The saying goes, “As Texas goes, so goes the nation.” The state has been a testing ground for extreme bills attacking voting rights, reproductive justice, and immigration. We also see another dynamic: As rural goes, so goes the state. Rural communities can take bold action to improve people’s lives, and that policy can transform the state.

Mano Amiga organizes alongside immigrants and low-income residents in the rural I-35 corridor in Guadalupe, Caldwell, Hays, and Comal counties. When immigrants in their community were detained and families separated, Mano Amiga established the state’s first Cite and Release Ordinance to prevent needless incarceration. This policy was modeled in other municipalities around Texas, including Houston.

Mano Amiga launched the Caldwell/Hays Examiner, a digital and print news organization with powerful investigative reporting. In 2022, the Caldwell/Hays Examiner investigative reporting led the Texas State University (TSU) System to end its automatic-expulsion policy for students with drug offenses. Bigger than just the San Marcos campus, all 87,000 students across 13 campuses benefited from this policy improvement.

The university victory was part of a more extensive campaign to prioritize real solutions for rural people and end the destructive incarceration of the drug war. Mano Amiga registered more than 1,000 TSU students while campaigning for a referendum to decriminalize marijuana in San Marcos. The ballot measure passed with 82% of the vote and boosted turnout, helping to flip several seats in Hays County.