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Home | Tag Archives: trump’s border policy

Tag Archives: trump’s border policy

Program offering legal help to asylum seekers stuck in Mexico launches in El Paso and Juárez

CIUDAD JUÁREZ – Nicolas Palazzo can’t clone himself. And even if he could, it would still be impossible for the El Paso-based immigration attorney to provide legal services to the thousands of migrants waiting in the border city for their asylum hearings in the United States.

“Each time I travel to Juárez and cross the bridge, every day I am asked ‘Mr. attorney can you help me? Can you help me?’” he said in Spanish. “And I don’t have the ability to be able to offer [all] of them legal services.”

Palazzo and his team at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center hope that’s about to change with the launch of a pilot program that seeks to provide asylum seekers access to legal counsel via teleconferencing.

The project, called Puentes Libres, will offer asylum seekers access to computers at the municipal offices in Ciudad Juárez where they will be able to submit information about their cases, which will be reviewed by attorneys in the United States.

The project is part of what Palazzo described as a team effort between Las Americas, the Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Ciudad Juárez Mayor Armando Cabada and state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso.

Since last year, after the launch of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, also called Remain in Mexico, more than 16,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Ciudad Juárez while they wait for their court hearings. Palazzo said fewer than 2% of those migrants have access to an attorney.

“The idea of using technology is critical,” he said. “I hope that the idea isn’t just to offer legal service to the people who need it. The idea is also to give a voice to people who are under this program.”

The computers, 50 in total, were donated by the New York-based Hispanic Federation, which has donated more than $300,000 to efforts aiding migrants so far.

“Because of the MPP. We had to do something different to help serve the legal needs of the migrant communities,” said Brent A. Wilkes, the federation’s senior vice president for institutional development. “We said all right that’s something we can take on.”

The program’s proponents know they won’t see a sea change overnight — lawyers need to be recruited and many of them will need to be given a crash course on immigration law if it’s not already their specialty.

“It’s definitely not easy and it’s something we’ve given a lot of thought to,” said Linda Rivas, managing attorney at Las Americas. “The ideal pro bono volunteer is someone with immigration experience and it’s somebody bilingual or that can provide their own interpreter.”

But the benefits outweigh the challenges, Rivas added. Even if volunteer attorneys need training, they’ll still be able to make some progress in a system where asylum seekers’ chances of obtaining protections increase exponentially if they have representation. In fiscal year 2017, the chances of obtaining asylum were five times greater for those who had an attorney, according to the National Immigration Forum.

The program will also offer migrants a chance to describe what it’s like to be in the MPP program, Rivas and Palazzo said. Lawyers and human rights groups have documented the alleged crimes committed against migrants, which attorneys say are downplayed by American immigration officials.

Last summer, Human Rights Watch documented firsthand accounts of violence experienced by asylum seekers in Mexico, including the rape of a 20-year old Honduran woman who was told her 4-year old son would be killed if she screamed for help and a 21-year old Salvadoran man who was stabbed and told local police would not help him because he wasn’t a Mexican citizen.

“The people in the United States, the attorneys, the students, they want to offer help but they also want to know what’s going on and my hope is that creating these sources, these bridges, they’ll also learn about their situations,” Palazzo said.

Rodríguez, who is a former county attorney and is not running for reelection in the state Senate, said he’s going to sign up for the program. He hopes to see the program expand past the Ciudad Juárez – El Paso area.

“We aim, once again, to find a local solution to a draconian federal regime that insists on punishing migrants, including those fleeing persecution and violence, at every opportunity,” he said.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Private group must stop building border wall in South Texas, judge says in temporary order

For nearly a year, allies of President Trump ignored seemingly every obstacle that might keep their right-wing group from building a crowdfunded wall at multiple points along the U.S.-Mexico border.

They didn’t get permits in advance. They refused government orders to stop and study their engineering. And on the banks of the Rio Grande, they began bulldozing land where, true to their group’s name — “We Build the Wall” — they plan to erect more than three miles of 18-foot steel fencing.

But a Texas judge on Tuesday issued what may be the strongest rebuke yet to the group, which is led by Stephen K. Bannon, ordering it to temporarily halt all construction because of possible harm to a nearby nature preserve.

State District Judge Keno Vasquez, of Hidalgo County, ruled that the National Butterfly Center, a 100-acre riverfront preserve in Mission, could face “imminent and irreparable harm” if We Build the Wall continues with plans to erect a “water wall” between the nature refuge and a state park.

Javier Peña, a lawyer for the butterfly center, told The Washington Post the wall could act as a dam that would redirect floodwater to the sanctuary — a popular spot for school groups and birders — and wipe out its vegetation, thus destroying the site or reducing its property value.

“You can do almost anything with your property. But what you can’t do is hurt other people’s property,” he said. “For these guys to come down and use fear and hate to destroy it [the center] for their personal gain — that’s what troubles us.”

Yet the Florida group, and its founder, outspoken military veteran Brian Kolfage, may be barreling forward anyway.

“We have many people who try to stop us legally with silly attempts, and in the end we always prevail,” Kolfage said in an email to The Post. “I would put a 50/50 chance this is fake news, and if it’s not it will be crushed legally pretty fast.”

In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday evening, the group’s project manager — a man in a hard-hat identified only as “Foreman Mike” — said a mile and a half of land had been cleared beside the river, and steel bollards and panels would be installed within 48 hours.

“We’re going to be putting this up,” he said, asking for more donations, while pledging to have the whole project complete by Jan. 15, 2020. “We have to supercharge it now. It’s time to get really moving.”

Kolfage, a triple amputee in Florida who received a Purple Heart for his service in Iraq, first went viral last December, when he launched a GoFundMe looking to crowdfund $1 billion to privately build Trump’s border wall.

As he raised $25 million online, his campaign drew scrutiny about where all that money was going. But Kolfage, who enlisted the likes of Bannon and Kris Kobach to serve on his board, then revealed the group had hired a North Dakota construction firm to erect a half-mile of fencing on private land in Sunland Park, N.M.

In May, the town’s mayor sent We Build the Wall a cease-and-desist letter, seeking to block its construction on private land belonging to a brick company. Days later, though, the construction firm — headed by a major GOP donor and touted by Trump himself — was later allowed to finish carrying out the project.

Over the summer, Kolfage and his group set its sights on South Texas, where they again hired the North Dakota firm to erect a “water wall” on private land along the Rio Grande belonging to a sugar cane farmer.

The U.S. Army Corps typically builds on higher ground along river levees, placing steel bollards far from the ever-shifting curves of a river that has been especially prone to flooding. (The butterfly center has sued the Trump administration over its plans to extend such construction into the protected area, and a circuit court is set to hear arguments later this week.)

Unlike the federal government’s construction, Peña said Kolfage’s plans ignore the possibility of damage to neighboring properties.

“Whether you’re for the wall or against the wall, they [the government] are cognizant of the dangers that construction could cause,” he said. “These guys are just going in there to stoke everyone’s anger and fear, raise money, and then move along to the next victim.”

The International Boundary and Water Commission, a joint U.S.-Mexico agency that issues permits to build along the Rio Grande, asked the group to halt construction, submit an engineering study and remove heavy equipment from the levees, The Post’s Nick Miroff reported. The group appeared to ignore that request.

During that time, Kolfage and the butterfly center erupted into an online flame war. Kolfage accused the center of assisting cartels and partaking in insect smuggling, calling them “left wing thugs with a sham butterfly agenda.” The center took its own jabs at Kolfage on social media, sometimes including the hashtag “#LiarLiarPantsOnFire.”

Then, the butterfly center sued Kolfage and his group. Peña said the preserve’s leaders wanted to conduct a study of the fencing itself, but have been blocked from doing so until the court grants them access to the land being used by We Build the Wall.

“They’re not stopping. They’re not planning on conducting studies. They’re not concerned with what damage it would do to neighboring properties,” he said. “They just want to build the wall.”

The temporary restraining order will last at least until Dec. 17, at which point it can be extended for another two weeks and may then lead to a temporary injunction hearing.

Should Kolfage and his group continue construction anyway, a judge could call them in for a hearing and consider sanctions ranging from monetary fines to jail time, Peña said.

Author: TEO ARMUS, THE WASHINGTON POST  |  Reis Thebault contributed to this report.

Presidential candidate O’Rourke talks immigration, child detention at Clint Border Patrol Station

In the heat of an El Paso June day, approximately 200 protesters gathered to challenge child detention and cheer on presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke.

With cars parked up to a 1/4 mile away and a hoard of press in attendance, local El Paso politicians spoke out against child detention before welcoming O’Rourke.

Roughly five counter-protesters chanted from across the street. When they crossed to be closer, they were met with mostly annoyance.

Their chants of “finish the wall” were met by responses of “we are the wall” from individuals who blocked their approach.

O’Rourke took to the stage, pausing for selfies and handshakes as he snaked through the crowd. “Thank you for bearing witness to what is happening in our name, right now, in the United States of America,” he began.

“The only way this is going to get better, the only way that it is going to change, the only way that you can really be here for these kids is to be here right now for those kids and to share with our fellow Americans just what is being done in our name.”

O’Rourke called the detention of immigrant the largest incarceration of children who had not been convicted of a crime in American history – second only the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

Prior to his arrival at Clint, O’Rourke and his team visited with families at Casa Del Migrante, the largest shelter for migrants in Juarez.

There they spoke to families and individuals who had been sent to Mexico to await their court date, including a 19-year-old woman who was separated from her parents and younger siblings.

Of the experience, O’Rourke shared “We met people, our fellow human beings, who are leaving some of the most horrific conditions that you can imagine.

The O’Rourke campaign released a statement yesterday, reading, “Earlier this year, O’Rourke released a sweeping immigration plan to immediately end family separation and reunite those already separated, protect asylum seekers, create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people and make naturalization easier for 9 million eligible immigrants, establish a first-of-its-kind community-based visa, and only require detention for those with criminal backgrounds who represent a danger to our communities. His plan would also more than double U.S. investment in Central America to address the violence and instability in the Northern Triangle driving so many families to flee.”

Author and Photos by – Jordyn Rozensky / Frontera Studio – El Paso Herald Post

People want to donate diapers, toys to children at Border Patrol facilities in Texas. They’re being turned away.

On Sunday, Austin Savage and five of his friends huddled into an SUV and went to an El Paso Target, loading up on diapers, wipes, soaps and toys.

About $340 later, the group headed to a Border Patrol facility holding migrant children in nearby Clint with the goal of donating their goods. Savage said he and his friends had read an article from The New York Times detailing chaos, sickness and filth in the overcrowded facility, and they wanted to help.

But when they arrived, they found that the lobby was closed. The few Border Patrol agents — Savage said there were between eight and 10 of them — moving in and out of a parking facility ignored them.

For a while, the group stood there dumbfounded about what to do next. Ultimately, they decided to pack up and head home. Savage said he wasn’t completely surprised by the rejection; before he left, the group spotted a discarded plastic bag near the lobby door holding toothpaste and soap that had a note attached to it: “I heard y’all need soap + toothpaste for kids.”

Courtesy of Armando Martinez Photography

“A good friend of mine is an immigration attorney, and he warned us that we were going to get rejected,” Savage said. “We were aware of that, but it’s just the idea of doing something as opposed to passively allowing this to occur.”

Border Patrol facilities are only supposed to hold detained migrants for a short period of time, until they are processed. But an influx of migrants along the southwest border has stretched facilities in places like Clint and McAllen beyond capacity, leading to what people who have visited them have called unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

A slew of other sympathetic people, advocacy groups and lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have expressed a desire to lend a hand to the kids housed in the facilities. But after purchasing items like toys, soap, toothbrushes, diapers and medicine — especially as news reports circulate of facilities having drinking water that tastes like bleach and sick children without enough clothing — they’ve been met with a common message: No donations are being accepted.

“It makes me feel powerless knowing there’s children taking care of toddlers and little kids,” said Gabriel Acuña, who grew up in Clint and attempted to visit the facility in his hometown Sunday morning. “Knowing what’s happening in your community and that you can’t give these kids supplies to clean or clothe themselves — it’s heartbreaking.

“For God’s sake, they’re kids, man.”

The substandard living conditions have been described in great detail over the past few weeks. Last week, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice argued in court that the government shouldn’t be required to give migrant children inside Border Patrol detention facilities toothbrushes, soap, towels or showers.

Most have assigned blame for the substandard living conditions to federal officials who are unsure of how to handle the influx of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. The surge has also overwhelmed facilities and led to serious health and safety risks for those sheltered in them. Some kids and teens have spent nearly a month without adequate food or water. Nearly a dozen others in a McAllen facilitywere sick with the flu.

Democratic state Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg tweeted this weekend that he wrote to Border Patrol asking for a list of acceptable items to donate. He said officials told his office by email they do not accept donations. An official with Border Patrol did not respond to a request for comment.

“The whole situation is disgusting, but I’m always hopeful that the better part of us as human beings will shine through,” said Canales, whose district neighbors the McAllen facility. “Those children feel like the world has given up on them, and we have to fight for them.”

Canales said he had a conference call Monday morning with Rodolfo Karisch, U.S. Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector chief, and had a “short but productive conservation” about the living conditions for kids being held in processing facilities.

“These kids are being underserved, and they’re not getting what they need,” Canales said. “We discussed diapers, hygiene products, and I pressed upon him that from a PR perspective that it looks terrible we’re not meeting their needs and they’re not accepting donations from the public.

“He, to some extent, agreed with me and said he would get back with me and see how we can collaborate,” he said. “So the lines of communication are open.”

Acuña, who attempted to donate bars of soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste from a local Dollar Tree this weekend, said a lot of people have reached out to him after he publicized his encounter at the Clint facility. He said he is working to get in contact with town leadership to come up with a plan of action moving forward.

“If the government isn’t going to do anything, then let the community help and do something for these kids,” Acuña said.

Savage, meanwhile, plans to visit the same Clint facility Monday with the same diapers, wipes, soaps and toys. He’s going with low expectations — especially since a number of kids have been moved from the facility after reports of poor living conditions.

“We imagine they will reject it,” he said.

If they do, he plans to turn to local organizations, such as the Annunciation House, that are housing families that Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained and separated on the El Paso-Juarez border. (Click here to see how you can help children detained along the border).

“In an ideal world, the facility would accept it, so we’re going to ask with all sincerity that they do,” Savage said. “Hopefully they say yes, but we want to show that these are not circumstances preventing these children from being taken care of, but a policy.

“Even if we get rejected,” he said, “at least we made the effort.”

A Border Patrol substation in Clint where young migrant children were being held. Ivan Pierre Aguirre

Author: ALEX SAMUELS – The Texas Tribune

Report: Hundreds of migrant children held in Texas without proper food, water or medical attention

A group of 250 infants, children and teens has reportedly spent 27 days without adequate food, water and sanitation at a U.S. Border Patrol facility near El Paso, according to the Associated Press.

Several attorneys who visited the station said they found at least 15 children sick with the flu, some of whom were being kept in medical quarantine. They described seeing a sick and diaper-less 2-year-old boy whose “shirt was smeared in mucus.” Three girls, from the ages of 10 to 15, were taking turns watching him.

The allegedly dangerous and unsanitary conditions reported from inside the El Paso-area shelter are just some of the many accusations that have surfaced from detention facilities in recent months.

In June, the Office of Inspector General released a report detailing concerns about detainee treatment at four Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities across the country.

Inspectors found nooses in cells, expired food and inadequate medical care in California, New Jersey, Louisiana and Colorado.

“These are not independent, isolated incidents,” Fernando Garcia, the executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, told The Texas Tribune late Thursday. “These are part of a major strategy that is violating the rights of children and families.”

Author: RIANE ROLDAN –  The Texas Tribune

Read related Tribune coverage

El Paso Sector Border Patrol Agents apprehend 2,200 on Memorial Day

While the nation paused to reflect during Memorial Day, Border Patrol Agents were busy taking  more than 2,200 migrants who entered the country illegally into custody.

According to Border Patrol officials, Memorial Day was the busiest recent day of enforcement activity for El Paso Sector Border Patrol Agents during the ongoing influx.

The 2,200 apprehensions included two large groups and many smaller ones. 

 The busy day began in the boot heel of New Mexico with a large group of over 200 illegal aliens apprehended near the Antelope Wells Port of Entry just after 2 a.m.   

 A second group, which officials say was one of the largest processed in El Paso Sector thus far with over 430 people. This group crossed the border just west of Bowie High School at around 7 a.m.   

Group at Antelope Wells | Photo courtesy Border Patrol

By the end of the day, the El Paso Sector Agents had apprehended over 2,200 migrants, with 1,850 of those being taken into custody in the geographic area between Executive Boulevard and Midway Street in El Paso.  

“U.S. Border Patrol Agents continue to deal with this influx of illegal aliens entering our country with no respect for our immigration laws,” the emailed statement from Border Patrol officials read.  “This fiscal year to date the El Paso Sector has arrested over 130 thousand illegal aliens, compared to over 16,000 during the same time last fiscal year.  The numbers continue to rise and agents see no end in sight for this current situation.

Officials added that the groups were comprised of mostly Central American families and unaccompanied children.

All were taken into custody for processing to include initial medical screenings;  they will then remain in U.S. Border Patrol custody until they are processed accordingly. 

Temporary immigration detention facilities to open in El Paso, Rio Grande Valley

El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley are less than two weeks away from the scheduled opening of temporary detention centers that will each house up to 500 migrants who have crossed the border to seek asylum.

The facilities, commonly referred to as a “tent cities,” are the federal government’s response to the ongoing crush of migrants, mainly from Central America, who continue to cross into Texas after traveling through Mexico.

“U.S. Customs & Border Protection urgently needs to provide for additional shelter capacity to accommodate individuals in CBP’s custody throughout the southwest border,” CBP said in a written statement. “The overwhelming number of individuals arriving daily to the U.S. has created an immediate need for additional processing space in El Paso, Texas and Donna, Texas.”

On Thursday, a U.S. Border Patrol official who asked not to be named said the facility would likely be at the agency’s station in northeast El Paso near U.S. Highway 54. Bulldozers and tractors with flattening rollers could be seen Thursday at the site, which also included five small, military-style tents used to house migrants. The CBP office in El Paso would not confirm that the station would be the location of the new facility.

The federal government’s solicitation for vendors names Deployed Resources of Rome, New York, as the company the government is in negotiations with to supply kitchen equipment, showers, laundries, bathrooms and office space. The solicitation says the government only plans to negotiate with one company “because the facilities need to be established by April 30, 2019.” The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the contract.

The two facilities will cost about $37.2 million through the end of the year, according to federal documents.

The opening of the new facilities would come just more than three months after the Trump administration shut down a similar facility in nearby Tornillo, about 20 miles east of the El Paso city limits. That facility was erected in June and housed hundreds of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border to seek asylum.

Temporary facilities have been used for years to house undocumented immigrants when U.S. Border Patrol facilities are beyond their capacity to shelter migrants. The Obama administration opened a temporary facility at San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force base in 2014 in response to a surge of unaccompanied minors who had crossed the border. And in 2016, a facility opened at the Tornillo site in response to another surge of unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border, the El Paso Times reported.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Trump backs off threat to close southern border immediately, says he’ll give Mexico ‘one-year warning’ on drugs, migrants

President Trump on Thursday backed down from his threat to close the southern border immediately, telling reporters at the White House that he is giving Mexico a “one-year warning” before taking action.

Trump had said he would close the border or at least large sections of it, this week if Mexico does not halt illegal immigration into the United States.

But in Thursday’s exchange with reporters, Trump shifted gears, saying that if Mexico does not make progress on stemming the flow of drugs and migrants into the United States within the next year, he will impose tariffs on cars and close the border.

“We’re going to give them a one-year warning, and if the drugs don’t stop or largely stop, we’re going to put tariffs on Mexico and products, particularly cars . . . And if that doesn’t stop the drugs, we close the border,” Trump said.


Op-Ed: Paychecks or Humanity?

I cross the international border between Cd. Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas about 4 times a week. I am amongst the thousands of transnational fronterizxs that live their life crossing the frontera as part of their weekly routine.

I cross over there easily to enjoy what I call the homeland. My veins bleed proud Mexican blood that was passed onto me by my parents.

When I cross back, I am questioned as to why I was in Juarez and my answer is always the same, because it’s my second home. I detest Border Patrol; the migra that instills fear into so many people.

Now, I’m often antagonized when I share my opinions about Border Patrol and ICE. People will argue that those people who work for these government sectors are simply people, like you and I, who are trying to make a living.

I think it’s important to note that I am in no way trying to dehumanize these men and women who work for CBP and ICE. But I also find that the attempt to separate these humans from the accountability of their actions is problematic.

At this very moment, there are men, women and children in cages like animals. They spent days outside, underneath a bridge exposed to whatever the climate was. It was reported that children had bruises on their bodies from sleeping on the floor on top of rocks.

Whether or not Border Patrol agents “signed up” to do this when they applied for the job, they did it and they continue to get paid to do it. This makes every single man and woman who works for Border Patrol guilty of accepting paychecks for executing the inhumane treatment of migrant men, women and children.

I’ve had this conversation with both those who agree with me and those who disagree, and it seems like the argument I’ve come across the most is that these people who work for this government or this current administration need to feed their own families and thus have no choice.

If we can make this argument for these modern oppressive structures, can we not make them for say, Nazi soldiers and SS officers?

It can be argued that it is unlikely that EVERY SINGLE NAZI shared Adolf Hitlers’ dream of a “pure Germany,” but does that erase the damage that was done by every single Nazi that helped exterminate 6 million Jews?

How do we separate the inherently racist jobs that people do from the person who does them?

The answer is simple. We don’t.

If the humanity of others can be erased by a paycheck, then you are part of a broken system and you should and will be held accountable for the evil actions that you enact.

Border Patrol and ICE are organizations that’s entire existence is dependent on racist and xenophobic policies.

These conversations are uncomfortable for many people because we don’t want to think of our Tio in CBP or father in ICE as racist or xenophobic. And maybe they’re not blatantly so.

But when they put on a badge and drag children into cages, they are fueling a system that sees citizenship as a dealbreaker for treating someone as a human being that deserves respect and THAT is xenophobic. When an organization specifically targets folx with brown skin while simultaneously ignoring migrants from other countries (that are white), that IS racist.

There will be accountability.

Revolution is coming and it will remember the monsters who “did their job” and ignored morality.

Guest Contributor: Chandelier Kahlo  |  Previous Columns HERE


The El Paso Herald-Post welcomes all 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

Texas Republicans warn Trump about ramifications of closing U.S.-Mexico border

As President Donald Trump threatens to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border, some of the highest-ranking Texans from within his own party are warning about the consequences of doing so.

“Closing the border to legal commerce would be devastating to Texas,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a statement Wednesday evening. “Millions of jobs, in Texas and across the country, depend upon trade with Mexico, and the federal government shouldn’t do anything to jeopardize those jobs.”

Trump recently threatened to close the border — or large sections of it — this week if Mexico didn’t “immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States.” While Trump has since eased up on the threat, it was enough to set off alarms in Texas, particularly in the business community.

The Texas Association of Business said Monday that one in five jobs in the state is dependent upon trade and that “no group stands to lose more than Texans in communities” along the border such as El Paso and Laredo. The business group pressed state leaders to speak out — and it was clear by Wednesday evening that some of them had gotten the message.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken with Trump on the phone about the issue.

“I told him that I understand his frustration, but I also believe shutting down the border would have a lot of unintended consequences,” Cornyn said. He added that he “asked the president to let me work with this administration to come up with more targeted ways to encourage Mexico and Central America to work more cooperatively with us.”

Asked what Trump’s reaction was, Cornyn said the president was “responsive” and told the senator to talk with Cabinet members.

Even Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — Trump’s biggest cheerleader in Texas, particularly when it comes to his immigration policies — made clear he opposed a border closure. The Texas Senate, which Patrick presides over, passed a resolution Tuesday along party lines that declared an emergency at the border.

“I’m not for shutting the entire border,” Patrick said in an interview Wednesday morning with Fox News Radio. “The commerce would dramatically impact Texas, America and Mexico. I’d like to see the commercial lanes flow.”

Still, like other Republicans, Patrick sympathized with Trump’s frustrations — and offered one solution.

“Maybe he needs to send a message and close one port, one entry point,” Patrick said.

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Trump’s emergency declaration could mean Texas’ military installations lose millions for future projects

Texas’ largest military bases could lose tens of millions of dollars already earmarked for future projects if President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a border barrier withstands legal challenges and the administration diverts money from the military for wall construction.

The bases include U.S. Army and Air Force installations at Joint Base San Antonio, Army installations at Fort Bliss in El Paso and Fort Hood in Killeen, and the Naval Reserve center in Galveston, according to the office of U.S. Rep Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

In all, about $265 million for construction and other projects on military bases in Texas could be diverted to build walls on the southern border, according to a list of potential projects the Department of Defense released to lawmakers Monday.

The president signed his emergency declaration after a five-week government shutdown spurred when Congress refused to approve $5.7 billion that Trump requested for border barriers. The president issued a national emergency declaration last month that would divert billions in defense spending to construct the barriers. The U.S. House and Senate voted recently to oppose the declaration, but the president vetoed the measure.

“After failing to convince the Government of Mexico or U.S. Congress to pay for his ineffective wall, the President is trying to bypass constitutional authority and undermine the training, readiness, and quality of life of our military and their families in Texas,” Cuellar said in a written statement.

Joint Base San Antonio could lose about $10 million for an air traffic control tower, $10 million for an aerospace operations facility, $38 million for a military training classroom and dining hall, and more than $13 million for a vehicle maintenance shop. Fort Bliss could lose $20 million for defense access roads, more than $8 million for a blood processing center and $24 million for supply support.

At least seven lawsuits have been filed to halt any wall construction under the emergency declaration, including litigation filed by El Paso County and the Laredo-based Rio Grande International Study Center.

“It’s clear that @realDonaldTrump’s political stunt only hurts our troops and endangers our national security. This must end!” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D- El Paso, tweeted Monday after learning about the potential cuts.

It’s not clear which projects will be chosen or when that decision will be made. The Department of Defense noted that construction projects already awarded and other projects awarded during the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, won’t be affected. If money for a border wall is included in the next federal budget, none of the projects listed will be affected, the fact sheet states.

The Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Cuellar’s statements.

Author: JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Tornillo Tent City for Youth Migrants is Now Empty, Texas Congressman Says

A Texas congressman said Friday that the federal government has officially removed all children from the Tornillo detention center for undocumented migrant youths, ending more than half a year of operation for a facility that was decried by critics as a “tent city” and served as a symbol of President Donald Trump’s hardline approach to immigration.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican whose West Texas district includes Tornillo, announced the closure on Twitter, saying he had been told about it by the facility’s management.

“This tent city should never have stood in the first place, but it is welcome news that it will be gone,” Hurd said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the center, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The hasty closure comes after Texas-based contractor BCFS Health and Human Services and the federal government originally signed a 30-day contract to operate the facility in June. That contract was extended multiple times, despite BCFS officials arguing that the center was not a long-term solution.

The organization’s president, Kevin Dinnin, told Vice News on Friday that he sent the federal government a letter in December saying the facility wouldn’t accept any more children. The government began taking steps to close Tornillo soon after, Vice reported.

“We as an organization finally drew the line,” Dinnin told Vice. “You can’t keep taking children in and not releasing them.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the pending closure this week. As of Tuesday, there were still 850 children being held in the facility. The department said at the time that it expected the vast majority of the children at the facility to be released “to a suitable sponsor by the end of the month.”

At one time, the facility held more than 2,500 children. It has been the site of numerous protests, drawing politicians from across the country to Texas to urge the Trump administration to shut it down.

News of the closure was applauded by many of those politicians, along with immigrant rights groups.

“Tornillo was a symbol of this administration’s deep inhumanity as shown by their willingness to hold tens of thousands of migrant children in detention,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights.

Julian Aguilar contributed reporting.

Author: MATTHEW WATKINS – The Texas Tribune

President Trump to Visit U.S.-Mexico Border Thursday

President Donald Trump is headed to the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced the trip Monday morning, saying Trump will visit the border “to meet with those on the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.”

No additional details were available, including whether Trump would visit the part of the border in Texas. But the Federal Aviation Administration has issued an alert for “VIP movement” near McAllen on Thursday.

Word of Trump’s trip comes more than two weeks into a partial government shutdown prompted by Trump’s demands for funding for a border wall.

Shortly after Sanders announced the visit, Trump tweeted that he would address the nation Tuesday night “on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border.”

Word of Trump’s trip comes more than two weeks into a partial government shutdown prompted by Trump’s demands for funding for a border wall.

Shortly after Sanders announced the visit, Trump tweeted that he would address the nation Tuesday night “on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border.”

After a visit Monday to a Border Patrol station in Alamogordo, New Mexico, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said that if the president did come to Texas, it would be a predictable and self-serving visit to promote his long-promised border wall and fuel his narrative that the border needs to be sealed.

“I am absolutely certain that the president is going to head to South Texas to look at what he wants to look at, to talk to who he wants to talk to,” she said. ”He has a solution that’s already preplanned, that’s the wall. You’re not going to get to true solutions until you talk to various people.”

Escobar and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairman, were part of a delegation that visited the station to press for more details on the death of 8-year old Felipe Gomez Alonzo, a Guatemalan immigrant who died last month after he and his father were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents in El Paso.

Last week, the president said he might consider declaring a national emergency in order for construction of wall to begin without congressional funding.

Anticipating that the president could announce the initiative Tuesday night, members of Congress said they would take every action possible to stop construction before it began.

“It would be profoundly inappropriate for the president of the United States to circumvent the legislative branch of the United States government, the United States Congress, and single-handedly — against the will of the American people and the American Congress — put up a border wall on the US-Mexico border,” said Castro, D-San Antonio.

Patrick Svitek reported from Austin, and Julián Aguilar reported from Alamagordo, New Mexico.


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