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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Local Issues

11 Aug 2020
Jamie Burson didn’t want her 11-year-old son to discover how frightened she really was about the novel coronavirus. But it’s hard to mask anxiety when you’re living and sleeping together in the same car. After Burson was evicted from her two-bedroom apartment in Vacaville during the second week of April, she heeded Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to shelter in place by cooping up in a two-door sedan near her Walmart job. With school campuses shuttered, her son propped his school-issued laptop on top of the glove box and attended class in the same passenger seat in which he slept. It helped that he could occasionally spend a night at a relative’s or friend’s house, although Burson hesitated to ask to sleep there herself, partly out of fear of the virus. “I was scared because of how many people were dying on a daily basis,” said Burson, who was evicted for…
04 Aug 2020
On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—seemingly giving a lifeline to the program that allows some undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children to gain legal status. Celebrations, sparked by the relief felt in undocumented-immigrant communities, spread across America. But they would be short-lived. “Today’s court opinion has no basis in law and merely delays the president’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program,” said a statement by Chad Wolf, the acting Homeland Security secretary. A few days later, the Independent spoke to Megan Beaman Jacinto, a Coachella Valley immigration and civil rights attorney, about the impact of the ruling. “What the decision did was essentially say that the Trump administration didn’t (try to) end DACA in the right way, and for that reason, DACA…
27 Jul 2020
They worry about who will care for the children and how far their education will slide. They anxiously await details on what distance learning will actually look like this fall—hopeful but skeptical that there will be more structure and support than there was during the spring crisis. They’re furiously networking on Facebook and Nextdoor in the tens of thousands to form learning pods or arrange child care. They’ve placed a huge number of calls to local tutoring services in search of help. Some wonder who will watch their child—let alone supervise online classes—while they work essential jobs. Parents of more than 5.9 million California K-12 children are scrambling to adapt to a new reality without schools where they can send their children. Ninety six percent of the state’s total enrollment is in one of the 37 counties—including Riverside County—currently on the state’s watch list. Many students still do not have…
09 Jul 2020
More critically ill Californians utilized the state’s End of Life Option Act in 2019 than in 2018—but almost all of those who did so were white. That’s the big takeaway from the California Department of Health’s yearly report, released on June 30, on what is sometimes called the death with dignity law. Consider: In 2019, some 618 terminally ill adult patients received prescriptions for medical aid in dying, and 405 patients took the medication to end their lives. Of those 405 Californians, 353 of them were white—or 87 percent, even though white people make up just 36.5 percent of the state’s population, according to 2019 U.S. Census estimates. (Full disclosure: My mother-in-law utilized the law in 2016.) Only 5 Black Californians (1.2 percent), 26 Asian Californians (6.4 percent), and 16 Hispanic Californians (4 percent) utilized the law, although these demographic groups together represent 61.4 percent of the state’s population (Black…
07 Jul 2020
On July 31, Dr. Conrado Barzaga will celebrate his one-year anniversary as the CEO of the Desert Healthcare District—and what a completely unforeseeable year it’s been. His organization and the valley’s overall health-care infrastructure are being severely challenged by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic—as well as a related and much-longer-term issue that came to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness on May 25, when George Floyd was killed while restrained and lying on a street in Minneapolis police custody. The baring of the long-simmering racial injustices in our society ignited the passion of Barzaga—so much so that on June 3, he issued a statement linking systemic racism to the subpar public-health outcomes of minority populations, both in the Coachella Valley and across the country. Here is an excerpt: “As communities across the country take to the street and risk their lives to demand justice, the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation stands in…
26 Jun 2020
Yadira Rayo-Peñaloza, an incoming senior at UC Berkeley, nearly sat out the fall term. She didn’t want to spend another semester taking just online courses, which is what she expects all of her classes to be when school starts up again late August. Rayo-Peñaloza, along with her girlfriend and a few of her other friends, weighed her options, considering the likelihood of finding work during a pandemic and what a pause would mean to her financial aid. Ultimately, she decided she’d remain a student. “It was a hard decision to just say that we’re definitely going to go back in the fall.” She also thought about returning to campus in the fall, but will remain at home in Orange County, where she attended community college before transferring. That decision, too, was tough. “It’s really difficult to concentrate back home,” she said. “‘Are we hurting our GPAs?’ That was our biggest…
22 Jun 2020
When the state closed down schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, an oft-ignored inequity in the everyday lives of Californians became glaringly obvious: A significant portion of the state’s population still lacks reliable broadband access. When families without reliable internet have children who can no longer go to a physical school, those students’ chances of educational success decrease dramatically. “In the Coachella Valley, we met with the superintendents of all three school districts early on in this pandemic, and the distance-learning issue was one of their top challenges,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, who represents much of the eastern Coachella Valley, and serves on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond’s newly formed Closing the Digital Divide Task Force. “It wasn’t from the standpoint of the teacher not being with the students; it was that they couldn’t even connect with some of the families, because they don’t have the…
17 Jun 2020
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Areli Galvez began her speech by asking the crowd to imagine George Floyd’s final moments—without ever mentioning his name. “Nothing is working,” she said, reading from her phone. “So you do what you do best when everything goes wrong: You call for your mom. You begin to yell, ‘Momma, Momma please!’ Yet you’re still stuck in the same position.” The powerful four-minute talk by the 16-year-old La Quinta High School student was one of the key moments of the “Enough Is Enough” Black Lives Matter rally and protest, at Palm Springs’ Ruth Hardy Park on Saturday, June 6. Around 1,000 face-mask-wearing people attended the morning rally, which was organized by Galvez and several other young women—including Hina Malik, Jazlina Morgan and Sadie Reese—who took on the name Young Justice Advocates. During a subsequent phone interview, Galvez explained how her group and the rally came to be. “We came together with…
16 Jun 2020
A group of people—mostly born and raised in Indio—organized a rally on Tuesday, June 9, at Miles Park to fight for racial equality and urgently needed policing reforms. The group called itself We Are Indio—and called the event #NoMoreHashtags. One of the organizers was Erin Teran, a nurse at a local hospital. “There were five of us,” Teran said about the organizing group. “Three of us have grown up together. (Indio City) Councilmember Waymond Fermon and I have been friends since kindergarten, and April Skinner and I have been friends since we were really young, too. Our parents were even friends. They’re both people I talk to all the time, and we always support each other.” The other two members of the team are Maribel Pena Burke and Kimberly Barraza, Teran said. “When the whole George Floyd incident happened, I was so upset and emotional about it, because one of…
09 Jun 2020
Since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, parks and streets around the country and world have become staging grounds for massive outpourings of frustration and anger over systemic racism in the United States. On Monday, June 1, a Black Lives Matter protest took place at Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park, organized by a self-described band of “newbie” community organizers who wanted their voices heard. Their Instagram account is called Coachella Valley Activists. The group originally called for an evening protest on El Paseo. However, on the day of the gathering, the group moved the event to Palm Desert’s City Hall-adjacent Civic Center Park—and made the start time earlier in response to a countywide curfew. “For everyone, it was their first time staging a protest rally,” said Angel Moreno, one of the organizers. “Our team is more than 20 people. It’s a…

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