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.

On Mexico’s southern border, migrants seek to survive one day at a time

Stacey Wilson-Forsberg, Wilfrid Laurier University and Iván Francisco Porraz Gómez, ECOSUR

The day we arrive in Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, the southern Mexican state that borders Guatemala, all is quiet. A violent confrontation had occurred just the day before: Central American migrants, mostly from Honduras, had thrown rocks at Mexican migration officials who attempted to stop their entry into Mexico over the international bridge. Many of the migrants hope their final destination will be a better life in the United States. As we approach the town, we chance upon a small caravan of about 30 men, women and children walking along the road in the scorching sun. They are in rough shape and we decide not to take photos today.

Photo gallery: Migrant children draw their gratitude for El Paso’s kindness

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.

UCLA grad student documents experience of cross-border commuters at Juarez-El Paso bridges and other ports of entry

EL PASO – Before sunup on a recent breezy Monday morning, Estefania Castañeda-Perez, 27, stood outside the Sun Metro’s Santa Fe Street downtown bus transfer center with a stack of surveys in her arms. Her mission: to further research on the experiences of people crossing the border bridges from Ciudad Juarez to El Paso. The ambitious project, she says, hits close to home. “I began to regularly cross the border when I started to attend middle school in San Diego,” said Castañeda-Perez, a political science Ph.D. student at University of California Los Angeles. Castaeñda-Perez was born in Tijuana and, as an infant, her parents began crossing her back and forth across the border. When she was older, she began to cross to attend school in San Diego.

ICE leaves crowd of migrants stranded in Downtown El Paso for Christmas; community rises to respond with compassion

EL PASO – Here’s a sense of the scene Sunday evening at the Greyhound bus station about two hours after ICE dropped off more than 150 destitute, scared and confused Central American asylum seekers. Mothers traveling alone with small children clinging to them. Fathers traveling with children who are never more than inches away from each other. Over and over they ask to use my phone. They have phone numbers memorized, or scrawled on worn scraps of paper for family or contacts in the U.S. I dial South Carolina, then New Jersey, Tennessee, California.

El Pasoans rush to respond with compassion as ICE leaves migrants in the streets

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.

As costs for detaining migrant children soar, Trump administration draining cash from health, education programs

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.

Judge gives Thursday deadline for plan to reunify children with hundreds of parents government lost track of

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.