San Antonio Express-News. Aug. 9, 2020

A step closer to telling full Latino story

A nation’s story will never be fully told if it excludes or minimizes the stories of all the people who make it a nation.

Throughout most of the history of the United States, the telling of the American story has been incomplete because the roles played by Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans were too often ignored. When they were acknowledged in textbooks, museums and popular culture, it was often done in dismissive, stereotypical fashion.

It’s telling that it hasn’t been until the 21st century that the Smithsonian, through Congress, built the National Museum of the American Indian, which opened in 2004, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016.

We may still be more than a decade from the opening of a similar museum honoring the long history and rich contributions of Latinos to the country, but we’re closer than ever thanks to delayed but welcome movement in Congress.

Last month, for the first time, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would establish a National Museum of the American Latino. It was done with bipartisan support by voice vote.

The next step would be passage of the version in the Senate, where the lead sponsor is Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. Cornyn should be commended for not only taking the lead on the Latino museum but also co-sponsoring legislation that would make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Like the Native American and African American museums, the Latino museum, when it becomes a brick-and-mortar reality, will have been preceded by years of advocacy, reports and planning, and a lot of fundraising. The time between passage of the bills that established these museums until the times they opened their doors was 15 and 13 years, respectively. The sooner the Senate passes Cornyn’s bill, the quicker we’ll see the new museum.

A 1994 report by a task force appointed by the Smithsonian accused the world-renowned museum complex of “willful neglect’ toward Latinos. It also said, “U.S. Hispanics are the only major contributor to American civilization still un-celebrated by any specific, systemic, permanent effort in this country’s major cultural institution.”

A 2011 report by the National Museum of the American Latino Commission said there was a need for a new national museum in Washington, D.C., devoted to the preservation, presentation and interpretation of American Latino art, cultural expressions, and experiences; a museum that “illuminates the American story for the benefit of all.”

As it did with the African American museum, the government will fund half of the design and construction of the 310,000-square-foot building, which will be placed prominently in the National Mall.

The history of the United States is too vast, turbulent and grand to be contained and explained in one museum. Museums devoted to exploring and revealing one culture allow the space and time for those cultures to be studied as part of the nation and how they developed apart from the nation.

At 60 million and growing, Latinos are the second-largest ethnic group in the country. Spanish was spoken before English in this land, which became the United States.

For more than 500 years, Latinos have helped define the multicultural American experience, influencing and enriching every part of society, including politics, business, music, literature, food, education, sports, the military, and movements seeking justice and dignity.

By illuminating Latino heritage and showcasing it in its rightful place on the National Mall, we make clearer the full American story.


Houston Chronicle. Aug. 5, 2020

The census counts, so Congress must make sure there’s time to make the count accurate

Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution doesn’t show up on a lot of T-shirts or tattoos, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of the law of the land.

The so-called “Enumeration clause” requires a census of all persons within the U.S. borders to be taken every 10 years to determine the reapportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the number of Electoral College votes the state can cast. The count also decides how billions of dollars in federal funding will be sent to the states over the next decade.

For Texas, the 2020 count could mean the difference between having 38 or 39 representatives pleading our case in the U.S. House, whether we have 40 or 41 votes in presidential elections and determine Texas’ share of $1.5 trillion annually in federal spending distributed by congressional districts. In addition, the census informs how business leaders, researchers, historians and many others make judgments — everything from health-care facilities to bus routes and grocery stores. They need good numbers to make good decisions.

So, while you don’t hear a lot of people shouting for their Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 rights at rallies and protests, enforcement of this section of the law will determine the proper allocation of political power and substantial financial resources until after 2030.

That’s why it’s crucial that Congress and the courts stand up to the Trump administration’s latest attempt to short-circuit the census, this time by cutting off the count a month earlier than planned.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced on Monday that it would shut down the counting process at the end of September instead of Oct. 31 in order to get the numbers to the White House by the end of the year.

Facing delays and obstacles created by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau had earlier asked Congress, which determines how the census is conducted, to move the deadline for delivery to the president to April 2021. Officials said they could not produce an accurate count without an extension.

The Democratic-controlled House voted to move the deadline but the Republican-majority Senate has failed to act.

Now, the bureau says it will attempt to do in six weeks what it already has said couldn’t be accomplished in 10 weeks.

That task is to find and count those who have not responded by mail or the internet — nearly four of every 10 households — a population that typically includes those living in poorer and minority communities, and undocumented immigrants.

The Trump administration has already tried twice to keep those immigrants out of the count, first by attempting to insert a citizenship question into the census and more recently with a Trump memorandum directing Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to exclude undocumented immigrants from the “apportionment base,” the population that’s used to determine the number of House seats a state gets in Congress.

The first effort was thwarted by the courts and the latest could be decided there as well.

The issue is especially important in Texas, where an estimated 6 percent of the population — 1.7 million people — are undocumented immigrants. An analysis by the Pew Research Center found that eliminating them from the count could be the difference between Texas gaining two House seats or three, and all that comes with that.

These immigrants work, pay taxes and contribute to the community. They should be counted. Everyone should. That’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.

The Constitution requires “actual enumeration,” which means an exact or real count of all “persons.” Congress has wide discretion in determining the means and methodology of getting that done. Over 230 years, the guidance has been to make the count as accurate as humanly possible and include everyone, not just citizens.

The obvious solution for the current problem is for the Senate to approve the deadline extension and give the Census Bureau the time it needs to overcome the challenges the pandemic has created. They can do so in the next COVID-19 package. The administration needs to stop meddling and let the bureau finish this incredibly important task.

We may not see “Article I, Section 2, Clause 3” stitched in tapestries hung over the hearth, but it’s the law of the land — right there in the Constitution.


Amarillo Globe-News. Aug 6, 2020

Recent accolades enhance prestige, affirm stature, quality of WTAMU

As the new academic year draws near for colleges, West Texas A&M University has been recently recognized for its commitment to and quality of its online offerings. The school was an early adopter in its approach to remote instruction, embracing it as an educational option more than 20 years ago.

Texas Online College, which is a ranking site focused on schools within the state, listed WTAMU at No.5 in its most affordable online college rankings and No. 7 in best value online college, according to a news release from the school.

“Rankings like this show potential students across our great state and beyond how WT provides a high-quality, economically feasible education,” Walter Wendler, WTAMU president, said in the release. “WT has been a pioneer in online education since 1997 and especially in these unprecedented times, we are committed to serving our students, whether online or on campus.”

The ratings come at an important time as many students have spent much of the summer considering their options of either returning to campus or furthering their education through online instruction. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced universities across the country to shut down in March.

What followed that action was an abrupt transition to remote classes as schools worked through the last half of the spring semester. Since then, colleges and universities have focused on how to safely reopen their campuses this fall. Classes are set to begin at WTAMU on Aug. 24, and students have the latitude to take classes online, in person or in a hybrid format of both models.

For its part, WTAMU was commended in several key areas. Texas Online College pointed to the school’s regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissioner on Colleges and its wide range of fully online degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, according to the school’s news release.

Also important in the ratings was WTAMU’s reputation as a first-generation friendly and military friendly school. Other factors playing into the ratings are the school’s ranking as one of the safest in the country and its diverse student body.

“The high quality of WT’s faculty, staff and students is of primary importance as we continue to grow and evolve into a regional research university,” Wendler said. “We firmly believe in providing a nurturing yet rigorous educational environment for learners of all levels, both on- and off-campus.”

It’s the latest in a series of recognitions for the Canyon school. In addition to the aforementioned safe-campus ranking, it’s online bachelor of nursing program was included among the top 10 in the country and its university police department was tabbed a Recognized Law Enforcement Agency for the second time by the Texas Police Chiefs Association Foundation.

“We are immensely proud of these recent honors,” Dr. Neil Terry, university provost and executive vice president, said in the release. “In a rapidly changing world, these accolades show that WT is ready for whatever comes our way – and that we are making sure our students are just as prepared.”

Likewise, we congratulate West Texas A&M on these honors in the competitive world of higher education. They are additional indicators that the school is indeed something special – with an impact across the Panhandle and beyond.