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Tag Archives: el paso

Tiny Xplorers Adds STEAM, Parents to Interactive Care Experience

I have this motto I live by. It’s even become the tag line for my web page and social media accounts: Viewing the world through a cracked lens and a jaundiced eye.

With everything I have seen in my forty-six years of life, I have a unique worldview. One of the things I have extreme opinions about is parenthood.

Far too often I will see young couples buying video games for themselves, and not their children. I’ve taken my son to birthday parties that were more for adults, and less for the children. I’ve even overheard a conversation at Walmart, where a young woman was telling her husband that buying a tablet for their child would be a good way to keep that child out of their hair.

Look around; you must admit there are a lot of people who get parenthood wrong.

This past Tuesday when Chris Babcock, our Editor-in-Chief, asked me to visit a new business called Tiny Xplorers I was ambivalent. I thought I was going to be visiting a place where parents can just drop off their children so they can go out with other adults, or have a kid free day.

I was wrong and surprised all at the same time.

Tiny Xplorers is the brainchild of Nora Yokota. She started it after she couldn’t find a place for her son to play, and learn. It’s not just the children who are playing or learning here. It’s also the parents who come with their children.  Most day cares – which Tiny Xplorers is not -and children’s learning centers focus only on the child.

By this, I mean that you drop your child off and come back some hours later to pick them up. There is no place for the parents in that equation. Nora and her husband Jeff are changing that paradigm.

“My inspiration for this business surfaced as a result of the lack of facilities in the city that provided my son with the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning experiences,” says Nora. “I wanted to provide a place for families in El Paso, where they can interact with their children to help them build a strong foundation for learning.”

Tiny Xplorers focuses on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. They have also incorporated digital media art into the learning model. What the team at Tiny Xplorers focuses on is creative play, rather than active play.

It is a rewarding experience and undercover learning. There are iPads where they can play and learn. A robot that they can work with and control. Blocks they can use to build with. But it goes beyond this. Tiny Xplorers also has rooms with specific play and learning goals in mind.

These play areas are something I’ve never seen in El Paso before. I love them, and the idea behind each one of them.

Let’s cover the rooms that Tiny Xplorers has.

The first room is digital media arts room that is loaded with Osmo. Osmo is an award-winning game system that will change the way children interact with the iPad by opening it up to hands-on play. That fits right in with Tiny Xplorers, getting them to think outside the box.

“Every activity has a little bit of thought behind it,” says Nora. “Literacy is such an important component of a child’s upbringing. That’s when language begins. A child that is read to will have a wider vocabulary.”

Tiny Xplorers has a wide selection of books that parents can read to their children. “I believe that anyone that can read and write will succeed. If we neglect that part of a child’s education, they struggle.” They also have a story time where the children can become active participants of what they hear.

Another room is the Band-Aids Hospital. In this room children are exposed to career opportunities, such as being a physician or vet. They get to dress up in costumes they have, and pretend to be saving a life, or curing diseases, and vaccinating cats and dogs.

“Band-Aids was done because most children are taken to the pediatrician, that is an environment that they are familiar with. Also, a lot of them have a pet at home,” she says. “So, often time they know that to feel better, they have to see a doctor. So we wanted them to have that experience, and utilize the tools that doctors use.”

The next room is the Hometown Heroes. “You know El Paso has just about every kind of occupation when it comes to security, like the police, DPS, State Police. We also have the military, the fire department. We wanted to honor all those people,” Nora says, and Jeff agrees.

“We hope Hometown Heroes takes the shape we envision it to be. The hero is the policeman that says hello to you in the morning, the neighbor that helps you with a flat tire. We wanted to emphasize the importance of everyone in our community.”

On their web page, there is a section where they can submit their hometown hero for recognition. After you’ve read this article, and maybe visited Tiny Xplorers, you and your kids can sit down and nominate a hometown hero via an online form.

All the rooms are community-based. “In my eyes,” Nora says, “this is a community center. It’s not a museum that sits in downtown with a huge facility. This is like the mom and pop learning center that is based on the community. That we hope is the community we serve. Let’s give them the chance to be the doctor or fireman. Let’s offer them the chance at role reversal. The learn a lot from mimicking the adults they see.”

And she’s right, they do learn, and Tiny Xplorers is out there, creating a new educational niche that is needed.

There is also a grocery store where children can learn to shop, wait on customers, and decide just what to make for dinner. “I wanted them to be the grown-up who gets to go shopping, get to be in the kitchen making dinner,” says Nora. “These are experiences that they are exposed to every day, they already have foundational knowledge of, and we wanted to add to that.”

Then there is a theater section. “Everyone is an actor or actress, they like to role play, like to dress up,” She says. They do. Kids are naturals at creating stories. Here, there are instruments, costumes, a piano like the one in the movie “Big” where they can dance and make music.
These are just some of the things found at Tiny Xplorers. There is so much that not just a child can do, but an adult can participate in. I don’t want to give away too much; I want you to visit! It’s a great place to be, play, and learn.

There are also structured activities. Several times a day they have some activity, as a group.

“We have daily activities,” says Jeff “These cover art projects, storytelling, theater, and a lot of hands-on activity that will work on coordination.”

These same activities are also incorporated into the birthday parties, and private parties they can host. In fact, over the two days I visited with Tiny Xplorers I was able to witness some of these activities. The kids enjoy them and are learning at the same time.

They also have camps planned for the summer. There is going to be a digital media camp, a Lego camp- I want to go to Lego camp, so if you’re willing to loan me one of your kids, I’ll not only feed them, but will help them build a castle.

They have so much planned. So many ways for your child to play, learn, and grow. And not just them, but you as well. You are there, in the middle of everything, playing and pretending with your child. You’ll meet other parents, and your kids will make connections with others their age.

It’s truly a rewarding play experience for your kids.

Tiny Xplorers is located at 11450 Rojas Drive, Suite #4. Visit them online on Facebook, or at 915-300-1220

Video+Story: El Paso At #10 on Resonance list of America’s 10 Best Small Cities

The City of El Paso along with Visit El Paso, an operating division of the City and Destination El Paso, announced Friday that El Paso has earned the #10 ranking on Resonance 2017 Best Small American Cities with populations between 200,000 and 1 Million.

“I’m proud to see our city being recognized time and time again,” said Mayor Oscar Leeser. “My focus as Mayor has always been on promoting the city and creating new economic development opportunities, and I’m humbled to see others acknowledge the great strides we’ve made in such a short period.”

The winning cities were unveiled at a June 14 awards celebration at New York University sponsored by National Geographic Travel, who will use the Resonance ranking and insights for future editorial and content projects.

In the 2017 America’s Best Cities Report, Resonance ranked the nation’s best large and small cities using a combination of statistical performance and qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors in 27 areas grouped into six core categories:

Place – perceived quality of a city’s natural and built environment

Programming – the arts, culture and entertainment in a city

Prosperity –  employment, GDP per capita and corporate head offices

Product – A city’s key institutions, attraction and infrastructure

People – immigration and diversity of a city

Promotion – quantity of articles, references and recommendations online.

This is one of the most comprehensive American city rankings ever attempted—developed to quantify and benchmark the relative quality of place, reputation and competitive identity for U.S. principal cities with metropolitan populations of 200,000 or more.

El Paso represents the only location in Texas to make the top ten of the 230 ranked cities.

“This new ranking is fantastic news and will contribute to more editorial coverage of our vibrant and unique community by National Geographic Travel and among others,” said Bryan Crowe, CEO for Destination El Paso.

“Recognitions like this is proof that people are realizing just how great and competitive our community truly is,” said City Manager Tommy Gonzalez.

For a complete list of cities or to download the report, click HERE.

Voters in San Antonio, El Paso Choose New Mayors in Runoff Elections

The city of San Antonio is poised to usher in new leadership after a Saturday runoff election that saw incumbent mayor Ivy Taylor defeated by city council member Ron Nirenberg.

And in El Paso, former Republican state Rep. Dee Margo  defeated businessman David Saucedo in the race to replace outgoing Mayor Oscar Leeser.

Nirenberg won 55 percent of the vote to Taylor’s 45 percent, ending Taylor’s three years as mayor. A former city council member, Taylor ascended to the mayor’s office in 2014 after former Mayor Julián Castro stepped down to become U.S. housing secretary. She won a full term the next year after a blockbuster race against former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

Nirenberg had beaten expectations in the first round of the race last month, finishing 5 percentage points behind Taylor. A third serious candidate — Manuel Medina, chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party — missed the cut for the runoff.

While the race was nonpartisan, Taylor’s campaign used the runoff to deride Nirenberg as “Liberal Ron,” an attack that emerged after he won the endorsement of Castro, a national Democratic star. Nirenberg cried hypocrisy, pointing out that Taylor had the support of Van de Putte, the 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

Toward the end of the night, two of Texas’ progressive organizations, Progress Texas and the Texas Organizing Project, issued statements celebrating Nirenberg’s victory.

“This election is a lesson in base vote 101 — if you want to win progressive voters, candidates need to demonstrate that they share progressive values,” Progress Texas’ executive director, Ed Espinoza, said in a statement.

In El Paso, Margo, who served in the House from 2011-13, won 57 percent of the vote to defeat Saucedo, a newcomer to city politics. During his campaign, Margo touted his time on the El Paso Independent School Board, when the body ushered the district back to accreditation and financial solvency.

Margo came just shy of an all-out victory last month after receiving about 45 percent of the vote to Saucedo’s 24 percent. Also in the running was city council member Emma Acosta, who finished third with 16 percent and was thought by some as Margo’s main competitor.

The state’s new “sanctuary cities” law played a prominent role in both mayoral races. In San Antonio, Taylor disagreed with the city council’s decision to join a lawsuit against the law, calling it “premature” and voicing concern that Gov. Greg Abbott could retaliate by vetoing funding for the Alamo. Nirenberg supported the lawsuit and argued Taylor was trying to have it both ways on the issue.

In El Paso, both Margo and Saucedo said they would defer to El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen on the issue. That represented an about-face for Margo, who voted for the Legislature’s 2011 version of the bill. The responses from the candidates prompted criticism from the El Paso Times editorial board, which said last month that the candidates seemed “unwilling to stand up for the city.”

Disclosure: Progress Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.


City Introduces New Technology to Improve Wait Times, Border Crossing Efficiency

Cross-border commuters in El Paso and Juárez will have access to real-time bridge wait time information as part of an unprecedented program launched by the City of El Paso.

“For the first time, the City of El Paso is giving commuters who travel between El Paso and Juárez the opportunity to access truly up-to-the-minute bridge wait time information through our new Web site,” said Mathew McElroy, Director of the City of El Paso’s International Bridges Department. “This innovative program goes even further by making commuters part of the solution; the Web site is powered by the Metropia smartphone application, which gathers real time information from commuters who are crossing the border 24 hours a day.”

Border crossings in the El Paso-Juárez region are among the most active on the continent. Recognizing the strategic importance of cross-border commerce, travel and tourism, the City of El Paso is leading this regional effort to address congestion.

In the near term that can reduce bridge wait times and air pollution; in the long term information acquired through this program will inform long-term policy decisions and investment in transportation infrastructure.

To further incentivize use cross-border use of Metropia’s smartphone app, Metropia’s navigating capability have been expanded to include address-to-address routing which minimizes congestion in El Paso and Juárez.

In addition to building routes which minimize congestion within each city, cross-border navigation from Mexico to the United States will direct motorists to the least congested border crossing.

Metropia’s smartphone application includes separate wait time information for heavy trucks, private motor vehicles and pedestrians.

City to Host Community Meetings for Trailhead Projects

The City of El Paso has scheduled two community meetings at which members of the public will have the opportunity to view the design plans for four trailhead projects.

These trailhead projects will provide a convenient way for the public to access existing hiking and biking trails located in various areas of El Paso by providing the following services and amenities:

·        Construction parking spaces to provide public better access to hiking and biking trails

·        Installation of pet waste stations, trash cans, benches and picnic tables

·        Landscaping

The four projects have a combined total budget of $600,000, and are part of the City of El Paso’s commitment to enhance our community’s quality of life through the creation of recreational, cultural and educational environments.

The meetings will be held on the following dates, times and locations:

Community Meeting for Roundhouse and Lazy Cow Trailhead Projects

6 p.m. on Thursday, June 1st, 2017

In the cafeteria of Nolan Richardson Middle School | 11350 Loma Franklin Drive

Community Meeting for Thunderbird and Thousand Steps Trailhead Projects

6 p.m. on Monday, June 5th, 2017

In the cafeteria of Moorehead Middle School | 5625 Confetti Drive

El Paso Named as a High-Performing City in Inaugural ‘Equipt To Innovate’ Survey

The City of El Paso is named a top-ranking city by Governing and Living Cities through the first-ever national Equipt to Innovate survey.

Equipt to Innovate is a new initiative launched by Living Cities and Governing. It is an integrated, collaborative framework of seven essential elements that define high-performance government and empower innovation. It is also an invitation for cities to work together, learn from each other and help drive better outcomes for their communities.

“In recent years, our City has undergone a dramatic transformation in the way we do business, deliver services and manage our finances. This recognition as a Top Ranking City is a testament to that. We, as an organization in collaboration with all our partners, have reestablished El Paso as a government leader,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said.

The seven Equipt elements are: Dynamically Planned; Broadly Partnered; Resident-Involved; Race-Informed; Smartly Resourced; Employee-Engaged; and Data-Driven. Cities from across the country participated in the inaugural 2016 Equipt survey, assessing their capacity and competence in these seven key areas.

El Paso was named the Top Ranking City in the Smartly Resourced category.

The Strategic Plan for El Paso centers on a vision that “El Paso will have safe and beautiful neighborhoods, a vibrant regional economy and exceptional recreational, cultural and educational opportunities.”

“High-performing organizations have strategic plans with power in their visions. Our commitment to support a high quality of life for our residents, businesses and visitors changed the way we approach our day-to-day operations. Today, thanks to that Vision and our performance-based budgeting, we have become more strategic and prudent with deploying our resources allowing us to improve our performance and better serve our community,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said.

By implementing the City Council’s vision through the adopted strategic plan, every department is interconnected through Goal Teams. Key deliverables are identified and aligned with the budget process to ensure priorities are established and measured with accountability.

The City was able to showcase this approach to management planning that has produced high yield community results, including:

  • $11.3M replenishment of fund balance
  • Refinanced City debt saving $16.9M
  • Leveraging an estimated $50M in state incentives
  • Unprecedented economic growth and investment
  • Implementing the net 30 staffing growth plan for the Police Department
  • Developing and implementing the Aquatics Plan, delivering eight spray parks throughout the city
  • Overhauling the Animal Services Department
  • Completing performance excellence initiatives leading to savings and efficiencies

The top-ranking city in each category – along with the top 10 overall high-performing cities – have been highlighted today at the 2017 Summit on Government Performance & Innovation, an annual gathering of 250+ innovators, public sector change-agents, disrupters and civic entrepreneurs from around the country interested in making government work better for local communities.

“The Equipt framework gives us a way to look at cities in a multidimensional way,” says Mark Funkhouser, publisher of Governing. “Cities that perform well across the seven elements are able to adapt to and even anticipate the next challenge.”

“People are increasingly looking to local government for solutions that address the nation’s biggest challenges,” says Steven Bosacker, Principalfor Public Sector and Partnerships at Living Cities. “By submitting to a rigorous examination of their competencies in these seven areas, city leaders across the country are proving how dedicated they are to establishing high-performing administrations that respond to the needs of their communities.”

For a comprehensive overview of the survey findings and a discussion of how cities fared across the categories, download the report “Becoming a High-Performing City: A Benchmark Study”

Governing covers politics, policy and management for state and local government leaders. Recognized as the most credible and authoritative voice in its field, Governing provides non-partisan news, insight and analysis on budget and finance; transportation and infrastructure; workforce and economic development; health and human services and more.

Governing is a division of e.Republic, the nation’s only media and research company focused exclusively on state and local government and education.

Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 18 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live. Its investments, research, networks, and convenings catalyze fresh thinking and combine support for innovative, local approaches with real-time sharing of learning to accelerate adoption in more places.

Additional information can be found at

Gallery+Story: Firm Behind Hotel Paso Del Norte Redesign Receives “Creative Spark” Award

Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design was awarded first prize in the “Creative Spark” Competition at the Top Hotel Projects World Tour 2017 for its renovation design of Hotel Paso Del Norte, a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel, in El Paso.

Kobi Karp’s restoration of the historic property will pay homage to the hotel’s history and will give downtown El Paso a luxurious and iconic landmark. Located in the heart of downtown El Paso, the hotel’s renovation plans include all 356 hotel rooms and suites, as well the second-floor grand ballroom and conference rooms.

“We are honored to be recognized for our vision for this 100-year-old hotel,” said Kobi Karp, founder and principal at Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design. “We were inspired by the striking, historic architecture of the existing structure, which speaks volumes of the hotel’s and El Paso’s rich history.”

Upon arrival, Hotel Paso Del Norte guests will enter a reception area highlighted by the luxurious stained-glass dome, accentuated with ornate plaster details. The restoration of the original 10th-floor rooftop will use the ballroom as a prelude to the pool lounge area surrounded by a luxurious full-service spa, state-of-the-art gym.

The bar room, next to the rooftop terrace, will be expanded to overlook panoramic views of the Franklin Mountains, the historic Rio Grande and the Mexican border.

The redesign will highlight local materials such as copper, brass and deep burnished leathers to create the traditional robust atmosphere of the El Paso historic hotel. The use of local natural materials, such as worn rough wood finishes, will be used to offset the burnished metals set alongside charcoal gray and deep dark brown colors of the red Ochre colors surrounding the Franklin Mountains.

The historic building was originally completed in 1912 with 195 rooms. The architect of the then 10-story Hotel Paso Del Norte was Henry Charles Trost (1860-1933). Built on the site of the city’s famous Happy Hour Vaudeville Theater, Italian artisans were brought to El Paso to assist with creation of the massively ornate interiors in the three lobbies.

The most impressive feature, even more than the elaborate mahogany carvings, was the magnificent 25’ diameter Louis Tiffany-style stain glass dome built in 17 pieces. The hotel earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

In 1986, a 17-story building was built adjacent to the existing “old” hotel increasing its size to 356 rooms.

The hotel is adjacent to the El Paso Convention Center and within walking distance of museums, historic San Jacinto Plaza, downtown entertainment and business districts.

Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design is widely experienced in hospitality and historic renovations, having been the recipient of numerous awards including the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Historic Preservation Award.

For more information about Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design, please visit their website.

Rainiers Ride Grand Slam to Victory over Chihuahuas 11-8

Zach Shank hit Tacoma’s second grand slam in as many nights Friday, as the Rainiers beat the El Paso Chihuahuas 11-8. Shank’s grand slam put Tacoma ahead 7-4 in the fourth inning and the Rainiers never relinquished the lead, despite late runs by El Paso.

The two teams split the four-game series.

Jamie Romak went 4-for-5 with two home runs and four RBIs in the loss. Romak has eight home runs this season to lead the Pacific Coast League and has five longballs in his last five games. Cory Spangenberg went 3-for-5 with an RBI, his third consecutive multi-hit game. Collin Cowgill, Rafael Ortega and Dusty Coleman had two hits apiece for El Paso.

Seattle Mariners reliever Steve Cishek went two thirds of an inning in an injury rehab start, throwing 20 pitches in the no-decision. Jake Smith, Carter Capps and Michael Dimock all had relief appearances without surrendering any earned runs for El Paso.

It was the Chihuahuas first series split this season.

Box Score | Team Records: Tacoma (9-6), El Paso (7-9)

Next Game: Saturday, 7:05 pm at Southwest University Park. Reno RHP Braden Shipley (2-0, 5.82) vs. El Paso RHP Walker Lockett (1-1, 7.20). The game will air on 600 ESPN El Paso and

Tacoma 11 El Paso 8 – Friday

WP: Ash (1-0)

LP: Rodriguez (1-1)

S: None

Time: 3:30

Attn: 8,672

Metropians Across Southwest Donating 250 trees in Celebration of Earth Month 2017

Metropians in El Paso are joining other Earth-conscious drivers in Austin and Tucson and donating dozens of trees in celebration of Earth Month 2017.

While Metropians typically redeem the points earned while avoiding congestion for rewards with local businesses like Eloise, Proper Printshop and Savage Goods, through the end of April those points can be used to donate trees which will be matched one-for-one by Metropia through its partnership with American Forests.

“Hundreds of El Pasoans are already using Metropia’s mobile app every day to save time on their commutes and reduce their CO2 emissions,” said Tania Chozet, Metropia’s El Paso Community Manager. “In the spirit of Earth Day, we’re asking Metropians to go even further and redeem some of their points for trees which help mitigate harmful CO2 emissions. For each tree you donate, we’ll donate one, too.”

Thanks to donations by Metropians in El Paso, Austin, and Tucson, 96 trees have been planted so far this month.

“We’re well on our way to meeting our goal of planting 250 trees, so we encourage all Metropians to donate some of their points toward this worthy cause between now and the end of the month,” Chozet said. “During Earth Month, we also encourage them to seek out other opportunities to lessen their carbon footprints and help make the world a better place.”

Many of those opportunities will be on display at the City of El Paso’s GRO 2017 event from 10 am to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, 2017, on the main promenade at the Fountains at Farah, 8889 Gateway Boulevard West.

GRO, which stands for Growth, Resilience and Opportunity, is a celebration of community and sustainability that seeks to increase awareness regarding sustainable community practices through education and outreach, with the goal of maximizing resilience and quality of life.

Metropia is proud to participate in GRO, and will be there handing out Metropia t-shirts and other goodies and educating the public about the benefits of using Metropia to plan ahead.

The free Metropia app is available for download in the App Store and via Google Play.

Metropia’s team of traffic engineers and regional experts monitor the latest traffic conditions and construction closures from their new offices at the Hub of Human Innovation in Downtown El Paso. Metropia collaborates with area transportation experts, regional planning agencies and community stakeholders to create meaningful change by serving as the only single-source platform to share data with our entire community.

Metropia officially launched in El Paso in October, following a nine month testing phase.  To date, thousands of El Paso’s commuters have saved nearly 3,000 hours of driving time. For more information, visit

39th Annual NorthEaster Parade set for Saturday Morning

 The 39th Annual NorthEaster Parade, presented by the Transmountain Optimists, once again takes to the streets of Northeast El Paso on Saturday, April 15, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.

More than eighty floats, marching bands, residents and businesses plan to march down the 1.5 mile route, which will begin at Magoffin Middle School at Hercules and Diana, and end at the Northeast Transfer Station at Dyer and Diana.

Nominees for Grand Marshall are chosen by the NorthEaster parade committee for being a pillar in the community , citizens who exemplify and embody all the virtues and valor of our diverse culture and community.  This year’s Grand Marshall is El Paso’s Mayor, Oscar Leeser.

The first parade was only a small part of the Northeast World Jubilee (NWJ) sponsored by the Transmountain Optimists (TMO) which ran from September 29 to October 2, 1978. The parade continues to be the only Easter parade in El Paso.

All participants have the option of entering our float contest.  Awards for the following categories will be presented:

  • Sweepstakes Award: Best Overall
  • Grand Marshall Award: Best Display, Originality, Design, and Presentation
  • Easter Buny Award: Most Appealing to the Children
  • New Generation: Best Enrty by a Youth Organization
  • Judges Award: Special Recognition by the Judges

Mexican Journalist’s Case Suggests Changes to Asylum Process under Trump

A Mexican reporter who sought asylum in El Paso after receiving death threats has been detained by federal officials —despite having passed an initial test to determine whether he faces a “credible fear” back home, his attorney said.

When Martin Mendez Pineda fled the Mexican state of Guerrero in February, he escaped a living hell where being a reporter meant he had a constant target on his back. Yet he walked into a new nightmare after seeking asylum in El Paso, according to his attorney.

Mendez Pineda, 26, has been in a detention facility in the Texas border city even after American authorities agreed the reporter had a credible fear of returning to his country. His attorney, Carlos Spector, said it’s symbolic of a change under the Trump Administration where prolonged detention — even for people with no criminal history — is the latest tool in the White House’s effort to discourage people fleeing violence from seeking help in the United States.

Spector’s immediate concern isn’t the asylum process that could lay ahead but instead the continued detention of someone who would normally be released while his case is meandering through the long and complicated series of hearings and interviews. He fears the detention will become a pattern and be used against other foreigners seeking safe harbor after Trump issued his Jan. 25 executive order on immigration.

“This process of incarcerating immigrants seeking refuge in the United States has been a policy that has existed that has just gotten worse under Trump,” he said. “We’re here to demand his freedom and to denounce the criminalization of the political asylum process as a political tool.”

The federal Department of Homeland Security indicates it is just vetting asylum applicants to make sure the revamped process is fair.

“The goal of DHS is to ensure the asylum process is not abused,” the agency explains on its website. “The asylum officer shall make a positive credible fear finding only after the officer has considered all relevant evidence and determined, based on credible evidence, that the alien has a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum, or torture protection.”

Mendez Pineda fled the resort city of Acapulco after he was attacked by Mexican federal officers and later threatened at gunpoint by six armed men, according to case documents provided by Spector’s office.

The attacks were in retaliation for his watchdog reporting on abuses committed by Mexican government officials and occurred in a city considered the second-most-violent in the world behind Central America’s San Salvador. (The homicide rate in Acapulco is 108 per 100,000 people, compared to San Salvador’s 137 per 100,000, according to an analysis by The Economist.) Mendez Pineda’s case caught the attention of Paris-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, who wrote Mendez a letter of recommendation to help bolster his case. The Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, has also taken note.

After Mendez Pineda passed his “credible fear” interview, Spector sought to have him released on parole while his client’s case was pending. The documents from Spector’s office indicate his client was denied a release because he didn’t have significant ties to the community and because he was a flight risk. Spector said both excuses are laughable because Mendez Pineda has never been convicted of a crime anywhere and because he sought entry on his own and turned himself in.

“To deny a reporter release, who had no criminal history, no threat to the community who presented himself lawfully at the bridge with a strong letter from Reporters Without Borders, to deny that, I think is throwing down the hatchet,” Spector said. “This is a message that if he can’t get out, then no one else will either.”

An El Paso-based spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in an email that each asylum is decided on a case-by-case basis and the agency takes into account several factors, including safety considerations and any other sensitive issues involving the case.

When asked specifically about Mendez’s case, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa would only confirm the reporter’s arrival and subsequent transfer into custody.

“Martín Méndez Pineda, 26, from Mexico, entered the United States Feb. 5, 2017, via the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas,” she wrote. “On the same day he was transferred to ICE custody, and then was transported to the El Paso Processing Center in El Paso, Texas.”

Spector, who has represented several dozen Mexican immigrants seeking asylum, knows that even if the parole were to be granted, Mendez Pineda would still face an uphill battle in winning his asylum case and being granted legal status. Despite more than a decade of raging violence in Mexico due to warring cartels and the federal government’s attempts to quell the problem, American immigration officials have been reluctant to grant Mexicans asylum.

Of the 12,831 asylum requests from Mexicans received during the 2016 fiscal year, only 464 – fewer than 4 percent – were granted while 2,624 were denied and thousands more either withdrawn, abandoned or may be pending, according to federal statistics.

The percentage of Mexicans granted asylum is far less than the 13.3 percent overall rate of approved asylum claims in the United States during the same time frame.

Read more:

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Plastic Surgeon Brings New Skills, Services to TTUHSC El Paso

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) recently added Jose Castro-Garcia, M.D., to its team of health care providers. Dr. Castro-Garcia specializes in plastic and craniofacial surgery.

“My scope of practice is very wide and not limited by any anatomical area, making my work very exciting and challenging,” says Dr. Castro Garcia. “On the same day, I could be doing a child’s cleft lip, a breast reconstruction, a hand anomaly, and then a trauma case.”

As the only plastic surgeon in the Department of Surgery, Dr. Castro-Garcia dove straight into work after arriving in September and has performed nearly 600 surgeries since. The plastic surgeon is capable of addressing a range of health issues, including skin cancer, scars, upper and lower extremity reconstruction, post-traumatic injury, burns, and congenital malformations.

His skill set is, perhaps, most beneficial for patients of the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso (TTP El Paso) Breast Care Center. With Dr. Castro-Garcia’s expertise, the team is now able to perform breast reconstruction immediately after a mastectomy — minimizing patient recovery times and the number of surgeries a patient may need to undergo.

“Performing reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy provides patients with the best cosmetic results,” he explains. “This is because there is no scar tissue or post-radiation injury to deal with.”

Dr. Castro-Garcia is familiar with the border region. He completed a general surgery residency at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in 2012.

“I really enjoyed my time in this city and always planned to come back,” he says. “I enjoy the culture and the patient population that we have the opportunity to treat in this area.”

Dr. Castro-Garcia received his Doctor of Medicine from the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi in Mexico. He went on to complete a prestigious plastic surgery fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and continued his training at the Medical City Hospital Craniofacial Center in Dallas, Texas.

Metropia Adds New Merchant to Traffic-Avoiding App

A growing number of local merchants are making it more rewarding to help reduce congestion during the daily commute by using Metropia’s mobile app.

Eloise, a European-style coffee shop and restaurant located at 255 Shadow Mountain Drive in West El Paso, is Metropia’s latest merchant partner in El Paso.

“Metropia is committed to finding innovative solutions to El Paso’s growing traffic troubles while improving the quality of life for El Pasoans,” said Tania Chozet, Metropia’s El Paso Community Manager. “Partnering with businesses like Eloise, Savage Goods and Proper Printshop allows us to showcase some of the entrepreneurs who are investing in our community while making it even more rewarding for commuters to avoid congestion.”

The list of businesses also includes Proper Printshop, a locally owned screen printing studio, and Savage Goods, a local purveyor of home baked goods.

By using the Metropia app to navigate around congestion and choose less congested travel times, commuters earn points which can be redeemed with those participating businesses.

As one of Metropia’s newest partners, the live video will focus on raising awareness of the new collaboration; showcase one of Eloise’s Meatless Monday offerings, and giving a behind-the-scenes look at cafe operations. You can watch the live broadcast and submit questions by liking Metropia El Paso on Facebook.

Metropia’s team of traffic engineers and regional experts monitor the latest traffic conditions and construction closures from their new offices at the Hub of Human Innovation in Downtown El Paso. Metropia collaborates with area transportation experts, regional planning agencies and community stakeholders to create meaningful change by serving as the only single-source platform to share data with our entire community.

Metropia officially launched in El Paso in October, following a nine month testing phase.  To date, thousands of El Paso’s commuters have saved nearly 2,000 hours of driving time and planted nearly 9,000 trees.

Metropia will be live on Facebook in the Eloise kitchen at 10am MST on Monday, April 10, 2017. Eloise is known for their high-quality, responsibly sourced coffee, gourmet fare, and vegan-friendly offerings.

The free Metropia app is available for download in the Apple Store and via Google Play.

El Paso Named A Top Ten Texas Bookish Destination

Lubbock, Texas – Lone Star Literary Life, Texas’s only statewide media devoted to Texas books and readers, has announced its Third Annual Top Ten Texas Bookish Destinations. El Paso ranked No. 9.

The process to select the winners starts with reviewing 45 different book-related variables, including visitable destinations, such as bookstores, libraries, literary centers, author birthplaces, sites featured in books or movies. Other factors include bookish events, such as book festivals, poetry readings and slams, or book arts venues.

Representatives of Lone Star Literary Life then visit each of the destinations under consideration and interact with key literary stakeholders in each community.

“Now in its third year, our annual Top Ten Texas Bookish Destinations rankings has become one of Lone Star Literary Life’s most anticipated announcements,” said Kay Ellington, editor and publisher of Lone Star Literary Life. “Whether you’re a reader, a writer, or just love to travel, I encourage you to visit these destinations in Texas. In each of these places we found stories, characters, attractions and events well worth the drive.”

El Paso makes the list for the third year in a row for several reasons. The Tom Lea Trail is one of the visitable literary and cultural treasures of El Paso, connecting regional histories through art in eleven Texas cities (plus locales in Mexico and the state of New Mexico). Along the El Paso portion of the trail, Lea’s art can be found at the historic federal courthouse, the El Paso Public Library, the El Paso Museum of Art, the El Paso Museum of History, and the University of Texas at El Paso.

Benjamín Alire Sáenz, the first Latino writer ever to win the PEN/Faulkner award, teaches at the University of Texas El Paso. BorderSenses, a nonprofit literary organization, is devoted to promoting art and literature on both sides of the border through events like the Barbed Wire Open Mic series, which features performances in poetry, music, comedy, fiction, nonfiction, monologues, dance routines, and more. The Tumblewords Project and the El Paso Poetry Project also support poetry workshops and spoken-word performance workshops.

Click here ( for full details on why El Paso was chosen as a Top Ten Texas Bookish Destination.

2017 Top Ten Texas Bookish Destinations
1.      Austin
2.      Houston
3.      Dallas
4.      Abilene
5.      Permian Basin (Midland and Odessa)
6.      San Antonio
7.      Fort Worth
8.      Rio Grande Valley
9.      El Paso
10.     Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties

Lone Star Literary Life, a weekly Texas books website includes reviews, interviews, and a statewide calendar of book events. To see the 2017 Top Ten Texas Bookish Destinations list, visit and use the official hashtag, #LoneStarLit, on social media.

El Dorado High School Launches Environmental Service Art Contest

El Dorado High School invites the El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces community to participate in the school’s art contest, Metamorphosis: Trash to Treasure, to raise awareness about environmental concerns.

The contest, which is part of the It’s Your World community art project, will allow participants to work with recycled material to make creative art. Winners will earn cash-value prizes, participate in a meet-and-greet with Chelsea Clinton, and have their artwork showcased at the International Museum of Art.

Contest guidelines can be found in the It’s Your World project website and click on the Competition link.

Artists may participate by submitting a photo of the artwork before midnight, March 31 to

Award winners will be announced during a reception at 1:30 p.m. April 23 at the International Museum of Art.

For more information, contact Candie Printz by phone at 731-6271 or by e-mail at

What:         El Dorado High School art contest Metamorphosis: Trash to Treasure

Who:          El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces community

Where:       International Museum of Art, 1211 Montana Ave

When:        Entry deadline: Midnight, March 31