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Home | Tag Archives: border emergency

Tag Archives: border emergency

Casa Carmelita: A soon-to-be home for Migrants seeks connection, creation

A stone’s throw from the Border Wall, a refuge for reflection and community is taking shape in the form of Casa Carmelita.

Named after Carmelita Torres – a hero of the 1917 Bath Riots – the building sits blocks from the Stanton Street Bridge. According to Zeb Green, a founding member of the space, the building is named to honor the resistance and memory of Torres.

For decades, migrants and day workers crossing from Juarez into El Paso were subjected to toxic chemicals in the form of a forced “delousing” gasoline bath. Men, women, and children were stripped naked and told to stand for inspection. Secret photographs were taken and passed around publicly, even posted at local cantinas.

Torres, who was just 17 years old in 1917, stood up to the callous treatment. Described at the time as “an auburn-haired Amazon,” Torres led 30 women in protest, inspiring others to riot.

Casa Carmelita speaks to her legacy – and the role of women of color in resistance work. “It’s women of color who often bear both the inspiration to resistance and the greatest brunt of oppression,” says Green.

The ultimate vision for Casa Carmelita is “connection.”

The proximity to the Border Wall is something Casa Carmelita grapples with; the wall “stands in contradiction with what we stand for,” says Green. “It is the antithesis of connection.”

Green, who holds a Master’s in Divinity and practices a form of liberation theology, came to El Paso in the wake of the Tornillo camp. Looking to disrupt the detention of children and the treatment of migrants and refugees on the border, he connected with a group called Tornillo: The Occupation.

Now, along with a handful of activists, Green has begun work on Casa Carmelita.

“People see our protests and think we’re only fighting,” said Green. “But this space is about investing in El Paso. It’s about wanting to create and not just tear down.”

Casa Carmelita currently requires some imagination. The walls are peeling, and the rooms are bare.

Remnants of the previous tenant, a bus company, remain. Green and his team of activists are working, in conjunction with their neighbors, to transform the downtrodden building into a space for worship and learning.

There are plans for a multi-religion congregation, with worship led by local and indigenous leadership, and an altar painted to reflect the spiritual needs of the community.

Just past the altar another sacred space is taking shape in the form of a library, with books donated from Green’s personal collection and Houston’s now-defunct Sedation Bookstore.

Known once as Houston’s only anarchist bookstore, Sedation lost their physical space, but their books found a home in Casa Carmelita.

Pointing to the idea of food as medicine, Casa Carmelita will also house an initiative known as Food not Walls. Currently run out of the homes and personal kitchens of leaders, Food not Walls provides home cooked and healthy meals that resonate culturally.

At Casa Carmelita, the group will have access to a full kitchen, a food pantry, and a community dining area. Green is quick to point out that anyone in need is welcome to dine or visit the pantry.

Green’s philosophy is rooted in “listening to the voices of the marginalized and following their lead.”

This way of thinking is clear in how he speaks of the building, showing his own enthusiasm and ideas, but making space to let the community lead. It’s important to Green, and his team, that the building is locally owned and managed.

Casa Carmelita is still under construction, but they hope to open their doors later this year.


Cornyn chairs hearing to discuss crisis at Southern Border

WASHINGTON – As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) held a hearing to highlight the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border and his new legislation, the HUMANE Act, to address it.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s opening remarks are below, and video can be found above.

“The situation unfolding on our southern border is grim. A major increase in unlawful border crossings combined with a drastic shift in migration trends and outdated laws and infrastructure has placed an incredibly great strain on law enforcement, on our legal system, and local border communities.”

“Yet, there are those who still here in Washington choose to ignore the gravity of the situation, or worse, to label it as fake or manufactured.”

“While some may think that the situation is manageable and that time is on our side, I think they’re ignoring reality and I disagree. And I know many of my constituents in Texas feel the same. We’re on the front lines of this, and we’re simply not set up, manned, nor do we have the capacity to absorb this huge wave of human migration coming in all at one time.”

“In response to this worsening situation, last week I, along with my colleague from Laredo, Texas, Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, introduced the HUMANE Act. The HUMANE Act is, as you can see, a bipartisan, bicameral solution to make the practical necessary reforms to address the loopholes in our laws, ensure that families stay together, and better protect unaccompanied children released from HHS custody. We also adopt several recommendations from the bipartisan DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council, including the establishment of regional processing centers along the border and needed streamlining of processing claims.”

“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work with us to try to solve this problem. We need to quit looking at this through a political lens or wait to try to solve what else is broken and needs to be fixed in our immigration system.”


Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

Hundreds of agents will be pulled from ports of entry to help El Paso Border Patrol process undocumented immigrants

Saying that his agency has reached a “breaking point” in the face of a surge of undocumented immigrants, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan called on Congress for help and said he’s reassigning 750 federal agents stationed at some of the country’s busiest international bridges and trade zones to help overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol agents.

During a news conference near the Rio Grande, McAleenan said the Border Patrol is on pace to apprehend about 100,000 migrants this month alone along the southwest border — most of them families and unaccompanied children from Central America. The El Paso sector has seen a particularly large surge in undocumented immigrants, he said, and across the southwest border the agency now has more than 13,400 migrants in custody, including nearly 3,500 in El Paso.

“A crisis level is 6,000; 13,000 is unprecedented,” he said.

McAleenan told Congress in testimony earlier this month that the border was reaching a breaking point, and on Wednesday he said, “That breaking point has arrived this week at our border. And nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso.”

He said CBP agents who are normally tasked with processing legitimate trade and travel while detecting contraband will be reassigned from ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego. Laredo and El Paso have ranked as the country’s top two inland ports for years; about $229 billion and $77.4 billion in two-way trade passed through those respective customs districts in 2018.

“There will be impacts to traffic at the border, there will be a slowdown in the processing of trade, there will be wait times in our pedestrian and passenger vehicle lanes” at ports of entry, he said. “But this is required to help us manage this operational crisis.”

McAleenan also said the vast majority of the apprehended migrants will be released instead of being transferred to and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That agency’s holding facilities are at capacity, and McAleenan said he is left with no choice but to let the migrants go with orders to appear before an immigration judge. Border Patrol agents will now be tasked with deciding whether a person should be released, he said.

“That is not something we want to do; it’s something we have to do given the overcrowding in our facilities,” he said, calling it “an unfortunate step” that hurts morale in the agency.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Video: Cornyn Votes to Secure Border, Calls for Reform of National Emergencies Act

WASHINGTON – Thursday on the floor of the Senate, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed his vote against the Democrats’ attempt to block the President from securing the border and called on Congress to reform the National Emergencies Act.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below, and video can be found above. 

“As I’ve said in the past, I’ll repeat again: what we are doing here today is no one’s first choice.”

“The refusal of Democrats in the House and the Senate to engage in negotiations on border security funding has led us to a 35-day government shutdown. Despite the clear message from border security experts, despite seeing the humanitarian crisis at the border described by President Obama in 2014 get many times worse, our Democratic colleagues decided to play politics instead of dealing with the problem.”

“My preference would be for the normal appropriations process to be used. But when your negotiating partners refuse to take a seat at the table, normal goes out the window. Our colleagues across the aisle left the president with few options to fund what he believed were so important for the nation’s security, and that’s what led us to this situation.”

“It’s clear that the president is operating within the authority that Congress has given to him. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it. But it’s clear that the president is operating within the authority Congress delegated to him.”

“I believe there’s a need to rein back in some of the authority that Congress has delegated to presidents, just as an institutional concern, as a constitutional matter. Which I am cosponsoring a bill that has been introduced by our colleague, Senator Lee, which gives Congress a stronger voice in processes under the National Emergencies Act.”

“I think this is an honest and important effort to hopefully help us prevent us from ending up in this predicament in the future.”

“The terrain and the 1,200-mile border between Texas and Mexico vary significantly.”

“What works well in one sector does not work well in another. And what I continue to hear from my constituents, including elected officials at the border, that if this is the border patrol telling us what they need in order to succeed to do the job we have asked them to do, we’re all in.”

“I think we need to take action to adequately fund our border security missions, and I hope our discussions in the coming months will be more productive than they have been so far this year. I will vote against the resolution of disapproval today and encourage my colleagues to instead focus our energy on reforming the legislation that got us into this situation to begin with.”


Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

As El Paso region sees surge in migrant crossings, nonprofit groups’ support services feel the strain

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. — The statue of Mount Cristo Rey standing over this small border community is the site of an annual pilgrimage near the Texas-New Mexico state lines, where tens of thousands gather each October to celebrate their Catholic faith and honor the sacrifices it demands.

This month, however, the site bore witness to a different type of mission, one that immigrant rights groups say is borne out of necessity and desperation.

On Feb. 11, U.S. Border Patrol agents in the El Paso sector apprehended 311 undocumented migrants near the site of the famed statue. That same day, more than 330 people were apprehended in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. And on Tuesday, Border Patrol agents came across 180 migrants in Sunland Park, adding to the number of large groups that sector agents have encountered this fiscal year, when such figures are tallied.

Through Wednesday, Border Patrol agents in the El Paso sector have encountered at least 29 groups of migrants of 100 or more people.

As the number of families apprehended skyrockets, nonprofit and faith-based groups are scrambling to ensure that migrants seeking asylum aren’t let out onto the streets without shelter.

“We’re doing everything we can with all of our shelter network, with the Diocese of El Paso,” said Marissa Limón, the deputy director of the Hope Border Institute, a faith-based community organization in the El Paso, Las Cruces and Ciudad Juárez area. “There are several shelters operating in churches but also through the diocese itself, and they are almost at capacity right now.”

The surge of migrants illegally crossing into Texas has continued even as the Trump administration has tried to crack down on asylum-seekers. The administration and Republican hardliners say the latest surges are the result of an immigration system that is easily exploited by migrants and smugglers. But some analysts think it’s the administration’s policies that are fueling the latest influx, and they say it’s unclear when the numbers will begin to fall.

From Oct. 1, when the federal government’s 2019 fiscal year began, through January, more than 25,700 family units were apprehended in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which also includes New Mexico. That’s compared with the 1,523 familiesBorder Patrol encountered during the same time frame last fiscal year, an increase of about 1,600 percent. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, which has been the nation’s busiest, about 43,600 families were apprehended. That’s a 180 percent increase from last fiscal year’s 15,570 during the same time frame.

Although the El Paso sector has always been busy, the latest surge could result from the Trump administration’s policy of stationing Customs and Border Patrol agents on international bridges to turn back potential asylum-seekers. CBP officers have said the move, known as metering, is necessary because the agency has limited space to house asylum-seekers while they wait for their claims to be processed.

“Part of the [surge] is a confluence of factors,” said Jessica Bolter, a researcher with the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. “Smugglers do learn quickly about the most effective routes to bring people into the country, and metering itself is likely to cause increased illegal crossings and also to cause people to go to remote ports of entry.”

In a statement about the Feb. 11 apprehensions near Antelope Wells, a CBP press officer said the smuggling of large groups could be a diversionary tactic.

“In many instances, criminal organizations are saturating areas with large groups with the belief that they can smuggle narcotics or other contraband into the United States while Border Patrol agents are occupied,” the statement asserts. “The U.S. Border Patrol will continue to enforce the rule of law.”

The Trump administration also attempted, through an executive order, to bar asylum for undocumented immigrants who cross in between the ports of entry. A federal judge has since blocked that effort, which Bolter said isn’t lost on smuggling networks.

“It drives the idea that you have to cross while you can before another restrictive policy might be issued,” she said.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

EP State Legislative Delegation Releases Statement on Gov’t Shutdown, Border Wall

On Tuesday, the following joint statement was released by the El Paso State Legislative Delegation, comprised of  State Sen. José Rodríguez who represents Texas Senate District 29; State Rep. Joseph Moody who represents Texas House District 78; State Rep. Mary Gonzalez who represents Texas House District 75; State Rep. Cesar Blanco who represents Texas House District 76; and State Rep. Lina Ortega who represents Texas House District 77.


Austin – The President will be on live television this evening to explain why he shuttered the government – and may declare a state of emergency – over a border wall. But there is no good explanation.

The federal government shutdown is unacceptable and must end. The purported reason for the shutdown does not meet any basic test of sound public policy.

The President is equating the wall, variously, with “national security” and with “border security,” sometimes using the terms interchangeably. Immigrants are not a security threat, and we find efforts to paint them in those terms irresponsible and reprehensible.

Simply put, the southern border is not a significant entry point for international terrorist organizations.

As far as street crime, the Cato Institute found that unauthorized immigrants are 44 percent less likely than natives to be incarcerated, and legal immigrants 69 percent less likely. The federal government has poured unprecedented resources into staffing and equipment at the southern border.

In 1992, the Border Patrol had 3,500 agents on the southern border. In 2000, that number was more than doubled to 8,500. Now there are about 20,000 agents. The budget for border enforcement, at more than $20 billion, is more than the combined budgets of the FBI, Secret Service, US Marshals Service, DEA, and ATF, the law enforcement agencies primarily tasked with fighting national and transnational crime. Meanwhile, apprehensions are at historic lows.

The migrants seeking refuge in the United States are not a danger to us. The rhetoric, sometimes implicit and sometimes explicit, that they bring crime and disease simply has to stop.

These lies, said about every wave of immigrants the country has known – said about the Irish, Germans, Italians, Polish, Jewish, Catholics, Chinese, Muslims, and now Mexicans and Central Americans – has led to criminalizing people who we need in this country – risk-takers like the immigrants before them, tough and brave men, women, and children who make the difficult decision to leave their homes and travel thousands of miles across harsh territory for the opportunity to live safe, productive lives.

We need to stop the hysteria about “border security,” which has led to militarization of the border and criminalization of unauthorized migrants, and look at the facts. According to a spring 2018 White House fact sheet, ICE was budgeted for $7.6 billion and CBP for $13.9 billion, yet the Executive Office for Immigration Review was budgeted at only $500 million.

The hysteria has skewed our national priorities for far too long, predating even this administration, which has raised it to new levels. It’s long past time for a sober look at the topic of “border security” and immigration, and for comprehensive immigration reform that rebalances our approach to conform with reality.

Elements of that approach would be:

  • To focus less on “boots on the ground” and walls, and more on law enforcement that targets true threats such as cartels that traffic people against their will and use extreme violence to maintain a grip on the illegal trade of drugs and other commodities;
  • A path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants who are here, usually as part of a “blended” family that includes citizens;
  • More guest worker visas for agriculture and other labor-intensive fields;
  • More resources to 1) vet immigrants to reduce backlog and wait time for citizenship applications and 2) to humanely process the current influx of asylum seekers;
  • A hemispheric strategy to reduce the “push factors” that are leading migrants, currently mostly from
    Central America, to seek sanctuary in the United States;
  • Investment in our ports of entry, to increase safe and efficient passage of the 1 million daily travelers and $536 billion in annual trade with Mexico that supports millions of U.S. jobs.

A wall will violate the private property rights of Americans, be prohibitively expensive, and be ineffective. The only return on investment is political, and it sends a signal to the rest of the world that America is no longer the beacon of hope for the tired and poor, who given the opportunity in our country become exceptional, as did our parents and grandparents.

There is a crisis, but it originates in Washington D.C. The President and those who are enabling him are doing great damage. End this now.

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