How I learned to cope when my family was separated by border pandemic restrictions

Ciudad Juarez — Since March, the international border has been closed, only allowing essential travel for work, school and medical reasons during the pandemic. The virtual border shutdown has been extended by both the U.S. and Mexican governments each month through February according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The border closure meant my mother, who works in El Paso, had to move to the U.S. side of the border since she didn’t want to have to deal with long lines at the international bridge and the possibility of being turned back even though she was crossing for her job. My mother is in El Paso with my 11-year-old brother while I and my 19-year-old brother live in Juárez.

Local business in Juarez adapts to border shutdown

CIUDAD JUAREZ — Months after the U.S.-Mexico border was closed to all but essential travel as a COVID-19 precaution, small businesses have been forced to find ways to new ways to cope.

“Many of our clients are from El Paso, so at first, they didn’t come as often because the situation was difficult,” said Natalia Briceño, 23, creative director for the nail salon Durazno Claro.

Pandemic measures change college life for international students

The “college experience,” usually depicted as an exciting time of meeting new people and exploring new opportunities, has changed dramatically due the COVID-19 pandemic. From classes switching to online teaching, technology issues and economic hardships, the pandemic has proven to be challenging for many students. But some Mexican international students in El Paso faced even more challenges after some government offices closed and new restrictions were placed on travel across the U.S.-Mexico border. Irving Avalos Guzman, 19, a first-year international student from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was unable to get his student visa processed on time for him to attend any classes at the University of Texas at El Paso in person. “I would like to cross the border, go to the classes, hang out in UTEP, meet new people,” Avalos Guzman said.

La nueva convivencia de ‘gamers’ a través de las redes sociales durante la pandemia

CIUDAD JUAREZ — Las redes sociales se han vuelto más transitadas tanto para buscar información como para convivir debido a la cuarentena puesta por la pandemia del COVID-19, donde se recomienda distanciamiento social. Como medio de información, las redes sociales han servido para mantener a gente de diferentes partes del país al tanto de la situación de cuarentena de los demás y además han ayudado muchos convivir y encontrar diversión mientras se encuentran aislados.Una forma de interacción que se ha vuelto bastante popular durante la cuarentena debido al incremento de tiempo en casa han sido los videojuegos en línea.”Ahora (mis amigos y yo) jugamos bastantes más horas que antes,” dijo Daniel Ríos, trabajador de soporte técnico para FlexGPS originario de San Juan del Río, Querétaro, México. “Sí jugábamos diario pero unas dos horas más o menos, ahora sigue siendo diario pero unas cinco, seis horas.” Un juego que se volvió bastante popular es uno llamado “Among Us”, un videojuego del tipo multiplayer creado por Innersloth y publicado el 16 de noviembre del 2018, el cual ha estado recibiendo un creciente número de reseñas, casi llegando a un total de 80,000 reseñas en la página Steam desde el 24 de agosto hasta días recientes, y llegando a tener hasta 1.5 millones de jugadores a la vez según un artículo de TheGamer. Otro juego que se hizo popular durante la cuarentena ha sido “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” de Nintendo, llegando a las 22 millones de ventas desde que salió en marzo, según un artículo del New York Times.La industria de los videojuegos en línea es un “raro ganador de la pandemia”, según un artículo de The Economic Times.

El Paso ICE facility guards accused of sexual assault, harassment

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.

Visa delays stress international students attending U.S. colleges as school begins

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.

A woman was found dying near the border wall. No one appears to be investigating her death

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.

Illustration of criss-crossed string pinned to European countries.

Accents, language differences spark fear amid the coronavirus pandemic

By Stanley Dubinsky, University of South Carolina; Kaitlyn E. Smith, University of South Carolina, and Michael Gavin, University of South Carolina

As the coronavirus spreads around the globe, it’s being characterized by media and politicians alike as an “invisible enemy.” People are afraid others may carry the virus but not show symptoms of the disease it causes – especially strangers, who may or may not have taken proper precautions against spreading the disease. It is this fear of strangers that causes people to be on heightened alert for anyone who might be somehow different. In some cases, the differences are visible, matters of physiological appearance and perhaps dress, leading to the racism and general fear of foreigners that has seen Asians attacked in Australia and the United States, and Africans kicked out of their homes in China. As researchers of people’s language differences, we find that our preliminary research and anecdotal evidence reveal another sort of discrimination, which happens when people’s differences are audible, not visible. Studies have shown that the language or dialect a person speaks is far and away the most important marker of group and national identity, and is the means by which people can immediately and accurately recognize strangers among them.

Officials worry cross-border Mother’s Day gatherings could spike coronavirus cases

CIUDAD JUAREZ — Chihuahua State Police officer Juan Antonio Martinez stands with a thermometer in hand, checking temperatures of people crossing the Paso del Norte Bridge.  As Mother’s Day approaches, he’s especially worried “because of their age, mothers are the most vulnerable and grandmother’s too,” he said. Martinez is unable to social distance while holding the thermometer to the forehead of border crossers. The temperature checks are applied to people coming from El Paso into Ciudad Juárez  after walking through a “sanitizing” station, where they are covered with a fine mist. A Chihuahua State Traffic Police took the temperature of a motorist crossing the Bridge of the Americas in Ciudad Juáre on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters)
Health authorities in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez  are warning families with ties on both sides of the border to stay home this Mother’s Day to avoid spreading COVID-19.

Borderland reflecting more on the contributions of Chinese immigrants in El Paso, Juarez

El PASO – Chinese immigrants have a rich history on the border that is often overlooked or left to individual families like the Wongs to try to preserve. “My grandfather was from Guangzhou, China. He moved to Mexico in the early 1900’s,” said Francisco “Paco” Wong, 62, owner of Paco Wong’s restaurant in El Paso. “My grandfather died in 1937 when my father was only ten years old. (His death) was the first strike on my family’s Chinese culture.”

Un trabajador agrícola mantiene el campo limpio de hierbas con el tractor donde se cosecha la fresa en Oxnard, California. (Photo: Martha Ramírez/El Nuevo Sol)

Coronavirus threatening seasonal farmworkers at the heart of the American food supply

By Michael Haedicke, Drake University

Many Americans may find bare grocery store shelves the most worrying sign of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their food system. But, for the most part, shortages of shelf-stable items like pasta, canned beans and peanut butter are temporary because the U.S. continues to produce enough food to meet demand – even if it sometimes takes a day or two to catch up. To keep up that pace, the food system depends on several million seasonal agricultural workers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants from Mexico and other countries. These laborers pick grapes in California, tend dairy cows in Wisconsin and rake blueberries in Maine. As a sociologist who studies agricultural issues, including farm labor, I believe that these workers face particular risks during the current pandemic that, if unaddressed, threaten keeping those grocery store shelves well stocked.

Census form and mailbox

Fear may keep undocumented immigrants out of 2020 census, hurt communities

By Mary Lehman Held, University of Tennessee

The United States might not be able to get information about more than 10 million people in the 2020 census. That’s the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Another 16.7 million individuals live in a household with an undocumented member and so might also not be counted in this year’s census. The primary reason that undocumented immigrants might forego participation in the 2020 census? Fear.

Social distancing to slow coronavirus is hard for a border culture used to hugging, togetherness

The Trejo family has been careful about handwashing and using hand-sanitizer to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but when it came time to part ways near the Paso del Norte international bridge, they hugged each other. “As we were hugging, I thought, ‘Oh no, we should have given each other a little elbow tap,’” said Blanca Trejo, the 65-year-old grandmother and matriarch of the family. Her 15-year-old granddaughter Ruby Lerma Trejo said she tried not to hug too tightly but said of keeping her distance with family, “oh that’s hard.”  Her grandmother, aunt and young cousins were headed back to Ciudad Juárez. She and her mother and sisters were going back to Horizon City. The Trejo family said goodbye after a recent visit as part of the family headed to Horizon City and the rest stayed in Ciudad Juárez.

The Supreme Court and refugees at the southern border: 5 questions answered

By Karla Mari McKanders, Vanderbilt University

I sat in a small room in Tijuana, Mexico with a 13-year-old indigenous Mayan Guatemalan girl. She left Guatemala after a cartel murdered her friend and threatened to rape her. Her mother wanted her to live and believed the only way for her to survive was to send her daughter alone to the U.S., to apply for asylum. Now she was alone and stuck in Mexico. Every morning, the Guatemalan girl, along with other asylum seekers, would frantically gather at the Tijuana-U.S. border where they waited to hear their name or their number called so the Mexican government could escort them to the U.S. border.

Far fewer Mexican immigrants are coming to the US — and those who do are more educated

By Rogelio Sáenz, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Once upon a time, not long ago, Mexicans dominated the flow of migrants coming to the U.S. Mexican migration expanded over the course of much of the 20th century and into the start of the 21st century. That is no longer the case. The number of Mexican migrants fell during the economic recession and has continued to fall further after the U.S. economy recovered. The downturn of Mexican migration
Data from the annual American Community Surveys, which I analyze in my research on Mexican migration, show that the number of foreign-born Mexicans migrating to the U.S. in the previous year fell from 2003 to 2017. The numbers tell the story, with the volume of Mexican migration dropping from nearly 1.7 million in 2003-2007 to 778,000 in 2013-2017.

ICE agrees to release 2 Indian hunger strikers from El Paso-area detention facilities

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.

Beto O’Rourke takes campaign into Mexico to spotlight ‘cruelty’ of Trump immigration policies

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.

Democrats debate the repeal of Section 1325 – what you need to know about the immigration law that criminalizes unauthorized border crossings

By Kit Johnson, University of Oklahoma

During the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 race, former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro challenged all candidates to join his call for the repeal of a controversial immigration law. The law, Section 1325 of Title 8 of the U.S. Code, makes entering the United States “at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers” a federal crime. It’s among the most prosecuted federal crimes in the United States. Thousands of defendants are charged with violating Section 1325 each month. The government shouldn’t “criminalize desperation,” Castro argued.

Fate of pregnant women at border sparks congresswoman’s outrage

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.

Tired but determined volunteers sustain El Paso’s migrant relief services

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.

Obispos y lideres de fe de la frontera Mexico-EE.UU se unen en solidaridad con los migrantes

EL PASO — Obispos Catolicos de la frontera Texas-México se reunieron para conversar sobre temas relacionados con inmigración que se viven a diario en ciudades fronterizas. “La migración forzada, es producto de un modelo económico que mantienen nuestros políticos en el mundo hoy, junto con los empresarios. Es una explotación del hombre, es un descuido total de la vida humana,” dijo Raúl Veda, Obispo de Saltillo. La conferencia en Febrero formo parte de un evento que se llevo acabo durante tres días a finales de Febrero y los obispos concedieron una misa para la justicia y la paz en la frontera en el Muro Fronterizo entre Anapra y Sunland Park. Los obispos en el grupo “Tex-Mex” se reúnen al menos dos veces cada año, pero esta ocasión fue mas urgente por las políticas de la administración Trump respecto a los solicitantes de asilo político, la muerte de dos niños inmigrantes de Guatemala en Diciembre cuando estaban a cargo de U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), y la batalla del presidente el presidente Donald Trump para construir un muro al largo de la frontera.

Guatemalan family first to be deported from U.S. in Trump’s ‘remain in Mexico’ program

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.

Salvage cars destined for Mexico outnumber people in this Texas border town

TORNILLO, Tx — This small town in eastern El Paso County has less than 2,000 residents, but is far from being tranquil as a jangly parade of used vehicles bound for Mexico are hauled through its streets every day. “The amount of traffic that goes by the front of the house is terrible because a lot of those guys are pulling two or three cars. Parts are falling off of them, it’s a hazard for us” said longtime Tornillo resident Jay Martin. El Paso County Commissioner Vince Perez said the vehicles started moving through Tornillo in huge numbers when the U.S. port of entry with Mexico opened in 2016. Previously, used vehicles were being imported into Mexico through port of entry at Santa Teresa, N.M., but when the Tornillo port opened it was designated as the sole crossing point for this sector.

Central American women fleeing violence experience more trauma after seeking asylum

Laurie C. Heffron, St. Edward’s University

The number of Central American women who make difficult, often harrowing, journeys to the United States to flee domestic and gang violence is rising. I’m a social science researcher and a social worker who has interviewed hundreds of women after they were detained by immigration authorities for my research about the relationship between violence against women and migration. I find that most female asylum seekers experience trauma, abuse and violence before they cross the U.S. border seeking asylum. What these women go through while detained by Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement can take an additional physical, social and emotional toll.

Ideas para reducir su tiempo de espera en los cruces internacionales

CIUDAD JUAREZ — Cruzar de Ciudad Juárez a la ciudad vecina de El Paso, es un fenómeno necesario; ya sea para estudiar, trabajar o incluso por motivos personales como visitar a familiares. Algunas personas solo dan uso de los puentes internacionales solo para aprovechar precios y/o servicios no disponibles en su ciudad de origen.

El hecho de tener todos los documentos necesarios y en línea para cruzar, no te garantiza un viaje cómodo y rápido. Para eso, existen varias opciones disponibles para los viajeros internacionales: Santa Fe (Centro), Zaragoza (Ysleta), Santa Teresa y Córdova-Américas, mejor conocido como “El Puente Libre” A diferencia de los demás cruces internacionales en esta frontera, El Puente Libre se distingue por ser gratuito. Eso es una de las razones por lo que los tiempos de espera suelen ser más pesados con una espera de 20 a 25 minutos más en comparación de a los demás cruces internacionales. De acuerdo con información de U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP, los tiempos de espera en puente suelen variar dependiendo del tiempo, con un promedio de 25 a 40 minutos y en horas pico con un promedio de 1 hora y media o más.

International commuters worry about possible border shutdown

By Marisol Chavez and Valeria Olivares
University of Texas at El Paso students are experiencing as long as five hours to cross from Juarez and are becoming more anxious as President Donald Trump threatens to close the border. “It’s stressful to think that you might be in Juarez and then the border might shut down,” said Arlen Ozuna, a UTEP student and El Paso Country Club employee. “You’re not going to be able to go to school, you’re not going to be able to go to work.”
The longer and slower lines at the international bridges are affecting people who cross the border regularly for school, work, shopping and even visiting family. At a news conference last week in El Paso, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said he was moving 750 officers from international bridges throughout the Southwest to assist in migrant processing effort. He acknowledge this would disrupt the movement of goods and people across the border, especially over the Semana Santa (Holy Week) period. Long lines have been reported this week at bridges between the U.S. and Mexico throughout the Southwest border.