Along the dry, rocky desert of El Paso, Texas–past all the food chains and shopping malls–a brown fence stretches for miles. The fence marks the southern U.S. border that separates El Paso from its Mexican sister city, Juarez. Antonio Villaseñor-Baca is 22-years-old and was born and raised in El Paso. His hometown is a huge “borderplex” that spans the Rio Grande River. Antonio has an uncle in Juarez, and while growing up, his dad would take him back and forth a lot.
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 – Lower Valley resident Daniela Caro struggles to breathe some days. “On bad days my asthma gets really bad, my throat closes up, even walking to class is a little bit hard,” she said. The 23-year-old El Pasoan lives near Riverside where trucks spew toxic fumes as they transport goods across the El Paso-Juarez border. The American Lung Association ranks El Paso’s pollution in the top 20 among U.S. metropolitan areas for both particles and ozone. Poor air quality has been linked to health issues, particularly for at-risk groups like children, older adults and anyone with respiratory problems like asthma.
EL PASO – This border city’s downtown shopping district has become a flourishing quinceñera Mecca as girls turning 15 and their families flock to buy lavish party dresses and accessories to celebrate their transition into womanhood. Outfitting quinceañeras, one of the most important celebrations among Hispanics, has become a booming business here where 82 percent of the population is Hispanic. “Customers are very faithful to this location. There’s a lot of traffic coming from everywhere. There are even people coming from outside of Texas,” said Yuridia Villagran, co-owner of Imperial Real Boutique.
Garnachas y restaurantes Juárez y El Paso is a Facebook group that has been gaining popularity among border residents. It began as a hobby two years ago and now is an online community with more than 50,000 members. The driving motivation for the group is to stimulate Juarez business and entertainment activity following a half decade of a declining economy and business closings sparked by high crime and violence. Group members rate Juarez restaurants and cafes on a scale of one to 10, using colloquial Juarez personalities such as superstar “divo” Juan Gabriel and the well-known clown Niko Lico, and others. For example, ten “Juangas” means the establishment is super good and one Niko Lico, means it is awful.
For more than 100 years the American Smelting and Refining Company, ASARCO, loomed large on the El Paso landscape. From its purchase of a copper refining plant in Smeltertown in 1910 until its massive towers were demolished in 2013, ASARCO was a major icon of El Paso’s role in the history of the mining industry. In this video, Borderzine multimedia reporter Ariadne Venegas walks us through the UT El Paso library exhibit on the history and impact of El Paso’s metal ore processing operations with ASARCO. Former employees share their memories of working at the plant.
Pedicab owner Cesar Martinez’ favorite fare was not a movie star nor a local politician. It was revered Father Harold Rahm, who had recently returned to his former parish in Segundo Barrio as person of the year at a cycling parade. “When I was there the public who were seeing Father Rahm again or meeting him for the first time were very respectful of him riding through the neighborhood again. He used to ride his bike though Segundo Barrio to do mission work,” said Martinez, who owns Mesilla Pedicab Company. Martinez, 42, gives rides to local school children, the elderly and visiting tourists for $1 per person, per city block.