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Memorial Day is generally a time that people acknowledge the veterans in their lives, alive and dead and honor them for sacrifices made in the line of duty.
But what of the hundreds of veterans of the U.S. military who were unable to attain their citizenship through service, who are now exiled from the country for which they fought? Many who remain in Tijuana live or rely on services through the Deported Veterans Support House, colloquially called The Bunker, a place run by a deported former Army paratrooper named Hector Barajas. Part of their mission is to provide solidarity and material resources for those who have served and then been deported. Another is to call international attention to their plight:
Their efforts are paying off, little by little. Next Saturday, seven members of Congress — Reps. Joaquin Castro, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Lou Correa, Vicente Gonzalez, Raul Grijalva, Nanette Diaz Barragán and Juan Vargas — will travel to the Bunker in Tijuana in order to meet with veterans (and their supporters) there.
Vargas, whose district runs up against the Mexican border, has reintroduced three bills aimed at preventing veterans from being deported and at helping those who have been deported to access medical services.
Immigration Customs and Enforcement conducted a morning sweep using plainclothes officers in unmarked cars in National City on May 23, and arrested Francisco and Rosenda Duarte and leaving their four children, the oldest of whom is 19, to fend for themselves.
The four children made a Youtube video in which they described the early morning arrests as an “ambush.”
Activists rallied outside the Otay Mesa detention center, where they believed the parents to be, but had difficulty tracking down their exact location. (The Duartes have since been found.) The move by ICE drew strong condemnation from the National City Elementary Schools Association.
According to U.S. Border Patrol, Duarte and Perez were suspected to have been working as stash house operators for a transnational human smuggling operation. They were both under investigation for their alleged involvement.
Duarte and Perez have been charged with immigration violations, and are being processed for removal proceedings, confirmed U.S. Border Patrol. The parents are currently in Border Patrol custody and will later be transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pending their immigration hearings.
The family had been in the United States for 21 years. A GoFundMe page is collecting donations to help the Duarte children with their day-to-day bills.
More than 330,000 gallons of sewage spilled into the Tijuana River over the Memorial Day weekend. According to reports, the spill did not reach the ocean, but the sewage issue is worse now than it has been in previous decades.
Union officials representing the Border Patrol say that respiratory problems, rashes and nausea are now par for the course for agents who are sickened by chasing people through contaminated areas.
It is undeniable that there is a greater problem with sewage spills and contaminated water flowing north from Mexico to the United States. What is not being questioned, however, is the reason, as Mexico has a state-of-the-art water purification facility that is often overwhelmed by volume, broken pumps and lack of communication on both sides of the shared San Diego-Tijuana watershed. The spills are often exacerbated by the infrastructure of the border wall itself, which either created or sped up environmental issues caused by overbuilding and soil erosion.
Environmentalists, border activists and scholars raised these concerns when the border fencing was planned to no avail; over the years, the Department of Homeland Security has consistently waived or outright disregarded dozens of federal environmental laws in order to build nearly 700 miles of fencing to separate Mexico from the United States.
Fandango Fronterizo celebrated its 10th year at the border wall over the weekend. The son jarocho music festival brought out folk musicians, professional and amateur, Mexican and American, to Friendship Park as part of a series of musical protests. Next week, the German orchestra Dresdner Sinfoniker will play its own protest concert — but now it will only take place on the Mexican side of Friendship Park.
Markus Rindt, the group’s music director, told news agencies that the concert had been blocked from the U.S. side by border agents, who cited “security concerns” as well as bird conservation issues. Rindt previously told German news outlet Deutsche Welle that if U.S. authorities tried to block the symphony from playing, “we’d really have to pose difficult questions about the state of artistic freedom in America.”
• Tijuana is for (opera) lovers, or at least it will be in July, when its Ópera en la Calle festival will once take over city’s streets.
In light of more planned deportations and tightening border controls, “coyotes,” who smuggle people from Mexico into the United States, are raising their prices dramatically.
The Border Patrol turned 93 this month. The agency, which came into being with the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 (which was intended to “preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity”and also instituted hard immigration quotas, subsequently found to be unconstitutional) was originally created to keep Chinese immigrants from crossing into the United States.