It was June of 2012 when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was announced. A few days before the announcement, there were rumors that something major in regards to immigration reform and the DREAMers, as we have been known to be called, was going to happen very soon. What soon followed was a ray of hope. I cried that day in disbelief that I was finally going to stop living in fear and have a chance to make something of myself.
Looking back, the winter of 2010 was particularly difficult as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) failed to pass, yet again, this time in the Senate being just five votes short. I already understood the negative impact that this would bring to my life as it ensured that my future in this country would remain uncertain for an indefinite period of time. The feelings of fear, anxiety and loss of hope that came were too much to bear at times.
I was enrolled at Salt Lake Community College when the rumors broke, floating along with no direction or motivation to take my education seriously. My mentality was that I wasn’t going to be able to use a degree because of my undocumented status, so why bother? It was a sad place to be as my dreams of wanting a career were in the path of most resistance, and I felt it would be nearly impossible to achieve them. That would mean that my parents’ sacrifice would have been for nothing, and, when you have familial pressure to achieve, it begins to take an additional emotional toll. I was in the process of figuring out what other alternatives I could take instead of higher education that would at least allow me to survive and stay in the United States, as this is the only country I have known since the age of six.
President Obama’s announcement in the Rose Garden was monumental. After many failed attempts by congress to pass the DREAM Act, years of organizing and protesting by immigrant youth, we finally had a viable option – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program created by the Obama administration after congress repeatedly failed to pass immigration reform and protect DREAMers. For those of us affected, America is all we’ve known, and DACA provided a sense of belonging and legitimacy in the country we love and call home.
Even if it was a temporary fix, it was something great at least for that period of time for me. DACA gave us a two-year employment authorization as well as protection from deportation. It gave us the mobility we needed to earn higher wages to help at home and pay our way through college. We no longer had to live in fear that if we were pulled over by a police officer we could be referred to deportation proceedings.
To be clear, DACA is not a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship but a Band-Aid solution after years of uncertainty and hard work.
I was fortunate enough to have saved up a little bit of money to pay the $465 fee and submit my initial application for DACA as soon as we were allowed to. I was in the process of moving to Chicago with my then-partner (who was also a DREAMer), as he was accepted into a master’s/Ph.D. program at Northwestern University. I was employed at a bank during my time there, and when it was time to come back to Salt Lake City, I obtained my insurance producer license – something I was not able to do prior to DACA.
This time around, I was serious about completing my degree. I knew I could complete my undergraduate studies as I was earning more money to pay for tuition, which ultimately would culminate in a career. Undocumented students, even with DACA, do not qualify for any state or federal assistance to pay for higher education. We rely on private scholarships and our own labor to pay for our education.
I met with Alonso Reyna-Rivarola, who was an academic advisor at the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs (CESA) at the University of Utah, to educate myself about what my options were to pay for tuition as an undocumented, first-generation student. Alonso influenced my decision to transfer to the U. I left our meeting with the necessary knowledge about navigating the institution to move forward in completing my goals.
The 2016 election had profound impacts in the immigrant communities. We were uncertain, yet again, what would happen to us and what the future of DACA would be after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed to dismantle the program and leave us in shambles. With President Trump’s recent decision, we are put in a terrible position as everything we have built for ourselves over the last five years since the introduction is in jeopardy.
For me, it feels as if I am being dragged back to square one. I am in my senior year of my undergraduate studies, and the thought of not being able to use my degree after all these years of sacrifices and hard work is truly damaging.
So many of us have a lot to lose if there is no replacement for DACA. We are students, homeowners, small-business owners and, most importantly, Americans in every way except in the piece of paper we do not hold. My hope is that people start realizing the complexity of this issue as we share our stories. The immigration system is deeply flawed and the general populous fails to understand what kinds of hurdles we need to surpass to get ahead.
Reemplazo para DACA urgentemente necesaria
por William Pech
Fue en junio de 2012 cuando se anunció la Acción Diferida para los Llegados en la Infancia (DACA). Unos días antes del anuncio, hubo rumores de que algo importante iba a suceder muy pronto en lo que respectaba a la reforma migratoria y los DREAMers, como se nos ha llamado. Lo que pasó después fue un rayo de esperanza. Ese día lloré con incredulidad porque, finalmente, iba a dejar de vivir con miedo y tendría la oportunidad de hacer algo de mí mismo.
Viendo hacia atrás, el invierno de 2010 fue particularmente difícil, ya que la Ley de Desarrollo, Alivio y Educación para Menores Extranjeros (DREAM Act) no logró pasar, otra vez, esta vez en el Senado, estuvo corta por solo cinco votos. Yo, ya entendía el impacto negativo que este hecho traería a mi vida, ya que aseguraba que mi futuro en este país permanecería incierto por un período de tiempo indefinido. Los sentimientos de miedo, ansiedad y pérdida de esperanza que llegaban a mí a veces eran demasiado difíciles de soportar.
Me matriculé en el Salt Lake Community College cuando los rumores comenzaron, flotando sin ninguna dirección o motivación para tomar en serio mi educación. Mi mentalidad era que no iba a poder usar un título debido a mi condición de indocumentado, entonces ¿para qué molestarme? Era triste estar en ese lugar mientras mis sueños de tener una carrera estaban en el camino de mayor resistencia, y sentía que sería casi imposible lograrlos. Eso significaría que el sacrificio de mis padres habría sido en vano, y, cuando se tienen presiones familiares para lograr algo, comienza a tener un efecto emocional adicional. Estaba en el proceso de averiguar qué otras alternativas podría tomar en lugar de la educación universitaria que, por lo menos, me permitiera sobrevivir y permanecer en los Estados Unidos, ya que este es el único país que he conocido desde los seis años.
El anuncio del presidente Obama en el Rose Garden fue monumental. Después de muchos intentos fallidos del Congreso para aprobar la Ley DREAM, años de organización y protesta de jóvenes inmigrantes, finalmente tuvimos una opción viable: la Acción Diferida para las Llegadas en la Infancia, un programa creado por el gobierno de Obama después de que Congreso fracasó, en repetidas ocasiones, en aprobar la reforma migratoria y proteger a los DREAMers. Para aquellos de nosotros afectados, los Estados Unidos es todo lo que hemos conocido, y DACA nos proporcionó un sentimiento de pertenencia y legitimidad en el país que amamos y llamamos hogar.
Aunque se trataba de una solución temporal, fue algo grandioso, al menos durante ese período de tiempo para mí. DACA nos dio una autorización de empleo de dos años, así como protección contra la deportación. Nos dio la movilidad que necesitábamos para ganar salarios más altos para ayudar en casa y pagar la universidad. Ya no teníamos que vivir con el miedo de que, si un oficial de policía nos detenía, podríamos ser referidos a procedimientos de deportación.
Para ser claros, DACA no es un camino hacia la residencia permanente o la ciudadanía sino una solución temporal después de años de incertidumbre y trabajo duro.
Tuve la suerte de haber ahorrado un poco de dinero para pagar la tarifa de $ 465 y presentar mi solicitud inicial para DACA tan pronto como se nos permitió. Estaba en el proceso de mudarme a Chicago con mi entonces compañero (que también era un DREAMer), ya que fue aceptado en un programa de maestría y doctorado en la Universidad Northwestern. Estuve empleado en un banco durante mi estancia allí, y cuando llegó la hora de volver a Salt Lake City, obtuve mi licencia de productor de seguro, algo que no podría haber hecho antes de DACA.
Esta vez, me tomé en serio el completar mi título. Sabía que podía completar mis estudios de pregrado, ya que estaba ganando más dinero para pagar la colegiatura, lo que finalmente culminaría en una carrera. Los estudiantes indocumentados, incluso con DACA, no califican para ninguna asistencia estatal o federal para pagar la educación superior. Confiamos en becas privadas y nuestra propia mano de obra para pagar por nuestra educación.
Me reuní con Alonso Reyna-Rivarola, quien era asesor académico en el Centro para Asuntos Étnicos Estudiantiles (CESA) en la Universidad de Utah, para aprender sobre cuales eran mis opciones para pagar la colegiatura como estudiante indocumentado de primera generación. Alonso influyó en mi decisión de trasladarme a la U. Dejé nuestra reunión con el conocimiento necesario sobre cómo guiarme por la institución para avanzar en alcanzar mis objetivos.
Las elecciones de 2016 tuvieron profundos impactos en las comunidades de inmigrantes. Estábamos inseguros, una vez más, de qué nos pasaría y cuál sería el futuro de DACA después de que el entonces candidato presidencial Donald Trump prometiera desmantelar el programa y dejarnos en ruinas. Con la reciente decisión del presidente Trump, nos encontramos en una posición terrible ya que todo lo que hemos construido para nosotros mismos en los últimos cinco años, desde la introducción, está en peligro.
Para mí, se siente como si me estuvieran arrastrando de regreso al punto de inicio. Estoy en el último año de mis estudios de pregrado y la idea de no poder usar mi título, después de todos estos años de sacrificios y trabajo duro, es realmente dañino.
Muchos de nosotros tenemos tanto que perder si no hay un reemplazo para DACA. Somos estudiantes, propietarios de viviendas, propietarios de pequeñas empresas y, lo más importante, estadounidenses en todos los sentidos, excepto en el papel que no tenemos. Mi esperanza es que, al compartir nuestras historias, las personas comiencen a darse cuenta de la complejidad de este tema. El sistema de inmigración es profundamente defectuoso y la población en general no entiende qué tipo de obstáculos necesitamos superar para salir adelante.
“This must be where I’m supposed to be.” For the first time in my 20-year-old life, I had this thought on top of a grainy sandstone column named Pinnacle II in Utah’s San Rafael Swell. It’s a strange phenomenon to suddenly feel like you’re home in the middle of a place you just experienced for a few days. Especially when that place is in the middle of the wild, desert land in southern Utah.
Even though I’ve lived all of my life in the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys’ urban centers, this was the first distinct moment that my emotions, and not my logic or my memories, asserted that Utah is home.
The University of Utah Alternative Breaks program brings first-generation college students to the Swell every fall to engage in community service. The trip provided my first opportunity to explore slot canyons, scale red rock boulders, directly improve the environment with land management professionals, and interact with diverse students like me. Our conversations were as decadent as the rough, grainy sandstone texture beneath my hands. On one hike, my hands dragged along the towering, textured walls for so long, it would seem that I was trying to make my palms take their shape. The shape of that land and our conversations has in turn shaped my memory, and my hopes for the future of wild public lands throughout Utah.
Primarily, I hope that in the future I won’t have to wonder why I am the only person of color in the remote public lands of southern Utah. Being the only brown-skinned backpacker among a handful of strangers isn’t a singular mishap. It’s a commonality to public land users across the nation. Less than 22 percent of people visiting for national parks in 2011 were people of color, and about one in 10 were Hispanic or Latino/a. That number was exactly the same in the first 2006 study of park visitors.
Public lands should reflect the faces of our country — a public of all ethnicities and racial backgrounds. Wild, natural places deserve to be enjoyed by the nation’s growing non-white demographic, but right now it is largely a leisure activity enjoyed by white communities.
Some say that this is a matter of economic accessibility — people can’t enjoy deserts far away if they cannot afford the long drive and camping equipment. Another reason explaining the racial disparity in wild areas is the general lack of education about how to enjoy remote, wild areas — the idea of driving hours away onto dirt roads where campsites and paths are unmarked is daunting, especially when maps are not easy to come by and information is often only available in English.
Additionally, for the undocumented communities living in the U.S., the desert may not seem like a place for leisure or sanctuary, but a threat to life — regarded as the harrowing obstacle on the march to living in a safe community. Harsh red rock environments may be undesirable for workers who have little choice but to make a living laboring on rooftops, construction sites, road-ways and farms in both bitter cold winters and blistering summers. In short, the great outdoors are one person’s getaway, and another person’s place to get away from.
Despite these barriers, people of color still value and appreciate nature; people seek wild places whether they are connecting with nature at the Jordan River, in a garden, at the park, or in a nearby Wasatch Front canyon.
The stunning characteristics of creeks in dry landscapes, wind-shaped mountains, bumpy slot canyons, and heartwarming campfires have the power to make us humble and remember who we are. This humility can show up as the feeling of our small and delicate place in the universe under a million stars in the night sky, or the recurring encounter with our own thoughts and dreams in the silent, natural environment. For me, it was the sudden feeling that in nature, at school, and in my city, I was where I was meant to be.
The wilderness awaits our return. Pristine, ancient lands especially call for low-income communities and people of color who are most impacted by environmental pollution and lack of access to natural public lands. They call for these folk to reconnect with nature and benefit from its awe-inspiring gifts.
The wilderness is also calling for our help. The Trump Administration has its focus set to eliminate 90 percent of Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah which protects over 100,000 ancient indigenous sites. They similarly are set on devastating more than half of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for coal and oil development. These attacks are irreparable. Neither time nor rehabilitation can undo damage to the delicate ecosystems and cultural sites in the redrock environment after misuse and fossil fuel development.
Our treasured wild lands need communities of color to speak for its protection. That’s where the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance steps in. Their initiative to empower Latino/a voices celebrates the community’s deep respect for our wild, pristine environments and reaffirms the fact that our wild lands belong to everybody. The goal is to amplify diverse voices, influence policy makers, ensure wild Utah is welcoming to communities of color, and is preserved for generations to come.
Join us is making a positive step forward into environmental justice — a step that validates all colors of skin and all languages in our colorful, wordless desert lands.
Olivia Juarez is SUWA’s Latinx Community Organizer. You can find out more by contacting or visiting SUWA.org.
El desierto nos llama
por Olivia Juárez
"Aquí debe ser donde se supone que debo estar." Por primera vez en mis 20 años de vida, tuve este pensamiento sobre la cima de una columna de piedra arenisca y granosa llamada Pinnacle II en el San Rafael Swell de Utah. Es un fenómeno extraño el sentirte, de repente, como si estuvieras en casa en medio de un lugar que has conocido por solo unos días. Especialmente cuando ese lugar está en medio de la tierra salvaje y desértica en el sur de Utah.
Aunque he vivido toda mi vida en los centros urbanos de los valles de Salt Lake y Tooele, este fue el primer momento único en el que mis emociones, y no mi lógica o mis recuerdos, afirmaron que Utah es mi hogar.
El programa Alternative Breaks (Descansos Alternativos) de la Universidad de Utah trae a estudiantes universitarios de primera generación al Swell cada otoño para que participen en servicio comunitario. El viaje me brindó la primera oportunidad de explorar cañones de ranuras, escalar rocas rojas, mejorar directamente el medio ambiente trabajando con profesionales de la gestión de la tierra e interactuar con estudiantes diversos como yo. Nuestras conversaciones eran tan decadentes como la áspera textura arenisca y granosa bajo mis manos. En una de las caminatas, mis manos se arrastraron a lo largo de las altísimas y texturizadas paredes durante tanto tiempo que parecía que yo estuviera tratando de hacer que mis palmas tomaran su forma. La forma de esa tierra y nuestras conversaciones, a su vez, han dado forma a mi memoria y a mis esperanzas por el futuro de las tierras públicas del desierto en todo Utah.
En primer lugar, espero que en el futuro no tenga que preguntarme por qué soy la única persona de color en las tierras públicas remotas del sur de Utah. Ser la única mochilera de piel morena entre un puñado de extraños no es un accidente aislado. Es común entre los usuarios de territorios públicos en todo el país. Menos del 22 por ciento de las personas que visitaron parques nacionales en 2011 eran personas de color, y aproximadamente uno de cada 10 eran hispanos o latinos. Ese número fue exactamente el mismo en el primer estudio de visitantes de los parques en el 2006.
Las tierras públicas deben reflejar las caras de nuestro país - un público de todas las etnias y razas. Los lugares silvestres y naturales merecen ser disfrutados por la creciente demográfica no-blanca de la nación, pero, en este momento es, en su mayoría, un pasatiempo que disfrutan las comunidades blancas.
Algunos dicen que se debe a una cuestión de accesibilidad económica - la gente no puede disfrutar de los desiertos lejanos si no pueden darse el lujo de hacer un viaje largo y de comprar el equipo de campamento. Otra razón que explica la disparidad racial en las áreas silvestres es la falta de educación, en general, sobre cómo disfrutar las áreas remotas y salvajes - la idea de manejar horas en carreteras de terracería donde los campamentos y caminos no están marcados es desalentador, especialmente cuando los mapas no son fáciles de encontrar y la información, a menudo, sólo está disponible en inglés.
Además, para las comunidades indocumentadas que viven en los Estados Unidos, puede que el desierto no parezca un lugar para disfrutar el tiempo, o un santuario, sino una amenaza para la vida - ya que es considerado como un obstáculo angustiante en el camino hacia la vida en una comunidad segura. Los ambientes ásperos de las rocas rojas pueden ser indeseables para los trabajadores que no tienen más remedio que ganarse la vida trabajando en los tejados, en las obras de construcción, las carreteras y las granjas durante los inviernos fríos y amargos, así como en los veranos mordaces. En resumen, el aire libre es el escape de una persona, y el lugar del que otra persona quiere escapar. A pesar de estas barreras, las personas de color todavía valoran y aprecian la naturaleza; la gente busca lugares silvestres, ya sea que se conecten con la naturaleza en el Jordan River, en un jardín, en el parque, o en un cañón cercano del Wasatch Front.
Las impresionantes características de los arroyos en paisajes secos, montañas en forma de viento, cañones de ranuras llenos de baches y conmovedoras fogatas de campamento tienen el poder de hacernos humildes y recordarnos quiénes somos. Esta humildad puede aparecer como el sentimiento del pequeño y delicado lugar que ocupamos en el universo bajo un millón de estrellas en el cielo nocturno, o el encuentro recurrente con nuestros propios pensamientos y sueños en un entorno silencioso y natural. Para mí, fue la repentina sensación de que, en la naturaleza, en la escuela y en mi ciudad, yo estaba donde estaba destinada a estar.
El desierto espera nuestro regreso. Prístinas tierras antiguas llaman, especialmente, a comunidades de bajos ingresos y a las personas de color que son las más afectadas por la contaminación ambiental y la falta de acceso a las tierras públicas naturales. Llaman a estas personas a reconectarse con la naturaleza y beneficiarse de sus regalos impresionantes.
El desierto también está pidiendo nuestra ayuda. La administración de Trump tiene su foco fijado en eliminar el 90 por ciento del monumento nacional Bears Ears en el sur de Utah que protege a más de 100.000 sitios indígenas antiguos. De manera similar, se han fijado en devastar más de la mitad del Monumento Nacional Grand Staircase-Escalante para el desarrollo de carbón y petróleo. Estos ataques son irreparables. Ni el tiempo ni la rehabilitación pueden deshacer el daño a los ecosistemas delicados y sitios culturales en el entorno de las rocas rojas tras el mal uso y el desarrollo del combustible fósil.
Nuestras preciadas tierras silvestres necesitan comunidades de color para abogar por su protección. Ahí es donde entra Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (la Alianza de la Tierra Silvestre del Sur). Su iniciativa para empoderar a las voces latinas celebra el profundo respeto de la comunidad por nuestro medio ambiente silvestre y prístino, también, reafirma el hecho de que nuestras tierras silvestres pertenecen a todos. El objetivo es ampliar la diversidad de voces, influenciar a los responsables de la formulación de políticas, garantizar que los terrenos salvajes de Utah den la bienvenida a comunidades de color y que se preserven para las generaciones venideras.
Unirse a nosotros es dar un paso adelante hacia la justicia ambiental - un paso que valida todos los colores de piel y todos los idiomas en nuestras tierras desiertas y coloridas que no pueden hablar. Olivia Juárez es organizadora de la comunidad Latinx de SUWA. Puede obtener más información poniéndose en contacto con o visitando SUWA.or
At a certain point at dusk, the harsh, white lights of the hallways turn off and the dimmed, orange-colored lights come on throughout the school halls. This was my favorite time of day in high school, when it was quiet, everyone was gone, and the night sky filled the windows.
I was enjoying the peace. I was at my locker when I received a call, and I was excited when I saw that it was my older brother, Carlos. I had not seen him since I left Arizona and moved to Utah a couple of months before. “Hello!” I answered. “I’m going to California,” he said with a subtle voice. That was enough for my blood to rush in my veins and my eyebrows to rise.
My family moved to Arizona when we were children. We lived there for years. When my mother and I moved to Utah, my brother who was a couple years older than me, decided to stay in Arizona. Fear captivated our lives since we were told at a young age that we were undocumented, and we could not travel much because of dangers of being asked where the almighty papers and proper documentation were. Now, here my brother was telling me that he was going to California.
My heart was pounding as I expressed my worry. I wished him well in whatever decision he made, and we hung up. The halls now seemed to be against me, judging me because I let him go. Even though it was his choice, I knew that hearing my voice calmed him and made him feel it was OK to go.
As I was making my way home that night, I received another call from our oldest sister who still lived in Arizona. My heart knew why before I said hello. “Carlos got caught and they are taking
him to Mexico right now.” I heard the disappointment in her voice along with the words I never wanted to hear. “Let mom know, OK?” “OK.” The conversation was over between us, but not the war in my mind. When do I tell her? When is it a good time to tell my mom that her son had been deported? Should I wait? No!
I finally arrived home from my journey. When I went inside, I looked and treasured my mother’s skinny, already-pale face, her light brown bun curled on the top of her head, and caramel-colored eyes. I held that moment, knowing it would all change in a few minutes. The house was filled with a wonderful, warm aroma of her delicious food. I decided to tell her before we ate. My heart was pounding as I made my short way to the kitchen where I saw my mother cutting some onion. Chop! Chop! Chop! I stood by the wall in silence, just observing.
I asked her to put the long, sharp knife down. I took a breath, looked into her eyes and said with a calm voice, “Carlos is in Mexico.” A short but powerful spear of a sentence into my mother’s heart. “What!?” “He was on his way to California ...” I began. Tears were filling up her eyes. “Why?” she asked. “I don’t know.” Pause. “Everything happens for a reason,” I told her with a heavy heart. She didn’t appreciate it, “Pfft, what could possibly be the reason for this?” she asked as she wiped her tears from her eyes that were focused on the floor. I stayed quiet because she didn’t want to hear the answer from me, but from someone who is all seeing and all knowing. For, why did He allow our biggest fear to be this real?
There was a long silence until it was broken by more chopping, when all she could do in the moment was chop. My mother and I had never been close enough to talk about our feelings, so we didn’t. I knew she was in shock, and I accepted her subtle reaction with grace. I prepared the table, and we ate in silence. I was wondering if she was going to do anything else, say anything more, or express her emotions. She didn’t.
Everything else that night was monotone and gray. Will I ever see my brother again? Will he ever be able to step foot in the United States? Will I ever get a chance to see him without putting myself in danger, too? Lord, please keep him safe. These were my thoughts as I went to bed, but I fell asleep to the wonder of my mother’s praying words, both hopeful and questioning.
A few years later on a winter night, my mother gave me news that lightened my heart like no other. My brother was still in Mexico but she oozed all the happiness in the world. “Your brother is going to have a baby!”
I love my child’s elementary school. If you’ve been following what’s happening at Jackson Elementary, you know it is a truly amazing and diverse school. It is “the home of future college students” and connects its students to the University of Utah via the Adelante and Go Girlz programs.
It has an amazing dual-language English/Spanish learning program with a true balance of English-dominant and Spanish-dominant students. It hosts the El Sistema after-school music program. It won an Apple ConnectEd grant, one of only a few in the nation, which ensures every student and teacher has an iPad and can use it in innovative ways in the classroom. It has creative and talented teachers, an incredible principal, and engaged parents who care deeply about their school.
The school name just doesn’t reflect our current community’s values and strengths. In 1892, a school board member chose to name the school (then known as the 16th Ward School) after President Andrew Jackson. Although he was a U.S. President, we know that his actions included being an architect of the genocide of more than 10,000 Native Americans, known as the Trail of Tears, and the killing of people who escaped slavery.
We simply believe that 125 years is sufficient for having our school named after Jackson, and now our school name can express gratitude for someone or something else we all believe worthy.
Our school went through a process, over the past year, to collect feedback on whether the name should be changed, and more than 70 percent of responses were to change the name (including the possibility of selecting a different person named Jackson). More information about our process is at http://www.jacksonnamechange.org. This year, we are in the process of gathering suggestions for a new name, and would welcome your suggestions. We’d love to honor someone with local ties and contributions, or have a name connected to our local geography or ideals. Please send us your name suggestion at http://www.jacksonnamechange.org/contact.
Neal Patwari is the parent of a Jackson student and chair of the Jackson School Community Council.
A new bill, House Bill 239 Juvenile Justice Amendments, offers diversion programs as alternatives to incarceration for Utah youth offenders who commit minor offenses. The focus is improving outcomes for youth of all races through cost effective community intervention. The amendments, signed by Governor Gary Herbert during the 2017 General Session of the Utah State Legislature, relate to low-level, non-violent, misdemeanor infractions – such as disorderly conduct, possession of tobacco, or violating curfew – and places limits on the time youth spend in residential detention centers. The bill will take full effect by July of next year, with some of its provisions already effective as of March 24 of this year.
The provisions to the bill were recommended after a research-based, data-driven assessment of the state's juvenile justice system, led by the Utah Juvenile Justice Working Group, who stated in their report that “more than 80 percent of youth entering the court system for the first time are low-level offenders with minor infractions who pose a low risk of reoffending.” The report also stated that out-of-home-placement for youth costs up to 17 times more than community supervision and that youth who have never committed a felony and who are placed out-of-home in secure confinement have a higher likelihood of reoffending than those who remain at home.
The report found that African-American youth made up five percent of new misdemeanor cases coming into the system, but nearly three times that percentage were placed in Department of Child and Family Services custody for delinquency.
“One of the things that [our] study group was surprised by was the racial disparity that existed in the dispositions that were handed down by the courts on juvenile offenders,” said Representative V. Lowry Snow, (R) of St. George and HB 239 sponsor.
“Part of the legislation is to reallocate resources so that we can have truancy centers, mobile crisis units that work with parents and youth that need additional assistance. Primarily it's about providing those kinds of support services directly to the young people and their parents rather than utilizing the court system or utilizing detention. You’ll see in the data, the outcomes are actually worse for the youth that have greater court involvement, particularly detention, for low-level offenses. There's a greater likelihood of reoffending. The primary thrust of the amendment legislation is to intervene with our young people early – in a way that we get good outcomes,” said Representative Snow.
According to the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice, the H.B. 239 Juvenile Justice Amendments mandates that a child cannot serve more than 30 days for one offense, cannot be placed in an out-of-home residential “service work” program to complete community service hours, nor complete more than 36 hours of service. The new law also states that a child can only be ordered to complete a treatment program after a needs assessment test is completed by the court and that after receiving a disposition, a minor cannot be locked up for more than 72 hours while a decision is made about which program or placement is appropriate for the child.
The law also prohibits referrals to law enforcement or juvenile court for truancy.
Yandary Chatwin, Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations for the Salt Lake School City District, said of the changes, "Teachers are encouraged to do home visits (for students with truancy issues) at the beginning of the year. That way they get to know students' families. They'll get to know if there's an issue contributing to the truancy, for example, transportation or bullying. There are a whole lot of reasons that can contribute to a student being absent that aren't the students’ fault."
She said that if students don't return to school, letters are sent out and if the student doesn't return after that, an additional home visit from a teacher or administrator is the next step. H.B. 239 provides for the requesting of alternative aftercare services by youth and their families, such as therapy or job training or the utilization of a mobile crisis unit.
"Mobile crisis units are a partnership with the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, and they get called in and they're community partners. Let's say the student was possibly suicidal. Basically, the school may not have the resources in-house, so the partner is called in," Chatwin said.
Another requested alternative aftercare service is participation in Peer Court, which is staffed by high school volunteers from schools around Salt Lake City who are trained to hear cases. When referred youth complete the program, they will avoid obtaining a juvenile record, according to Peer Court Program Director, Kayley Richards.
According to the Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee, the amendments to H.B. 239, including the alternative diversion programs, will yield an estimated $58 million in averted costs over five years and see lower rates of youth recidivism.
Even when road construction was heavy on a stretch of 900 West in Poplar Grove, the doors of the Salvation Army remained wide open. Their fourth annual back-to-school bash held on August 19 distributed over 300 backpacks filled with school supplies to elementary school children in need.
This annual community block party seems to get bigger each year. Over 521 people attended this year. There was face painting and pizza provided by Little Caesars, and attendees received free vision checks courtesy of the Utah Ophthalmology Society.
According to Major Troy Trimmer, head of the Salvation Army Corps in Poplar Grove, this event essentially celebrates the west side and the unofficial end to summer. “There is a genuineness of the people with a good work ethic in this community. Even though many struggle financially, they don’t want a handout. Gang violence is also problem here, but we hold events like these to remind everyone in this community that we care,” Major Trimmer said.
The current location of the Salvation Army at 438 S. 900 West is planning to expand into other tracts of land next to the main building, which would include a music conservatory for children.
“We are living in interesting times of demographic change. This is a cultured community, which is what gives it its vibrancy. It's like a piece of heaven. No one in heaven is too Greek or Irish,” said Major Trimmer. “The ultimate goal of our church is to not leave people in the same physical condition.”
The Salvation Army holds regular Bible Study and Sunday Service. The facility hosts a handful of human services: utility assistance, a case-management program, a food pantry, hot meals distributed to needy families, and a six-week summer camp for children.
The Salvation Army is an international missionary organization spanning 128 countries. It has an Evangelical- and Wesleyan-leaning tradition, in which divine sovereignty is acknowledged in concert with individual free will.
Founded in 1865 in the United Kingdom, the church is a quasi-military organization started by William Booth in London’s East end where prostitution, alcohol, and looting were rampant. Booth gathered people involved in those activities with the aim of bettering them through his Christian mission. Following a dictation accident, in which a pamphlet called the new mission the “Volunteer Army,” Booth decided that it was not really a volunteer mission, but a Salvation Army.
Around 1887, the Salvation Army made its way to several locations across the Wasatch Front before landing in its present location, where it currently serves many people in need.
In the wake of recent deadly officer-involved shootings, some Salt Lake City residents are calling for changes, including better de-escalation training for local police officers.
Last year, the Salt Lake City Police Department voluntarily implemented new training programs for its officers and supervisors, and plans to have the entire department through the programs in two years. The programs, Fair and Impartial Policing and Arbinger, are funded by a three year budget increase approved by Salt Lake City Council. Sgt. Michael Burbank says these programs “are looked at as the cutting edge, de-escalation, understanding your biases-type training programs.”
Fair and Impartial policing is a training method used to help law enforcement officers recognize their conscious and unconscious biases in order to reduce instances of biased policing. The idea behind Fair and Impartial Policing is that with information and motivation, people can implement controlled (unbiased) behavioral responses that override automatic (biased) associations. In addition, supervisors are trained to identify subordinates who may be acting in a biased manner and to respond appropriately to officers who exhibit biased policing behaviors.
The Arbinger program focuses on mindset – the lens through which you see your work, your relationships, and your entire world. The objective of the Arbinger method used by police departments is to give officers the tools to develop and implement an outward mindset in their work. SLCP Training Lieutenant Eddie Cameron said for most officers the information and training provided by Arbinger was a good reminder, but wasn’t really groundbreaking, but it did give a few officers a new perspective.
In addition to Fair and Impartial Policing, the police department introduced Blue Courage, a program for “seasoned” officers, which is funded through a grant from the Department of Justice. Training Officer Jason Miller said, “A lot of officers, after seeing what we see, tend to forget the reasons we got into the job. [Blue Courage] reminds us this is a noble profession, and in order for it to be a noble profession you have to have noble character.” Blue Courage reinvigorates this idea of nobility through emphasis on self-help resources and officer wellness, and stresses the idea of police officers as “protectors” of the community, rather than “warriors.”
Sgt. Michael Burbank said, “We’ve always had these principles within the department, but these programs are actually giving us a framework and a way to talk about them. Looking to change the culture of an institution is a long process; it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Jesse Gonzalez got into trouble for disturbing the peace and breaking curfew a couple of years ago. But instead of punishing him by arresting him or suspending him from school, administrators at Highland High School referred him to Salt Lake Peer Court.
Gonzalez, accompanied by a parent, sat in a hearing across from a panel of seven of his peers, who heard his case and determined what kind of reparations he should make. The panel assigned mandatory community service and paired him up with a student mentor.
Today, Gonzalez sits on the other side of the table as a member of the panel of volunteers. He is a believer in this alternative juvenile justice program. “Our society is too quick to label kids as lost causes. Law enforcement should take into consideration that kids will make mistakes through trial and error at that messy time of adolescence,” said Gonzalez. “Peer Court gives kids a second chance. I used to be one of those kids.”
Salt Lake Peer Court was started in 1993 to keep youth who commit low-level offenses on school property out of the juvenile justice system. What began as a program just for West High School has become a statewide program, and many cities and municipalities have their own chapters.
This year, Salt Lake Peer Court has 80 high school student volunteers who come from different schools throughout the Salt Lake City School District. These 10th-12th grade volunteers receive training during a summer conference and retreat and at weekly Peer Court sessions held at the Matheson Courthouse. “They learn a new type of justice – a less punitive one,” said Salt Lake Peer Court Director Kayley Richards. “They also learn about diversity and privilege,” she said.
West High senior Emery Hovermale, who has volunteered for Peer Court for three years, is upset about unfair treatment of students of color at West. “I’ve noticed that my classmates [of color] who are walking in the hall without a hall pass often get stopped and asked, ‘Why aren’t you in class?’ when I don’t get stopped at all. It’s not fair that they could go to ‘juvie’ or fined for something that I could be doing all the time and never be stopped for,” said Hovermale. “I am really glad to see that we have programs in place like Peer Court to help address this, even though it is post-incident.”
Students who get into trouble at school can be referred to Peer Court by their school administration or school resource officers (Salt Lake City police officers based at schools). The bulk of referred students are from middle and high schools within the Salt Lake City School District, but occasionally 5th and 6th graders are referred.
There is a Utah statute that governs which offenses can be addressed in Peer Court. Felonies and some Class “A” misdemeanors do not qualify, such as gang-related offenses, with the exception of vandalism/graffiti. Students are most commonly referred for “status” offenses such as curfew, truancy, underage smoking or drinking, etc. A status offense is an offense that is only illegal because of someone’s age.
The primary benefits of going through Peer Court for referred youth and their families are (1) The offenses will not go on an official state juvenile record, (2) it is free, and (3) youth gain skills through restorative justice practices that keep in mind three stakeholders: the offender, the victim, and the community.
"We are a diversion program completely outside of the juvenile court system, so there's no official juvenile record if they participate and successfully complete their disposition assignments,” Richards said.
“People tend to think it is an easy way out of an offense, but that’s not the case. We really do require a lot,” said Hovermale.
Peer Court’s model is based on three pillars: accountability, community involvement, and development of skills. “We focus on reform and making people better people,” said Gonzalez.
Instead of punishing referred youth, they offer support. “If a student is referred for grades, we can help them find tutoring at their school. Or let’s say they are hanging out with the wrong group, we can refer them to programs like Spy Hop,” said Kayla Williams, a 2nd year volunteer from the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts. One of William’s favorite programs is Go Girlz, a program geared specifically for 6th-12th grade minority girls. It helps build relationship and communication skills and offers college-readiness courses.
Sometimes the panel assigns writing prompts such as “Research one college that you would like to go to” or “What do you look for in a good friend?” “It get’s them thinking,” said Hovermale.
Another important component of the program is assigning a mentor to the referred youth. They are usually paired up with someone from their own school, someone with whom they can relate.
Williams and Hovermale have seen very drastic, long-term change in people who have come through program. “I watched one referred youth from my school completely change his mindset; he flipped from constantly sluffing and failing classes to getting “A”s and “B”s,” Williams said.
Because of its popularity and success, Richards would like to see an expansion of the program.
“Over the years, we’ve seen a need to provide a diversion option to youth offending in the community,” said Richards. “Right now, we only get referrals for offenses made on school property. We have begun conversations with the Salt Lake City Police Department to expand,” she said.
Salt Lake City’s vision for a “grand boulevard” on North Temple has yet to be realized after 10 years of plans, construction and hundreds of millions of dollars spent.
With nearby development such as the new stadium at the Utah State Fairpark, the new Jordan River Parkway bridge between 200 and 300 South, and plans to connect downtown to the fairgrounds with a Folsom Trail, North Temple feels like it is lagging behind.
The grand boulevard concept envisions narrower roads, colorful streets, art, pedestrian friendly pathways and an enticing choice of restaurants and businesses. The installation of the TRAX light-rail line to the airport narrowed the street and provided pedestrian transportation options. New market rate apartment buildings are popping up on the west end of North Temple and a few key businesses anchor the street further east, such as the ever-popular Red Iguana, Mestizo Coffeehouse, Leatherby’s and Rancho Markets.
Despite these improvements, glaring blight spoils the view. Littering the boulevard are several low-budget motels which serve as breeding grounds for criminal behavior.
Salt Lake City police call records of three North Temple motels – Econo Lodge, All Star Travel Motel and Gateway Inn – document the activity. So far in 2017, there were 190 calls to All Star Travel, 296 to the Econo Lodge and a disproportionate 750 calls to Gateway Inn. While some of the calls were hang-ups and miscellaneous, many involved crimes such as car prowls, burglary and numerous sex crimes including investigations concerning a child. Since January, 37 people were arrested at Gateway Inn for serious outstanding warrants. About two dozen were arrested at the other two.
The Gateway Inn across from the Jackson-Euclid TRAX stop at 819 W. North Temple is the most notorious. In 2017, police investigated dozens of physical altercations there, including 10 fights with large groups and others involving shootings, shots fired and stabbings. A gang-related shooting occurred in March of this year, and a drug lab was investigated in September. A murder on 800 West and North Temple served as a final straw before the launch of Operation Rio Grande in August.
These motels thrive on cash customers and have no shortage of guests. Groups of people mill around the front of the property at all hours of the day and night. The price point for the motels is alluring. For someone down on their luck, perhaps with poor credit, housing options are limited. On North Temple, temporary shelter can be found for as little as $40. While it seems cheap, add it up over a month and for 263 square feet, guests are paying $1200 a month. After taxes, a minimum wage job won’t cover the daily housing cost, so guests are forced to find something else to do to make money.
Salt Lake Police Department spokesman Greg Wilking said some of the motel owners have “acted as pimps” by suggesting to their guests how to come up with their daily rent money. This is the main reason City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall helped get a nuisance ordinance passed that holds motel owners responsible for some crimes taking place on their properties. (She represents District 5, which includes crime-ridden motels further south on State Street.) The penalties increase with each incident, escalating into a temporary business closure after four violations.
Community leaders are searching for solutions. A group of students from the University of Utah’s planning department conducted a study on the problem earlier this year. Two tactics stood out to the group’s professor, Ivis Garcia Zambrana: a city ordinance to limit the stays of guests to no more than thirty days and to place restrictions on the use of emergency housing vouchers at the motels.
The city has looked at buying some of the most troublesome locations but prices have gone up substantially. About a year and a half ago, the owner of Gateway Inn wanted $1.5 million to sell, according to the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City. At a meeting of concerned State Street businesses two months ago, Ballpark Community Council chair Bill Davis said the price tag is now six million.
Other possible tactics include enforcement of health code violations but both the city and county health departments are short on enforcement officials. Scheduled inspections have been delayed because of these shortages. The Gateway Inn has yet to be inspected this year according to a recent email from the public information office at Salt Lake County’s Health Department. Motels are inspected annually or when a specific complaint is called in.
State Rep. Sandra Hollins’ (D-Salt Lake City) district includes North Temple. She was also recently hired as the city’s homeless liaison. If the motels are disrupted, there’s concern about where displaced guests would go. Precious few housing options exist for those living in the margins of society, especially those with criminal histories. Building Salt Lake, a real estate publication, recently observed, “City officials estimate that the city needs to add nearly 7,500 affordable housing units to meet the city’s current housing demands.” Most of the current construction is for market rate housing.
The continued presence of these motels on North Temple block any meaningful growth in the area. The guests they attract are not just poor people desperate for shelter but criminals with active warrants and people who behave violently. The “grand boulevard” vision will remain in jeopardy so long as these motels continue to conduct business in the current manner.
Nigel Swaby is a Fairpark resident and currently serves as the chair of the River District Business Alliance.
Until the 70s, North Temple was considered part of US Highway 40, linking the Rockies of Colorado with the Sierras of Nevada and California, through Vernal, Roosevelt, Salt Lake City and Wendover. There were once about two-dozen motels along Highway 40 between the LDS Temple and Salt Lake Airport, many built after WWII as freeways and jet planes revolutionized consumer travel. Most of them are now demolished. These five remain:
The oldest remnant of these motels was once called Scotty’s. Built before WWII, it is now known as the All Star Travel Motel. The adjacent restaurant, formerly run by the Beany family, prospers as the Red Iguana. The family lived above the restaurant, where the offices are now.
The Demman family moved their restaurant from the corner southwest of the old Jackson Junior High to North Temple, west of the fairgrounds, adding accommodations, which now exist as the Overnite Motel. The small white clapboard building, which housed their soda fountain for so many years, still exists at 700 West and 200 North.
The former Holiday Inn on the southeast corner of Redwood Road and North Temple hosted touring rock stars like Tommy Roe, the Moody Blues, the Turtles, and Frank Zappa, the latter two writing songs about the place, long before Ramada bought it.
The Gateway Motel, across from the Jackson/Euclid TRAX Station, opened under a different name at the same time as the Holiday Inn. It once served LDS Conference visitors from as far away as the Panama Canal Zone in the 1960s.
The Dream Inn sports the sole remaining North Temple hospitality product made by local business Young Electric Signs, famous for their glitzy signs in Las Vegas.
These old motels serve as a reminder of a bygone era of post-war prosperity and confidence that many thought would continue to an unforseen future.