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June 26, 2014

Host: Richard Ruelas

Arizona's Congressional Primary Races

  |   Video
  • Arizona Republic congressional reporter Rebekah Sanders provides an update on how the primary election races for Arizona’s congressional seats are shaping-up.
  • Rebekah Sanders - Journalist, Arizona Republic
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, congressional, primary, races, update, politics,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: The Arizona primary is two months away. Here to talk about what's happening in the Arizona congressional races, particularly the race to replace congressmen Ed pastor, is Rebekah Sanders, reporter with "The Arizona Republic," my colleague over there. Subscribed on AZcentral.com; we should get that out of the way. And Rebekah Sanders, if that is your real name, because who knows anymore with all the stuff going on in this race.

Rebekah Sanders: This race is all about names.

Richard Ruelas: We should start with Cesar Chavez.

Rebekah Sanders: Which one?

Richard Ruelas: First of all, did he go by Cesar or Caesar? How did he pronounce it?

Rebekah Sanders: That's a great question. I can't quite remember.

Richard Ruelas: How did we find out who he was? You looked throughout campaign filings and suddenly you see the name Cesar Chavez and you figure this cannot be the famed labor leader.

Rebekah Sanders: Right.

Richard Ruelas: Where do we go from there? How do you get to knock on this guy's door?

Rebekah Sanders: When Ed pastor announced he was retiring after decades in Congress, one of the names that popped out as filing for this race was Cesar Chavez. And clearly in this very largely Hispanic district, that name would carry a lot of weight, you know, no matter who owns that name. Even if it’s not the civil rights leader who’s deceased, it would it still ring bells with voters. So I started questioning who this was. And it was just a lot of digging, and then eventually a tip that we figured out who this really was.

Richard Ruelas: Who is he really?

Rebekah Sanders: His former name is Scott Fistler, and he was a Republican who ran in the same race two years ago as well as city council last year, and then very politically savvy, and decided that he was going to change his name and party affiliation to have a better shot.

Richard Ruelas: Is this fun for him? Did he think he could actually win? Was he trying to be a gadfly? A distraction? Did you get a sense of why he might be doing this?

Rebekah Sanders: I think that he sincerely believed he wasn't going to be found out because I was the first and only reporter to actually talk to him and get him on the phone before we had the story out there. And he said -- He hung up on me when I essentially laid out to him that I knew who he was.

Richard Ruelas: Hey, Scott, he didn't like that.

Rebekah Sanders: That's right. I think, though -- I think it's coming from a genuine place of his wanting to have a meaningful place in the world, honestly. He's a disabled military veteran who is unemployed, and I think he saw this as a way that he could get a better leg up in the political process, and maybe gain some supporters.

Richard Ruelas: To at least be seen -- he wasn't doing this in a mean-spirited way.

Rebekah Sanders: I don't think it was mean-spirited at all. And in fact, I think he was a little bit caught off guard by the negative blowback.

Richard Ruelas: And again, I think it's been made sport of, but the hearing, the court hearing, because we had the grandson of the labor leader taking him to court to get him off the ballot. The hearing was very emotional, right?

Rebekah Sanders: Right. It was kind of incredibly surreal scene to have Chavez versus Chavez. And the Cesar Chavez, the candidate representing himself, going up on the witness stand and essentially cross examining himself because he didn't have the funds to hire an attorney, and winging it essentially, and breaking down in tears on the stand as he talked about the military service of his family. And kind of making the case that I'm just trying to do my duty to my country, I'm not really trying to hurt anybody. But of course his opponents in the race and also many political observers felt like, yeah, but this is a pretty cynical way to participate in the political process.

Richard Ruelas: Had he not been removed from the ballot, do you think there was -- Is this race tight enough he would have been maybe a difference maker?

Rebekah Sanders: That was another one of the reasons that I started really trying to dig into this guy's background, because it's probably going to be such a close race. This is probably going to come down to Ruben Gallego, former state lawmaker, and Mary Rose Wilcox, both very well-known strong campaigns. They are going to be trying to knock each other out, and if the vote between them is very small, anybody taking votes away could make a difference.

Richard Ruelas: And the other name game was in that race too. What did -- What did Mary rose think she would accomplish with the Ruben Gallego thing? Was there something there at the root of it, by questioning his name change?

Rebekah Sanders: That's right. So Mary Rose Wilcox had a bit of a campaign stumble recently when she filed a lawsuit that essentially sought to get Ruben Gallego off the ballot or, at least, to modify his name on the ballot by saying he hadn't legally changed his name. In fact, he had, and when this lawsuit was filed, it gave him a platform to not only show that he had followed the rules, but to tell this story of why he dropped his last name, because it was his father’s who abandoned the family, and he wanted to take on his single mother's last name instead, because it was more representative of him.

Richard Ruelas: Now, Mary Rose Wilcox is an accomplished politician, she's been in office, public life, do we think or did she say that she didn't know why he changed his name? Was this something she didn't ask or vet, or --

Rebekah Sanders: It's an open question how gettable this information was. When Gallego went to court to change his last name, the clerk who was filing the paperwork in fact misspelled his last name. And so the search online does not pull up his records.

Richard Ruelas: So if Mary Rose thought he was trying to hide something, the online records themselves were something she couldn’t access because she didn't know where they were.

Rebekah Sanders: Probably. Although the Gallego campaign argues that with greater due diligence and deeper research, they should have found it and that the Wilcox campaign was sloppy. That remains to be interpreted.

Richard Ruelas: I guess at some point, because just like we did with Scott Fistler, a reporter might have asked, someone from the Wilcox campaign might have even asked Ruben himself why he changed his name. I don't know whether candidates don't ask that of each other, but some way to find out what it truly was. It seemed like he was able to run with this pretty well that day it broke.

Rebekah Sanders: What I think about in this campaign tactic is should they have seen that the potential blowback was probably greater than the potential benefit of doing this? Although, if they had been able to get Gallego off the ballot, that would have been huge. It would have essentially ended the race. So it was pretty tantalizing to try and, you know, make this move. But ultimately, it did not turn out the way they had hoped.

Richard Ruelas: Maybe it would have been worth it. Eventually, we'll get down to issues in this race.

Rebekah Sanders: I hope not.

Richard Ruelas: More fun to do the names.

Rebekah Sanders: Way more fun.

Richard Ruelas: Rebekah Sanders, we’ll follow the coverage on "AZ Central" and "The Arizona Republic." Thank you for joining us.

Rebekah Sanders: Thank you.

Good Things Grow

  |   Video
  • The Roosevelt School District is taking the classroom outdoors in the form of a community garden and orchard. Lawrence Robinson, Roosevelt School District governing board member talks about the project.
  • Lawrence Robinson - Governing Board Member, Roosevelt School District
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, community, garden, project, school, students, classroom, outdoors,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: The Roosevelt School District is taking the classroom outdoors in the form of a community garden and orchard. Lawrence Robinson, a Roosevelt School District governing board member, is here to talk about the project. But first, yesterday, we have to address, you were at a news conference talking about John Huppenthal, tell us briefly what you said.

Lawrence Robinson: Absolutely, John Huppenthal represents all of our public schools throughout the state. And I along with Lisa Graham Kegan, Michael Kelly, Danny Ortega, other education leaders in our state said that we really need to draw the line on his comments that really are bigoted and have no place in terms of the upper echelon of leadership in education in this state. If you're going to talk about Mexican-Americans and other students and the poor in the way that he does, then I think it disqualifies him from really representing their interests in the public school classrooms.

Richard Ruelas: Speaking of public school classrooms, we're talking about growing trees. How nice.

Lawrence Robinson: Growing trees is a much better topic. And actually really a much more productive way to guarantee student success.

Richard Ruelas: Explain that. Explain what planting a tree does to help a student out.

Lawrence Robinson: I saw earlier on your program today you highlighted Dolores Huerta, and she is one of my heroes, and one of the heroes I think of this nation. And it's because she organized folks who often times worked with their hands in the fields and the orchards themselves to give their kids a better life. Of course, you know that was the history of south Phoenix. We used to have orchards lining the streets along Baseline and Southern Road. I remember as a child going along and just smelling the fruit trees along Baseline, and we've lost a lot of that heritage. So what we're trying to do with Good Things Grow is bring that heritage back into the classroom and really outside of the classroom. We're planting orchards at every one of our Roosevelt School District schools and we’re also doing it at our Wellness Center, about 10th Street and Baseline. And with those outdoor orchards, we're taking stem education, science, technology, engineering, and math outdoors. So we're letting our kids get their hands dirty and letting their parents get their hands dirty along with them to learn about the concepts they normally only learn about in the classroom.

Richard Ruelas: What kind of things are involved? I mean again, you think of tree goes in ground, hose -- you're trying to add engineering, science, technology?

Lawrence Robinson: Of course. Of course. Photosynthesis, responsibility, what varieties of trees we're planting that grow in the desert that take very little water to sustain. The concepts of nutrition that go along with that, what we feed our bodies feeds our minds. It's really looking at the holistic concepts of learning sustainability -- something that's an advantage in south Phoenix and in Arizona. It's one of those Cs that we always talk about, really giving the kids a different vantage point to learn about science and nutrition.

Richard Ruelas: What is the status of the project now? I know you have it -- It's not in all the schools yet. You’re getting ready to plant. You're raising money at Good Things Grow as a nonprofit to try to get this going.

Lawrence Robinson: Yes. Good Things Grow, I think it's ‘.com’ or ‘.org.’ I'm a bad publicist here, but check both out. Really we've raised a lot of good money from folks who care about the district. McCarthy and Core Construction, Gothic Engineering, and others have really stepped up to the plate to donate, Gary Trujillo from Be A Leader. And they’ve donated money to do what was phase one. Phase one we put about 90 trees into the ground at the Wellness Center. In an empty lot that was actually –- it was an empty lot housed for traffic and for cars to park in. Now we have 90 trees. It's accessible with paved concrete for anyone in a wheelchair or --

Richard Ruelas: Mature trees? Saplings? What does it look like?

Lawrence Robinson: These are everything from five to 24 gallon trees, and they're growing quite well. They're all adapted to the desert. And we have put in public art. Hugo Medina has helped us with an art project. So we're actually looking at steam. We're adding the A for art into the concept. I've already had teachers approach us about doing outdoor classrooms. We've worked with Kimber Lanning from Local First, and she's going to be coordinating with local farms. So we're looking at ways to get kids interested in eating right but also learning about math and science.

Richard Ruelas: And meeting outside not during the summer, of course, and learning a bit about history of Phoenix, where food comes from, boy, this sounds like a good project.

Lawrence Robinson: We're enjoying it.

Richard Ruelas: We really appreciate you joining us tonight to talk about it.

Lawrence Robinson: Thank you very much.

Richard Ruelas: That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at “Horizonte” and Channel Eight. I'm Richard Ruelas. Have a great night.

Undocumented Immigrant Children in Arizona

  |   Video
  • Undocumented immigrant children from Central America have been brought from southern Texas to Nogales, Arizona. Tony Banegas, Honorary Consul to Honduras in Arizona talks about the situation.
  • Tony Banegas - Honorary Consul, Honduras in Arizona
Category: Immigration   |   Keywords: immigration, undocumented, children, arizona, texas, nogales, issue,

View Transcript
Richard Ruelas: Yesterday Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made his first visit to the Arizona facility housing mostly central American children caught crossing the border illegally. He says he will continue to discourage parents from sending their kids to the U.S. With me tonight to talk about what is happening in Nogales is the honorary consul to Honduras, here from Arizona, Tony Banegas. Thanks for joining us. You've spent time in Nogales, you've seen this firsthand. What's it like down there?

Tony Banegas: It's quite an experience. You have to be there to see it. I'm glad the media was allowed to go in last week.

Richard Ruelas: Do those pictures do it justice?

Tony Banegas: Not really. I was there eight days, from June 7th through the 15th, I spent eight to hours a day. You have to be there. I cannot describe it to you in words. They don't allow to you take pictures, but it's quite a deal to see 1,300 children plus 200 adults, the guards that work at the facility, so it's quite a sight to see.

Richard Ruelas: And more -- Something you've done that reporters didn't get to do was actually talk to these kids. In general, what are we hearing? Why are they coming here, what did they expect would happen when they arrived?

Tony Banegas: Well, I've been asked that question many times. I can tell you my experience after talking to over 400 children from Honduras anywhere from 6 to 17 years old. They're coming -- 95 % of the children I talked to have a parent here in the U.S. And it's about 10 to 15% have both parents in the U.S. Some have nothing, their parents, in 15 years some don’t even know their parents, which I think is a sad story. Mom left when they were a year old, or even six months old. But they tell me, based on my conversations, they're coming to go to school. They're getting ready to go to high school, eighth, ninth grade, and they come in to be reunited with their parents.

Richard Ruelas: Like now this is the -- Do you think this was the plan for some of these families, this was the plan all along? That I'm going to cross and when you're old enough to make the walk -- the journey -- on your own, you can do it?

Tony Banegas: That's what I hear. There's stories, a lot of stories in the media that -- rumors maybe the border was open to minors, and again, I can only tell you what I hear from the ones I spoke to. The parents sent for them this time. And they're here to meet their parents. A lot of times for the first time, many time for the first time.

Richard Ruelas: What we also hear is the fleeing -- that they're fleeing violence. And I mean, how bad is the situation in Honduras? You were just down there in May to visit your parents.

Tony Banegas: I go there three or four times a year. What I tell folks is you can Google Honduras, you can see the statistics. You know, there's no secret that we have the dubious title having the most dangerous city in the world, San Pedro Sula, worse than Juarez and Baghdad. So we do have a lot challenges. One of the things I asked when I interviewed the children, if they come from one of the two largest cities, I'd ask the neighborhood, because I know some of the neighborhoods would face a lot challenges.

Richard Ruelas: Right, the good pockets, the bad pockets.

Tony Banegas: So I would ask those questions, but they all come from lower Honduras. I'm fortunate enough that I know Honduras pretty well, so they come from all over, from east, west, south, central, small communities, urban communities. All over the place.

Richard Ruelas: So you think they're not all fleeing violence. They're not all coming here scared.

Tony Banegas: No. That's the misconception I think. There are some that were well behaved children, attending school, they live with an aunt or grandma, or some family members. So the great majority are again good kids. That want to see their parents; they want to go to school.

Richard Ruelas: I guess for two things that you have with you that I guess bring perspective to this, I know you probably can't show this to the camera because it contains phone numbers, but this book that you have in front of you has your interviews with these children. You have names, have you have phone numbers, you have addresses. And I guess if maybe you can flip through and -- give an idea of how many people --

Tony Banegas: You know the process; I would bring ten at a time to the cell that I was given to. I would tell them, you know, what's happening because you have to understand these children have gone through a lot. Five to 15 days on the bus, to spend five days in Texas, in a cold prison, then five days in Nogales, so would I ask the length of time they spent in Texas and also in Nogales, I would ask if they came by themselves, they would tell me some stories that we don't have time to go into, some remarkable stories. I would ask who they live with in Honduras, grandma, uncle, and then I ask who they have here in the U.S. And they would tell me their mom or dad, and the amazing story, they all even as young as 8-years-old they remember the phone number of their mom.

Richard Ruelas: And I guess one thing as I just flipped through, this starts -- this is a calendar you started. This starts in January and ends in June. Just name after name, address, phone number.

Tony Banegas: Some interesting factors about children, their parents, you know, documenting exactly what -- where they're coming from, where they're going. Some have amazing stories. Somebody who was kidnapped for four days, and they'll tell me the story, I was kidnapped and kept for four days in a house, not knowing what's going to happen. Some amazing stories.

Richard Ruelas: The other thing you brought is the blanket. This is the blanket we've seen on TV. It’s in that little packet.

Tony Banegas: Yes. It's a disposable blanket. They get this every day, when I first arrived on Saturday the 7th, there was -- they were still on the floor, there were no mattresses. They were sleeping on the floor and would get these blankets. So when I come in the morning, it's a sight to see when you see a thousand of children in the morning at 8 o’clock, all you see is their little heads sticking out of these blankets, some asleep. But this is what it looked like.

Richard Ruelas: Is this what they expected when they came?

Tony Banegas: Absolutely not. I was telling you earlier, children all over the world expect to be treated differently because they're children. And that's one of the amazing stories, one of the many stories I have, that I would -- I was helping explain what happened, but they expected to be treated differently because they're children. Children expect to be treated well.

Richard Ruelas: How long do you think we will continue to see children in these numbers? Try to make this journey?

Tony Banegas: I wish I could tell you next week. Unfortunately more children are coming in daily, about 140 come in still to Nogales. The good news there are also 140 leaving for shelter daily, but I know there are things in place on the border, on the U.S. border and also in Honduras, trying to stop the flow of children. So there are different measures being taken right now to stop the flow. So I hope by the next 3 months, 6 --

Richard Ruelas: What are some of those measures? I mean, is it -- We had Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson from this country, this week send a message saying don't come, you can't stay. You'll be deported. Is that going to work?

Tony Banegas: Well, probably not. It's a very complex -- Vice-president Biden was in Guatemala three days ago, went and met with the president of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador and to stress that we have a campaign to let parents know that the border is not open. They need -- They don't need to take the chance. So that is just part of the issue. But the big thing is this challenge, the desire from children to be with their parents. How do you control that? They're creating economic conditions in our country so the children stay there and the parents stay there. So it's very complex. And it will take time before it settles down.

Richard Ruelas: But it also sounds like you're saying this is not just simply conditions in the country that are driving this, that for some of these families you talked to, this has long been the plan.

Tony Banegas: It has been the plan. A lot of the families I talked to, they've been here for a long time, they have what is called a TPS, which is a legal status for Hondurans after Hurricane Mitch, it's temporary, but they've had it for 12 years. Some become residents, by marriage or by some legal way they became residents, so they do have legal status and they think it’s time right now to bring their children and to reunite with their children.

Richard Ruelas: But is there a process that allows that legally, do the parents know the immigration system enough to think that if I bring my kid here, he's going to stay, or are stories about the deferred action program and sort of the leniency the administration is showing, is that sending the signal that this is the time to come up?

Tony Banegas: Probably both. There are nonprofit institutions throughout the U.S. that can help them with this -- to go through the process. Probably both, a little bit of both.

Richard Ruelas: When we -– I guess when people see the images and see the blankets on people, they feel they want to -- If they want to help, what would you -- What would be your advice if there's Americans seeing these images who think those are kids, the legal system will deal with them, but I want to help them while they're in this facility. Is there anything Americans can do?

Tony Banegas: You know, I've been getting a lot of calls and emails from people. Again, out of this tragedy that's one good thing that I've seen. I'm not surprised. A lot of good people want to help. Unfortunately, there's nothing they can do right now. This is a detention facility. Access is very restricted.

Richard Ruelas: We can't send in board games or blankets or food?

Tony Banegas: They're allowing some goods and -- But very limited basis. There was a challenge we had with the management because the mayor in Nogales was ready the second day to bring clothing and shoes, and they were not allowed, they were saying they had their own vendors. So after a week later, they finally allow clothing and shoes to come in. But to your question, there's nothing that can be done at this point. From here now they go to a shelter, wherever there's an open bed, in New York or in Los Angeles, San Antonio. And then they'll go hopefully the decision will be made to reunite, or deportation.

Richard Ruelas: And lastly, do you think the government should have anticipated this situation? Or was this something that was a surprise?

Tony Banegas: I wouldn't want to speculate. I can tell you by asking the parents, they told me this is the right time, they were saving to bring their children here, a small percentage maybe have heard this rumor there was some leniency on the laws. So again, it's very complex.

Richard Ruelas: Tony Banegas, thank you very much. Honorary, by the way we should mention means unpaid volunteer. So, we really appreciate you're taking the time to speak with us.

Tony Banegas: Thank you very much for having me tonight.