Things That Matter

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

In an exclusive interview with People Magazine, a 32-year-old Guatemalan woman recounts her experience fleeing her home country in August 2017 after being shot in the face at a demonstration. Not only does the woman—who goes by the false name Daniella—describe the event that catalyzed her desire to leave Guatemala, but she tells of the many months spent traveling north, and the many months spent in a detention center after reaching the border, separated from her young son.

On August 9, 2017, Daniella and her son, Carlos, were leaving their family’s house when they encountered a large protest against a new measure that would require people to pay for water. At first the protest was peaceful—but then bullets started flying through the air. Daniella and Carlos were just passing through, but a bullet had caught Daniella in two parts of her body: the left arm, and right below the eye.

“I threw my arm around Carlos to protect him—he was covered in blood, and I started to panic,” she told People. “Little did I know that the one bleeding was me.”

Because of rampant corruption in that part of Guatemala, Daniella knew that the police wouldn’t come—they were told not to interfere. So vigilant were certain members of the demonstration that Daniella’s father received a threatening call before she even made it to a hospital. The caller told her father that if they filed a report, he would kill the whole family. Later she learned that the man who had shot her lived just three blocks away from her mother. Fortunately, when she made it to the hospital, her husband—who had moved the the U.S. five years earlier to find work, sent money for the expenses.

After more than a week in the hospital, both bullets remain in Daniella’s body to this day.

“The doctor said that if they were taken out, I could be left in a vegetative state, or I could die,” she said. “To this day I still feel pain.”

After this harrowing experience, Daniella decided that it was time to follow in her husband’s footsteps and flee to the U.S. She knew that the journey would be anything but easy, but she could have never guessed how nightmarish a month lay ahead. Traveling by truck and by bus, there were many nights spent on the side of the road. When they finally made it to the Arizona border, they were not dropped off at an immigration center, as she had expected. Instead, she and Carlos were told to climb a tree, then jump from the tree to the border wall. From there, they could reach the other side.

“I told Carlos, ‘Mijo, you have to jump.’ He was so afraid that he wouldn’t move,” she said. “I looked into my son’s eyes, and I said, ‘Son, please trust me. Everything’s going to be all right.’

After they had both made it safely to the other side, they took just a few steps before the Border Patrol arrived. They were taken into custody and dropped off at “La Hielera”—The Icebox. There, Daniella was forced to sign papers she didn’t understand, and the officer who was present told her that the children would be taken to a shelter, then given up for adoption. Naturally, all the mothers were desperately frightened by this news.

Before leaving for court that same day, Daniella said goodbye to Carlos, unsure if they would ever see each other again. She told People Magazine that she held her son and said: “You’re a champion, Papa, and you’re always going to be in my heart.”

The mothers were not immediately told the whereabouts of their children. But five months after being moved to Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, Daniella learned that Carlos was in a New Jersey foster home.

A few months later, Daniella had her official court hearing. Her bail was posted at $30,000, and after filing an appeal to extend the bail deadline, Daniella was released from custody. She had been detained for 11 months.

The organization Immigrant Families Together had gathered the money for Daniella’s bail, and they helped her get back on her feet by providing her with food and clean clothes. They also took her to the airport to fly to Virginia, where Carlos had relocated to live with his uncle, her brother.

Daniella’s story isn’t unique—roughly 30,000 people are detained in the U.S. on a given day, and these numbers have seen major upticks throughout 2019. What makes Daniella’s story remarkable is her reunion with Carlos. Many families who have been separated at the border are not nearly as lucky.

While she and Carlos continue to deal with the psychological trauma of this experience, Daniella is grateful and focused on the future.

“Without the assistance from all the people that helped me, I wouldn’t be free,” said Daniella. “Now my only focus is my family, my son, starting a new life here in California . . . I don’t have to worry about being shot again or putting my son’s life in danger.”

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ICE Is Offering A Master Class To The Public On How To Handle Weapons And Arrest Immigrants

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ICE Is Offering A Master Class To The Public On How To Handle Weapons And Arrest Immigrants

Gregory Bull / Getty Images

By mid-October, there could be professionally trained armies of ordinary citizens patrolling the streets looking to arrest immigrants. And they’d be doing the dirty work of ICE – which has launched a program in Chicago specifically to help train and equip the public on the skills and knowledge needed to do it effectively.

According to ICE, the program is little more than a chance to educate and enlighten the public on the challenges the agency faces on a daily basis. They claim that their work is grossly misunderstood. Yet the description of the six-week-long program literally describes familiarizing recruits with firearms and how to make targeted arrests.

Chicago’s ICE office announced a “citizen’s academy” to teach the public on how to arrest immigrants.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is launching a class for private citizens in Chicago on how to arrest undocumented immigrants.

The course, which begins on September 15 and will run one class a week for six weeks, will train non-agents in firearms, defensive training and how to make ‘targeted arrests.’ ICE plan to roll out the program to cities across the country.

The Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Chicago Citizens Academy is a six-week program modeled after similar trainings held by other law enforcement agencies. ICE will select 10 to 12 participants for the training, which is set to start in September.

Many Chicagoans have received letters inviting them to apply. During the program, according to the letter, “participants will gain insight into the many facets and responsibilities of ICE/ERO operations, and hopefully an awareness and appreciation of the issues our officers face every day in the performance of their duties.”

But immigration activists aren’t buying the story ICE wants to tell.

Several of Chicago’s elected officials have come out strongly against the program, saying there is no room for this academy in the city of Chicago.

“I think it’s outrageous that they are trying to do this in Chicago. This is a sanctuary city that we’ve fought so hard for,” said Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez, in an interview with Fox 11.

Rodriguez read the letter and said she was concerned about the language in the letter, which reads, in part, “attendees will participate in scenario-based training and exercises conducted in a safe and positive environment, including, but not limited to defensive tactics, firearms familiarization, and targeted arrests.”

“What it sounds like to me is a vigilante academy,” Rodriguez said. “We need to be educating the community so that they don’t sign up for it. I think the city needs to speak out against this programming. This isn’t welcomed in Chicago.”

Congressman Jesús ‘Chuy’ García, wonders if the course is part of ICE’s plan to have neighbors spy on others to see if they’re undocumented and report back to the agency.

Although the program is outrageous, it’s been taking place in Los Angeles for years.

The program was just announced in Chicago last week but it has been in operation for several years in other cities across the country. In fact, Los Angeles – another sanctuary city – has had a similar academy in place since 2016. However, unlike Chicago’s program which will be run by the ERO, LA’s program is managed by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division.

Regardless of who is running the program, many are rightfully worried about its implications. Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network, said in a statement, “ICE is recruiting an army of ‘citizens’ to fuel its propaganda machine and forge hatred in our communities. The outcome of this program will be more terror unleashed upon immigrant communities and people of color.”

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A Section Of Border Wall Is At Risk Of Falling Into Rio Grande Months After Being Called The ‘Lamborghini Of Border Walls’

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A Section Of Border Wall Is At Risk Of Falling Into Rio Grande Months After Being Called The ‘Lamborghini Of Border Walls’

Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Trump’s vanity project – that so many of his supporters hail as his greatest accomplishment – has hit another major setback. His planned border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has consisted of a mix of government-built and privately-built segments, and now one of the highest-profile segments is at literal risk of falling over into a river. How’s that for karma?

The segment in Texas, which its developer called the ‘Lamborghini’ of border walls, was poorly built along a massive flood plain and now erosion has left it in shambles, mere months after construction.

The “Lamborghini” of border walls is in danger of falling into the river if nothing is done.

Trump supporters funded a private border wall on the banks of the Rio Grande, helping the builder secure $1.7 billion in federal contracts. Now the “Lamborghini” of border walls is in danger of falling into the river if nothing is done, experts say.

This ‘Lamborghini’ of border walls is different from those that came before it, in that it could allegedly be built directly on the banks of the Rio Grande – a risky but potentially game-changing step when it came to the nation’s border wall system.

But engineering experts and hydrologists told ProPublica that despite the company’s claims, the wall was built too close to the Rio Grande and is in serious danger of collapse, as photos show “a series of gashes and gullies” along the base of the structure that have severely weakened the structure’s foundation.

According to reports, the foundation for the wall’s steel poles reach only 2.5 feet into the ground, less than one-third as deep as government usually requires. The shallow foundation combined with the rugged riverbank terrain is reportedly a recipe for disaster.

“When the river rises, it will likely attack those areas where the foundation is exposed, further weakening support of the fence and potentially causing portions … to fall into the Rio Grande,” Alex Mayer told ProPublica.

The geography of the Rio Grande has long been a roadblock to wall construction in the region.

Credit: Bend Bend National Park / USFS

A border wall has long existed in one form or another along much of Texas’s southern border. But it’s often existed miles away from the actual border with Mexico, thanks to the region’s diverse and difficult terrain. The Rio Grande Valley’s unique geography includes a wide floodplain that has forced the government to construct barriers inland, on top of a levee system. That has left swaths of farmland, cemeteries and even homes in a kind of no man’s land south of the fence.

Jude Benavides, a hydrologist, told ProPublica, that “People don’t appreciate the power of the Rio Grande when it does indeed wake up. It changes the landscape.”

The contractor has used the segment in Texas to secure billions of dollars worth of contracts to build additional wall in Arizona.

Just this May, the company, Fisher Sand & Gravel (FSG), a won a record-high $1.3 billion government contract to built a portion of Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. They won the approval even though the government’s own Army Corps of Engineers spoke out against FSG’s prototype for lack of “quality” and “sophistication.”

But like so many other Trump projects, the president inserted himself directly into the bidding process – helping FSG gain the contracts. No surprise: FSG’s director, Tommy Fisher, has been a frequent guest on Fox News and has played into Trump’s latest frustrations regarding his wall project, promising he would be able to build it faster and cheaper than any other contractor on the project.

The segment in Texas was built using private donations from some of Trump’s biggest supporters.

Credit: Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

As Trump faced opposition against his border wall vanity project in Congress, several non-profit groups sprung up in support of his border wall plan. That’s exactly how Fisher’s private fence projects got off the ground.

Both the New Mexico and South Texas projects were built with financial and political help from We Build The Wall, an influential conservative nonprofit – Trump supporter and political strategist Steven Bannon is a board member. In touting its project, the group claimed to have raised more than $25 million and agreements with landowners along 250 miles of riverfront property across Texas.

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