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Undocumented migrants wait to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande into the United States on May 15 in McAllen, Texas. (Ricky Carioti/Washington Post)
SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Border Patrol said Friday that it would fly hundreds of migrant families from south Texas to San Diego for processing and that it was considering flights to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo, New York.
The flights are the latest sign of how the Border Patrol is struggling to keep up with large numbers of Central American families that are reaching the U.S. border with Mexico, especially in Texas. Moving migrants to less crowded places is expected to distribute the workload more evenly.
Flights from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to San Diego were to begin Friday and continue indefinitely three times a week, with each flight carrying 120 to 135 people, said Douglas Harrison, the Border Patrol’s interim San Diego sector chief.
“We don’t have an end date,” Harrison told reporters. “This is a contingency operation. We’ve got to give the people in Rio Grande Valley some relief.”
Plans to fly from Rio Grande Valley to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo were preliminary, Harrison said. Authorities were researching available airports and the ability for nonprofit groups to provide temporary assistance.
Already, U.S. authorities are moving four buses a day from the Rio Grande Valley to Laredo, Texas, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) away. There is also a daily flight contracted through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to Del Rio, Texas, about 275 miles away (440 kilometers) away.
Agents in the Rio Grande Valley will collect biographical information and do a medical screening before sending migrants to San Diego on flights contracted by ICE, Harrison said. Migrants will go from San Diego International Airport to a Border Patrol station, where they will be fingerprinted, interviewed and screened again for medical problems. Processing at the station typically takes hours.
ICE will decide whether to release or detain the families in San Diego. Its practice since October has been to quickly release families in the U.S. with notices to appear in immigration court.
The flights could further strain the San Diego Rapid Response Network, a coalition of religious and civic groups that has provided temporary shelter to asylum-seeking families since large-scale releases began in October. San Diego County has sued the Trump administration to recover costs.
The San Diego Rapid Response Network said it would shelter migrants who are flown from Texas, just as the organization has done for thousands of migrants released in California. It said the potential influx “underscores the urgent need for a permanent, long-term migrant shelter in San Diego.”
Short flights cost the federal government about $6,000 each, officials said. It wasn’t immediately clear how much longer flights cost.
Border Patrol agents do some processing remotely by videoconference, but Harrison said stations in the Rio Grande Valley had run out of room even to do that. San Diego, he said, had room to hold migrants for up to 72 hours and staff to process them, which stations on the northern border lack.
Border arrests have surged since the summer to 98,977 in April, nearly three times what they were a year earlier. Nearly seven of every 10 came as families or were children traveling alone. The Rio Grande Valley was by far the busiest corridor, followed by El Paso, Texas.
The Border Patrol says it is detaining about 8,000 people at a time in the Rio Grande Valley, double its maximum capacity even with a 500-person tent it opened earlier this month.
The agency said Friday it would open four new temporary structures in the Rio Grande Valley that will have generators, lighting, and air conditioning. It released photos showing people lying on grass or pavement outside two of its stations with Mylar sheets for blankets.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in Houston contributed to this report.
Supreme Court halts Texas execution over Buddhist spiritual advisor
The Supreme Court has taken a new and stronger stand against religious discrimination with liberals and most conservatives agreeing to halt a Texas execution.
By a 7-2 vote, the court granted an emergency stay for Patrick Murphy and ruled prison authorities may not proceed “unless the state permits Murphy’s Buddhist spiritual advisor or another Buddhist reverend of the state’s choosing to accompany Murphy in the execution chamber during the execution.”
In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh noted that Texas would have allowed a Christian or Muslim inmate to have a state-employed Christian or Muslim religious advisor present in the execution room.
“In my view, the Constitution prohibits such denominational discrimination,” Kavanaugh wrote. The state may choose to keep all clerics and religious advisors from entering the execution chamber, he said.
But Kavanaugh added, “What the state may not do, in my view, is allow Christian or Muslim inmates but not Buddhist inmates to have a religious advisor of their religion in the execution room.”
Thursday evening’s order in Murphy vs. Collier represents a partial reversal from the court’s handling of a similar case from Alabama in early February. Then, the court by a 5-4 vote refused to block the execution of a Muslim inmate who said his spiritual advisor was prevented from accompanying him to the execution.
Justice Elena Kagan called this “profoundly wrong” because it reflected government discrimination based on religion. Alabama authorities had argued that only state prison employees were allowed inside the small execution room. They also said the inmate had been waited too late to present his claim.
The Texas emergency appeal came as the court has been debating the role of religion in a case involving the prominent public display of a cross. In a Maryland case, the justices will decide whether the government has gone too far to favor the Christian religion. In her dissenting opinion, Kagan had argued the Constitution does not allow the government to favor one faith over another.
“Religious liberty won today. The Supreme Court made it clear that the 1st Amendment applies to every American, no matter their faith,” said Eric Rassbach, a senior counsel at Becket. “As we said in our brief to the court, you can’t give fewer rights to Buddhists than you give to Christians or Muslims. In his last moments, a condemned man can receive both comfort from a minister of his own faith, and equal treatment under the law.”
In the future, the state prison authorities have two options when carrying out an execution, Kavanaugh wrote. They may “allow all inmates to have a religious adviser of their religion in the execution room; or) allow inmates to have a religious adviser, including any state-employed chaplain, only in the viewing room, not the execution room. Things can go wrong and sometimes do go wrong in executions, as they can go wrong and sometimes do go wrong in medical procedures. States therefore have a strong interest in tightly controlling access to an execution room in order to ensure that the execution occurs without any complications, distractions, or disruptions.”
A promotional image.
The tails of four American Airlines passenger planes are seen at Miami International Airport in Miami on July 17, 2015.
Hail damage forced a Phoenix-bound American Airlines flight to divert to El Paso, Texas, Sunday night, CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports. No injuries were reported, but the Airbus A319’s nose and windshield were damaged.
American Airlines Flight 1897 was carrying 130 passengers and five crew members from San Antonio when it landed in El Paso just after 8 p.m. after being in the air for about two hours.
"We commend the great work of our pilots, along with our flight attendants," the carrier said in a statement.
At 11:46 p.m., the flight continued to Phoenix with a different aircraft.
An inspection was expected to be conducted on the damaged Airbus.
HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astrodome, which became known as the Eighth Wonder of the World as the world’s first domed stadium, has received the highest honor Texas can give a historic structure.
A marker designating the Astrodome as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark was unveiled at ceremonies Tuesday outside the Houston icon.
The stadium opened April 9, 1965, for an exhibition baseball game between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. For more than three decades, it hosted countless athletics competitions, concerts and other events before falling victim to old age and disrepair.
The Astrodome last year received a state antiquities landmark designation, which provides special safeguards against demolition and requires Texas Historical Commission approval for any changes. Harris County officials recently approved a $105 million renovation project for the stadium.
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Rudy Gutierrez/The El Paso Times/AP
UTEP president Diana Natalicio talks with Wallace Hall, Jr., a UT system regent as they viewed the ongoing construction on the center of the UTEP campus Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 in El Paso.
When Diana Natalicio graduated from a blue-collar St. Louis high school in 1957, life expectations were clear for her and her classmates. “They prepared the boys to be apprentices in the various trade unions—electricians, carpenters and so on—and they assumed that the girls would marry them. And so they prepared the girls for short-term careers, until their nuptials came along, in secretarial studies,” she recalled Tuesday.
She took a job as a switchboard operator but quickly grew frustrated with the work and the life possibilities that lay ahead. So she enrolled in Saint Louis University, a Jesuit school near her home even though she recognized she wasn’t prepared. “They said, ‘well, where’d you go to high school. I told them and they said, ‘Hmmm, well that’s not going to be so easy,” but they said if you work hard, maybe we can make it happen.”
Natalicio earned her bachelor’s degree from SLU in 1961, then earned a master’s and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. She arrived at the University of Texas at El Paso as a visiting professor of linguistics in 1971 and won a faculty appointment the following year. She went into administration in 1977, then was appointed UTEP’s president in 1988. Natalicio, 78, announced Tuesday that she would retire when the UT Board of Regents appoints her successor, a process that is likely to take six to nine months.
Paul Foster, an El Paso businessman and philanthropist who is the vice chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents, said Natalicio leaves an impressive legacy. “Dr. Natalicio has served UTEP and the UT System with distinction for more than 45 years. Her 30 years at the helm as president are marked with one recognition or commendation after another, not only for our fine university but for Dr. Natalicio personally. She will be very difficult to replace, but with the legacy she has created, I have no doubt that her position will be highly sought after. And since she is staying on until her successor is in place, it is not time to say goodbye, but rather it is our opportunity to express our gratitude and admiration for her commitment to higher education and to our community.”
Natalicio made it her life’s work to help those like herself, who came from modest means and often were assumed to be unlikely college material. To Natalicio, the public conversation about higher education often was off-base. “Everybody focuses a lot on excellence, everybody wants to be prestigious, everybody wants to be ranked high and all the rest of that. But there’s not a lot of focus on access, which is creating opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise have them,” she said at a news conference Tuesday announcing her retirement plans.
During her 30 years as president—the longest current presidential tenure at any public university in the United States—UTEP remade itself to better reflect the El Paso community and to serve its predominately Hispanic population. When Natalicio became president, Hispanics made up more than two-thirds of El Paso’s population but fewer than half of UTEP’s student body. As Natalicio prepares to step aside, both the university student body and El Paso are more than 80 percent Hispanic.
The changes at UTEP were painful and controversial. Critics said Natalicio and UTEP improved access by allowing unprepared students to enroll at UTEP, where many struggled without graduating. “If there’s going to be criticism in the post-mortem of her presidency, it would be that she sacrificed too much excellence for too much access,” said Woody Hunt, an El Paso businessman and former University of Texas regent who supported Natalicio even though they disagreed at times on the balance between excellence and access. He called her “transformational,” a description he said he uses sparingly.
Data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board show that fewer than half of the students who enrolled at UTEP in the fall of 2011 had graduated within six years, below the state average of 61 percent. Natalicio despises measures like six-year graduation rates, saying they ignore the realities faced by first-generation, low-income and immigrant students.
Natalicio’s career has been built on a belief that access and excellence aren’t mutually exclusive. UTEP had one doctoral program when she assumed the presidency; it now offers 24. The student body grew from 15,000 to more than 25,000; the number of graduates went from fewer than 1,500 annually to more than 5,500
“So it’s not to say that we are aren’t focused on quality, because we are and we’ve demonstrated that through a lot of examples—doctoral programs, research dollars, all that. But we’re trying to do something very different, which is to create that balance between access and excellence,” she said.
Natalicio’s efforts have resulted in numerous honors. Hunt said she is probably better known in higher education circles nationwide than within her home state. Last year, Fortune magazine included her in its list of top 50 world leaders. In 2016, Time magazine named her to its annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people. San Antonio’s Julian Castro, then the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, wrote the Time article on Natalicio. “Over 80 percent of UTEP’s more than 23,000 students are Mexican American, and an additional 5 percent come from nearby Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Most of her students work, and many of them have families. Yet UTEP has become a major research institution during her tenure, growing research dollars from $6 million to more than $90 million annually, because Natalicio was ahead of her time, seeing the future of America in the faces of her students.”
In her news conference Tuesday, Natalicio discussed declining state funding for higher education, in Texas and in most other states. She worries that shrinking state funding forces public universities to increase tuition, further trapping people in poverty by shutting them off from education. “So you’re going to have an underclass of people without much hope or opportunity. And I don’t think any society does well that way. So I think we’re going to have to have a conversation about what is important and what we spend resources on. It seems to me that there are two fundamental things that any society ought to do for its people. One is education, the other is health. I don’t see how you can have a society that doesn’t doesn’t pay attention to that, and those two areas don’t seem to be the priority that they used to be.”
Natalicio has never been comfortable with public introspection, and she refused to answer questions about her legacy Tuesday. “I’m not ready to do that. I’m not going anywhere today,” she said with a smile. There was no such reluctance from those who have been influenced by Natalicio over the years.
“Her legacy of access, service, excellence and humility have been a constant in her trajectory as a transformative leader, role model and educator,” said Eva Moya, a UTEP professor of social work who first met Natalicio as a UTEP undergraduate student in the late 1970s. “Dr. Natalicio’s vision, tenacity, determination, humility and love for service and education for all has been inspirational and transformative for hundreds of thousands of lives in this border and beyond.”
Sally Hurt-Deitch, the chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services for Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corporation, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from UTEP. She calls Natalicio the “iron lady” of education. “Her commitment to the community has been felt by all of those who have taken classes, walked the campus, attended an event, or have simply heard her speak. Diana Natalicio has lived and breathed El Paso—rejoicing in the culture of the area, capitalizing on the diversity of the region, and promoting the distinctiveness of UTEPs graduates,” Hurt-Deitch said.
UTEP’s current student body president, Kristen Ahumada, said Natalicio is the university’s beacon. “Dr. Natalicio has instilled in me the core values of this institution and has stayed true to our university’s mission of access and excellence. She has integrated these ideals into all UTEP initiatives and continued to reach out to our unserved El Paso Del Norte Region, and has generated many robust programs.”
Natalicio said she is most proud of the tens of thousands of graduates with whom she shook hands at commencement ceremonies. When asked if she wishes she had done anything differently in her three decades leading UTEP, Natalicio reached for the lament of many a university president. “Win football games,” she said.
Robert Moore is an El Paso-based journalist and former editor of the El Paso Times.
EL PASO, Texas – The suicidal man who locked himself inside a vehicle in a Northeast El Paso parking lot has surrendered to police after an hours-long standoff.
The El Paso Police Department SWAT team blocked off the parking lot off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive at about 7:30 a.m.
The team was deployed to handle the suicidal subject with a weapon, according to police.
Throughout the morning, viewers called the ABC-7 newsroom to report they were not being let into or out of the Walmart Neighborhood Market or the nearby convenience store.
The suspect surrendered shortly after 11 a.m.
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(Photo: Courtesy Crime Stoppers of El Paso)
El Paso police are trying to identify a man who used a knife during a Friday the 13th cellphone shop robbery last month.
The unsolved robbery on April 13 is Crime Stoppers of El Paso’s Crime of the Week.
The robbery occurred at 1:15 p.m. at the Metro PCS shop at 2920 N. Piedras St., four blocks south of Fort Boulevard, Crime Stoppers said.
More: Fugitive California child-porn suspect Kenneth Hooks may be among homeless in El Paso
Machete used by robbers in unsolved Zeke’s supermarket hold-up in Crime of the Week
A man armed with a knife threatened two employees and ordered them to get on the floor, police said. The robber fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Police said that witnesses saw the man running east through an alley.
A man robs a Metro PCS shop on April 13 at 2920 N. Piedras St.
The man was about 5 feet 5-to-10 inches tall and was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with a front logo showing a W hand sign and stating "Streetwise" on top and "West" on the bottom.
More: Man stabbed in Downtown El Paso after asking another man to buy him beer, cigarettes
The man was also wearing khaki pants, white gloves, a black baseball cap and black Adidas sneakers.
Anyone with information on the robber may anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 566-8477 or leave a tip online at crimestoppersofelpaso.org.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; email@example.com; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
Migrant caravan seeking asylum arrives at US border
Recently, I visited Del Rio, Texas, marking my fourth visit to the southwest border. My previous trips have taken me to El Paso and Laredo in Texas, and San Diego in California. Del Rio offered a unique perspective to border security because of its rural character, allowing me to continue to build on my understanding of the strategic challenges we face and what the House can do to deliver on our promise to better secure our borders.
Each sector along the southwest border has its own unique geography, economy, and traditions, which determines what that location’s border security should look like and how it should be specifically designed. While in the Del Rio Sector, I learned that, at any given time, only roughly 45 percent of our Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents are patrolling the border with the other 55 percent engaged in administrative activity such as transporting prisoners, doing administrative work, or on leave.
I also learned that the agents are not able to fully utilize all of the resources available to them. For example, the Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez reported that he has $96,000 in high-tech cameras sitting in storage because the county doesn’t have the manpower to monitor the feeds once the cameras are installed. This is unacceptable. Taxpayers expect more from the funds we are sending to border, and there are ways to better equip those on the front lines – keeping Americans safe and secure.
While I was there, we also discussed President Trump’s recent decision to deploy National Guard troops to the border. Working carefully with state and local officials, I believe that guardsmen could be beneficial to supplement inadequate manpower by way of aerial surveillance, ground observation, or some appropriate administrative tasks. Clearly, we need more cooperation and coordination to maximize our border security. However, the Guard’s ability to engage in actual interdiction activities is limited. This is a band-aid, not a solution.
One of the key findings from my trips is that a barrier in place – whether a wall, fence, or something altogether different – shapes the response of cartels and illegal immigrants and is a useful tool in helping our agents better patrol the border.
The House is doing our part. The FY18 spending bill that was recently passed by the House and signed into law by President Trump includes important provisions to help secure our nation’s southern border. In addition, the House is currently working on a significant immigration reform bill, the Securing America’s Future Act, that would increase not only physical and technological border security, but would ensure that high-skilled laborers are able to enter the United State to benefit our nation’s economy, all while finding an equitable solution for dreamers.
I had four important and key takeaways from my recent trip.
First, we need to make sure that we have enough manpower patrolling the Southwest Border. The FY18 spending bill funds the CBP at $14 billion, an increase of $1.8 billion from the previous year. Also, the Securing America’s Future Act adds 5,000 Border Patrol Agents and 5,000 CBP officers, while authorizing $8.5 billion for recruitment and retention for the CBP.
Second, we need the proper technology and implementation of it to ensure safety along the border. The FY18 spending bill includes $196 million for “border security technology,” and the Securing America’s Future Act authorizes an additional $5.8 billion for technology over a period of five years. Much of the technology in the Del Rio Sector is outdated, but as mentioned above, tens of thousands of dollars of high-tech equipment isn’t being utilized, thus becoming obsolete as it sits collecting dust. It is important that we are not dumping money into a bottomless pit and that we ensure the technology purchased on the taxpayer’s dime match the capabilities.
Third, we need the proper resources to resolve the 600,000 backlogged immigration cases to enable swift processing of the numerous individuals in detention centers along the border. The FY18 spending bill funds100 new federal judges, bringing the total nationwide to more than 400. We also need to be sure that we are empowering the Department of Homeland Security to detain dangerous illegal immigrants who currently cannot be removed, enhance the criminal penalties for deported criminals who illegally return multiple times, and tighten our laws to do away with frivolous asylum claims. These are all gaps in our current law that the Securing America’s Future Act can help improve or fix.
Fourth, and finally, we must design a coordinated, effective set of barriers including, where key, a wall, fencing, sophisticated technology, and other means, to protect the citizens of our country. Del Rio Sector has 210 miles of border with nine stations, out of which the CBP does important work, but only four miles of this border has of any type of barrier. One of the key findings from my trips is that a barrier in place – whether a wall, fence, or something altogether different – shapes the response of cartels and illegal immigrants and is a useful tool in helping our agents better patrol the border. However, while a wall may do its job well in densely populated places like San Diego and El Paso, it may not be nearly as effective in more rural areas like Del Rio.
Like in any difficult endeavor, "one-size-fits-all" approaches are not effective. Border security strategy requires customization to meet the needs of the local sector’s terrain and access, as well as the resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement of that locality. As such, decisions about how to allocate resources for physical and technological barriers must be done in conjunction with local CBP agents, local law enforcement, and community leaders on what border security needs fit their area of operation.
My brief but informative trips to our southwest border have given me a first-hand look at the diversity of the challenges presented along our important border with Mexico. They have helped me focus on our border debate and argue for alternative plans to keep us safe from the intense criminal efforts to smuggle people and drugs into our country and guns and money out. The FY18 spending bill we passed in the House was a step in the right direction, and we have a president that has pledged to secure our border. We must now pass the Securing America’s Future Act in order to continue moving forward to give Americans confidence that our border will finally be secured.
The new Texas A&M coach and the semi-new LSU coach will visit the Touchdown Club of Houston over the next couple of weeks, and tickets are still available to both events that help raise money for area high schools and prep athletes.
The Aggies’ Jimbo Fisher will speak on the recently-completed spring drills and his expectations for his first A&M team at noon Wednesday at the JW Marriott on Westheimer in the Galleria, and about 50 tickets remain, the touchdown club’s Neal Farmer said.
A week later on May 2, second-year LSU coach Ed Orgeron will speak to the touchdown club, and plenty of tickets remain for the engagement at the JW Marriott.
Tickets are $50 each, and tables seat 10 for both events. A regular table cost $500, while bronze ($750), silver ($1,000), gold ($1,500) and platinum ($2,500) tables also are available. Visit the club’s website here to buy a ticket or table.
The Touchdown Club of Houston has placed about $200,000 worth of weight equipment in 41 Houston-area high schools over the last 16 years, and has awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships over the past 19 years to area high school seniors, according to the club.