The 88th Texas Legislature took me for a ride and allowed me to witness the inner workings of the Texas Legislative process and the life cycle of a bill. The truth is, bills don't become laws overnight; they can die overnight or be voted on after midnight. However, bills and eventual laws come to fruition after countless hours of conversations and, all too often, compromises.
I would like to tell you that the conversations we have with our neighbors guide the issues and values our representatives choose to focus on, but you might find it hard to believe. In fact, even I would not have believed it five years ago before I became a member of LUPE— before I knew the stories of Rebecca Flores, Juanita Valdez-Cox, Maria Gomez, Juan Angel Garcia, Jim Harrington, Ed Kruger, Antonio Orendain, the Saldaña Brothers, Daria Vera, Zulema Hernandez, and the countless others who came together to fight and, in many cases, emerged victorious for what they believed in. They stood firm even when faced with generational abuse, insurmountable odds, and nameless corporations.
The reality is that this legislative cycle is just one of many, not the one that will change everything, but one of many in the ongoing pursuit of equitable justice. Just like the LUPE Public Light campaign, breakthrough campaigns take years to develop and eventually flourish.
Nonetheless, this legislative session was a special transformative journey filled with resilience, solidarity, and an unwavering pursuit of justice. The most important lesson I learned this session was that I am not alone in this fight. Every time LUPE members embarked on the six-hour drive to Austin, we packed our vehicle to the brim. And every time we arrived in Austin, we were greeted by a group of like-minded people who either lived in Austin or traveled hours, just like us, to be there.
Here are a couple of LUPE members that I will always carry with me from this session.
Doña Mari or Maria Gomez: for those of you who don't know her has been part of the human rights movement in South Texas for close to 50 years and carries with her a remarkable legacy— from being one of the original farmworkers organizing against the spraying of pesticides on the fields to helping launch our public light program and organizing beyond the fields. During our time together, she shared her memories of past visits to the capital, walking me through old memories and reminiscing about legislative victories of the past and the importance of staying politically and socially active. She vividly recalled bringing her children to the capital, seizing every opportunity to remind me and the group of the privilege of lobbying in Austin. Not everyone has the ability to cross the Falfurrias checkpoint. It is our duty to keep working so that others also have the ability to join us in the future and continue the movement.
@lupe_rgv Day in the life of a LUPE organizer ✊🏽 ready to fight for drivers permits for all Texans! Follow along to see where we end up. #RGV #TexasLedge #borderlands ♬ Sunshine
@lupe_rgv Part #2 of a day in the life of a LUPE organizer. Working to #DriveTexasAdelante by providing drivers permits for all Texans. #TexasLedge #borderlands #RGV ♬ original sound – lupe_rgv
San Juanita and Lalo Saldaña, also left a memorable impression on me. Not only did they march alongside Cesar Chavez, but they also organized in Delano, Chicago, and South Texas, standing in solidarity with fellow workers and fighting for our dignity and rights. Their motto, “Nuestra lucha es del corazón” (Our fight is from the heart), deeply resonated with me. Their dedication went beyond mere words; it encompassed a genuine commitment to the well-being and livelihood of all those affected by the discriminatory laws disguised as matters of public safety.
During their testimony against HB7: The Texas Border Patrol Bill, San Juanita and Lalo spoke from their hearts and invited the members of the Border Security to their home so they could witness firsthand the reality of the border. The border is not something that separates us; it is a place that brings people together and strengthens our region's resilience.
During my last five years as a LUPE member, I have met many mothers from mixed-status families. One of the first and bravest among them is Norma Aldape. Norma, a proud mother and LUPE member, left her home country when her young daughter expressed a desire to move to the U.S. side of the Rio Grande to learn English, just like her cousins. Norma lived in a mixed-status situation for over two decades, doing everything possible to provide for her six children while living with the constant threat of family separation. Now a U.S. permanent resident, Norma courageously journeyed to the state capital, sharing her story and shedding light on the sacrifices made by an undocumented mother striving to provide the best possible life for her family. (Watch her testimony in Spanish below)
Most importantly, every time we went up to Austin we were joined by incredible members from reproductive rights like Frontera Fund and South Texans for Reproductive Justice who recognize the undeniable connection between immigrant rights and bodily autonomy. Community immigration organizations such as Woori Juntos from Houston, ARISE from the RGV, Laredo Immigrant Alliance, Border Network for Human Rights from El Paso, and numerous other groups including Texas Civil Rights Project, Grassroots Leadership, Texas Rising, Never Again Action, ACLU, Border Workers United, and countless other organizations and individuals like yourself who remained informed, shared the truth, called representatives, and even testified against these oppressive bills.
As I reflect on this journey, I am humbled and inspired by the unity and resilience demonstrated by our community. Together, we have proven that collective action has the power to challenge and dismantle systems of oppression, or at the very least slow them down. While our struggle is far from over, those who came before us laid the foundation for us to build upon.
Just like the organizers and farmworkers who won legislation in the fields over the years, thanks to their unwavering commitment to human dignity and worker rights, I remain steadfast in my commitment to fight against hateful policies and safeguard the rights and dignity of every Texan, regardless of their background or identity. My journey this year has taught me that there is strength in unity and that our voices will not be silenced.
Looking ahead to possible special sessions and future legislative sessions, one thing is clear: we must continue to advocate for justice, equality, and human rights. The work does not end here. We must stay informed, engaged, and active in our communities. It is through our collective efforts that we can bring about meaningful change and create a more equitable society.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to all those who have stood alongside LUPE Members throughout this journey. Your support, dedication, and solidarity continue to inspire us. Together, we have shown that we are not defined by the hateful rhetoric and discriminatory laws pushed by some politicians. We are defined by our resilience, compassion, and commitment to a better future.
Let us continue to build bridges, foster understanding, and challenge oppressive systems. Together, we can create a Texas where everyone can thrive, regardless of their background or identity. I invite you to join us in this ongoing fight for justice.
Thank you once again for being a part of this transformative journey. Our work is far from done, but I am confident that with our collective determination, we will create a brighter and more equitable future for all.