Culture

These Signs First Appeared In Southern California 20 Years Ago And There Is Only One Still Standing

In the mid-1980s, immigrants fleeing north to the U.S. from Mexico were risking their lives by crossing through busy freeways. Dozens of immigrants were struck by moving vehicles and some immigrants were left watching their parents or children die from their injuries, according to San Diego Union-Tribune. The frequency of the accidents prompted the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) to create a sign to alert drivers to the danger that was specific to that stretch of the interstate along the U.S.-Mexico border. There were originally ten signs along the 5 Freeway alerting drivers to the danger of people running across the freeway. Today, only one remains and, according to Los Angeles Times, as soon as it’s gone, it won’t be coming back.

The decreasing number of border crossings means that the signs are now considered obsolete.

According to Cindy Carcamo of The Los Angeles Times, 1986 was the most active time for border crossings in California. Border patrol agents in the San Diego area detained 628,000 people who crossed the border into the U.S. Despite being rather small in comparison to the rest of the border, Los Angeles Times reports that the border along the California state line accounted for almost 40 percent of all immigration arrests in the 1990s. The sheer number of people crossing is why CalTrans graphic designer John Hood was assigned the task of creating a sign that would let drivers know what to expect on that stretch of freeway. Since then, the number of people crossing over from Mexico to California has seen a significant drop, with only 31,891 arrested for crossing the border in 2016, according to Los Angeles Times.

When the signs were first revealed, there were immediate and strong reactions from all sides of the immigration debate, according to San Diego Union-Tribune. Immigrants and Latinos saw the sign as dehumanizing and akin to showing immigrants as faceless animals. Those who were against undocumented immigration thought that the state should not be spending time and money trying to keep them safe.

“Either you liked it or you hated it,” Steve Saville, a veteran CalTrans spokesman, told San Diego Union-Tribune. “It was an extraordinary measure to deal with an extraordinary situation.”

The road sign became a part of pop culture, with artists taking the original image and reimagining it. Here’s one from Chicano artist Lalo Alcaraz.

laloalcaraz.com/

“You create your work, and that’s the extent of it. You never envision something like that to happen,” Hood told Los Angeles Times. “It’s become an iconic element. It lives on.”

It has also been used as a politically-charged message about immigration and political climate.

GETSTUMPED / Reddit

The signs above appeared aroundSouthernn California leading up to the 2016 election. It was created by street artist Unsavory Agents to be pro-Trump’s immigration rhetoric.

“It’s served its purpose,” Hood told his son when they visited the last sign, according to Los Angeles Times.

(MORE: Los Angeles Times)


READ: Malibu Sanctuary City Sign Draws Strong Reaction From Left And Right

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

As the United States experiences a so-called surge of people attempting to enter the U.S., human traffickers and smugglers are working double time as they try to capitalize on the increased movements.

Cartels and human traffickers have long run their smuggling operations like a legitimate business but they’ve only got more advanced in how they move people across the border region and one key tool: color-coded bracelets. These bracelets almost act as passports for migrants to safely cross a cartel’s territory without interference or threats of violence. But what do these bracelets mean and how are they fueling the problem of human trafficking?

Plastic bracelets are being used by cartels to identify migrants in their territory. 

U.S. border agents carried out nearly 100,000 apprehensions or rapid expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, which is the highest monthly total since mid-2019. With the increase in people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, cartels are managing this migration of people over their territory and trying to make money off the humanitarian crisis. 

Many cartels have implemented a color-coded bracelet system that identifies those migrants who have paid for permission to cross their territory. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol agents have recently encountered immigrants wearing the bracelets during several apprehensions, Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.

The “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman said.

The color-coded system isn’t totally understood.

Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Migrants can pay thousands of dollars for the journey to the United States and human smugglers have to pay off drug cartels to move people through parts of Mexico. This is a money-making operation and cartels want to pay close attention to who has paid. The bracelets may just be a new way to keep track.

Criminal groups operating in northern Mexico, however, have long used systems to log which migrants have already paid for the right to be in gang-controlled territory, as well as for the right to cross the border into the United States, according to migration experts. In fact, in 2019, smugglers kept tabs on rapidly arriving Central American migrants by double checking the names and IDs of migrants before they got off the bus to make sure they had paid. 

One man, a migrant in Reynosa – across the border from McAllen, Texas – who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, showed Reuters a picture of a purple wristband he was wearing. He told them that he had paid $500 to a criminal group in the city after he arrived from Honduras to ensure that he wasn’t kidnapped or extorted. He said once migrants or their smugglers have paid for the right to cross the river, which is also controlled by criminal groups, they receive another bracelet.

“This way we’re not in danger, neither us nor the ‘coyote,’” he told Reuters.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Photo via Getty Images

On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

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