Monday, December 13, 2010

December Update

Hi Friends,

I’ve been told by some (ahem…Anna) that I need to update my blog, so here we go…

Things at work have been going really well. My project—to improve SNAP outreach to likely eligible Latino households—has been moving along nicely. I’ve had 22 interviews with community groups and am on track to meet my goal of 40 by mid-January. With the help of some of my interviewees I’ve gotten into contact with some great grassroots people who are telling me incredibly interesting stories about their lives, their dealings with different immigration and racial profiling issues, and the ways that community resources are meeting or not meeting their needs. I think in the last week I’ve really honed in on the right questions to ask and possible next steps for creating collaborative partnerships with and across interested stakeholders.

I wouldn’t say that my findings have been shocking, though some of the more nuanced issues, which I won’t go into in detail here, have been really interesting. By far, the biggest barrier to families not accessing SNAP is (unfortunately) an obvious one for Arizona: fear of reporting and deportation. A close second, though, is misinformation. There are certainly ways that undocumented people, by volunteering information about their immigration status to a DES worker, can get into trouble applying for public benefits, but there is also a large amount of misinformation circulating in the community around SNAP eligibility rules and possible repercussions related to their ability to gain legal residency if/when comprehensive immigration reform happens. These issues have bearing on SNAP enrollment but are also large barriers to SNAP recertification and to the resolution of problems what families that are eligible have been wrongly denied benefits as a result of an error on the part of DES or an incomplete application. I would file all of these issues, from fear of deportation to fear of appealing wrongful rejection, under the category of ignorance of rights. From what I’ve heard in my 22 community meetings, partners with resources and partners with access to likely eligible Latino families need to come together to reinvigorate a wide-reaching, multi-faceted campaign to educate Latino families of mixed status on their rights.

Outside work I’ve been having a nice time enjoying the mild Arizona winter and doing some traveling. Over Thanksgiving I went to San Jose, CA and then onto Oakdale, CA to see a few members of my dad’s side of the family, which was a treat. We (over)ate from Wednesday to Sunday and made a 24 hour-long visit to Yosemite National Park to frolic in the fresh snow and do some wildlife watching. My sister was able to join me for the latter part of the week, and we caught up and slipped around on the ice together. It was great to see everyone and get away for a few days.

Since then I’ve done some shopping (though sadly not for anyone on my Christmas list), bought and decorated a 7-ft Christmas tree with Matthew, attended a corny but enjoyable holiday performance by the Phoenix Symphony, and traveled to Nogales for work and pleasure (the work was a SNAP outreach presentation, the pleasure was the chile relleno I had afterward….). I’ve been slacking as far as working out at the Y goes, but I continue to enjoy attending the UCC church downtown on Sundays. Pastor Steve is a really brilliant preacher, blending academic study of the Bible with ease of speech and accessible, powerful metaphors for a combination I find easy to listen to, easy to understand, and always quite moving. Today I followed up church with a trip to Papago Park, a regional park with a nice picnic area and some well marked (if not too exciting) hiking trails, and a stroll through an arts festival in Mesa, where I bought my office Secret Santa gift!

I am really looking forward to going home for a few days in late December. In particular, I’m looking forward to seeing my family, gorging myself on Christmas cookies, and hanging out with friends I’ve been missing a lot as of late. I think the holiday will also be a nice break during which I might gain some last perspective on my work project before writing it up in January. At the point I go home I will have also completed all the interviews for the policy site placement phase of the fellowship and will, hopefully, have a good sense of where I’ll be working for the first half of the next year. Exciting things to come! I’m hoping for something with a lot of Hill interaction, a healthy dose of research, and good job prospects.

I will likely not writing again until going home on the 23rd, so Merry Christmas to all! I’m eager to relax, reflect, and get started on 2011!