El Corazón de Tejas logo El Corazón de Tejas-Central Texas Chapter of REFORMA

Central Texas Immigrants:
Issues They Face, Resources to Assist Them

Speaker Information
Saturday, May 11, 2002
8:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus

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Education & Libraries

Elva Garza, Managing Librarian - St. John Branch, Austin Public Library
After graduating with an M.L.S. from the University of North Texas, Ms. Garza worked as a reference Librarian for the San Antonio Public Library. She later worked as the Collection Development Consultant of the San Antonio Area Library System where she helped small community libraries in South Texas develop their collections. As Manager of the Terrazas Branch of the Austin Public Library, Ms. Garza along with branch staff were recognized by the Gale and School Library Journal as the "Numero Uno: The Best Little Library" for their collaborative partnership with Sanchez Elementary School. Currently Elva works as the Managing Librarian for the new St. John Branch Library of Austin Public Library. She also serves as the Vice President/President-Elect of El Corazón de Tejas – Central Texas Chapter of REFORMA.

Claudia Santamaria, Principal - J.J. Pickle Elementary School
Ms. Santamaria was born in Uruguay, South America and came to the United States at the age of four. She was raised in Queens, New York City, and moved to Texas during high school. She graduated from Cypress Creek High School in Houston, and received a scholarship to attend St. Edwards University in Austin. Ms. Santamaria graduated as a Bilingual Education Teacher and taught at Zavala Elementary School in East Austin for six years. She served as Assistant Principal at Pecan Springs Elementary School for 1 ½ years. She then became Principal of T.A. Brown Elementary School in 1999. After three years at Brown, Ms. Santamaria became Principal of Pickle Elementary School in 2001.
In her free time, Ms. Santamaria enjoys reading, dancing, and yoga. She is a political activist in the Austin community through her membership as a co-chair with Austin Interfaith. She is very committed to work to bring justice to low income and minority families in Austin.

T.A. Vasquez, Parent-Teacher Specialist - J.J. Pickle Elementary School
Toña Vasquez is known by many as T. A. Vasquez. She is the mother of four children. Her youngest child, Dorothy, is currently an 11th grader at the LBJ Science Academy. She works as a Parent Support Specialist at the new J. J. Pickle Elementary School located in northeast Austin. During the last 10 years, she has gained experience in community organizing through a relationship with Austin Interfaith. That experience has led her to work in the school community in positions that allow her to create and implement after school programs. She has organized house meetings and walks to facilitate conversations with community leaders, parents, school staff, and students. Such activities have assisted the community in identifying educational needs and concerns.



Maria Luisa Bautista, Inmigrantes Latinos en Acción

Maria Luisa Bautista is a member of a volunteer, community group that has come together “as immigrants, for immigrants.” The group offers workshops, informative discussions, and visits immigrants in the community to share information about their rights and responsibilities within the United States. The Consulate General of Mexico and American Friends Service Committee, support their projects as do a number of Spanish radio and television programs, and local printed publications. One of their efforts is to advocate the right of persons without a social security card to obtain a driver’s license. The group aims to give voice to the abuses immigrants often suffer due to lack of information

Heather Courtney, Producer and Director of "Los Trabajadores"
Heather Courtney has spent the past two years working on the documentary "Los Trabajadores/The Workers." She recently received her MFA in film production from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to film school, Ms. Courtney spent eight years working for various refugee and immigrant rights organizations, ranging from a community-based Ethiopian refugee resettlement agency in suburban Virginia to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, DC. She also worked for a United Nations research agency in Ethiopia and the International Rescue Committee in the Rwandan refugee camps at the Tanzania/Rwanda border. As an information officer, grant writer, and photographer for these organizations and on several independent projects, Ms. Courtney has written and photographed extensively on the stories of displaced populations.

In addition to "Los Trabajadores," Ms. Courtney has directed, produced, and photographed documentaries and educational videos for several organizations including a video shot in Romania for Casa Speranta, a home for abandoned HIV-positive children in Constanta, Romania; an educational video for Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera, about women organizing in the maquiladoras on the Texas/Mexico border; and a training video for the Political Asylum Project of Austin on legislation to help immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence. She has also directed several narrative short films, including "Everything Must Go" (15 min. narrative, 16 mm) about two women who work the all-night shift at the local dollar store, which is currently touring with the Texas Filmmakers Showcase.

She is currently working on the community and grassroots distribution of "Los Trabajadores/ The Workers" in Austin and the rest of Texas, and hopes to expand that to other states and cities. She has also begun research on a new documentary idea about two small towns in Mexico and the American Midwest.

Josefina M. Castillo, Program Coordinator - American Friends Service Committee - Texas, Arkansas & Oklahoma (AFSC-TAO)

As a sociologist and as a woman, Ms. Castillo has always been concerned with issues addressing social and gender equality. She is an advocate of non-violent answers to any type of conflict. She believes it is through critical thinking and education that people can best learn how to perceive conditions that call for social justice actions in order to improve their lives. She thinks women's issues are of particular interest when women consider themselves not only as life givers, but also as reproducers of culture.

Ms. Castillo worked as Adjunct Faculty of Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México (UNAM) for 7 years. She then worked with Mujeres para el Diálogo, a non-governmental organization based in Mexico City. This job offered her an opportunity to learn how to design and implement workshops, seminars and Encuentros (meetings) with various groups of women on popular education projects such as literacy campaigns, women's health, methodology of popular education and improvement of self-esteem.

At the present time, Ms.Castillo is the Program Coordinator of American Friends Service Committee-TAO (Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma). The content of their Program is based on popular education methodology and techniques, as follows:
Health & Social Services

Nadine Pedusseau, LMSW, Community Support Program Manager - Caritas of Austin
In 1981, Nadine Pedusseau received a degree in Social Work and started a career as a CPS social worker in Paris. From 1983 to 1996, she was a case manager for the employees of the French National Railroad and their families within one French province. During that time, she coordinated in-home services for elderly, and provided counseling, financial assistance, and referral services to the families.

Ms. Pedusseau started learning English during the 3 years she spent in Phoenix, Arizona (1988 - 1991). In February 1997, she moved to Austin with her family. While waiting on a work permit, she went back to school, and graduated in May 2001 from UT with a Master of Science in Social Work (Administration and Planning).

Since September 2001, Ms. Pedusseau has been working as a Program Manager at Caritas of Austin. She supervises 7 case managers who provide rent and utility assistance within the Community Support Program. She also provides case management within the Caritas Learn & Earn program.

Anastasia Barber, Social Worker, LMSW-ACP - El Buen Samaritano
Anastasia Barber graduated with her BSW in 1992 and her MSW in 1997. She has 5 years experience working with older adults and has been at El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission for 4 and 1/2 years during which she has primarily worked with the Spanish-speaking immigrant community.

Shannon Jones, III, Assistant Director, Public Health and Community Services - Austin Travis County Health & Human Services Department (ATCHHSD)
Mr. Jones currently serves as the Assistant Director of Public and Community Services for the City of Austin and Travis County Health and Human Services Department. He has served in that role for the past two and one-half years. Since coming to the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, he has implemented several new initiatives focusing on health disparities within Travis County. He has worked to reorganize the division to put more emphasis on the community-based approach to services delivery in these two entities.

Mr. Jones is very involved in the field of public health advocacy. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of directors of the Capital Area American Heart Association. He is also a board member of the Austin Metro area American Cancer Society, the Texas State Affiliate of the American Health Association African American Taskforce and many other community, local, state and national advocacy efforts.

Prior to moving to Austin, Mr. Jones worked for over 20 years in various health delivery and advocacy roles in the Houston area. He served as a Health Center Manager for the Riverside Public Health Center for some 17 yrs. He worked for several human services agencies in Houston as well as operated his own consulting firm focusing on community based Health Advocacy.

Mr. Jones is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. He received his BA from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia and his Master of Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. He has completed the coursework for the PH.D in Management and Policy from the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

Cathleen Rodriguez, Unit Manager, Healthy Neighborhood Unit, Public Health and Community Services - Austin Travis County Health & Human Services Department (ATCHHSD)
Ms. Rodriguez worked for Travis County for about 20 years and during that tenure she worked as a program worker, Grants project specialist, social services supervisor, district manager, field operations manager and Community/Family Services Director.

In 2000, Ms. Rodriguez left Travis County and came to the City of Austin and worked in the City of Austin, Office of Neighborhood Services as a Project Administrator. In March, 2001 Ms. Rodriguez, became the Unit Manager for the Public Health and Community Services, Healthy Neighborhood Unit, in the Health and Human Services Department. In this position, she is the Unit Manager for the Austin Health Connection, 6 Neighborhood Centers, Public Health Nursing Program, Weed and Seed Program and the Social Services Program.


Sandra Battise, Housing Division Manager, Capital Area Housing Finance Corporation Ms. Battise has over 15 years of experience in mortgage lending, real estate, and credit analysis . She began with the City of Austin in August 2001 as the Housing Division Manager for the Austin Housing Finance Corporation. This position provides an opportunity to incorporate her experience in the housing industry with providing financing solutions to bridge housing affordability challenges in the City of Austin.

Prior to working at the city, Ms. Batisse was Executive Director of Homeward Bound for 5 years. She has also worked at a large national bank as the Affordable Housing Mortgage Lender.

Chris Garza, Program Specialist II, Austin Tenants’ Council

Ms. Garza has worked at the Austin Tenants' Council (ATC) for the past 16 years and is a trained mediator 
and a HUD-Certified Housing Counselor. She is also the primary volunteer coordinator for recruiting and 
training law students to serve as counselors for ATC's Telephone Counseling Line.


In addition to administrative duties, she provides advice, advocacy and referral to help protect the housing rights of low-income and minority residents in the Austin MSA. She counsels clients on their rights under the Texas Property Code and the Fair Housing Act. This work includes mediating on behalf of tenants whose housing is threatened through illegal eviction, willful exclusion, etc., or the landlord's failure to repair substandard housing conditions. ATC services have allowed Ms. Garza to develop an extensive knowledge of Texas tenant-landlord law, and a deep appreciation for the importance of housing in maintaining healthy families and a healthy community.


Immigration Law

Carmen Cortés-Harms, Chancellor - Consulate General of Mexico
Ms. Cortés-Harms received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication in December 1981 from Instituto Tecnológico y Estudios Superiores de Monterrey-Campus Queretaro, Mexico. She holds a Master of Arts in Public Communication and Broadcasting from Western Illinois University. She has completed postgraduate work in Economics, International Commerce, and Protection-Legal Systems.

Currently, Ms. Cortés-Harms directs the Protection Department at the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin. Prior to this position, she supervised the Documentation Department at the Austin Consulate General. From 1993 to 1998, Ms. Cortés-Harms was posted in the Protection Department at the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago, Illinois. Before working with the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she worked in television production at UNIVISION in Chicago, and in academic administration at the Instituto Tecnológico y Estudios Superiores de Monterrey-Campus Queretaro, Mexico.

Paul Parsons, Immigration Attorney
Paul Parsons, born Bartlesville, Oklahoma, July 21, 1951; admitted to bar, Texas, 1978; U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, 1981; U.S. Supreme Court, 1982.Mr. Parsons has practiced immigration law in Austin since 1978. He received a B.A. in Political Science in 1973 from Oklahoma State University and a juris doctorate degree in 1977 from the University of Texas School of Law. Mr. Parsons was appointed in 1992 by Governor Ann Richards as Chairman of the Governor's Advisory Committee on Immigration. He is the first recipient of the Sam Williamson Memorial Award "for excellence in advancing the practice of immigration law."

Mr. Parsons served as a Director on the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) from 1990-1996 and is the former Chairman of the Texas-Oklahoma-New Mexico Chapter. He was awarded the AILA Texas Chapter's Service Award in 1990 "for his contributions to the practice of immigration law" and the National AILA Pro Bono Award for his efforts to provide pro bono immigration representation. Mr. Parsons previously served as Chairman of AILA's Committee on Consumer Protection.

Mr. Parsons has been serving as Chairman of the State Bar of Texas Committee on Laws Relating to Immigration since 1990. He previously was a member of the American Bar Association's Committee on Immigration Law. Mr. Parsons served as Chairman of the Examinations Committee on Immigration for the Texas Board of Legal Specialization from 1986-1995. He is a fellow member of the Texas Bar Foundation. He also was President of the Austin Chapter of the Federal Bar Association from 1994 - 1995. Mr. Parsons is fluent in Spanish and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America (Woodward/White).

Nidia Salamanca - Executive Director, Political Asylum Project of Austin (PAPA) Ms. Salamanca received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Tourism and Hotel Management from the Universidad Externado de Colombia in Bogotá, Colombia in 1984. In 1990, she graduated with a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin.

Since 1989, Ms. Salamanca has worked for the Political Asylum Project of Austin (PAPA) as a Legal Assistant/Pro Bono Coordinator. She assists in the preparation and filing of applications for asylum under Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. She interviews and counsels clients in preparation of INS hearings to ensure that legal assistance is properly delivered. Ms. Salamanca serves as the liaison to the Board of Directors of PAPA in fundraising, budget, community, and educational planning. She also coordinates volunteer training and assignments, and edits the organization’s newsletter.

Prior to joining PAPA, Ms. Salamanca taught Spanish language courses and worked at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at UT. She also has extensive work experience in tourism and public relations.

Police & Safety

Laura Gomez-Horton, Social Worker, LMSW-ACP, Domestic Violence Counselor, SafePlace
Ms. Gómez-Horton earned her Master of Science in Social work form the UT with a concentration in children and families. She has been employed with SafePlace since May of 1998. As a Domestic Violence Counselor, she facilitates support groups and provides individual counseling to English and Spanish-speaking sexual assault clients.

Before joining the SafePlace team, Ms. Gómez-Horton worked as a Family and Community Partnerships Specialist with Cen-Tex Family Services, Inc. – Head Start for Bastrop, Fayette, Colorado, and Lee counties. Her graduate internship was with Seton East Community Health Center where she conducted individual, child, family, couple, and group counseling.

Stanley Knee, Chief of Police - Austin Police Department
Chief Knee was sworn-in as the Austin Police Department's seventh Chief of Police on October 16, 1997. The 32-year law enforcement veteran oversees an agency with more than 1,000 officers, nearly 500 civilian employees and a $141 million budget.

Chief Knee came to Austin from Garden Grove, California, where he served five years as police chief. He was responsible for officers and personnel, providing a high level of service while reducing crime through community policing. Chief Knee began his career in Garden Grove as a patrol officer. He was promoted to the ranks of detective, sergeant, lieutenant, and then captain. He left Garden Grove to serve as police chief in National City, California, but returned as chief to Garden Grove four years later.

A graduate of the FBI National Academy, Chief Knee is a member of the International Association of Chief of Police (IACP) and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The Long Beach, California, native earned his master's degree in criminal justice from California State University, Long Beach, and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from California State University, Fullerton. A U.S. Army veteran, Chief Knee served in Vietnam and was awarded two Bronze Stars and a commendation medal. Chief Knee is married and has four grown children and ten grandchildren.

Henry Moreno, Police Officer - Austin Police Department
Hank Moreno is a senior police officer with the Austin Police Department. He has been assigned to the Northeast District Representative Program for 1 ½ years. Officer Moreno works in the “weed and seed” area of Northeast Austin. He has been a peace officer for 13 years with 9 ½ of those serving the community in San Antonio. The heart and sole of his duties are serving the residents of Austin with a special interest in reaching out to the newly arrived immigrants to Austin. One of the goals in his unit was to bring the Immigrant Outreach Program to the Austin Police Academy. As of today, Officer Moreno has taught this program to four classes at the Academy and looks forward to teaching many more. As a second-generation immigrant, he considers serving this community an honor and a privilege.

Manuel Renteria, Community Liaison, Immigrant Outreach Program - Austin Police Department
Manuel Renteria was born and raised in East Austin and still resides there with his wife and three children. Mr. Renteria currently serves as community liaison for the Austin Police Department's Immigrant Outreach Program. This special position was established, in October 1999, through a grant from the Department of Criminal Justice/Office of the Texas Governor. The focus of the APD Immigrant Outreach program is to improve the quality of life of recently arrived Spanish-speaking immigrants in Austin. In order to further include Latino families into the concept of Community Policing, Manuel facilitates the Immigrant Outreach Panel, comprised of community leaders and police officers. This group of representatives was formed to establish communication and an understanding about immigrant issues, thus providing a forum to discuss mistrust and problems that must be overcome to improve the quality of life of the immigrant community in Austin.

Mr. Renteria began this program by developing a communication network in order to reach immigrant families served by these various groups. A local radio station, Radio Exitos 98.9 FM, graciously provided him the opportunity to speak on a monthly radio program, "Exitos en La Comunidad." Outreach events known as "Escuchamos Tu Voz" are held in many apartment complexes, schools, churches and social gatherings throughout the city to inform immigrants of their basic right to police protection. Mr. Renteria’s office has also established the "Tu Voz Hotline" as an alternative channel to allow immigrants to communicate their quality of life issues and to inform the police of crimes that would otherwise go unreported.

In 2001, Mr. Renteria was involved in negotiations with Wells Fargo to open bank accounts to reduce robberies of hardworking immigrants. At present, he is educating police officers at the Academy about the barriers they may encounter in dealing with the immigrant population such as the language barrier. He believes the key to the success of this unprecedented program has been the spirit of collaboration from many groups with a passion for helping people who have not had their "voice" heard in this community and nation.

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Page Author:  Sarah Bradley-Leighton
Created: February 2, 2002
Updated: May 8, 2002