Chanting "we want our family here now" and holding signs that read "#SaveAfghanWomen" or "#SanctionPakistan," dozens of Afghan Austinites gathered in front of the Texas Capitol to make a plea to save their families and raise local awareness for the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
Men, women and children waving Afghanistan flags met in front of the Capitol on W. 11th Street and Congress Ave. Tuesday at 4:45 p.m.
Many of the protesters served alongside the U.S. Military, often as translators, including protest attendee Maverick, who declined to give his real name for the safety of his relatives.
Maverick, the name that was written on his uniform, said he hasn't been able to speak to any of his eight immediate family members stuck in Kabul for four days as the government-run phone services are collapsing.
"I've been getting gray hairs, I'm getting eyebags. I've never had this much stress on me before," Maverick said. "My immediate family is at great risk—they're stranded there."
Maverick is a U.S. citizen and can file visa petitions for his family but since they are on a first-come-first-serve basis, the process can take years to complete. Even if he filed on behalf of his family, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is shut down, so they couldn't complete the process.
After serving with the army for four years, Maverick said his family will be put in danger due to his service. He thinks Afghan families of servicemen need to be evacuated. Others at the protest reflected his thoughts, carrying signs that read "We helped you! You help us! Save our families!"
"God forbid if there's anything that bad happened here in America, I will be the first one to go help because we received help and we're really grateful for the help that the U.S. provided," Maverick said. "I was hoping that maybe they would get evacuated. If it was peaceable, if it was safe, I would go through every step (but) there's like zero hope right now."
The group also hoped to clear up any fears from the public—Maverick said he's heard people say they're worried about sleeper cells for the Taliban coming in as evacuations continue.
"The U.S. government can vet them however they want—as long as they get to safety, vetting is not a problem," Maverick said. "We helped the troops, we saved their lives and now we want something in return, which is just to save our family."
Before the end of September, 574 Afghan refugees will be resettled in Texas, of which Austin will receive 185. The number could increase, as President Joe Biden told CBS News last week that more than 50,000 Afghan allies were still in need of evacuation.
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After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.