Border reopening brings some informal workers back from Mexico, while others decide the effort isn’t worth it

By Iván Gómez Cruz/La Verdad

CIUDAD JUAREZ – Although Lara has not been able to cross the border for her job cleaning houses for 20 months, the 45-year-old woman said she never lost contact with her El Paso employers. With Monday’s reopening of the U.S. border to non-essential travelers she said that “with God’s favor” she will return to work. Since 2018, Lara worked as a maid for three families in El Paso to help support her family. But in March 2020, the U.S. government closed the border due to the health crisis unleashed by COVID-19. Sometimes she crossed on foot and sometimes she got an acquaintance to take her by car, she said.

What you need to know about the U.S. border reopening to ‘non-essential’ traffic on Nov. 8

By Lauren Villagran / El Paso Times
At midnight on Monday, Nov. 8, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security lifts the restrictions to “non-essential” traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border. That means that Mexican nationals with a valid border crossing card will able to return to El Paso and other U.S. border communities to shop and visit friends and family for the first time in 20 months. Here’s what you need to know. Does the change affect U.S. citizens or lawful residents?

Juarez nightlife trying to adapt to changing pandemic conditions

The COVID-19 pandemic affected a wide range of businesses during the past year, especially nightclubs in Ciudad Juárez but some businesses found ways to reopen and adapt. Now, they’re faced with a new health order limiting hours and capacity and forcing some to close their doors once again as cases and hospitalizations spike. Nightclubs and restaurants have looked for ways to stay in business. “We had to turn everything into e-commerce we tried to sell remotely and reach the customer ourselves, said Pepe Hernandez, a founder of “Punto Unión,” an upscale property with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The months when businesses were forced to close under a health mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19 were difficult.

“The entertainment business ended, so we did it through other brands; we launched a sushi brand, mixology courses, food, and some businesses we turned completely into something new, ” Hernandez said.

Border travel restrictions in Detroit and El Paso show the uneven impacts of COVID-19

Nathaly Gonzalez crosses from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez a couple times a week. She brings groceries to her grandparents — they prefer the bulk foods sold on the U.S. side. She visits her brother and takes her dog to the vet.

Gonzalez and her mother are dual U.S.-Mexican citizens and live in El Paso; her brother and grandparents are Mexican citizens and live in Ciudad Juárez.

Things have changed significantly for Gonzalez and her family since the COVID-19 travel restrictions went into effect on March 21, 2020, but she still crosses with ease, regardless of whether her reasons for crossing could be defined as “essential.”

Border pandemic travel restrictions create obstacles for patients who get dental care in Mexico

CIUDAD JUAREZ — El Pasoans and other U.S. citizens who rely on dentists in Mexico for lower cost dental care face obstacles as COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place nearly a year later.

The U.S. and Mexican governments in March 2020 limited cross border travel at land ports of entry to “essential reasons” including work, school or medical care. Though dental care is allowed, patients say they face long lines at the border when returning to the U.S. side.

“Before the restrictions that we’re facing now, I used to go like once a month, and they were pretty simple. I would go in come back in an hour, actually,” said Norma Perez, an El Paso patient who crosses into Ciudad Juarez.

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.

Desert drivers come to their own rescue in El Paso’s off-road community

The sounds of off-road vehicles grinding through the desert in east El Paso County are mostly just a memory now. The sprawling dunes area known as Red Sands is closed and Sheriff’s patrols are turning off-road enthusiasts away to limit the potential for public contact over coronavirus concerns. But, before the closure, the sounds of 4x4s filled Red Sands day and night as groups of vehicles roamed the rugged terrain, climbing over dunes and sometimes getting stuck in the soft sands. That’s when the Texas Rescue Patrol might come to the rescue. The Texas Rescue Patrol is a group of volunteers who are part of the off-roading community who respond to calls for help and try to do whatever they can for stranded vehicles or accident cases, especially in the hard-to-reach areas of the desert.

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.

All Latinos don’t vote the same way – their place of origin matters

By Eliza Willis, Grinnell College and Janet A. Seiz, Grinnell College

Joe Biden won Florida’s 2020 Democratic primary, capturing a majority of the state’s Latino voters. Polls have been tracking the Latino vote in Democratic presidential primaries, and many analysts are trying to predict which candidate Latinos might favor in November. Interest in Florida has been especially strong. Observers commonly speak of “the Latino vote” as if Latinos make up a distinct and unified interest group. This both overstates and understates Latinos’ uniqueness.

Cross-border home ownership rate reflects El Paso, Juarez binational community dynamic

About one in every six El Pasoans say they own homes in both Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, according to a recent survey. The Border Perception Survey asked border residents about topics ranging from education and health to the security and environment. The survey, a collaboration between the El Paso Community Foundation and Fundación Comunitaria Frontera Norte as part of an initiative called Building Broader Communities in the Americas, was conducted between August and September of 2018 and included 896 El Pasoans and 1,535 Juarez residents. “The surprising thing was such a large number of people who actually are dual citizens, or are citizens of one side of the other but have homes on the other side of the border. And so that was an impressive finding,” said one of the researchers on the project, Josiah Heyman, director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies and professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso.

A sacred light in the darkness: Winter solstice illuminations at Spanish missions

By Rubén G. Mendoza, California State University, Monterey Bay

On Saturday, Dec. 21, nations in the Northern Hemisphere will mark the winter solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the year. For thousands of years people have marked this event with rituals and celebrations to signal the rebirth of the sun and its victory over darkness. At hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of missions stretching from northern California to Peru, the winter solstice sun triggers an extraordinarily rare and fascinating event – something that I discovered by accident and first documented in one California church more than 20 years ago. At dawn on Dec.

Adding ratings on source reliability helps limit spread of misinformation

By Antino Kim, Indiana University; Alan R. Dennis, Indiana University; Patricia L. Moravec, University of Texas at Austin, and Randall K. Minas, University of Hawaii

Online misinformation has significant real-life consequences, such as measles outbreaks and encouraging racist mass murderers. Online misinformation can have political consequences as well. The problem of disinformation and propaganda misleading social media users was serious in 2016, continued unabated in 2018 and is expected to be even more severe in the coming 2020 election cycle in the U.S.

Most people think they can detect deception efforts online, but in our recent research, fewer than 20% of participants were actually able to correctly identify intentionally misleading content. The rest did no better than they would have if they flipped a coin to decide what was real and what wasn’t. 

Both psychological and neurological evidence shows that people are more likely to believe and pay attention to information that aligns with their political views – regardless of whether it’s true.

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.