Brian Kolfage arrived in Texas three years ago pledging to help fulfill President Donald Trump’s promise of a “big, beautiful” wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. After pleading guilty to federal fraud charges last month, Kolfage leaves behind two small stretches of fencing that are mired in legal, environmental and permitting fights.
Editors note: This article was originally published on September 14, 2014 in the special Centennial Issue of The Prospector. Annette Rainville, who was a reporter and editor at The Prospector, graduated from UTEP with a bachelor’s degree in print media in spring 2004. During her long process of going to school and working to raise her twin boys, Anthony and Ryan, and daughter Audrey, Rainville was also fighting her initial battle with leukemia. She was in remission and went to work as an intern with the Scripps Howard News Bureau in Washington, D.C. in fall 2004. She worked alongside reporter Lisa Hoffman, who was the bureau’s main reporter on the war in Iraq.
Roger De Moor has presented his students with an emergency scenario many of them know well: Your 3-year-old has locked themselves in the bathroom. They’re panicking. In a room that looks like a high school shop class, nine women walked up to a makeshift door and slid a small pick into the doorknob, searching for the groove that would open the lock. “My teenager, she takes the keys,” said Kathy Chavez, whose daughter went through “the terrible teens” and used to lock the door to her room. Chavez’s cousin, Terri Garcia, held up the pick and grinned: “Not anymore.”
The cousins are single moms eager to rely less on Garcia’s aging father for help with home improvement tasks — and to save money.
Remove your shoes, open the door, ring the bell three times and walk toward the altar to pray. That’s what Hindu devotees do every time they enter the Southwest Hindu Temple on El Paso’s West Side. Colorful lights hang on the altar. India’s flag is on the right side and the U.S flag on the left. In the center of the temple is a brass tray “puja thali” with rice, turmeric, chandan and incense.
Migrants trapped in Mexico for more than a year by one of former President Trump’s most controversial policies rejoiced to the news Friday that the Biden administration was ending the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols and allowing people in that program to gradually come to the United States to pursue asylum claims.
Story by Corrie Boudreaux and Angela Kocherga for El Paso Matters
CIUDAD JUAREZ – As the first day of classes neared, violinist Rodrigo Cardona Cabrera was filled with anticipation. After years of hard work and an impressive resume of performances across Mexico and the United States, the 19-year-old Ciudad Juárez native earned a scholarship to study music at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “Of course, I’m very nervous because it’s a new experience for me,” Cardona said. “It’s like a new life. But I know that it’s going to be an amazing experience.
As my Dad packed his bag for his next trip, we talked about how coronavirus had affected his work. A truck driver that keeps food on tables, toilet paper in bathrooms, and medicine on shelves, he has a crucial role in an economy battered by the coronavirus. When the pandemic first hit and panic buying cleared grocery shelves, there was a moment when the value of those who drive through the night to deliver important goods across the country came into national focus. But largely, it’s an unseen role. My pandemic experience has been vastly different than his as city ordinances advised me to stay home and only go out when necessary.
by René Kladzyk, El Paso Matters
Early on the morning of July 8, a woman was found by Border Patrol agents with a severe head injury, just north of the border wall in New Mexico. Scant information is available regarding her identity, and it appears that no law enforcement agency is investigating her death. Incidents like this — in which no press release disclosed her death, no agency has claimed responsibility for investigating it, and no public identification of the woman has been made — begs the question: how many migrants die and then fall through the cracks of complex bureaucracy, with far-away family members left wondering what happened? What we know
Our Jane Doe had apparently fallen from the border wall, which stretches to a height of 18 feet at that point along the U.S.-Mexico border, just west of El Paso where Anapra, Mexico, and Sunland Park, New Mexico, meet. A dispatcher, apparently from El Paso, passes along a call to Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority about a person who fell from the border wall.
In the summer of 2019, undergraduate journalism students from the University of Texas at El Paso and Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juarez collaborated to record personal stories of the border. In the 1980s, the elections in Mexico were full of fraud, causing mass protests. One of the strongest movements occurred in the state of Chihuahua. Ana Sofia Rey interviewed her mother Monica about the fight for democracy in Ciudad Juarez. https://soundcloud.com/borderzine-reporting-across-fronteras/familia-rey-conversation-politics
Ana Sofia: Tell me a little more about the protests in Ciudad Juárez.
An El Paso man who has been allowed to stay in the United States under the Obama administration’s DACA program celebrated a Supreme Court decision Thursday that allowed the program to continue. But he also noted he and other people who came to the United States as children without legal authorization still face an uncertain future. “At the end of the day we just don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s hard living on a tightrope,” said David Gamez, 24. Josue Tayub is a 36-year-old DACA recipient and nurse who works in the intensive care unit at an El Paso hospital.
by René Kladzyk, El Paso Matters
Daniella Perez, a 22-year-old waitress and UTEP student, lost her job when restaurants closed in mid-March as COVID-19 began spreading through El Paso. “Honestly I’m still kind of in shock. I can’t believe this whole thing. I have been trying to look for more income, but I’m scared because I live with my Mom,” Perez said. This first wave of COVID-19 job losses led more than 50,000 people in the El Paso area to file unemployment claims between March 1 and May 1, according to data from Workforce Solutions Borderplex.
Kafka in a Skirt, Daniel Chacon’s most recent collection of short stories, opens with a bang that lights up a corner of the existential darkness, but only enough to make us wonder if indeed there is nothing, nada. “In the Closet,” one of the numerous flash fiction pieces in the book, gives us an adolescent protagonist who has been ordered by his mother to clean that “chingadera” out of his closet. He tells the reader that even though he got down on his knees to search his closet, he “didn’t know what [he] was looking for, but [he] somehow knew [he] would spend the rest of [his] life looking for it.”
I read somewhere that it’s often said that readers read to gain insight into others but that, in fact, readers read to gain insight into themselves. I suspect there is considerable truth to that. Have not many readers, at some time in their lives, feared that they will spend, or have already spent, most of their lives looking for an elusive and indefinable something?
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House passed a major trade deal on Thursday that will reset the economic relationships within North America. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement passed with a 385-41 vote and will now head to the Senate, which is expected to approve it next year. The deal will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, a 1994 agreement that dramatically changed the landscape of the Texas economy. While the three countries announced the agreement a year ago, the deal hit some turbulence in the Democratically-controlled House. Many Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have urged its passage, due to the state’s reliance on cross-border commerce with Mexico.
DALLAS — During this year’s legislative session, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was among scores of city leaders who actively opposed yet another series of attempts by state officials to limit how much money local governments collect. But with lawmakers determined to reform the local property tax process, she and other mayors had little luck fighting off what many city officials considered attacks on local control. By the time the Legislature adjourned in May, lawmakers had passed bills that limit how much property tax revenues local governments can collect without voter approval, prohibit the use of revenue-generating red-light cameras and eliminate some fees telecommunications companies pay to local entities. “We have actually worked on this for the last three or four sessions, but it really feels like it escalated this session,” Price told The Texas Tribune. “They don’t have a full grasp of cities, our spending and what we do.”
That’s left many local officials scrambling to calculate how much money cities will forgo in coming years as many city councils prepare their budgets for the next fiscal year.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed UTEP doctoral student Daniel R. Dominguez to a one-year term as Student Regent on The University of Texas System Board of Regents. He is the first UTEP student appointed to this position. Dominguez, who expects to earn his Ed.D. in educational leadership and administration in 2023, is The University of Texas at El Paso’s director of accounting and financial reporting. His term as Student Regent began June 1, 2019, and expires May 31, 2020. He said he is excited to serve as the voice of the more than 235,000 students who attend the System’s 14 institutions.
By Abby Livingston and Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune
MIAMI — Home-state tensions flared between Democratic presidential candidates and native Texans Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro at their party’s first presidential debate Wednesday night, with Castro saying O’Rourke has not done his “homework” on the issue of immigration. At issue were the inhumane conditions at detention centers for migrants — including Texas — and a photo published Tuesday of the bodies of Salvadoran father Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, both of whom died while trying to cross the Rio Grande to seek asylum in America. “Watching those images of Óscar and Valeria is heartbreaking, and should also piss us all off … and it should spur us to action,” Castro said, fielding the first question on immigration. Several other candidates addressed the matter, including U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, pledging to end Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies.
By Sylvia Ulloa, New Mexico In Depth, New Mexico In Depth
The easiest number to understand in the just-released 2019 Annie E. Casey Kid’s Count report is that New Mexico ranks 50th overall in child well-being. That’s a stark ranking, the second year in a row New Mexico earned that distinction. For detractors and supporters of former governor Susana Martinez, there’s a lot to digest in the numbers released Monday because they track with nearly her entire tenure. The chart below shows the Kids Count rankings in several categories for 2012-2019, but most of the data comes from 2010-17 (Rankings go back to 1990, but a different methodology was used in those years, making direct comparison difficult). “It very much is a reflection of what happened, and more specifically, what didn’t happen during the Martinez years,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which monitors the indicators for New Mexico.
There are many perils for humans and wildlife crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, from the hazards of navigating challenging terrain to the trauma of being detained by law enforcement. As tensions rise with each newly erected section of border wall, the impact of hardline policies can be seen taking a toll on the mental, physical, and environmental health of the borderland. Rising waters threaten migrants crossing Rio Grande
Risks to migrants crossing into the U.S. near El Paso have increased with the annual release of Rio Grande water from upriver in New Mexico. The release replenishes the borderlands and allows its farmers to irrigate, but the surge of water and migrants is a potentially deadly combination. Migrants who bypass barriers at U.S. ports of entry to seek asylum by crossing the Rio Grande risk drowning in the high water of the borderland canals.
SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico – Just feet away from a large freeway-like sign declaring “Boundary of the United States of America,” children play in the Anapra neighborhood of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. But this is not exactly true; they gambol in a narrow strip of the United States that lies between the Mexican state of Chihuahua and the American border fence, perhaps a dozen feet of disused territory between the invisible international border and the steel slats that soar up to 26 feet high, forming a rust-colored dotted line across the continent. Happily for the youngsters, the designers of the United States’ border fence failed to take them into consideration. A shoeless pre-teen can easily scramble nearly to the top of the barrier here, and later ask $1 of American passersby who are amazed to see the fence so easily scaled. Bemused U.S. Border Patrol agents occasionally hand out granola bars or other treats to the little hands that reach north through the bars.
As U.S. border officials detain thousands of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border every day, another group waits for the men, women and families who have often been walking for days: volunteers. In El Paso, where Border Patrol agents apprehended 136,922 migrants between October 2018 and May 2019, residents have responded to the influx of migrants with meals and shelter. But it’s been eight months since the latest surge of Central American migrants started. Volunteer coordinators have had to adapt their efforts to a timeline that has no end in sight. “The current volunteers are starting to get fatigued,” Christina Lamour, director of community impact for United Way of El Paso County, said.
El Paso Street buzzes by 9 a.m. on a weekday. A shop owner with a front-row view of the Paso del Norte Bridge picks up a bedazzled pump and sets it on a box containing the mate. A jackhammer pulses two stores down, caution tape forcing walkers to the street. A steady stream of feet — some quick-paced, others leisurely — move past a Customs and Border Protection officer watching the scene unfold. Life moves, but not at the pace it once did.
Border Tuner, a major new public artwork by internationally renowned visual artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, is set to take place in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez in November 2019. The interactive art installation will highlight the complex connections between Juárez and El Paso through a series of nightly conversations and performances that involve residents from both sides of the border and beyond.
The project is designed to shine a light on unity between the two sister cities and the people of both the U.S. and Mexico and aims to help the border community reclaim its own narrative in the national spotlight. “Those of us who live and work here in the El Paso-Juárez border know how interlinked our two communities are and know how important we are to one another’s culture and history,” said Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center for Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso. “As the nation’s attention has turned to the border increasingly in 2019, its important that we share our story and reclaim our narrative as one border community. This project aims to highlight the many ways in which Juárez and El Paso are interconnected.”
By Julio J. Bermejo
Dominic Torres wasn’t getting what he needed from the interview, and he knew it. Torres, a senior majoring in journalism at California State University, Fullerton, in Southern California, was on the outskirts of Tijuana, Baja California, in November at a residential shelter for child victims of sexual exploitation. He was there to interview “Lucy” (a pseudonym), a 21-year-old survivor of a childhood of abuse at the hands of her father. Her story was to be a central element of the multimedia news package on child sexual exploitation in the U.S.–Mexico border region Torres was assembling as part of his work in the university’s new course, “Specialized Reporting on Minorities of the Southern Border.”
See the stories: California State University Fullerton Reports From The Border
Yet, even though Lucy had agreed to the interview through the shelter director, who sat translating between her and Torres, who did not speak Spanish; even though the camera was trained only on her hands; and even with the promised use of the pseudonym and an offer to alter her voice in the footage, Lucy was reluctant to offer any details of her story. Torres slowly switched off the camera and hung his head in thought.
In 1997, my students and I traveled to Croagh Patrick, a mountain in County Mayo, as part of a study abroad program course on Irish literature I was teaching for the University of Dayton. I wanted my students to visit the place where, each July, thousands of pilgrims pay homage to St. Patrick, who, according to lore, fasted and prayed on the summit for 40 days. While there, our tour guide relayed the story of how St. Patrick, as he lay on his death bed on March 17 in A.D. 461, supposedly asked those gathered around him to toast his heavenly journey with a “wee drop of whiskey” to ease their pain.
After a Florida driver was killed in a crash in 2016 while his Tesla was in “Autopilot” mode, regulators assured the public that Tesla’s autonomous driving system was safe. An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that after a key component called Autosteer was added, crash rates in Tesla cars had dropped. When a skeptical researcher filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the data behind the claim, NHTSA balked. He successfully sued the agency — extending NHTSA’s poor record in defending FOIA cases. NHTSA, a branch of the Department of Transportation, did not respond to interview requests nor answer written questions for this story.
Wild horses have long been an evocative symbol of the American West. When wild horses and burros were threatened with extinction nearly 50 years ago, Congress rode to the rescue with a law providing broad protections. Horse numbers have soared, however, along with government costs to manage the herds. And the animals increasingly compete with privately owned livestock for food and water on public lands—a conflict worsened by climate change. There is broad agreement that something has to give.
As ICE began contracting with county jails and federal prisons for more beds, it agreed to allow detainees under its care to be fed in much the same way as inmates in those facilities. That’s a violation of the agency’s own guidelines. By H. Claire Brown
Editor’s note: This story was first published Aug. 23, 2018 in NewFoodEconomy.org.
Along the dry, rocky desert of El Paso, Texas–past all the food chains and shopping malls–a brown fence stretches for miles. The fence marks the southern U.S. border that separates El Paso from its Mexican sister city, Juarez. Antonio Villaseñor-Baca is 22-years-old and was born and raised in El Paso. His hometown is a huge “borderplex” that spans the Rio Grande River. Antonio has an uncle in Juarez, and while growing up, his dad would take him back and forth a lot.
By Billy Cruz, Youth Radio
EL PASO – When I arrived at Casa Vides, a migrant shelter in El Paso Texas, I found a two-story brick building close enough to the border that I could walk to it. The building was almost a perfect cube shape, and as I knocked on the heavy wooden door, I wondered to myself, “Is this really where undocumented migrants are being housed?”
But I wasn’t there to interview migrants this time — Casa Vides wouldn’t permit me to talk to any of them in order to protect their privacy. I was there to talk to two college students who live and work with the migrants for the summer. https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.youthradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/27123940/YOUTH-RADIO-MIGRANT-SHELTER-VISIT-FINAL.mp3
Casa Vides is a place that provides refuge for two types of people: those who evaded border patrol, and those who were caught — handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement — and then released while their cases are still pending. Casa Vides provides food, shelter, and legal support to around 40 residents at a time and is run by the faith-based non-profit organization, Annunciation House.