NPR Boosts Latina Teens' Pro-Illegal Immigration Protest in Texas

The Wednesday edition of NPR's All Things Considered spotlighted 15 teenaged Latina activists who protested a new law in Texas that allows law enforcement in the state to investigate the immigration status of individuals in police custody. The young women dressed in formal dresses during their demonstration outside the state capitol in Austin, and performed a choreographed dance. Correspondent Vanessa Romo identified the group that organized the protest, but failed to mention their liberal ideology.

Host Audie Cornish introduced Romo's report by outlining that "many Latinas mark their fifteenth birthdays with parties called quinceañeras. In Austin, Texas, it's popular to include a photo shoot on the steps of the state Capitol. Today, that rite of passage took on a political bent." The correspondent picked up where Cornish left off: "There are at least three elements that make a quinceañera a quinceañera: a big, poufy dress, check; some declaration that a young girl is now a woman, check; and a highly-choreographed dance — check."

Romo continued by transitioning to the pro-illegal immigration protest: "But what happened on the steps of the Texas Capitol earlier today was something more than a celebratory rite of passage for fifteen teens in bedazzled and sherbet-colored princess dresses; and it's become a social media campaign and an active hashtag — #15contraSB4 — that's been shared all over Twitter." She then played four straight sound bites from Cristina Tzintzun of the organization Jolt Texas, which sponsored the demonstration. The activist contended that "this last election, we saw Mexicans and Latinos demonized and really scapegoated. And so, we want legislators to know — and Trump to know — that we won't sit idly by while legislation of hate is passed."

The NPR journalist simply described Tzintzun's group as "a non-profit group working to get young Latinos to vote and run for office." However, a simple look at Jolt Texas's website reveals their left-of-center credentials. Tzintzun posted an article in June 2017 titled "Trump's Climate Decision Will Hurt People of Color and Latinos the Most." The organization's communications director, Tania Mejia, is an alumna of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, is on Jolt Texas's leadership council.

Later in the segment, Romo featured Maggie Juarez, one of the participants in the quinceañera-themed protest. The correspondent glowingly pointed out that "for Juarez, turning 15 was a really big deal. Turning 18 and being able to vote — that'll be monumental." The journalist omitted, however, that the teen is already a veteran of liberal activism. Earlier in 2017, Juarez participated in pro-illegal immigrant march in February, and walked out of her high school class in April in order to participate in a "resistencia fest" in Austin.

The full transcript of Vanessa Romo's report, which aired on NPR's All Things Considered on July 19, 2017:

AUDIE CORNISH: Many Latinas mark their fifteenth birthdays with parties called quinceañeras. In Austin, Texas, it's popular to include a photo shoot on the steps of the state Capitol. Today, that rite of passage took on a political bent.

NPR's Vanessa Romo reports.

VANESSA ROMO: There are at least three elements that make a quinceañera a quinceañera: a big, poufy dress, check; some declaration that a young girl is now a woman, check; and a highly-choreographed dance — (clip of Mexican norteño music) check. But what happened on the steps of the Texas Capitol earlier today was something more than a celebratory rite of passage for fifteen teens in bedazzled and sherbet-colored princess dresses; and it's become a social media campaign and an active hashtag — #15contraSB4 — that's been shared all over Twitter.

CRISTINA TZINTZUN, JOLT TEXAS: It's an event that's gotten a lot of traction from Latinos, as I said, across the country; but also here in Texas.

ROMO: That's because this quinceañera was also a protest against a new state law that allows law enforcement to check the immigration status of residents, and penalizes those who don't. It was organized by Cristina Tzintzun.

TZINTZUN: Texas has become ground zero for the fight for the rights of immigrants and Latinos.

ROMO: Tzintzun is the founder of Jolt Texas, a non-profit group working to get young Latinos to vote and run for office. And this demonstration in Austin, she says, was part of a larger national movement.

TZINTZUN: This last election, we saw Mexicans and Latinos demonized and really scapegoated. And so, we want legislators to know — and Trump to know — that we won't sit idly by while legislation of hate is passed — that our communities are going to organize and mobilize.

ROMO: So why the quinceañera theme? Because, Tzintzun says, it's when—

TZINTZUN: A girl takes on the full duties of becoming a woman; and one of those duties is protecting your family.

ROMO: In a traditional quince, the birthday girl performs a dance — usually a waltz. But these 15 ladies went a different route (clip of track, "Immigrants") They choreographed a mash-up dance to Lin-Manuel Miranda's 'Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)' and 'Somos Mas Americanos' by Los Tigros del Norte — one of Mexico's most famous bands. The two songs tell the stories of immigration and the search for jobs. (clip of track, "Immigrants")

Sixteen-year-old Viridiana Sanchez explains why.

VIRIDIANA SANCHEZ: Basically, because, a lot of the things that the song is saying are true — like, we are America; like, we keep this economy moving.

ROMO: Maggie Juarez is 17 — about to start her senior year in high school. She says—

MAGGIE JUAREZ: Using these quinceañeras is showing that, as an adult, and as a Latina, we are responsible in voicing those who cannot speak for themselves in the moment.

ROMO: For Juarez, turning 15 was a really big deal. Turning 18 and being able to vote — that'll be monumental. Vanessa Romo, NPR News.


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