness as a leader of the community. The tribe clearly understands the recall is based upon his actions and potential ethics violations and not his rhetoric and as such allowed the signature drive for recall to proceed on their tribal lands.
Leaders build bridges between diverse groups and advocate for their needs. An act of banishment is a statement that he has been ineffective in representing their voice within county government if even at all.
The banishment of a political leader by a Native American tribe is not to be taken lightly and there is precedent for such actions. Couy is NOT the first politician to face a banishment and not the first to question voting rights of Native American citizens.
A most recent example of a tribal banishment is by the Oglala Sioux tribe in South Dakota, Via banishment they told the state’s governor that she was no longer welcome to access the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the largest in the country, because she signed bills that allegedly target Keystone XL pipeline protesters. The tribe’s president, Julian Bear Runner, informed Gov. Kristi Noem of the council’s unanimous decision in an open letter.
Tribal banishment is a permanent ban from the reservation, and violations are punishable by law with fines or even jail time on their lands. Tribes have sovereign rights over their lands per Federal treaties however they also participate in county and state elections. Federal law allows for what one might deem as dual citizenship the right to participate in tribal elections as per the tribes constitution and the right to participate in local, state and federal elections via rights granted to all citizens within the US constitution.
Voting Rights of New Mexico’s Native American Population:
Miguel Trujillo Sr. had been a Marine sergeant in World War II and was in the middle of getting his master’s degree from the University of New Mexico. But there was one thing he still could not do. Trujillo could not vote. In 1948, the state’s constitution barred American Indians living on reservations from participating in elections. So, that summer, the Isleta Pueblo educator waged a legal battle that culminated in a court ruling 74 years ago that won Native Americans the right to vote in New Mexico.
Even though the federal government had granted citizenship to Native Americans back in 1924, the New Mexico Constitution still barred them from voting. The state’s constitution expressly prohibited from voting “idiots, insane persons, persons convicted of felonious or infamous crime unless restored to political rights, and Indians not taxed.”
That last part referred to Indians living on reservations because they did not pay property taxes on their land. It is unclear whether Native Americans could have registered to vote if they lived outside reservations.
But the provision disenfranchised many and prompted condemnation from the President’s Committee on Civil Rights in its 1947 report. The provision did not make any sense, the committee said. That line in the constitution was written before American Indians were granted citizenship, but they were paying taxes to the state and federal government like other citizens.
Protests against this ban, the report noted, had only gained force as American Indian veterans returned to civilian life after World War II.
It was amid all of this that Trujillo went to the Valencia County Clerk’s Office in June 1948. Family have said Trujillo had grown up with the county clerk, Eloy Garley, but knew he would not be allowed to vote in any event. Sure enough, he was turned away. In turn, Trujillo went to court with the help of Felix Cohen, a former federal official who had become a prominent civil rights lawyer and was working with tribes in New Mexico.
They filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court focusing on that one strange qualifier in the state constitution. For one thing, Trujillo’s lawsuit argued, he paid plenty of taxes. No, he did not pay taxes on his land. But he paid income taxes and sales taxes. There are other voters who don’t pay property taxes, too, such as renters. But no other group has been barred from voting on the basis that they do not pay property taxes.
On Aug. 3, 1948, a panel of three judges in Santa Fe sided with Trujillo granting Native American voting in New Mexico.
“We are unable to escape the conclusion that under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments; this constitutes discrimination on the ground of race,” the court said in its ruling. The cruel irony that Trujillo had just served in the military but was denied the right to vote was not lost on the court, either. Native Americans, the court said, “have responded to the need of the country in time of war in a patriotic wholehearted way, both in furnishing manpower in the military forces and in the purchase of war bonds and patriotic contributions of that character.” “Why should they be deprived their rights to not now because they are favored by the federal government in exempting lands from taxation?” the court asked.
With that, American Indians had the right to vote and petition in New Mexico in any election for any candidate like other citizens.
And vote they do. In the most recent election voters elected a record-breaking six Native American congressional candidates to serve in the US House of Representatives. Native candidates also won dozens of races in state and local elections across the country.
In New Mexico at the state level 9 candidates ran…
WON: Anthony Allison, Navajo Nation, State House 4, Democrat
UNOPPOSED: Doreen Wonda Johnson, Navajo Nation, State House 5, Democrat
WON: Derrick Lente, Sandia & Isleta Pueblo, State House 65, Democrat
UNOPPOSED: Georgene Louis, Acoma Pueblo, State House 26, Democrat
WON: Patricia Roybal Caballero, Piro Manso Tiwa, State House 13, Democrat
WON: Shannon Pinto, Navajo Nation, State Senate 3, Democrat
WON: Benny Shendo Jr., Jemez Pueblo, State Senate 22, Democrat
WON: Brenda McKenna, Nambe Pueblo, State Senate 9, Democrat
LOST: Gertrude Lee, Navajo Nation, New Mexico Court of Appeals, Position 2, Republican
There are almost 3600 members of the Mescalero Apache tribe of which a large percentage live on the reservation and are located within Couy Griffins District. By law each have the right to sign the petition if a registered voter in the county the tribe’s people like ANYONE registered to vote in Otero County District 2 can sign the recall petition, including those registered voters on the Mescalero Reservation.
If Griffin is removed from office, the New Mexico Constitution states that Lujan Grisham may appoint a person from any political party to the seat. The appointee must be from Otero County District 2, Governor’s Office Spokeswoman Nora Sackett said.
The New Mexico Constitution is not as specific as the statement from the Governor’s spokesperson however there is precedent in appointments, and it would be politically prudent for the Governor to appoint within the district thus the statement from her spokesperson.
The Committee to Recall Couy Griffin is setting precedent in New Mexico history as there is not a record of a recall effort that has garnered this much attention nor seen the successes to date of this effort. To learn more about the recall effort visit:
Mescalero, Apache Reservation at the Chiricahua Plaza parking lot from 10 am – 4 pm
Saturday, July 17
Mescalero: Chiricahua Plaza parking lot from 10 am – 4 pm
Note: Story Revised on 7/16/21 at 6:09 pm per request the author has remove the call letters and named interviewer referenced in the story per a call request. While the record of the call is in the public airwaves we respect the request and have done so accordingly.
Today the New Mexico Supreme Court Ruled that the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin may proceed with the recall per the attached…
An effort to recall the founder of Cowboys for Trump from his public office as a county commissioner can move forward under an order of the New Mexico state Supreme Court.
In a written order Monday, the Supreme Court rebuffed an appeal from Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin and upheld a lower court ruling that said voters can circulate a recall petition. A successful petition would trigger an election vote on whether Griffin can finish his four-year term in office.
Retired military veteran Paul Sanchez and other members of the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin are accusing Griffin of using his elected county position for personal gain and a variety of other charges.
They say Griffin used his office space to solicit contributions to Cowboys for Trump that covered his personal expenses. They also are criticizing Griffin’s pursuit of travel reimbursements from taxpayers for a cross-country trip that culminated in a visit with Trump at the White House.
Griffin has called those allegations frivolous, baseless and politically motivated per his many public rebuttals. Griffin says that the Cowboys for Trump is a for-profit endeavor and as such that is not subject to financial disclosure requirements for political organizations. The state of New Mexico ruled against this assertion affirming that Secretary of State may go after him and the organization for failure to comply with New Mexico political reporting laws.
The losses continue for Griffin…
Separately, Griffin is defending himself against criminal charges in connection with the siege on the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6. Couy Griffin spent nearly three weeks in a Washington jail, after a judge released him and said she will trust Griffin to show up for trial in connection with the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol.
The U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell reversed a magistrate judge’s prior detention order that described Griffin as a flight risk. Griffin denies federal charges that he knowingly entering barricaded areas of the Capitol grounds with the intent to disrupt government as Congress considered Electoral College results even though there are photos from his own official photographer that the prosecution is basing their case on that shows otherwise.
Griffins luck continues to be bad in related to cases pending against him as witnessed by the KOB Channel 4 story showing him climbing a barricade to gain access to a restricted area of the nations capital.
The status of the initial lawsuit regarding the recall succeeded with District Judge Arrieta in proving probable cause for all 5 allegations the committee asserted. The judge he gave the committee permission to begin collecting signatures toward having a recall election.
However, as Commissioner Griffin exercised his right to a single appeal under the New Mexico Recall Act and appealed the case to the NM Supreme Court (NMSC), until today they were waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on Griffins appeal.
The committee could NOT collect any signatures until the NMSC rules.
Commissioner Griffin filed that appeal within his appropriate time limit on 18 Apr, ’21. The Recall Act required the district court that the case was filed in to hear the case within 14 days of when the committee initially filed.
It was actually 28 days from filing to the hearing. Then from when the judge issued the ruling in favor of the Recall Committee, Commissioner Griffin had 5 days to file an appeal.
Commissioner Griffin actually got 11 days to file his appeal. He filed on the last day with the New Mexico Supreme Court.
The Recall Act says that the NMSC must hear the case and rule on it “forthwith”.
Because of the way that Judge Arrieta correctly wrote his ruling, because Commissioner Griffin did file an appeal, the committee was prohibited from even collecting signatures until today’s ruling which upheld the recall initiative.
Paul Sanchez is the Chairman & Spokesperson for the Committee to Recall Couy Griffin
The committee information can be found on their Facebook Page at:
As it stands now it is not the courts but the voters that will decide if Griffin represents their best interests? The question for his district is the district better off now under his leadership on the commission that it was without him? What has his record been on lowering district poverty, bringing in livable wage jobs, improving education and securing state and federal money to enhance opportunities via grants and support to his district? The voters will decide!
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With the recent focus on Juneteenth, the public is familiarizing themselves with the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. What is recognized and we were all taught in civics classes is that the amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. That at face value is true and 2 years after passage all states recognized that thus the Juneteenth celebrations.
What we were not taught in history class or civics was the loophole. In reading this article, you will learn history but also how that loophole benefits for-profit prisons but harms counties where they are located. The reader will learn, good paying jobs promised to the public are not created in the local community due to the loophole creating exploitations and ultimately harming local communities like Otero County and Alamogordo, robbing the community of those promised good paying jobs for the local citizens.
Few of us neither realized the amendment has a loophole nor paid it attention! A big loophole, that has allowed for exploitation, that few realize that still exists today…
The amendment reads:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states on December 6, 1865, and proclaimed on December 18.
“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones. – Nelson Mandela
The passage of the 13th Amendment was seen as a successful move to migrate the nation away from slavery. But southern business owners sought to reproduce the profitable arrangement of slavery with a system called peonage, in which disproportionately black workers were entrapped by loans and compelled to work indefinitely due to the resulting debt.
Peonage continued well through Reconstruction and ensnared a large proportion of black workers in the South and harmed wealth generation of black workers of which the repercussions of generational wealth loss are felt today.
These workers remained destitute and persecuted, forced to work dangerous jobs, and further confined legally by the racist Jim Crow laws that governed the South. Peonage differed from chattel slavery because it was not strictly hereditary and did not allow the sale of people in the same fashion. However, a person’s debt—and by extension a person—could still be sold, and the system resembled antebellum slavery in many ways.
With the Peonage Act of 1867, Congress abolished “the holding of any person to service or labor under the system known as peonage”, specifically banning “the voluntary or involuntary service or labor of any persons as peons, in liquidation of any debt or obligation, or otherwise.” However, forms of it persisted especially in the deep south until the 1940’s.
In 1939, the Department of Justice created the Civil Rights Section, which focused primarily on First Amendment and labor rights. The increasing scrutiny of totalitarianism in the lead-up to World War II brought increased attention to issues of slavery and involuntary servitude, abroad and at home. The U.S. sought to counter foreign propaganda and increase its credibility on the race issue by combatting the Southern peonage system. Under the leadership of Attorney General Francis Biddle, the Civil Rights Section invoked the constitutional amendments and legislation of the Reconstruction Era as the basis for its actions.
In 1947, the DOJ successfully prosecuted Elizabeth Ingalls for keeping domestic servant Dora L. Jones in conditions of slavery. The court found that Jones “was a person wholly subject to the will of defendant; that she was one who had no freedom of action and whose person and services were wholly under the control of defendant and who was in a state of enforced compulsory service to the defendant.” The Thirteenth Amendment enjoyed a swell of attention during this period, but from Brown v. Board of Education (1954) until Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co. (1968) it was again eclipsed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, has generated more lawsuits than any other provision of the U.S. Constitution. Section 1 of the amendment has been the centerpiece of most of this litigation. It makes “All persons born or naturalized in the United States “citizens of the United States and citizens of the state in which they reside. This section also prohibits state governments from denying persons within their jurisdiction the privileges or immunities of U.S. citizenship, and guarantees to every such person due process and equal protection of the laws. The Supreme Court has ruled that any state law that abridges Freedom of Speech, freedom of religion, the right to trial by jury, the Right to Counsel, the right against Self-Incrimination, the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, or the right against cruel and unusual punishments will be invalidated under section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. This holding is called the Incorporation Doctrine.
However back to the 13th amendment and the concern of the exemption for penal labor from its prohibition of forced labor. This amendment allows prisoners who have been convicted of crimes (not those merely awaiting trial) to be required to perform labor or else face punishment while in custody. While on the surface that makes sense and does not sound like a bad thing, we must keep in mind this amendment was passed well before the idea of privatized for profit corporate run prisons.
Prison labor, or penal labor, is work that is performed by incarcerated and detained people. Not all prison labor is forced labor, but the setting involves unique modern slavery risks because of its inherent power imbalance and because those incarcerated have few avenues to challenge abuses behind bars. Free prison labor, or work that is performed voluntarily, can be a valuable activity but it becomes exploitative when there are elements of coercion, force, and threat of punishment against detainees.
The line between free prison labor and forced prison labor is difficult to define. The International Labor Organization (ILO) lists several indicators of free prison labor which, if absent, could point to conditions of modern slavery. These include the right to written consent forms, wages and working hours comparable to those of free workers, and standard health and safety measures. The ILO states that these factors must be considered “as a whole” to determine if prison labor is forced.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) discusses prison labor in its so-called Nelson Mandela Rules, which outline minimum standards by which to treat those incarcerated; rule 97 states that those incarcerated “shall not be held in slavery of servitude” and that they must be covered by the same wage, health, and safety standards as free citizens. That is very much different that the US 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
The United States, which has the world’s largest prison population, aimed to abolish slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment of 1865. But the Thirteenth Amendment echoes the ILO’s definition by allowing involuntary servitude—in the form of forced labor— “as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Meanwhile, American labor laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act exclude those incarcerated by classifying their working relationship as penal, not economic.
Incarcerated people are thus unprotected from forced labor. Activists have further pointed out that mass incarceration and racial profiling in the United States has led to African Americans being incarcerated at far higher rates than their white counterparts. With forced labor remaining legal as punishment for a crime, the legacy of slavery and racism persists in the U.S. industrial prison complex. In fact, organizers of a 2018 prison strike called their labor exploitation “prison slavery,” with those incarcerated being farmed out to local governments and companies to perform labor for just pennies a day.
The U.S. is one of several countries around the world where mass incarceration has in effect become an avenue for forced labor based with clear links to racial discrimination. Commentators have called the exemption of prison labor a “fatal flaw” in the 13th Amendment; indeed, almost immediately after its passing, states began to take advantage of it to continue to exploit black and brown communities. The practice continues to this day, with many major corporations complicit in using free, cheap, or exploitative prison labor in what has come to be known as the prison-industrial system.
As recently as this year and as close as El Paso we see where this labor is exploited to do jobs others will not do or do not want to do.
The El Paso Times reported: Low-level inmates from El Paso County detention facility work while moving bodies wrapped in plastic at one of ten refrigerated temporary morgue trailers in a parking lot of the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s office on November 16, 2020, in El Paso, Texas. The inmates, who are also known as trustees, are volunteering for the work and earn $2 per hour amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in El Paso. Texas surpassed 20,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths today, the second highest in the U.S., with active cases in El Paso now well over 30,000.
The recent surge in labor performed in prison has led to more people laboring in captivity than were enslaved 200 years ago. The surplus value that is created by the labor of prisoners takes a system that theoretically exists to protect society and turns it into one that steals the work of individuals and lowers the market value of all labor.
However, in the late 1960s and 1970s, the government increased its criminalization of dissent in America, which caused the skyrocketing of incarceration rates. Richard Nixon started his war on drugs, which was first used to crack down on Black activists. This led into the Reagan administration increasing the penalties for the possession of crack cocaine and other narcotics. Then in 1994, the Clinton Crime bill, championed by Joe Biden, resulted in the largest increase of incarcerated people in the history of the United States.
During this surge in mass incarceration, state and federal governments also started loosening the restrictions set in the 1920s and 1930s on private corporations using prison labor through the Private Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP), which was authorized by Congress in 1979. This program. which allows private industries to form partnerships with prisons to use inmate labor, is supposed to follow certain requirements, including paying a prevailing wage. However, wages under the PIECP program have been reported to be as low as 0.16 cents a day.
Over 4100 corporations use the PIECP program to profit from prison labor made available by mass incarceration. 385 of these are publicly traded, and include companies such as 3M, ACE Hardware, Amazon, Microsoft, and Northrop Grumman.
The connection between prison labor and racial discrimination is also clear in immigration detention. Immigration detainees are at particular risk of modern slavery; according to the International Detention Coalition, immigration detention tends to have extraordinarily little oversight and is “among the opaquest areas of public administration” worldwide. This lack of oversight allows for widespread human rights abuses against immigration detainees—including forced labor.
In the United States, immigration detainees, including refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants, are especially vulnerable because they are often held by private prisons. Whereas over 90 percent of the American prison population is held in state-run facilities, more than 70 percent of people in immigration detention are held in private detention centers.
Because they are for-profit and receive a fixed income from the government, these facilities are incentivized to cut costs and rely on detainees for much of their operation—paying them as little as a dollar a day.
Freedom United an organization that is fighting to change the 13th Amendment and is currently campaigning against Core Civic—the second-largest private prison and immigration detention company in the United States—which has been the target of several lawsuits for subjecting detainees who have not been charged with any crimes to forced labor, sometimes even under the threat of being sent to solitary confinement.
Per The Case Against Private Detention Facilities in New Mexico, Authors: Margaret Brown Vega, Lynne Canning, Nathan Craig, and Else Droof with contributions by Sarah Manges October 2020
In the 1990s, New Mexico witnessed one of the nation’s biggest surges in the use of private prisons, a national trend for which New Mexico was an epicenter. Privatization was intended to address overcrowding and poor conditions and accelerated when the State of New Mexico began to view private prisons as a development tool in rural areas. In New Mexico, the shift to private prisons came on the heels of the state’s worst prison riot, and one of the worst in the nation. Evidence of corruption in the state prison system, promises of reform, and cost cutting fed the private prison building boom.3
Additionally, the new facilities were built under the untested pretext that rural prison hosting would drive economic growth and create jobs. The early promises of improved conditions, cost savings, and economic development for New Mexico, however, were not realized by privatization. Department of Justice and Government Accounting Office reports show that private prisons provide almost no cost savings and what meager “savings” are achieved is accomplished by reduced staffing and lower wages both problems that have plagued New Mexico.
Otero County plays host to 2 for profit prisons – The Otero County Prison Facility and The Otero County Processing Center.
A recent study shows that Otero and Cibola counties, the two non-metro counties that host the largest number of private prison beds, do not have significantly lower unemployment rates than adjacent non-metro counties. The presence of multiple large private prisons in these counties objectively produces no meaningful change in unemployment. The majority of those employed at the two Otero County facilities live in El Paso, Texas, not Chaparral or Alamogordo, New Mexico. The employment boom that was promised when facilities such as the ones in Otero were built simply has not materialized.
In Chaparral, New Mexico advocates who visited the Otero County Processing Center spoke to individuals detained at the facility who did heavy landscaping work, laid foundation, and built a shade structure for staff, 20 performed welding, maintained, and repaired the building, and cleaned inside the facility, in addition to cooking, doing laundry, and providing haircuts.
These activities are all performed as part of the work program, in which individuals are paid $1 per day for 8 hours of work. Most if not all these tasks could easily provide much needed work for Chaparral or Alamogordo Otero County residents, but it is difficult for residents to compete with such cost-saving wages paid to detained immigrants.
The risk of incarcerated people facing forced labor is heightened dramatically during times of crisis. Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, state governments in the U.S. have relied on prison labor to produce essential medical supplies, including hand sanitizer and face masks, and stacking bodies as mentioned in El Paso. Those incarcerated face consequences for refusing to participate and typically earn less than a dollar a day, and are at high risk of infection given the low levels of sanitation and overcrowding in American prisons that makes social distancing impossible. The exploitative practices have been decried by critics as “nothing less than slave labor.”
Thus, the impact or repercussions of the 13th Amendment are even felt locally in Alamogordo and Otero County today. Those repercussions of low wage prisoners exploited by for profit prisons and doing many of the jobs that should be offered to local residence of Otero County at a living wage. But instead, what is happening is prisoners are exploited and those jobs in welding, construction and maintenance are not offered to the local citizens of Otero County and the promise of good paying jobs for the locals is lost.
Last week Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams reintroduced legislation to close the prison loophole in the 13th Amendment. We challenge the congressional leaders from New Mexico Representatives Yvette Herrell, Melanie Ann Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernandez to join the effort. We challenge New Mexico’s two Senators to lead the charge on the Senate side of the Legislature.
Why? Because it is the right thing to do, for profit prisons are exploiting the incarcerated.
Why? Because for profit prisons are exploiting the incarcerated and keeping good paying and skilled jobs away from the local citizens of Otero County and other counties in New Mexico for which these jobs should be offered.
Why? Because this is not just about civil rights, or human rights but it is about jobs in the state of New Mexico and throughout the nation that should be offered as livable wage jobs to the public for which these institutions have settled for business operations.
Author Chris Edwards,Sourced and quoted content from: MSNBC, US Constitution, Wikipedia, Freedom United, Freedom United Project, The Real News.com, The Case Against Private Detention Facilities in New Mexico, Authors: Margaret Brown Vega, Lynne Canning, Nathan Craig, and Else Droof with contributions by Sarah Manges October 2020. Oxford, Andrew. “New Mexico Trying to Recover $3.6m from Private Prison Company.” News. Santa Fe New Mexican, August 20, 2018. http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/new-mexico-trying-to[1…, Julian. “Lawmakers Want Answers from Ice, Contractor Regarding Covid-19 Outbreak at Nm Jail.” Border Report, August 18, 2020. https://www.borderreport.com/hot-topics/migrant-centers/lawmakers-want[…. El Paso Times, Alamogordo News, Prison Legal News
About Chris Edwards author ofRemoving Barriers to State Occupational Licenses to Enhance Entrepreneurial Job Growth: Out of Prison, Out of Work Paperback, speaks from the point of view of criminal justice reform and there are significant references to the impact on post incarcerated individuals of the existing framework of Occupational Licensing and how reform will assist in job creation. The proposed reforms come from a standpoint of job creation and improving entrepreneurial opportunities within California and beyond. This book is fact based with significant documentation and research and is a personal plea for reform to not only California legislators but those across the nation.
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The struggle for the heart soul and the future of the Republican party is real and is divisive. The Republican party is at one of its most difficult crossroads since its founding. Two factions are fighting for control of the party and its future. Some question rather the party has a future based on its present trajectory given the demographic shifts taking place in the US and the radicalization of Trump loyalist that have controlled the direction of the party the last 4 years.
But four years after winning the presidency, Trump and Republicans are now on the outside looking in, having lost control of the House, the Senate, and the White House. A fight to define the future of the Republican Party is playing out among a small, but influential, group of Republicans, even as Trump remains central to the party and to its identity. He keeps trying to assert his influence, but it is waning as time passes from his presidency.
The heart and soul of the party is in conflict by the two competing sets of ideology – Trumpian ideology and true conservatism. Groups and old guard party leaders like the Bushes, Cheney’s, McCains, the Lincoln Group, George Will, and others represent the old guard conservatives. What those on the outside and within are viewing is a war for the go forward path for the party.
That infighting is a war that is very visible to the outside world, and many believe the Trumpian ideologists are winning the war. Are they?
At first peak it would appear they are as they are loud, radicalized, utilizing visuals and demonstrations in radical formats, and gaining media attention. What is being fought is a war of ideology, but the tactics are changed from ideological wars of the past.
To an outsider it would appear the old guard is fighting the war using 19th Century ideals and wanting to fight a gentleman’s war verses the Trump ideologs fighting with guerilla tactics. To an outsider is almost appears and has been compared to the American Revolution.
The old guard British fought at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, using the standard tactics of war used on the battlefields of Europe. This called for large formations of men to be lined up three deep. They engaged the enemy in open fields and exchanged fire. Part of the British strategy required the use of certain battlefield weapons. The most used weapon for a British soldier during the war was consisted of Brown Bess (75 caliber 3/4 of an inch in diameter), cannons, and bayonets.
The tactics of the British were not designed to shoot down the enemy until retreat, but to break up the organized lines so your side could then march forward, in an organized and linear fashion, and charge with the bayonet. A disorganized unit cannot stand against an organized bayonet charge.
The war for the soul of the Republican party by the old guard some would argue is a fight like the British colonial fight. They are using old school tactics and trying to fight a gentlemanly war for the ideology of the Republican party.
On the other hand, we see the Trump ideologs. They are fighting the public relations war verbally, loud and in an obnoxious and rambunctious format some would say they are fighting using guerilla war tactics.
Francis Marion, otherwise known as Swamp Fox, was a Revolutionary officer during the Revolution. He is well known today as the Father of Guerrilla Warfare for introducing and bringing guerrilla fighting tactics into the war.
The British had a much greater advantage in terms of weapons, abilities, and numbers. Militias had no change against them with their lack of supplies and military experience. However, commander Francis Marion changed that by planning secret guerrilla attacks against the British. While the British troops had supplies, strength, and order, the American rebels compensated with their creativity and wits. Compared to large, fully armed armies, guerrilla groups are generally small packs of fighters. They are not equipped with any uniforms, weapons, or other useful resources; instead, they scavenge for whatever weapons they can find. They use the land around them for resources like food and shelter, whereas professional soldiers are provided with all these necessities.
The traditional fighting tactics of the time meant meeting the enemy in open field ready to battle. Marion and his men, however, knew they could not do this because they would not stand a chance against such well trained and equipped soldiers. Marion took a different approach and fought his enemy using stealth and secrecy. The British never expected these attacks because it went against the unwritten rules of war. Secret ambushes were not something anyone during the war could expect. For this reason, guerrillas could do a lot of damage to their enemy. And because the groups were always moving, it was exceedingly difficult for the enemy to catch them.
Some say that Donald Trump and his team are the guerrilla fighters in the war for the ideology of the Republican party. His team and his followers have become the master of disruption and manipulation. They learned to make up facts and to craft and spin a story on social media and if it is repeated loudly and enough then it becomes the storyline and assumed as factual by the masses.
From a romanticization of history and the ideals of the founding of the republic one would think at first glance that the guerilla methodology will win the war, and that the fight they are fighting, is just and noble, but broad public opinion is turning against the cause. The more silent majority is tiring of the hysteria, conspiracies, and lack of intellectual dialog.
An underestimated element, within the ideological fight for the soul, and go forward path of the Republican party is what most political scientists and polished politicians know, that is the party has within it the “silent majority.” What is the silent majority?
The headlines in the ideological fight for the party are crafted by those that scream loud, stage rallies, post crazed memes’, proclaiming extremist statements on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.
What is not always recognized is most of the party is made up of centrist, traditional conservatives, and independents.
During the presidential election cycle the mouthpiece of the party was the Trump ideologs.
Now, in the post Trump era that “silent majority” is becoming more and more uncomfortable with the divisive actions and speech and the nonsense of science deniers by this element as the true conservatives are working to claw their way back and save the party.
The Mitt Romney’s and Liz Cheney’s of the party are being portrayed by Trumpian ideologists as out of step with the party and out of step with the populist ideals the party represents. But are they?
The party is a party of with a history of conservative ideology. Few, of the Trump influenced leadership that now controls many of the nations’ central committees and the ideology of the party even understand the roots of the conservative movement or what true conservatism is.
Polling shows that Trump enthusiasts actually only represent fewer than 30% of register Republican voters, but their media presence makes it appear, they are the majority, versus the fact that there is a more silent responsible majority.
A history lesson on conservatism:
Conservatism is an aesthetic, cultural, social, and political philosophy, which seeks to promote and to preserve traditional social institutions. The Republican party has traditionally held the political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas.
At least that was until the Trump machine took the lead of the party. Now the fight that exists between the Trump ideology and true conservatism. But how did conservatism and its marriage to the Republican party begin?
In 1955, William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote that the purpose of his newly founded magazine National Review was to “stand athwart history yelling stop.” The phrase belongs to modern conservatism, which defies the dark, incoming tide of liberalism. Interestingly, only one of the conservative heroes mentioned in this essay, Edmund Burke (1729-1797), had the self-conscious idea that he was standing athwart the tides of history. That is one reason why he was the first truly modern conservative.
Burke looked at the French Revolution and realized that the tide of the times was flowing in the wrong direction. Before the Revolution, France had a brilliant culture and provided cultural leadership to the West. The Revolution inflicted such profound damage to the culture and social fabric of France that French society and culture never entirely recovered its former glory and brilliance. For those who cared about civilization and high culture, the French Revolution was a catastrophe.
Although Burke pronounced bitter anathemas on the French revolutionaries – who destroyed a culture in the name of abstract theory – he was sympathetic to the American Founding Fathers, who fought to preserve the rights of Englishmen. He used his influence as a member of parliament to promote conciliation with the American colonies.
When William F. Buckley burst onto the national scene in 1955, conservatism was a dead letter in American politics, as some would argue it is dying now, under the ideology of Trumpism trying to suppress it.
“Lots of people thought that it was outdated, anachronistic, prehistoric, foolish, not very intelligent,” Carl Bogus was once quoted on All Things Considered by host Guy Raz.
Bogus is the author of a biography, Buckley: William F. Buckley and the Rise of American Conservatism. He says that back in the 1950s and ’60s, there really was an established liberal elite in America, which controlled both political parties.
Buckley set out to change that. As a Yale graduate, he published a book called God and Man at Yale, which took the university to task for failing to promote Christianity and free market economics.
“He collapsed in that book religion, economics and political ideology,” producing the mix of ideas we recognize today as conservatism: free-market capitalism, support for American military actions, libertarianism, and social conservatism.
“It was Buckley who made that coalition. He held within him all … of those beliefs. He was what today we call a neoconservative, a social conservative and a libertarian.”
Building on the prestige of his first two books, Buckley founded National Review in 1955. He staffed the journal with talented intellectuals. Buckley’s and National Review’s articulation of an intellectually coherent conservatism, as well as its sharp and often witty criticism of the eccentricities and intellectual laziness of the dominant liberalism of the era, soon earned it a large audience on the right as well as massive hostility from the left. By the end of the 1950s, National Review was easily the preeminent journalistic voice of conservatism and one not easily dismissed by liberals.
Buckley and The National Review acted as gatekeepers of conservatism, excluding those ideas and groups they considered extremist, nutty, or dangerous. Among those considered unworthy of inclusion in modern conservatism were anti-Semites, white supremacists, the extremist anti-communists of the John Birch Society, and Ayn Rand and her ideology of hyper-capitalism combined with hyper-atheism. Note each of those groups were embraced into Trumpian ideology of the modern era thus the clash of the old guard Republican Conservativism verses the Trumpian ideologs of today.
Within national Republican politics, Buckley supported the 1964 candidacy of Senator Barry Goldwater, first for the Republican Party nomination (successfully) and then in the general election for the presidency (unsuccessfully). Buckley was only mildly enthusiastic about Republican Richard Nixon, initially supporting his presidency in 1969 but breaking with it in 1971, over Nixon’s pursuit of detente with the Soviet Union and Communist China and his attempt to establish a government-funded national minimum income.
(Note a government funded national minimum income is not a new Democratic nor Biden creation of socialism but was first introduced in concept by Republican President Richard Nixon.)
In 1973, Nixon appointed Buckley to the post of American delegate to the United Nations.
Buckley was an early backer of Ronald Reagan for the presidency, first in Reagan’s unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination in 1976 and then in his successful campaign for the nomination and the presidency in 1980. Buckley later wrote a book about his long friendship with Reagan: The Reagan I Knew (2008). Some view the Reagan presidency as the pinnacle of the conservative movement and that there has not been conservative leadership in this nation since and as such the Republican party has lost its way thus opening the door to Trumpian ideology due to it being a party that lost its way.
Regardless of what factions eventually take the leadership of the Republican party as it limps along to the 2022 mid-terms one this is for sure; Americans waiting for the Republican Party to return to “normal” by historical standards, waiting for “traditional” Republicans to be guided by the better angels of their nature, that party of yesterday is NOT going to happen. And if playing a waiting game to sit back watch and remain silent then that wait is going to be lengthy.
In his 2012 book “Coming Apart,” conservative sociologist Charles Murray portrays the white poor in terms he once reserved for African Americans, describing them as a socially disorganized, economically dependent, culturally deficient, and even genetically debased population. It is no coincidence that Trump’s strongest support comes from working-class Republicans who feel their whiteness no longer protects them and that is the honest root to Trumpian ideology.
What now for the GOP?
Per Joseph Lowndes, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Oregon
“In every polarized era, one or two key problems become the lens through which all others are viewed. In this Second Gilded Age, these are perhaps the twinned issues of excessive wealth and economic abandonment. Yet unlike the leaders of past populist revolts however, Trump seems less a champion of working people than a figure who confirms their debased status. Having titled his campaign memoir Crippled America, the then candidate reveled in such terms as “disgust,” “weakness,” “losing,” and “pathetic.” And of course he was the star of a reality show whose tag line was “You’re fired.”
Trump’s followers respond less to appeals to their value as producers, which in a financialized economy seems nostalgic anyway, than to brutal rage against immigrants and Muslims, who along with establishment elites are seen as the authors of their misery.
Delegitimizing elections, authoritarianism, cult of personality, white supremacy, destroying trusted institutions, ignoring the Constitution, flouting the rule of law. That is Trumpism. That is the Republican Party at present but several do hold out hope that the silent majority has about had enough from the 30% that Trump has indoctrinated and that the middle, the true conservatives the real American Patriots that get up every day go to work, raise a diverse and respectful family that those diverse patriots of the silent majority will again rise up and say, enough is enough and reassert their base of power.
Most Americans are now decades into an era of stagnant or declining wages. A Princeton study on rising morbidity and mortality rates among non-college-educated whites is merely one indicator of the physical and psychic costs of this abandonment. Yet these white middle and working-class Americans who are getting left behind are dismissed by conservative elites and thus the divide of the Republican party that allowed the opportunity for Trumpism it exist and thrive. And thrive it does primarily in rural and poor or depressed areas. Alamogordo, Mexico peaked in the 1960s and early 70’s due to the investments and technologies in Space and missile defense. Since then, it has slipped and is just of hundreds of examples of towns that were once centers of innovation, science and technology and now are strongholds of Trumpian ideology despite its progressive history.
Time and circumstance can yet move Republicans in new directions. Demographics could shift the GOP to the wayside. Time and demographic trends favor the Democrats over the next decade. But rejuvenating the party will depend on examples of leadership, vision and a base ready to reembrace conservatism’s highest ideals. There are groups trying to mobilize those conservative ideals of a proud party that represents the big tent of George Bush Jr. and the optimism of Ronald Reagan. Groups such as the Lincoln Group, Retake Republicanism and others are fighting for the soul of a GOP to ensure that demographics and extreme ideology of Trumpism to not move it to irrelevance over the next 2 decades.
In 2016, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild, whose book “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” documented her journey deep into conservative country, Louisiana, and said that a key to understanding the tea party and later Trump voters was that many felt “dishonored” and “disrespected” by those in power. They saw in Trump a warrior to battle on their behalf, someone who would bring a gun to a cultural knife fight.
But Trump’s most profound imprint on the Republican Party is in effect, in disposition, in temperament. Republicans, time and again, accommodated themselves to Trump’s corruptions; as a result, they became complicit in them. By the end of the Trump administration much of the Republican Party was animated by cultural and class resentments, gripped by fear and implicated in Trump’s brand of politics.
In some cases, Republicans have been led down strange and dark paths. For example, nearly 30% of Republicans believe the fantastical claims by QAnon that “Donald Trump has been secretly fighting a group of child sex traffickers that include prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites.” It is no surprise that with the help of powerful Republicans like Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right conspiracy theorist, was elected to the House of Representatives.
“They just legitimized a person that used tactics I would say 10 years ago, even five years ago, would have been abhorrent to the Republican Party,” Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump administration, observed. “But … they know they can’t condemn that behavior because they know the base loves it.”
The danger for the GOP is that those who hope to succeed Trump could lead the party into even more appalling places, since there are indications from focus groups that post-2020 election, a sizable group of Trump voters are more inclined to embrace conspiracy theories and they are becoming more, not less, extreme.
Importantly, there are several influential figures within the Republican Party who are determined to see the GOP move beyond Trump, and they have this argument on their side: The Republican Party at the national level has been shut out of power after a single Trump term. Today Democrats enjoy a rare double-digit lead over Republicans in party favorable ratings, and a recent Gallup poll found the largest Democratic lead in party affiliation over Republicans in nearly a decade (49% compared to 40%).
Alamogordo New Mexico and Every Depressed Community in America…
The road forward for the GOP starts with leaders and voters who show integrity, act courageously, and speak words of truth in the face of political mediocrity. Guerilla Warfare does not win political wars, it just causes dissention in the hive. Old school debate, and local activism changes the hearts and minds of neighbors with responsible dialog. It starts with us holding local political leaders accountable. Does Couy Griffin serve the best interest as a commissioner for Otero County or is there someone who has leadership, vision, and courage. Is Evette Herrell effective or will she grow into the position beyond Trumpian ideology and represent the diversity that is New Mexico? Do local commissioners have vision to build a diverse economy and expand upon local tourism and cultural opportunities within Alamogordo and Southern New Mexico? Is the Republican Party in rural America capable of embracing a solutions-based platform and lead the people or does it want to rest on its laurels and play victim? The answers to what is next for the Republican party will NOT begin in Washington, nor in a think tank in New York or at Harvard or Princeton. What is next for the Republican party begins here and now with you, me, and every concerned citizen at the local and state level and with that participation and leadership then the national party will fall in line.
The GOP was once a great party of great ideals. It still can be again, if it turns away from the ideology of white victimhood and accepts its role as a leader of a diverse multi-cultural country where every person is valued regardless of skin color, nation of origin, education level, sexual orientation and the party embraces its responsibility to plan, lead and not always do what is easy for now but what is right for future generations.
The party must turn away from the corruption of money and greed and join the effort to lead on term limits, responsible investment in infrastructure, jobs and education and turn away from social issues and yet again engage on issues of strength and fiscal power.
As a citizen are you up to the challenge of sacrifice today to show leadership for tomorrow? Republican conservatism calls for you to place the good of those around you above your personal comfort. The greatest generation did it during WWII now can you step up to the plate? Its on you to turn away ideology of ignorance and embrace the ideology of diversity, economic prosperity, and strength.
Sources: Bill of Rights Institute, Wikipedia, The National Review Archives, The Biography of Willam F Buckley, American Conservatism, Time, People, NPR, Firing Line, Duluth Tribune, The Conversation, The Desert News, Peter Wehner Ethics and Public Policy Center, The Washington Post, The Congressional Review, The White House Archives, Retake Republicanism.
Commentary by Author, Political Activist, Business Leader and Registered Republican Chris Edwards.
Chris Edwards New Mexico Bestselling Author and Executive Coach. Fitness, Sports History, Healthy Life Balance make up our core values. We focus on physical, mental, and spiritual fitness for a healthy lifestyle. We provide tips an offer A Social Perspective, Philosophy and participate in Political Activism for societal change as a Writer, Businessman, Lover of Life Experiences, Ambassador and Proponent of the Cultural Arts, Advocate in Exploring The Best In Humanity and the Celebration of Life Experience.
On the back Soledad C. Chacón climbs the New Mexico Round House and the Congressional Delegation of Rep. Deb Haaland, Yvette Herrell and Teresa Leger Fernandez
Was 2014 the flashpoint for women in executive leadership and politics for the state of New Mexico? A lot of dialog has been created about the number women in politics in New Mexico of recent but not much has been published about the pathway that led to the success of women in power. There are a few key leaders, key organizations and the path fell on the backbone or foundation of some strong and determined women to get New Mexico to where it is now. Not only is it a leader in the number of women in political power it is also the national leader of women of color in political power. Let us look at a little insight into the history of what created the pathway to female equity in New Mexico political leadership.
The history of women impacting New Mexico politics begins in excess of 100 years ago…
New Mexico during its founding had been among the more politically conservative states in the West when it came to women’s suffrage, refusing to extend women the right to vote until after the passage of the 19th Amendment. The fight for women’s suffrage in New Mexico was incremental and had the support of both Hispanic and Anglo women suffragists. When New Mexico was a territory, women only had the right to vote in school board elections. Women under the Republic of Mexico in the land that became New Mexico had more rights than women in the United States did at the time. During the time that New Mexico was a territory of the United States, women were allowed to vote in school board elections.
The New Mexico State Constitutional Convention of 1910…
In 1910, New Mexico was eligible to become a state and a state constitutional convention was held. Just before the convening of the convention, the New Mexico Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) held a public debate on women’s suffrage. This debate took place in August in Mountainair, New Mexico and featured the president of the University of New Mexico and a socialist.
Most delegates to the convention did not women participating in politics. Nevertheless, during the convention which began on October 3, librarian, Julia Duncan Brown Asplund, attended each day and petitioned delegates to provide partial suffrage for women in the right to vote in school elections Delegate Solomon Luna, uncle of prominent New Mexican suffragist, Nina Otero-Warren, and H.O Bursum were both pro-suffrage.
Delegate Reuben Heflin, a Democrat from Farmington introduced the school election provision early on during the convention. On November 8, the convention’s Committee on Elective Franchise sponsored a “motion to strike out the limited franchise for women.” Two of the delegates were very opposed to women voting even in school elections were Delegates Dougherty and Sena. Dougherty stated that he didn’t believe women in New Mexico wanted to vote and Sena claimed that voting would lead to harm for women.
After this, the Woman’s Club of Albuquerque presented a petition for partial suffrage to the convention through Delegate Stover. The provision to allow women to vote did pass and was adopted in the final draft of the constitution which was passed on November 21. However, the constitution was also written in such a way that adding other voting rights would be difficult. The constitution required that three-fourths of all voters in each county in New Mexico would have to approve any changes to suffrage in the state.
When New Mexico created its state constitution in 1910, it continued to allow women to vote only in school elections. Upon creation of the state constitution, it was deemed impossible to modify the constitution to extend the voting rights of women any further.
Women in the suffrage fight in the state of New Mexico chose to pursue advocating for a federal women’s suffrage amendment. They organized among both English and Spanish speaking groups from the Alfred M. Bergere House which is on the National Register of Historic Places. That house was the flashpoint and the origin of the suffrage movement in New Mexico. The home originally built in the early 1870s on the Fort Marcy Military Reservation became the home of the Otero Bergere family, including Adelina (Nina) Otero Warren, a noted suffragist, author, and businesswoman. Her suffrage work in New Mexico caught the attention of suffrage leader Alice Paul, who tapped Nina in 1917 to head the New Mexico chapter of the Congressional Union (precursor to the National Woman’s Party). Nina insisted that suffrage literature be published in both English and Spanish, in order to reach the widest audience. Under their leadership in galvanizing women of color to unite with Caucasian women pressure then was put on the many male New Mexico politicians who then were forced to support suffrage on a federal level. Continued advocacy on behalf of suffragists in the state allowed New Mexico to become the 32nd state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment on February 21, 1920.
The Nations First Female Statewide Office Holder A New Mexican and a Woman of Color…
In 1922, two years after the 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote, the people of New Mexico elected Soledad Chávez de Chacón (August 10, 1890–August 4, 1936) as the first woman elected to be the Secretary of State of New Mexico, and the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in the United States.
She served as acting Governor of New Mexico for two weeks in 1924, becoming the second woman to act as chief executive of a U.S. state.
The Growth Curve and Roadblock to Women In Politics…
The trend of women in political power continued to grow in New Mexico. The trends favored a growth of women in political office nationwide. In New Mexico and nationally the proportion of women among statewide elective officials had grown substantially during the 1960s to 1971. From 1971 to 1983 the increases were small and incremental. Then, between 1983 and 2000, a period of significant growth, the number and proportion of women serving statewide almost tripled, reaching a record of 92 women, constituting 28.5 percent of all statewide elected officials, in 2000. Since 2000, the numbers and proportions dropped notably. As a result, dialog began on what to do to help train and groom women for leadership and into political office.
The decline in women statewide elected officials continued following the 2010 elections. Despite the election of three new women governors, the number of women serving in statewide elective offices nationwide actually decreased by two, and fewer women, 69 held statewide offices in 2011 than in 1995 when there were 84 women.
A review of the 2010 election results in 2011 showed some major issues of concern, women held 21.8 percent of the 317 statewide elective positions nationwide. In addition to the six women governors, 11 women (four Democrat, seven Republican) served as lieutenant governors in the 44 states that elect lieutenant governors in statewide elections. This was considerably fewer than the record number of 19 women who served as lieutenant governors in 1995.
Other women statewide elected officials included: 11 secretaries of state (eight Democrats, three Republicans), seven state auditors (five Democrats, two Republicans), six state treasurers (five Democrats, one Republican), seven attorneys general (five Democrats, two Republicans), five chief education officials (two Democrats, two Republicans, one nonpartisan), four public service commissioners (three Democrats, one Republican), four state comptroller/controllers (one Democrat, three Republicans), two commissioners of insurance (one Democrat, one Republican), three corporation commissioners (one Democrat, two Republicans), one commissioner of labor (Republican), one railroad commissioner (Republican), and one public regulatory commissioner (Democrat).
In addition to the two women of color who served as governors, the women serving in statewide elective office included four African-Americans (the lieutenant governor of Florida, the attorney general of California (Kamala Harris), the state treasurer of Connecticut and the corporation commissioner of Arizona); three Latinas (the secretary of state of New Mexico, the attorney general of Nevada and the superintendent of public instruction for Oregon); and one Native American (the public regulatory commissioner of New Mexico).
The decreases of women in politics became and alarming trend not only in the US but south of the border in the country of Mexico as well. However, they took an interesting approach and made it the law of the land to engage more women into leadership…
The country of Mexico approved a political reform package that, among other things, included new measures aimed to ensure the greater participation of women in politics in 2014. The law now requires gender parity, which means that at least fifty percent of the candidates fielded by a political party in either federal or state legislative elections must be female.
Mexico had a history of encouraging the participation of women in politics and has impressive rates of participation in the federal Congress. Women in 2014 accounted for 38% of the legislators in Mexico’s lower house and 35% of the senators, rates in line with the Nordic countries (in 2014 the US, 18% of the seats in the House of Representatives and 20% of the Senate seats are filled by women). Mexico’s high rate of female participation is due in large part to previous affirmative action policies, which included several loopholes that the new law closes. Formerly, in order to comply with established quotas, women who were put on the ballot were later encouraged to cede their place to a male listed as a reserve replacement (oftentimes their husband) –the political party’s preference in the first place. Furthermore, women were included on the list to be assigned by their party under proportional representation but were so far down in the pecking order that they were rarely tapped to serve.
The new reform increased the quota requirement for candidates to 50%, with more stringent rules related to how the quota is implemented. Now, for example, the candidate and her replacement will have to be female.
Demographics favor women and most especially women of color in New Mexico…
The state of New Mexico took notice of what was happening in the country south of her border and of the trends within the United State. It was determined demographics actually work in the favor of women in key states such as New Mexico. As such women especially the Democratic leadership reviewed options in keys states such as New Mexico.
New Mexico’s population is a majority Latino or Hispanic and an additional 11 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, making it one of the few states, in which most of its residents, are non-white. The Latino population has grown over the past few decades, meaning a Chicanx or Latina candidates share a similar ethnic background now with a majority of the population.
The percentage of racial and ethnic minorities — people who identify as Hispanic, black, Asian, or “other” — in New Mexico eclipsed the percentage of white residents’ way back in 1994. California, New Mexico, and Texas were not far behind.
And by the year 2060, a total of 22 states are projected to have what demographers call, somewhat oxymoronically, “majority-minority” populations.
Four states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and New Jersey — are set to tip in the 2020s. In the 2030s, Alaska, Louisiana, and New York will follow. Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Virginia will obtain race-ethnic majority-minority status in 2040s. And Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington are on track to make it in the 2050s.
New Mexico as one of the first majority-minority states is the trendsetter into the future of politics…
New Mexico politics has also become increasingly dominated by Democrats, which may have helped some women of color, as women of color are disproportionately likely to run — and win — on the Democratic side of the ticket. But recruiting women of color has also become a higher priority for groups that aim to propel more women into elected office, like Emerge, a national Democratic organization that opened an office in New Mexico in 2005. Emerge New Mexico, claims that over the past 14 years, 350 women have gone through their six-month training program. Of those, over half have run for office and over half of the program members are also women of color. 98 Emerge New Mexico Alumnae are actively in Public Office per their 2020 data on their website to include…
U.S. Cabinet Secretary
Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, ENM ’07;
New Mexico Statewide Office
Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard Commissioner of Public Lands, ENM ’08; Chair Marg Elliston Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, ENM ’13
New Mexico Supreme Court
Justice Barbara Vigil, New Mexico Supreme Court Justice, ENM ’12; Justice Julie Vargas, New Mexico Supreme Court Justice, Statewide, ENM ’14; Justice Shannon Bacon New Mexico Supreme Court Justice, ENM Founding Board Member
New Mexico Court of Appeals
Judge Jennifer Attrep New Mexico Court of Appeals, Statewide, ENM ’15: Judge Kristina Bogardus New Mexico Court of Appeals, Statewide, ENM ’17; Judge Megan Duffy Mexico Court of Appeals, Statewide, ENM ’18; Judge Shammara Henderson New Mexico Court of Appeals, Statewide, ENM ’10; Judge Jacqueline Medina New Mexico Court of Appeals, Statewide, ENM ’14; Judge Jane Yohalem New Mexico Court of Appeals, Statewide, ENM ’18
Senator Shannon Pinto Senate District 3, Tohatchi, ENM ’20; Senator Katy Duhigg Senate District 10, Albuquerque, ENM ’11; Senator Siah Correa Hemphill Senate District 28, Albuquerque, ENM ’19; Senator Carrie Hamblen Senate District 38, Albuquerque, ENM ’15
Rep. D. Wonda Johnson House District 5, Gallup, ENM ’14; Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero House District 13, Albuquerque, ENM ’07; Rep. Dayan “Day” Hochman-Vigil House District 15, Albuquerque, ENM ’18; Rep. Debbie Armstrong House District 17, Albuquerque, ENM ’12; Rep. Meredith Dixon House District 20, Albuquerque, ENM ’20; Rep. Debbie Sariñana House District 21, Albuquerque, ENM ’16; Rep. Liz Thomson House District 24, Albuquerque, ENM ’09; Rep. Georgene Louis House District 26, Albuquerque, ENM ’10; Rep. Marian Matthews House District 27, Albuquerque, ENM Bootcamp ’19; Rep. Melanie Stansbury House District 28, Albuquerque, ENM ’17; Rep. Joy Garratt House District 29, Albuquerque, ENM ’16; Rep. Natalie Figueroa, House District 30, Albuquerque, ENM ’16; Rep. Angelica Rubio House District 35, Las Cruces, ENM ’13; Rep. Joanne Ferrary House District 37, Las Cruces, ENM ’13; Rep. Kristina Ortez House District 42, Las Cruces, ENM ’20; Rep. Christine Chandler House District 43, Los Alamos, ENM Bootcamp ’18; Rep. Linda Serrato House District 45, Las Cruces, ENM ’18; Rep. Andrea Romero House District 46, Santa Fe, ENM ’18; Rep. Tara Lujan House District 48, Santa Fe, ENM ’12; Rep. Karen Bash House District 68, Albuquerque, ENM ’18
Judge Maria Sanchez-Gagne 1st Judicial District, Div II, ENM ’16; Judge Shannon Broderick Bulman 1st Judicial District, Div III, ENM ’19; Judge Sylvia Lamar 1st Judicial District, Div IV, ENM ’15; Judge Kathleen McGarry Ellenwood 1st Judicial District, Div X, ENM ’20; Judge Catherine Begaye 2nd Judicial District, Children’s Court, ENM ’14; Judge Beatrice Brickhouse 2nd Judicial District, Div IV, ENM ’10 Judge Nancy Franchini 2nd Judicial District, Div V, ENM ’14; Judge Lisa Chavez Ortega 2nd Judicial District, Div XIII, ENM Bootcamp ’19; Judge Marie Ward 2nd Judicial District, Div XIV, ENM ’06 Judge Erin O’Connell 2nd Judicial District, Div XVII, ENM ’19; Judge Amber Chavez Baker 2nd Judicial District, Div XXII, ENM Bootcamp ’19; Judge Debra Ramirez 2nd Judicial District, Div XXIV, ENM ’15; Judge Jane Levy 2nd Judicial District, Div XXV, ENM ’17; Judge Clara Moran 2nd Judicial District, Div XXVIII, ENM ’16; udge Melissa Kennelly 8th Judicial District, Div IX, ENM Bootcamp ’19; Judge Amanda Sanchez Villalobos 13th Judicial District, Div IX, ENM Bootcamp ’19; Judge Rosemary Cosgrove Aguilar Metropolitan Court, Bernalillo County, ENM ’08; Judge Brittany Maldonado Malott Metropolitan Court, Bernalillo County, ENM ’19; Judge Courtney Weaks Metropolitan Court, Bernalillo County, ENM ’13; Judge Elizabeth Allen Municipal Judge, District 32, ENM Bootcamp ’18; Judge Cristy Carbón-Gaul Probate Court Judge, Bernalillo County, ENM Founding Board Member
Councilor Diane Gibson Albuquerque City Councilor, District 7, ENM ’11, Councilor Tessa Abeyta-Stuve Las Cruces City Councilor, District 2, ENM ’18; Councilor Johana Bencomo Las Cruces City Councilor, District 4, ENM ’18; Councilor Renee Villarreal Santa Fe County Councilor, ENM ’18; Councilor Guadalupe Cano Silver City Town Councilor, ENM ’11
Assessor Tanya Giddings Bernalillo County Assessor, ENM ’14; Assessor Linda Gallegos Sandoval County Assessor, ENM Bootcamp ’18; Clerk Linda Stover Bernalillo County Clerk, ENM Bootcamp ’19; Clerk Amanda López Askin Doña Ana County Clerk, ENM ’19; Clerk Katharine Clark Santa Fe County Clerk, ENM ’17; Clerk Naomi Maestas Los Alamos County Clerk, ENM ’20; Treasurer Nancy Bearce Bernalillo County Treasurer, ENM ’14; Treasurer Jennifer Manzanares Santa Fe County Treasurer, ENM ’19; Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty Bernalillo County Commission, District 5, ENM ’18; Commissioner Adriann Barboa Bernalillo County Commissioner, District 3, ENM ’17; Commissioner Diana Murillo-Trujillo Doña Ana County Commissioner, District 2, ENM ’15; Commissioner Alicia Edwards Grant County Commissioner, District 3, ENM ’15; Commissioner Sara Scott Alamos County Councilor, Position 1, ENM Bootcamp ’18; Commissioner Katherine Bruch Sandoval County Commissioner, ENM Bootcamp ’18; Commissioner Anna Hansen Santa Fe County Commissioner, District 2, ENM ’14; Commissioner Anna Hamilton Santa Fe County Commissioner, District 4, ENM ’16; Commissioner Anjanette Brush Taos County Commissioner, District 4, ENM ’19
Yolanda Cordova APS Board of Education, District 1, ENM ’18; Elizabeth Armijo APS Board of Education, District 6, ENM ’09; Nancy Baca CNM Governing Board, District 5, ENM ’10; Teresa Tenorio Las Cruces School Board, District 4, ENM ’18; Chris Bernstein Los Alamos School Board, District 3, ENM ’18; Mara Salcido Lovington School Board, District 3, ENM ’15; Hilda Sanchez Roswell School Board, District 4, ENM ’17; Jody Pugh Santa Fe Community College Board of Trustees, Position 3, ENM ’18; Carmen Gonzales Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education, ENM ’18; Kate Noble Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education, District 3, ENM ’17; M. Paulene Abeyta To’hajiilee School Board, ENM ’17
Flora Lucero Bernalillo County Democratic Party, Chair, ENM ’19; Laura Childress Lincoln County Democratic Party, 1st Vice-Chair, ENM ’20; Leah Ahkee-Baczkiewcz Sandoval County Democratic Party, Vice-Chair, ENM ‘18
Middle Rio Grande Conservation District
Stephanie Russo Baca MRGCD Board Director, Position 5, ENM ‘19
Soil and Water Conservation District
Teresa Smith De Cherif Valencia Soil & Water Conservation District Board Supervisor, ENM ‘14
New Mexico Women by the Numbers after 2020…
Many women are now being elected as witnessed by this training of groups like Emerge and the training paid off in strong numbers in 2020. After the election of 2020, the real story in New Mexico is, it was the year of the woman and the year of the woman of color. Women made state history by winning most seats in the New Mexico State House of Representatives. Though still in the minority in the New Mexico Senate, women set a record in that chamber, too, with 12 seats. Out of 70 State Representatives, women now make up 37 of them on the house side, and of course the Governor is a woman.
New Mexico now ranks fourth in the nation for the ratio of women to men who will hold House chamber seats in January, said Jean Sinzdak, associate director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, per the Santa Fe New Mexican publication.
New Mexico continued to make its mark in political history by becoming the first state in history to elect an all-female delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. It also made history as the first state in the continental US to elect all three members of this historic delegation as also women of color. Incumbent Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., Yvette Herrell (Republican) and Teresa Leger Fernandez (Democrat) in New Mexico’s three congressional districts were the three women elected. (Note Deb Haaland has since been appointed to the US Secretary of the Interior as the first Native American to hold that title, her seat is now up for special election) The first U.S. state to have an all women of color House delegation was Hawaii in 1990, when Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Pat Saiki (R-Hawaii) took office, however New Mexico is the first state to do so in the continental US.
Haaland is an enrolled citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna and made history in 2018 when she became one of the first Native American congresswomen. Herrell is a member of the Cherokee nation and former N.M. state representative. Leger-Fernandez is the first woman and Latina to ever represent northern New Mexico in U.S. Congress.
Our hope our future New Mexico…
Each of the proud and deserving women have a long difficult road ahead of them to represent a diverse population within New Mexico. Much has been said about the poor rankings of the state in academics, the reliance upon the oil industry to keep the state budget afloat and the many challenges with crime and poverty within the state. The men proceeding these women have not made it an easy job for them to step into. However, the editorial staff of the publication has the hope that each of these 3 elected women and the 98 others in the variety of offices showcased above will step up to the challenges ahead. Our hope is they will reach across the isle and put partisan ideology aside and work together as women with compassion and strength to craft policy that carries New Mexico forward into jobs creation for the 21st Century.
Each woman highlighted in this article is a woman of convictions and of talent to gain the position they have ascended to. Our hope is they will read this, remember the battles of suffrage fought by Julia Duncan Brown Asplund, Alice Paul, Nina Otero-Warren and others from 1910 that gained them the right to hold the office they are in today and the right to vote. Our hope is they will honor the memory of Soledad Chávez de Chacón by leading, not pandering to special interest and money like the men have for so many decades but by honestly leading and listening to the diversity of constituents to put them there.
Are you up to the challenge?
Rep. Deb Haaland and her ultimate successor, D-N.M., Yvette Herrell (Republican) and Teresa Leger Fernandez (Democrat) the baton was handed to you. Now are you listening? Will you reach across the diversity that is New Mexico and represent all of the diverse opinion’s ideas and constituencies? Will you step up and above the fray and show that women can lead differently and with more compassion than men? History will be judging you and we hope it will be a kind judgement in the years ahead!
Soledad Chávez Chacón: A New Mexico Political Pioneer. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Printing Services. Retrieved August 27, 2020, “Woman Wielding Power: Pioneer Female State, Legislators”. nwhm.org. National Woman’s History Museum. Retrieved 23 March 2015., “National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Salvador Armijo House”. National Park Service. October 8, 1976., knowledgecenter.csg.org, Vox Media- Here’s when you can expect racial minorities to be the majority in each state, Five Thirty-Eight Why New Mexico Elects More Women of Color Than the Rest Of The Country, EMERGE, Ballotpedia, Wikipedia, NCLS.org, nmlegis.gov, AP News, MSN.com, US.gov