Migrant children draw their gratitude for El Paso’s kindness

Written by Bob Moore in Borderzine: Reporting Across Borders

Since early October, the El Paso has seen an influx of asylum seekers released to the community after processing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thousands of people – mostly families from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, but also from Cuba, Nicaragua and other nations  – have passed interviews in which they have shown credible fear of persecution if returned to their home countries. They now face an immigration court process that could take years to determine their fate. But for the time being, they are legally entitled to live in the United States.

Upon release by ICE in El Paso, their first stop is a “hospitality center” run by a nonprofit called Annunciation House, which has provided services to migrants for more than 40 years. The hospitality center can be at a church, school or motel. (The locations are not disclosed to the public for the safety of the migrants.)  Asylum seekers are given a room and three meals per day, which often are prepared by volunteers from in the area. Most families stay a day or two before boarding a bus or plane to join family elsewhere in the United States.

One hospitality center features art work created by children who have stayed at the shelter in recent days. The art is a mixture of approaches and messages. Common themes are faith, hope for the countries they have fled, and gratitude for those who helped them in their time of need.

Migrants fall for false promises

Written by Angela Korchurga in the Albuquerque Journal. She was recently in Guatemala talking with families about why so many believe now is the time to migrate and looking into why smuggling networks are taking large groups to the remote Antelope Wells border.

Vendors at an open-air market in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala, prepare to close their stands after a busy day.  From the Albuquerque Journal

Vendors at an open-air market in San Martin Jilotepeque, Guatemala, prepare to close their stands after a busy day. From the Albuquerque Journal

CIENEGA GRANDE, Guatemala – Martina Alvarez sat at a wooden table in her small tortilla shop and lamented the exodus of families from Guatemala headed for the United States, including some of her own relatives.

“They left eight days ago,” Alvarez said. “They said they are going to turn themselves in to immigration authorities there, to ask for help.”

One of those asking for asylum is a young mother who departed with her 5-year-old boy.

Deep poverty and violence – including extortion by street gangs, impunity and government corruption – are real factors influencing Guatemalans to migrate.

But these days there is another driving force: smugglers actively promoting their services with the promise that parents who make it across the border will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

New Mexico’s Bootheel has become one of the newest routes used by coyotes taking people to the U.S. border. Since Oct. 27, large groups totaling more than 5,370 people have arrived in Antelope Wells. Most are parents with children, or minors traveling alone from Guatemala, according to Border Patrol.

“Nobody leaves because they think it’s going to be easy,” said Luis Argueta, a Guatemalan filmmaker who has produced a trilogy of documentaries exploring migration issues.

Spurred by smugglers, Guatemalans who may have contemplated leaving for the U.S. see this as their moment.

“It is a fact if you arrive at the border with an underage child your chances of being admitted temporarily are very high,” Argueta said. Continue Reading

Arizona: Four women convicted after leaving food and water in desert for migrants

Photo thanks to azcentral.com

Photo thanks to azcentral.com

From The Guardian: “A federal judge has found four women guilty of entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit as they sought to place food and water in the Arizona desert for migrants.

US magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco’s ruling on Friday marked the first conviction against humanitarian aid volunteers in a decade.

The four found guilty of misdemeanours in the recent case were volunteers for No More Deaths, which said in a statement the group had been providing life-saving aid to migrants.

The volunteers include Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick.

Hoffman was found guilty of operating a vehicle inside Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge, entering the federally protected area without a permit, and leaving water jugs and cans of beans there in August 2017.

The others were found guilty of entering without a permit and leaving behind personal property.” Continue reading

Next forum: Gerrymandering and Social Justice: Toward Fair Redistricting

gerrymandering_1 (1).jpg

Strangely shaped electoral district maps, with boundaries that advantage the party in power and their incumbents, undermine our right to equal representation, overall democracy, and prospects for social justice-orientated representatives to win elections and work for policy reform. Just think about the El Paso district that spans all the way to San Antonio.

Panels include:

*Jesús Valdez, League of Women Voters Outreach Committee Chair
*Connie Crawford, League of Women Voters
*Eric Willard, Attorney at Law
*Paulina Lopez, Partnership Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau (Dallas-Denver region, including El Paso)

The panelists will speak about state and local redistricting prospects. They will be asked to respond briefly to the following questions: What is the problem? What is to be done? What can WE do?

El Paso Public Library downtown, 501 N. Oregon

2:30-4:00 on Sunday February 24

Remember that best bet to find free parking is to park somewhere north

and east of the library and away from the ballpark. 

Public health programs are working to address drugs at the border — a wall won’t help

Photo thanks to The Week Magazine

Photo thanks to The Week Magazine

BY MARC KRUPANSKI, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR  for The Hill

In the center of the muddy courtyard beyond the plywood gate is a rusted-out car that three kids have turned into their playground. Outside, their mother and father meet with a pair of outreach workers. The man is an active heroin user; the woman hasn’t used drugs for several years. The workers ask them questions: Have the police been bothering you? Have you had this wound on your foot checked out? The group exchange jokes and words of encouragement, like friends helping each other out.

Before they leave, the outreach workers offer advice on how to stay safe while injecting drugs, then offer the man kits containing sterile needles, syringes, alcohol swabs and condoms. They also give him a few vials of naloxone, a medicine that can reverse fatal opioid overdose. Then, after saying their goodbyes, they return to the streets of Ciudad Juárez.

I witnessed versions of this scene play out over and over earlier this month while accompanying outreach workers from the organizationPrograma Compañeros.They were visiting with people who inject drugs — mostly men between 30 and 50 years old, many of whom were tenuously housed in makeshift shacks. Continue reading

Where Have You Gone, Barbara Jordan? Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You

Image thanks to Wikipedia

Image thanks to Wikipedia

What You Need to Know of Past Efforts to Fix Our Broken Immigration System.  Back in the 1990s, a bipartisan team led by the charismatic Barbara Jordan came up with a solution to the immigration debate that would have fixed a lot the things we’re arguing about today.  Listen to the story on This American Life.


On the Border, Little Enthusiasm for a Wall: ‘We Have Other Problems That Need Fixing’

The Borderland Cafe in Columbus, N.M., on Tuesday: Caitlin O'Hara for The New York Times

The Borderland Cafe in Columbus, N.M., on Tuesday: Caitlin O'Hara for The New York Times

From The New York Times. Written by  Simon RomeroManny FernandezJose A. Del Real and Azam Ahmed

COLUMBUS, N.M. — Just minutes from the border in rural New Mexico, the Borderland Cafe in the village of Columbus serves burritos and pizza to local residents, Border Patrol agents and visitors from other parts of the country seeking a glimpse of life on the frontier. The motto painted on the wall proclaims “Life is good in the Borderland.”

“This is the sleepiest little town you could think of,” said Adriana Zizumbo, 31, who was raised in Columbus and owns the cafe with her husband. “The only crisis we’re facing here is a shortage of labor. Fewer people cross the border to work than before, and Americans don’t want to get their hands dirty doing hard work.”

President Trump has shut down part of the government over border security and his plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and in a prime-time speech on Tuesday night he painted a bleak picture of life in towns like Columbus. Continue reading


Sunday's forum was front page news in El Diario de El Paso

Photo thanks to El Diario de El Paso

Photo thanks to El Diario de El Paso

Article written by Mar Aveytia

En crisis, problema de indigencia aquí

Cambios en prioridades a nivel federal minan servicios esenciales, afirman

Diversas organizaciones locales que brindan servicios a la comunidad de personas sin hogar dieron a conocer el estado de crisis que enfrenta esta ciudad por el alto número de personas indigentes debido a la continua disminución de recursos por parte del Gobierno federal, y la nula participación de la Ciudad y el Condado.

El Foro de Educación de Justicia Social, que fue realizado ayer por la tarde en la Galería Maud Sullivan de la Biblioteca Pública de El Paso, contó con la participación del director del Centro de Oportunidad para Indigentes, Ray Tullius; la directora operativa de la Casa Reynolds, que brinda apoyo a mujeres sin hogar con hijos pequeños, Emily Morgan; y Linda Velarde, directora de Villa María, un albergue especial para mujeres solteras con hijos y que son víctimas de violencia doméstica, entre otros.

“Estamos en un estado de crisis puesto que el Gobierno federal dejó de financiarnos”, dijo Tulluis. 

Tullius dijo que en un principio el Gobierno federal hizo el compromiso de ayudar a esta ciudad a crear una red comprensiva de servicios para las personas sin hogar pero luego cambió de opinión.

“Desde hace cuatro años hemos dejado de recibir 900 mil dólares por año y desafortunadamente cientos de personas en esta ciudad continúan cayendo en la indigencia por diversas razones”, explicó. Continue reading

Next forum on homelessness: Sunday, January 13, 2:30, El Paso Public Library downtown

Photo thanks to Emory Nursing Magazine, emory.com

Photo thanks to Emory Nursing Magazine, emory.com

We hope that you can join us for the first Social Justice Forum, 2019. Speakers will address the nature and extent of homelessness in El Paso, focusing on such issues as:  why people fall into the cycle of homelessness; how these people endure discrimination and marginalization; how they are driven to abandon their traditional lives for lives on the street; the intersectionality of gender and health; the impact of homelessness on families and children; the lack of mental health and veterans' services; and other societal challenges.

  Click here to see program and all pertinent information.

From PBS: Through music, Vijay Gupta brings healing community to LA's Skid Row

Vijay Gupta is a Juilliard-trained violinist who's been using music as a way to connect with L.A.’s homeless and incarcerated and promote healing. A movement that began with one Skid Row occupant has now evolved into a group of 80 musicians who perform in shelters, jails and treatment facilities. Jeffrey Brown talks to Gupta about abuse, dysfunction and how art became his "lifeline."

From The Week Magazine: America's Homelessness Crisis

Photo by Christopher Chung, The Press Democrat

Photo by Christopher Chung, The Press Democrat

How bad is the problem?

About 554,000 people in the U.S. were homeless on any given night in 2017—including nearly 58,000 families with children—meaning they didn’t have a safe, permanent place to sleep. That figure represents a 1 percent rise since 2016—the first time the nation’s homeless population has increased in seven years. But the country’s biggest cities, especially those on the West Coast, have seen a far bigger rise in homelessness. New York City, which has the nation’s largest homeless population, reported a 4 percent increase since 2016 to about 76,500 people, San Diego a 5 percent increase to 9,160, and Los Angeles a 26 percent increase to nearly 55,200. Many of those homeless people crowd into places like L.A.’s “Skid Row,” where hundreds of tents and tarpaulin shanties crowd the sidewalks just blocks from City Hall. “Skid Row is—and long has been—a national disgrace,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in a recent editorial. “In the world’s richest nation, homelessness on this scale should be shameful and shocking.”

Continue Reading

Bergen County Ended Chronic Homelessness, So Can Every Other Community

Learn more about homelessness as a social justice issue at the next forum.

Sunday, January 13 at 2:30 pm, El Paso Public Library downtown.

“This is not easy work. You must be able to work in the interest of people who will test your ability to care for them. These are the ones who need us the most.”(Photo:  Garry Knight /cc/flickr)

“This is not easy work. You must be able to work in the interest of people who will test your ability to care for them. These are the ones who need us the most.”(Photo: Garry Knight/cc/flickr)

This article published on 12/28/18 by Common Dreams: ‘When I signed up to attend a symposium on Ending Homelessness in Newark, New Jersey on November 25th of this year the best I was expecting to hear was a much needed morale boosting pep rally for those of us who have experienced homelessness and are working on the front lines of this seemingly intractable situation.

Why?

Chief among my reasons for feeling so despairing about ever ending homelessness is the fickle and careless way most social service agencies I’ve encountered function in relation to the people who come to them for emergency housing services. Here are just a couple of examples. In order to receive emergency assistance an applicant must provide proof that no one in their family is declaring them a dependent on their tax forms. Many young homeless are homeless because they are estranged from their families and not on speaking  terms. Applicants for emergency housing assistance must also prove that they are not eligible for unemployment benefits. If you are, and even if those benefits don’t amount to enough to pay rent and live on, you are nevertheless turned down for emergency assistance.” Continue Reading

Next forum on homelessness: Sunday, January 13, 2:30, El Paso Public Library downtown

Photo thanks to Santa Fe New Mexican

Photo thanks to Santa Fe New Mexican

We hope that you can join us for the first Social Justice Forum, 2019. Speakers will address the nature and extent of homelessness in El Paso, focusing on such issues as:  why people fall into the cycle of homelessness; how these people endure discrimination and marginalization; how they are driven to abandon their traditional lives for lives on the street; the intersectionality of gender and health; the impact of homelessness on families and children; the lack of mental health and veterans' services; and other societal challenges.

  Click here to see program and all pertinent information.

El Paso is 1st county in US to create own Healthy Food Financing Initiative

Image thanks to Heart.org

Image thanks to Heart.org

Here’s an EPT op-ed from County Commissioner David Stout explaining the significant benefits from participating in the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. But before you begin reading, did you know that the majority of El Paso County residents eat less than one serving of fruits and vegetables a day? Now from his op-ed:

In Texas, counties are responsible for public health, and as the commissioner who represents the area in which the County Hospital District is located, health care is a priority for me. In El Paso, there are grave issues with obesity, diabetes and heart disease. One third of our population is uninsured and another third is on Medicaid, which means taxpayers pay for more than half of the medical costs incurred by treating people with these issues. Therefore, as policymakers, it is incumbent upon us to find ways to better health care outcomes and save taxpayers money in the process.

We need to start with the root causes of these illnesses, which all have something in common: one’s diet. After attending a number of conference sessions regarding health care and after meeting with local organizations like El Pasoans Fighting Hunger and the Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living, it became evident to me that food insecurity, which is the lack of access to affordable, nutritious food, directly affects the diet of many people in this community. Continue reading

Report: Facts About Migrants Don't Always Match What The Headlines Say

By Joanne Silberner for NPR: “A new report by a commission empaneled by University College London and the Lancet medical journal offers a thorough — and often surprising — look at the medical and economic impacts of immigration.

Twenty public health researchers from 13 countries worked on the project for two years, reviewing nearly 300 studies, primarily from this decade but going back as far as 1994. Populist leaders, they say, have painted a picture of migration today as primarily hordes of destitute people flooding into rich countries, carrying diseases and sucking up resources. The truth, they say, is far different.

According to the International Organization for Migration, the U.N.'s migration agency, today more than one billion people live in a region other than where they were born. A quarter of them live in a different country, the rest have relocated within their homeland. They are a mix of refugees from war-torn areas and climate change refugees fleeing heat waves, droughts or rising sea levels, along with job seekers and students who've paid their own way to enroll in universities in other countries.” Continue reading

From NPR article:  A migrant receives medical attention at a former paper factory in Greece that has been turned into a makeshift camp.   Menelaos Michalatos/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

From NPR article: A migrant receives medical attention at a former paper factory in Greece that has been turned into a makeshift camp.

Menelaos Michalatos/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images