Media Visits Artesia, NM Detention Center For Children And Families

There is a slightly more detailed report below from El Diario de El Paso. I believe that the administration thinks it can lock people up and send them back very quickly and that will stop the flow.  It will probably be true even though many of the people coming do have a credible fear of persecution if returned. It is unlikely that the people in these kinds of detention centers will have adequate access to legal counseling and/or representation and thus their deportation will be carried out quickly. Putting these people in prison facilities and shutting them away from media and community humanitarian efforts will help the government to carry out the policy of fast deportation… It is harder to think this process is justified when ordinary people come face to face with the people who make this dangerous journey.

On the other hand, there must not be enough prisons (yet) because some women and children are being released with documents notifying them of their court dates–usually in about a month from the time of their arrest and initial processing.

Volunteer groups in El Paso and Las Cruces continue to provide temporary housing, food, clothing, medical screening and assistance with travel and family reunification continues. “All I see is that here’s a human who needs help,” he said. “They’re just here, so we should help them.” (Leonel Brisen~o, Director of Project Oak Tree, Las Cruces)

Community Pitched In For Weary Immigrants (The Las Cruces Bulletin)

Our Whirlwind Response To Huge Releases Of Migrants (Annunciation House)

DHS Secretary Visits Artesia N.M, Facility; Warns Immigrants ‘We Will Send You Back’ (El Paso Times) 

Deportar Indocumentados En 15 Días, Plan De DHS (El Diario)

Lauren Villagran from the Albuquerque Journal provides some valuable context from immigration attorneys. Also note the restrictions faced by the media at the media event:

“On Friday, ICE provided a tour of unoccupied areas of the Artesian detention center to local and national media. ICE has denied media access to any of the detained migrants at Artesia.”

‘We Will Send You Back': Immigrants Face Deportation As DHS Talks Tough (Albuquerque Journal)

Elite Honduran Unit Works To Stop Flow Of Child Emigrants To U.S…Bortac In Honduras

Excellent report from Cindy Carcamo in Honduras for the LATimes below. She also gave an interview on THE WORLD:

Elite Honduran unit works to stop flow of child emigrants to U.S. (LA Times)

This special security unit went from targeting drug smugglers to spotting unaccompanied kids (The World)

For those who have read Todd Miller’s book, Border Patrol Nation, this story about US trained and funded border police in Honduras will not be a surprise.  I assume that the Obama funding request considers this kind of program in Central America a valuable contribution. There seems to be no awareness in US policy circles about the extreme levels of corruption in the military and police units we supply and train in Mexico and Central America.  Expect more violence–robbery, rape, beatings, extortion–toward the desperate people trying to flee conditions in their countries. But do not expect to see much coverage of it in the US press. -molly

Q & A with Erin Siegal McIntyre

Erin Siegal McIntyre is a photographer who also writes narrative nonfiction, produces for TV and web, and reports for radio. Her work has appeared in the various publications including New Yorker, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and O Magazine. She’s a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, and was a 2012-2013 Soros Media Justice Fellow. Her award-winning book Finding Fernanda was the basis for an hour-long CBS special investigation. She lives in Tijuana.

For more info, visit her website

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Interview by Virginia Isaad

1. Having extensively covered the border, what has been one of the most difficult stories to cover and why?

Difficult can mean various things: a story can be hard technically, hard because of related security concerns, or simply because it’s not sexy enough to place with a media organization. But those kinds of obstacles are regular.

When I think about my three years on the border, covering the narcofosas related to El Pozolero was emotionally challenging. It was a combination of the graphic nature of the discoveries—seeing the actual pipes through which liquefied bodies were pumped, the makeshift holding tanks, the custom spigots, and the various site locations around eastern Tijuana: totally run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen poor neighborhoods— and then the immensity of strength and grace shown by the families in continual searches for kidnapped and disappeared loved ones. That awed me. I’ve been to a number of excavation sites, and came to understand the joy of finding a human bone fragment or tooth—a beacon of hope in the dark, a possible lead that could bring closure or answers.

I’m very protective over my own perception, and I intentionally avoid covering regular nota roja or crime in Mexico. I pay attention, but I don’t actively cover it. Quite simply, I want my instincts to remain as intact as possible; I don’t want to be one of those journalists who becomes deadened or desensitized. You can’t feel, perceive, write, and relay information strongly if you’re operating from a void of detachment.

There is something so intense and profound about the power of hope, civility, and basic human kindness in the face of such an unimaginable, ongoing hunt. I took this photograph of Fernando Ocegueda as he showed me around one excavation site before Mexican investigators arrived. He still hasn’t found his son, or his son’s body. It’s been six years.

fernando

 2. A lot is being reported on immigrant children crossing the border. What do you have to say about this issue?

You can read my latest here.

I also wrote a quick piece this week for TakePart, about abuse allegations related to child detainees under Customs and Border Patrol custody.

I’ve been working in Miami for the last month, and have felt really far from my beats—the border, and child welfare. It’s been frustrating being so far from home!

3. For our Q & A with Todd Miller, he mentioned Border Patrol youth programs and you recently did a story on teenage drug mules. Would you say that as the drug war progresses, youths are more susceptible to the violence than before? Why or Why not?

I’ve done a few stories on teenage drug mules, most recently for NPR’s Latino USA and for Al Jazeera America. I’m not sure you could make the argument that teens are any more susceptible to bad decision-making than ever before. But you might actually be able to make the case that heightened border enforcement leads to a heightened apprehension rate for teens working as mules.

There’s also something to be said related to the normalization of drug use in American society. (Medicinal) marijuana is legal in California, so taping a few pounds of it to your belly and walking across the border in exchange for a hundred bucks or a new cell phone might not seem like such a big deal if you’re a teenager clueless about the criminal consequences.

My AJAM story about Cruz Marcelino Velázquez Acevedo touches on that ignorance; Velázquez was a teen who died in Border Patrol custody after drinking from a bottle of liquid meth while being questioned. He took a gulp to prove to the agents that it was apple juice. He probably didn’t think it would kill him, but it was a painful, agitated death by overdose. He was writhing and crying for his family.

4. During your fellowship with the Open Society you focused on U.S. deportation policy, what did you learn during your time on this project?

This project was an experiment of sorts; I was awarded a Media Justice fellowship to execute a group project along with two other teammates, both of whom had no previous journalism experience. One of my partners was a law professor specializing in juvenile incarceration and immigration detention, and my other partner was a former gang member and deportee who’d served 14 years in American prison, from age 16 to 28.

Our focus was on “bad” immigrants, criminal deportees, and the gray area between. We worked around issues related to people who were deported after serving time for aggravated felony convictions. The definition of “aggravated felony” includes some misdemeanors under current immigration law, so it’s pretty broad. There’s a lot to unpack, and we had a busy year reporting for different platforms, from comic book graphic journalism to traditional TV pieces.

We aimed to tell stories that humanized deportees, specifically those considered “bad” or undesirable, with criminal records. Many people don’t understand that there’s no double jeopardy for non-citizens, green card holders (legal residents) and undocumented immigrants alike. That means after they’ve served time, and if their offense is considered an aggravated felony under U.S immigration law, then they’re automatically deported. There’s no guarantee to counsel, or appeal. They can’t fight it. They’re deported, and there’s no recourse for ever returning- they’re banned for life. This happens to many people who grow up in the U.S, and consider themselves American.

5. The adoption of immigrant children has been the focus of your books. In one article, you cite that around 5,100 children of undocumented immigrants were in state care, and in many instances, had been cut off completely from communicating with their families. One-fifth of foster care children are subsequently adopted. What can you tell us about the current state of foster care for immigrant children?

Finding Fernanda and the related special “Perilous Journey” focused on unraveling one Guatemalan organized crime network that was working with American companies to facilitate the international adoptions of Guatemalan children to the United States. That’s completely different than the question you raise about undocumented immigrant children, though there is some overlap.

My friend and colleague, reporter Seth Freed Wessler, is the author of the authoritative report, “Shattered Families,” which digs into the complicated intersection of child welfare and current U.S. immigration policy. His findings and statistics are based on years of research, and today in 2014, they’re actually getting old.

No one has yet to update them; this kind of endeavor takes an investment of time and money. A lot of news outlets just can’t afford to do that kind of serious investigative work.

 

6. What is an aspect of the violence in Mexico that you feel isn’t covered enough?

 I would argue that it’s not “violence in Mexico,” per se. The drug war isn’t a Mexican issue, it’s a shared responsibility. That’s nothing new.

I do think it’s always important to pay attention to discrepancies in crime reporting, especially contradictions between statistics from various government agencies and officials. There’s a lot of sugary spin (remember Mexico’s forecasted GDP growth last year?) and it’s easy for foreign reporters to devour it.

But in general, I don’t think the entire country of Mexico is covered enough! Then again, I adore mi hermosa patria adoptiva and I’m totally biased. So shoot, take my border reporting with a grain of salt, or ten. I love Mexico.

¡Y Tijuana rifa!

Closer Look At Massacre In Mexico Reveals Glimpse Of Corruption…Al Jazeera America

Below is another excellent report on the massacres in Allende, Coahuila…Yesterday I posted the piece from VICE.COMHow a Mexican Cartel Demolished a Town, Incinerated Hundreds of Victims, and Got Away, by Diego Enrique Osorno.

The July 5 report below by Michelle Garcia and Ignacio Alvarado at Al Jazeera America goes further in pointing out the actual involvement of Mexican government forces in the disappearance and killing of more than 300 people–activities that went on for months in 2011. Only after three years has a Coahuila state prosecutor begun to investigate and probably only now because of testimony provided by several people who left Mexico and are now protected witnesses in a Texas court proceeding.

A few excerpts:

“Missing from the official statements was any explanation as to how the Zetas — whose name means Z — were able to carry out days, if not months, of killings unimpeded by law enforcement. There was no indication that the military, which was posted at a base in Piedras Negras and operated a checkpoint outside of Allende, intervened.”

“… Questions about possible government complicity — directly or indirectly — generally dissipate when violence is branded as Zeta-related. Indeed, as violence in Mexico’s northern region continues unabated, in lieu of investigations and convictions, Zeta is the catchall explanation applied to criminality, one that has the effect of silencing further questions.”

…“Let’s suppose that there had existed a small, tenuous difference between the supposed legal and political system and the narco organizations, the cartels,” said Vera, who operates the Center for Human Rights Fray Juan de Larios, which defends migrants’ and prisoners’ rights. “That line is faded now because of the degree of corruption.”

The discovery of this latest atrocity can be added to years of similar events, some of which I tried to explain last summer here: The Mexican Undead: Toward a New History of the “Drug War” Killing Fields…  

These questions remain: Which criminal element is actually the driving force–the cartels, or the government? And where in the mainstream US press can we find any reference to Merida Initiative billions of US taxpayer dollars going directly to corrupt and murderous Mexican police and military? And to what end? I think we need only look at the exodus of children and families from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to get a glimpse of how such policies play out on the ground. -molly

Closer Look At Massacre In Mexico Reveals Glimpse Of Corruption (Al Jazeera America)

At Least 22 Killed In Gunfight Southwest Of Mexico City

I am not certain, but I believe this new story from the AP is a rare follow-up to this initial report of a shootout that took place on June 30.  The original story says it happened in Michoacan while the new story is in a small town in Estado de Mexico.  There are corresponding details–the “gang” consisted of 21 men and one woman–that lead me to believe this is the same incident.

In all of my efforts (and those of many others) to track the death toll in Mexico during the past 7 years, it is very rare that any information is released on the numbers of military deaths.  Years ago, there was one odd report of a death toll of about 200 soldiers–this in contrast to a civilian death toll at the time of nearly 100,000. I could be wrong, but I do not think there is ever any official reporting on deaths in the Mexican military. And as this AP story notes, there are many incidents reported in which the army encounters what are reported to be “gangs of criminals” and kills them all–no witnesses and few or no military casualties noted…

“The shootout was the most dramatic in a string of battles in which the army says criminals fired first at soldiers who then killed them all, while suffering few or no losses. There have been so many such incidents that human rights groups and analysts have begun to doubt the military’s version.”

From the details described below and the fact that the United Nations’ High Commission on Human Rights was on the scene shortly after this massacre, it appears that the people killed inside the building were shot at close range. It is gratifying to see the AP reporting on this… Thanks to Margie Lilly for sending me the article. I would have missed it…  -molly

In Mexico, Lopsided Death Tolls Draw Suspicion (Miami Herald)

At Least 22 Killed In Gunfight Southwest of Mexico City (Toronto Sun)

Border Reflection & Debunking Myths

Listera Kathy Nicodemus sent this reflection (posted with permission) on the current border situation and below is an excellent article by David Bacon published in IN THESE TIMES with details on how US economic and security policies have exacerbated the situation that forces people to flee their homes in Central America. -molly

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Border Reflection – Support Non-violent solutions in Central American Countries. My thoughts on the Central American immigrant-refugee situation at the moment.

We need to deal with the immediate need, however, if we don’t deal with the systemic issues, the situation will only continue. First we need to stop contributing our (US) part- Corporations that use the land, cheap labor (including Maquilas), our cheap products sold to these countries (taking away their ability to make a living). Need to stop-Selling weapons, supporting bad leaders, US need for drugs. I know there are many other issues. What might be of help–The US supporting these countries to be self-sustaining economically and non-violent.

Debunking 8 Myths About Why Central American Children Are Migrating (In These Times)

Maybe Pope Francis Should Visit The Border?

PanAmerican Post has a brief analysis of the issues today with links to several good articles. And NPR Morning Ed. covered the Washington politics pretty well (also posted below). The irony (not quite the right word) of Obama’s proposal for more immigration court funding is that people will most certainly be processed and deported more quickly.  I find it unlikely that the US will ever agree to treat these people as refugees. Even during the height of the Central American civil wars of the 1980s, only a tiny percentage of Guatemalans and Salvadorans were granted political asylum.  The current refugees are less of a fit for the asylum criteria as they now stand. Eventually, some Central Americans rec’d Temporary Protected Status (TPS), but I don’t see the political will in Congress or the White House for this to happen now.

The environmental disaster of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 created another refugee crisis and it seems that the US responds better to natural disaster crises than to those involving war, drugs and gang violence. And hardly ever a mention of the economic disasters wrought by free trade policies.

I am not advocating for the way the administration is responding to the political hysteria drummed up by the right wing in Congress and in the country, simply trying to report.  I have followed the politics of immigration, asylum and military/security involvement in Central America and Mexico for several decades and I think it is unlikely that there will be a positive policy outcome from this situation. What we can hope for is continued humanitarian response from people. I wish Pope Francis would weigh in.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if he decided to visit the border?  Right here, right now? -molly

Border Crisis: Migrants or Refugees? (Pan-American Post)

Obama To Ask Congress For $2B To Ease Immigration Crisis (NPR News)

The Refugee Option Obama Will Ignore (Huffington Post)

Q & A with Fronteras Desk Reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe

Mónica Ortiz Uribe is a native of El Paso, Texas, where she works as a reporter for the public radio network Fronteras. She covers a range of topics from politics, to industry and environment in New Mexico, west Texas and northern Mexico. Previously she freelanced for National Public Radio on the drug-related violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Her first reporter gig was for the Waco Tribune Herald in Waco, Texas. Mónica graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a degree in history. Follow her at @MOrtizUribe

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In all your years covering the border, is there any story that stands out to you?

The story of the disappeared young women of Ciudad Juárez. These are young women who vanished without a trace during the height of drug violence in the city. They lived in poor neighborhoods and rode the bus to school or to work. One day they didn’t come home. They left devastated families behind whose lives were transformed. Unsatisfied with the police’s response, the families tried doing their own investigations. As of today none of the women I tracked have been found and the families still have no answers.

What has been the most difficult border-related story to write about? Why?

The same story as above. It’s difficult because there is no resolution, no answers, no rest. The families’ lives can never be the same.

In a recent story, you mentioned that apprehensions have risen 74 percent since last year. With so much controversy surrounding the border, what changes have you noticed in the last year?

I can say that the hot spot on the border now is south Texas. I visited that region last year and saw for myself the incredible amount of traffic coming across. Border Patrol is overwhelmed. At night their radios are non-stop. I witnessed two apprehensions. One woman was traveling alone from Guatemala with two toddlers, she was coming to meet her husband in the United States.  The other was a Mexican teenager and his 70-something year-old grandfather. It’s a humanitarian crisis, people are trying to come across every single day. When they are caught they need to be processed, fed, housed, etc. The federal government has only recently acknowledged their inability to keep up.

What do you wish more people knew about the border?

There is so much. I think we all need to reconsider how we spend our tax dollars on the border. The amount of money we spend on border enforcement is more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. And still we can’t keep up. Meanwhile legal traffic coming across the border is bottle necked. Our immigration system is backed up beyond a decade in some cases. It will take some bold thinking and brave decisions to change the status quo.

First Central American Immigrants To Arrive Thursday In Las Cruces…Sun News

A friend and I went by yesterday to volunteer. It is gratifying to see Las Cruces respond this way…and in contrast to some of the media-grabbing protests other places. Las Cruces is not a wealthy town, but in terms of helping those who have a hard road, we seem to come together. As someone said to me yesterday: “We have to respond to the moral issue now…”

I also recommend NPR’s reports from California and Guatemala on Morning Edition today. -Molly

First Central American immigrants to arrive Thursday in Las Cruces (Las Cruces Sun News)

Why Are Kids From Central America Risking Solo Travel To The U.S.? (NPR)