Skip to Content

Barrio Chamizal families rally against environmental, educational, and housing issues

EL PASO, TX (KVIA) -- Families in the Barrio Chamizal community are rallying today to raise awareness about their longstanding environmental, educational, and housing issues. The rally and march, organized by Familias Unidas del Chamizal, will begin at Beall Elementary on Raynor Street around 6 p.m.

Hilda Villegas, spokesperson for Familias Unidas del Chamizal, spoke to ABC-7 and emphasizes the communities struggles, “We are a highly immigrant community. Over 7000 residents, most of them are have little to no English. These are working poor families. The majority are women that households. You would see 3000 children which make it very vulnerable within these areas, there's a lot of disparities in terms of public education.”

Villegas highlights the health issues children face, "Children developing high blood pressure and diabetes because of stress and asthma because of the environment," she says this is due to contamination by diesel trucks on the Bridge of the Americas (BOTA). She continues saying "To top it off, we go to these inadequate schools that really do not provide a safe learning environment. So, that really puts each child in a situation where they depend on us."

Precinct 2, County Commissioner David Stout responded to these concerns with a statement provided to ABC-7, "The County is taking steps to protect public health by questioning trucks on BOTA. I personally am advocating in the strongest possible terms to remove commercial trucks from BOTA and calling for a contested case hearing regarding a new pollution permit for Marathon."

In 2022, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, a refinery located in south-central El Paso stated they have been reducing emissions since 2011. "We continue to look for ways to reduce our environmental footprint," said Marathon.

District 8 City Representative Chris Canales also addressed the issue, in a statement to ABC-7 saying, "I recently appointed a member of Familias Unidas del Chamizal to be the District 8 member of the citizen working group for the City’s new Comprehensive Plan. This plan is the roadmap that guides El Paso’s future planning, because I know they feel the same way I do about investing in housing and the preservation of neighborhoods in the City’s core."

Canales says the he is committed to developing new housing strategies to provide affordable options for residents, however emphasizes the need for City Council support. “Unfortunately, a majority of the City Council has not agreed with us with their votes. That has led to Council decisions like the one two weeks ago on impact fees that push new housing outside the urban core of El Paso and the one in January on low income housing tax credits that signaled to developers that they can build housing to maximize their profit instead of building what is best for their future residents,” Canales states.

Canales also stated the issues go beyond the City, "While there isn’t much that the City can do about the future of the Bridge of the Americas (which is a federal government facility) or the schools (since Texas has school districts that are independent from City and County government), I agree with Familias Unidas del Chamizal that the City could and should absolutely be doing more to support improved housing options."

Back in January, City Council also voted to delete an item that asked Mayor Oscar Leeser to send a letter to the U.S. General Services Administration asking for the removal of commercial traffic at the Bridge of the Americas port of entry.

Familias Unidas del Chamizal says they will continue to call for more community involvement to address these issues. Villegas noted they have seen some positive changes, such as the preservation of the Ruben Salazar housing projects, but stresses they need more.

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Isabella Martinez


KVIA ABC 7 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content