Things That Matter

‘Fiesta Protesta’ Is A Massive Cross-Border Party That Gives A Whole New Outlook On The Border Crisis

Hundreds of people gathered recently along the banks of the Rio Grande for the seventh annual Voices From Both Sides festival held along the edge of Lajitas, Texas, and Paso Lajitas, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. 

On the American side, three Border Patrol vehicles watched from an overpass as festivalgoers waded back and forth through the thigh-deep water, crossing an international border.

What’s going on there may technically be illegal but police and Border Patrol are looking the other way – for now.

The 7th Annual Voices From Both Sides festival, or Fiesta Protesta, recently took place along the US-Mexico border and festival goers want more people to know about their unique community.

Credit: @ozzyfan1962 / Twitter

Since 2013, there has been an annual Voices From Both Sides festival along the US-Mexico border. The daylong event commemorates the 2002 closure of the border crossing between Lajitas and its Mexican sister city, Paso Lajitas, as well as serving as a kind of binational family reunion. More than 1,000 people cooled off in the Rio Grande, gathered for a picnic lunch and took in music and ballet folklórico performances.

For decades the American and Mexican towns enjoyed an easy interdependence. That changed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when the American government tightened border security. Over Mother’s Day weekend in May of 2002, Border Patrol agents detained about 20 people in Lajitas on immigration charges, signaling that unauthorized passage across the river would no longer be allowed. Families with members on both sides of the river were effectively separated; before long, businesses in Paso Lajitas catering to Americans closed.

When the crossing closed in 2002, Paso Lajitas struggled; only a couple of families still live there and the restaurants all closed.

Two decades ago, Paso Lajitas was home to about 20 families and several tourist-supported eateries, a store and a few informal guide outfitters. Visitors from the United States would cross to eat tacos at a riverside restaurant. Residents of the Mexican towns would buy laundry soap in American stores or visit American doctors. Throughout the 1990s, some Paso Lajitas children even attended school in

Now, according to two women who live on the Mexican side, they only see their cousins in the US – who only live 16 miles away – once a year because the journey now involves a long 150-mile -long route.

This year’s Fiesta Protesta was even visited by Mike Rubens, correspondent for “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.”

One of the attendees described the relationship between the two border towns as “a neighborhood with a river in the middle of it.” Rubens also spoke with two Mexican women who said they grew up attending school in America, and that Americans shopped at their family’s store in Mexico.

Before the Lajitas border crossing was closed in 2002, the Mexicans and Americans thought of themselves as a single community. Co-organizer Jeff Haislip said, “If you’ve never seen the togetherness, you wouldn’t notice the separation. We used to play softball against each other. We were integrated as a community.”

The current administration’s focus on border security has added a new level of concern to people on both sides of the river. One American woman said, “I’m not necessarily pro ‘let everybody come over here,’ but I think that we have gone completely beyond the limits that are necessary for what’s going on. These people just want to see their families.”

Since so few people know about the annual event, many were shocked and excited to hear about it.

Credit: @ilektracm / Twitter

In 2013, after more than a decade of strict border enforcement, Jeff Haislip and Collie Ryan, residents of Terlingua, another small Texas town 10 miles farther east along the Rio Grande, wanted to host a Mother’s Day protest. But then they decided that a party would be more fitting. 

“We didn’t just want to protest the border being closed, we wanted to show all the wonderful things that were lost when it was,” Mr. Haislip said. And so they began planning Voices From Both Sides as an international “fiesta protesta.”

Most people don’t know about the event because few people are reporting on it.

Many viewers and residents alike point out that the whole ‘border crisis’ is entirely made up by the US government and the media. Instead of dealing with humanitarian needs in a humane way, the US has manufactured a crisis in order to respond with brute force and to demonize entire communities.

Some took to social media to share just how special the event really is.

This Instagram user pointed out just how traditionally Texas the celebration really is. Her family goes back generations in Texas and points out that people have been crossing the US-Mexico border for just as long.

During the inaugural event, attendees were initially shy about wading 40 feet across the river. According to one attendee, “the dogs were the ones that broke the ice.”

U.S Border Patrol observes the festivities and allows both sides to travel back and forth across the natural border as long as everyone returns to their respective sides of the river when all is said and done.

Mexican National Jumped To His Death Off A Bridge After He Was Denied Asylum

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Mexican National Jumped To His Death Off A Bridge After He Was Denied Asylum

El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

To understand why undocumented immigrants will do everything in their power to get to the United States is to fundamentally understand what is at the core of their fears. They are not all seeking the “American Dream” or to have a better life, many are seeking to have a life free of fear and violence. For many people seeking asylum, it’s a matter of life or death. Remaining in their home countries means death, and there’s no other way of saying it. People are dying at the hands of gangs and the cartels. So, when people risk their lives to enter the U.S. without documentation, it’s because they have nothing to lose. The worst part of all is being turned away by the U.S. because some of these have nothing else to live for. 

A Mexican national in his 30s or 40s cut his throat and jumped to his death off a bridge across the Rio Grande after he was denied by the U.S. border patrol.

Credit: @mlnangalama / Twitter

The man, who has yet to be identified, committed suicide on Wednesday, Jan. 8, and according to several news reports, was seeking asylum. Reports say that he jumped off the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which is between the Mexican border city of Reynosa and Pharr, Texas. 

We attempted to reach information about his death via the U.S. border patrol. However, because the death occurred on Mexican soil, American officials do not have to comment about the death or include it in any of their reports. 

Mexican officials are investigating the death further.

Credit: El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

The prosecutor’s office for the Mexican state of Tamaulipas did release more information about the man saying, “He was attempting to cross to the U.S. side to request asylum. When he was denied entry, he walked several meters (yards) toward the Mexican side and cut himself with a knife.” The death occurred around 5 p.m. local time. 

It’s unclear why the man decided to take such extreme measures, but as we noted earlier, some of the undocumented people have said returning home is like facing death. 

According to footage made available to the Spanish-language publication, El Mañana de Reynosa, a video shows the man pacing back and forth on the bridge while officials attempt to calm him down.  The standoff lasted for about 15 minutes. Since the man was behaving dangerously, U.S. officials closed the gates to the border and stopped international entry. After the man jumped, the Red Cross arrived at the scene where he was pronounced dead. 

Undocumented people are facing even more hardships when getting denied asylum. Aside from “remaining in Mexico” until it’s time for their asylum hearing, some are now being transferred to Guatalama even if they’re Mexican.

Credit: El Mañana de Reynosa / Facebook

This week the Trump Administration announced that some Mexican nationals would be sent to Guatalama under near agreements between both country officials. 

“Certain Mexicans seeking humanitarian protection in the United States may now be eligible to be transferred to Guatemala and given the opportunity to seek protection there, under the terms of the Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement to NBC News.

To make matters worse, the outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said that agreement never became official. He said the U.S. would have to discuss the matter further with the new president. 

“It’s more than clear; in the agreement, it only lays out Salvadorans and Hondurans,” Morales said, according to Time magazine. “The United States has talked about the possibility of including Mexican nationals, but that they have to discuss it with the next government. In the last visit we made to the White House with President Trump we were clear saying that that negotiation had to be done with the new government.”

All of this disorganization by the part of the United States just complicates matters more for the vulnerable undocumented community. They seek to enter the United States, and getting turned away means more uncertainty than before. 

This is not the first time a person has committed suicide soon after being deported. 

Credit: @adv_project / Twitter

In 2017,  44-year-old Guadalupe Olivas Valencia also jumped to his death soon after he was deported to Mexico. He had been previously living in California, working as a gardener. 

READ: Trump Administration Plans To Send Some Mexican Asylum-Seekers To Guatemala And Mexico Is Fighting Back

These Are The Changes Likely Coming To Immigration Policy In 2020

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These Are The Changes Likely Coming To Immigration Policy In 2020

ImmigrationEqualityNow / Instagram

Unless you’ve been completely disconnected from reality, you likely know that this year is a presidential election year. Both Donald Trump and candidates for the Democratic primary have been touring their policy positions ahead of the election and regardless of who ends up in the White House, there will be serious changes to the United States’ immigration policies.

Even before the November election, we can expect major policy changes under the Trump Administration. And given the president’s previous stance on immigration, we shouldn’t expect him to stand before the Statue Of Liberty and tout the USA as a beacon of hope for migrants and its tradition as a nation of migrants. But here’s what we should expect in the new year:

DACA

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which currently grants work authorization and administrative relief from deportation for up to 700,000 individuals who came to America before the age of 16. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the administration, then talk of a legislative compromise will increase. However, the closer it gets to the November 2020 presidential election, the less likely a deal may become.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

A November 1, 2019, Federal Register notice automatically extended “the validity of TPS-related documentation for beneficiaries under the TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador through Jan. 4, 2021.” However, a decision in the case of Ramos v. Nielsen, which blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind Temporary Protected Status for several countries, could end long-term stays in the United States for approximately 300,000 people.

Refugee and Asylum Policies

SYDNEY TOWN HALL, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – 2016/02/08: Protesters at Town Hall Square gathered to demonstrate against offshore detention. With mounting public and political pressure against the Australian Federal Government an estimated 4000 protesters rallied at Sydney Town Hall to demonstrate their opposition to the deportation and detention of asylum seeker children to the offshore processing centers of Manus Island and Nauru. The protesters called for the abandonment of all offshore detention with the vocal message of ‘let them stay’. (Photo by Richard Ashen/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In September 2019, the Trump administration announced a historically low annual refugee admission ceiling of 18,000 for FY 2020, a reduction of 84% from the 110,000-limit set during the last year of the Obama administration. “The administration betrays our national commitment to offering refuge and religious freedom to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities,” said World Relief in a statement. There is no reason to anticipate the administration will raise the refugee ceiling for FY 2021. 

In response to an executive order mandating consent from state and local authorities to resettle refugees, more than 30 governors have written letters to the State Department pledging their states will continue to resettle refugees. Three organizations have filed a lawsuit over the executive order.

Numerous lawsuits have challenged the administration’s asylum policies toward Central Americans. In one respect, the administration has already “won” on asylum, since the policies to block most asylum seekers and send them to Mexico and other countries have been allowed to remain in place while litigation has continued.

The Wall

Credit: US DHS / CBP

Donald Trump is determined to build as much of a “wall” as possible before the November 2020 election. Anticipate stepped-up seizures of private landand fights with judges and environmental groups.

The Public Charge Rule

On October 4, 2019, a presidential proclamation used Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar new immigrants from entering the United States without health insurance, potentially reducing legal immigration by hundreds of thousands of people per year. A similar reduction in legal immigration could result if the administration’s rule on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds goes into effect. 

Judges have blocked both measures, at least temporarily, but if a court clears either for use, then it could be the Trump administration’s most far-reaching immigration measure. A permanent reduction in the flow of legal immigrants would reduce the long-term rate of economic growth in America, making these actions potentially the most significant policies to affect the U.S. economy under the Trump presidency.

Workplace Enforcement Rules

Since Donald Trump took office, investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened about four times the number of workplace investigations as compared to the Obama administration. That trend is likely to continue in 2020. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kansas v. Garcia may represent a more significant immigration enforcement threat for companies. Paul Hughes, who represented Garcia, said in an interview if the court rules in favor of Kansas, then “local city and county prosecutors could engage in mass prosecutions of employees and employers” for “the employment of immigrants who lack work authorization.”

Decriminalizing Illegal Border Crossings

If a Democrat wins the White House come November, we can expect increased conversations on decriminalizing illegal border crossings. Julian Castro first floated the idea during a Democratic debate and since then the idea has been picked up by other candidates as well. This would be a major shift in US policy but one that could bring immense change to migrant communities.