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EL PASO, Texas (AP) – The Trump administration is facing growing complaints from migrants about severe overcrowding, meager food and other hardships at border holding centers, with some people at an encampment in El Paso being forced to sleep on the bare ground during dust storms.
The Border Network for Human Rights issued a report Friday based on dozens of testimonials of immigrants over the past month and a half, providing a snapshot of cramped conditions and prolonged stays in detention amid a record surge of migrant families coming into the U.S. from Central America.
The report comes a day after an advocate described finding a teenage mother cradling a premature baby inside a Border Patrol processing center in Texas. The advocate said the baby should have been in a hospital, not a facility where adults are kept in large fenced-in sections that critics describe as cages.
"The state of human rights in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands is grave and is only getting worse," the immigrant rights group said in its report. "People are dying because of what is happening."
Five immigrant children have died since late last year after being detained by the Border Patrol, including a flu-stricken teenager who was found dead in a facility migrants refer to as the "icebox" because of the temperatures inside.
Customs and Border Protection responded to the complaints by saying: "Allegations are not facts. If there is an issue it is best to contact CBP directly. In many cases the matter can be resolved immediately."
The agency also cited its response to a critical inspector general’s report last month, in which it said the government is devoted to treating migrants in its custody "with the utmost dignity and respect."
The Trump administration has blamed the worsening crisis on inaction by Congress.
Many of the complaints center on El Paso, where the inspector general found severe overcrowding inside a processing center. A cell designed for a dozen people was crammed with 76, and migrants had to stand on the toilets.
With indoor facilities overcrowded, the Border Patrol has kept some immigrants outside and in tents near a bridge in El Paso with nothing but a Mylar foil blanket. Others have been kept in an empty parking lot, where migrants huddled underneath tarps and foil blankets repurposed as shade covers against the sweltering heat.
A professor who visited two weeks ago said it resembled a "human dog pound." The Border Patrol responded by adding additional shade structures, but migrants are still kept outside in temperatures approaching 100 degrees.
Migrants in El Paso and elsewhere also complained of inadequate food such as a single burrito and a cup of water per day. Women said they were denied feminine hygiene products.
Another complaint is that migrants are kept in detention beyond the 72-hour limit set by Customs and Border Protection. Some reported being held for 30 days or more, and one told The Associated Press she had been in detention for around 45 days.
The teenage mother with the premature baby, for example, spent nine days in Border Patrol custody after crossing the Rio Grande with her newborn, according to a legal advocate who visited the girl in a McAllen, Texas, processing center.
An exodus of people fleeing poverty, drought and violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador has led to a record number of migrant families being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months. Agents made 132,887 apprehensions in May, including a record 84,542 adults and children traveling together. Those apprehended also included 11,507 children traveling alone.
President Donald Trump’s $4.5 billion border request for things such as an expansion of detention, medical care, food and shelter has languished on Capitol Hill since he sent it over six weeks ago, with House Democrats at odds with the White House. Congress is set to go on a break in two weeks.
Lawmakers are becoming increasingly agitated.
"In the first five months of this year, the number of apprehensions at the border has already exceeded the population of Atlanta, Georgia," said Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas.
Associated Press Writer Astrid Galvan in Phoenix and Andrew Taylor in Washington contributed to this report.
The crowd cheers as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign rally at Williamsport Regional Airport, May 20, 2019 in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. (Drew Angerer/Getty)
Days after President Donald Trump announced that he would kick off his 2020 presidential bid with an Orlando rally June 18, news surfaced that El Paso, Texas, was still waiting to be paid $470,000 from a February campaign visit.
The El Paso Times revealed this week that the Trump campaign did not pay the border town what it was owed after the “Make America Great Again” event that Trump used to tout his plans for a wall.
So far, Trump is making on-time payments to Orlando. The city received the first $72,000 installment from the campaign that was due June 3, said Cassandra Lafser, a spokeswoman for Mayor Buddy Dyer. The final installment is due June 10.
The campaign was charged $145,771.34 for the Orlando event, which reflects the total cost for using the Amway Center — $15,000 plus tax for a set-up day, and $15,000 plus tax for the event — plus other expenses and taxes, according to the contract.
“There will be additional impacts to the area outside of the event venue,” Lafser said in an email. “As with any presidential visit, these costs for police will be absorbed by the local agency.”
The Trump campaign paid $5,000 in advance to use the El Paso County Coliseum for the February rally, the Times reported. The majority of the money owed, about $381,000, is to its police department, with other costs going toward the fire department, streets and maintenance, public transit and aviation.
Beto O’Rourke, who led a counter-protest in El Paso the same day as Trump’s rally, made good on the $21,000 he owed the city.
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit news organization, reported at least three dozen local agencies — governments and law enforcement agencies — were owed money by presidential campaigns about two months after the 2016 election.
Citing interviews with 60 local officials as well as invoices and other records, the Center reported that campaigns for Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders owed “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bills from campaign events.
The rally highlights the importance of Florida and the I-4 Corridor in the upcoming campaign, with the state capable of swinging the presidency for either party.
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EL PASO — Hundreds of migrants who have recently arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border could soon be on their way to Dallas.
But Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said no Dallas private organization currently has space ready to house the migrants.
Jenkins, who convened meetings with faith-based groups and churches, including Dallas Catholic Charities, said he hopes to have space available for migrants — who have flooded border cities in recent weeks — as early as June.
The El Paso shelter is sorting out transportation issues, and Jenkins said he expects privately funded, faith-based groups in North Texas to be ready to feed and clothe migrants and provide portable showers for them as they stop temporarily in Dallas.
"Dallas and its faith groups are known for their generosity,” Jenkins said.
City leaders are also trying to help out — if they can nail down the moving targets.
“We have a compassionate city, but it’s hard to coalesce around a situation that is constantly in flux,” said Liz Cedillo-Pereira, director of the City of Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs. “Plans are moving ahead, but we are not in an operational state right now.”
The migrants are currently at the Annunciation House, the El Paso region’s nonprofit shelter.
The region, like others on the border, has been overwhelmed in recent weeks by thousands of mostly asylum-seeking Central American migrants fleeing poverty and gang violence.
An estimated 100,000 migrants were apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border in April. Annunciation has received more than 700 people a day — sometimes more than 1,000.
Ruben Garcia, Annunciation House’s executive director, said Dallas “makes a lot of sense” for some migrants because many already have relatives or friends in North Texas, and because the region serves as a key hub for air and ground transportation to help migrants reunite with family members across the country.
Getting migrants to Dallas proved to be a challenge last month. Garcia said he wanted Immigration and Customs Enforcement to transport them, but a federal rule prevents ICE from transporting migrants for more than eight hours.
Dallas is about two hours past the range, so it’s up to private groups to fund the transportation efforts.
With the help of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Annunciation House has already sent migrants to Denver to help relieve space in El Paso and across New Mexico.
Garcia said he is coordinating with a Santa Fe-based foundation to pay for one or two buses to Dallas each week during a four-week period.
Ruben Garcia, left, the founder and executive director of Annunciation House, an El Paso nonprofit organization that has sheltered migrants for more than 40 years, speaks alongside Taylor Levy, Accredited Representative & Legal Coordinator for Annunciation House, during a press conference in El Paso, Texas, on Monday, April 1, 2019.
Garcia said he is talking to “at least two churches” in North Texas to help coordinate the transfers, though he declined to say which churches are involved.
“This is a private effort to send one charter bus to churches willing to receive them and host them,” Garcia said. “It is not a Border Patrol, or any other U.S government agency effort. We’re not talking about anyone dumping anyone anywhere.
“We will only send a bus if there is a church willing to host them and receive them.”
David Woodyard, CEO of Dallas Catholic Charities, said that as of last week, no organization had stepped up.
But hope exists in part because some Dallas organizations have a history of helping Central Americans.
Albert Reyes, CEO and president of Buckner International, a faith-based Dallas nonprofit that provides counseling and support for families, said the group hasn’t been asked to help out with local efforts but is willing to do so.
Reyes said that Buckner International’s Center for Humanitarian Aid in Mesquite, three Family Hope Centers and Crisis Relief Ministry are ready to help.
He added that the group’s regular donors also regularly ask how they might be able to help.
“Anything that relates to children and families, our donors want to help out with and they’re expecting us to respond,” Reyes said.
Reyes said Buckner International would be able to accommodate families sent from the border and try to find space for them as long as the group has enough time to prepare.
“We’re in our 140th year of serving people when they most need help. We’re in North Texas, Mexico, Kenya, all over the world," Reyes said. "This is what we do."
Migrants from different Latin American countries sit on cots in the Casa del Refugiado, or House of the Refugee, a new center opened by Annunciation House to help with the large flow of migrants being released by the United States Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in El Paso. (PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images)
Rachel Savant, along with her mother, Gwen, founded another group, called Nation Elevation. Savant, who worked in Guatemala with a humanitarian aid organization about nine years ago after she graduated from the University of Oklahoma, said she fell in love with the country and its people.
But she said the challenges facing young Guatemaltecos — or Chapines, as they’re known — has caused some of them “venture into the dangerous unknown.”
“We want the youth and families in Guatemala to continue to dream, invest and thrive in the place that they love and not abandon their lives and risk it all to only end up in a situation of inevitable heartbreak and with a family torn apart,” she said.
In Dallas, Savant said, people are “waiting to help in any way they can.”
Manuel reported from Dallas and Corchado reported from El Paso.
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.”
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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.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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.