Robert Moore, former editor of the El Paso Times, is a veteran border journalist who reports for national and statewide publications. He is the founder/CEO of El Paso Matters, a non-profit media organization that focuses on in-depth and investigative reporting about El Paso and the Paso del Norte region
The Microsoft local journalism project will include a grant to the El Paso Community Foundation to support nonprofit news organizations, including El Paso Matters, KTEP public radio, the University of Texas at El Paso multimedia journalism program and La Verdad.
Three detainees at ICE’s El Paso Processing Center say they were sexually assaulted or harassed by guards, and their attorney is calling for an investigation. “The terrors of detention at our local El Paso ICE facility have morphed into a new horror. Over the last several weeks, I’ve recorded deeply disturbing and troubling accounts by women and men who have become victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment by guards at the detention center,” said Linda Corchado, an attorney with Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso. Attorney Linda Corchado discusses accusations of sexual assault and harassment involving guards at ICE’s El Paso Processing Center. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said the agency “has zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody and takes very seriously all allegations of employee misconduct.
Like most people, Ana and Eddie Gonzalez closely followed developments as COVID-19 swept across the globe. “I remember having discussions with my husband about how sad it was that people were going into the hospital and nobody could go and see them, and that people were dying alone,” said Ana, who works in a truancy prevention initiative for El Paso Independent School District. They took precautions to protect their family from the novel coronavirus.”Every time we went to a store, we always wore a mask, even before the order came in. We were even wearing gloves. I had sanitizer in my purse.
Two asylum seekers from India who have been on a hunger strike at El Paso area immigration detention facilities for 75 days will be released soon, their lawyers said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have agreed to release Ajay Kumar, 33, and Gurjant Singh, 24, after they complete several days of refeeding at the agency’s El Paso Processing Center, lawyers Linda Corchado and Jessica Miles said. “After he signed his release (documents), Ajay said namaste to each officer and looked at me with tears in his eyes,” Corchado said on Twitter. “’This road was long ma’am,’ he said. His is one voice in a broken system.”
Kumar and Singh were among four Indian asylum seekers who began hunger strikes on July 9 at the Otero County Processing Center, an ICE facility in southern New Mexico just outside El Paso that’s operated by a for-profit company.
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico – Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke took his campaign to Mexico on Sunday to denounce Trump administration policies that he called cruel and counter to U.S. values. O’Rourke met with asylum seekers at a burrito restaurant and at Juárez’s largest migrant shelter. He criticized several policies: metering, which strictly limits the number of migrants who can approach ports of entry to seek asylum; Migrant Protection Protocols, the “remain in Mexico” policy that has sent thousands of asylum seekers back across the border while their immigration cases are decided by U.S. courts; and family separation. “We put them in this precarious position, we have caused this suffering. We also have the opportunity to make this better and to make this right,” O’Rourke said after hearing stories from several migrants.
At least nine pregnant migrant women have been sent from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez under the Trump administration’s controversial “remain in Mexico” policy for some asylum seekers, then taken out of the program and allowed to go free in the United States after court hearings. The practice of sending pregnant women to Ciudad Juárez, which has averaged five murders per day in recent weeks, drew criticism at a recent congressional hearing. Kevin McAleenan, the Department of Homeland Security acting secretary, said at the May 22 hearing that Border Patrol agents have the discretion to exempt pregnant women from the Migrant Protection Protocols program but are not required to do so. “This administration is putting pregnant women in danger. Do you know how dangerous it is to be sent to Juárez, Mexico?” Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-California, asked McAleenan at the hearing.
A 30-year-old Guatemalan woman and her two sons on Friday became the first people to be deported from the United States while taking part in a controversial Trump administration program that requires some migrants to remain in Mexico while their U.S. immigration cases are heard. “Over there (in Guatemala), if they do something to me my children have somewhere to go. Over here (in Mexico,) they have nothing if something happens to me,” Karla told immigration judge Nathan Herbert in El Paso. Borderzine is not using her full name because she said her family faces threats in Guatemala. More: On Mexico’s southern border, migrants seek to survive one day at a time
‘Uncaged Art’ exhibit gives voice to migrant children detained in Tornillo tent city
Karla, her 9-year-old son Eddin and her 11-month-old son Ian entered the United States in El Paso on March 25, according to court documents.
The number of El Paso County children enrolling in kindergarten through second grade has dropped precipitously in the last seven years, further evidence that El Paso’s once-robust population growth has stalled. El Paso County schools – including both traditional school districts and charter schools – had 34,603 students enrolled in kindergarten, first grade and second grade this year, according to data released in March by the Texas Education Agency. That’s down more than 5,000 from the 2011-12 enrollment in those grades, according to TEA records, a decline of 13%. Related: El Paso population growth rate hits 8 decade low, census estimates show
Only one traditional school district in El Paso County – Canutillo Independent School District in the western part of the county – has seen an increase in K-2 population in the past seven years. Canutillo’s K-2 population grew by 88 students to 1,345 this year, or 7%.
El Paso County is in the midst of its slowest population growth rate in 80 years, driven largely by a flight of residents to other U.S. communities from the Texas border county, new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show. The county’s population in 2018 was an estimated 840,758, up from just over 800,000 at the time of the 2010 census. That means El Paso County has had an average annual population growth rate of 0.5% since the last census, compared to 0.6% nationally and 1.5% in Texas. The 0.5% annual population growth since the 2010 census is the slowest rate of growth since the period between 1930 and 1940, during the Great Depression, when El Paso County lost population at a rate of about 0.6% a year. El Paso’s annual growth rate between 2000 and 2010 was 1.4%, almost three times the current growth rate.
On the heels of a major victory in a decades-old dispute over gambling conducted by El Paso’s Tigua Indians, the Texas Attorney General’s Office is asking a federal judge for an injunction that would ban or greatly restrict the gaming now conducted at the tribe’s Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. Such an injunction could lead to the closure or major downsizing of the Tigua peoples’ Speaking Rock Entertainment Center, the border tribe’s most lucrative enterprise and the focal point of a legal dispute with the state that dates to 1993. The Texas Attorney General’s Office on Friday recommended that U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez issue an injunction that prohibits the Tigua “from engaging in, permitting, promoting, or operating gambling activities on the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo’s reservation that violate one or more of the following” Texas laws and regulations regarding gambling. “This includes, but is not limited to, the one-touch machines described in the (Feb. 14 order issued by Martinez) and the live-called bingo described in the order.”
The state’s latest lawsuit seeking to stop gambling on Tigua land was set to go to trial on March 4, but Martinez on Feb.
Since early October, the El Paso region has seen an influx of asylum seekers released to the community after processing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thousands of people – mostly families from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, but also from Cuba, Nicaragua and other nations – have passed interviews in which they have shown credible fear of persecution if returned to their home countries. They now face an immigration court process that could take years to determine their fate. But for the time being, they are legally entitled to live in the United States. Upon release by ICE in El Paso, their first stop is a “hospitality center” run by a nonprofit called Annunciation House, which has provided services to migrants for more than 40 years.
Voters under age 30 are playing an increasingly crucial role in El Paso County elections, a sign that younger Latinos are becoming more engaged in the political process in the Donald Trump era. Voters under age 30 accounted for almost 17 percent of El Paso voters in the 2018 midterm election, up from 8 percent in the 2014 midterm. Put another way, more than one in every six voters in El Paso this year was under age 30, compared to one in 13 in 2014. Related story: Here’s what the young voter surge looked like at UT El Paso
The 2018 election featured an El Pasoan, Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, at the top of a statewide ticket for the first time in Texas history. O’Rourke’s presence, combined with President Trump’s deep unpopularity among Latino voters, led to El Paso more than doubling its turnout between midterm elections, going from 82,000 in 2014 to 203,000 in 2018.
EL PASO – Chaos loomed when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents dropped about 100 Central American migrants at the Greyhound station of this border city without notice Friday night. The families were in a strange city, many with little money and limited ability to contact loved ones for help. Then they were helped by angels. Ruben Garcia, the founder and director of the Annunciation House program that has housed and fed migrants for more than 40 years, knew since Wednesday that ICE planned to begin a new policy of essentially dumping migrants on border city streets. The migrants had been detained for several days in what are supposed to be short-term holding cells along the border in El Paso, and border authorities are struggling to cope with a fresh surge of Central American families coming to the United States to flee poverty, violence and corruption in their home countries.
A record 457,141 El Paso County residents are registered to vote for the Nov. 6 election, according to data from the County Elections Department. That’s up from 427,850 in the 2016 presidential election and 404,580 in 2014, the last midterm election. Click here to see mobile friendly version of map
El Paso’s voter registration grew by 6.8 percent since 2016, faster than the state’s 4.6 percent growth rate. Preliminary figures from the Secretary of State’s Office show that only 18 of Texas’ 254 counties have had a higher percentage growth of registered voters than El Paso between 2016 and 2018.
Costs of detaining migrant children at shelters in Tornillo, Texas, and other locations around the country are skyrocketing, with the Trump administration now saying it may cost $100 million a month just to operate the 3,800-bed tent facility outside of El Paso. The administration has not yet provided an accounting of how much in total it has been spending to detain children who either were separated from their parents or apprehended after crossing the border without a parent or guardian. But information provided so far indicates the amount is substantial, forcing the government to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars targeted for medical research, treatment and other programs so that it can care for a rapidly growing number of children in government custody. I have been writing about these issues for Texas Monthly and the Washington Post since June, when the government opened what was then a 400-bed shelter in Tornillo. While the world’s attention was focused on the controversial family separation policy, less attention was paid to other important changes to policies on how migrant children were treated.
A federal judge has given the government and American Civil Liberties Union until Thursday to develop a plan for reuniting hundreds of children who still haven’t been reunited with their parents weeks or months after being separated at the border. “The judge is making clear to the government that this must be a collaborative effort and that the government cannot place all the responsibility on the families, especially when it was the government that deported these parents in the first place,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement. According to court filings, the government has custody of 431 children whose parents were deported earlier this year without the children they brought with them to the United States. Another 79 children are listed as “adult released to the interior,” and another 94 are listed as “adult location under case file review.”
These 604 children between the ages of 5 and 17 are among the 711 declared “ineligible” for reunification last week as the government declared that it had complied with an order by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of San Diego to reunite families separated at the border by U.S. Border Patrol agents. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in February that resulted in Sabraw’s reunification order.
Confusion has reigned in the days since the Trump administration ended its controversial practice of taking children away from parents arrested at the Border. One El Paso nonprofit group has taken the lead on efforts to reunify parents and children, and to make sure the world knows their stories. At 2:45 p.m. on Sunday, a Department of Homeland Security bus pulled up outside Casa Vides, a shelter run by Annunciation House, and disgorged 32 people who had been held on misdemeanor immigration charges until the charges were dropped Thursday and Friday. Annunciation House, which provides shelter and legal services for migrants and refugees, would help them begin what promises to be an arduous process of reunifying them with their children. Annunciation House Executive Director Ruben Garcia said he believed this was the first large-group release of parents who had been jailed under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy. The group of migrants were connected with legal help, focused on getting their children back.
A Trump administration official on Friday wildly misstated border apprehension figures in justifying the decision to deploy National Guard forces to the border. “Our apprehensions in Fiscal Year 2017 were at the lowest level in 45 years. That said, we have experienced a significant increase over the past 12 months. A 1,200 percent in apprehensions, including the number of family units and unaccompanied children,” Ronald Vitiello, the deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, said at a news conference in El Paso. When asked for data on the 1,200 percent increase claim, a CBP spokesman said Vitiello had misspoken.