Summer job at El Paso migrant shelter proves ‘vastly different’ experience for Notre Dame students

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.

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.

El Paso shelter helps migrant parents regain children taken by U.S. border agents

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.

(Raymundo Aguirre/

More Mexicans requesting asylum

The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Editor’s Note: Nicole Chavez, a UTEP multimedia journlaism major, is completing  an internship this summer with the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In the year since Georgia passed a law to discourage illegal immigration, the number of asylum applications filed by Mexicans in Atlanta’s immigration court has increased four-fold. A few applicants have personal experience of Mexico’s drug-fueled violence. Many others have not been touched by the bloodshed but are using it as grounds to argue that they should not be deported to Mexico – a novel legal strategy that seeks to alter existing law. And in some cases, immigrants’ attorneys may be filing asylum claims purely as a last-ditch delaying tactic.

Juarez couple narrates torture suffered under officers from the Mexican Federal Police. (Francisco Alarcón/

Juarez couple declares they were kidnapped and tortured by Mexican Federal Police

Translated by Roberto Perezdíaz
Lea esta historia en español

EL PASO – A Juarez woman together with her husband affirmed in an immigration and political asylum forum that she was tortured and threatened by death by Mexican Federal Police. “Although we are safe and are still alive, we are nobody here,” she said before a hundred or so people while her face was covered by a black cloth to protect her identity. She spoke here Friday, April 27 at the Multi-Use Center of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral hosted by Annunciation House, an organization that offers refuge for immigrants and political exiles. “We sacrificed a lot to achieve our careers in Ciudad Juárez, and they (a group of federal policemen deployed to our sister city) destroyed them in minutes,” she said fighting her tears. The couple, whose names and faces remained anonymous for security reasons, fled Juarez City and took refuge in El Paso when some alleged agents from the above agency “picked them up” on two occasions.

Alejandro Hernández Pachecho, a cameraman exiled from Torreón, México. (Victoria A. Perez/

Mexican kidnap victim establishes a new life in El Paso

EL PASO – Sitting on the cold hard cement the man was able to remove part of his blindfold and focusing his sight, the dim light revealed a small dirty room covered in blood. Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco, 42, had been kidnapped in Torreon, Mexico, and one of the few who survived to tell the story. He worked as a cameraman for the television station, Televisa, in Torreon. On July 26, 2010 during a regular day of work, Pacheco was sent to cover a news story about killings connected to a prison in his city. Hernandez and two fellow reporters were sent to the prison in Gomez Palacio, Durango, were several murders of guards had taken place that same month.

Alejandro Hernández Pacheco es el segundo periodista en recibir asilo político en los Estados Unidos. (Luis Hernandez/

Conseguir asilo político en EU es difícil para periodistas mexicanos amenazados

EL PASO – El incremento de amenazas y de violencia en contra de periodistas mexicanos, así como la falta de apoyo por parte del gobierno mexicano y de las propias empresas que los emplean, han llevado a varios reporteros a buscar apoyo internacional. Alejandro Hernández Pacheco es el segundo periodista mexicano en recibir asilo político por parte de los Estados Unidos. El primer periodista en recibir asilo por amenazas fue Jorge Luis Aguirre, editor del sitio electrónico noticioso “La Polaka”, en el 2010. El caso de Hernández Pacheco fue atendido por el abogado paseño, Carlos Spector, que se especializa en casos migratorios. Él afirma que las decisiones que definen el estado migratorio de los solicitantes de asilo político generalmente suelen ser rápidas, en el caso de Hernández Pacheco esto no fue así.

(Raymundo Aguirre/

Mexicans seeking asylum: A facet of U.S.-Mexican political entanglements

EL PASO — A young policewoman feels trapped living in abysmal despair after fleeing a Mexican town near the border. She attempted to uphold the law in a society fed by narco-violence, but faced insurmountable opposition. Now, her only escape hinges on the uncertainty of the U.S. legal system. “You have to run away like a rat because you don’t know who to be careful from,” she said in resigned desperation. “You feel like everyone wants to kill you.”

This woman, who refused to provide her name because her life is in danger, has seen the worst of her society from the known criminals and those who are supposed to uphold justice.

In a city full of ghosts Juarez newspaper takes a surprising stand

EL PASO, Texas — A major border news daily published a jaw-dropping front page editorial this week that seems to call on drug cartels, or whichever entities are in control of crime-plagued Ciudad Juarez, to tell them what the newspaper should publish to prevent further attacks against its staff. The September 18 editorial in El Diario de Juarez, prompted by the recent shooting death the paper’s 21-year-old photographer Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco outside a shopping mall, said, in part: “Tell us what you want from us, what you want us to publish or not publish, so we will know what to do?”

In typical knee-jerk fashion, quite a few journalists were quick to condemn the feisty border newspaper for scrapping its journalistic responsibility and caving in to the drug lords, a charge the newspaper denies. It troubles me that the major media, on both sides of the Rio Grande, did not take the time to carefully analyze the fine points of the editorial, but instead focused on the attention grabbing and alarm-raising message to “drug cartels.”

It seems that most missed the point of the long and nuanced editorial statement. Narcos, like ghosts, are unlikely to visit newsrooms or call with an offer to negotiate a public truce. They use subtle tactics instead to get what they want, like threatening to kidnap a Zacatecas editor if she didn’t publish a story about a young man who was killed by the army.