Things That Matter

Luis Cortes Is The 31-Year-Old Dreamer Attorney Fighting To Save DACA In The Supreme Court Case

All eyes are on the Supreme Court right now. Thousands of people supporting the undocumented immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are at the steps of the highest court in the country, making sure the justices fully understand what is at stake. At the core of the issue is that the Trump Administration wants to do away with the Obama-era program that protects an estimated 700,000 undocumented people from being deported. On June 28, 2019, after months of litigation, the Trump Administration called to end the program went through the court of appeals. The Supreme Court agreed they would hear arguments for keeping DACA and would rule whether to uphold the rights of DACA beneficiaries or end the program altogether. That is where we are right now. The most incredible part about this whole aspect is not just the countless supporters for the DACA program, but the people on the front lines fighting to keep the program alive. 

Two lawyers will be speaking in front of Supreme Court judges in support of DACA, one Theodore Olson, a 79-year-old veteran lawyer, and Luis Cortes, a 31-year-old undocumented Latino lawyer.

Credit: @joshdroner / Twitter

So, while defending this matter is of great importance to the thousands who are protected under DACA and their family friends, this case is also a personal one for Cortes. The Mexican native from the state of Michoacán, who was just a year old when his family came to the U.S., said in an interview with the New Yorker that it’s great to have all the support now. Still, it was a very different case back when former President Obama first launched the program.

“The whole slogan you hear now—’undocumented, unafraid’—is somewhat new,” he said to the publication. “I remember when I was undocumented and very afraid.” He told the New Yorker that he was still in law school and felt pressured over disclosing so much information in order to get protection. 

“I was very incredulous about the whole thing,” Cortes said. “I was, like, They want us to give all of that information about ourselves to the government!”

Soon after Trump Administration began to crack down on undocumented people, even those supposedly protected under DACA, ICE detained one of Cortes’s clients. In early 2017, ICE arrested DACA beneficiary, Daniel Ramirez Medina, because they alleged he had ties to a gang. That matter is still under litigation

This case will be a defining one for Cortes because, on the one hand, he is representing clients to the Supreme Court, which is huge for his career, and on the other hand, the ruling of this case will determine if he will be able to remain in the country.

Credit: @stephberrryy / Twitter

“As a lawyer, I’m very stoked about it,” Cortes told the New Yorker. “I didn’t think I would have a Supreme Court case this early on in my career. But it’s also daunting. I’m going to be looking at the people who get to decide whether my clients are going to get deported, and me along with them.” He told CNN that he would be arguing the case on behalf of nine individuals and also himself. “A lot is at stake for me individually.”

Cortes said that protecting young people with DACA means more than just remaining in the country, but providing the livelihood for entire families. Undocumented people without DACA do not have the ability to get a social security card, which means they cannot obtain legal work. That means it is their children who face the harsh reality of helping those who sacrificed so much for them.

“The United States is an amazing place to live,” he told CNN. “Unlike any other place.”

Thousands of people, including CEOs, politicians, and celebrities, demand that the Supreme Court finally give DACA beneficiaries the proper protection they deserve.

Credit: @capimmigration / Twitter

In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a letter to the Supreme Court informing them they had hired 443 DREAMers because they deserved to have those jobs.

“Our country has enjoyed unparalleled success by welcoming people from around the world who seek to make a better life for themselves and their families, no matter their backgrounds,” the company said. “As a group, they tend to display levels of determination and resolve that would be the pride of any business. We could tell you 443 stories to illustrate these attributes.”

READ: Hundreds Of Universities, Cities, And Businesses File Amicus Briefs Urging The Supreme Court To Defend DACA

A 5-Year-Old Girl Was Abandoned By Her Parents And Found Chained To Her Bed In Mexico

Things That Matter

A 5-Year-Old Girl Was Abandoned By Her Parents And Found Chained To Her Bed In Mexico

Daily Mail / Twitter

More often than we might like, headlines tend to describe literal, living nightmares—and the recent story about a 5-year-old girl abandoned by her parents in Mexico is no exception. On January 3, a young girl was found in an empty house in San Luis Potosi, tethered to her bed by a rusty chain. Neighbors had heard cries for help coming from the house and notified the local police. When authorities arrived on the scene, they discovered that the girl was living in terrible conditions: not only was she alone, but she was surrounded by piles of trash and filth. Mexican newspaper Excelsior reported that investigators also found a small bucket near the bed, which the child was forced to use as a toilet. She had bruises on her leg and ankle from the metal cuff. After noting her injuries, police transferred her to a local hospital where and she was found to be in stable condition. As of now, the state prosecutor’s office is collaborating with child protective services and police in an attempt to locate the child’s parents.

Not much is yet known about this child (her name is not being released), and no arrests have yet been made. But what we do know is that her situation is not unique.

When searching for information about this story, countless results recounting nearly identical situations appeared, with headlines like “Girl, 6, Was Chained to Bed for 5 Years in Norco Home;” and “‘They’re Chained Up to Their Bed’: Hear 911 Call From Girl Who Escaped Captivity, Saved Her 12 Siblings.” Although each case offers its own twisted nuances, we can’t help but wonder: How is it possible that this horror story of captivity, abuse, and neglect is so common?

The tale that garnered the most media attention in recent years—mentioned in the above headline about a girl who escaped to save her 12 siblings—chronicles the experience of the Turpin children, all of whom were held captive by their parents over the course of almost three decades.

The torture and abuse enacted upon the Turpin children started as neglect, according to officials. In the beginning, the children’s parents would tie them to their beds as a form of punishment, using rope before later graduating to padlocks and chains. At first, the children would only be confined for short periods; but over time, these stints began to stretch longer and longer, sometimes spanning days or weeks, and the siblings—aged 2 to 29—would not be allowed to use the bathroom.

When the siblings were discovered by police in January 2018, almost all of them were severely malnourished. Evidently, when they were not chained up, they were fed very little food according to a strict regimen. Sometimes, the Turpin parents would buy food and place it in plain sight, taunting the children by prohibiting them from tasting it. According to Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin, at the time the siblings were rescued, one 12-year-old weighed what an average 7-year-old might weigh, and the female 29-year-old clocked in at a mere 82 pounds. The family dogs, on the other hand, appeared to be in good spirits and overall good health.

In spite of her emaciated physical condition, the 17-year-old managed to escape by climbing out a window and dialing 911 on a deactivated cell phone (federal law requires that all cell phones be capable of contacting emergency services, even those that are not operational). According to Hestrin, she and some of her siblings had been devising an escape plan for over two years.

So, statistically, how many victims of domestic captivity are able to share successful stories of escape? It’s tough to say, as there is no definitive number of children in domestic captivity, and it’s ultimately impossible to compare the numbers of known cases with unknown, still-active cases.

Plus, experts say that the potential consequences of attempting to escape often deter victims from even trying. Fear of violence and/or punishment—paired with psychological conditions like Stockholm Syndrome, which occurs when captives become emotionally attached to their captors—is often a major reason that captives don’t try to flee. Long periods of abuse can also lead to a loss of perspective in victims, causing them to feel grateful for any sort of lull in abuse and potentially falling into complacency or acceptance when the abuse is paused or slowed.  

Although the children mentioned above were held captive by their own parents, human trafficking—and especially the trafficking of young children—continues to be a pervasive global issue. According to the latest global estimates, 25 million adults and children are currently being exploited for forced labor, and that is not a comprehensive metric. The statistics surrounding the breadth of human exploitation are staggering, and if you suspect that someone is a victim of trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is the best resource. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888: Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take any and all reports of potential cases.

Street Vendors Left Confused As Los Angeles Changes Regulations On Street Vendors

Culture

Street Vendors Left Confused As Los Angeles Changes Regulations On Street Vendors

streetvendorsla / Instagram

On most city streets in Los Angeles, you’re never too far from the nearest taco cart or fruit stand. Whether it’s a vendor selling you al-pastor tacos or a paletero greeting you with an elote, street vending is as much a part of the city as the sunshine and palm trees. According to city officials, there are an estimated 50,000 vendors in Los Angeles county alone. For years, many of these vendors faced fines, harassment from police and no real way to regulate vending on city streets. 

All of that is about change as the city of Los Angeles has started to roll out its Sidewalk and Park Vending program that was unanimously passed last year by the Los Angeles City Council. As of Jan. 2, the city has begun accepting permits for legal street food vending that will require vendors to have proper business licenses, health permits, and a $291 fee to operate that will go up to $541 on July 1. Under these new rules, all L.A. street vendors will be required to buy a permit with the city, or ultimately face fines. 

While the new program is being praised, it seems that street vendors are getting the short end of the stick.

One week into the program rollout, many have no clue about the new fees and where to apply for them, let alone afford them.

This ordeal goes back years but street vending took a huge step forward in 2018 when the L.A. City Council approved an ordinance to fully legalize it, following California Gov. Jerry Brown signing bill SB946 to make it easier for sidewalk vendors to operate legally. While the bill was championed at first, what followed was confusion across the state about how to enforce laws when it came to street vendors. Brown left it to California cities to develop their own regulations and rules on how to properly enforce and regulate street vending laws.

The city of L.A. is considered a leader when it comes to street vending regulation so with this month’s new program rollout, other cities across the state are looking at it as an example. But the most obvious roadblock might be educating and informing vendors of their rights and what is needed for them to abide by the law.  

Rudy Espinoza, the Executive Director of Leadership for Urban Renewal Network and an activist who has worked for years to legalize street vending in Los Angeles, agrees that L.A. street vendors have been left in the dark. 

 “The big takeaway is that there has been a huge lack of investment in education and that is a big concern of mine,” Espinoza told the Los Angeles Downtown News. “I think a lot of street vendors, many who are in Downtown, don’t know what the rules are and there has to be a serious investment to reach them.”

Community organizers have tried to their best to inform vendors of these changes but many in the city have yet to hear about them nor can many afford these new permits. 

One of biggest issues that has arisen in the rollout of the program is simply the cost of permits. According to Curbed LA, street vendors and community organizers made the case to city leaders to lower permit fees “from $50 to $200, depending on a vendor’s age or ability to pay,” but to no luck. There was also the issue of translation for non-English speaking vendors who attended city council meetings focusing on these permits. 

“We’d like to hear what the councilmembers are saying at the moment because it’s a decision that will affect our lives,” Mayra Hernandez, a street vendor who attended a meeting back in November, told Curbed LA. “And we don’t know if it’s good or bad because we can’t understand.”

This lack of fluid communication has seemed to follow into the new program rollout as many vendors have questions, mainly if they will be able to afford the $541 permit fee. According to a 2015 report by the Economic Roundtable, Sidewalk Stimulus: Economic and Geographic Impact of Los Angeles Street Vendors, LA street vendors “generate on average $204 a week or $10,098 a year in revenue.” This would essentially mean that vendors would have have to use almost three weeks of work to pay for the pricey $541 fee.

 “$541 is a huge part of the rent for people here,” Ramon Lopez, who lives in MacArthur Park, one of the most busiest street vending sections of LA, told the California Globe. “It’s what they make in nearly a month. It buys groceries for a long time.

This leaves a big question mark on the viability of the new street vending program and if the pricey fees will only encourage some vendors to not comply with regulations.  

Street vending plays a big role in the economy of L.A. outside of just vendors’ pockets. They help create foot traffic in city streets and other small businesses that creates a ripple economic effect on those local communities.

With these new regulations in place, the question is now if these businesses can afford to operate legally? That is a question on the minds of many community leaders and street vendors that fought for these regulations for years. 

READ: Venezuelan Politics Are In Turmoil As Maduro’s Military Blocked The Opposition From Entering Parliament