Life in a border city can be like a relationship status on social media. It’s complicated. More than 1 million people live in the El Paso-southern New Mexico region. Another 1.3 million live across the border in Juarez, Mexico. We are separated by an international boundary set along the path of a formerly meandering river.
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.
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.
El Paso County has approximately 2000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents when they were children who are temporarily protected from deportation by a federal program, known as DACA, approved by former President Obama.
Following the election of President Donald Trump two years ago and his pledge to end the program, the future of these young immigrants, known as Dreamers who now total 11 million, remains in legal limbo as Congress refuses to act on legislation that would provide them with permanent status. They remain in a state of constant fear that the protection from deportation they now enjoy will end in permanent separation from the U.S. family members. Members of the El Paso-area immigration advocacy organization, Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR), say they are committed to continue to help local Dreamers win the right to remain permanently in the country. Based in El Paso, Texas, BNHR has a membership of more than 700 families, in parts of West Texas and southern New Mexico.
EL PASO – The pressure to curb the growing backlog in immigration courts threatens the rights of detained immigrants, especially those seeking asylum, lawyers and immigration judges say. The Executive Office of Immigration Review recently established completed case quotas for immigration judges to decrease the backlog, but immigration judges say the move will increase the backlog due to potential appeals. Immigration attorneys said this is an effort to speed up the deportation of hundreds of thousands of people. “Make no mistake, the outcome this administration truly desires from mandating quotas on an understaffed adjudicatory agency with a needlessly overstuffed docket is to transform it into a deportation machine,” said Jeremy McKinney, a North Carolina immigration attorney who is secretary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The move calls for immigration judges to complete at least 700 cases per year, a number that was called unreasonable by immigration judges.
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.
Francisco Uviña was 19 when he crossed the U.S. border in search for work in the 1950’s. Like many other Mexican laborers of that time, Uviña was signed up for the Bracero Program which offered a solid wage and an opportunity of a lifetime to live and work in the agriculture sector of the United States. Uviña first heard of the Bracero Program from friends and neighbors in his hometown of San Luis de Cordero, Durango. In the spring of 1953, he then joined a caravan of over 1,000 laborers who traveled by bus to to Chihuahua City, Mexico, to register for the program. This year marks the 76th anniversary of the Bracero Program, a labor program that allowed more than four million Mexican men to cross into the United States to work the fields after U.S. men went off to fight in World War II.
As a child growing up in Ciudad Juarez, Alexis Mesta loved racing his bike with his neighborhood friends and watching Saturday morning cartoons on TV, especially Courage the Cowardly Dog. He loved eating his grandma’s homemade food and spending time with her. He says he was a carefree, well-adjusted boy, blessed with loving parents who wanted the best for him.
That life ended when, as a teenager, he moved alone to El Paso to create a new life for himself and help his family. Today, Mesta, 22, works two jobs, studies for his master’s in business administration at UTEP and has sponsored his mom, dad, sister and brother to live in the U.S.
“I wanted to sponsor my family because I wanted my brother and sister to have the same advantages that I did,” said Mesta, who was born in El Paso and is a U.S. citizen.
La oficina de estudios extranjeros de UTEP provee a los estudiantes la oportunidad de mejorar su experiencia educativa participando en cualquiera de los muchos programas internacionales que ofrecen. UTEP tiene acuerdos con más de 200 universidades en más de 50 países, dijo Carolina Terán, asistente de la oficina de estudios extranjeros. La Universidad cuenta con personal capacitado para orientar a los estudiantes y educarlos con los diferentes programas que ofrecen, Terán comento. UTEP no solo da la oportunidad a sus estudiantes de conocer diferentes partes del mundo, si no también abre sus puertas a estudiantes que quieren vivir la experiencia de ser parte de los Mineros de Texas y estudiar un año o un semestre aquí, dijo Terán. Estudiar en algún otro país, estudiantes corren el riesgo de vivir la experiencia de algún atentado o un ataque terrorista.
During eight days in June 2017, UTEP students learned about Cuban media, art and culture during one-on-one exchanges with visual artists, writers, journalists, economists, communication students and ordinary Cubans during a study tour of Havana. UTEP Professors Zita Arocha and Dr. Irasema Coronado led the group of students from various majors such as political science, communication, multimedia journalism and theater arts. Highlights of the study trip included a day of learning about environmental and digital journalism at the Centro Internacional de Peridoismo Jose Marti and the above intimate conversation with editors and journalists at Cuba’s Educational Television station. Communication majors Guillermo Villaseñor-Baca and Tania Moran produced these multimedia stories about the trip, which most called a “life altering” and “transformational” experience.