A big “Thank You” from the CREDO team

Dear CREDO members,

As we gather for a very different kind of Thanksgiving celebration this year, we wanted to take a moment to give a big “thank you” to you, our CREDO customers and members.

During a year that, for many of us, has been difficult to be thankful for much, we are truly thankful for everything you’ve done to help us give back to so many who needed our help and fight for our progressive values when times were tough.

Because of CREDO members like you, we were able to go above and beyond our regular donations — nearly $2 million each year to progressive nonprofits — to help groups that needed it the most.

In April, we established a COVID relief fund to rush $75,000 in donations to frontline organizations responding to the pandemic. In May, during nationwide protests for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we donated an extra $50,000 to Color of Change to continue their critical work fighting injustice in all its forms. In August, as the election season heated up, you helped us donate $250,000 to groups protecting the right to vote. In September, after Republicans stole another Supreme Court seat, we gave $50,000 to Take Back the Court.

This month, thanks to you, we are donating 200,000 meals to families experiencing hunger this holiday season. And to the thousands who responded to our recent Thanksgiving survey — the overwhelming majority who are celebrating today in small groups with immediate family to help slow the pandemic — we want to thank you, too.

From all of us here at CREDO, have a safe Thanksgiving, and we look forward to the upcoming season with hope and gratitude that you’re on our side.

With thanks,
The entire team at CREDO

CREDO Tip: Staying home and safe while enjoying Black Friday this year

Packed packing lots. Crowded stores. Throngs of people lined up in the middle of the night anxiously waiting for doorbuster deals. Black Friday is as much tradition as it is consumer spectacle. 

But with the pandemic raging across the country, we’re unlikely to see this yearly mayhem unfold at malls, big box stores or on the local news — and that’s probably a good thing, as we all do our part to stay safe and healthy while slowing the spread of the virus as much as we individually can.

So how can we enjoy the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season as it kicks off next week? Here are some tips to get gifts for your loved ones and have a safe alternative to the traditional Black Friday this year.

Shop Local (with curbside pickup)

As Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress refuse to pass another round of much-needed stimulus, small businesses are really struggling to stay afloat right now. In fact, 850,000 small businesses have already shut down permanently during the pandemic.

That’s why we recommend supporting local businesses in your area, if you can, instead of mega-corporations or billionaire-backed retailers. You’ll not only directly support your community during this tough time, but you’ll help maintain the character of your neighborhood and probably reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. Check the websites of local business or your favorite search engine or social media platforms to find others you might not know about — they, too, may be running some sales during the holiday season and offer pandemic-safe options like curbside or window pickup.

Support Black-Owned and People of Color-Owned Businesses

Black, brown and Native people have been disproportionately hard hit by the pandemic, and it’s further exacerbating long-standing racial inequities in our economy and health care system. Black-owned businesses in particular are facing incredible challenges right now, and it could only get worse.

In addition to shopping local, seek out Black-owned and people of color-owned businesses for your holiday shopping needs. Some of these businesses may be in your area, but many have online outlets. Here are some resources to buy from Black-owned, Latinx-owned, and Native-owned businesses.

Give to Your Favorite Cause

Instead of partaking directly in consumerism on the biggest shopping day of the year, consider giving back to the causes you care about. Here at CREDO, we’re partial to our allies and grantees who fight for our progressive values, like civil rights, climate justice, economic equality and so much more. You can find the whole list of the organizations we support (and links to their websites) at CREDODonations.com

And while you’re there, you can vote to help us distribute $150,000 between our November grantees Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and The YEARS Project.

Write Letters to Georgia Voters

This year, CREDO members really stepped up to help turn out the vote by joining our friends at Vote Forward to write letters to voters to ensure they made a plan to vote on Nov. 3. But the election season isn’t quite over yet.

As you might know, there are two critical runoff races in Georgia that could determine control of the U.S. Senate next year. Vote Forward is again asking for volunteers to send up to 3 million letters to Georgia voters to encourage them to register to vote, request and return their absentee ballots and turn out to vote for the January 5th runoff elections.

Learn more and sign up to write letters to Georgia voters here.

Binge on Netflix

If shopping isn’t your thing, there’s another great pandemic-safe activity we’ll be doing on Black Friday: Binge watching our favorite shows on Netflix. Whether it’s checking out our recommendations for great political documentaries or your favorite TV shows, Netflix is sure to have something to keep you entertained if you decide not to partake in a Black Friday shopping spree.

In fact, if you sign up for CREDO Mobile today, you’ll get a year of free Netflix on us. Join by bringing your phone over or getting a new one here! Already a CREDO Mobile customer? You can get a year of free Netflix too, just add a loved one to your account! Valid for new and existing Netflix subscribers.

It’s time to solve the affordable housing crisis.

America is experiencing a housing affordability crisis. Even before the pandemic, in no U.S. state, metropolitan area, or county could a worker earning the federal or prevailing state or local minimum wages and working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental home, and in fewer than 5% of counties could they afford a one-bedroom rental. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (a November 2020 grantee of CREDO Mobile) found in its annual publication of Out of Reach that the 2020 national “Housing Wage” (the average hourly wage full-time workers must earn to afford a rental home at HUD’s fair market rent without spending more than 30% of their incomes) is $23.96 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home, and $19.56 per hour for a modest one-bedroom rental. The average minimum wage worker must work 97 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom rental or 79 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental at the average fair market rent. NLIHC’s The Gap report documents a systemic shortage of affordable housing, showing that nationally, just 36 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. This shortage – and today’s modern phenomenon of homelessness – did not always exist. In fact, there was a modest surplus of homes affordable and available to the lowest-income people in the late-1970s. At that time, our country housed almost everyone, including the lowest-income families. The difference between then and now: federal subsidies. Adjusting for inflation, the federal budget authority for housing assistance programs in the 1970s was nearly three times more than it is today, despite the significant growth in the number of low-income renters eligible for assistance. The result of this federal disinvestment in affordable housing during the decades since is a shortage of 7 million homes affordable and available to those with extremely low incomes, 11 million renter households that are “severely housing cost-burdened” (paying 50%, 60%, 70% or more of their incomes on their housing), and just one in four households eligible for federal housing assistance actually getting the help they need. These households forgo healthy food or delay healthcare to pay the rent. In the worst cases, they become homeless. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated this crisis, and the American public recognizes the need for change. There has never been a more urgent time to expand rental assistance and protect those facing housing insecurity.The country’s affordable housing crisis most harms the lowest-income renters, disproportionately people of color. Inaction is expensive; investments in proven solutions to end homelessness and housing poverty benefit us all. Like roads and bridges, affordable housing is a long-term asset that helps communities and families thrive. Failures of both the private market and public policy — at the federal, state, and local levels — have contributed to today’s crisis. The federal government has an indispensable role to play in addressing it. Congress must fully fund key federal housing programs that serve the nation’s lowest-income renters. These programs include the national Housing Trust Fund, Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, project-based rental assistance, and other rental housing programs. A fully refundable renters’ tax credit for low-income housing cost-burdened renters would also help struggling families afford their rent. Most urgently, immediate action must be taken to protect those at grave risk during the pandemic through emergency rental assistance; a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; and emergency funds for homelessness service providers, housing authorities, and housing providers.The National Low Income Housing Coalition is grateful to be selected as one of CREDO’s 2020 grantees. Founded in 1974, NLIHC is solely dedicated to ensuring the lowest-income seniors, people with disabilities, families with young children and others in our country have safe, accessible and affordable homes.  NLIHC works with and on behalf of low-income people. Funding from CREDO Mobile will support NLIHC’s data-driven research, policy analysis and advocacy, public education and communications, and outreach and mobilization efforts to achieve affordable housing solutions for those most in need.

We can end homelessness and housing poverty in America. We have the data, the solutions, and, as a country, the resources. We lack only the political will to fund the solutions at the scale necessary.

Get Involved

  • Contact your members of Congress and express your support for legislation that ensures those with the lowest incomes have access to decent, affordable homes.  Urge them to immediately pass desperately needed pandemic relief that includes $100 billion in emergency rental assistance, a national eviction moratorium, and $11.5 billion in homelessness assistance.  
  • Become a member of NLIHC to support NLIHC’s work to increase affordable housing for people with the greatest needs.
  • Connect with one of NLIHC’s state and local partners supporting policy at the state/local level.
  • Sign up for updates and calls to action from NLIHC.

Telling the Story of Climate Change

Humans are story animals. For more than 10,000 years, we have developed our philosophies, created cultural identities and tried to understand our place in the world through story. Stories give us context and guidance. They move us. They guide action in the real world. But the story of climate change has been challenging to tell. Deniers obfuscate the truth. Politicians and businesses conflate pseudoscience with fact. And while many voices have been raised in opposition, they rarely speak in unison. At The YEARS Project we dedicate our efforts to addressing these issues by telling the story of climate change and how to fix it so that it becomes the top political, economic and social issue in society. We do this not only to save the planet, but to protect the most vulnerable on it.Organized efforts by deniers to discredit the science have been ongoing for decades. First, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, they claimed that climate change was not happening. Then, they suggested it was happening, but was a natural process. Followed by claiming that its anthropogenic, but somehow good for us and the planet.  All these lines of argument were false and promoted in order to put profit ahead of climate science. 

With such ongoing efforts to undercut the facts, politicians and businesses have successfully used bad science to advance their interests. Political appointees beholden to oil interests have been put in charge of our most significant environmental institutions. Fossil fuel companies have successfully lobbied for massive tax breaks to make their businesses more profitable. And virtually every major bank has continued to support the oil and gas industry investing our money to profit from climate change.While climate change affects every place and person on the planet, our most vulnerable neighbors in front line communities suffer disproportionately. They dont have second homes to escape fires and floods nor the resources to rebuild after they pass. Polluting power plants are often located in less affluent neighborhoods populated disproportionately by people of color. And indigenous peoples, who have an intimate connection to the land, are seeing their way of life destroyed by rising waters, raging fires, drought and species extinction.

But the tide is turning. On Earth Day 2020, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that two-thirds of Americans believe the government should be doing more to fight climate change. The YEARS Project has been instrumental in achieving that milestone. By providing unrelenting, science-based storytelling to our millions of followers on social media and via an extended network with a reach of more than 400 million people, we have covered and amplified the youth climate movement, supported divestiture campaigns, provided a platform for leading scientists, called out the deniers and outlined the solutions that will get us to a carbon free world. Now that the facts are clear, we will continue using powerful, personal stories to outline the solutions, give voice to the communities most at risk and support the ground game in the battle to save our home. The YEARS Project is the only media organization dedicated solely to covering climate change. Beginning with our award-winning series Years of Living Dangerously”— seen in more than 170 countries — and continuing through hundreds of millions of views of our social first videos, we have used the power of story to motivate action on climate. We know the approach works. Stories guide us, unite us and provide a framework for understanding where we are and what we face and in the end, stories might very well save us from ourselves.

CREDO is proud to be an ally of the YEARS Project and to support them via our CREDO Donations Program for the first time this month. To learn more about our donations program and vote for this month’s grantees, please visit CREDODonations.com.

7 Tips to Have a Fun and Safe Virtual Thanksgiving This Year

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us — and this year’s celebrations will certainly be much different than years past.

As the pandemic continues to surge across the country, public health officials are becoming increasingly concerned that Thanksgiving celebrations may turn into super-spreading events, as social gatherings have become some of the main drivers of community spread.

That’s why experts are urging us to forego traveling for the holiday, celebrate within our own households or “pods” and limit in-person contact with those outside our homes. But we can still enjoy the company of family and friends, give thanks and have a great holiday — thanks to the power of technology.

Here are 7 tips to host a successful and safe virtual Thanksgiving celebration this year.

Choose your platform

The first consideration for hosting a successful virtual holiday get-together is a technical one: Picking the right video conferencing software for your event. 

You have many platforms to choose from, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and others — but if you’re looking for a platform that’s easy to use and familiar to most of your guests, we recommend Zoom. It’s free for up to 100 participants and works on your computer and mobile devices, but the free version does not allow for recording and is limited to 40 minutes per meeting (just restart if your celebration lasts longer). Make sure to create the event ahead of time so your guests have a link, too. Here’s how to schedule meetings in Zoom.

Download Zoom for your computer, or for your mobile devices from Google Play or the App Store.

Send invitations

Next, it’s time to make your guest list and let your friends and family know about your Thanksgiving celebrations with an online invitation. Not only will you be able to easily send your Zoom link to your recipients’ inboxes, you’ll save a lot of paper, too.

Again, you have many services to choose from that make sending bulk invitations pretty easy. Evite is one of the leaders in the online invitation space with many free options, Minted works with independent artists, and Paperless Post is beloved for its great designs. You could also check out Greenvelope, a paid online invitation company that donates a portion of its revenue to Mountains to Sound, a nonprofit organization that maintains forests.

Alternatively, you can send an email to your guests with all of the details. It will lack some of the fun of a designed invitation, but it’s free!

Make a plan

In year’s past, your holiday run-of-show probably followed a pretty familiar pattern that your guests knew well – arrival, snacks, dinner, post-meal traditions, etc. But virtual holiday gatherings present unique challenges to those tried and true schedules and traditions you once had. That’s why it’s important to create a plan and make it simple to follow. For example, set the start and stop times for your virtual meeting, choose who will speak and when, and brainstorm some fun pre- and post-dinner games to play. This will help make the celebration a little bit more manageable and keep everyone on schedule.

Pick a host

Along with making a plan, choose a person who will emcee the celebration to follow the plan you created. The host will keep everything moving smoothly from Hors d’oeuvres to toasts to dinner. Even if you’re not the host, you can make your emcee a co-host in Zoom who will be able to mute a participant with bothersome background noise or an unruly family member who indulged in too many cocktails.

Swap recipes

Swapping recipes is a great way to feel connected and ensure everyone gets to have a bite of a favorite dish while remaining physically distant. The easiest way to share recipes is digitally, through email, text or your favorite messaging app. For those less tech-savvy, swap your recipes over the phone or even snail mail. When you’re preparing for the big day, you can practice the new recipes with your family and friends over a video chat to nail their secret tricks to getting the dish just like you remember. 

Take a group picture

Although 2020 hasn’t been an easy year, you’ll still want to remember your virtual Thanksgiving celebration with a photograph of everyone who joined. It’s really easy to do in Zoom or other video conferencing platforms.

In Zoom, ensure everyone on your video chat is on the screen at the same time by choosing “Gallery View” then picking “Full Screen” (this is best done on a computer). Then, take a capture of your screen with either your operating system’s screenshot feature (Windows or Mac) or Zoom’s screen capture option.

Bonus Tip: Fill out CREDO’s Thanksgiving Survey & help us donate 200,000 meals

This month, CREDO is partnering with our friends at Feeding America to donate 200,000 meals to families in need this Thanksgiving season — and we also want to check in to see how you are thinking and feeling about this Thanksgiving.

Before you begin planning your virtual holiday meal, please take two minutes to fill out our quick survey, and we’ll donate these meals to families who need it the most.

6 Apps to Help Relieve Stress While Waiting for Election Results

We’re waiting on pins and needles here at CREDO for the outcome of the election — and the lack of conclusive results has us on edge. If you’re like us, you’re glued to your phones and social media feeds with the distant hum of cable news in the background as you anxiously hold on for good news.

All of that uncertainty can be pretty stressful, especially on top of the challenges we are already facing every day. That’s why right now might be a good time to take a break from “doomscrolling,” put Twitter and Facebook aside, turn off the TV, and make some time to focus on relaxation and your mental health.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite apps on iOS and Android to help all of us consider our mental health, de-stress and become a bit more mindful while every vote is still being counted.

Headspace

Headspace is one of our favorite apps to help you cope with the stresses of our new normals of work, family, school, health, and of course, election results. Headspace teaches you the basics of meditation and offers a full library of courses and single session meditations that you can take anywhere. The company boasts a 40 million person user base and offers scientific claims (and an in-house science department) that its app can reduce stress, increase focus and improve sleep.

Headspace offers a two-week free trial, before a $69.99 yearly subscription or $12.99 per month, available on both Android and iOS.

Calm

If you have a little bit more experience with meditation, Calm might be the right choice for you. The app offers its popular “The Daily Calm,” a 10-minute meditation with a new mindful theme every day, as well as sleep stories and music, nature sounds, and meditation lessons.

Calm comes in a little less expensive than other meditation apps, but lacks some of the structure and options like Headspace. Calm offers a one-week free trial and costs $60 for a yearly subscription, available from the App Store or Google Play

In addition, Calm is offering free mindfulness resources, like meditations, stories and music (web only) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Happify

Billed as the “single destination for effective, evidence-based solutions for better mental health to overcome negative thoughts, stress, and life’s challenges,” Happify uses evidence-based exercises and games developed by experts to help users take better control of their thoughts and feelings. The company claims 86% of frequent users get happier in two months, but we urge you to try it out for yourself.

The app is free to download but charges a fee to unlock additional features. Available in the App Store and Google Play.

Daily Yoga

If you’re looking to combine mindfulness and body movement, Daily Yoga may be a good choice for you. Designed for the beginner to the advanced, this “freemium” app (free to access many of its features, but includes in-app purchases) includes 200 yoga routines, 500 yoga poses and asanas, lots of guided meditation tracks and more.

Available in the App Store and Google Play.

MindShift

Designed by the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, MindShift is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and helps track anxiety disorders primarily for adolescents and young adults, but the app can be useful for everyone to learn coping strategies for anxiety, worry and panic. The app features a section called “chill out” that includes relaxation exercises and mindfulness strategies. 

Available in the App Store and Google Play.

7-Minute Workout from the New York Times

If working out is your stress-reliever — but your gym is currently closed and you’re practicing social distancing (which we recommend) — there are a lot of workout apps available for your mobile device. While some apps require equipment and others charge a fee, the New York Times’ 7-minute workout “app” is free, scientifically proven and only needs you and common items in your home to take advantage of a short, but intense workout. 

The app offers step-by-step instructions, illustrations of each body-weight exercise and a timer to guide you through one of two routines: the Scientific 7-Minute Workout and an Advanced 7-Minute Workout. The app is browser-based, so you can access it from virtually any device or desktop. Check them both out here.

Note: There’s no replacement for a health professional, for both your physical and mental health. If you feel you’re in need of help, please contact your mental health provider or your primary care physician.

No matter the results, you can make a difference

Dear CREDO members,

I first joined CREDO during the 2016 election season. Barack Obama was president. Our economy was still recovering from the worst recession in generations, but we were directionally optimistic. The pressing issues of our day — climate justice, racial and LGBTQ equality, reproductive freedom, economic justice  — were, I thought, making some real, meaningful gains. What I thought, what I suspect many of us hoped, was that the next president would of course continue fighting for these causes we care so deeply about – and if not fighting for these causes, would at least abide by the progress that had been made. 

Now, four very different years later, we face another choice this Election Day. We cannot allow four more years of ignorance and incompetence, fascism and white supremacy, selfishness and lies, climate and science denial, racism, misogyny and bigotry. More than 230,000 of our friends, neighbors and loved ones have died, millions more are sick and tens of millions are falling into economic despair and face needless suffering while the current regime ignores truth.

This year, perhaps more than any other, we must vote  — which is why we gave our employees the day off today — and we must choose leaders who support our values. Protecting women’s rights, fighting big polluters and combating the climate crisis, providing paths to citizenship, allowing all of us the most basic dignities of human life, ending systemic racism and expanding equality, ensuring our economy works for everyone and protecting the future of our democracy. 

If you’re like all of us at CREDO, the choice you and other progressive voters are making today is pretty clear. And while we may not know the results this evening — or even in the next few days or weeks — no matter how things turn out, please know this: You can make a difference. 

As a CREDO member, we will need you on our side more than ever — regardless of who wins — to continue pressing for our progressive values, holding those in power accountable and supporting our partners on the frontlines of these important fights. CREDO members have been part of some of the biggest progressive victories in the last decade, no matter who held power, and your support of our grantee partners beyond this election, with the simple act of being a CREDO member, will help secure more critical victories for the causes we value.

Because progress doesn’t end with an election. It’s just the beginning.

In solidarity,
Ray Morris
CREDO Mobile CREDO

P.S. If you haven’t yet voted, please visit Vote.org to find your polling place and cast your ballot before the polls close this evening.

Vote for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the National Low Income Housing Coalition and The YEARS Project this November

Every month, CREDO members vote to distribute $150,000 to three incredible progressive causes – and every vote makes a difference. This November, you can support international medical relief, ending homelessness, and combating the climate crisis by voting to fund Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the National Low Income Housing Coalition and The YEARS Project.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that provides emergency aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, natural disasters, and exclusion from health care. 

Support from the CREDO community will enable Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to provide free, quality, life-saving medical care to those who need it most in over 70 countries.

National Low Income Housing Coalition

NLIHC works to achieve socially just public policy to ensure the lowest-income people – people of color, seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and people experiencing homelessness – have decent, accessible, affordable homes.

Millions of low-income U.S. households cannot afford a decent place to call home. COVID-19 and massive hurricanes and wildfires leave them at extreme risk. Funding from CREDO members will help NLIHC work tirelessly to ensure federal policy makers respond with equitable solutions.

The YEARS Project 

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually to prevent progress on climate change. The YEARS Project is dedicated to fighting the deniers and making climate justice the most important political, economic and social issue on the world’s agenda.

Funding from CREDO will go directly toward telling the story of climate change and the effects it is having on frontline communities, our economy, our health and our society.

Your vote this month will determine how we divide $150,000 in donations among these three progressive groups. Be sure to cast your vote to support one, two or all three by November 30.

CREDO members who use our products and services everyday are the reason we are able to make these donations each month. Learn more about CREDO Mobile and CREDO Energy and join our movement.

Our October grantees thank you for your support

Each month, CREDO members vote on how we distribute funding to three incredible nonprofits. Those small actions add up – with one click, you can help fund groups working to fighting for climate justice, online privacy rights and civil rights. In October, over 55,000 CREDO members voted to distribute $150,000 in donations to Center for Biological Diversity, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Innocence Project.

These donations are made possible by CREDO customers and the revenue they generate by using our services. The distribution depends entirely on the votes of CREDO members like you. And for that, our October grant recipients thank you.

Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund
$56,141

“CREDO has consistently been an invaluable ally in our fight to defend the planet and its biodiversity from a host of threats.” – Kierán Suckling, Executive Director, Center for Biological Diversity

To learn more, visit centeractionfund.org.

Electronic Frontier Foundation
$35,019

“Thanks, CREDO supporters! The world leans on the Internet more than ever, and that makes privacy, security, and free expression crucial. For 30 years, EFF has fought for a brighter digital future for everyone, and with your help we’ll keep fighting.” – Cindy Cohn, EFF Executive Director 

To learn more, visit www.eff.org.

Innocence Project
$58,840

“The Innocence Project’s commitment over the last decades has led not only to my freedom, but to the freedom of hundreds of other innocent people. Thank you for voting to ensure we can keep advocating for the innocent for years to come.” – Yusef Salaam, Exonerated Five and Innocence Project Board Member

To learn more, visit www.innocenceproject.org.

Now check out the three groups we are funding in November, and cast your vote to help distribute our donations.

CREDO members who use our products are the reason why we are able to make these donations each month. Learn more about CREDO Mobile, the carrier with a conscience.

Why An Innocent Woman Has Been in Prison for 18 Years

Our allies at the Innocence Project, who are featured on this month’s donations ballot, are working to free the staggering number of innocent people who remain incarcerated, and to bring reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.

We wanted to share a powerful story about the case they are working on to free Rosa Jimenez, a mother who was sentenced to 99 years in prison for a crime she never committed. It highlights the racism and hurdles faced by LatinX women in the criminal justice system and the Innocence Project’s important work to prove her innocence.

We hope you take a few minutes to read this story, then vote for the Innocence Project to receive a share of our $150,000 monthly donations grant this October.

For nearly two decades, Ms. Jimenez has been trapped in a nightmare she never could have imagined — incarcerated for the tragic accidental death of a child she loved like her own — with no definite end in sight.

In January 2003, Ms. Jimenez was preparing lunch for her 1-year-old daughter Brenda and 21-month-old Bryan Gutierrez, whom she regularly babysat, when the toddler approached her, grabbing at his own throat. She quickly realized the child was choking and tried to help. When that didn’t work, she ran to her neighbor for help.

When the paramedics arrived, they removed a wad of paper towels from the child’s airway and were able to resuscitate him. He was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Austin where he was placed on a ventilator.

Hours later, officers asked Ms. Jimenez if she would come to the station to answer questions about what had happened.

Rosa Jimenez. Video still “Vidas en la orilla.” (Image: Courtesy of Lucía Gaja)

“That’s where everything started — in the interrogation room,” Ms. Jimenez recalled. The officer conducting the interrogation, Eric de los Santos, was allegedly bilingual. But Ms. Jimenez said he could hardly speak Spanish and that the Spanish he spoke was “Tex-Mex” — a mix of Spanish and English, sometimes called Spanglish, used in the Southwest, but not in Mexico.

Language barriers like this are a problem many Latinx people, both immigrants and citizens, face when they come into contact with law enforcement. Almost 30% of Hispanic people in the U.S. do not consider themselves proficient in English, according to a Pew Research poll, and this can make them uniquely vulnerable to wrongful convictions.

“I couldn’t understand most of what he was saying, and he had to repeat himself over and over and over for me to understand what he was talking about,” Ms. Jimenez said. She said Mr. de los Santos told her she could leave at any moment. But Ms. Jimenez, thinking she was there to help the officers, was determined to stay and make herself understood.

Ms. Jimenez consistently maintained her innocence and repeatedly explained that the child had accidentally choked. Nearly 71% of female exonerees were convicted of crimes that that never took place — such “crimes” include incidents later determined to be accidents, fabricated events, or deaths by suicide — according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Like Ms. Jimenez, 40% of these women were wrongly convicted of harming children or other loved ones in their care, often based on faulty medical or forensic evidence.

Finally, after more than five hours of questioning, the exhausted 20-year-old was allowed to return home. Officers arrested her later that night.

Ms. Jimenez had no criminal record or history of abuse. In fact, she regularly cared for children of families in her community, and those families supported her innocence. But, three months later, when the toddler died of complications from the severe brain damage caused by lack of oxygen, Ms. Jimenez was charged with murder.

Ms. Jimenez spent years in the county jail awaiting her trial, and learning English to communicate with officers and to explain that she was innocent. She began by reading the newspaper daily, and little by little began to understand.

Rosa Jimenez holding her daughter Brenda. (Image: Courtesy of Rosa Jimenez)

By the time of her trial in 2005, Ms. Jimenez understood some English, but still not enough to comprehend the racist comments made during her trial. In a 2007 documentary about Ms. Jimenez’s case, “Mi Vida Dentro” (meaning “My Life Inside”), Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel is seen asking an Austin police officer on the stand, “Despite being from Mexico, she’s very intelligent, wouldn’t you agree?”

At her trial, medical professionals (who did not have training or experience with pediatric airways) testified that it was “impossible” for the child to have accidentally ingested the paper towels. The trial ended in a conviction, and Ms. Jimenez was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Since then, pediatric airway experts from the U.S.’ top children’s hospitals have all concluded that the child’s choking was a tragic accident and said there is no evidence his death was anything other than an accident, meaning Ms. Jimenez has now served nearly 18 years in prison for a crime that never happened.

Initially, the Travis County district attorney’s office supported an appeal of the judge’s 2019 decision to overturn Ms. Jimenez’s conviction. But in May, District Attorney Margaret Moore wrote in a letter to Ms. Jimenez’s legal team: “Justice would be served by agreeing to a retrial of the case.” She had assembled a team of lawyers to conduct a conviction integrity review of the case and new expert testimony, she said. The lawyers concluded that Ms. Jimenez had been denied the opportunity to adequately defend herself at her 2005 trial — and Ms. Moore agreed.

However, despite Ms. Moore’s position, Attorney General Ken Paxton refused to drop the appeal and is charging forward. And, in the meantime, Ms. Jimenez remains behind bars in limbo.

“I do believe that if I was white and if I was not an immigrant, I would already be home a long time ago … after the first judge wrote the letter to the DA [saying that I am likely innocent],” Ms. Jimenez said. “But nothing has happened, because I’m not rich, I’m not white — I’m an immigrant, I’m nothing, I feel like I don’t have a voice.”

Ms. Jimenez dreams of the day she will be free. She hopes to one day have a home where her mother can live with her and where her children, attorneys, and supporters can visit.

Here are three things you can do to take action on behalf of Rosa Jimenez.

  1. Read more on the Innocence Project’s website: https://www.innocenceproject.org/rosa-jimenez-mexican-immigrant-innocent-latinx-hispanic-heritage-month/ 
  2. Spread the word: https://p2a.co/GfAuVBq
  3. Sign the petition to bring Rosa home: https://www.innocenceproject.org/petitions/free-rosa-jimenez/?p2asource=credo