Immigrant rights advocates bring protest, Aztec dance, prayer to free detainee in El Paso

El Paso – Alexi Cruz may not have realized he had friends in this border community until he was on the verge of being deported. Cruz, 24, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who has lived in the U.S. since he was 14 years old, was detained in early November by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after his car broke down on the way to Arizona. He was on his way from his home in San Antonio to see his mother in Arizona because authorities had apprehended his sister. His wife, Anayanse Garza, said that Cruz sought help after his car broke down in New Mexico near the Arizona border and was questioned by law enforcement officers about his residential status. The Border Patrol was called to pick him up.

Dr. Allison Brownell Tirres, assistant professor at DePaul University College of Laws, addressed a crowd of students, local activists, concerned citizens and professionals as part of the University of Texas at El Paso Centennial Lecture series. (Héctor Bernal/

The past is prologue for U.S. comprehensive immigration reform

EL PASO  – Immigration policies from the past must be studied in order to reform them for the future was the premise of a lecture by Dr. Allison Brownell Tirres on the topic of deportation, a subject that is as crucial as it is complex for residents of the borderland. “I want to try and put these stories in an historical context and I also want to suggest how the past may help us rethink the future,” Tirres said. Tirres, an assistant professor at DePaul University College of Laws, addressed a crowd of students, local activists, concerned citizens, and professionals as part of the University of Texas at El Paso Centennial Lecture series. While guiding the audience through a century of immigration law, Tirres brought up many legal turning points including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act along and the Magnuson Act also known as the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act of 1943. Tirres demonstrated the relationship between those laws and the current severity of enforcement of U.S. immigration practices.

Boehner takes more heat on reform comments and inaction

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the Republican Party are getting an earful from Democratic congressional members and Hispanic leaders and organizations for saying they do not trust the president to enforce immigration laws and forecasting  that immigration reform isn’t likely to pass this year, if ever. Fair Immigration Reform Movement spokesperson Kica Matos said in a press release that FIRM’s efforts last year to gain House Republican support for reform were unproductive. “Persuasion got us only so far,” said Matos. “From now on, any lawmakers who do not support it should expect relentless confrontations that will escalate until they agree to do so.”

America’s Voice spokesperson Frank Sherry stated that Republicans should recognize that selecting a presidential candidate next year could create serious division within the GOP. “It’s now or never for the Republican Party,” he said, and to oppose reform carries the risk being perceived not only as anti-Hispanic, but also against Asians and other immigrants.

Obama, Republicans fail to advance hopes on immigration reform

By Aaron Montes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – When President Barack Obama delivered the fifth State of the Union address of his presidency, he dedicated just three sentences to immigration reform. Not once did he mention the contributions or needs of Latinos, nor did he touch on his administration’s handling of deportations. Most of his proposals won applause from Democratic members while the majority of the Republican Party sat in silence. They did the same when the president said “…and fix our broken immigration system.”

On Jan. 30, the house GOP released its immigration requirements: more border security, implemented entry-exit visa tracking and employment verification systems and no special path to citizenship.

Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council. (

Hispanics are tired of Obama’s lip service on immigration reform

By Kay Bárbaro

For Borderzine from Hispanic Link

WASHINGTON – WE’RE STILL WAITING:  Cecilia Muñoz, longtime vice president of the National Council of La Raza whose appointment in Jan. 20, 2009, to President Obama’s initial cabinet was seen as a payoff to the Hispanic community for its huge role in Obama’s winning a front-door key to the White House. This, we and many others innocently believed, would ensure that el presidente nuevo would move quickly to make good on his repeated promises to end our undocumented immigrant agony by delivering genuine immigration reform legislation. Did he? Of course not.

Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer for the Service Employees International Union, says Fast for Families will visit more than 100 key congressional districts where the group will invite people to join him and others in the fast. (Alejandro Alba/SHFWire)

Fast for Families tour of U.S. promotes immigration reform

WASHINGTON – Four activists for immigration reform are taking their cause on the road. They will board a bus Tuesday and urge people in 100 communities around the country to fast with them until Congress passes immigration reform. “We are going to be asking the American people to join us in fasting,” Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer for the Service Employees International Union, said. “Judging from what happened in December, I think we are going to have tens of thousands of people joining us.”

The Fast for Families campaign began November when immigration activists sat outside the Capitol and fasted for 22 days. Medina is one of two people who will fast on the bus tour who also fasted at the Capitol.

Pew Hispanic Center

Pew Study: Who are our Hispanic leaders? Muchos

EL PASO — I was shocked to read in a recent article from the Pew Hispanic Center that 62 percent of U.S. Hispanics do not know who the most important Latino leader in the country is today. Mi gente, my people, without a leader? What a distressing thought. The best explanation I found for this anomaly is in an article by Juana Bordas of The Huffington Post. In her article, “Latino Leadership Follows A New Model,” Bordas says: “Latinos are forging a new model of leadership.

Brenda Perez of Nashville, Tenn. is arrested on First Street after protesters marched to the Capitol Tuesday. Perez was part of a group of three activists from Workers Dignity from Nashville who were arrested for civil disobedience. (Andrés Rodríguez/SHFWire)

Historically effective civil disobedience is now a tool in the fight for immigration reform

EL PASO — Worries press through Brenda Perez’s mind as she is escorted into a Washington, D.C. jail cell. “What if it doesn’t work out? What if they act on my immigrant status? What if I don’t get out?”
She looks at the others, some without legal documentation, who are being processed with her. She realizes she is in there for them, for other young members of her family who are in the U.S. without papers, and for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

A group of SRI participants at the border wall in New Mexico. (Angel Cancino/

Journalists file their stories after participating in UTEP’s immigration reporting workshop


EL PASO – Twenty journalists from all regions of the United States gathered at the University of Texas at El Paso this fall to learn strategies and tools for reporting about immigration in their home communities. The workshop, “Reporting Immigration: From the Border to the Heartland,” was sponsored by the McCormick Foundation and Borderzine. Borderzine is proud to re-publish the online, print and broadcast stories that the journalists are reporting from New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, areas of Texas and other parts of the nation. The topics they explore include the deaths of undocumented immigrants on the Texas-Mexico border, increased scrutiny of abuses by immigration agents, growing asylum requests from Mexicans who say they are victims of persecution in their country, immigration enforcement at the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border, and coverage by U.S. women journalists of the deaths of hundreds of girls and young women in Ciudad Juarez. Their stories, published first in the journalists’ local news outlets, are part of the complex and ongoing story of immigration to the U.S. from Latin America and other parts of the globe.

Destino: Georgia

Por Mario Guevara

La frontera entre México y Estados Unidos en Texas se convirtió este año en el área con mayor número de arrestos de indocumentados en EE.UU., superando a la de Arizona, que por dos décadas fue la que más detenciones registró. MundoHispánico viajó hasta esa zona fronteriza para indagar sobre este fenómeno, especialmente porque una buena parte de los inmigrantes que tratan de cruzar ilegalmente planean llegar a Georgia y los estados vecinos, según reportes de las autoridades federales. “Muy pocos son los que buscan quedarse aquí, porque la mayoría creen que tendrán mejor oportunidades de hallar trabajo yendo más hacia el norte”, aseguró a este medio Ramiro Cordero, uno de los portavoces de la Patrulla Fronteriza en Texas y quien está destacado en El Paso. Una de las personas que venían rumbo a Georgia y que fue descubierta recientemente atravesando la frontera en busca del ‘sueño americano’ fue Reina Martínez, de 20 años. La joven nativa de El Salvador llevaba un mes presa en un centro de detención en Texas, hasta que Inmigración le concedió la libertad bajo la condición de comparecer ante un juez.

Paul Overberg, database editor at USA TODAY, leads a workshop on immigrants demographics and the U.S. Census. (Ángel Cancino/

Borderzine resources for immigration reporting

EL PASO – Professional and independent journalists from across the country joined the Robert McCormick Foundation and Borderzine for “Immigration from the Border to the Heartland,” a specialized reporting institute that taught journalists about technology, data, immigration research and law enforcement. During the SRI, professional journalists shared the tools they use while reporting their beat, academics presented their research and advocacy groups talked about how they work with the community. From the three-day workshop, Borderzine gathered the following resources that can assist journalists who wished to cover immigration in their communities.

Border reporters, Angela Kocherga and Hugo Perez, reporting from Boquillas, México. Kocherga was part of a panel of border journalists that shared their experiences covering immigration. (Courtesy of Angela Kocherga)

Experienced border journalists share tips for covering tough immigration stories

EL PASO – Radio journalist Mónica Ortiz Uribe related how she was deeply moved when she witnessed the detention of a an undocumented woman from Guatemala who had crossed the border into Brooks County in South Texas with her two small children. “I had never seen an apprehension… that really struck me immensely,” said Ortiz Uribe. “She looked at me and I was standing with my microphone and my headphones, and she’s pleading saying ‘please tell them not to send me back’ and all of a sudden all this imagery exploded in my head… what has this women had gone through?”

With a chuckle, she added that she would never make it as a border patrol agent because “I’d probably have said to the woman, ‘No, no, váyase señora, váyase. It’s O.K. I didn’t see you.’”

Ortiz Uribe, who reports for the public radio news outlet Fronteras Desk, was one of four local journalists who cover immigration on an ongoing basis and discussed their experiences during a training workshop Immigration from the Border to the Heartland last week at UTEP for 20 radio, broadcast, online and print journalists. The workshop was sponsored by the McCormick Foundation and hosted by

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, director of outreach of the Welcome House Pennsylvania interacts with Dr. Richard Pineda from the Communication Department at UTEP and moderator of the panel. (Luis Hernández/

Immigration experts doubt U.S. House will tackle Immigration Reform this year

EL PASO – Advocates, journalists and policy experts joined for a virtual debate to discuss the immigration reform bill on Sept. 28as part of a Specialized Reporting Institute on immigration held at the University of Texas at El Paso. Richard Pineda, associate professor for the UTEP Department of Communication, moderated the panel of immigration experts that included Michelle Mittelstadt, from the Migration Policy Institute,
Susana Flores, communications specialist for Casa de Maryland, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, from Welcome House Pennsylvania, and Patricia Guadalupe, Capitol Hill correspondent for Hispanic Link. The panelists discussed issues related to the proposed immigration reform bill which was passed this summer by the Senate and is pending in the house. The Senate bill is expected to give a path from temporary status to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., and will prevent a continued record number of deportations.

Father Bob Mosher, from the Columban Mission Center, Melissa López, from the El Paso Catholic Diocese Center for Immigrant and Refuge Services, Fernando García, director of the Border Network for Human Rights, Katie Anita Hudak, director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. (Aaron Montes/

U.S. journalists seek to learn from immigration advocates and get an earful: We didn’t invite you to darles una regañada… but you need to earn back the public’s trust

EL PASO – The American media still has a lot of work to do. It has not fulfilled its responsibility covering the stories of the millions of immigrants that live in the United States, and has not fully challenged the narrative that has dominated the immigration debate for the last decade and a half, a panel of border activists and immigration experts agreed this last weekend. In front of the five panelists, a roomful of journalists listened to their concerns and ideas as part of the first Specialized Reporting Institute on Immigration Reform held in El Paso, TX and sponsored by the McCormick Foundation. The twenty reporters from all over the country and a dozen journalism students sat in silence inside the auditorium of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe on Sept. 28 as they listened to the concerns of the immigration advocates.

The call for humane immigration reform resonates with my Hispanic heritage

SUNLAND PARK, NM – I attended the Solidarity Prayer Service held September 7 here at the border fence that separates Mexico from the U.S. at end of Anapra Road organized by local catholic churches. Marchers came to both sides of the fence. It was heart wrenching to see the small children standing at the fence. They told me they hoped to be able to come to El Paso one day. We should be building bridges not walls.

Catholics gather at the U.S.-Mexico border fence to pray for fair and humane immigration reform

Lea esta historia en español. SUNLAND PARK, NM – With their fingers sticking out through the chain-link border fence from the Mexican side, Johan 10, and his brother Irving, 11, squint their eyes against the penetrating afternoon sun to make out the people who drive up on this side of the fence. About 150 members of area Catholic congregations and the bishops of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso gathered on Saturday, September 7th along the fence that separates two countries in the neighborhood region of Anapra to pray for immigration reform. With leaders of the dioceses of Ciudad Juarez on the other side, and the dioceses of El Paso, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Brownsville, San Angelo, Piedras Negras and San Antonio on this, the U.S. side, the Catholic community showed its support for immigrant human rights by gathering for a solidarity prayer on the border desert. Nuevo Laredo bishop, Gustavo Rodriguez Vega, and archbishop of the San Antonio archdioceses, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, conducted the prayer and said the purpose of the event was to acknowledge the necessity for an ample and fair immigration reform, according to the teachings of the Catholic society.

Border Patrol agents observed the event at Anapra. (Cristina Quinones/

Prayers at the Anapra border fence made immigrant hardship personal for me

SUNLAND PARK, NM – Growing up in El Paso allowed me to journey through many different walks of life. If you live here long enough, you get to experience different cultures. If you stay long enough, you will begin to understand them as well. I attended a gathering at the Anapra fence right on the borderline Sunday, organized by Catholic bishops from border dioceses in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico to pray for immigration reform. People of the Catholic faith gathered on both sides of the border to pray for those who have experienced oppression and hardship while immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

"Stand with families" was the clamor of students members of United We Dream. (Luis Hernandez/

DREAMers march on Capitol Hill to put a human face on the struggle for immigration reform

WASHINGTON – A group of college students dressed in blue graduation gowns sit in a gallery during a U.S. Senate hearing, their eyes fixed on the Senate floor, watching attentively as a steady stream of yay votes are tallied and read out loud by the clerk. They’re not the usual student visitors on a school-sanctioned field trip to the Capitol – they’re DREAMers and the vote they are witnessing will ultimately decide the legality of their residency in this country. The Senate Bill 744: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act more commonly known as the Immigration bill, passed its first hurdle June 11 on an 82-15 vote, with 54 Democrats and 28 Republicans voting to move the bill to the floor. With congressmen all around Washington voicing their opinions to anyone who would listen, the DREAMers sought to place a human face on immigration and let them know the repercussions of their rhetoric. The students are members of United We Dream (UWD), a nonpartisan network made up of 52 affiliate organizations in 25 states, and one of the largest immigrant youth-led organizations in the nation.

boy at border fence

Borderzine is accepting applications from professional and independent journalists for its first Specialized Reporting Institute on Immigration Reform

EL PASO – As Congress debates passing immigration reform this year, this reporting workshop on covering immigration reform will teach journalists how to report the face of immigration in their communities using technology and data gathering tools and the latest research findings on immigration. Borderzine, Reporting Across Fronteras, invites professional and independent journalists in the United States to apply to its first McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute (SRI) on Immigration Reform: Immigration from the Border to the Heartland. Fifteen journalists will be selected for this intense three-day training to be held September 26-29, at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). The institute will convene on Thursday evening, September 26, with a welcoming ceremony, and the three-day workshop will begin early on Friday morning, and conclude at noon Sunday, September 29. The Robert R. McCormick Foundation furnishes everything from tuition to housing, food and transportation.

Amnesty prospects: Where do they come from, and where do they live?

IMPERIAL, Calif.—The first day of Senate debate on immigration reform ended in Washington today with several proposed changes accepted and several tossed by the 18-member committee poring over the merits of the almost 900-page S. 744, the proposed ‘‘Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.’’

The bill would offer conditional amnesty and a path to citizenship to an estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S., among other provisions, all of which will require months of debate and amending before adoption. In the meantime, fundamental questions like where those millions of people come from and where they live in America beg some answers. Statistics in the following video come from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Public Policy Institute of California.

thinking regionally to compete globally study by mpi and wilson center

Influential MPI, Wilson Center task force outlines forward-looking, pragmatic vision to strengthen competitiveness for U.S., Mexico & Central America

WASHINGTON — Amid powerful demographic, economic and social forces reshaping Mexico and much of Central America and newfound momentum for reform of the U.S. immigration system, the countries of the region have new avenues to improve opportunities for their own people and strengthen regional competitiveness with new collaborative approaches on migration and human-capital development, an influential task force convened by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and the Wilson Center concluded in a final report issued today. The Regional Migration Study Group, co-chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and former Guatemalan Vice President and Foreign Minister Eduardo Stein, outlines a forward-looking, pragmatic agenda for the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras over the next decade and beyond. The report, Thinking Regionally to Compete Globally: Leveraging Migration & Human Capital in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America, caps a 2 ½-year initiative that focused on extensive consultations with policymakers and civil society in the region; produced more than two dozen research reports, policy briefs and briefing papers; and involved extensive deliberations by Study Group members. The final report offers 14 findings and recommendations for policymakers in the region, some focused on the current U.S. legislative debate, others directed at Mexico and Central America. The report notes that there have been no systematic conversations about what a regional approach to migration might look like since discussions initiated by Presidents Bush and Fox were derailed by the 9/11 attacks.

Giving a voice to immigration reform

EL PASO – Downtown vendors stood motionless at the doorways of their stores and shoppers stopped in their tracks on an early afternoon in April. Only the faint protest of marchers could be heard heading up El Paso street, but with each step closer their voices became strong and loud. “Sí se puede. Yes we can!” they shouted, “Obama, escucha, estamos en la lucha (Listen Obama, we are in a struggle).”

BNHR, based in El Paso, is a human rights advocacy organization that is primarily active in immigration and border policy. The group which represents 700 families, helped organize this event, in addition to several others around the city.

Calexico native wins prestigious prize to study credit dependency among recent immigrants

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif. – Calexico native and former Imperial Valley College student Luis Flores has been awarded the Judith Lee Stronach Baccalaureate prize to pursue a hands-on solution to educating new immigrants to the U.S. about credit dependency. The $25,000 Stronach award will fund Flores’s “El Valle y la Recesion” project, a visual documentary that will focus on illustrating the difficulties Imperial Valley residents, mainly recent immigrants, struggle with when faced with credit and mortgage decisions. “Rather than blaming immigrants for borrowing too much [money], or for not being educated enough, I want to suggest that there were larger forces compelling immigrants to live a life of credit dependency,” said Flores.  “This project wants to show that the typical explanations of the recession in the region are limited, because they do not look at the history of economic policies in both the Mexicali and Imperial valleys since the 1980s.”

The ultimate result of “El Valle y la Recesion” is to develop an educational and service website, and possibly a bricks-and-mortar service, that will aid border consumers in credit decisions, something that does not exist at this time. Flores, 22, a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with undergraduate degrees in political economy and history, will return to Calexico in August to start his project, which he envisions as a collaboration with IVC, San Diego State University Imperial Valley campus, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California in Mexicali, and the University of Texas El Paso’s student journalism website

Imperial Valley College On Immigration

IMPERIAL, Calif.– With Congress drafting out a concrete plan for immigration reform, students and staff at Imperial Valley College shared their opinions on the matter. About 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. who entered illegally could be offered amnesty and a path to citizenship.

Children are the main victims of family separation. (Anoushka Valodya/

The U.S.-Mexico border splits families, but loved ones strive to stay connected

EL PASO – With a Border Patrol helicopter hovering close above him, Honduran native Pedro Guzman, who was in his mid-thirties, had to choose between running away or surrendering. After seeing his fellow emigrants detained, Guzman decided to give up, but he still didn’t lose hope. He had spent three days and two nights, without food and water, crossing from Matamoros, Mexico to reach Brownsville, Texas in 1999. “I was just eating air, but I was always positive, telling myself that I was going to make it,” Guzman said. He paid $4,000 to a coyote, but was later abandoned by the smuggler to find his way to the U.S. along with a couple dozen men.

Thousands gather on Capitol grounds to rally for immigration reform

WASHINGTON – Rosa Murguia couldn’t help but cry Wednesday as she recounted how she missed her last chance to see her brother alive because she didn’t have the proper documentation to return to the United States if she visited her native Dominican Republic. Murguia, 62, of Sterling, Va., is one of thousands of people who stood in 90 degree heat on the West Lawn of the Capitol to rally for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. “I think this reform should be to protect people,” Murguia said. “Too many people have been cheated and hurt, I’m one of them, it’s not right for hard workers to live in shadows.” Gustavo Torres, rally organizer and executive director of CASA in Action, said the rally was three months in the making, and he was happy with the turnout.

El Paso, Texas, judge testifies at border subcommittee hearing

WASHINGTON – El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar told a House subcommittee Wednesday that undocumented immigrants should get legal status without so much debate over whether U.S. borders are secure. Her opinion runs counter to what most Republicans and many Democrats have been saying in the debate over immigration reform. Escobar was invited to testify by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, the senior Democrat on the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, because of Escobar’s outspoken push for immigration reform. The subcommittee also heard from three witnesses from the Department of Homeland Security. The purpose of the hearing was to understand how border security should be measured.

Citizenship main topic at first immigration hearing

WASHINGTON – A pathway to citizenship was the main topic of discussion Tuesday at a House hearing, the first to take place since proposals for immigration reform were introduced in the new Congress. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro pushed for citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. “I believe that is the best way and it is in our nation’s best interest,” Castro said. “We’re a nation of immigrants. We’ve progressed because we are pragmatic.

(©Raymundo Aguirre)

Anchor babies and Dream Acts

Teaching and Learning and Caring Blog

EL PASO – On June 15, 2012, more than a year after President Obama’s visit to El Paso, he announced that his administration would no longer take administrative action against young people who were brought here as children and who have no criminal record.  These are the same people (an estimated 800,000) that would qualify for the Dream Act, if it ever passed.  Moreover, these kids would be allowed to apply for work permits. Finally, it is a step in the right direction.  But, and it is a rather large one, there has to be enough trust that the administrative action would not be overturned, and people would not be deported once they had come forward and self-identified. The following blog by Cheryl Howard originally appeared in Bean Juice Dispatches, an on-line publication created by former UTEP students, Raymundo Aguirre and John Del Rosario. EL PASO, May 13, 2011 – Anchors keep us centered in bad weather, keep us from drifting away with the current or the wind. Dreams are not anchors; they are the wisps of wind or the current itself.  Dreams are unfettered by reality.