Things That Matter

Artists In San Diego And Tijuana Projected Activist Art Onto Trump’s Border Wall Prototypes

Video credit: Jorge Nieto

Donald Trump has worked steadily to realize his promise of building a bigger, more enforced wall along every state that borders the U.S. and Mexico. The biggest step in this plan has been the construction of eight border wall prototypes, erected in San Diego and built by contractors from around the country hoping to win government contracts for the project. The prototypes, which are 30 feet by 18 feet big, cost between $300,000 and $500,000 to build.

A group of artists and immigration rights activists from both sides of the border came together to protest the wall by literally shining a light on what it represents.

By mocking the prototypes, Holslin says the group sees an opportunity to “demystify and deflate the rhetoric of power that tyrants like Trump use to cast a spell on the public.” And for the group, creating art that injects “a laugh, fart or inappropriate comment” into a serious issue serves to disrupt their power.

READ: The Border Wall Prototypes Are Up In San Diego. Here’s What That Means

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This Pop-Up School For Migrant Kids Along The Border Went Virtual Thanks To Covid-19 But It’s Thriving More Than Ever

Things That Matter

This Pop-Up School For Migrant Kids Along The Border Went Virtual Thanks To Covid-19 But It’s Thriving More Than Ever

John Moore / Getty Images

The people traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to reach the U.S.-Mexico border aren’t living in some ‘migrant vaccuum’ where nothing else matters. They still have lives to live and experiences to have and, particularly for the young ones, an education to continue.

That was the thinking behind one sidewalk school that popped up in one of the many migrant camps along the U.S.-Mexico border. It was becoming filled with children from across Latin America who were forced to wait out their asylum process from within the border camps, thanks to Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. But their need for an education didn’t just go away.

One woman – with no formal teacher training – decided to help and launched what was called a ‘sidewalk school’ for kids in the camp. But it’s been incredible successful and has blossomed into an online academy for kids throughout the border region.

Despite Covid-19, this pop-up school for migrant kids along the border is thriving.

Just as the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted schools around the world, it’s also having an impact on a pop-up sidewalk school for asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The school, which launched to help fill the educational needs of a growing group of kids stuck at the border, had to go to virtual learning because of the pandemic. But instead of seeing that as a challenge, the school instead has blossomed.

What started out with one teacher at one camp on a sidewalk, how now blossomed by hiring 20 teachers – all asylum seekers themselves – to give classes via Zoom to children across the border region.

To be able to switch to distance learning, the teachers and students were outfitted with more than 200 Amazon tablets by The Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers. The organization was founded by Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, who lives across the border in Brownsville, Texas, and has been crossing to help the asylum seekers by providing them food and books.

It started in just one migrant camp with one teacher but it’s blossomed ever since.

A program like the sidewalk school was severely needed as hundreds and thousands of kids starting being forced to wait at the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s well-known that the border region is one of the most dangerous and violent parts of Mexico and that only underscores the need for quality activities.

Many point out that parents aren’t sending their kids to Mexican schools because they’re afraid to be apart from them. Crime is common here, and kidnappings have been reported. Other parents say registering for school in Mexico is difficult. But program leaders want the kids to be able to continue their education, and they say that many of the asylum-seekers have skill sets they can put to use at the school.

Parents are grateful, too, with one woman telling NPR that she knows “her children will be safe at the sidewalk school, and it gives her time to meet with an immigration lawyer. Volunteer attorneys have been coming over on the weekends to give free legal advice. The asylum-seekers could wait for months to be able to make their asylum case in the U.S.”

Teachers try to give the students some sense of normalcy amid the often dire circumstances at the border.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Many students start their day with an arts and crafts class. Kids are asked to draw on paper plates then outline them with flue and drop glitter. Then they get to hang their creations from trees.

One impromptu teacher, who told NPR he preferred to remain anonymous, said that he wants the kids to “see other people appreciate the artwork they did and let them know how important they are, too, even to people, like, just walking past and driving by. It’s beautiful work.

The classes have offered children not only the chance to catch up on studies that were interrupted when their families fled violence in their homelands, but also a distraction from the long days of boredom.

Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is what is fueling the need for programs like these.

Credit: JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

It’s the Trump policy of ‘Remain in Mexico’ that has forced programs like these to exist in the first place. The program forces asylum seekers to wait south of the border as their immigration cases proceed through the U.S. court system.

It leaves thousands of families living in tents or at Mexican shelters. Previously, asylum seekers were allowed to remain in the United States with relatives or other sponsors while their cases proceeded.

Many have spent more than a year with their lives in limbo, and the wait has only grown longer with the Trump administration suspending immigration court hearings for asylum-seekers during the pandemic.

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Trump Finally Gave The Green Light To Start The Transition But Many Immigration Policies Are Already Affected

Things That Matter

Trump Finally Gave The Green Light To Start The Transition But Many Immigration Policies Are Already Affected

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Ever since election night, President Trump has been sowing discord and disinformation while showing himself to be the big sore loser he always has been. Basically, he’s been showing his true colors.

But his actions have real consequences. As he instructs many in his administration to avoid any contact with President-Elect Biden’s transition team, he is doing damage to the peaceful transfer of power. He’s also risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans as the country continues to struggle to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now, his actions are impacting the future of immigration reform.

Trump has instructed his immigration department to avoid working with the Biden transition team.

As Trump’s General Services Administrator refuses to provide the Biden transition team with much-needed funds to begin preparing for office come January 20th, his immigration department is also keeping the transition team in the dark.

According to Buzzfeed News, an official that oversees US immigration and naturalization services told employees not to communicate with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team until a Trump appointee “deems the results ‘clear’” and recognizes the winner.

”It’s disturbing and disheartening that the agency is not permitting staff to aid the Biden transition team to ensure a smooth transfer,” said one USCIS employee who spoke on condition of anonymity. “These delays could hamper the new administration’s ability to hit the ground running on important issues facing the agency and our country.”

But the transition delay has also caused concern among officials in other agencies, especially those responsible for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

As president, Biden plans to undo many of Trump’s immigration reforms.

Credit: Natalie Sounders / Getty Images

President-Elect Biden has made it very clear that we will govern very differently that his predecessor. One of the areas where he’s looking to truly separate himself from Trump is on immigration.

Already, the transition team has promised to unroll Donald Trump’s legacy on immigration, but it faces an uphill battle to make good on that promise.

When it comes to DACA, the administration plans to reinstate protections DREAMers, but also to expand protections for their health care and education. A threat to the DACA program is making its way through the courts, so the Biden camp is under pressure to act quickly to make good on its promise.

For Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, Biden plans to bring that to an end as well. It is estimated that 20,000 migrants are waiting in northern Mexico in cities like Matamoros while seeking asylum in the U.S. But the exact number is not known for certain, in large part because the Department of Homeland Security has not yet shared such data with the Biden transition team.

Another big change would come in the form of revamping the country’s seasonal worker program. Biden wants to make it easier for both employers and workers to hire and find jobs while providing much-needed legal protections and fair pay to workers.

Biden has also committed to increase the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. annually to 125,000, a historic high and a dramatic increase from the historic low of 15,000 set by the Trump administration.

Biden can use executive action on many fronts but others will require congressional action.

Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Although Biden can accomplish many of these immigration reforms through executive action, he’ll need to work with Congress to achieve many others.

His platform outlines larger goals to work on with Congress, such as increasing the number of employment-based visas, providing a path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country and creating a new, decentralized immigration stream for foreign workers that is based on local employers’ needs as well as a new visa option for entrepreneurs. 

These plans will be contingent on which party controls the Senate—to be decided in January by two runoff elections in Georgia—and the course of the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spike across the country, leaving millions of workers unemployed.

Dreamers are celebrating President-Elect Biden’s plans but remain cautious.

Credit: Steve Marcus / Getty Images

While they aren’t eligible to vote, DACA recipients found ways to harness their political power ahead of the election. And it very much worked.

Over the course of the campaign, many politicans – including President-Elect Joe Biden – made serious promises to the nation’s immigrant population. And Dreamers show up, so if promises were made but progress isn’t, then DREAMers aren’t afraid to go show up in someone’s office and say, ‘Hey, I thought you were on our side.’

“Those are promises that would literally change my life,” said Mariana Castro, 26, a DACA recipient from Peru living in a mixed-status family in Florida.

So although much of the stress and weight has been lifted off immigrant communities shoulders with the results of this election, so much work remains to be done.

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