Follow two Honduran migrants as their journey to the U.S. for a better life leads them into a giant border hustle where coyotes, cartels and corporations make big bucks off desperate people.
Carlos and his 6-year-old daughter, Heyli, traveled nearly 1,700 miles together from Honduras to reach the U.S. border — and what they hoped would be the start of a new, better life — only to be separated by more than 1,200 miles shortly after they surrendered to Border Patrol agents and requested asylum.
Along the way, they became small players in a shadowy, multibillion-dollar global enterprise: the smuggling of human beings for profit.
In this documentary, The Texas Tribune and TIME traced their journey and investigated the booming smuggling industry that has thrived as the U.S. government seeks to close America’s southern border and as record numbers of migrant families make the long trek north.
You can read the full story about Carlos and Heyli here.
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which led to the separation of children from adults who crossed the border illegally, has fueled a national outcry. Sign up for our ongoing coverage. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The politicians obstructing the construction of the wall along our southern border ought to come down to El Paso for President Trump’s rally Monday night and try to tell people here that we should tear down our wall with Juarez.
Democrats in Washington are fighting tooth and nail to stop even one inch of a new wall, insisting that border walls are “ineffective” and “immoral.” Democrat politicians have decided that they know better than our Border Patrol agents, who say physical barriers are necessary for border security, and proclaim that all we need to secure the border is a few new surveillance drones.
So why don’t they just take their reasoning to its logical conclusion and tell us to tear down our wall?
The answer is that they wouldn’t dare because they know full well we’d tell them to get lost. Unlike them, we’ve seen with our own eyes just how effective border walls really are.
El Paso remains one of the safest big cities in America despite being only walking distance from violence-plagued Juarez. In the last decade, our sister city endured the brunt of one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in the history of this continent, the still-simmering Mexican Drug War. Media outlets have called Juarez “the most dangerous place on earth.”
Luckily for us in El Paso, this explosion of violence came at the same time that the 2006 Secure Fence Act was passed. Murder rates in Juarez rose to levels more typical of Middle Eastern warzones than North American cities, and in 2010, as our wall was being completed, Juarez was awash with blood. More than 3,000 people were killed in a city of just over 1.3 million inhabitants.
El Paso, conversely, only had five murders that year. Five.
That number represents a decrease of more than 90 percent from the peak of violence in the early 90’s. While decades of outstanding police work and good public policy were the key to making our city one of the safest in America, the border wall has been crucial for securing that painstaking progress.
The wall allows our Customs and Border Patrol agents to maintain an effective barrier against the horrific violence on our doorstep, which would negate all of our hard-won gains if the criminals responsible for it were allowed to enter our city unimpeded. While Juarez has made progress in recent years, it still remainstragically violent.
No one in their right mind would suggest that El Paso should become more like Juarez, but that’s exactly what would happen if we were to tear down the barrier that allows us to control who is coming into our city from one of the continent’s most violent places, and intercept the drugs that fuel that violence.
Yet, the groups planning to protest the President’s rally Monday night are blithely parroting the Democrats’ position on border security, which essentially demands that we leave America’s entire border as porous as El Paso’s once was before our wall went up.
The President is visiting El Paso because it showcases a perfect example of how a simple construction project has been incredibly effective in making a once-lawless border very secure, with apprehensions for illegal crossings down more than 90 percent. He’s coming here to propose replicating the same proven solution along 234 carefully-selected miles along the border where law enforcement professionals tell us barriers will be most effective.
Tickets are first-come, first-served, so if any obstructionist Democrats feel like coming out here and telling the people of El Paso that walls don’t work, we’ll be happy to set them straight.
Rick Seeberger was a candidate for Texas Congressional District 16 which represents the majority of El Paso County. Now founder of El Pasoans United, an Initiative standing up for truth; educating El Pasoans; and taking civic action for government accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.
The El Paso Herald-Post welcomes guest columns, open letters, letters to the Editor and analysis pieces for publication, to submit a piece or for questions regarding guidelines, please email us at email@example.com
The Texas Tribune October 13, 2018NewsComments Off on U.S. Officials Have Been Keeping Migrants From Crossing Bridges, Now Mexico is Doing the Same
REYNOSA, Mexico — It was the third time Ingrid had tried to make it across an international bridge into Texas.
The first time, she said, Mexican officials stopped her on the bridge into Laredo and demanded that she pay $1,500 for her and her two children to cross into the United States, where she planned to seek asylum.
A few weeks later, they barred Ingrid — a Mexican permanent resident born in Guatemala, with Mexican-born children — from passing the turnstiles to cross the bridge into Hidalgo, threatening to deport her and rip up her documents.
And on Tuesday, a Mexican officer in a beige uniform sprinted after Ingrid as she walked past the turnstile and up to the midpoint of that same bridge, which spans two nations grappling with their own influx of Central American migrants.
“Can I see your documents?” the officer, Alejandro Vargas, asked Ingrid, maneuvering his body in front of her. “I need to see your documents. It’s the orders from my boss.”
Ingrid, who declined to give her last name to protect her safety, said Mexican authorities later told her that if she attempted to cross the border again, her Mexican residency would be stripped and she would be deported to Guatemala.
It’s a move immigration lawyers say is becoming increasingly common along Mexico’s northern border following months of shifting U.S. immigration enforcement strategies that have prevented some migrants like Ingrid from entering the United States to seek asylum. This time, it’s Mexican officials who are cracking down.
Earlier this year, U.S. officials started turning migrants away before they could even reach the U.S. side of the bridge, telling them ports of entry were full. On one bridge, U.S. Customs and Border Protection even erected a physical structure on the invisible line between the two countries. But after asylum-seekers started camping out on the Mexican side of the bridges — sometimes sleeping on cardboard for days at a time — Mexican officials began blocking Central American migrants from entering those bridges at all.
“Before, if someone was illegally on the border, and there was a suspicion that they were going to leave the country, [Mexican immigration officials] would turn a blind eye,” said Isauro Rodríguez, an immigration lawyer based in Reynosa. “Now, they’re actually clamping down as hard as they do in other parts of Mexico.”
Advocates and lawyers on both sides of the border have various theories as to why Mexican officials are suddenly cracking down on asylum-seekers. Some believe the Mexican government is trying to save face politically, as U.S. officials question why Mexico isn’t doing more to stem the northern flow. Others argue Mexican immigration authorities are under the thumb of cartels, which want to force migrants into costly smuggling rings.
Rochelle Garza, a lawyer based in Brownsville, has filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asking for Ingrid and a dozen others in similar situations to be allowed to cross international bridges to seek asylum. The migrants have a right to leave Mexico and the right to seek asylum in the United States, she said, and neither country is cooperating.
Mexican migration officials declined to comment for this story.
But Hector Hugo Alemán Pacheco, an official with Mexico’s National Institute of Migration, said in a letter responding to inquiries from lawyers that allowing immigrants free entry across the bridge into the United States would mean telling Mexican migration authorities to ignore their mandated responsibilities.
“Individuals who enter or exit national territory must do so complying with immigration law and its regulations,” he said, “with intervention from migration officials.”
The petition Garza filed with the human rights commission accuses U.S. officials of asking their Mexican counterparts to ramp up enforcement. An affidavit signed by Jennifer Harbury, a Mercedes-based lawyer who accompanied Ingrid onto the Hidalgo bridge twice, said she was told by Mexican officials that the U.S. Border Patrol had instructed them to apprehend migrants. She said in some instances, Central American asylum-seekers reached the midpoint of bridges, only to be stopped by U.S. officials and told to sit down on the Mexican side. Then, Mexican officials would arrive to question the migrants.
A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection declined to comment for this story, instead pointing to previous statements that say the agency is “not denying or discouraging” migrants from seeking asylum: “Depending upon port circumstances at the time of arrival, individuals presenting without documents may need to wait in Mexico as CBP officers work to process those already within our facilities.”
The increased immigration enforcement by Mexico means it’s becoming increasingly difficult for asylum-seekers like Ingrid to ask for asylum the “right” way — by crossing into the United States at an official port of entry.
She could stay on the Mexican side of bridge, hoping for another chance to cross. But Mexican officials could apprehend her for loitering in a federally controlled area.
She could pay a smuggler to take her across the Rio Grande illegally. But Ingrid doesn’t have the money.
It’s even riskier for migrants who — unlike Ingrid — are in Mexico illegally and could be deported at any time. Rodriguez, the Reynosa lawyer, said while migrants can theoretically appear before a Mexican judge to ask for an amparo, a kind of temporary reprieve from deportation, costly legal fees prevent them from doing it.
“What other choice do these individuals have if they’re being forced back into Mexico, where they’re being picked up by cartel members, where they’re being extorted?” asked Garza, the Brownsville lawyer.
Editor’s note: The Texas Tribune and TIME have partnered to closely track the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. This story is not available for republishing by a national news organization until Oct. 12 at 6 a.m. Texas news organizations may run it at any time. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is frustrating, at best: According to the latest tally, more than 400 kids separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border remain separated from their parents. More than 300 parents of those kids are now in their home countries, and 199 of them waived reunification.
Remember when this issue rose to the top of the news? That was so many headlines ago.
And yet, the problem persists.
What started with the “zero tolerance” policy at the border — a stepped-up enforcement program that resulted, among other things, in separations of migrants and their children — has evolved into an interminable, expensive and embarrassing demonstration of immigration bureaucracy at its worst.
The latest filings from the lawyers for the government and for the people suing them — the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU — say 416 kids are “children remaining in care where the adult associated with the child is not eligible for reunification or is not available for discharge at this time.”
Some of the kids aren’t going to be reunified: 199 adults have “indicated desire against reunification.” That’s not broken down to show how many kids that would involve, but if you do the math, it’s a minimum of 100. The accounting started with 2,654 children, including 103 under the age of five. The latest numbers include 14 toddlers among the 416 kids who remain unconnected to their parents.
The adults are scattered: 304 are presently outside the U.S.; nine are in federal, state or local custody; 34 are “red-flagged” either for background checks or for safety or well-being of the children.
More than 15 percent of the kids in the initial cohort are still under the care of the federal government. Here’s a measure of the progress they’re making; between the latest report and the report from the week before, authorities discharged 24 kids from the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s care. Two dozen.
The rest are getting food, shelter, clothing and schooling — though the state of Texas says it will not fund two public charter schools that are located in federally funded shelters and are educating migrant children who entered the U.S. without adults or who were separated at the border from their families. State officials say the cost of educating those kids should be borne by the federal government.
Wouldn’t it be something if government officials responded to reuniting kids with their migrant parents as quickly as they pop off about the latest tennis shoe commercial? Politicians — who’ve been altogether silent about messes like an immigration policy and practice that seem incoherent and illogical to both conservatives and liberals — suddenly pipe up when something worthy of a midafternoon cable TV debate arises.
Real policy is hard. Sorting out the separated families is a straight-up demonstration of how slowly real problems get worked out. Federal immigration officials backed off the zero-tolerance policy when the family separations accelerated; President Trump signed an executive order in June to end the policy altogether.
Cleaning up has taken longer. Adults were deported before the connections between parents and children were sorted out. What was supposed to be a policy aimed at unlawful entries into the U.S. snared some who lawfully presented themselves to U.S. authorities as asylum seekers, according to court testimony.
And now, the U.S. finds itself the caretaker and guardian of more than 400 kids, many of whom will never be reunited with their families. The people looking for tighter borders weren’t seeking this outcome. The people who’d like looser restrictions on immigrants weren’t either. It’s a failure.
It’s not a fresh problem anymore. That sometimes has the effect of moving something noteworthy out of the headlines, as fresher noteworthy things happen. For all of that, it’s the same problem it was — or worse, since the separations have persisted — at the beginning of the summer. It’s just harder to get a government to clean up a mess as quickly as it can make one.
The Texas Tribune June 21, 2018NewsComments Off on Pentagon Asked to Make Room for 20,000 Migrant Children on Military Bases
The Trump administration is considering housing up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on military bases in coming months, according to lawmakers and a Defense Department memo obtained by The Washington Post.
In a notification to lawmakers, the Pentagon said officials at Health and Human Services asked whether beds could be provide for children at military installations “for occupancy as early as July through December 31, 2018.”
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, addressed the issue on the Senate floor Thursday morning.
“The Department of Defense has been asked whether it can house 20,000 unaccompanied children between now and the end of the year,” he said. “How will that work? Is it even feasible?”
The plan would seemingly have similarities to 2014, when the Obama administration housed about 7,000 unaccompanied children on three military bases. The Pentagon, in its congressional notification to lawmakers, said it must determine if it “possesses these capabilities.” As required under the Economy Act, the memo said, the Defense Department would be reimbursed for all costs incurred.
The sites would be run by HHS employees or contractors working with them, the memo said. They would provide care to the children, “including supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs,” and HHS representatives will be present at each location.
The memo was sent to lawmakers Wednesday after President Donald Trump reversed his administration’s unpopular policy to separate children from their parents as they arrived at the southern U.S. border.
The president’s executive order directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “take all legally available measures” to provide Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen with “any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families,” and the construction of new facilities “if necessary and consistent with law.”
Lt. Col. Jamie Davis acknowledged Thursday that the Pentagon received the request, and said the department is reviewing it.
The Trump administration spent months planning, testing and defending its family separation system at the border, taking more than 2,500 children from their parents in the six weeks prior to the president’s executive order Wednesday bringing it to a halt.
The U.S. government has been examining for weeks whether it can use military bases to house migrant children. Representatives from HHS visited three bases in Texas – Fort Bliss, Dyess Air Force Base and Goodfellow Air Force Base – last week to review their facilities for suitability, and were scheduled to review Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas on Wednesday, Davis said.
The Obama administration temporarily set up temporary centers in 2014 at three U.S. military bases: Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and Naval Base Ventura in California.
Asked about the possibility of military bases being involved again, Mattis said Wednesday that the Defense Department would “see what they come up with” in HHS, and that the Pentagon will “respond if requested.”
Mattis dismissed concerns about housing migrants on military bases now, noting that the Defense Department has done it on several occasions and for several reasons.
“We have housed refugees,” he said. “We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes. We do whatever is in the best interest of the country.”
The secretary, pressed on the sensitivities of the Trump administration separating children from their parents, said reporters would need to ask “the people responsible for it.”
“I’m not going to chime in from the outside,” he said. “There’s people responsible for it. Secretary Nielsen, obviously, maintains close collaboration with us. You saw that when we deployed certain National Guard units there, so she’s in charge.”
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-California, the leading members of the armed services committees, wrote a letter to Mattis on Wednesday requesting assurances that members of Congress would have access to any migrant facility established on a military base. The letter, sent before Trump dropped his family-separation policy at the border, said that it was essential to have access even in cases where only short notice is provided.
Mattis has approved temporarily detailing 21 military attorneys to the Justice Department to help with the glut of immigration cases that have emerged on the border. The order, issued earlier this month, calls for 21 attorneys with criminal-trial experience to assist as special assistant U.S. attorneys for 179 days, Davis said. They will help in prosecuting border immigration cases, he added, “with a focus on misdemeanor improper entry and felony illegal reentry cases.”
The possibility was raised in a congressional hearing in May, and first reported as underway by MSNBC on Wednesday night. U.S. law permits a judge advocate lawyer to be assigned or detailed to another agency, including to provide representation in civil and criminal cases.
Authors: DAN LAMOTHE, NICK MIROFF AND SEUNG MIN KIM, THE WASHINGTON POST
The Texas Tribune June 20, 2018Regional NewsComments Off on Gov. Abbott Urges Congressional Action on Separated Immigrant Families: “This disgraceful condition must end.”
Gov. Greg Abbott is asking Texans in Congress to take bipartisan action to address the crisis of thousands of immigrant children being separated from their parents.
“This disgraceful condition must end; and it can only end with action by Congress to reform the broken immigration system,” he wrote in a letter to all members of the Texas delegation, including Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.
Abbott called family separations, which are the result of a Trump administration policy announced earlier this year, “tragic and heartrending.” But he also called the separations the “latest calamity children suffer because of a broken U.S. border” — and urged members to “seize” the opportunity to work across the aisle and finally fix the problem.
“Texans are not fooled by the partisan divide on this issue,” Abbott wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Texas Tribune. “They know that even if all Republicans agree, a bill fixing the problem will not pass without Democrat support in the Senate.”
“Texans, and Americans, need our delegation, both Republicans and Democrats, to lead Congress in ending the rhetoric and ensuring results,” Abbott added. “Time spent talking to microphones is time lost talking to members about solutions. You sought your office to do big things. This is your moment. Seize it.”
The letter comes a few days after Abbott’s initial comments on the family separation crisis. In an interview that aired Sunday on Dallas TV, Abbott called the separations “horrible” and said they “rip everybody’s heart apart.” Abbott also echoed President Donald Trump’s criticism of Democrats for not coming to the negotiable table to deal with the separations, even though Trump has the power to end it himself.
Other Texas Republicans have made that point, including GOP House Speaker Joe Straus. The retiring speaker sent a letter to Trump on Tuesday saying “there is no need to wait for Congress to act” and the president should rescind the policy himself.
Since his television interview, Abbott has gotten pressure from Democrats to speak out against the policy. Among them has been Lupe Valdez, Abbott’s Democratic opponent, who issued a statement Tuesday accusing the governor of having “silently condoned this inhumanity.”
“A humanitarian crisis is developing in our state,” the former Dallas County sheriff said, “and our Governor refuses to act.”
The number of families caught entering the country illegally at the southwest border in May increased sixfold compared with the same month in 2017. But despite that increase, some of Texas’ historically busiest areas for illegal crossings have seen an overall decrease this fiscal year.
The number of family units who were apprehended or turned themselves in to border agents on the southwest border from October 2017 to May was 59,113, according to statistics released Wednesday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That represents a slight decrease from the 61,809 apprehended during the same time frame in the federal government’s 2017 fiscal year, which runs from October to September.
The statistics come during a nationwide outcry from Democrats and immigrant rights groups over a recently adopted policy where parents caught crossing illegally en route to seek asylum are incarcerated and separated from their minor children. The family separations have prompted a class-action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The statistics show that the overall figures in family unit apprehensions represent a drop in Texas’s busiest border sectors during the same time-frame comparison: The Big Bend and Del Rio sectors of the U.S. Border Patrol recorded a 19 and 24 percent drop, respectively, while the El Paso, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley sectors saw a drop of 36, 48 and 10 percent.
The figures for May, however, show a surge in family unit apprehensions across the southwest border. Last month, 9,485 family units were caught or turned themselves in, compared with 1,580 in May 2017. The El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors saw significant increases in May: In 2017 agents recorded 166 and 973 family unit apprehensions, respectively. That’s compared to 898 and 6,630 last month.
The Department of Homeland Security said the figures justify the recent deployment of the National Guard to the area, the push for a border wall and the need for Congress to close “loopholes” in immigration laws that prompt asylum seekers to enter the country illegally.
“These numbers show that while the Trump administration is restoring the rule of law, it will take a sustained effort and continuous commitment of resources over many months to disrupt cartels, smugglers, and nefarious actors,” DHS press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement. “We are taking action and will be referring and then prosecuting 100 percent of illegal border crossers, we are building the first new border wall in a decade, and we have deployed the National Guard to the border.”
The number of unaccompanied children trying to enter the country has increased slightly during the current fiscal year. From October 2017 to May of this year, 32,372 were encountered by border agents, compared to 2017’s 31,063. Those figures represent a 4 percent increase. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, that figure shows a 22 percent decrease, though the Big Bend, El Paso and Laredo sectors saw increases of 78, 9 and 48 percent during the same time frame.
Staff Report July 27, 2017NewsComments Off on El Paso Bishop Seitz to Hold Memorial Mass for Migrant Victims
The Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, Bishop of El Paso will be holding a memorial mass Friday afternoon for the migrants who drowned trying to cross into the U.S. illegally.
The mass, to be held at 2 p.m. at Sacred Heart Church, comes on the heels of the recent deaths of several immigrants who drowned in the river during the course of the week. Bishop Seitz also makes reference to the recent death of ten immigrants found in a sweltering trailer in San Antonio.
Below is the full statement about he mass from Bishop Seitz:
Silence. Prayer. Action. These seem to be the only responses to the death of four of our brothers and sisters in El Paso’s Rio Grande this week. Among them, a 14-year-old girl, a 20-year-old woman and a 17-year old boy. Their eyes closed and their breath forever quenched. We must reflect in grave silence. We must offer the Church’s ancient prayer for the dead.
And in the words of my brother bishop, Gustavo, the Archbishop of San Antonio, following the murder of 10 migrants trafficked liked cargo last week in San Antonio, we must “work together in new ways which have eluded us in the past for common sense solutions.
No more delays! No more victims! Enough death!
WHAT: Memorial mass to pray for recent migrant drowning victims and to pray for change. WHERE: Sacred Heart Church, 602 S. Oregon Street WHEN: Friday, July 28 at 2pm Memorial Mass