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Home | Tag Archives: el paso border

Tag Archives: el paso border

Long delays at border bridges bring anxiety for businesses as Holy Week begins

It took Ciudad Juárez resident Norma Martinez about 90 minutes just to get halfway through the pedestrian line at the Paso Del Norte Bridge bridge Saturday afternoon on her way to shop for clothes, umbrellas and other goods she resells at her store across the Rio Grande. She said her young son’s feet began to hurt, so the people in front of her allowed her to skip ahead.

Otherwise, she said, they probably would have waited more than two hours to get through U.S. Customs. Normally, Martinez said the line is about 30 or 45 minutes.

She’s just one of the thousands of border residents that have been forced to grapple with a drastic increase in bridge wait times after President Donald Trump’s latest effort address a growing influx of immigrants — many of them Central American families with children — who cross the border to seek asylum.

The Department of Homeland Security said last month it was redirecting 750 Customs and Border Protection officers from the ports of entry in El Paso, Laredo, Tucson and San Diego to assist U.S. Border Patrol agents in processing undocumented immigrants. The reassignments have caused massive delays at international bridges for pedestrian, vehicular and cargo traffic in the weeks leading up to Holy Week.

That has merchants concerned about how the administration’s decision to pull hundreds of agents away from their duties at the international bridges will impact the city’s retail sector — especially now at the beginning of Holy Week, one of the busiest seasons for cross-border shopping.

“We are really concerned. Historically Mexican nationals shop a lot during the holidays, especially with the Easter holidays right around the corner,” said Cindy Ramos-Davidson, the CEO of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Shoppers in downtown El Paso on April 12, 2019. Julian Aguilar/The Texas Tribune

Jon Barela, the CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting business and economic development in Ciudad Juárez, El Paso and New Mexico, said Mexican shoppers are responsible for 15 to 30 percent of El Paso’s retail trade, depending on the time of year.

And since federal officials pulled agents from bridge duty, Ramos-Davidson said average wait times for passenger vehicles at El Paso’s international bridges have reached 160 minutes or more, about three times the normal wait.

She said international travelers, mainly from Ciudad Juárez or Chihuahua City, will still likely brave the long lines, but they might decide that shopping is less of a priority than visiting family. The chamber, which has 1,300 members in the El Paso area, recently conducted research and found that more than 50 percent of Mexican tourists won’t cross only to shop if wait times are more than about 45 minutes, she added.

After making it across the bridge Saturday with her son, Martinez said she’ll likely cut back on the number of trips they make to shop in Texas.

“After what we saw today we’d probably think more about making the trip,” she said. “Maybe we’ll come once a month” instead of two or three times.

Commercial industries are also going to feel the effects of the slowdown, Barela said, due to the time tractor-trailers have to spend in line. One business member of the Borderplex Alliance that supplies metal to factories in Ciudad Juárez is operating at about 30 percent of his normal output because of the wait times, Barela said. The employer even had to send some employees home at the height of the slowdown, when according to Barela, wait times reached about 12 hours at some ports.

He said he’s hoping Congress will come together and find the will to reform the nation’s immigration system when it realizes the situation not only affects the border, but industries nationwide.

“Sometimes you need a crisis to encourage people to act and that’s where we’re at right now,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said last week that 545 of the 750 reassigned CBP officers were from the Laredo field office, which has significantly challenged the remaining officers in his district. The Laredo customs district is the country’s No. 1 inland port and saw about $229 billion in two-way trade in 2018. That was followed by the El Paso customs district at about $77.4 billion.

Cuellar said he met with incoming U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez last week and urged him to replace the reassigned officers with supplemental officers from other South Texas field offices.

“We look forward to the arrival of sufficient CBP reinforcements within the week. Congress must work with the Administration to create a strong immigration framework, which can process migrants without sacrificing U.S. commerce,” he said in a statement.

After threatening to close the border with Mexico over the influx of undocumented immigrants, Trump backed off last week and said instead he will impose tariffs on imported automobiles next year if the Mexican government did nothing to stop the flow of migrants.

“[Closing the bridges] is off the table now, but what anxiety does it create in the market? Will people try to rush things into the market before the bridges close?” said Ken Roberts, the president of WorldCity, Inc. a Florida-based company that analyzes trade data and business trends. “That creates traffic on the border. The biggest factor is the uncertainty.”

Author: JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

15th annual J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium to focus on Migrants

‘Justice for Migrants’ is the theme of the 2019 J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium April 11-12 at New Mexico State University.

The symposium will feature panels of experts tackling the subjects dominating national news about the treatment of migrants on our southern border. The event is free and open to the public.

“The goal of this symposium is to reflect on the philosophical values, public narratives and community organizing that go in to the defense and promotion of human rights of immigrants, residents of border communities, DREAMers, asylum seekers and all migrants in Mexico and the US,” said Neil Harvey, NMSU professor and department head of government. “The symposium brings together university researchers, community-based advocates, reporters and students to share their own philosophical perspectives and experiences regarding the promotion of justice for migrants.”

Named for a respected state representative and educator, the J. Paul Taylor Symposium started in 2005 when Taylor suggested strategies for bringing resources of the university to address problems faced by underserved populations in the southwest.

This year’s symposium will be hosted by NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Vice President for Research, Department of Philosophy and Department of Government with generous support from the Guadalupe Institute.

The ‘Justice for Migrants’ event begins with a panel discussion from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11 at Gardiner Hall, Room 230. Panelists include NMSU professors Harvey and Lori Keleher, philosophy professor as well as David Holtby from the Guadalupe Institute in Albuquerque, Camilo Perez Bustillo from the Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Blanca Adriana Ontiveros from the New Mexico Dream Team and Nancy Oretskin from the Southwest Asylum and Migration Institute.

The annual Social Justice Awards reception and keynote address will follow from 6-8 p.m. with remarks from NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Enrico Pontelli, Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School Luis Cifuentes, Honorable J. Paul Taylor and President of the Guadalupe Institute Michael Keleher.

Harvey will present the Department of Government Social Justice Award to Adrian Aguirre, a local artist and NMSU alumnus, who created a series of portraits of migrant workers he spent a year with called ‘Jornaleros’ meant to help people relate to the migrant experience.

Aguirre, who is a program manager in NMSU’s Innovative Media Research and Extension department, more recently spent time at the border with asylum-seekers creating portraits that address their struggles.

He is in the process of creating a program to teach art making practices to those awaiting asylum at the ports of entry to help them document their experiences and as a way to heal.

For more about his artwork, visit this website.

Audrey Hardman Hartley will present the J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Community Award to Ruben Garcia, executive director of

Ruben Garcia, executive director of Annunciation House, will be honored with the Social Justice Community Award at the J. Paul Taylor Social Justice Symposium, which takes place April 11-12

Annunciation House. Garcia and his dedicated staff and volunteers have worked to serve the people of El Paso and Juarez to find shelter, food and refuge including the increasing number of refugees which have more recently filled Annunciation House’s shelters.

“His commitment to serving refugees, asylum seekers and the most helpless of the poor over the past 40 years is unmatched. Serving the poor comes with a lengthy set of challenges, but Ruben’s commitment has never wavered,” wrote community activist Rose Lucero about Garcia’s in her nomination letter.

“Whether its eight in a given day that may show up at the door step of Annunciation House or 800 that are transported by bus from ICE or Border Patrol, Ruben wants to make sure that each man, woman and child be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. In a situation that seems nearly impossible Ruben Garcia always finds a way to make sure that the most voiceless have a voice and that every person knows that they matter and that they are loved.”

Rocio Melendez Dominguez, attorney for Derechos Humanos Integrales en Accion (Seeking Justice for Deported Migrants and Asylum Seekers) in Ciudad Juarez, will be the keynote speaker.

Day two of the symposium begins from 9-11 a.m. Friday, April 12 in Gardner Hall, Room 230 with a panel discussion about community perspectives from the border.

The panel will include Jeremy Slack, University of Texas at El Paso sociology and anthropology professor, Debbie Nathan, a nationally-known journalist, Fernando Garcia, founder and executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, Johana Bencomo, director of community organizing for New Mexico Communidades en Accion y de Fe also known as NM CAFe, Jorge Rodriguez, Regional Center for Border Rights, American Civil Liberties Union – New Mexico and Deacon Leonel Briseño, Project Oak Tree, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces.

A student poster presentation will be on display at Gardner immediately following the panel from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. followed by a summary and closing discussion at the Nason House, Center for Latin American and Border Studies at 1070 University Ave. A summary of main points and roundtable discussion on next steps will wrap up the symposium with food and refreshments provided.

Author: Minerva Baumann – NMSU

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

Op-Ed: White Girl in a Brown City

I grew up in El Paso, was born here. As a teenager, I used to walk the streets with my friends at all hours of the night. And sometimes, I walked alone.

I was never afraid, even in a time when gangs were fairly prevalent here, I walked without fear. And though we had gangs at the school, I was never worried about violence.

I went to a high school on the northeast side of town where the pregnancy rate was the 4th highest in the state, yet I didn’t have my first child until I was in my 20s.

The biggest problem I faced was that of not being bilingual. I like to think I’m pretty smart, and while it’s true that I can speak some Spanish, I never fully embraced learning it on a conversational level. This has kept me from getting certain jobs.

You see, El Paso borders Mexico. In fact, the El Paso/Juarez area is one of the biggest border communities in the country, if not the world. Many people come across the border daily to shop at the stores, eat at the restaurants, and go to school.

This influx of people is critical to our economy.

They come legally, and our international bridges are not something you want to cross if you are in a hurry. So many come over that it can take hours to get across. Likewise, people from here go to Mexico to shop at the stores, eat at the restaurants, and even take up less expensive residence. It’s truly a beautiful partnership.

So, I was never bitter about losing out on jobs due to my lack of conversational Spanish speaking ability. I understood the need to communicate with those that visited our city, even though I occasionally receive dirty looks by those that do not speak English. But the dirty looks are the worst thing I’ve ever had to endure.

Our city is more than just English/Spanish, or people from across the border coming over; it’s a diverse community. We house one of the largest military bases in the country, as well: Fort Bliss. Men and women in the service come from all over the country. They bring their families, many of whom are not from America.

Our city has Korean communities, German communities, as well as a Native American community. But I never learned to speak any of those languages, either.

At no point, have I ever felt as though any other culture was infringing on my ability to gain employment (they are NOT taking my jobs away), nor have I felt as though any of them were terrorists, or rapists bringing drugs and crime.

In fact, I’ve always felt at home here because, though I look like a white girl on the outside, my inside is just as diverse as this city I call home.

But I’m glad the title brought you into my fold…if that’s what got you reading this in the first place.

The only place I ever felt targeted for my race was when I was unfortunate enough to visit Kentucky. For some reason, even with my very pale complexion and red hair, I was followed while shopping at a convenience store.

As my discomfort grew, I left, hearing the cashier say as I walked out: “Good riddance, ya dirty Mexican!”

Now, as I watch the news, a thing I do more and more often the older I get, I have to wonder where the current administration is getting their “facts” from. I still live in the same city, on the same side of town and yet I see no crisis along the border.

Keep in mind that when I step outside my house, I can see two countries and three states. But no droves of illegals are anywhere in sight. There is literally no crisis.

Well, save for one.

Just before Christmas, immigration agents took migrants that passed background checks and were awaiting asylum, dropping them off at the bus depot downtown. They were left there, en mass, with little or no money, and only the clothes on their backs or in their packs.

And perhaps some of you think this is what they deserve for coming over here and entering our country: nothing…but our city disagrees.

We have been working together, this diverse and beautiful community, to ensure that these discarded people have food, shelter, and warm clothing.  We handled the ‘crisis.’ And life is back to normal.

We keep them safe, just as our city has always been…safe. In fact, El Paso has ranked among the top ten safest cities in the country for so many years, I’ve lost count.

And despite what the President would have you believe, I can still go out and walk the streets at all hours of the night without fear.

Commission on Migration, Bishop Seitz, Release Statement on National Guard Border Deployment

On Wednesday, the Commission on Migration of the Diocese of El Paso and the Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso, released the following statement regarding President Trump’s decision to deploy the National Guard to the border.

Today’s decision by the Trump administration to deploy the National Guard to the border is morally irresponsible and dangerously ineffective. It is a hurtful attack on migrants, our welcoming border culture, and our shared values as Americans.

As a border community, we already know the painful moral and human consequences of the militarization of our border. Our undocumented brothers and sisters go through daily existence trapped between checkpoints and failed laws. Our Dreamers continue to live an anxious twilight of uncertainty and stress. The asylum seekers fleeing terror and seeking mercy at our border are imprisoned and separated from their families.

We know that our border has never been more secure. We know that it is irresponsible to deploy armed soldiers in our communities. We know that only by working together to address the dehumanizing poverty and insecurity in our sister countries in Latin America and around the world will we resolve the root causes that drive migration. And we know we must end the hopelessness in our communities that fuels our nation’s addiction to drugs, which deals only death and destruction to the people of our continent.

Jesus Christ, the Sun of Justice, gives us hope that our efforts to build bridges among peoples and cultures is not in vain. On this solemn day when we recall the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us remember his words. “If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when ‘justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”

Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso

Ms. Lily Limón and Mr. Dylan Corbett, Co-Chairs

***

The Commission on Migration supports the Bishop of El Paso in advancing the mission of the Church so that persons who migrate are welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated, both in the life of the Church and in society.

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