The Trump administration is seeking to sidestep an environmental study about potential effects of a new border wall for a section that passes through a Texas refuge for endangered ocelots, Reuters reports. The 2018 budget proposal calls for 32 miles of wall in the Rio Grande Valley region of the border.
In the mid-2000s, when the wall as it currently exists was in the planning stages, 37 federal laws intended to protect the environment were waived in their entirety in order to build the structure. This has created a number of unintended — and frequently disastrous — side effects, such as the area in the San Diego-Tijuana region formerly known as Smuggler’s Gulch, which was filled in with 2 million cubic yards of dirt in 2008 and 2009 and now contributes to flooding and soil erosion every time it rains.
But Customs and Border Patrol now plans to sidestep required environmental review thanks to a 2005 anti-terror law, passed as one of the recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, that will allow the Department of Homeland Security to build the wall immediately without waiting for lengthy environmental review, as Reuters reported.
• House Republicans are expected this week to tack $1.6 billion dollars on to a “minibus” bill (which includes funding for the Department of Defense) that would could fund building a border wall, which, as noted, already exists — and has for nearly a decade. Border and human rights activists, not to mention environmental advocates, are strongly opposing the move.
• Activists are stepping up to help people without documentation and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. San Diego alone has about 44,000 DACA-eligible residents. Alliance San Diego has launched a “know your rights” campaign for people who may be targeted by ramped-up deportation forces and ever-tightening immigration laws. (NBC 7)
• In Playas de Tijuana, within just a few steps of the border wall, the nonprofit organization Border Angels has opened the first Embajada Migrante — Migrant’s Embassy — for those who have just been deported. People who are deported rarely receive any warning or opportunity to return to their homes to clean up their affairs or warn family members. That means many of the people dropped off in Tijuana are left without money or support networks, and the existing shelters are bursting at the seams with people arriving in Tijuana or preparing to leave. The Embajada will provide food, a place to sleep and a place to receive legal advice for those who would otherwise be living on the streets or sleeping in the bed of the Tijuana River. (Frontera)
• Border Angels is also planning a binational concert on Saturday, July 29th in conjunction with the state of Baja California in order to raise funds and awareness for undocumented people and those who have been deported.
• Even more immigration judges have been shuffled around the United States in the midst of the immigration crackdowns that characterize much of the current administration, creating further delays and hearing postponements. The backlog has hit 600,000 cases nationally. (WNYC)
• The New Yorker profiles some of the mothers in the United States now being deported by the Trump administration. This is nothing new, however; DREAMers’ Moms have been an active and visible force in the Tijuana-San Diego region for several years now. Some of them can see their children and grandchildren in person when they come to Mexico for visits; others can speak to them and touch fingertips through the border fence at Friendship Park; still others can speak only over the phone or on Skype.
• The New Yorker also spoke with a veteran Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer who has grown disillusioned with the department as it has grown more aggressive under the Trump administration.
• Asylum-seekers fleeing drug and gang violence in Mexico and Central America turned away at the border are now suing the United States government, saying American agents were illegally giving them false information, as well as using threats and intimidation, in order to convince them — falsely — that they were not allowed into the country. (Reuters)
• A consular office in Tijuana has now opened for Haitian people seeking asylum or refuge in Mexico, or who are waiting to be allowed into the United States, reports haitilibre.com. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that it will be scrutinizing the criminal histories and public benefits usage of people living in the United States temporarily on protected status before deciding whether to renew their Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. Immigration experts call this step “unusual,” as TPS recipients are already screened and ineligible for public benefits. (NBC)
The Tijuana Taxi Turf War
What’s behind the wave of violence against Uber drivers and passengers in Tijuana? The latest VOSD Podcast includes an interview with two Tijuana tourist guides who explain the longtime problem with yellow cabs near the border.
• KPBS talked to Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum about his recent crackdown on yellow taxis.
More News from the Border
• Eight bodies were found in a truck in a parking lot of a San Antonio, Texas Walmart over the weekend, with another victim dying later, bringing the death toll to nine and highlighting the many physical dangers migrants are willing to take to escape the desperate poverty and random violence that has affected so many destabilized Latin American countries. (USA Today)
• How activist artists on the border are contesting the new wall proposed by Donald Trump. (The Conversation)
• The U.S.-Mexico border is bracing for “Carmageddon,” as the U.S. General Agency completes its final phase of a border expansion at the San Ysidro/El Chaparral point of entry into Mexico. The car crossing will be shut down for nearly 60 hours starting at 3 a.m. on Saturday, September 23rd, and all traffic will be rerouted through Otay Mesa. (Reader)
• Flights from Mexico to the United States are now subject to extra scrutiny of portable electronic devices that are larger than a cellular phone. Mexico’s civil aviation authority recommends that anyone flying into the United States arrive at the airport three hours early to allow for the new procedures. DHS tells CNN that this is part of additional security to prevent terror attacks — despite the fact that there have never been any terror attacks linked to the U.S.-Mexico border. The Border Patrol has clarified, however, that it is barred from searching cloud data on phones, reports NBC.