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December 2, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
I am the parish priest of Santa Rosa de Lima in Las Cruces, and I believe that our community must speak up to preserve the Gila River. Recently, a group of our parish’s youth took a trip to hike along the Gila River and understand the threats to the river and its habitat. We learned that the Gila River is the last natural and free flowing river in New Mexico, and is a tremendous resource providing water to irrigate farms and ranches, a home for wildlife, and a place for people to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
Yet, the Gila River could become forever altered by a proposal before Governor Martinez’s New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission to build a large-scale diversion reservoir and pipeline from the river to Deming or Las Cruces.
Along with the youth from my parish, I strongly oppose a diversion project on the Gila River. Our faith calls on us to protect God’s creation from destruction or contamination. From the beginning God created a clean, intact world. Genesis 1:31 says, “God looked at everything he had made and indeed, it was very good.”
We have a moral obligation to preserve the natural landscape of the Gila River. It is important for all of us to enjoy places largely untouched by human hands, as exploring the wilderness is one of the ways we are able to take a break from the stress of modern life and connect with what truly matters. Taking my parish into the outdoors for celebrations of mass and community picnics has been a wonderful way to re-energize our spirits. I encouraged the youth from my parish to go on this outing because I wanted them to experience the peace that can be found in the great outdoors. For many, this was their first time camping and hiking in our state’s beautiful wilderness. They returned speaking enthusiastically about the beauty of the river, its natural surroundings and the wildlife they encountered.
The youth also returned with a sense of responsibility that they must care for the Gila River. As one young woman in my parish so eloquently expressed, “God gave us this river and forest to take care of it, not to destroy it.” We are called to not only enjoy the beauty of nature, but to take responsibility for its care as stewards of God’s creation. We can be good stewards of the Gila River by choosing alternative plans that would conserve and provide the water our region needs for generations to come. Not only will a diversion and reservoir alter the natural landscape of the Gila River, but it would hurt the wildlife that call this river home and could result in less water for the Gila River in the long-term. If we are truly to be stewards of God’s creation, we must consider the long-term impact of a temporary solution to our region’s water scarcity. Over the long-term, this river diversion project won’t help our water supply problems in severe droughts because we won’t be able to use the river water if it drops below certain levels.
Sadly, the Gila River is already flowing at historically low levels and a diversion project would only reduce it further. Even the low water levels of the river, recently increased by rain and flash flooding, impressed the youth. Many of them commented that they have not seen a real river in a long time because the Rio Grande in Las Cruces is rarely flowing with water. We may live in a dry region where water is a precious resource, but that should not mean that our children rarely see or experience a healthy river and the wildlife it supports. Neither they, nor I, want to see our state lose another beautiful, free flowing river and important source of water in our state. Through conservation and careful management, we can preserve the Gila River’s natural beauty, wildlife, and water now and for the future.
Our youth are the ones who will gain or lose the most from whether or not we choose to seek alternatives to a diversion project on the Gila River, and they have taken the lead in speaking up for the Gila River at the New Mexico Legislative Interim Drought Subcommittee that met in Las Cruces earlier this month. In following their example, I encourage Governor Martinez to be a good steward of our natural resources by protecting the Gila River.
Father Jesus Martinez is the priest at Santa Rosa de Lima Catholic Church.
November 18, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
FromVoxxi.com By Susana G. Baumann
While most Americans are talking about the viability of the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, not many understand the tax implications that this new law might have on their next year’s tax returns.
As the most important amend to the federal tax code in the last 20 years, the ACA will determine healthcare benefits and credits eligibility through individual, family and business tax returns. Then, an accurate tax return submission as well as a good tax history can be decisive for many families and businesses that rely on these benefits.
“A tax return is a very important tool for Latinos, regardless of their immigration status. Understanding and filling out a correct tax return each year can determine the possibility of finding a job, buying a house or going to school. It can also mean eligibility for immigration status and now, healthcare benefits,” said Maite Arce, president of Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF).
Through a strategic partnership with H&R Block –the largest source for tax preparation and online tax services–, the organization has concentrated its efforts in providing access to such vital information, now in 17 communities around the country.
High rates of uninsured among Latinos.
According to Arce, Latinos have higher rates of uninsured people than any other minority group in the country. Nearly one in three Hispanics lack health coverage –compared to one in five non-Hispanic Blacks and one in eight Non-Hispanic Whites, says a report from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).
“Many Latinos feel they don’t know the basics, not only of how a tax return works, but also how the Affordable Care Act might affect their eligibility for tax credits and for fines –in case they decide not to apply for the benefits this year,” she said.
To fix that problem, HAF has partnered this fall on one hand with national non-profits approved as ACA navigators to help families, individuals and businesses apply for the new healthcare benefit. On the other, HAF provides information on both tax implications through a number of workshops conducted around the country.
“Over 30,000 individuals have gone through our workshops to try understanding how tax returns will work for them,” she said.
HAF is now offering these services in 17 communities around the country including Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Ft. Worth, TX; Denver, CO; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Orange County, CA; Boston, MA; Miami/Broward County, FL; New York City Metro; Hudson County, NJ; Providence, RI; McAllen/Brownsville, TX; Phoenix, AZ; Riverside, CA; San Bernardino, CA; and Washington, DC.
Information of Obamacare tax implications for families and individuals
The tax professionals at H&R Block have prepared some common case scenarios with families and individuals at different income levels to help understand the tax implications for each one.
The case scenarios describe uninsured couples with children, couples insured through employment without coverage for their children, couples without children and single people. According to their income level, some people might be eligible for the new expansion of Medicaid also provided through the ACA. So far, 25 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, and are accepting applications through their state websites.
The scenarios also describe the type of fines those who decide not to ascribe to the benefits will have to pay. Those fines would be included in their tax calculations next year.
If families or individuals’ income change during the year, it is advisable that they communicate their new situation to the IRS as soon as possible. Income variations might determine differences in tax credit eligibility –in receiving more or less tax credit. Those adjustments will be applied to the amount of taxes they owe or to their refund.
Obamacare and the undocumented
“Although undocumented Hispanics cannot have coverage under the new ACA, they can call our helpline to find out other resources in their communities that provide basic healthcare services,” Arce said.
The HAF president said that the first barrier for the Spanish-speaking population to access services is lack of knowledge of resources in their own communities. The second barrier is trusting the resources that provide the information and the service.
“We work with faith-based organizations that Latinos trust, as pastors and clergy act as third-party credibility,” Arce said. “Latino families are very interested in receiving Affordable Care Act information but there are still delays in understanding the information fully. It will be a slow process for this community,” she anticipates.
A complete list of workshop dates and locations is available at www.pormifuturo.org. For more information, those interested can call their helpline at 800-206-9096.
November 4, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
Sergio Duran, Wildlife Biology Student at Arapahoe Community College, Denver CO to accompany EcoFlight on a week-long environmental student program
Monday November 4th – Friday November 8th
EcoFlight, a non-profit based out of Aspen, CO, will be conducting its 10th annual Flight Across America (FLAA) Student Program from Monday, November 4th to Friday, November 8th, 2013.
The focus of this year’s program is the “alphabet soup” of designations and protections of public wild lands and the threats facing wilderness-quality lands in the West.
Using flight and ground-based education, EcoFlight’s FLAA program is designed to involve and inform college age students about current conservation issues from a broad range of perspectives and show them through flight how such issues personally impact their lives and the world around them.
Sergio Duran, an alumnus of Environmental Learning for Kids in Denver will be one of eight college students accompanying EcoFlight on overflights of protected and threatened areas in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. They will meet with national and local conservation organizations, sportsmen, business leaders, government officials, the media, local high schools and Navajo youth along the route.
Sergio intends to share his Flight Across America experience by producing an article for the wider Latino community.
Contact: Krysia Carter-Giez, EcoFlight: [email protected] 970 366 8822
Jane Pargiter, EcoFlight: [email protected] 970 618 5443
Michael Gorman, EcoFlight: [email protected] 970 274 4719
October 31, 2013 by fangerpr
WASHINGTON – Maite Arce, founder and president, Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) today issued the following statement praising Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s National Press Club address emphasizing the need to balance between energy development and the protection of public lands:
“We appreciate Secretary Jewel speaking about conservation priorities, specifically encouragement to Congress to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and her plans to visit communities to learn more about the public lands worthy of national monument designation. We would be happy to welcome her to Las Cruces, for instance, to discuss public support for protecting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks. Conservation being a key part of the health and culture of the community.
“Putting conservation on equal ground with energy development is critical to ensuring that future generations will enjoy our nation’s public lands. With common-sense, look-before-you-lease policies, Secretary Jewell can ensure thatthe balance between energy development and the protection of our public lands is a priority for our country.
“We also applaud her commitment to engaging diverse communities and youth with the outdoors and our public lands. Her new initiative for engagement through work and training opportunities will complement the efforts of many groups to bring environmental issues into the forefront of America’s consciousness.
“Hispanics are passionate about their public lands and the more they learn about the threats posed upon them, the more active they become in protecting these natural wonders for future generations. We look forward to working with the Secretary to conserve our public lands heritage.”
Since its founding in 2010, HAF has made building environmental awareness among Latinos, going outdoors and empowering advocates a top priority. HAF has completed programs to take Hispanic families and youth on outdoor experiences, including camping, whitewater rafting, and hiking, in National Parks and areas under consideration for National Monument designation. Most recently, HAF shepherded the groundbreaking formation of Por La Creación Faith-Based Alliance, a new group founded by Hispanic faith leaders dedicated to developing stewards of God’s creation by engaging and educating this generation to leave a legacy for the future.
October 16, 2013 by Jennifer Brandt
NATHROP, COLO. – Today, prominent Latino religious leaders from Colorado and California joined together to form Por la Creación Faith-based Alliance, which will develop stewards of God’s creations by engaging and educating this generation to leave a legacy for the future. This group seeks to educate other Hispanics and to encourage them to take an active role in supporting the nation’s public lands and protecting our natural resources across the West.
“Pastors can bring common-sense and spiritual guidance to the national discussion about the value of our parks and public lands, and other environmental issues affecting Latinos across the West,” said Maite Arce, president of the nonprofit Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF), which helped organize the group. “Their leadership will be instrumental in sparking change that preserves our natural treasures for future generations — bringing balance and fairness to how our nation views conservation in relation to energy development.”
HAF brought the religious leaders together as part of the inaugural summit “Exploring Stewardship in Protecting and Preserving the Environment.” The summit was held in Nathrop, Colo. for three days, and included fly-fishing in Colorado’s famed Browns Canyon on the Arkansas River. The organization believes this new alliance will encourage more religious leaders to speak up for conservation, especially in communities that are on the front lines of energy development.
“We need energy development for our nation’s energy independence,” said Pastor Joseito Velasquez from Healing Waters Family Center in Denver, Colo. “But we also need to protect wildlife and other aspects of God’s creation in our public lands. We can do both.”
Pastor Velasquez was joined in the Alliance formation by Pastor Rigo Magaña from New Hope Christian Fellowship in Greeley, Colo., Pastors Frank Ruiz from Seventh Day Adventist Church in Indio, Calif., and Jesse Villarreal from Templo La Hermosa and Enrique Orellana from Fuente De Vida Christian Center in Coachella, Calif.
At the summit in Colorado, the group identified environmental issues from each home state that are of concern. In Colorado, the group would like to see Browns Canyon’s public lands and waters protected as a National Monument. Similarly, the Alliance would like National Monument designation to be granted for Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks in New Mexico. For California, the collective is paying special attention to the California Desert Protection Act, which would establish two new national monuments, enhance the existing national parks and ensure renewable energy development happens in appropriate public and private lands, and other environmental issues in the Coachella. Additionally, the alliance will explore the need for adequate funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect national parks, and enable communities to build new playgrounds and local parks.
Following the summit, the pastors will return to their communities to educate, engage and empower other religious leaders and community members in advocating for the conservation of God’s creation.