Onondaga Nation, New York – Angela Ferguson opens a door unveiling thousands of jars filled with corn seeds from across Turtle Island. The color and the sheer number of seed varieties washing over the room is overwhelming in and of itself, but it is what these seeds represent that is truly inspiring. Angela Ferguson is […]
Last month, indigenous Karen communities, the Salween Peace Park Committee, and the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) officially launched the Salween Peace Park in the Mutraw District of Myanmar’s Kayin State. A three-day event in mid-December 2018 that featured traditional Karen ceremonies and performances was held to mark the ratification of Salween Peace […]
By Art Castañares / La Prensa San Diego Publisher and CEO
One of Donald Trump’s signature campaign promises was that he would build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and that he would force Mexico to pay for it.
At one campaign rally after another, Trump spooked his fan base with tall tales of people flooding across the border at alarming rates even though illegal crossing had fallen to historically low numbers.
“Build that wall!” his legions of fans would chant at the campaign rallies, enthusiastic that Mexico would bear the cost of building the wall to keep their own people out of the U.S., a theory that didn’t seem at all odd to them.
“Mexico will pay for it, believe me!” Trump promised as he revved up the already enthusiastic crowds.
But no sooner had Trump won the election when he started to recast his promise to build the wall and make Mexico “reimburse” the U.S. for it, then it turned into Mexico will eventually pay for the wall.
Of course, Mexico’s President and several other officials scoffed at the idea that they would pay for the wall as absurd and foolish, with Mexico’s former President Vicente Fox saying the idea was just part of Trump’s “stupidity”.
Never deterred, Trump then began demanding up to $30 billion in the U.S. budget to pay for the wall, completely abandoning the promise of Mexico paying for it.
Last year, Trump forced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fund eight wall prototype models near the San Diego border. Trump even came to town to inspect the 30-foot tall monuments. Border experts, however, suggested that the money would be better spent on fencing, monitors, and staffing. Trump didn’t listen.
Over the past two years, as the Republican-controlled Congress failed to provide the billions of dollars Trump demanded for the wall, he has again shifted his stance to say that Mexico will pay for the wall indirectly through the newly negotiated amendments to NAFTA, now known as the USMCA, or the U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement.
That argument would suggest that any improvements in trade relations will result in higher profits for American companies and theoretically higher tax revenues for the U.S. Treasury which would then compensate for the costs of the wall. Trickle down economics at its worst.
Two weeks ago, our government was again facing a funding deadline because (again) a federal budget hasn’t been approved and the short-term funding called Continuing Resolutions would finally run out on December 21st.
Although the Senate passed a budget bill that would have funded the government through Feb. 2, the House gave into Trump’s demands and included $5 billion for construction of the border wall. As expected, House Democrats refused to vote for it.
Then, the federal government shut down, at least partially. Over 400,000 federal employees and contractors have now been off work with no pay since before Christmas, and there’s no end in sight. The Smithsonian Museums, D.C.’s National Zoo, and Yosemite are now closed.
The problem isn’t border security, it’s pure politics.
Democrats have voted for including up to $1.6 billion for border security but not the wall. The funding is equal to the amount that was in last year’s budget, but that’s still not good enough for Trump.
With Democrats taking over leadership of the House this week with their new majority, Trump’s demands for billions to fund the wall surely will fall flat. Democrats know the wall is just a political game for Trump and they don’t seem likely to give in.
In the past two weeks, it seems even Trump may be unsure what he really wants.
His demands have always been for a “beautiful wall” across the entire length of the border, but recently he’s sprinkled in calls for a fence, barrier, and even barbed wire as the military recently deployed when the caravan of migrants was approaching Tijuana.
Last week, his outgoing Chief of Staff, John Kelly, said that the concept of a solid concrete wall was abandoned early in Trump’s administration after talking with Border Patrol leaders that actually know what’s really needed along the border.
Trump quickly tweeted that Kelly was wrong, the concrete wall was never abandoned, Trump said.
But then last week, Trump send out messages saying he has already signed a contract to build 110 miles of the wall, and that construction had already begun on sections of it.
One problem. DHS says no contracts have been signed, and that only repairs of existing fencing have been completed or are ongoing. No wall.
So, which one is it?
Does Trump want a wall, a fence, or a barrier? Is Mexico going to pay for it, now or later or never? Does Trump want the money in the budget so badly that he’s willing to shut down the government, or does he already have the money and he’s signing contracts?
It doesn’t seem to matter much to his fan base anyways.
In two years in office, Trump has not accomplished as much as he claims he has, outside of cutting taxes for the rich and ballooning the national debt.
To be fair, he’s also abandoned environmental regulations and trade treaties. He’s made it harder to get health insurance. He’s rattled the stock market and caused the worst December for stocks since the Great Depression in 1931.
But, through it all, his fan base remains unfazed. They argue that Trump is fighting the system and draining the swamp. Strangely, they still dismiss the dozens of indictments and plea deals of Trump associates as a witch hunt. And they stick by their red hat wearing Commander in Chief no matter what.
In the end, Trump’s calls for a wall may be exactly what he imagined: an impregnable barrier to keep people apart in an irreparable way.
The problem is that the people he’s separating are Americans that agree with him from those that disagree. He’s not making the country safer; he’s only make it angrier, more divided, and less American.
Hopefully, this new year will bring about a renewed sense of cooperation in Washington, D.C. to get things done, with real solutions to the pressing problems that have gone unsolved for too long.
Immigration is chief among them. DACA. Amnesty. Unaccompanied minors living in detention centers. Real border security. Trade.
Trump has an opportunity to set a new tone going into his re-election, or to continue to pick fights and focus solely on pleasing his shrinking base.
When Trump met with congressional leaders on Wednesday this week, he said he couldn’t accept a compromise on funding for the wall because he “would look foolish” if he did.
Unfortunately, so far from the first few days of this year, it looks much the same as last year.
By Marielena Castellanos
Forty three Latino members of Congress were officially sworn in this week with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus holding its swearing in ceremony this weekend as the 116th congressional session begins.
In light of those numbers, a report from NBC News in November said that to match the actual share of the Latinx population, about 77 members would need to be elected. In the Senate, there would need to be about 18 Latino senators. According to the Congressional Research Service, in the last Congressional session there were 46 Hispanic or Latinx members serving in the nation’s capital.
Latinos are the nation’s second largest minority with 57.5 million Latinx, about 17.8 percent of the U.S. population.
The Pew Research Center recently said Latinos made up an estimated 11 percent of all voters nationwide on Election Day, nearly matching their share of the U.S. eligible voter population.
In San Diego, four of the five members of Congress are Democrats, including incumbent Congressman Juan Vargas and newly elected Congressman Mike Levin. Incumbent Congressman Duncan Hunter, the only Republican locally, was also reelected. Hunter was also recently indicted over misusing more than $250,000 in campaign funds and attempting to hide the spending in federal records.
Congressman Vargas is already on the go and recently, along with Congresswoman Norma Torres, called for an investigation into Customs and Border Patrol agents’ use of tear gas on migrants at the border this past November.
Also headed to Congress is Democrat Mike Levin, who won in a district long held by retiring Congressman Republican Darrell Issa, which covers parts of Orange County and San Diego. Levin was raised in Orange County, and his maternal grandparents migrated as children from Mexico to Los Angeles, according to the newspaper Hawaii News Now. Levin has a number of priorities including treating immigrants with dignity. He told the newspaper he thinks there are some on the Republican side of the aisle who want to see “common-sense” immigration reform.
Another new member in Congress is 47-year-old Democrat Gil Cisneros, a first time candidate and former U.S. naval officer, who won in the 39th District in Orange County in a seat also long held by Republicans. Cisneros, who once won a $266 million lottery jackpot, said he plans to fight for more affordable health care for all. He also supports DACA and comprehensive immigration reform.
Republican Anthony Gonzalez, who is of Cuban descent, is also headed to Congress, and he is the first Latino elected to Congress from Ohio.
Texas Democrat Congressman Joaquin Castro was recently elected to serve as the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In an interview on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Castro said his brother Julián Castro, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor, would most likely run for president. Early in December, Julián Castro announced that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee and would make an announcement in mid-January.
Nanette Diaz Barragán, who was elected to Congress in 2016 and will serve as a new member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus leadership in the position as second vice chair.
In Texas, two Latina Democrats were elected to serve on the House of Representatives for the first time, Veronica Escobar and Silvia Garcia, who both will represent the state in Congress.
Twenty-nine year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Puerto Rican New Yorker, is the youngest woman ever elected to serve on Capitol Hill. In a recent Congressional vote for funding for President Trump’s border wall, Ocasio-Cortez criticized the passage of the bill and via Twitter explained other ways the money could be used.
The newcomer’s Twitter post said, “And just like that, GOP discovers $5.7 billion for a wall,” Ocasio-Cortez posted.
“$5.7 billion. What if we instead added $5.7B in teacher pay? Or replacing water pipes? Or college tuition/prescription refill subsidies? Or green jobs? But notice how no one’s asking the GOP how they’re paying for it,” Ocasio-Cortez also wrote.
By Alexandra Mendoza
The partial government shutdown is causing delays in the family reunification case being heard in a San Diego federal court.
Judge Dana Sabraw, who is hearing the class-action suit brought on behalf of immigrant families separated at the border, has granted a request by the Trump Administration to pause deadlines related to the lawsuit originally filed in early 2018.
The suit, brought by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys, called for the reunification of minors separated from their parents as a result in great part of the “zero-tolerance” policy implemented against illegal immigrants.
As of the most recent report, submitted in mid-December, the government had 10 minors in custody who were about to be reunited with their parents. However, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) had an additional 151 children under their care who would not be reunited with their parents for a variety of reasons.
In the case of 84 of these children, their parents had been deported from the U.S. and had notified the government that they were waiving their right to reunification so that their children could remain in the U.S. and be released to a relative or guardian. The parents of 11 other children did the same, although these parents still remain in the country, according to the report.
It was also determined by Homeland Security (DHS) officers that 28 of the children had not in fact been separated from their parents, and the parents of 28 more were found to be a danger to the children’s well-being, mostly as a result of having a criminal background.
The Trump Administration was supposed to update the court as to the progress in the reunification process mid-January, but due to the government shutdown the attorneys assigned to the case are prohibited from working.
As a result, the Judge granted a pause in the process, with the condition that the Department of Justice (DOJ) legal team notify the court as soon as Congress reinstates funding.
The U.S. has started 2019 with 25 percent of federal employees furloughed after President Trump made good on his threat to shutdown the government unless he got $5 billion dollars in funding to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a request that Democrats denied.
The family reunification case, made up of three class-action lawsuits, reached an agreement last November, when the Trump Administration agreed to reconsider the asylum petitions of families that had been impacted by the separation policy.
Since then, Judge Sabraw has been closely monitoring progress, and the government was supposed to submit progress reports every two weeks. The latest report indicated that 298 persons, 109 of them minors, had received documents – in most cases with a response to their petition, although the details were not included in the report.
One of the conditions being asked for by the attorneys representing these families is to establish a plan that guarantees that no more parents will be separated from their children without a path to reunification.
By Manuel Ocaño
Photo / REUTERS
María Meza, the woman in the viral picture of a mother running with two of her children from tear gas launched by Border Patrol into Tijuana, has finally been conditionally released in San Diego with all four of her minor children.
Meza was released Friday night in San Ysidro to her lawyer, with an ankle bracelet on, 26 days after the picture was taken of her and her two little girls running from the gas near the spot where the train crossing is, east of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
The image of Maria and her twin five-year-old girls led to thousands of outcries, including that of California Governor Gavin Newsom, who said while in Otay that throwing gases at mothers and children seeking asylum while they are still in a foreign country is “not the United States we want.”
Meza managed to get away from the tear gas with her daughters, Cheili and Saira. Prior to her entering the U.S., she had stated that on the afternoon of Nov. 25, when the tear gas incident occurred, “we thought we would cross the border, but we never thought we would be shot at.” When she realized they were in fact shooting tear gas into Tijuana, she said “I felt very sad. I took my daughters’ hands to turn away, and that was when the gas landed very close,” and the three ran to safety.
The picture made the front pages of most printed and online newspapers, and even live newscasts complemented their video coverage with the image of Maria Meza and her daughters. She was the first caravan member to get so much coverage.
Meza and her children were also the first family from the caravan to be allowed to cross through the Otay Port of Entry, where – until then – Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had disallowed entry to migrants seeking to turn themselves in for asylum.
According to attorney Nicole Ramos of the non-profit Al Otro Lado, on Dec. 18, Meza and her children approached the Otay Mesa Port of entry, where they waited for nearly eight hours for CBP officers in riot gear to allow them in so they could turn themselves in and petition for asylum.
“Every so often, one or another of the children would cry because they were tired of staying in one spot, but the family stayed to demand their right for their argument for asylum to be heard,” said Ramos.
Two Democratic members of the U.S. Congress who were in Tijuana that day to speak with deportees, Nanette Diaz Barragan y Jimmy Gomez, both from California, went to the Otay Mesa POE in favor of Mesa’s petition.
Maria Meza, in the United States
For several hours, Border Patrol insisted that the Meza family could not be allowed in to petition for asylum because the facilities were at full capacity serving the public; i.e., the crossing was full and had no space available.
However, as night fell, the Honduran family was finally allowed in to request asylum. They were held for three days before being conditionally released on Friday. At the time, their attorneys did not disclose what the next steps would be in the process.
And the wolf to restore balance to the ecology. OGLALA SIOUX NATION, U.S.A. – Blood staining their hands, dozens of men, women and children are wielding knives in the schoolyard. Bones and flesh and entrails are heaped in mounds all around. This scene in the heartlands of the United States is, however, anything but the kind of violent outbreak besieging schools across the country. […]
The Matawai of Suriname, a community that once felt forgotten by the rest of the world, is breaking ground by using a new open-source geostorytelling app to create an extraordinary repository of traditional knowledge through oral history storytelling. The goal of the work is to ensure that future generations of Matawai will be able to […]
Think about it folks – if we were all anti-immigration or if migration wasn’t necessary for evolution of humans, We’d all still be living in what is now Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia and perhaps some other hominid would be living and migrating in the rest of the world!
Fleeing death threats in Honduras, Óscar Armando Valle Rios crossed the U.S. border not to the safety of his family but straight into detention.
Despite their own immigration struggles, his relatives are trying to raise the $10,000 bond to free him. Here, Edwin Espinoza, Óscar’s cousin, talks with Lezak Shallat about Óscar; he also created this GoFundMe campaign for contributions: https://www.gofundme.com/free-oscar-armando-valle-rios Please consider a donation!
My cousin Óscar is what you’d call a family man. He’s young, in his early 20s, and his life has always revolved around his young daughter, his wife and his mother. He’s a baker, and would leave his house in Tegucigalpa early every morning. Each night when he got home, first thing, he’d find his little girl and hug and kiss her, and then his wife. Then he’d go and greet his mother. That was his routine.
Oscar with his daughter
At least, that was his routine until escalating threats from the pandilla 18th Street gang forced Óscar to move his wife and daughter into hiding. Pandilleros had been following him for months, trying to recruit him. One day, they followed him for five blocks before overcoming him. They forced him to kneel and put a gun to his head, saying: “Join us or we’ll kill you.”
Óscar begged for his life and prayed aloud, asking God for one last chance to make it home safely. That’s when he decided to join his brother in Miami. Because if he stayed — or if he returns — they’d kill him. We have friends who were killed for refusing to join the gangs. If you refuse to get involved, they’ll punish you.
Óscar wants safety, to work hard and create a better life for his family.
But he hasn’t had the chance, because he was picked up by the border patrol right after crossing into the U.S. near Mexicali. That was about six weeks ago. He did that interview they call “la creíble,” where you explain why you had to leave and why you can’t return. And he was sent straight into detention in Adelanto. That’s somewhere in California.
The court set a $10,000 bond, so we’re trying to raise the money to free him.
Óscar doesn’t have a lawyer. I’m told that you don’t get a lawyer if you turn yourself in. You have to find your own lawyer. I’ve made dozens of calls to lawyers but they never call back.
Óscar’s brother is in Miami and I’m in New York. We can’t visit him. But we’re doing what we can to help him. And it’s hard, because we have our own immigration problems. I’m also from Tegucigalpa, and I was also threatened by gangs. I’ve been here about six months and I just presented my papers to court, without a lawyer. I came here with my wife and daughter. It’s been very, very tough. But we can’t give up.
My cousin loves his daughter so much. She is his daily inspiration to continue fighting.
Editor’s note: Edwin proclaims his faith in this music video he stars in and helped produce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqLL6yzQkNs
Óscar Escaped Death Threats in Honduras— Only to Face Detention in the U.S. was originally published in IMM Print on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
By Mario A. Cortez
Mario A. Cortez | La Prensa San Diego
Maria Garcia checked her phone impulsively, looking for an answer to a pressing question.
“They say they didn’t close down the Otay crossing, but the Trolley isn’t running and there are no busses that can take me there and nobody knows when the exit will open here,” said Garcia, who crossed from Tijuana to the United States to take advantage of black friday sales at a border-adjacent mall. “I don’t even know what to do.”
Garcia was one of hundreds of border crossers from Tijuana who found themselves temporarily stranded in San Ysidro after U.S. authorities shut down activity at pedestrian and vehicular ports of entry going into and out of the United States last Sunday, Nov. 25.
The halt in operations came after a large group from the refugee caravan in Tijuana marched towards the El Chaparral border checkpoint in Mexico. From this larger contingent, a smaller group broke off and ran towards the United States side of the border, inciting a hostile response from armed Customs and Border Protection agents.
The shutdown, which started at 11:30 a.m., left many confused as to why they could not return home.
Jorge Olvera’s plans of kicking back at home after work were struck out with the closing of the border.
“I don’t know what the hell happened that they closed it,” he said. “I don’t know if the caravan people jumped the wall or if they straight up closed the border like (it was rumored by people) this week but this sucks.”
Others, such as Ramon, who asked to only be identified by his first name, and his wife chose to return to family members instead of waiting for the border to reopen.
“We’re seeing where my daughter can pick us up to return to her house; it’s pointless to wait here if they aren’t opening the border in a little bit,” stated Ramon, who spent Thanksgiving weekend with his eldest daughter in Chula Vista.
As these residents of the border waited, there was no other choice but to remain along sidewalks near the pedestrian exit port. At the southern end of San Ysidro Boulevard many gathered at the final street corner before reaching Mexico, many looking at the military helicopters flying overhead while others searched for more information about the closing on their phones.
Mario A. Cortez | La Prensa San Diego
Along the bridges connecting San Ysidro’s West and East districts, many curiously watched the highly transited freeways which lead to ports of entry stay clear of cars.
“When have you seen no cars down there or passing by? It’s really weird isn’t it?” said Perla Lopez, who also took advantage of Black Friday deals at San Ysidro malls.
At 3:45, over four hours later, operations resumed at pedestrian ports of entry in both directions, putting an end to the limbo Tijuana residents stranded in San Ysidro found themselves in.
Southbound lanes into Mexico’s port of entry reopened at 5 p.m. with northbound crossings resuming minutes later.