Here’s what’s going on with family separations at the border

In this photo taken in mid-May of 2018, about two dozen people, mostly Guatemalan parents and their children, waited around the pedestrian entrance of the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales to be processed by Customs and Border Protection. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

Pictures of children behind what appear to be cages, reports of 1,500 children lost, stories of parents being separated from their children to be criminally prosecuted, and photos of long lines of families waiting outside ports of entry have filled the news recently. But what is really happening?

The Trump administration is reacting to rising month-to-month numbers of mostly Central American families and unaccompanied minors coming to the United States. The administration says they are trying to take advantage of the country’s asylum laws.

To deter people from coming in the first place, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a “zero tolerance” policy in which Border Patrol agents are instructed to refer for prosecution everyone they apprehend, including parents traveling with their children.

The administration is separating children under two situations: one, if the parent can’t prove it’s their child; and two, if the parent is criminally prosecuted, said Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, in a recent congressional hearing held by U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson.

While CBP hasn’t provided numbers of parents prosecuted and separated in Arizona since the policy went into effect, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman said Friday that the Border Patrol along the entire U.S.-Mexico border held 1,995 minors traveling with 1,940 adults between April 19 and May 31 while the adults were prosecuted.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Tucsonans help raise money, awareness for Guatemala volcano victims

Modesto Boror, left, Sebastian Quinac and Guillermina Xajab talk about efforts to help families affected by the Guatemala eruptions. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

One of the last times Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego erupted, the Quinac family took to their home’s straw roof with shovels by their side. As ash from the volcano began to fall, they pushed it away before it sparked a fire.

After they secured their home, they checked on their field. It was already covered with ash.

“Everything looked gray, and two or three days later, everything was burned,” said Sebastian Quinac, a Guatemala native living in Tucson.

And that event was small compared to the latest eruption, he said.

More than 100 people have died and nearly 200 remain missing since June 3. Nearly 13,000 residents who live on the slopes of the volcano have been evacuated so far. About 5,000 of them are being housed in temporary shelters.

As the recovery operation continues amid ongoing volcanic activity, UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, cites concerns for the more than 1.7 million people now estimated to be affected by what it calls a “humanitarian tragedy.”

To help them, two Tucson groups are organizing efforts to raise funds and meet different needs.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Tucson border agent shot and wounded near Arizona-Mexico border

One of rancher Jim Chilton’s pastures near Arivaca is shown. A Border Patrol agent was shot and wounded near the ranch Tuesday, Chilton said he was told by the agency. Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star

A Tucson Border Patrol agent shot and wounded south of Arivaca while on duty Tuesday was in stable condition, a union representative said.

The agent was involved in a shooting incident about 4:30 a.m., officials said in a news release. Jim Chilton, a local rancher, said he was told by the Border Patrol that the agent was by himself and struck in the hand, leg and into his protective vest, “which worked, thank God,” he said. “How he got from that state to be rescued, I have no idea.”

The agent, whose name hasn’t been released, was taken to a hospital where he was in stable condition, said Art Del Cueto, president of the local chapter of the Border Patrol Union.

The agency said several people were taken into custody.

The shooting happened in the Chimney Canyon area, about 10 miles from the border and close to Chilton’s ranch house in an area frequently used by drug and people smugglers.

“Chimney Canyon is a wide canyon which undoubtedly has cartel scouts on the mountains that guide drug packers and individuals just trying to get into the U.S.,” Chilton said, adding that he has seen increased traffic in the area during the last couple of months.

Chilton ranches 50,000 acres that include a remote stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border in the Altar Valley.

The Border Patrol has released very little information about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation. A news conference initially scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday was postponed until Wednesday morning. The FBI and Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Personal Responsibility are involved in the investigation.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Delays for asylum seekers at Arizona border not explained by traffic data

More than 50 migrants, many from Guatemala, wait in a sectioned-off area at the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales, Sonora. Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star

The days of waiting for immigrants seeking asylum at the Nogales port of entry in May don’t appear to correspond to any significant increase in the number of people presenting themselves at the border.

The Tucson Field Office, which includes all ports of entry in Arizona, deemed inadmissible 1,792 people in May, which includes those seeking asylum, Customs and Border Protection data show. That’s an increase from previous months but similar to December figures. The share of families and unaccompanied minors among them has been between 62 and 67 percent over the last few months after peaking at 72 percent in December.

CBP has not responded to repeated requests for an interview to discuss the process and delays. Initially, it provided the Arizona Daily Star a written statement saying the agency processed people as quickly as possible “without negating the agency’s overall mission, or compromising the safety of individuals within our custody.”

The number of inadmissible individuals CBP is able to process varied based on factors such as the complexity of the case, available resources, medical needs, translation requirements, holding/detention space and port volume, the agency said.

Tucson siblings — separated from Mom by the border for years — find ways to thrive

Family friend Lety Rodriguez, right, was on hand for Naomi de la Rosa’s high school graduation ceremony. Rodriguez has helped support Naomi and her siblings since their mother was barred from returning to the United States for 10 years in 2009. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

Naomi de la Rosa is undecided about becoming a nurse or a teacher — she just wants to help people, a lesson she’s been learning and putting in practice for almost 10 years now.

“I want to be a teacher because I love little kids. Basically because of Bobby, I had to take care of him,” she says of her 13-year-old sibling. And a nurse, “because of my dad,” who she’s also had to learn how to take care of.

During her recent high school graduation ceremony there were a dozen relatives and friends holding signs with pictures of her, proud of everything she had accomplished. They waited anxiously as she walked on the track field to her seat, and had smartphones in hand when school officials called her name.

But some of those closest to her were missing. Her elderly father was at home with her youngest brother, Bobby. The family feared it would be too hot and chaotic for the frail 85-year-old. Her mother was about 60 miles away in Nogales, Sonora, waiting out a 10-year immigration bar that prevents her from coming back to the United States.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.