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Home | Tag Archives: government shutdown

Tag Archives: government shutdown

Shutdown Over Wall Straining Border Patrol Agents Working Overtime Without Pay

As the government shutdown approached its fifth week and Washington Democrats and President Donald Trump showed no signs of coming to an agreement on how to end the stalemate Tuesday, U.S. Border Patrol vehicles could be seen patrolling just north of the Rio Grande near El Paso’s Paso del Norte bridge.

Farther west along Paisano street and across Interstate 10 from the University of Texas-El Paso, more green-and-white vans sat parked just south of the fencing that has dotted this part of the border for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, the pedestrian line for travelers returning to El Paso from Ciudad Juárez moved steadily, and eight of the 12 vehicle lanes were open and operating normally, despite the shutdown that has forced Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents to work without pay as Trump demands $5.7 billion for a border wall before he’ll sign a spending bill to re-open the government and Congress resists.

But despite the feeling of normalcy, a current Department of Homeland Security agent who previously worked for the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection said the federal employees on the front line of the national immigration battle are beginning to feel the strains of the impasse.

“Morale is definitely low [inside the department]. But I can’t imagine how it is at the bridge,” said the agent, who spoke to The Texas Tribune on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak to reporters. “These guys are still working overtime … and they’re not getting paychecks. They’re working 16-hour shifts, then they go home and have to stress about the bills.”

That anxiety isn’t isolated to the country’s borders. Some of the nation’s busiest airports are seeing long security lines as an increasing number of Transportation Security Administration agents refuse to work without pay; small businesses with federal government contracts aren’t getting paid either. In El Paso, immigration attorneys whose clients are waiting for court hearings are worried about how the stalemate is going to affect those cases now that federal immigration courts are closed except for cases involving people held in detention.

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, at Syracuse University, more than 42,700 immigration hearings have been canceled as of Jan. 11, including 5,141 in Texas — the third-highest total after California and New York, where 9,424 and 5,320 cases have been canceled, respectively. The cancellations come as the backlog of immigration cases skyrocketed to 809,000 in November, according to TRAC data.

If the shutdown continues through the end of January, the TRAC report states, New York, Texas and Florida could each see more than 10,000 hearings canceled.

Traffic crosses into Texas from Mexico at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry near downtown El Paso on Jan. 14, 2019. Jorge Salgado for the Texas Tribune

El Paso immigration lawyer Eduardo Beckett said the shutdown is good news for his clients who are facing possible deportation orders or denials of their asylum claims. But, he added, “it’s a nightmare for the ones that are ready to go, those that are gung ho and are ready for their day in court.”

On Monday, he was unsure whether he would have to hustle to Los Angeles later this week to represent a client there because as of Monday, the hearing was still scheduled. Another client is in North Carolina and had an immigration hearing scheduled in Texas at the end of the month but, like the California hearing, it will be canceled if the shutdown continues.

After Beckett helped both immigrants in posting bond and filing their asylum claims, they told Beckett they would find new attorneys outside of Texas — but he said he isn’t able to file motions to withdraw or to change venues. Clerks are still accepting paperwork, but the clock on those requests won’t start until the government is back to operating under its normal schedule.

A call to the U.S. Department of Justice was answered by a recording that said, “the phone line will be unmanned for an indefinite period.”

Beckett said the irony is that Trump’s administration has pushed to speed up deportations and asylum decisions to make a dent in the backlog of cases that can take years to resolve.

“I feel bad for government employees, but I believe that this administration is 100 percent at fault,” he said.

The DHS agent said Border Patrol and Customs workers have become accustomed to working overtime, including double shifts. And that doesn’t end during a shutdown.

“When you sign up you’re basically saying that you’re willing to work overtime, whether it’s voluntary or whether they order you to work it,” the agent said.

He added that in his experience, he doesn’t see that the current barriers on the U.S-Mexico border are stopping illegal crossers — and he supports the president’s effort to build something that will.

“I can’t see why [undocumented immigrants] wouldn’t just keep doing the things they’re doing, [like] getting on a ladder and coming over, roping over or going underneath and destroying the fence,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of fence he’s trying to construct, but if is a fence that’s going to deter those types on entries, then I am all for it.”

Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

Women’s March Take to the Streets Saturday; Rep. Escobar Featured Keynote Speaker

Women’s March El Paso will be hosting a march and gathering in the heart of Downtown El Paso, capped off by a keynote speech by newly-elected Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.

“I am a proud third generation fronteriza and represent a community that is tired of being portrayed in a way that is not factually accurate,” Escobar said. “It is an honor to serve in a way that represents all residents, regardless of race, religion or status. Women’s March El Paso has helped to amplify all voices in our community.”

Officials with Women’s March El Paso announced Congresswoman Escobar as their 2019 Keynote Speaker earlier this week.  Escobar is a native El Pasoan who made history this year by becoming one of Texas’ first Latina Congresswomen.

Congresswoman Escobar was just named to the House Judiciary Committee and House Armed Services Committee and has already served as Speaker Pro-Tempore in her short tenure in the House of Representatives.  Escobar previously served as a County Commissioner and County Judge of El Paso County from 2010-2017.

Escobar is known in El Paso for her lifelong commitment to service, through non-profit and government work and has been a longtime ally of Women’s March El Paso and other women’s service organizations in the Borderland.

Entertainment will begin at 9:30 am with Danza Azteca Omecoatl. Felipa Solis will serve as this year’s emcee as the program officially kicks off at 10 a.m.

This year’s speakers feature a variety of speakers and artists in our community who aim for gender, racial, economic and social justice within our communities and political system.

An approximately 1-mile march will begin at San Jacinto Plaza and make its way back to the Plaza before Congresswoman Escobar’s speech.

For more information, visit Women’s March El Paso’s Facebook page

Videos+Story: Border Rights Advocates Push Back on Presidential Address

Before the first words of President Trump’s prime time Oval Office address Tuesday night, border human rights advocates already had a rebuttal ready.

“What we have seen at the border over the past two years are the impacts and chaos caused by a cruel and racist President who has no respect for the rule of law,” Fernando Garcia with the Border Network for Human Rights said just moments after the Presidential Address was over.

The first Presidential prime time address was meant to convince Americans that the government shutdown, now in its 17th day, is needed in order to hold out for funding for a steel fence along the nation’s southern border.

Many immigration advocates at Tuesday night’s event at BNHR say the address did little to provide concrete evidence of a sincere crisis at our southern border.

“Why, even if there was something urgent at the border right now, why this administration would choose to respond with a wall that will take years or decades to build,” said Garcia.

Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who now has a massive online following, decided to take a direct approach to the assertion by President Trump that there is a national emergency at the border.

O’Rourke took to Facebook live to walk viewers around his Sunset Heights neighborhood, discuss the proximity of El Paso to Ciudad Juarez and our dependence on each other for economic and social prosperity. Former City Council member Steve Ortega and Joel Guzman, both fellow Sunset Heights residents joined in on the discussion.

While Trump was quick to bring up two recent murders in the U.S. allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants, he also failed to mention the deaths of Guatemalan migrant children Jakelin Caal or Felipe Alonso-Gomez, who both became ill and died while in custody of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Father Arturo Bañuelos with the Catholic Diocese argued that the lack of the President’s compassion for the true humanitarian crisis happening across the border was part of a larger problem.

“We need real, lasting, humane, and permanent solutions ro our immigration system that provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. and that builds a legal system that comforts with reality moving forward. With a President unable and unwilling to act, Congress must lead,” said Garcia.

During Christmas week, El Paso saw a massive surge of migrants being released by ICE from detention facilities, which sent organizations in the Sun City to scramble to house and feed the massive release of families.

On December 26, ICE released a record 522 migrants from detention in a single day. By Wednesday, January 9, all three of the emergency shelters that were opened by Annunciation House during Christmas to house the unexpected surge of migrants will be closed. The closures are representative of a return to ‘normal’ release numbers by ICE since New Year’s Day.

The overall flow of migrant families into the U.S. is still far more than it has been in recent memory according to Annunciation House Executive Director Ruben Garcia in a previous interview.

President Trump is expected to make a trip to McAllen on Thursday to survey the southern border for himself. While he has previously indicated he would consider declaring a national emergency in order to fund the construction of the Border Wall, he stopped short of any declaration on Tuesday during his address.

In a response via Twitter Tuesday night, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said “Tonight’s speech offered nothing new, just another glimpse at a POTUS w/ no understanding of how to cope w/ challenges of changing migration patterns. When he goes to south TX on Thurs, he’ll do the usual photo ops w/ federal agents. Maybe he’ll wear cowboy boots and ride a horse.”

The El Paso Herald Post will continue to offer coverage of the proposed Border Wall and the Government Shutdown.

Watch Full Border Network for Human Rights Press Conference Below

President Trump’s Address to the Nation on Border Security (Courtesy CSpan)

 

 

 

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