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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Jefferson Was 'Tremendously Flawed' but Should Inspire Change, Descendant Says

Johns Hopkins University adjunct professor, Dr. Michele Cooley-Strickland, and descendant of Thomas Jefferson, calls for reasoned, balanced dialogue on the founding of this country such as what occurs in history or Ethnic Studies courses mischaracterized today as "wokeness" or indoctrination.

According to Dr. Cooley-Strickland, reasoned dialogue would recognize Jefferson's "'tremendous contributions in America's history' as well as the adverse impact he had on an entire race of people." We should all want to know this history and knowing the founders' flaws makes it more interesting because they become more human and less iconic and thusly, unassailable.

Since, to date, republicans have offered no evidence that Critical Race Theory is actually getting taught in our K-12 schools, we must therefore conclude that the attack is on the teaching of these truths of history and perspectives like CRT—among others—that are so essential to the expansion of our collective awareness and compassion, as well as the healing of our divided nation.

Especially for the educated class, don't we all want to know this history in its complexity? Don't we all want our children and grandchildren to know such things? Why would we not seek to deepen our understanding of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation if it promises to answer important questions that bewilder not just children, but also adolescents and adults? 

Do you not know that saying "no" to the study of race and ethnicity in the current political context is the same as saying "no" to the study of gender and sexual orientation?

I ask these questions in light of the recent, anti-CRT tumult by a divided Eanes Independent School District located adjacent to Austin who parents are among the most highly educated in the state. Austin American-Statesman journalists, Luz Moreno-Lozano, but especially Sarah Asch, are is covering this right now, as follows:




I hope that Eanes parents listened last week to the words of General Mark A. Milley who testified in Congress who said that he wants, as a white man, to learn about Critical Race Theory. He extolled the value and virtues of being widely read and informed. Why aren't Eanes parents similarly disposed?

Heck, if the truth of American history is good enough for the U.S. military, it should be good enough for us all.

-Angela Valenzuela


Jefferson Was 'Tremendously Flawed' but Should Inspire Change, Descendant Says


Jenni Fink June 30, 2020 | Newsweek

Instead of letting President Thomas Jefferson's record on race diminish his contributions to America, Michele Cooley-Strickland said people should use her ancestor's imperfections as an inspiration that they can change the country as well.

Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, was an integral part in the founding of America, but his blighted past has called his legacy into question. Students at the University of Virginia, a school he founded, pushed for years to remove him from his pedestal, and in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody, protesters toppled a statue in Portland, Oregon, while New York City Council members want Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove a statue from City Hall.

Cooley-Strickland, who can trace her lineage back seven generations to Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, told Newsweek those who make significant contributions to history are not uncomplicated. Therefore, it's up to us to determine the balance of their contribution and decide if it's worthy of celebration.


"It's an assessment in total," Cooley-Strickland said. "So yes, there were significant detractors of Jefferson, but weighing each of those factors in the plus and minus column, the plus column is the larger of the two."

Jefferson's life is marked by contradictions in what he practiced and what he preached. He penned the famous words "All men are created equal," but owned more than 600 slaves. In Notes on the State of Virginia, he wrote about the injustice of racial superiority and the emancipation of slaves but also expressed racist views on what he saw as Black people's' inferior abilities.

Some consider Jefferson ownership of slaves as reason enough to knock him off his pedestal, as it's seen as a symbol of the oppression and degradation of millions of people. But Cooley-Strickland encourages people to use Jefferson's imperfections as an inspiration. Jefferson, she said, worked tirelessly to make America a better place and can be an example that shows all of us have the ability to make more of the world we live in.

"This man who is tremendously flawed helped found our nation," she said. "That should be the inspiration to you to think about what you can do even with your flaws, because none of us are perfect."


A portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, circa 1805. Michele Cooley-Strickland, who can trace her lineage to Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, says his imperfections should inspire people to try to change the country despite their own flaws.GETTY/NATIONAL ARCHIVES


Cooley-Strickland, a project scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, acknowledged the conflict surrounding Jefferson's legacy, both because he owned slaves, which she said she recognized was not unusual in his era, and because he had the power to make more changes than he did. But, she said, when statues are presented in a balanced way, they can start a dialogue that recognizes Jefferson's "tremendous contributions in America's history" as well as the adverse impact he had on an entire race of people.

Being able to view Jefferson through the necessary complex lens requires education. America, she said, likes things "clean and easy," and the country has approached slavery from the point of view of "that was then, this is now, let's move on." But totally overlooking a person's faults prevents the country from growing. As a clinical psychologist, Cooley-Strickland said, there's no "true moving on" if people don't process the trauma and pain and the cascading results of it.

"There needs to be the recognition that our country treated a whole people egregiously, and there needs to be a recognition and a reparation of the wounds that continue," she said. "When you don't give the weight that each perspective is owed, there's an imbalance that prohibits true growth from that experience."

Jefferson isn't the only historical figure whose place is now being questioned. At least 15 statues and monuments honoring Confederacy figures were taken down in 2020, the Army will rename bases honoring Confederate heroes, and the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

How Latinos Voted in 2020 by the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative

Now this really energized me. Interesting and encouraging analyses of the Latina/o vote by the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at UCLA based not on exit poll data, but actual ballots cast, resulting in the most reliable data possible.  

The results are impressive, demonstrating "a 30.9% increase, nearly double the nationwide 15.9% growth in ballots."  Overwhelming, votes went toward Biden even in Florida where Biden beat Trump by a margin of 2 to 1. 

When one considers that "The participation and overwhelming support for President-elect Joe Biden from youth of color was one of the defining elements of the election," the Latina/o vote has emerged as a powerful, if not formidable, force in the future of the U.S. electorate.

Now, our task is to protect the franchise, not only challenging voter suppression laws, but also resisting the miseducation of our youth that the republican party seeks via its bogus anti-Critical Race Theory agenda. And while we're at it, let's eliminate mental testing and create assessment systems that honor the wealth, wisdom, knowledge, and ways of knowing that our communities bring to our local contexts everywhere. After all, we are all mostly indigenous, including Afro-Indigenous, to this continent and we have survived over 500 years of domination driven by European expansionism and on-going colonialism (e.g., Mexicans Didn't Immigrate To America -- We've Always Been Here by Pedro Garza.)


Notwithstanding current attempts to disenfranchise Latinas/os and other people of color, Latinas/os are poised to propel this country toward a bright and prosperous future. In fact, it's already happening. ­čśŐ


S├ş se puede! Yes we can!

You can download the full report at their website here. I share the executive summary or overview below.

-Angela Valenzuela

 



Overview:

This report offers a comprehensive look at the Latino vote in the 2020 presidential election by analyzing votes cast in 13 key states that are home to 80% of the nation’s Latinos.  By analyzing ballots cast rather than relying on exit polls, we reduce errors that emerge in exit interviews due to small samples, unrepresentative selection of survey respondents, incomplete understanding of early and absentee voters, and language bias.

Main Findings:

  1. We estimate that 16.6 million Latino voters cast a ballot for the 2020 presidential election nationally. This represents a 30.9% increase, nearly double the nationwide 15.9% growth in ballots cast between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. This was the single largest 4-year increase in Latino vote ever.

  2. Latino voters supported the Democratic candidate, Joseph R. Biden, by very wide margins across the country, and consistent with margins won by Obama in 2008 and 2012.
    • Latino voters supported Biden over Trump by a nearly 3 to 1 margin in the counties we analyzed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
    • Latinos chose Biden over Trump with a 2 to 1 margin or larger in the counties we analyzed in Texas, Georgia, and Washington, and in Florida outside of Miami-Dade.
  3. In Arizona, the size of the Latino electorate and their overwhelming support for Joe Biden flipped the state from Republican to Democrat for the first time since 1996.

  4. In Georgia and Wisconsin, where the difference between the winning and the losing candidate was roughly 12,000 and 21,000 votes, Latino voters’ strong support for Biden and growth in votes cast helped tip the state in favor of the Democratic candidate.

  5. In Florida, the Latino vote is diverse and unique from the rest of the nation. Latinos in Miami-Dade supported Trump by a 2 to 1 margin, but Latinos in the rest of the state preferred Biden with a 2 to 1 margin. Overall, a majority of Latinos in Florida voted for Biden, not Trump.

Whitewashing the Truth in Schools - An Update on Texas’ HB 3979 - IDRA Webinar


As Part I of IDRA's policy serieslisten here to Ana Ramon, head of the Texas Legislative Education Equity Coalition (TLEEC), speak in detail about how the anti-, anti-racist bill, House Bill 3979 passed during the last, regular legislative session (note: the bill doesn't actually say "Critical Race Theory," but the intent is clear).

Accompanied by well-spoken San Antonio student leader, Alejo Pe├▒a Soto, who reflects on the potential impacts of this legislation for students, Ana Ramon recounts the unprecedented maneuvering it took to get this bill passed into law. 

It's clear that had the republicans followed time-honored, conventional procedures, this bill would not have become law. In fact, according to these very same procedures, it was presumed dead for a few hours.  Instead, republicans were sly and underhanded in resurrecting it after it had ostensibly died—which is not the deliberative legislative process that we collectively extol in representative democracy.

This deviousness is captured well in a June 24, 2021 interview on anti-Critical Race Theory bills making their way across the country by MSNBC's  Chris Hayes of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Sociology Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom. Cottom nails it when she says (paraphrasing) that republicans do have a real concern, it's just not one grounded in reality, adding that they are "intellectually impotent" where cheating is their only resort since their own case against CRT can't stand on its merits.

So true. We as a public still have not gotten the evidence that CRT is getting taught in our K-12 schools. All we're getting is a campaign of misinformation, fraught with false, intentionally misleading, state-level propaganda. 

Fascists states do such things, not democracies.

The fact that this anti-CRT agenda is getting prioritized alongside legalizing Texas' voter suppression bill—that led to the walkout by democrats in the last day of the session—speaks to the larger agenda of disenfranchising our youth and communities.

As voiced by General Mark A. Milley in his cogent testimony last week before
Congress,
 CRT should be addressed front and center in the U.S. military, adding that all should be open-minded and widely-read. He said that he's white and would like to understand better the
January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. He welcomes CRT.

Were only our state republicans so open-minded and widely read. They, in fact, demonstrate exactly why CRT should get taught in our nation's schools, particularly at the secondary level, I might add, since it is a framework that is taught mostly at the college level—and even there, only in some areas of the academy such as in our nation's law schools, humanities, social work, and education, etc., and then again, only with select faculty within such colleges and departments. 

These things said, CRT is at least 40 years old. It is a legitimate, mainstream framework in the academy among other legitimate, mainstream frameworks that we teach.

Do stay tuned for more, as we go soon into the special legislative session. 

-Angela Valenzuela

@TxTLEEC @IDRAedu

Monday, June 28, 2021

A gunman opens fire in your building. What do you do?

Seems crazy to post this, but it's a sign of the times. These days, with our lax pro-gun laws and culture, I found this helpful. While intended for active-shooter situations in buildings, we must remember to stay alert, as any place is vulnerable. For legibility, I recommend you going to the Washington Post website.

-Angela Valenzuela



Continue reading at the Washington Post website.


Happening tomorrow. Linguistic Connections of the Americas - Nahuatl and Ute

Super exciting! Happening tomorrow. A conversation across borders about the Uto-Aztecan language family, investigating linguistic correspondences, including identities. Scroll down for more information.

-Angela Valenzuela



Linguistic Connections of the Americas - Nahuatl and Ute

Date: Tuesday, June 29

Time: 1-2:30 p.m. MST

Locations: YouTube (Spanish) and Zoom (English and Spanish channels)

Learn more: Webpage

Please note: You have the option to join us via YouTube or Zoom based on your preference. If you join us through Zoom, you will need to register in advance to receive the Zoom link.  

In partnership with the Consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City, join us for a virtual discussion with experts as they discuss two indigenous language groups, Ute and Nahuatl. Ute and Nahuatl occupy opposite ends of the Uto-Aztecan language family -- not only geographically but also linguistically. This presentation will highlight some of the similarities and differences between the two languages and cultures and explain why linguists are nevertheless convinced that they belong together.

 

Thank you,

Meredith Medina

 


Events and Communications Coordinator

International & Area Studies

University of Utah, CTIHB 210

801.581.6518

www.ias.utah.edu

 

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Death in the desert: Migrants face harsh conditions in West Texas by Dudley Althaus June 26, 2021

This is an urgent situation, my friends.

As you can read from this powerful photo-journalism by Dudley Althaus in yesterday's San Antonio Express News, the situation for immigrants is dire along the vast, parched, and remote Presidio-Ojinaga Big Bend area of the Texas-Mexico border. This region is arguably the most dangerous, unforgiving stretch of the border. 

In recent days and weeks, "dozens have been found dead from heat and dehydration." According to Althaus, "smuggling gangs" lie to immigrants about the real distance that they must walk, abandoning them to their own fates. Sadly, even in "more hospitable" contexts, border deaths are an ongoing, issue. (Read: "The Real Death Valley: The Untold Story of Mass Graves and Migrant Deaths in South Texas," as well as "Every Year, Hundreds of Migrants Die or Go Missing in Brooks County. A New Documentary Tells Two Families’ Stories.") 

In Brooks County alone, where the small town of Falfurrias is located, an estimated three to six hundred immigrants die every year from exhaustion and dehydration. Such staggering numbers! And so little public or media attention to this human rights issue.

Do read the story and take action. Support the South Texas Human Rights Center directed by Eddie Canales, a dear friend of mine and hero to countless immigrants whose lives that he and his staff have saved. He is one of my heroes, too. May his kind multiply.

Eddie and his staff regularly set up water stations and re-fill them with water throughout the secluded borderlands that the immigrants traverse. They conduct search and rescue; call families about the fate of their kin, an all-too frequent and lamentable situation; and in partnership with various universities, they engage in forensic recovery and identification

I just spoke with him. He could barely talk to me as he was in the middle of "saving"—his words—a 48 year old man who had slipped from them yesterday as he had "changed coordinates" yesterday, making it difficult to find him.

In the few minutes that we spoke, he said that they need funds to build capacity in the Presidio-Ojinaga Big Bend area where he is actually already working and located at this very moment—all under the brutally hot Texas sun. 

Please make a contribution at this link. No donation is too small.

-Angela Valenzuela

@SouthTexasHRC s

@NoMoreDeaths WaterIsAHumanRight

Death in the desert

CANDELARIA — Here in the unforgiving parched lands of West Texas, the first half of the year has been marked by a surge of undocumented migrants equipped, guided and all too often abandoned to their fate by Mexico’s smuggling gangs.

Local police and Border Patrol agents have detained thousands of migrants found crammed into cars, trucks, horse trailers, train cars and recreational vehicles. They’ve caught others who trekked for days through the desert in smuggler-led columns.

High-speed police chases of smugglers’ vehicles have become common. Desperate migrants beg for rescue at isolated homes and on rural roads. Ranchers tending livestock on the far reaches of their land also have encountered migrants.

And dozens have been found dead from heat and dehydration.


Lucio Lopez, a migrant from the Mayan highlands of Guatemala, looks at photos of his family.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News

The numbers passing through the Big Bend region remain a small fraction of the nearly 900,000 people detained along the entire 2,000-mile border since October. But they are much higher than have ever been seen in these parts, residents and officials say.

Nerves have become more than a bit jangled.

“Human trafficking has just exploded,” said Sheriff Ronny Dodson of Brewster County, which envelops Big Bend National Park. “President Biden wasn’t even in office when they started coming our way. He has got to get control of this.”

The increase in illegal crossings has fueled criticism from Republicans about Biden’s border policies. It’s a main talking point for Gov. Greg Abbott, who has set aside $250 million in state money to build more border walls and said he will direct state troopers to arrest immigrants for trespassing, a tactic that previously was blocked in Arizona by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Maribel Aguilar, 27, passes her days at the only shelter for Central American migrants returned to Mexico in the border city of Ojinaga. Aguilar tried crossing the border with her 13-year-old daughter and a friend. The other two made it across and now Aguliar waits in hopes of getting more money to make the journey again.

Jessica Phelps, Staff photographer / San Antonio Express-News

Visiting the border Friday for the first time as vice president, Kamala Harris touted the “extreme progress” the Biden administration has made in addressing the migration surge.

Noting much of the issue is about “families, children and suffering,” Harris said the administration’s approach “has to be thoughtful and effective.”

“This isn’t politics,” she said. “This is cartel. This is human trafficking.”

With an eye on the 2022 midterm congressional elections, former President Donald Trump is expected to visit the Texas border with Abbott on Wednesday, where he is expected to repeat claims that Biden policies have spurred the current migration increases.



Migrant crossings in the Big Bend are just a blip compared with the lower Rio Grande Valley. But here is where many suffer and die in the desert.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News

‘Occupied territory’

For all the local angst it has stirred, this year’s migration through the Big Bend doesn’t amount to much on a national scale.

The little more than 25,000 migrants detained by U.S. border agents in the Big Bend sector amount to just under 3 percent of the nearly 900,000 arrested along the entire border from last October through May.

Nine in 10 migrants detained in the Big Bend Sector, which includes 570 miles of the Rio Grande, were traveling as single adults. By comparison, more than half the migrants detained in the lower Rio Grande Valley, which includes the McAllen and Brownsville areas, were unaccompanied minors or parents traveling with small children.

No one can be certain just how many people slip through the net.


Maribel Aguilar, 27, passes her days at the only shelter for Central American migrants returned to Mexico in the border city of Ojinaga. Aguilar tried crossing the border with her 13-year-old daughter and a friend. The other two made it across and now Aguliar waits in hopes of getting more money to make the journey again.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News

More people are migrating with the intention of avoiding capture — driven by poverty and violence in many places or pulled by the promise of jobs. Many migrants say they’ve been encouraged by the rebounding U.S. economy and by the toning down of the last administration’s harsh rhetoric.

But U.S. detection and prevention efforts have also improved.

The vast desert here is seeded with motion detectors and cameras. An aerostat radar surveillance balloon hovers high overhead. Border Patrol agents have been backed up by National Guard soldiers, state troopers, local officers and sheriff’s deputies. Coordination between the agencies has been greatly enhanced in recent years.

“When I was in school, I was not happy about Big Brother,” Sheriff Dodson said. “Now I live for it.

“We call ourselves occupied territory because we have everyone here,” he joked of the law enforcement crush. “It’s not quite a police state, but it’s getting that way.”


Migrants have been crossing in large numbers near the border town of Presidio.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News

Misled by smugglers

With once favored routes more heavily monitored, hiking migrants and drug packing smugglers have plied more remote desert. In recent months, smugglers have clad many of the migrants — and others packing illicit drugs in backpacks — in cheap new boots and camouflage outfits.

The goal is to reach either U.S. 90 or Interstate 10. On both thoroughfares, relatives or smuggler vehicles spirit the migrants west toward California or east into the U.S. heartland. More than 50 miles of desert separate the border from the towns of Marfa or Alpine, both prime destinations.


STAFF Graphic

The hike is less than half that farther northwest near Valentine, but the terrain can be even more challenging.

“The smugglers will tell them it’s four or five hours walking to get to the highway. It’s four or five days,” said Dianne Burbach, manager of the Chinati Hot Springs, near the famed local peak of that name, 7 miles from the border.

“It’s a very big problem,” she said. “How many more kids will be abandoned out there? If it’s this bad now, just imagine what this winter is going to be like.”

So far this year, federal agents have recovered more than two dozen bodies in the region. County officials have recovered still more. Officials say any tally is all but certainly an undercount.

In sparsely populated Hudspeth County east of El Paso, anchored by the the town of Sierra Blanca, officials have recovered the bodies of nine migrants since January, meeting the annual average toll even before the summer scorch begins in earnest.

The sun rises over the desert near Candelaria where migrants have been crossing in large numbers. Migrants can spend days walking through the mountains and desert terrain under the dangerous sun in hopes of a better life.

Jessica Phelps, Staff photographer / San Antonio Express-News

Responders recovered four bodies in the past week alone, said Joanna MacKenzie, the Hudspeth emergency management coordinator.

“This is all dehydration and exhaustion,” MacKenzie said. “We are an extremely vast county. We know there are bodies out there that may never be found.”

Severe drought has emptied many livestock tanks that migrant guides rely on for water. Emergency responders recently recovered the body of a man next to one of those tanks, MacKenzie said. He had an empty water bottle in his hand.

Despite their worries about the rising numbers — fueled by a drumbeat of news reports about the police pursuits, columns of migrants and large-scale detentions — many area residents express sympathy for the migrants.

Lucio Lopez washes his hands on a hot afternoon at the threadbare shelter in Ojinaga.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News

Ranchers here depended upon undocumented Mexican workers for decades. And many residents have family ties or friends in Mexico. The desert’s scorching heat, prickly brush and ankle-twisting terrain is a shared human challenge.

Ranchers and other residents carry extra water and food when driving on rural roads, at times giving rides or calling in help when they encounter migrants in distress.

“Historically, we are part of the problem,” said Albert Miller, 71, a fourth-generation rancher who serves as the senior elected official in the farming hamlet of Valentine. “We have employed these people for cheap labor for years, for generations.

“They are coming because there is opportunity,” Miller said, echoing the suggestion of many on the border that some sort of solution involving legal work permits is the answer. “And I can’t say I blame them.”

The long-deserted house where Miller and his siblings spent their early years was burned down earlier this year by a migrant apparently signaling for help after being abandoned by smugglers.

The incident provoked outrage among some in the area. But Miller seems more saddened by the building’s loss than angered by the migrant’s action.

“I guess his group went off and left him, and he was terrified,” Miller said.

In the small town of Candelaria, which sits on the border with Mexico, the Rio Grande is dry.

Jessica Phelps, Staff photographer / San Antonio Express-News

Dried-up Rio Grande

Travelers jumping into the West Texas badlands from Mexico through Candelaria, a flyspeck village 50 miles up two-lane blacktop northwest of Presidio, might be deceived by the prevailing verdant quiet.

They also might be forgiven for not noticing the international line.

The Rio Grande, upstream from where it’s replenished by Mexico’s Conchos River, is little more than a tree-shrouded creek bed, no wider than a mobile home. The river channel is completely dry now, as it is much of the year unless it rains. A decade of severe drought and upstream irrigation has taken its toll.

Many of Candelaria’s 100 or so residents were born in the neighboring Mexican community, San Antonio del Bravo, or live in both places at once. Officials say the Mexican villages farther along the border are prime staging areas for human smugglers.

On a recent day, three SUVs and two pickup trucks sat unattended in a grassy clearing on the Mexican side. Large canisters of liquid, perhaps for drinking, filled the pickup beds. A sign implores visitors not to throw trash; only a single plastic bottle and a cup litter the clearing.

In a clearing on the Mexican side of the dry Rio Grande, 

Dried-up Rio Grande

Travelers jumping into the West Texas badlands from Mexico through Candelaria, a flyspeck village 50 miles up two-lane blacktop northwest of Presidio, might be deceived by the prevailing verdant quiet.

They also might be forgiven for not noticing the international line.

The Rio Grande, upstream from where it’s replenished by Mexico’s Conchos River, is little more than a tree-shrouded creek bed, no wider than a mobile home. The river channel is completely dry now, as it is much of the year unless it rains. A decade of severe drought and upstream irrigation has taken its toll.

Many of Candelaria’s 100 or so residents were born in the neighboring Mexican community, San Antonio del Bravo, or live in both places at once. Officials say the Mexican villages farther along the border are prime staging areas for human smugglers.

On a recent day, three SUVs and two pickup trucks sat unattended in a grassy clearing on the Mexican side. Large canisters of liquid, perhaps for drinking, filled the pickup beds. A sign implores visitors not to throw trash; only a single plastic bottle and a cup litter the clearing.


A simple gate sits at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The river here is completely dry, making crossings into the desert land easier.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News

Marooned in Mexico

Most of the detained migrants are quickly returned to Mexico under regulations put in place by the last administration that suspended normal due process.

Those returned to Ojinaga, a raw city of about 30,000 that is the largest Mexican community in the region, have met a widely indifferent, sometimes openly hostile, reception. Unlike those in other Mexican border cities, outgoing Mayor Martin Sanchez has refused to allow non-Mexican returnees to stay at the city’s charity shelter.

“We don’t have the budget to handle this kind of situation,” Sanchez said recently, explaining his policy. “It’s not just food. They arrive here barefoot, without clothing. We have to give them everything.”

While praising the few Cuban nationals who have been marooned in Ojinaga in recent months, Sanchez dismissed the far more numerous Central Americans in the city as “undisciplined, rude and ignorant.”

“It’s worse where they are from than is this whole journey,” Sanchez said of the migrants. “Because it’s not easy to get here. They don’t want to go home. They want to try to cross again.”



Maribel Aguilar, 27, passes her days at the only shelter for Central American migrants returned to Mexico in the border city of Ojinaga. Aguilar tried crossing the border with her 13-year-old daughter

and a friend. The other two made it across and now Aguliar waits in hopes of 

getting more money to make the journey again.

Jessica Phelps, Staff photographer / San Antonio Express-News

With few other options, humanitarian officials with Mexico’s immigration agency drop the most destitute of the returnees, most of them Central Americans, at a threadbare shelter set up several years ago by an evangelical preacher and his wife on the hardpan outskirts of Ojinaga.

During the high migration season last winter, Pastor Jose Medrano and his wife, Reyna Madrid, tended to dozens of migrants at a time, with little financial help.

Men bedded down on donated cots or sleeping mats in the concrete and tin-roofed chapel attached to the family’s home. The far fewer women and children slept in two small rooms flanking a simple kitchen.

“The Bible speaks of the pilgrim,” Madrid, 60, said. “We have to help these people. They have no support, no guardian angels. We are their protectors, sent by God.”

Most the men in the shelter said they planned to return home after several failed attempts to slip into the U.S. A few were waiting for family and friends to send more money to pay for another try.



Lucio Lopez, a migrant from the Mayan highlands of Guatemala, looks at photos of his family inside the stuffy room at the Ojinaga shelter.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News

Many of the men said smugglers had told them that crossing in the Big Bend area was both faster and more assured than through Arizona or California. Some crossed in groups of about a dozen people, others with columns of up to 60. All were caught either quickly or after days of hiking toward U.S. 90 or Interstate 10, as much as 55 miles distant.

“We heard the desert is a shorter route,” said Anselmo Arzate, 44, a Guatemalan father of two daughters. “But everything here is difficult. ”

Arzate said he was captured on a first attempt after walking four days and on a second after a weeklong trek in which his group stumbled upon the bodies of four other migrants.

“It’s just not worth the effort,” Arzate said. “At least we tried.”


The sun rises over the desert near Candelaria.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News

Last week, only a few Central Americans were staying at the shelter.

Lucio Lopez, 30, a father of two from Guatemala’s Maya highlands, had tried four times to slip into El Paso. U.S. officials sent him to Ojinaga after the final attempt, hoping the desert would discourage him more than the border fence of the city.

Honduran Maribel Aguilar, 27, said she had tried several months ago to ask for asylum at El Paso with her 13-year-old daughter and a friend.

U.S. officials admitted the other two, and they are now living in Florida. Aguilar was returned to Ojinaga, where she has been stuck at the shelter plotting her next move, awaiting funds that may never come. Whatever happens, she said, returning to Honduras isn’t an option.

“I have faith in God that I am going to get in,” she said in a whisper.

The moon rises over the desert near Candelaria where migrants have been crossing in large numbers.

Jessica Phelps /San Antonio Express-News