Are Texas Colonias A Proble What

Should The State Do About Them. Essay, Research Paper

Are Texas Colonias a problem? What should the state do about them?

Colonias is originally a Spanish word meaning simply neighborhoods or areas of a city.In Spanglish, the mixed English-Spanish spoken in the parts of the U.S. near the Mexico border,colonias refers to the primarily Hispanic neighborhoods in cities like San Antonio,Texas. Since these neighborhoods are much less affluent than Anglo or mixed

neighborhoods, the word connotes poverty and substandard housing. Colonias are characterized by substandard housing, inadequate plumbing and sewage disposal systems, and inadequate access to clean water. They are highly concentrated poverty pockets that are physically and legally isolated from neighboring cities. With an average annual household income of $6,784 in South Texas, it is not difficult to see why these people live in colonias. It is only in these largely unregulated rural settings that they can lay claim to home ownership which , on the surface, appears to be affordable. But

homes in the colonias are affordable only because these communities lack the basic necessities mainstream Americans take for granted: water, sewer, paved streets, and fire and police protection. There are other immediate needs in the areas of health, adequate housing, and sewage disposal. Local medical providers and hospital administrators told me that they have been overburdened with demand for services by a population unable to pay. Sewage treatment and disposal, largely nonexistent, is both an engineering challenge and a costly project. Improvements needed to provide safe and sanitary

housing carry a large price tag. The tax base in these communities cannot amortize the costs of these improvements without assistance from the private and public sector.Brownsville and Matamoros are the easternmost border towns. Near the downtown bridge, heavily-barred currency exchange houses advertise cambio in bright lights. All

along the border, on both sides, such houses do a thriving business, many of them serving as conduits for drug-money laundering, U.S. officials say. In this dynamic region where First and Third worlds meet, deep disparities and contrasts are likely to persist amidst the welter of economic activity. While growth surely will lift Mexico’s

economy, narrowing the gap with the U.S. will take decades. Now, however, the two sides of the border are so harnessed that they can only move forward together. The general problem of Mexican-American poverty begins with the low education and skill levels with which most Hispanic immigrants arrive in the United States. This coupled

with low proficiency in English makes living in the United States even more difficult. Many immigrants desiring the mythical land of opportunity may consent to working for pennies just to stay. The ever-increasing problem of poverty is becoming a serious barrier shutting off a good percentage of Mexican-American people from societal

development and educational achievement. In order to work to solve this problem, we must acknowledge existing trends and propose strategies to combat them.

From my point of view colonias are a problem because there is a lot of poverty and health problems. Colonias are so poor that they don t even have the basic needs oftoday s world. Most of the people that live in the colonias are not properly educated and earn a low income. Most of them ignore the methods of birth control and have

children like crazy. This leads to conduct life in an abnormal environment and because of the ignorance and lack of sanitation some diseases may emerge and spread.

The Texas Constitution-Article 1 (BILL OF RIGHTS), Section 3-(EQUAL RIGHTS)

All free men, when they form a social compact, have equal rights, and no man,or set of men, is entitled to exclusive separate public emoluments, or privileges, but in consideration of public services.

While there is evidence to support the existence of colonias in virtually every county along the border, their presence has been difficult to quantify because the term colonia has taken on a derogatory connotation. Local officials refer to them as rural

communities or rural subdivisions. In Texas, 80 percent of the identified colonias are concentrated in El Paso, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties. Almost 140,000 people live in the colonias of these areas.

Local officials on the U.S. side, anxious to create jobs for their own low-wage workers, realize their best bet is to persuade suppliers to set up businesses to service maquiladoras. To do that, officials in McAllen, Tex., are promoting their twin city, Reynosa, Mexico, as a prime maquiladora site. Reynosa now boasts 90 such plants, including most of Glenview, based Zenith Electronics Corp.’s television production.Young people who had left the area to find jobs are returning.

For almost seven years the Colonias Program of the Center for Housing and Urban Development, located in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University,has worked to encourage and facilitate “community self-development” in the colonias in

Cameron, El Paso, Hidalgo, Webb, and Willacy Counties along the Texas/Mexico border. The program helps colonia residents access education, health, human services, job training, youth and elderly programs available in their areas.

Texas Tech Health Center provides medical services to colonias. Health problems in unincorporated areas near the Texas-Mexico border called Colonias are among some of the worst in the U.S. But thanks to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso, many of the residents are getting the care they desperately

need. Many Colonias residents do not have wastewater and water services so local groundwater supplies used for drinking water are often contaminated with human wastes. As a result, many more Colonias residents are afflicted with hepatitis, dysentery, gastroenteritis and other illnesses that are rare in regions of the State with

adequate water and wastewater facilities. Compounding the problem, only 4% of El Paso’s private doctors serve areas where Colonias are located. To improve conditions, Texas Tech has developed programs where 80 faculty members and 130 residents treat patients at their El Paso clinic and in the Colonias. In addition, Texas Tech physicians

staff five school clinics daily in rural parts of El Paso County.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo awarded $2.1 million to help create affordable housing that will be owned by about 280 families now living in severely substandard conditions in impoverished neighborhoods known as colonias in Cameron, Willacy, Webb, and Hidalgo Counties along the Texas-Mexico

border. Cuomo made the announcement as he toured colonias near Brownsville and visited a housing group in San Juan, Texas. The assistance is part of $25 million that HUD is providing to poor rural and Native American communities to improve housing

conditions and create jobs. A total of $5 million of the funds is set aside for a housing program known as the Colonias Initiative that enables poor working families – primarily low-paid farmworkers – along the U.S.-Mexico border to become homeowners. The assistance will quite literally transform the lives of families who are trapped in terrible poverty and living in conditions unfit for human habitation. It will turn homeownership from an impossible dream into a eautiful reality for many families who work hard in low-wage jobs that just don’t pay enough to afford decent housing.

There are different projects that will be assisted by HUD. One of them is Proyecto Azteca, a self-help housing organization based in San Juan, will receive $791,000 from HUD to provide affordable homes and financing packages for low-income colonias families and to provide contract-for-deed refinancing and

conversions to mortgages for families in the South Tower Estates colonia located in Hidalgo County. Colonias families typically earn between $4,500 and $14,000 a year, while the cost of Proyecto Azteca-built homes is around $16,000, with a family’s monthly mortgage payments ranging from $70 to $90. Proyecto Azteca’s partners in

its effort include USDA Rural Housing, Housing Assistance Council, Texas Bar Foundation, Texas Rural Legal Aid, and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Proyecto Azteca also receives funds through HUD’s HOME Program and Community Development Block Grant funds. Together, these organizations will leverage $1.1 million in other funding, in addition to the value of homeowners’ sweat equity in constructing their homes.

Community partnerships, bringing together the private sector and the public sector in a comprehensive planned strategy supported by innovative solutions and appropriate funding, like HUD, Texas Tech Health Center, Texas A&M University and the Department of Human Services in Hidalgo County, can begin to correct these problems. Initial steps can be directed at preventative strategies addressing education, training, economic development and employment. At the same time development of longer term strategies can begin to address the necessary upgrading of the infrastructure. Clearly, no single group, agency or governmental agency can adequately address all of the problems. Already some progress is being made to control the

unchecked growth of colonias. Recent state legislation and vigorous enactment of regulations at the county level should serve to curb their growth. But this combination is the exception rather than the rule.


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