An Environmental Activist Group
It all started when Miguel Escoto moved back to El Paso after graduating from Saint Edward’s University in Austin. While living there, he was briefly part of their Sunrise Movement chapter and wanted to continue being part of the movement when he returned home.
“The Sunrise Movement is a nationwide movement to stop climate change and create millions of jobs in the process,” said Escoto, leader of El Paso Sunrise Movement chapter.
After learning that there was no chapter here, he decided to go through the process of creating a branch in the Sun City.
“I started in the summer around July/August, for a while it was just me and my little Sunrise El Paso Instagram (account) I made and I would get seven likes. But then the climate strike happened,” Escoto said.
On September 20, 2019, there was a global climate strike in which millions protested for issues dealing with climate change. According to the New York Times, this was the first time that children and young people had demonstrated to demand climate action in so many places and in such numbers around the world.
The event held at Memorial Park in El Paso brought together dozen of citizens as reported by The Prospector, During this protest, Escoto met other local environmental activists and this was the moment that began the creative discussions on bringing a green deal transition to El Paso.
“One of our main goals is to advocate for a Green New Deal that works for El Paso. The Green New Deal that works for New York or Los Angeles is different from what it would look like here in our border town,” said Escoto.
According to the Sunrise Movement website, “the Green New Deal is a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030, a guaranteed living-wage job for anyone who needs one, and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities.”
Escoto added, “it should incorporate things like universal healthcare, a robust green jobs program, install solar panels and change our economy’s infrastructure.”
Since the Sunrise Movement began in El Paso, they have participated in several local campaigns such as the climate strike about JPMorgan Chase-tied Infrastructure Investments Fund buying El Paso Electric’s city franchise. To do so, J.P. Morgan needed permission from El Paso’s City Council.
The Sunrise Movement constantly met with city council members from late October to December, urging them to say no to the buyout due to J.P. Morgan’s questionable past. After requesting for a meeting to be held to inform the public before voting, the city council and El Paso Electric ended up allowing so. However, when it came to asking questions at the meeting, attendees had to write their questions on a card and then only certain questions were picked to be answered.
“They did not allow members of the public to speak. We went prepared with questions…Most cards were not addressed,” said Escoto.
After this, the Sunrise Movement decided to have their own alternative meetings around different areas of El Paso where they educated locals on what was going on and answered any questions. In the end, they lost to the buyout by one vote but the fight was not over.
El Paso Times reported that the approval came after a 3 1⁄2- hour public hearing which several members from the Sunrise Movement and the Texas Sen. Jose Rodiguez asked the transfer to be delayed.
“One of our organizers contacted Senator Ed Markey (MA), he is the co-sponsor of Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s Green New Deal. We contacted his office and they agreed that there were a lot of fishy things going on and that J.P. Morgan was not being transparent in their application,” said Escoto. “They sent a letter to those federal bodies saying J.P. Morgan has to answer these important questions in a process called an evidentiary hearing.”
“To our surprise, we found that the letter requesting this evidentiary hearing was signed by Bernie Sanders. It is super encouraging,” added Escoto.
The Sunrise Movement’s next move is El Paso’s Green New Deal Summit. They are planning to bring together a wide variety of social justice organizations in El Paso that are related to immigration, labor rights, poverty, LGBTQ rights. This with the purpose of envisioning what the Green New deal should look in El Paso according to Escoto.
Other local activist groups like the Frontera Water Protectors, Democratic Socialists of America- El Chuco, Familias Unidas de Chamizal and immigration organizations collaborate with the Sunrise Movement in the past for local campaigns.
“It is super important to be in solidarity with other activist organizations and learn where you can collaborate,” Escoto said.
In light of recent events from the Coronavirus pandemic, the Sunrise Movement continues educating people through their social media accounts. To find more information about their online events and workshops visit their Facebook Page and their Instagram account.
By Angela Grijalva