Census form and mailbox

Fear may keep undocumented immigrants out of 2020 census, hurt communities

By Mary Lehman Held, University of Tennessee

The United States might not be able to get information about more than 10 million people in the 2020 census. That’s the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Another 16.7 million individuals live in a household with an undocumented member and so might also not be counted in this year’s census. The primary reason that undocumented immigrants might forego participation in the 2020 census? Fear.

As costs for detaining migrant children soar, Trump administration draining cash from health, education programs

Costs of detaining migrant children at shelters in Tornillo, Texas, and other locations around the country are skyrocketing, with the Trump administration now saying it may cost $100 million a month just to operate the 3,800-bed tent facility outside of El Paso. The administration has not yet provided an accounting of how much in total it has been spending to detain children who either were separated from their parents or apprehended after crossing the border without a parent or guardian. But information provided so far indicates the amount is substantial, forcing the government to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars targeted for medical research, treatment and other programs so that it can care for a rapidly growing number of children in government custody. I have been writing about these issues for Texas Monthly and the Washington Post since June, when the government opened what was then a 400-bed shelter in Tornillo. While the world’s attention was focused on the controversial family separation policy, less attention was paid to other important changes to policies on how migrant children were treated.

Trump official inaccurately claims 1,200 percent increase in border apprehensions

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.

Juarez has become a limbo for Central American migrants who decided to delay plans to cross into U.S

By Veronica Martinez

For years Casa del Migrante, a shelter in Ciudad Juarez, has been a haven and a crossing point for immigrants coming from the south, but the uncertainty of new immigration policies under the Trump presidency is convincing some of them to remain at the border indefinitely. In 2015  the shelter received 5,600 immigrants. Last year the number increased to more than 9,000, officials said. Ana Lizeth Bonilla, 28, sways back a stroller back and forth watching her two year-old son, Jose Luis, as he sleeps. “Now, we’re just waiting for her,” the pregnant woman says as her arm rests on her baby bump.

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.

Two young girls dressed up to celebrate the Fourth of July take in the scenic view of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, from Tom Lea Park on Rim Road. Photo credit: Kate Gannon

As migrant crisis hits U.S. border, El Paso keeps it classy

It’s a sweltering summer Sunday night in El Paso, Texas, at the city’s new downtown baseball stadium, where the local Triple-A team, the Chihuahuas, is leading the visiting Tacoma Rainiers at the seventh-inning stretch. As the hammerlock of the day’s 102-degree heat begins to release its grip on this high-desert town, a sellout crowd of 8,607 fans rises to its feet to sing and sway along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’’ Immediately after, trumpet-charged mariachi music blasts over the sound system and the crowd roars with glee as Chico the Chihuahuas’ mascot dances onto the field, wagging his tail and making the team’s signature “Fear the Ears’’ gesture with his paws. Ah, béisbol  – still America’s pastime in a new America. And if there is a city that characterizes our new America, it’s the very old town of El Paso, circa 1659. I spent a week there this summer studying at the University of Texas at El Paso and its Dow Jones Multimedia Training Academy.

José Antonio Vargas, el indocumentado más privilegiado

CHICAGO — José Antonio Vargas ha pasado la mayor parte de su vida escondido detrás de un secreto: Vivir indocumentado en los Estados Unidos. Cerca de 12 millones de personas en los EEUU comparten tal secreto bajo el miedo de la deportación. Pero Vargas, quien salió del clóset de los papeles falsos cuando publicó “Mi vida como un inmigrante indocumentado” en la revista del periódico New York Times del 22 de junio del 2011, continúa en este país sin haber seguido la suerte de los más de dos millones que han sido deportados, sólo durante el gobierno de Obama, por no tener documentos legales. Posteriormente, en junio del 2012, Vargas apareció en la portada de la revista Time, junto con otros 30 indocumentados bajo el titular: “Somos americanos, sólo no legalmente”. “Documentado” es la película que Vargas ha escrito, producido y dirigido que cubre la experiencia de su vida sin documentos desde que llegara a California de su natal Filipinas el 3 de agosto de 1993, cuando tenía 12 años.

Mass graves of immigrants found in Falfurrias

By Mark Collette / Corpus Christi Caller-Times

FALFURRIAS – Unidentified migrants who died entering the United States were buried in mass graves in a South Texas cemetery, with remains found in trash bags, shopping bags, body bags, or no containers at all, researchers discovered. In one burial, bones of three bodies were inside one body bag. In another instance, at least five people in body bags and smaller plastic bags were piled on top of each other, Baylor University anthropologist Lori Baker said. Skulls were found in biohazard bags — like the red plastic bags in receptacles at doctors’ offices — placed between coffins. “To me it’s just as shocking as the mass grave that you would picture in your head, and it’s just as disrespectful,” said Krista Latham, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Indianapolis.

Illegal immigration – A global problem

SANTA TERESA, N.M. – Recent headlines in the U.S. have focused on a major influx of undocumented immigrants crossing our southern border with Mexico, many of them children either traveling alone or with single mothers seeking refuge. According to Homeland Security some 52,000 children have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border since October of last year, most coming from Central American countries including Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, looking to escape the upsurge in violence and destitution threatening those countries. Some, apparently, are trying to take advantage of special treatment afforded children and families that cross the border illegally which they believe, mistakenly or otherwise, will allow them to stay. The paid “coyotes” smuggling them encourage this misinformation in promoting their services throughout the perilous journey from their home countries to the border. This is only the latest in the influx of undocumented (illegal) immigrants from the south that have looked to the U.S. for shelter from economic and/or violent social oppression in their homelands.

U.S. struggles with influx of Central American children at Mexican border

WASHINGTON – A surge of unaccompanied children arriving from Central America at the U.S.-Mexico border will not be given legal status, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said this week. “I wish to make clear that those apprehended at our border are priorities for removal. They are priorities for enforcement of our immigration laws regardless of age,” Johnson said. Johnson held a press conference Thursday in which he laid out an 11 point plan to accommodate the children that includes a request for more temporary shelters and preliminary health screenings. As many as 60,000 children could arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border this year.

The separation of families is one of the consequences of the current immigration system. (Natassia Bonyanpour/Borderzine.com)

Felony deportations decline as ICE officers resist former chief’s 2010 directive

Editor’s note: This story was previously published on the Chicago Reporter. In 2010, the head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency told his staff to focus on deporting the most dangerous and violent undocumented immigrants. But an investigation by The Chicago Reporter found little change in the percentage of these deportations since then—nationally and in the agency’s Midwest region, which includes Chicago. John Morton, who stepped down as director of the agency this past summer, issued the directive in a June 30, 2010 memo. Yet between 2010 and 2012, the number of people removed from the country who committed a serious felony or violent crime—what officials call the “priority 1” category—actually decreased slightly from 9.5 to 8.7 percent, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement data analyzed by the Reporter.

Ramon Hamilton, director of Smuggled, answers questions about the production of his movie. (Natassia Bonyanpour/Borderzine.com)

‘Smuggled’ – film depicts the torture and terror suffered by immigrants crossing illegally into the U.S.

EL PASO – With a rosary dangling from her wrist and bible in hand, a mother and her 10-year-old son sit in a concealed compartment under a bus making its route from Mexico to the United States in hopes of being reunited with the child’s father. For days, they endure the strain of possibly being discovered, and the physiological stress of a lack of hygienic, food ration troubles, and the mother’s critical diabetic condition. This is the premise for the film, Smuggled, screened at University of Texas at El Paso by the Social Justice Initiative. The plot gives insight into the dangerous journey that many immigrants undergo despite fatal or legal risks. Director of The Social Justice Initiative, Arvind Singhal, said he brought the film to the campus because of its relevance to the border city.

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.

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.

Immigrant dreamers find hope in Obama’s Deferred Action Plan

EL PASO – The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are more than 1.7 million undocumented students in our nation. This is the case of my friend Ana, a 26-year old political science college student. Ana and I grew up together in a small mostly Anglo town in Kansas. For the security of Ana the location and her full name will not be disclosed. I never noticed any differences between us; we both always embraced the American culture rather than our Mexican roots.

El Paso is one of six sectors where Operation Streamline is enforced. (Christina Marie Duran/Borderzine.com)

High-cost zero-tolerance strategy shows little effect on illegal immigration

EL PASO — The U.S. government started Operation Streamline a “zero-tolerance” border enforcement strategy, at the Del Rio sector in Texas in 2005 in an attempt to stem the flow of millions of undocumented Mexicans who leave their families and homes every year to cross the border into the U.S.

Operation Streamline (OS) set tougher penalties for illegal immigration. First time offenders serve two to three days in jail while they wait for a trial. These undocumented immigrants are then left with a criminal record and repeat offenders can end up serving several years in prison. “My research continues to show a negative effect within the operation,” said Pia Orrenius, a labor economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “The main motivation for these illegal immigrants to attempt to cross over is money and the pursuit of a better way of living.”

Orrenius visited The University of Texas at El Paso on Sep.

U.S.-Mexico border. (Chris Karadjov/Borderzine.com)

Humanity vs. legalism – a first encounter with ‘illegals’ on the U.S.-Mexico border

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Arizona  – As an emigrant from New England to Arizona 15 years ago, my first encounter with “illegals” occurred near sunset on November 19, 1997 as an autumn chill settled in. Two teenagers suddenly appeared around a bend of the trail I’d discovered down in the Santa Cruz River Valley below my home. I’d rested there on a root of a huge cottonwood, my two dogs lying at my feet. Shoulders slumped but heads held high, the teens swung gallon jugs half filled with murky river water along their flanks. But I saw that their gait was a slow and weary one.

Annunciation House at 1003 East San Antonio Ave. (Aaron Montes/The Prospector)

Annunciation House provides shelter, safety for those in need

EL PASO – The Annunciation House tries to help people that have been affected by violence or suffer from poverty by supporting them and spreading awareness of these issues throughout the El Paso community. Annunciation House started in February 1978, when a group of individuals sought to connect more with poverty-stricken individuals and the Gospel. With weekly meetings and very little direction, they were able to come up with a plan of how to help people – whether refugees, immigrants or homeless – who were struggling with poverty, unemployment, abandonment, injustice or oppression. Annunciation House has opened their doors to many individuals who have all suffered in one form or another, whether it is losing their family and leaving them homeless or being subjected to the violence surrounding the drug cartels. Many families go to Annunciation House as refugees after escaping the violence that corrupted their homes in Juárez, as in the case of one family who requested to stay anonymous.

Lost in Detention, a documentary by Frontline and the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

Advocates decry the abusive treatment of immigrants in U.S. detention centers

EL PASO – A guard takes the hand of a woman, rolls her fingers on black ink, and is marked as an illegal immigrant into the computer as she looks around a room filled with guards and other detainees, not knowing when the next time she may see her children or husband after being pulled over by an officer. Students and professors gathered at the University of Texas at El Paso on March 26, to watch a film screening of the documentary Lost in Detention, which was  hosted by Amnesty International. The meeting  highlighted the issue of abuse against immigrants that occurs in detention centers across the U.S.

“Right to freedom, right to public trial, rights being stripped from non-citizens. The whole issue is tainted. If we continue to fail, things will only get worse,” said Patricia Quezada, President of the UTEP chapter of National Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA).

Juan Velasquez, 24, came to the U.S. when he was 14 years old and recently graduated from Georgetown University. He, along with fellow members of LCLAA, will participate in the Selma to Montgomery March this week. (Salvador Guerrero/SHFWire)

Latino group joins re-enactment of Selma to Montgomery March

WASHINGTON – Thousands of people gather in Alabama each year to re-enact the Selma to Montgomery March that took place 47 years ago. This year protesters will have not just a memory but a new cause as they march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Representatives from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Hispanic Federation, League of United Latin American Citizens and the National Council of La Raza held a rally here Wednesday to announce they would join the re-enactment of the civil rights march. They left after the rally for the 14-hour bus ride to Selma, Ala., to take part in the final two days of the Selma to Montgomery March re-enactment that started Sunday. The 1965 march for voting rights ended in violence when peaceful protesters were attacked by local law enforcement using tear gas and clubs.

Filmmaker Chris Weitz, left, and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas teamed up to create a video project about Alabama’s anti-immigration law called “Is This Alabama?” (Salvador Guerrero/SHFWire)

Chris Weitz movies shed light on Alabama immigration law

WASHINGTON – Half a century has gone by since citizens of Alabama marched to oppose harsh state and national laws that restricted the rights of black Americans. Now it seems as though the state has found itself entrenched in the same battle, this time however, at the heart of the matter are undocumented immigrants. Chris Weitz, the director of hit movies such as “American Pie” and “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” teamed with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, to put together a project, “Is This Alabama?”

Vargas, a former Washington Post reporter who revealed his undocumented status in a New York Times Magazine story last year, made the videos with Weitz. Vargas was sent to live in the U.S. as a child. He left journalism to become an advocate for immigration reform through Define American, which cosponsored the event Wednesday, March 14, with the Center for American Progress and America’s Voice.

Joselyn after obtaining her master's in mass communications from CSUN. (Photo courtesy of Joselyn Arroyo)

The road toward citizenship: The plight of the undocumented

College graduate recalls the hardships she endured while obtaining a bachelor’s and a master’s degree as an AB 540 student

She has vague memories of the day her parents packed up and brought her and her sister to the U.S. One of them is her arriving at an “airport” though in reality she’d arrived to Sun Valley after crossing the border illegally at the age of three. Growing up, Joselyn Arroyo, 29, would accompany her mother, a janitor at the time, to the KNBC studios in Burbank. She remembers watching the broadcasters and deciding then that it was what she wanted to do when she grew up, oblivious to the hardships she’d face living in the U.S as an undocumented resident. Born Joselyn Ontiveros in San Luis Potosi, Mexico on April 26, 1982, she stands at about 5 feet 5 inches with medium length black hair, tan skin and an athletic build and has always considered herself a citizen of the U.S. despite her illegal status. “I knew I was from Mexico but I didn’t know the logistics of not being and being a citizen,” says Joselyn.

Jeremy Robbins, representative for Partnership for a New American Economy and Special Counsel for New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg addressing a crowd of local entrepreneurs and dignitaries during a meeting in The Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce. (Luis Hernandez/Borderzine.com)

Immigration equals economic prosperity, according to a new study

EL PASO – The ongoing immigration reform debate – either in favor of or against any drastic legislative change, – usually focuses on the influx of undocumented immigrants, while ignoring its effect on the U.S. economy. The way current immigration laws are written and executed is making it harder for companies to compete, according to a new report published by the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), an organization created to highlight the contributions made by foreign entrepreneurship in Fortune 500 companies, 40 percent of which were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants. “We are having the wrong immigration debate,” said Jeremy Robbins, of the PNAE and special counsel to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. The benefits the immigrant labor force provide the U.S. is substantial, said Roberto Rodríguez Hernández, Mexican consul general in El Paso. “Ninety-nine percent of immigrants are people who are not criminals, who don’t wish to cause any problems and don’t come to this country to steal from healthcare services or collapse the social security program.

Director/producer Luis Carlos Davis (third from left) presenting his documentary at the University of Texas at El Paso. (Aaron Martinez/Borderzine.com)

Coyotes say who lives or dies along “389 Miles” of the U. S.–México border

EL PASO – The length of the Arizona-Sonora, México border runs for only 389 miles, but the human stories on both sides of that line are countless. The documentary “389 Miles: Living the Border” by director/producer Luis Carlos Davis, explores the ongoing struggles of Mexican citizens who try to cross the border to get to the U.S. The documentary had a recent showing at the University of Texas at El Paso followed by a panel discuss that included university professors, students and the director of the film. “Something I really wanted to do when I started this project was to be really open hear what everyone had to say,” Davis said. “This is not a black and white situation. It has many layers.

Immigration Integration is a term used to describe immigrants who have the same opportunities as natives. (Jesus Sanchez/Borderzine.com)

The integration of immigrants into society benefits them and their new country

EL PASO — When an immigrant in France is stopped and searched by police in a subway or airport, nobody looks twice. In France where immigrants are usually Muslims, North Africans, or Algerian that police action is a routine daily activity. In the United States, where immigrant usually means Mexican, we would see that profiling by police as a violation of human rights. But the United States is not the only country with immigration issues. Other countries around the globe also have to deal with immigrants entering their country illegally such as Central Americans migrating to Mexico.

La Casa del Migrante alberga sufrimiento, ofrece esperanza

TIJUANA — Pasa la media noche y una camioneta blanca ahuyenta a los perros callejeros mientras se estaciona a dejar más migrantes que llegan cansados, hambrientos y otros hasta moribundos a la Casa del Migrante en Tijuana, Baja California. “Pedro” es un migrante que vivió por 14 años en Van Nuys, CA y prefirió guardar su identidad. Al tratar de regresar a California por Tecate, Baja California, con un grupo de ocho compañeros sus planes no fueron como planeaba. “Traían pistolas, inclusive me pusieron la pistola en la cabeza, una 3-57… ellos querían que dijera que yo era (el) guía y lo tuve que decir para que no me siguieran golpeando”, afirmó. Al intentar cruzar La Rumorosa, todos fueron secuestrados por un grupo de delincuentes.

The Border Patrol plays sleight-of-hand with the cost of capturing immigrants

I live in Rio Rico, Arizona, which is about 16 miles north of the USA’s border with Mexico. Where, recently, on a sunny Sunday morning during a walk with my dogs in the usually tranquil Santa Cruz River Valley below my home, I heard the drone of an airplane. Irritated, I looked up to see a Border Patrol (BP) plane drop down to circle a mile or so south of a Union Pacific Railroad crossing. At once, I knew a drama would soon unfold.  Sure enough, within 15 minutes, three BP vans sped up.

Popular culture offers a different way to evaluate the immigration experience

EL PASO — Immigration on the U.S.-Mexico borderland is portrayed in popular culture as criminal and illegal to audiences that are disconnected from the reality of immigrants who cross the border to save their families from poverty and widespread violence. “Would you risk everything to come to the Unites States?” Dr. Richard D. Pineda asked an audience at the University of Texas at El Paso. He followed this thought with the example of an immigration raid in northern Iowa. Workers at several meat-packing plants were apprehended and taken to deportation facilities. “Even though that force was essentially gutted on that day, they’ve been replaced,” he added, explaining that those plants now show record outputs, “and I can assure you those are not workers working in high level jobs, but workers working for a minimum amount of pay.”

The economic incentive for immigration is too high in the United States and a variety of tasks require a “disposable workforce,” one that comes in the form of undocumented immigrants, explained Pineda, an associate professor of communication at UTEP.

New magazine guides Nuevos Paisanos through the American labyrinth

EL PASO — Mario Fernandez, 45, crossed the border illegally in search of opportunity and a better life, but he found himself here without rights or guidance and countless unanswered questions. But now, a new publication is on their side. Nuevos Paisanos magazine was launched in February to help inform and aid immigrants with useful information. As of now, Nuevos Paisanos is the first immigration-oriented publication in El Paso. The inspiration came from “The tens of thousands of nuevos paisanos – hence, the name of our publication – fleeing from the dangers and harsh living conditions present in Mexico,” said editor Priscilla Portillo.