MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff was in Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego this week reporting on the border wall prototypes. The Trump administration chose six companies to design and construct mini walls as an audition to win lucrative contracts to build the president’s “big, beautiful” wall. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) claims that prototypes are being built so they can “evaluate what they need,” according to ABC News.
While Soboroff was speaking with a CBP agent, a group of people climbed over the current border fence and surrendered to CBP once on the U.S. side. Soboroff asked the CBP agent to explain what had just happened.
“This is the reality of every day border enforcement. The United States is still the draw, the ultimate draw, for people that have dire situations where they’re at,” the agent explains. “We’re going to continue to witness this. It plays out on a regular basis for us.”
A new border wall was a central part of Trump’s presidential campaign. Not only did he promise a wall that would span the entire southern border of the U.S., he also insisted he’d make Mexico pay for it. However, both of those assurances have become less and less likely since he has taken office.
First, leaked transcripts of Trump’s first phone call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto revealed that Trump conceded that Mexico would not pay for the wall. However, Trump pleaded with Peña Nieto, asking him not to tell the press about the concession so he could save face.
Second, Congress is not thrilled about approving a budget of more than $21 billion to construct the border wall, with many journalists, political commentators, a majority of Americans and others suggesting that the U.S. should be more concerned with updating the infrastructure in the U.S. instead.
Third, the second largest city in the country, Los Angeles, is looking for ways to legally penalize companies that choose to contribute to the border wall. Some of the things discussed by the Los Angeles City Council range from how companies bidding for city contracts can be scored according to their involvement with the border wall, to flat out denying contracts to border wall participants.
Looks like the “big, beautiful” wall is up against some serious challenges despite all the prototypes that have been erected.
It was a normal day at her New Mexico bookstore when author Denise Chávez was approached by a customer who needed help finding Spanish-English dictionaries. As is common in life, asking questions is what generates the most change, and the customer’s answer to her question of “Why?” sparked an idea. The customer wanted to help out the migrants who were passing through and finding refuge at the Peace Lutheran Church respite center. Understanding language as the vital life source to forming social bonds, communities, and basic navigation in society, Chávez decided to go a step further. In May 2019, Chávez started bringing bilingual storybooks to the Peace Lutheran Church shelter. Soon, word got around and she began to expand the project, initiating a soul-nourishing project called “Libros Para El Viaje” or books for the journey.
Chávez’s book drive has been promoted and supported by various bookstores across the country, including national nonprofit, the American Booksellers Association (ABA). Since then, Chávez has hand-delivered thousands of books to migrants on both sides of the border, offering the gift of exploring unknown worlds from the unacceptable confines of a tent, detention center or hiding.
Meet Denise Chávez.
Chávez grew up in the border community of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the daughter of a teacher and a lawyer. “I was just inculcated from the very beginning with books, books, books,” Chávez shared her story on social media. “Growing up as a Chicana close to the Mexican border, my stories came to me in many languages, including Spanish, Spanglish, border language… I was filled with the beauty of spoken words. And I’ve always loved books,” she shared on Booksellers of America’s featured bookseller post. “Bookselling means more to me every day,” Chávez shared on her experience of owning Casa Camino Real Bookstore, which serves as a community center and art gallery honoring border culture. “The stories of connecting, the people who come in—booksellers attract all sorts of people. To sell a book or to give a book away is a profound experience,” she added.
Chávez sees proof every week that giving a migrant a book is “a major healing experience.”
Libros Para El Viaje’s success is, in large part, thanks to Chávez’s presentation at an ABA conference that garnered national attention from booksellers. ABA has promoted her project, which has spurred many other community projects to help fund Libros Para El Viaje. For example, Minneapolis booksellers Red Balloon Book and Wild Rumpus created “Books for Border Kids” to host a two-month book drive. Those two independent booksellers alone sent over 3,000 book donations to Chávez in Las Cruces, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
“Every week, I distribute books in Spanish to families and children,” Chávez shared on social media. “So my work has deepened because we’re reaching out to people who arrive with nothing. To get a book means something. It’s a major healing experience. So when I see a tiny, little woman—and I wish people in the United States could see the people that stand in front of me with those ankle bracelets; they’re small people, they wouldn’t hurt anybody—I try to remember her face. She is on a journey. She’s going on a bus. She’s going on a plane. And she’s taking a book for the journey. I mean, wow! Right?”
“Books can heal us,” Chávez believes.
Whether it’s a Guatemalan teenager looking for a Stephen King novel or seeing the beauty in a mother “hugging three Isabel Allende books,” Chávez has found healing in her project. Whether “somebody is picking up a Spanish language version of H.G. Wells’ A WAR OF THE WORLDS. Or to give a dictionary to an older man who’s learning English. It’s exciting. This is truly being connected with what a book does, which is to inform, empower, enlighten,” she testified in a social media post. “My reason to be a writer is because I have been healed by books, and I do believe that books can heal us. It is a challenge to be a bookstore, but I continue because I know the power of a book,” Chávez attests.
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:
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
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.
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.
Share this story with all of your friends by tapping our little share buttons below!