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The US Is Sending Migrants To The Same Mexican Cities It Advises Its Own Citizens To Avoid Due To Unprecedented Violence

Cartel violence and gun battles have killed at least three people this week in the Mexican border city Nuevo Laredo. Now, the United States consulate has issued a security alert, warning employees to take extra precautions as more violence looms. 

While government employees can expect some protections, asylum-seeking migrants who were sent to the region under the Migrant Protections Protocol (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, have not been extended such kindness. 

Under MPP, migrants who want to apply for asylum in the United States must await their hearings and cases in Mexico. According to Reuters, President Donald Trump has expressed an urge to designate cartels as terrorist organizations due to increasing cruelties. In November, cartels murdered three women and six children with dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship.

U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo issues statement on Twitter. 

“SECURITY ALERT: The Consulate has received reports of multiple gunfights throughout the city of Nuevo Laredo. U.S. government personnel are advised to shelter in place,” the tweet read.

The consulate advised employees to take shelter and notify others of their whereabouts. Today, Twitter users in the region reported hearing gunfire and attacks in Nuevo Laredo. Francisco Cabeza de Vaca, the governor of Tamaulipas, the state where Nuevo Laredo is located, said he held the cartel responsible in a series of tweets. 

THERE IS NO TRUCE AGAINST THE VIOLENT – Following the attacks on the State Police of #Tamaulipas by the CDN (Cartel del Norte), Governor @fgcabezadevaca endorses his commitment to safeguarding peace and the rule of law using all the force of the state,” Cabeza de Vaca said according to a tweet translated by the Yucatan Times

Migrants in Nuevo Laredo have become easy targets of the cartel. 

Violence and targeted attacks of migrants have occurred in the region since the summer. According to CBS, as of October, over 51,000 asylum seekers have been sent to Mexico under MPP. In August, NPR reported that around 4,500 had been sent to Nuevo Laredo nicknamed los caminos de carteles. 

The area is essentially a smuggling route for cartels and now it is where vulnerable migrants are dropped off. Asylum-seekers are left to fend for themselves in one of six available shelters in the dangerous city as they await court dates in the U.S. up to four months away. 

“Nuevo Laredo is more dangerous than San Pedro Sula, Honduras,” Cesar Antunes, a migrant dumped in the area told NPR, “which is where I fled from.”

The cartel is able to run without impunity. Violence breaks out and ordinary civilians are the collateral. Sometimes they are targets of kidnapping and extortion plots. Mexico’s National Immigration Institute provides migrants with free bus trips to safer areas like Monterrey and Tapachula. However, these bus trips have become cartel targets too. 

According to NPR, in one incident cartel members hijacked a bus and kidnapped a dozen migrants then drove off. Cesar Antunes was on the bus. 

“In this area right here this is safety for them, but if you just walk out that door it is not safe, that the cartels come by to pick them up to kidnap them,” Marvin Torres, a migrant living at a Nuevo Laredo shelter, told CBS.

Despite numerous incidents of extortion, violence, and kidnapping U.S. Customs and Border Protection says they had no idea migrants are targets of the cartel. 

Acting Commissioner of CBP Mark Morgan told NPR in August that MPP was a “game-changer” because it reduced the number of migrants in CBP custody. When asked about the violence against migrants MPP has caused, Morgan feigned ignorance.

“I haven’t heard anything like that,” Morgan said. “Not with respect to the MPP program. We have received no reports of kidnappings and extortion of migrants. Those are just rumors. You can’t believe everything those people say.”

Perhaps, Morgan is the one spreading conspiracy theories. Liceth Morales and her 6-year-old son were kidnapped for three weeks by the cartel, forcing her family in Texas to pay $8,000 in ransom money to free her. 

“When they released us, we immediately crossed the bridge to the U.S. to ask for asylum,” she says. “But they sent me right back over here.”

Morales decided to just go back home to Choluteca where her small store had been repeatedly robbed. Compared to waiting in Nuevo Laredo for two months, it was the safer alternative. The result of MPP is that many migrants have decided to just go back home. Many migrant advocates feel that the Mexican government has made Nuevo Laredo the home of Central American asylum-seekers because the Mexican government never wanted them there in the first place. 

“[It] is the perfect excuse to get rid of them because the government doesn’t want them here,” Father Julio Lopez, director of the Nazareth Migrant House, told NPR. 

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

It’s no secret that President Trump envisions his far-from-completed border wall as essential in his plan to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Given previous reports of arming the border with snakes or alligators, it’s obvious that Trump envisions the wall as a punitive source of physical harm as much as a deterrent.

So it should come as little surprise that the president has wanted to deploy military-grade weapons to the border to actually ‘torture’ and ‘maim’ those who try and cross the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization. However, a recent New York Times report goes into further detail on Trump’s ideas and they are, in fact, quite shocking.

The Trump Administration allegedly wanted to deploy a military-style weapon at the border to deter migrants.

Last week, it was reported by the New York Times that in 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had proposed using non-lethal weapon developed by the military to induce agonizing pain in migrants attempting to cross the border, with the intent to force them to turn back.

Described in overly simplistic terms by the Department of Defense as a “non-lethal, directed-energy, counter-personnel system,” the ADS is essentially a pain projector (the Times used the term “heat ray”) that subjects targets to the sensation of “heat felt from opening the door to a hot oven” all over their body. If deployed, the device would essentially make even approaching the U.S.-Mexico border a painful experience. 

So what exactly is the device that Trump and other CBP officials wanted to deploy?

Credit: Paul Richards / Getty Images

Although these ‘heat rays’ may sound like weapons for a made-for-TV villain, they’re actually very real. The U.S. Air Force began developing a weapon decades ago to give soldiers a non-lethal option for dealing with civilian mobs or or riots at overseas military bases.

The truck- or Humvee-mounted Active Denial System can affect multiple persons at range of up to one mile away. It silently emits a very high frequency microwave-like beam that can penetrate clothing and heats water molecules on the surface of the skin to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 C).

The resulting sensation, described as being akin to pressing a hot fluorescent light bulb to the skin, is so intense that within seconds affected persons are reflexively compelled to jump aside or run away. Supposedly the pain dissipates within seconds, though some accounts describe a lingering tingling that can last hours.

Although Trump floated the idea, according to DHS officials it was never considered as part of a border enforcement strategy.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Although Trump and CBP officials mentioned the possibility of deploying ADS, per the Times, the idea was flatly rejected by Kirsten Nielsen, then the secretary of Homeland Security. She allegedly told an aide after the meeting that she would not authorize the use of such a device, and it should never be brought up again in her presence.

However, the idea of using a ‘heat ray’ to torture migrants was at least entertained by some within the agency, likely emboldened by Trump’s increasingly harsh rhetoric against immigrants.

A former DHS officials is the one sounding the alarm on Trump’s alleged plan.

Speaking with The Daily Beast, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor claimed he’d sat in meetings with the president in which “[Trump] says, ‘We got to do this, this, this, and this,’ all of which are probably impossible, illegal, unethical.” 

Among the things Taylor claims the president suggested are efforts to gas, “maim,” and “pierce the flesh” of migrants attempting to cross into the United States without documentation. At one point, Taylor said, “[Trump] looks over me and he goes, ‘You fucking taking notes?”

Other ideas Trump reportedly floated — such as building a trench around the border and filling it with alligators or snakes — was also shot down, according to the Times.

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Despite The Pandemic, The Sex Trade Is Still Booming Along The U.S.-Mexico Border

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Despite The Pandemic, The Sex Trade Is Still Booming Along The U.S.-Mexico Border

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

As the Coronavirus pandemic ravaged communities, workers were faced with an impossible choice. Stay at home, be safe, but risk going hungry or broke. Go out, earn a living, but risk your life and of those you care about. For so many in Mexico, this was the choice they were given.

It’s already a difficult choice to make – even if you work as an Uber driver or a restaurant worker. But imagine having to make that choice if you’re a sex worker.

The pandemic has slowed the sex trade along the U.S.-Mexico border by some degree, but in many parts it remains business as usual. So many sex workers are having to make that nearly impossible choice to work and make money or stay at home to stay safe.

And although the border is technically closed to nonessential travel, thousands of Americans are still crossing into Mexico to pay for sex, looking for a kind of fun that can’t be found legally in most of the U.S.

Mexico’s sex tourism industry is still going strong despite a global pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to close the border to nonessential travel. However, tourists have still traveled south to cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez in search of nightlife, drugs, and sex.

In Tijuana famed red-light district, called Zona Norte, which is walking distance from the border, the area’s main strip is usually teeming with a frenetic action bathed in neon light. Women in short dresses and the highest of high heels stand along the sidewalks. Massive strip clubs, some with hotels attached, act as de facto brothels.

And now, although the city’s strip clubs and brothels may officially be closed due to the health crisis, many are welcoming customers through back doors. Last month a team from Baja California’s Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COEPRIS) carried out inspections in Zona Norte after receiving several complaints that it was pretty much business as usual in the area. 

They reported that many places are open as usual. “We sent COEPRIS and they shut them down. Yes, they were disguising it, the front door was closed, but they were entering from behind and all the same activities were being held there with the doors closed,” Governor Jaime Bonilla Valdez said.

The newspaper El Universal reported seeing a drunk American stumbling down the street to hire a young prostitute, and witnessed a trio of tourists being offered marijuana and methamphetamine in full view of COEPRIS inspectors and police officers as they inspected businesses on Coahuila Alley.

Some sex workers are doing the best they can to protect themselves…

Credit: Luis Acosta / Getty Images

Although so many sex workers are forced to make the difficult decision to stay at home or keep working, those who decide to work have other choices to make.

“I’m so scared for my health,” said Alejandra, a sex worker in Tijuana, who spoke to CNN. “I don’t know if the person I’m with has the disease or not.”

Some sex workers, such as single mother Alejandra, say they are taking precautions against the spread of the coronavirus, such as making their clients wash their hands and shower prior to the act, and requiring the frequent use of antibacterial gel. But social distancing is impossible when you’re a sex worker.

Meanwhile, a former tourism official is urging cities to promote the sex trade to boost the economy.

Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

A former tourism director for Tijuana is urging the city to “remove the taboo” of prostitution and brothels and promote them as tourist attractions instead. Pepe Avelar made those comments after being asked about night club and bar closures due to COVID-19.

“We should let them operate and exploit their appeal as much as possible, allowing for more regulation,” he said. “We should approve a promotional campaign for an activity that is historically synonymous with the city of Tijuana.”

“Let’s talk openly about this. I’m a firm believer that we need these open 24/7 in areas dedicated to bars and houses of prostitution because, in the end, these are also tourism products,” he said

As an example, Avelar used the city of Las Vegas, Nev., where tourism is promoted as “an adventure, as romantic and as a sexual destination.”

Cities on the U.S. side of the border have far higher numbers of cases putting Mexican border communities on alert.

Although Mexico’s border communities have been hit hard by the virus, it’s nothing like what’s happening on the U.S. side. For example, across the border from Tijuana in San Diego, there are 33,220 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, whereas 4,349 people have become infected in Tijuana according to official data.

This is largely why the land crossing between the U.S. and Mexico remains closed to nonessential travel. It was all done with the intent of slowing the virus’ spread.

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