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July 24, 2014

Host: José Cárdenas

Kids Count

  |   Video
  • Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO for Children's Action Alliance and Dr. René X. Diaz, past executive director of the Arizona Hispanic School Administrators Association talk about state and national KIDS COUNT data books reporting on the status of Arizona children and families.
  • Dana Wolfe Naimark - President and CEO, Children's Action Alliance
  • Dr. René X. Diaz - Past Executive Director, Arizona Hispanic School Administrators Association
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, kids, count, arizona, families, data, books, status,

View Transcript
Jose Cardenas: Children's action alliance in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation released two new comprehensive data reports on the status of Arizona families and children. One of the statistics in the Arizona kids count data book shows Arizona ranks 46th in the nation on overall conditions for children, only one spot better than last year’s data book. With me to talk about the data is Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO of Children's Action Alliance. And Dr. Rene Diaz, board member for the Children’s Action Alliance and past executive director for the Arizona Hispanic School Administrators Association. Thank you both for joining us to talk about this subject. We just finished an interview talking about young children coming from Central America. And everybody's talking about that, the politicians, it's a big thing in the current gubernatorial campaign. Nobody's talking about the kids who are here.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Not yet.

Jose Cardenas: Yet this report suggests that we need to be talking about that and doing some serious remedial work.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: I think that's a really important point. We have 1.6 million children growing up within our Borders, who are part of our community, who are our future, and candidates better be talking about that. And more than talking, they should be developing their action plans and positions to improve children's health, education and security.

Jose Cardenas: Before we talk about how they might be persuaded to do that, give us a summary of some of the most significant findings in this report. I know there's actually some good news. Before we get to that let's talk about some of the things that are a real problem.

Dana Wolfe Naimark: One of the biggest problems is very low preschool participation. We rank 49th, second worst in the country, and we've gone in the wrong direction. When we look at trends within Arizona our preschool participation has gone down since 2000. There is a ton of research about the positive impact of preschool. It helps children start kindergarten ready to succeed. If they start behind it's hard to ever catch up. We have children of all races and ethnicities at risk. Latino children have very low preschool participation rates and could benefit the most by helping them to start kindergarten on a par with their peers.

Jose Cardenas: We have a lot that tells you how important the Latino population is to the future of Arizona. We're not making much progress, though.

Rene Diaz: Unfortunately, no. It's been the same over the last decades, couple of decades, in terms of our Latino students being as successful as they could be. So it's important to be able to concentrate on that with our Latino kids. And in 2009, there were more Latino kids in grades kindergarten to third grade. And then in 2011 that's when the K-12 student population became Latino. There were more Latino kids in K-12 schools in the state of Arizona than ever before. So there's more Latinos now in the school. So we need to be able to pay attention to them and make sure they are successful.

Jose Cardenas: This report, though, is not very encouraging in that regard. What can be done to really get people's attention? I was talking to Dana before, how do you get the politicians to focus on this.

Rene Diaz: To me, Jose, there were two key issues in the report. The first one was that the state of Arizona is not taking care of its children. Again, Dana just mentioned that we're ranked 46th in the nation when it comes to overall conditions of kids. The second key issue to me is that it's real clear that the conditions and opportunities for Latino students that are living in Arizona today, will shape the future of Arizona's families, workforce and economy. It is clear. And why do I say that’s part of the data I just provided for you? There's more Latinos attending our schools than any or student group. So we need to focus. That's the question, what is it that we can do. Going right back to what Dana mentioned, we need to focus on the preschool. Get the students enrolled and start helping them be successful. Because if kids fall behind, if the students are not reading at grade level by third grade they almost never catch up.

When I share that type of information people say, oh, no, that's hard to believe. Oh, yeah, it's true. They start falling behind in the early grades and pretty soon their frustration comes in. There's a term that's used in terms of the disconnected youth. Disconnected youth are identified as students or youth between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor work. They are not working or in school. Phoenix leads the nation in disconnected youth. One out of every five young people in that age bracket are considered disconnected. Which means they are not in school and not working.

Jose Cardenas: Recently, Dana, you may have been on the panel when we talked about that. Going back to some of the statistics, you've got the natural report and a companion Arizona data book. I know I think the national report talks about the 49% figure from low-income families?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: Right, that's in our Arizona report. 49% of kids throughout our state live in low-income families.

Jose Cardenas: And it's worse for a number of counties in the state, am I right?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: It is. And actually, in 12 counties it's more than half of our kids. This is a prevalent characteristic of families and children in our state and one we cannot afford to ignore. I think the good news is there are tools and practical strategies that can work to help kids. We have some profiles of Arizona families and kids along with the data in the report, and what we know from that is of course it takes personal responsibility. It takes loving parents and mentors and hard work. It also takes systems around us that help us succeed. We all count on systems, public and private. We need to strengthen some of those systems for early education, for child care, for health care for children. If we strengthen those systems we know that Latino children, white children, American Indian children can have a greater chance for success.

Jose Cardenas: And Dr. Diaz, there is other good news in that report. One has to do with the rate of arrest for juveniles for violent crimes.

Rene Diaz: Yes, that is down.

Jose Cardenas: And down rather significantly.

Rene Diaz: I believe so. I don't remember the actually data on that? What was it Dana?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: The rate is down by about half since 2000 so it's pretty dramatic. And statewide in 2013 there were only 1600 youth arrested for violent crimes. That's incredibly low and probably much lower than most viewers would have guessed. So that is a good news we can build on that by making sure that kids of all ages have opportunities for positive experiences.

Jose Cardenas: The other good news is graduation, graduation rates.

Rene Diaz: Yes graduation rates have also gone up. The schools I believe are, Dana used the term system. The school system, the school districts are looking at their entire organizational systems and trying to make improvements there. And part of the graduation rate much of the general public blames the high school districts for the dropout rate and the graduation rate but it really begins in the lower grades. It's critical that we connect all the students in the elementary schools that they are being successful in the elementary schools and experience that success, so then they also have experience in high school so they can graduate. But yes, the school systems are devoting their attention and their focus on that graduation rate, to make sure more students are being successful and graduating.

Jose Cardenas: So Dana, timing some people might say is not good, to expect the legislature to put more money into these issues. They are now faced with a court ruling that says they have to pay billions into the school system that they owe. Is that going help or hurt?

Dana Wolfe Naimark: It's not only about money, it's about leadership, focus, working together on strategies that work. We have this challenge now before us that we should be very excited about. To go back and rematch our budget to connect with voter priorities for education, to reinvest in children into that educational success. It gives us a chance to reset and reboot our overall budget and tax priorities, and look at all of trade-offs we've made and re-examine them.

Jose Cardenas: We'll see soon how successful we are and this discussion will be of some help. Thank you both for joining to us talk about this important topic.

Jose Cardenas: Don't forget if you want to watch previous episodes or find out what's coming up go to our website at azpbs.org and click on "Horizonte." That's our show for tonight. From all of us here, Horizonte and Eight, I'm Jose Cardenas, have a good evening.

Politics of Immigration Reform

  |   Video
  • President Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion to address the surge of illegal crossings by unaccompanied minors from Central America. Associate Professor Lisa Magaña of the Arizona State University School of Transborder Studies will talk about the politics around the request and immigration reform.
  • Lisa Magaña - Associate Professor, School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University
Category: Politics   |   Keywords: politics, immigration, reform, central, america, illegal, crossings, minors,

View Transcript
Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. We'll talk about the politics surrounding immigration reform. Plus, an annual art festival turns sidewalks into colorful canvases. And Arizona continues to be near the bottom nationally for the overall well-being of its children. We'll talk about the annual kids count report. Coming up next on "Horizonte."

Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Jose Cardenas: President Obama is asking for $3.7 billion to address the surge of illegal crossings by unaccompanied minors from Central America. Joining us to talk about where politics of immigration reform go from here is Lisa Magana, associate professor of ASU's School of Transborder Studies. Dr. Magana, welcome back to Horizonte.

Lisa Magana: Thank you very much, glad to be here.

Jose Cardenas: We talked about in the introduction where the politics go from here. This is nothing new in many ways. And you and I were talking before and you said it kind of breaks down into two types of immigration reform.

Lisa Magana: Right, typically we think about immigration politics and policies in two ways, enforcement, such as the policing aspect, deportation and more border enforcement. And I have to say, I think the enforcement part is usually a little more popular in Congress. I think it's a little more sexy. We like to think of sort of funding the enforcement part rather than the bureaucrats or the people helping to facilitate the service needs of immigrants.

Jose Cardenas: We talk about the other part when we want to say, no, we don't want to do that. For example deferred action and so forth.

Lisa Magana: Right.

Jose Cardenas: So much seems to be symbolic in connection with the most recent issue, the children coming from Central America. A lot of people blaming the Obama administration saying it’s not protecting the borders. Not that much substance.

Lisa Magana: There isn't a lot of substance and I’m so glad you said that. We know historically when apprehension rates go down, it's not because of a policy that has been passed or a law like SB 1070, it's because the economy has tanked. I've had numerous conversations with border patrol and people who work with immigration policy. That again they say that people won't come when the economy is not robust. And of course, when the economy isn’t robust, we don't have these types of laws and sort of anti-immigrant legislation. I'd like to give you a few examples of some of the more symbolic immigration politics or policies. So we talked about, you hear this a lot, securing the border. And if we think about this, almost 40% of the unauthorized population, which is estimated around 11 million, are visa overstayers, which means, these aren’t people that are racing through the border and trying to circumvent this big wall. These are people that have come in legally and their visas have worn out.

Jose Cardenas: And this is particularly true of this most recent group. They are not sneaking across the border, they are turning themselves in to authorities.

Lisa Magana: Absolutely. This part of it. Again, we like to think of the idea of people racing across the desolate Arizona desert, when we know this is not the case. This is the same argument for why we need to build a wall. And we know, again, this is symbolic rather than substantive because Congress tried with the defense act to put a wall across Arizona. As you know and I know, it's not completely flat, it's very expensive, spatially and environmentally impossible. But you'll hear candidates say we need to finish the wall, we need to finish the fence.

Jose Cardenas: He we been hearing a lot of that lately from the candidates for governor. I want to come back to that. Before I do, going back to the entry of these children, the reason they are doing what they are doing, in terms of turning themselves in, is because of a law that applies specifically to them.

Lisa Magana: I want to say there's a difference between what the candidates are saying is a border crisis, and what is in fact going on. This is a refugee and humanitarian crisis. There's a real distinction. These people are fleeing for well-founded fear of persecution or their lives are in danger. This seems to be consistent, whether it's poverty, drugs, simply dangerous to live where you're living. Again, these are Central Americans. You hear that a lot. Sort of using two terms. The law is people that are not from Mexico or not from Canada, that they will be given a fair proceeding to see whether or not they should be sent back home, or sent back to their country of origin. Again, these are children. This law was created in 2008 by President Bush because of humanitarian and reasons that these are, again, children.

Jose Cardenas: We have President Obama criticized by many for a bunch of what would seem to be contradictory reasons.

Lisa Magana: Right. And this is another one of those symbolic statements. You can look this up. We have some excellent studies that have been done out of ASU out of a book we did on SB1070. The administration is doing nothing about the administration is -- is disingenuous. You have a President criticized for deporting kids.

Jose Cardenas: Being criticized by Hispanic groups?

Lisa Magana: Exactly. He's been criticized for not doing enough and at the same time for doing too much. A lot of these quick phrases that we hear may not be so substantive. But again, we'd like to believe them.

Jose Cardenas: Let's talk about how much this has changed the political discussions, not just in Arizona but also elsewhere. You have Governor Perry sending the National Guard to the border.

Lisa Magana: Yeah, and this has been kind of a contentious issue. Just like Arizona, not everybody believes that agencies other than federal immigration agencies for example, not police or the National Guard, should be carrying out immigration activities. So certainly the argument is that if I may be afraid to call for help or somebody that maybe you can turn me in or I can be deported, right? Some of the same arguments we had for SB1070, and some of the same ones for the National Guard. They are not properly trained on immigration details. He made it very clear, though, they are supposed to be out there to help, with the drug cartels. They can help and they can detain immigrants, but again, a lot of people don't think this is a very good idea.

Jose Cardenas: And you have several of the leading candidates on the Republican side here in Arizona arguing for -- actually not arguing, they are saying if they were governor they would be sending troops, the National Guard, to the border.

Lisa Magana: Right, and we got into a little trouble for the State trying to carry out immigration laws when again, it's supposed to be the federal government carrying out these laws. A lot of these kind of statements you really have to check and see. Another good one is actual numbers that get thrown around during elections. There are a million people coming in every year, or we have a precise and accurate assessment of the unauthorized population. These are woefully, woefully inflated.

Jose Cardenas: And yet, even though there have been articles in the paper pointing out the flaws and logic of doing some of these things that the candidates are calling for, it seems to be gaining traction.

Lisa Magana: Right. There is a couple things that I would suggest for so many years that politicians or elected officials or political parties need to be a little bit more far-thinking, not so short-sighted. We know for various reasons that by being so short-sighted or wanting to get reelected, that the implications for politics down the line are pretty broad, pretty important. So for example, we know that the longer Republicans take to work on this comprehensive proposal, the more likely these people are going to align as Democrats. We know that. Another argument is that -- you know this big comprehensive proposal that they had last year, the bipartisan proposal with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate that was passed, right? There's a big reason why there's a fight about this. And if we were to legalize 11 million people and then naturalize, give them citizenship -- and this is after 15 years at least -- there's a real fear these people will vote and not as Republicans, that they are going to be voting as Democrats. There's a lot of -- you want to think long term, sort of quick, I need to get reelected. Some of these people that are in office are in safe districts, can be, you know, pretty tough on immigration. They know this has worked before and it's gotten them reelected. I would suggest thinking again about the long term implications. Here's a good example. Every year something like 200,000 eligible Latino voters over 18 will be eligible to vote. Every year. Because this is a community that's growing and getting older. It's a formidable force. The other thing with all the anti-immigration and with SB1070 we saw some new immigration politics. For example, the economic boycotts absolutely had an impact on immigration politics.

Jose Cardenas: But it's hard to convince a candidate running for office right now to think long term. And we're almost out of time, but I want to talk about some of the ads we've been seeing and some of the statements that have been made. Christine Jones -- Andrew Thomas.

Lisa Magana: The same one, we need to secure the border, we need to finish the fence, we need to send out the National Guard, those three. A more interesting ad I saw was Andrew Thomas' recent one where he has the Mexican flag and a big red circle and an X through it. He says I stopped the illegal immigrants and now they have come back to Arizona to demonstrate and protest.

Jose Cardenas: And then we've got Christine Jones, who if she did send the Guard to the border, sounds like she would send them to the wrong one.

Lisa Magana: There was an unfortunate event where she was at an Arpaio fund-raiser I believe, and talked about how Mr. Arpaio likes to help immigrants through the Rio Grande.

Jose Cardenas: Which doesn't run through Arizona.

Lisa Magana: Which doesn’t run through Arizona.

Jose Cardenas: We're going to have to end our interview. Thank you so much.

Lisa Magana: Thank you so much.