April 05, 2011 7:21 PM
BY GEOFF FOLSOM
The founder of the Odessa Concerned Citizens Coalition is taking a stand against a planned migrant-student trip to Washington, D.C.
Faye Hall said she is organizing a petition to protest a June 19-24 trip to Washington for the Experience in Democracy Leadership Program’s conference. Hall points to Bert Corona, the founder of the group that organizes the conference, as a potentially negative influence on students.
According to the Bert Corona Leadership Institute’s website, Corona “dedicated his life to fighting economic and social injustice.” He founded the Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, the nation’s largest Latino immigrant organization, with more than 30,000 member families.
But Hall said Corona, who died in 2001, had ties to Communism, and advocated violence when attempts were made to remove him as a teacher at a Los Angeles university. She also fears that students, who she said “may or may not” be in the country lawfully, will hear a position advocating illegal immigration.
“We need to help these kids as much as we can, but not send them to learn how to fight us,” she said. “Not to learn more than our kids learn and to learn how to manipulate our legislators.”
To this point, Hall said has only gathered “five or six” signatures on her website. But she plans to take to the streets to get more people to sign her petition, which calls for the Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees to rescind the approval it gave for the trip at its March 29 meeting.
Hall said she would like to address the board at its next regular meeting, scheduled for April 26. She attempted to address the board before the migrant student’s 2008 trip to Washington, but said she ultimately didn’t get to because she had family commitments.
While ECISD won’t be paying for the trip this year, Hall said she doesn’t like seeing federal grant money go toward sending students to the conference.
Trustee Luis Galvan said he would be open to hearing from residents who are concerned about the trip, but he wants to make sure they are armed with facts.
“Ultimately, this is a positive, valuable experience,” Galvan said. “Just to have that opportunity is amazing. I don’t see how they can see anything negative, honestly.”
In fact, Galvan was selected to go to Washington as part of a Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute internship.
“Having experienced Washington, D.C., is a truly wonderful experience, and seeing government explained on a large, large scale,” he said.
While he said he didn’t have all the information on the trip, Trustee Ray Beaty said he is hopeful that the board’s decision to require the students, whose parents work seasonally in agriculture or manufacturing, to get information from sources outside the Corona Institute will be positive.
“Be sure there is a good balance of information the students are receiving from a historical standpoint and a governmental standpoint,” Beaty said.
Repeated calls to ECISD officials, as well as the Corona Institute to get comment for this story were not returned.