Things That Matter

After A Humanitarian Group Released Video Of Border Patrol Destroying Water Left For Migrants, A Volunteer Was Arrested

On Jan. 17, a humanitarian organization released a video that showed Border Patrol agents destroying food and water left for migrants who were trying to cross into the United States.

No More Deaths is an organization that helps migrants survive as they walk through Ajo, Arizona, a border town with a dangerously rugged terrain. The migrants from Mexico cross this town in hopes of entering the U.S.

The humanitarian group has been around since 2004 and their efforts of supplying migrants with food, water, clothing, shelter, and medical care is largely based on faith-based principals, according to their mission statement.

According to NBC News, the advocacy group says that out of 128 human remains that were found near the border in 2017, 58 of them were discovered in Ajo.

It seems border agents may have been watching members of the group leave behind supplies for migrants. At least that’s what No More Deaths believes.

Just hours after the video was released, one of their volunteers, an Arizona teacher, was arrested for giving migrants food and water.

Scott Daniel Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths for many years and a faculty associate at Arizona State University, was arrested eight hours after the group did a press conference regarding Border Patrol agents  and the destruction of supplies. He was charged with harboring undocumented immigrants. He has since been released from custody.

The Arizona Republic reports the video surveillance showed Warren walking towards a building referred to as “The Barn” where two migrants eventually showed up. No More Deaths volunteers typically leave supplies here for migrants. The migrants caught in the video eventually turned themselves in to agents.

“Scott has been instrumental in helping organize humanitarian aid in that region,” Jeff Reinhardt, a volunteer with No More Deaths, told NBC News.

His lawyer says the arrest was made in retaliation for releasing the video of the agents, which quickly went viral.

Warren’s attorney, Bill Walker, said the timing of the arrest was very suspicious and added that the organization isn’t doing anything illegal.

We don’t smuggle them, we don’t do anything to help them enter the United States, we do nothing illegal,” Walker told The Arizona Republic. “This place that they raided is not in the middle of the desert, it’s not hidden anywhere. It’s in the city of Ajo, and it’s been used for a long time, not to help smuggle migrants, but to give medical care and food and water.”

No More Deaths volunteer Caitlin Deighan also agreed with Walker, saying the arrest was out of vengeance.

“It felt retaliatory in that it occurred less than eight hours after our press conference releasing these findings that implicated Border Patrol,” Deighan said. “But we can’t confirm that with certainty.”

Carlos Díaz, an agency representative with the United States Customs and Border Patrol, told Splinter that this arrest was lawful and not the result of the video’s release.

The Guardian reports that two volunteers with No More Deaths were arrested and charged in 2005 for driving three immigrants “from a desert location to a Tucson church.” A federal judge dismissed the case.

READ: This Yale Student Is Fighting To Free Her Dad From ICE Detainment

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A New Restaurant Called Immigrant Food Just Opened Up Steps From The White House And We Stan

Things That Matter

A New Restaurant Called Immigrant Food Just Opened Up Steps From The White House And We Stan

ImmigrantFood / Instagram

Sometimes we read a news story that just makes us exclaim: “Wow, these people are seriously shading like a boss! Damn!”

Humor and directness are great assets when it comes to political activism. When it comes to confronting anti-immigration views with elegance and wisdom, one of the best strategies is actually showcasing the richness of multiculturalism and the vast benefits to local culture that diversity brings. 

Introducing Immigrant Food, a literal melting pot of deliciousness from all around the globe

Credit: immigrantfood / Instagram

The restaurant, located at 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, D.C.,  brings fusion cuisine to a new level, in unexpected ways that defy culinary conventions. For example, pickled platanitos on a Vietnamese noodle salad. One of the staples of Latino food, the humble banana is given a German treatment and thrown into a Southeast Asian dish. The restaurant’s mantra is simple: “We celebrate America’s story — the story of immigrants”. Amen! Take that, bullies! 

Chef Enrique Limardo and political activist Peter Schechter have taken adventurous paths and basically mixes dishes that have nothing to do with each other…until now.

Credit: immigrantfood / Instagram

Diversity is at the core of the new restaurant, which seems to be a sort of cachetada con guante blanco to those who refuse to admit that any healthy democracy needs cultural diversity. As Forbes reports: “Immigrant Food is the brainchild of political activist Peter Schechter who refers to this dining concept as more “cause casual” than fast-casual”.

So yes, it is food with a cause… and the cause is reminding us that diversity is at the core of any democratic society. Schechter told Forbes: “Rather than having a great business that then gives a portion of the profits as an afterthought to a cause, our cause is baked into our business model. We wouldn’t function without the cause.” As reported by CNN, Schechter is no spring chicken in political spheres, being described as “a seasoned political consultant and veteran of Washington’s think tank scene”. 

Just look at this symphony of colors and flavors: Ethiopia meets El Salvador!

Credit: immigrantfood / Instagram

At first sight the food from African and Central American countries have very little to do with each other, but if you think about it there is more in common that one might think. Ethiopian food is a delicious mix of grains, beans and sauces, and Salvadorian cuisine shares many of these core ingredients. Ethiopians and Salvadorians are two of the most vivid and active migrant groups in recent years. BTW, this is the Columbia Bowl and it looks just delish.

As chef Limardo told CNN in regards to how this dish came into existence: “I came up with the idea that we can use the berbere spice that is very common in Ethiopian food, and then in Salvadoran (food) they make a dressing that is made from pepita seeds. And the combination of both, it’s something that is unbelievable. Starting from that point, I just think that everything can be matched, if you’re using the right amount, and if you go back in history, and try to find the right spot to connect” . And it is right spot to connect that we all have to strive for, not only in food but also in life in multicultural societies.

The menu will change constantly and feature fusion dishes based on the traditions of 40 countries.

The menus will be supported by NGOs such as the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, Ayuda, the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, CARECEN and CASA. The menus will reflect the needs of the associated NGOs and basically speak to the causes of the time through culinary expression. In off-hours the restaurant is used as a space for these organizations to organize events such as meetings and English classes. Clients are also invited to make a donation when they pay the bill, and the sum is divided among the partner organizations. 

Seriously, can we please eat some of these platillos espectaculares.

Credit: immigrantfood / Instagram

We really hope that this restaurant remains open for a long, long time, and that others are inspired by the operation and message of what could very well become a Washington D.C. icon. After all, immigrants are deeply attached to the food and hospitality industries in the United States.

It is immigrants who sudan la gota gorda harvesting the fields, it is immigrants who bring their dishes and mix them with ingredients from other parts of the world (other than Native American dishes, no food is totally endemic to the country), it is immigrants who work in the kitchens as cooks, and it is increasingly immigrants such as top Mexican chef Enrique Olvera who are dictating the pace and trends in the industry. Immigrant Food is sort of stating the wonderful obvious: immigrants enrich any society through hard work and creativity.

As Schechter, the mastermind behind Immigrant Food and who is himself a product of Austrian and German migration told CNN: “This isn’t the America I recognize… Somehow it has become normal to disparage, to feel you can talk down to immigrants, like immigrants are not good for this country. Immigrants have been the foundation of growth and vibrancy. This country has been great again and again and again because of immigrants”. Preach! 

Authorities Sentence Cuban Man To 14 Years For Kidnapping And Extortion Of Undocumented Immigrants

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Authorities Sentence Cuban Man To 14 Years For Kidnapping And Extortion Of Undocumented Immigrants

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The man who led a group of criminals to prey on and kidnap undocumented women and children in an extortion scheme has been sentenced to 14 years in prison by a federal judge. Francisco Betancourt, a Cuban immigrant, led a group of other Latino, Spanish-speaking men to target Central American immigrants, who had just arrived, disoriented, at bus stops in New York City, seeking to be reunited with their families. Betancourt would use his Latinidad to gain the immigrants’ trust, then, steal their bus tickets, and coerce them to get into a cab that would ultimately cost their families well over $1,000 in “cab fees.”

District Attorney Judge John H. Durham announced Thursday that Betancourt was sentenced in New York, New York by U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill to 168 months of imprisonment in the Bridgeport facility, followed by three years of supervised release. Betancourt will be 84 years old by the time he is released from prison.

Francisco Betancourt conspired with three other Latino men to carry out the kidnappings of primarily young mothers with children.

Credit: @TheWomensWatch / Twitter

“The victims included women, men, and children from Central American countries who did not speak English and were seeking asylum in the U.S,” according to a statement by the US District of Connecticut Attorney’s office. “Some of the victims planned to travel from New York to Connecticut. Telling the victims that a connecting bus was not available and that they would provide transportation, Betancourt and others coerced the victims into vehicles. The co-conspirators would then drive the victims around, sometimes for hours, and refused to release them until they or their families agreed to pay the co-conspirators an exorbitant amount of money, on average more than a $1000.”

Betancourt used his Latinidad to victimize fellow immigrants.

Credit: @migrantfreedom / Twitter

Betancourt allegedly fled Cuba on the Mariel boatlift that famously aided a mass emigration of Cubans in the 1980s. Prosecutors allege that Betancourt was one of the prisoners, convicted of theft, that Castro ejected from the island and put on a ship with other freed inmates and mentally ill people to Mariel, Florida. Betancourt has served two prison sentences in the United States since his arrival. 

His victims were often young women traveling with children. They were nearly at the end of a long, treacherous journey, often having traveled from their dangerous homes in Central America, through Mexico, and past the U.S. border. Once granted asylum, or strapped with tracking ankle devices, border authorities put them on a bus from the border to New York City. Days of traveling later, they have one more bus to catch before being reunited with family.

At times, Betancourt’s co-conspirators would pose as immigration officers to further intimidate the victims.

Credit: @icegov / Twitter

Betancourt and his crime gang could spot the families from a mile away, having been immigrants themselves. They would steal their bus tickets and immigration forms and tell them that they worked for ICE and had arranged a taxi cab service instead. With their contact information in hand, from their immigration forms, they would call their relatives and request a taxi fare (ransom) for $2,000. Often, the families didn’t have enough money on hand, and they would settle for hundreds of dollars less. Because the relatives were often undocumented, they would never report the crime. 

Half of the four-person gang of criminals have been sentenced, with another two co-conspirators awaiting their sentences.

Pascual Rodriguez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, had already been sentenced in July to nearly 12 years in prison. Upon his release, his custody will be transferred to ICE, which will promptly deport him. Carlos Antonio Hernandez and Lucilo Cabrera have both been convicted in the extortion scheme, but are awaiting their sentences. Meanwhile, Betancourt is likely to live out his remaining days in prison.

Meanwhile, folks are pointing out the similarities between Betancourt’s crimes and Trump’s policies. 

Credit: Twitter

“Strangely enough, Trump is doing the exact same thing……” tweeted Raul A. Maestri, Jr (@itsgoodtoberaul). “Can he charge Trump with the same?” asks Justin Clay (@jclaywow32). “I hope that man was named Donald J Trump,” tweeted @LindaMadison10. Trump’s administration has seen an increase in privatization of immigrant detention facilities. The stricter the punishments placed on immigrants, the more money private detention centers receive from the federal government. 

Trump’s policies have drastically increased the number of migrants in detention and privatized detention facility political action committees like the GEO Group Inc contribute 89 percent of their political donations to Republicans.

READ: Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent