Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Senators reach bipartisan compromise on gun violence bill backed by Texas Sen. John Cornyn

This is something to track since at least some progress may occur, potentially saving lives (see earlier post on gun-related deaths and suicides in the U.S.) The bill making its way through Congress titled, the "Bipartisan Safer Communities Act’’ would strengthen existing background checks for young firearms buyers, with more sellers being required to conduct them while stiffening penalties on gun traffickers. States would also get added school safety and mental health support. 

Members of Congress are currently debating the proposed $750 million that would go to the 19 states and DC that already have what's termed, “red flag" laws that make it easier to take away peoples' firearms in the event that they get judged as "dangerous," with other states getting violence-prevention-program support. This not only sounds commonsense to me, but a minimal investment considering the vast need for resources across the U.S.

Also, greater than $2 billion will go toward mental health services at schools so that they can hire and train staff, together with $300 million for school safety improvements.

This link will help you know who represents you in Congress. It only takes a minute to reach out to them to let them know what you think.

-Angela Valenzuela

Senators reach bipartisan compromise on gun violence bill backed by Texas Sen. John Cornyn

The legislation would toughen background checks for young people and provide money to improve school safety and mental health initiatives, among other provisions.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks with a reporter on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 9, 2022.Patrick Semansky/AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate bargainers reached agreement Tuesday on a bipartisan gun violence bill, potentially teeing up final passage by week's end on an incremental but landmark package that would stand as Congress’ response to mass shootings in Texas and New York that shook the nation.

Lawmakers released the 80-page bill nine days after agreeing to a framework for the plan and 29 years after Congress last enacted major firearms curbs. It cleared an initial procedural hurdle by 64-34, with 14 Republicans joining all 48 Democrats and two allied independents in voting yes. That strongly supported a prediction by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., of approval later this week. Passage by the Democratic-led House could follow quickly.

Though Republicans blocked tougher restrictions sought by Democrats, the accord marks an election-year breakthrough on an issue that pits the GOP's staunch gun-owning and rural voters against Democrats' urban-centered backers of firearms curbs. That makes it one of the most incendiary culture war battlefields in politics and a sensitive vote for some lawmakers, particularly Republicans who might alienate Second Amendment stalwarts.

The legislation would toughen background checks for the youngest firearms buyers, require more sellers to conduct background checks and beef up penalties on gun traffickers. It also would disburse money to states and communities to improve school safety and mental health initiatives.

Aides estimated the measure would cost around $15 billion, which Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, the lead Democratic bargainer, said would be fully paid for.

Resolving one final hurdle that delayed the accord, the bill would prohibit romantic partners convicted of domestic violence and not married to their victims from getting firearms. Convicted abusers who are married to, live with or had children with their victims are already barred from having guns.

The compromise prohibits guns for a person who has “a current or recent former dating relationship with the victim.’’ That is defined in part as one between people ”who have or have recently had a continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature." An offender’s ability to own a gun could be restored after five years if they’ve not committed another serious crime.

On another late dispute, the bill would provide $750 million to the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have “red flag" laws making it easier to temporarily take firearms from people adjudged dangerous, and to other states with violence prevention programs. States with “red flag” laws that receive the funds would have to have legal processes for the gun owner to fight the firearm's removal.

Momentum in Congress for gun legislation has a history of waning quickly after mass shootings. Lawmakers are scheduled to begin a two-week July 4th recess by this weekend.

The legislation lacks far more potent proposals that President Joe Biden supports and Democrats have pushed unsuccessfully for years, derailed by GOP opposition. These include banning assault-type weapons or raising the minimum age for buying them, prohibiting high-capacity magazines and requiring background checks for virtually all gun sales.

Yet after 10 Black shoppers were killed last month in Buffalo, New York, and 19 children and two teachers died days later in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats and some Republicans decided that this time, measured steps were preferable to Congress’ usual reaction to such horrors — gridlock.

Murphy said that after Buffalo and Uvalde, “I saw a level of fear on the faces of the parents and the children that I spoke to that I’ve never seen before.” He said his colleagues also encountered anxiety among voters “not just for the safety of their children, but also a fear about the ability of government to rise to this moment and do something, and do something meaningful."

This bill, Murphy said, would “save thousands of lives." Before entering the Senate, his House district included Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six staff members perished in a 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Top GOP bargainer Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said of the pact, “Some think it goes too far, others think it doesn’t go far enough. And I get it. It’s the nature of compromise."

But he added, “I believe that the same people who are telling us to do something are sending us a clear message, to do what we can to keep our children and communities safe. I’m confident this legislation moves us in a positive direction."

In a positive sign about its fate, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voiced his support, calling it “a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”

The National Rifle Association, which has spent decades derailing gun control legislation, expressed opposition. “It falls short at every level. It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners," the gun lobby group said.

It seemed likely a majority of Republicans — especially in the House — would oppose the legislation.

Underscoring the backlash GOP lawmakers supporting the pact would face from the most hard-right voters, delegates booed Cornyn at his state’s Republican convention in Houston Saturday as he described the proposal.

In another measure of conservative sentiment, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, tweeted that the bill “ignores the national crime wave & chips away instead at the fundamental rights of law abiding citizens.” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a possible White House contender, said it would “restrict the freedoms of law-abiding Americans and put too much power in the hands of politicians and political officials.”

The measure will need at least 10 GOP votes to reach the 60-vote threshold major bills often need in the 50-50 Senate. Cornyn told reporters that he expected at least 10 GOP votes for the measure.

What’s uncertain is whether passage would mark the beginning of slow but gradual action to curb gun violence, or the high water mark on the issue. Until Buffalo and Uvalde, a numbing parade of mass slayings — at sites including elementary and high schools, houses of worship, military facilities, bars and the Las Vegas Strip — have yielded only stalemate in Washington.

“Thirty years, murder after murder, suicide after suicide, mass shooting after mass shooting, Congress did nothing," Murphy said. “This week we have a chance to break this 30-year period of silence with a bill that changes our laws in a way that will save thousands of lives.”

The bill would require that federal background checks for gun buyers age 18 to 20 include examination of the purchaser's juvenile record. That could add up to seven more days to the current three-day limit on background checks.

The suspects in the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were both 18 years old, a profile that matches many recent mass shooters.

There would be hundreds of millions of dollars to expand community behavioral health centers, telemedicine visits for mental specialists and train first responders to handle people with mental health issues. More than $2 billion would be provided to hire and train staff for school mental health services, including $300 million to improve school safety.

Congress’ prohibited assault-type firearms in 1993 in a ban that expired after a decade, lawmakers’ last sweeping legislation addressing gun violence.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., speaks during a rally near Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2022, urging Congress to pass gun legislation.Susan Walsh/AP


Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

An average of 321 people shot every day in our country: Demand Passage of the ‘‘Bipartisan Safer Communities Act"

It's clear that we need to do more than hope and pray for the victims of gun violence. We also desperately need to address gun violence policy in this country. Check out these statistics from the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence. They document an average of 321 people shot every day in our country— including 42 murders (approx. 15,343 annually) and 65 suicides (approx. 23,891 annually)According to, gun violence is a leading cause of death for children. It used to be car accidents.

Just last week here in Austin, Texas, police received an anonymous tip of someone who was planning to commit a mass shooting at a local park. Thankfully, police arrested him but in the meantime, others like him enjoy ready access to guns.

We must all reach out to whoever represents us in Congress and demand that they pass the ‘‘Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.’’ Go this link to find out who represents you and reach out to them. It only takes a minute.

If you and they are in Texas, I would encourage you demand a special legislative session so that lawmakers can legislate. It'll get caught up in the din of the regular legislative session that begins in January, competing with other bills and conceivably getting minimized as an issue in the process.

These statistics are horrific, with untold trauma impacting the lives of so many not only at this very moment, but for generations to come. Life didn't use to be this way and we should not expect this as "normal," particularly for an issue that is abundantly amenable to policy change, including short- and long-term solutions. 

-Angela Valenzuela



Every day, 321 people are shot in the United States. Among those:

  • 111 people are shot and killed
  • 210 survive gunshot injuries
  • 95 are intentionally shot by someone else and survive
  • 42 are murdered
  • 65 die from gun suicide
  • 10 survive an attempted gun suicide
  • 1 is killed unintentionally
  • 90 are shot unintentionally and survive
  • 1 is killed by legal intervention*
  • 4 are shot by legal intervention and survive
  • 1 died but the intent was unknown
  • 12 are shot and survive but the intent was unknown


Every day, 22 children and teens (1-17) are shot in the United States. Among those:

  • 5 die from gun violence
  • 3 are murdered
  • 17 children and teens survive gunshot injuries
  • 8 are intentionally shot by someone else and survive
  • 2 children and teens either die from gun suicide or survive an attempted gun suicide
  • 8 children and teens are unintentionally shot in instances of family fire — a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home resulting in injury or death


Every year, 117,345 people are shot. Among those:

  • 40,620 people die from gun violence
  • 15,343 are murdered
  • 76,725 people survive gunshot injuries
  • 34,566 are intentionally shot by someone else and survive
  • 23,891 die from gun suicide
  • 3,554 survive an attempted gun suicide
  • 492 killed unintentionally
  • 547 are killed by legal intervention
  • 1,376 are shot by legal intervention and survive
  • 347 die but the intent was unknown
  • 4,471 are shot and survive but the intent is unknown
  • 547 women are killed by their husband or male dating partner**

Friday, June 17, 2022

Commemorating Juneteenth 2022 in Austin, Texas

According to Tribeza, there are 8 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth in AustinJuneteenth became a federal holiday when President Joe Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021 under the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.

It had nevertheless been celebrated annually on June 19th in Texas and throughout different parts of the country since 1866. It commemorates the moment in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger landed with his troops on Galveston Island, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation enacted by the federal government two years earlier on January 1, 1863. It was at this point that Texas' pro-slavery laws got nullified. 

As you can read from this earlier post, it gets celebrated in Mexico, too, as a key destination for the Underground Railroad. In this vein, also read this pertinent piece published by National Endowment for the Humanities authored by Martin Kohn titled, "South to Freedom: The Underground Railroad also led to Mexico."

Also, as previously posted, on Saturday, June 25th at 3 pm, a task force consisting of the Save Palm School AllianceLa Raza RoundtableTejano Genealogy Society of AustinAcademia Cuauhtli, and Martha Cotera are hosting Dr. Maria Hammack who is delivering a presentation at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center based on her doctoral dissertation research on the Texas underground railroad. Her presentation is titled, "Luchas y Libertad (Struggle and Liberty): Slavery and Freedom, Central Texas and the Borderlands."

The piece below in The New Yorker on gifted artist Elizabeth Colomba honors Juneteenth by featuring her as an artist who paints "Black bodies into historically white spaces." As you can read yourself from her Wikipedia entry, she creatively addresses the erasures of Black women in 19th century art history. 

Happy Juneteenth, everybody!

-Angela Valenzuela

#Juneteenth #blacklivesmatter #BLM #ATX

Elizabeth Colomba’s “157 Years of Juneteenth”

The artist discusses Harlem and the necessity of painting Black bodies into historically white spaces.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Increasing College Enrollment among Hispanic Men by Gustavo A. Mellander, Hispanic Outlook, June 2022

Check out this important update by Gustavo A. Mellander, published in the June 2022 issue of Hispanic Outlook, to what has actually been a great disparity in college enrollment between Latina females and Latino males. This should not be taken to suggest that enrollment for either group is anywhere near parity.

I am nevertheless happy to see my colleagues' Victor Saenz and Emmet Campos Project MALES, get mentioned as a contributing to an enrollment increase among Latino males. Project MALES co-founder, Dr. Luis Ponjuan, a member of the Texas A & M faculty, deserves a shout-out, too.

I know first hand how much work goes into their efforts such that these are hard-won successes. Every student counts with small victories becoming big ones even as more needs to get done to touch many more lives.

Thank you Victor and Emmet for your many years of dedication and hard work to bring greater equity and fairness to college access for Latino males and men of color, generally. 

Looking forward to this year's Texas Male Student Leadership Summit. Congratulations for this recognition! Felicidades!

-Angela Valenzuela


Increasing College Enrollment among Hispanic Men

I have reported on the amazing higher education successes of Hispanic women. They continue to outperform Hispanic males.

The success of Latinas is not at the expense of Latino males. Latino males are simply not keeping pace with the accelerated pace of Latinas. Time to change.

Telemundo characterized Latinas as “The Unstoppable Women.” They are wonderful role models for young girls. That’s the good news.

The bad news, which is disheartening, is that many Hispanic males are not finishing high school and not applying to college; many who do attend – drop out. Most never return. That represents an enormous waste of individual and national talent.

Why Do Hispanic Males Drop Out?

Absent Latinos are part of a national trend. Fewer males, regardless of background, are attending college. The reasons are legion and complex.

Young Latinos are not dumb, nor do they lack ambition. They appreciate the value of education as much as any other group. Many want to go to college.

Nevertheless, they drop out for several reasons. Among them are sub-standard schools, a lack of role models, and the absence of motivating mentors. Low-income family circumstances also lead many young Latinos to seek employment as soon as possible. That’s the expectation, the unfortunate reality.

Young Latinos feel a pressing obligation to help their families. Going to college directly from high school will not immediately help their family, while getting a job will.

Some join the military, where they earn college tuition benefits. That’s a clear indication that they appreciate the value of a college education and want to attend.

Needed changes

It is clear that attitudes and practices have to change. These changes must begin in families and communities first. Boys, as well as girls, should be encouraged by everyone to go to college. It should be an expectation, as it is among many in America.

Colleges should prioritize recruiting Hispanic males.

Since male students feel obligated to earn money, jobs could be created on campuses for Hispanic male students. They can then help their families as they work their way through college. With careful planning, it is possible.

Successful recruitment and graduation programs

Many institutions are addressing the issue. Focused mentoring programs between Latino college students and junior high school students have produced good results. I thank Dr. Lisa Alcorta, Senior Vice President, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, for her assistance in identifying successful programs. I list some outstanding ones.

University of Texas, Austin

In 2010, Dr. Victor B. Sáenz, UT-Austin, and Dr. Luis Ponjuan, Texas A & M University, addressed the problem by launching a series of initiatives to recruit and graduate more Latino men. Their pioneering efforts, presently under the supervision of Dr. Emmet Campos, at UT-Austin, have been hugely successful.

I highlight two ongoing programs.   

MALES – Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success

Project MALES, in collaboration with the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color, has established multiple longstanding partnerships with Texas school districts and higher education institutions.   

This research-rich initiative leverages social capital among males to create a stronger college-going culture among male Latinos.

Recognizing that males have to be “reached” early on, a “near-peer” mentoring philosophy was fashioned to meld university students with middle school and high school male students.

That interaction promoted long-term bonds of friendship and confidence, which has encouraged youngsters to go to college. It has been very successful.

This Mentoring Program has been adopted by several colleges in Texas. Each is adapting it to their specific realities. UT -Austin “regularly provides guidance and support to other institutions that are considering similar efforts.” Dr. Sáenz graciously offered similar assistance to readers of Hispanic Outlook on Education.

The Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color

This consortium is a network of K-12 and higher education institutions that focuses on increasing post-secondary completion rates for that cohort.

The partners representing various sectors work to implement and sustain effective research-based policies and programs.

Although created specifically for Texas institutions, some programs are available to others, including their signature event, the Texas Male Student Leadership Summit. Now in its 9th year, it is hosted every August at UT-Austin. Hundreds of young men and representatives from school districts, community colleges, and universities will participate this year on August 11-12.1

CUNY-Brooklyn College

Across the nation, faced with low male enrollments, Brooklyn College launched the Black and Latino Male Initiative.

Its goal is to increase, encourage, and support the inclusion and educational success of students from “groups severely underrepresented” in higher education. Brooklyn College is committed “to educating immigrants and students from diverse backgrounds.”2 

University of Arizona

An initiative dubbed MASCulinity serves “young men from minority, first generation, and low-income backgrounds.” Positive changes have been generated through multiple partnerships on and off campus. The initiative includes:

•   the Young Men's College Conference, which helps high school students plan their future; Coachable, a  high school summer transition program for young men; 

•   Project SOAR: “My Brother’s Keeper”, which mentors middle school males by exploring cultural, social and environmental factors affecting them, with the aim of enhancing academic achievement and creating pathways to higher education; and

•   100% Engagement - Student Coordinators of Masculinity Initiatives, which affords opportunities to assume leadership positions on campus and with community partners.3

Bottom Line

Hispanic males must be motivated and supported so that more attend college and graduate.

Successful projects invariably include reaching out to pre-high school students. It’s too late to wait until they are Juniors.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Successful programs already exist at several colleges. They are willing to share their experiences.

Family perceptions and expectations must change. All children, males and females, should be encouraged to go to college. The financial constraints young men feel must be resolved.

The imperative, overarching goal is for both Latinos and Latinas to go to college and to graduate. Successful pathways already exist. ¡Manos a la obra! •


1- For further Consortium information see:

To encourage others, I list pertinent websites:


2- See: E.

3- Rudy McCormick, Director, Early Academic Outreach Programs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Uvalde Strong: A Community Comes Together to Heal by Ricardo Romo, Ph.D Jun 12, 2020

Such a beautiful and touching recent reflection by Dr. Ricardo Romo on his and his wife, Harriett's, visit to Uvalde. The library is an excellent place to center a lot of resources for the children.  Go to his earlier piece titled, "Latino Children Benefit From Uvalde’s Public Library," to learn more about his advocacy and ways you can support the families and community.

For ease, here is an image with QR codes that will allow you to make a contribution.

-Angela Valenzuela

Uvalde Strong: A Community Comes Together to Heal

Ricardo Romo, Ph.D Jun 12, 2020

Time can be the friend or the enemy of grief. We often hear that time will heal and that all things will pass. I wondered if that is true as I walked through the Uvalde Memorial at the town's main plaza.  It seemed that time stood still for those who came to pay respects that afternoon in 102-degree Texas summer weather. Everyone, including me, moved slowly and emotionally among the 21 crosses with names and tributes to the murdered students and teachers of Robb Elementary. Many who brought flowers and stuffed animals to the memorial that afternoon came from other places. My drive to Uvalde from San Antonio took less than two hours. The return trip seemed to be so much longer. 

Uvalde Memorial Plaza. Photo by Ricardo Romo 

My wife Harriett and I went to Uvalde Saturday, June 11, days after the horrific events of  May 24, 2022. We had wanted to go sooner, but we were told by friends who lived there that the town was overwhelmed by reporters, police officers, and visitors from out of town related to those killed. The streets were crowded with barricades still present around the school and near the town square. 

What brought us to Uvalde that Saturday was a food distribution event by the San Antonio Food Bank.  Harriett is on the Board and volunteered to help. When we arrived early that morning, the lines of cars were long for the 10 am opening. Uvalde is a poor community and many do not have the funds to feed their families. Cars drove by slowly, some waiting for two hours as the food was handed out to local families and the elderly. 

San Antonio Food Bank in Uvalde. June 11, 2022. Photo by Ricardo Romo 

We were also in Uvalde that weekend because of our efforts to assist El Progreso Memorial Library with its resources and summer programs. I am honored to be the Lead Volunteer for the Memorial Library fundraising campaign which began this month following the tragic events of May 24. I noted in an earlier newsletter that the children of Uvalde would be spending more time in the library with schools closing.  My generation and several after me have always considered schools safe havens.  Today the parents of children from Robb Elementary do not plan for their children to attend summer school, or perhaps even enroll this coming fall. Who can blame them.

Memorial window to Uvalde's children killed May 24th. Photo by Ricardo Romo 

At the Memorial Library, we met with our friend Dr. Mendell Morgan, Director and Head Librarian, and several library board members.  We learned of the pressing need to provide more learning activities for the young children of Uvalde. Many of the children who come to the library are bilingual, some are monolingual [Spanish only] and need literacy instructions and tutoring. Many of the books that have been donated recently are bilingual, which is a great benefit to children and parents. The library is receiving offers of assistance from several retired educators to set up literacy classes and mentoring opportunities. 

El Progreso Memorial Library. Photo by Ricardo Romo 

The library’s strong internet connections are a tremendous help to children who do not have computers in their homes or whose homes do not have access to the internet. The library is also known for its creative programs and innovative incentives encouraging children to read.  Bright painted bicycles lined up in a row inside the library serve as a reminder that children in different age groups who read the most books in the summer reading program would be rewarded with a bike prize. The librarians have set aside a table with free books for children and families who need reading resources in their homes. In the staff section of the library, thousands of books lay stacked on the floor, new donations from local and non-residents alike. As we watched, amazed at the generosity of so many, a pickup truck with 12 large boxes of books arrived to deliver more books.  The staff is both overjoyed and overwhelmed with the donations and the work before them to process the books, place them on the shelves, and properly thank the donors.  

Free books are offered by  El Progreso Memorial Library. Photo by Ricardo Romo 

The children we saw at the library on our visit represent Uvalde’s future. The next generations of educators, city and state officials, political representatives, lawyers, and medical providers are checking out books this summer at El Progreso Library. We owe the children of Uvalde great reading opportunities. Reading leads to learning and knowledge as well as healing. The healing from the tragic events at Robb Elementary School will be ongoing for years, maybe even decades. But we can do something for Uvalde’s children now. If you have extra children's books on your shelves or wish to donate to assure that an ample supply of books is available for children this summer, do so now.

Story Hour at El Progreso Memorial Library. Photo by Dr. Mendell Morgan.

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