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7 quirky El Paso experiences that beat driving to Marfa

Tue, 09/04/2018 - 12:43am

Last October I was in Marfa, Texas at the Chinati Foundation—an art wonderland in the middle of nowhere known across the globe for its use of minimalism. It was open weekend so exhibits and galleries were free and open to the public as artists from across the nation flocked to Marfa.

Solange Knowles performed a free show at Chinati in the center of a grass field where only fifteen concrete Donald Judd sculptures sit. As an audience member there were only two rules: we all had to be dressed in white and we could not carry cell phones. The whole experience was mesmerizing. The audio was crisp and Solange, her performers and musicians were all dressed in hot pink silk. They sang and danced as the sun set behind her.

Before the performance, as my friends and I stood there phoneless, I overheard two guys who had flown in to El Paso from New York only to drive to Marfa for the performance. “El Paso seemed so boring. What do people even do there?” I had to bite my tongue. Not just because I wanted to address his ignorance or because I am a proud El Pasoan, but simply because it was untrue.

El Paso has way more to offer than initially meets the eye. We are a community rich in visual artists, musicians, photographers, filmmakers and artists of all sorts rooted in culture. Although standing in that Marfa field was an amazing experience where I felt immersed in the moment, that feeling was nothing new. I’ve felt it right here more times than I can count.

Although there are some El Paso galleries are modeled after other cities, they will still always have their own El Paso twist to them. Here are seven ongoing experiences to continue checking out in El Chuco before you make your assumption.

El Paso coffee meetups

El Paso Coffee Meetups sometimes include a tour of the El Paso Art Museum along with coffee tastings.

Bean Type Coffee Roasters can be found at the El Paso Downtown Artists and Farmers Market almost every Saturday of the year. Arleen Mendez founded Bean Type. It is the first organic and fair-trade coffee roaster shop to hit El Paso. Mendez finds it important to have fair trade coffee so coffee drinkers know what their consuming is coming from farm workers who are earning a fair living wage in return from making the coffee.

Arleen took it a step further from other shops and started El Paso Coffee Meetups. At the meetups, she explains to attendees how to make their own coffee at home with a tutorial. Every meetup has its own focus on a certain coffee and a changeup in locations.

Being a coffee lover myself, specifically a cold brew lover, I attended a meetup at the El Paso Museum of Art where Arleen taught us to make cold brew at home with a french press. After getting to sample different roasts of coffee we were put into groups and able to explore the museum with new people we had never met.

The meetups are about once a month and have also included one where they partnered with VeloPaso to ride bikes to different coffee shops to sample their coffee. At another meetup, the group hiked the Franklin Mountains and leaned how to take portable coffees and teas on hikes.

This is an awesome way to make new friends of all ages and backgrounds and bond over your love for coffee.

Art walks in downtown El Paso

Dream Chasers Club, The Chrch, Power at the Pass and the Art Space lofts are just some of the 13 venues filled with paintings, drawings, music and live art on the last Thursday’s of every month for Last Thursday’s Art Walk.

Across the country, cities big and small participate in their own versions of last Thursday’s and First Friday’s—variation of artist showcases. Some venues across downtown El Paso offer drinks and food while others give artists the opportunity to network with one another and often times there are also interactive events.

Last Thursday’s give El Pasoans and even tourists a chance to see the newly revitalized downtown by walking through San Jacinto Plaza and around Southwest University Park. I’ve never had a bad experience at the art walks and have been able to meet other photographers, artists and small business owners that bring the hispanic culture of El Paso to life.

Weekends at Prickly Elder

What started off as a laid back Grandma’s house themed bar has now turned into one of the most intimate venues to dance to house, electronic and all sorts of genres.

Owner Lenny Perez did not want to limit the bars events and when he was approached by up and coming DJs to do shows, he didn’t hesitate.

Now, every weekend and some weeknights, you can find DJ collectives and individuals spinning in what appears to be Grandma’s living room. For special occasions, Prickly Elder also has outdoor sessions in the parking lot. They also host bingo nights every Monday and tea party’s on certain Sunday’s where four legged friends are welcome and part of the proceeds are directly donated to the Humane Society of El Paso.

Barbed wire open mics

Every major culture hub needs an open mic if it wants to be taken seriously. Thankfully, El Paso’s longest running open mic has provided a stage for poets, singers, and artist since 2007. Since it is open mic, in one showing you can see slam poetry, acoustic guitars, or even a comedy show.

I used to attend back when the Perculator was still open. Unfortunately, the Barbed Wire Open Mic series hasn’t found a solid venue after the Perculator closed down, so you just have to follow them on Facebook or Instagram to see where the next show is at. But since their partnership with BorderSenses, a nonprofit that promotes the arts, they’ve established themselves as the place to be if you want to see El Paso’s up and coming talent.

Considering that they hold a show at least 3 times a month, there’s really no excuse to not checking out some of the local creatives.

The Punk Rock Flea Market

The El Paso Punk Rock Flea Market meets at different locations every month around the city.

If you want to see El Paso’s more grungy talent, check out The Punk Rock Flea Market where paintings of twisted skulls are sold next to vintage clothes. Alternative vendors from all over the Southwest show up once a month. The market is usually held at the Whole Foods on N. Mesa. Occasionally they’ll even have a night market with music, entertainment and food. There aren’t many places where parents can bring their kids and buy a shelf in the shape of a coffin.

Most El Pasoans are familiar with the downtown Artists and Farmers Market, which takes place every Saturday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Union Plaza, but may not be as familiar with the Punk Rock Flea Market which varies in dates. The market is set up at various locations including Whole Foods Market, the Lowbrow Palace and 5 Points Bistro.

The Punk Rock Flea Market is that there is such an eclectic variety. It’s not usually my style, but it’s hard not to have fun when you’re surrounded by El Paso’s finest and weirdest.

Geeks Who Drink trivia nights

Geeks Who Drink meet every Thursday at Craft and Social on Franklin Avenue.

While I’ve never been, it’s hard to have a list great things to do in El Paso without putting in the Geeks Who Drink trivia night. You can find GWD matches five nights a week in a variety of spots around the city.

Geeks Who Drink is a nation-wide quizzing and drinking contest, modeled after the famous quizzes in the UK, where up to 6 players try to outdo the other team in their endless knowledge of movie trivia, random facts and even the occasional themed quiz.

Geeks Who Drink is where you can test your knowledge against reigning champs and gain, besides the occasional prize, much-needed street cred. You don’t have to drink, but it helps.

El Paso hiking group

Hiking is probably at least in the top five things to do in El Paso, and for a good reason. Not only because, as a photographer, there are plenty of opportunities to take pictures and capture beautiful sunsets, but because El Paso has some of the most rewarding day-hikes I’ve ever experienced. It doesn’t take long to make it to the top of the Franklin Mountains, and when you do you get to see for what seems like hundreds of miles in every direction. If you don’t know many people who like to hike on the regular, there are plenty of hiking groups on Meetup or on Facebook that you can join, and there are even women-only groups.

Because we do live in the desert, you have to take certain precautions, such as bringing plenty of water and snacks. Every year there is someone who needs help getting down because they either got lost, they hurt themselves or because they are overheated. You can avoid all of that by letting people know where you are going, not going alone, and bringing some basic supplies with you.

The post 7 quirky El Paso experiences that beat driving to Marfa appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

Sin Fronteras, Without Borders Photo Submission

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 8:52am

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Borderzine’s work covering Border Life and increasing diversity in newsrooms by showcasing the best photojournalism by college students.

Step 1:  Register for the contest at this link

Step 2: Submit photo here (your entry must be registered first)

Sin Fronteras, Without Borders Photo Submission Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Borderzine by showcasing the best photojournalism by university students
  • Name* First Last
  • Email
  • Your university*
  • Upload your photo here*The contest entry fee is $15 U.S. per image entered. All digital files must no larger than 10mb, must be in JPEG or .jpg format, and must be at least 1,600 pixels wide (if a horizontal image) or 1,600 pixels tall (if a vertical image).
  • Photo captionThe caption must be complete and accurate, sufficient to convey the circumstances in which the photograph was taken.
  • See Official Contest Rules here
  • Need help? If you experience technical difficulties, contact
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Categories: Local Blogs

ICE not following its own rules in care and feeding of detainees, lawsuit says

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 2:56pm
As ICE began contracting with county jails and federal prisons for more beds, it agreed to allow detainees under its care to be fed in much the same way as inmates in those facilities. That’s a violation of the agency’s own guidelines.

By H. Claire Brown

Editor’s note: This story was first published Aug. 23, 2018 in The New Food Economy is a non-profit newsroom covering the forces shaping how and what we eat. 

Earlier this summer, 30-year-old Atinder Paul Singh attempted to enter the United States from India via Mexico. He was headed to the U.S. in search of political asylum because he feared persecution in his home country. His father, Sikh priest Tirath Singh, who has lived in California since 2003 and spoke to me through a translator, says that if Atinder Paul had stayed in India, his life would have been at risk.

Instead of being reunited with his family, Singh was apprehended by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) near Tijuana, Mexico. He was sent to Victorville Medium Security Prison in Southern California, a facility that houses prisoners and civil detainees for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and ICE, which is nested under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). His family did not hear from him until he had been at Victorville for three weeks.

Officials and attorneys told The Los Angeles Times that there has been a recent increase in the number of Indian nationals like Singh attempting to immigrate to the U.S. through Mexico, using travel routes established by Latino immigrants. They continue to represent a small proportion of those detained nationwide.

At the facility, Singh was issued a single uniform. He wore it for two weeks straight without access to laundry or clean clothes.

Singh’s Sikh faith requires that he wear a turban and abstain from eating meat. At Victorville, his turban was confiscated. He was denied replacement head covering.

When they first arrived at the facility, Singh and other detainees were fed lunch meat sandwiches that were sometimes frozen in the middle. No vegetarian alternatives were provided. It didn’t get much better once the mess hall opened to detainees. They were offered two pieces of bread for lunch and green beans and rice for dinner. He lost 15 pounds in less than two months, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in a California district court earlier this month, by the Prison Legal Office and the American Civil Liberties Union against President Trump, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Atinder Paul has since been transferred to another facility, where Tirath says he is waiting to be interviewed by authorities about his asylum application. At Tirath’s temple in California, which used to welcome 60 just-released detainees every week, the numbers have dwindled to 20 or 30. He says he suspects the apparent dip in release rates may be related to the lawsuit.

According to guidelines established by ICE, people housed in its detention centers are required to be served nutritious food three times a day. Meals are supposed to be served in “as unregimented a manner as possible,” meaning detainees have at least 20 minutes to sit and eat. The agency is supposed to accommodate religious and dietary requirements, including kosher and halal options, and the schedules of people who fast for religious reasons.

There are other rules, too, some of which seem self-evident: Food should not be used as punishment or reward, and hot meals should be served hot.

Indeed, the agency’s Detention Standards manual, published in 2011 and last updated in 2016, seems to indicate that ICE even recognizes mealtimes as a communal activity, a part of the day detainees might look forward to. “The food service program significantly influences morale and attitudes of detainees and staff,” it reads. “And creates a climate for good public relations between the facility and the community.”

But according to this month’s lawsuit, ICE detention facilities are falling far short of the agency’s self-imposed guidelines. People housed at Victorville say they’re fed spoiled meat and milk, rushed out of the dining hall five minutes into their meals, and denied alternative meals requested for religious reasons.

Before the recent crackdown on border crossings, Victorville was never supposed to serve detainees. The prison closed several of its housing units earlier this year due to a staffing shortage and a reduction in inmate population, Mother Jones reports. Guards were floored when the complex agreed to accept 1,000 detainees from ICE. Dozens of prison employees and labor union allies protested the changes outside the facility, carrying signs that read “Budget cuts may result in death.” Advocates worried about detainees mixing with inmates and that the staff shortage would result in inadequate medical care for the whole population—prisoners and detainees alike. The lawsuit says that even before it housed detainees, “Victorville has been recognized as being among the most dangerous places for convicted persons in the BOP’s system of medium security prisons.”

Border fence between the U.S. and Tijuarna, México. Photo credit: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño (CC by 2.0)

“It was a self-made crisis. Pretty much overnight, they had to reopen all of these units and, based on what the head of the prison guards’ union has said, there weren’t additional custody officers hired,” says Corene Kendrick, staff attorney at the Prison Law Office. “So our supposition is that part of the reason why they’re not able to abide by their own standards is because they don’t have enough staff.”

The ICE detainees arrived at Victorville in early June. According to the lawsuit, the facility was just as unprepared for them as staffers had worried it would be. There wasn’t enough medical support to care for the sudden influx of people. The facility went on lockdown during the transition, and Kendrick says detainees claim they were required to wear the same prison uniform every day, and washed their undergarments in the sink and toilet. “It’s just a very chaotic atmosphere,” she says.

Anecdotal reports of subpar food at ICE detention centers are not uncommon. In the last two months, CNN has reported on spoiled food served in a privately run facility in Washington, The New York Times published an opinion piece by a former detainee that described spoiled milk served to children, and the Associated Press found that Oregon detainees were being fed meals that violated their religious beliefs. Reports like this predate the Trump administration, though news coverage of the agency has increased since the implementation of the president’s zero-tolerance policy.

News reports and lawsuits like the Victorville case go a long way toward undermining any sense that ICE is actually following its own ground rules about how to feed its detainees, guidelines which paint a picture of a remarkably humane program. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been chipping away at the idea that the agency’s rose-colored rule book carries any weight at all. Last year, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told members of a House committee that detention standards may need to be lowered in order to accommodate additional detainees, Politifact reports. As ICE began contracting with county jails and federal prisons for more beds, it agreed to allow detainees under its care to be treated in much the same way as inmates in those facilities. From an administrative perspective, it makes a sense: ICE has a better chance of negotiating bed space in a county jail if its detainees don’t require lots of extra attention.

Yet advocates argue that caring for ICE detainees under the same conditions as prisoners is unfair. “ICE is the custodial authority, legally,” says Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s not fine to let the standards slip.”

It’s easy to imagine why facilities might try to cut corners when it comes to feeding detainees. In private facilities, where many are housed, ICE contractors could potentially eke out a little extra profit by cutting costs and skimping on food quantity and quality. Even in publicly-run institutions, some districts contract with private food-service providers, where the same profit motives can come into play. In county jails, too, the incentives can be skewed. In Etowah County, Alabama, for example, the sheriff is allowed to pocket leftover money allocated for food. According to, Sheriff Todd Enkin pocketed more than $750,000 over three years from the food fund and bought a beach house with the money in September 2017. (Though, ICE detainees weren’t housed there.)

The Politifact investigation revealed that, as of late 2017, just 31 ICE and contracted facilities out of more than 200 adhered to the rule book established by the agency. Kendrick says the agreement between ICE and BOP, which manages Victorville, indicates that detainees are to be treated according to BOP policies. As Kelly foreshadowed, the agencies essentially agreed that detainees would be housed under a different, lower set of standards.

Yet even under BOP policies, which are even less accommodating, detainees (and inmates) are entitled to be fed a few thousand calories a day, and people who don’t eat meat are supposed to be offered vegetarian alternatives. According to the California lawsuit, the alleged conditions at Victorville violate the rules regardless of which set of standards are being followed.

Most of the time, facilities that house detainees are subject to oversight by DHS. (Kendrick says the agreement that governs Victorville may cede that responsibility to BOP instead.) It’s impossible to believe DHS is unaware of the conditions in its own facilities—two recent reports from its in-house inspectors prove otherwise. A December 2017 reportfrom the department’s Office of the Inspector General shows that agency inspectors visited six facilities and found “spoiled, wilted, and moldy produce” as well as “expired frozen food, including meat.” Just a few months earlier, a separate report out of the same office revealed similar findings at a detention center in California: “Detainees were being served, and reported being regularly served, meat that appeared to be spoiled.”

According to Kendrick, these inspections are basically toothless. The Office of the Inspector General lacks the authority, she says, to enforce its suggestions once reports are issued. When agencies have all the evidence in hand and refuse to make changes, legal advocates try to compel the courts to force improvements. That’s where the Victorville story comes in.

News agencies (including us at, for obvious reasons) tend to focus on food when reporting on living conditions. Every cable news viewer can relate to the terrible thought of moldy bologna. Graybill from the Southern Poverty Law Center says food is top of mind for detainees as well—the most common complaints she hears are about spoiled and expired food and small portions.

But in the eyes of the law, spoiled food alone doesn’t make a great case. If you can’t prove past-its-prime ham has caused serious medical conditions like massive, widespread weight loss or facility-wide gastrointestinal infections, it’s difficult to make a case for cruel and unusual punishment.

“Litigation about condition usually involves a totality of circumstances, of which food can be a component,” Graybill says. In the Victorville lawsuit, inadequate nutrition is just one of several bullet points that, together, tell an overarching story about living conditions at the facility that lawyers hope judges will deem “cruel and unusual punishment.” When presented as a part of a complaint that also includes inadequate medical care and restricted freedom of religion, food can be a piece of the puzzle that ultimately convinces the courts to intervene. Otherwise, it doesn’t get you much more than a stomach ache.

Still, Graybill says nutrition may take on added legal significance if the government decides to open up family detention centers. During the Bush administration, facilities that housed families imposed strict 15-minute-meal rules and refused to let people take juice boxes out of the dining hall. Trouble is, children don’t adapt as easily as adults to short meals and regimented schedules—especially kids who are at a crucial developmental stage and are more affected by weight loss and malnutrition than adults.

“Food is one of the issues I would be very worried about in addition to medical care and healthcare,” Graybill says of potential detention centers for families. “When you start talking about children, all the vulnerabilities are exaggerated.”

If the lawsuit moves forward, the Prison Law Office may be able to compel Victorville to improve its treatment of detainees. Meanwhile, Tirath Singh is waiting for Atinder Paul to be released.

The post ICE not following its own rules in care and feeding of detainees, lawsuit says appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

A drug war on both sides of the border

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 1:15pm

“Abajo! Rapido!” My dance teacher shouted on a Wednesday afternoon. I was 14. “Hide!
Fast!” In the middle of warm-up, a firework-like-sound brought everyone in Ms. Rosa’s hiphop
class to a standstill. I did not realize what was happening until I saw armed men on the
rooftop of the adjacent building.

I had heard of shootings between the military and the Mexican gangs—the “War on
Drugs”—in my hometown of Matamoros, Tamaulipas in Mexico. Now, I was caught in the
crossfire. As my teacher pulled me to a corner away from the windows, my head spun with
confusion. The incident must have only lasted a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity.
As one of the main producers and exporters of illicit commodities, Mexico is notorious for its
public insecurity and blatant inequalities. Mexican drug cartels such as Los Zetas, the largest
and most dangerous criminal organization in Mexico, challenge the fabric of my community,
and hundreds of others. I was able to reunite with my family that Wednesday afternoon when
I was 14, but very few Mexicans possess the same luck I did.

Mexico’s reality, however, is one exploited by more than just drug lords. According to
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Associate Professor at George Mason University and author of
Los Zetas Inc., the Mexican violence is caused by both the government and groups like Los
Zetas. Corruption networks include government officials at all levels of state and local
government. Criminal transnational organizations mask the crookedness that is deeply
engrained in the nation’s politics. As Oswaldo Zavala, Professor at City University of New
York and author of Los Carteles No Existen, describes, “Our ideas about drug trafficking are
the result of a tricky narrative conceived by the governments of Mexico and the United
States. There is violence, but to a large extent perpetrated by the same State that should be
protecting us.”

There are scores of reasons to which the Mexican government tolerates, promotes and
bargains with cartels. One major reason is that violence extends way beyond the drug trade.
As Correa-Cabrera mentions, criminal organizations are professional transnational
corporations that are money-driven and strongly led by economic interest. The “War on
Drugs”―or perhaps the war on natural resources―is based on monetary agendas that involve
both the cartels and government institutions in both Mexico and the United States. Such
economic opportunity correlates to the territories that are rich in hydrocarbons. For instance,
the main zone of natural gas extraction is the Burgos Basin located in northern Mexico. This
area of high concentration of coal and shale gas registered the highest levels of violence in
the country. Thus, it is clear that politicians are economically benefiting from the war rather
than helping it end.

The longstanding crisis in Mexico should not be viewed as a civil matter, but rather a larger
international conflict. It is then ironic that the American government claims that Mexico’s
violence will “spillover” to their homeland when the U.S. also plays a key role in the war.

What many fail to recognize is the immense impact that U.S. reforms have on Latin America.
The guns that sustain the Mexican “War On Drugs” for example, come from the United
States. American domestic policy is inciting a war on its own border through its
unwillingness to alter gun control laws. American law enforcement both funds and profits
from the war. Does that not make the United States an accomplice of the violence?

We need to dismantle the rhetoric of the “War On Drugs” to foster understanding and
solidarity about what happens south of the United States border. As a Mexican-American
who has lived in both respective countries, I find it imperative to know the truth about the
reality in which I grew up in. Is the “War on Drugs” really about drugs? And if so, who are
these infamous drug lords really working for? What are the true incentives of the American
government? We can better comprehend drug-related violence in Mexico by accepting that
it’s time for the country to completely rebuild its official institutions from scratch, as
corruption is too deeply ingrained in the government. Similarly, we must admit that it’s time
for America to own up and reconsider its gun laws. It is the responsibility of both Mexicans
and Americans to be informed and to recognize that the repercussions of American policies
travel south. We must ask ourselves who is truly responsible for the endless deaths and
human rights violations in Mexico, so that we may begin to address the real immense corrupt
problems in front of us.

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Categories: Local Blogs

Gallery: Portrait of the Lower Rio Grande

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 2:47pm

The Lower Rio Grande in New Mexico extends from Elephant Butte Dam to the border of Texas and Mexico. These photos were part of a student photography project in the spring 2018 semester at UT El Paso when the river flow was reduced for the season. The images were taken along the river between Las Cruces and Sunland Park, New Mexico.

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According to the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer Interstate Stream Commission: “The Rio Grande Project consists of Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs, multiple diversion dams and several hundred miles of canals and drains within New Mexico and Texas. The project was designed to provide a reliable supply of surface water to specific lands in what are now Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) and El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 (EPCWID1), plus 60,000 acre-feet/year of water to Mexico under the terms of a 1906 treaty. The allocation of Project water to New Mexico and Texas lands is approximately 57 percent and 43 percent respectively. Water is released from Caballo Reservoir during the irrigation season and diverted at the PerchaLeasburgand Mesilla Diversion Dams for use by New Mexico farmers in the Rincon and Upper Mesilla Valleys. Water is also released from Caballo Reservoir and diverted for use by Texans in the Lower Mesilla Valley and at the Mesilla Diversion Dam for use by Texans in the El Paso Valley. “

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Categories: Local Blogs

Judge gives Thursday deadline for plan to reunify children with hundreds of parents government lost track of

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 5:21pm

A federal judge has given the government and American Civil Liberties Union until Thursday to develop a plan for reuniting hundreds of children who still haven’t been reunited with their parents weeks or months after being separated at the border.

“The judge is making clear to the government that this must be a collaborative effort and that the government cannot place all the responsibility on the families, especially when it was the government that deported these parents in the first place,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said in a statement.

According to court filings, the government has custody of 431 children whose parents were deported earlier this year without the children they brought with them to the United States. Another 79 children are listed as “adult released to the interior,” and another 94 are listed as “adult location under case file review.”

These 604 children between the ages of 5 and 17 are among the 711 declared “ineligible” for reunification last week as the government declared that it had complied with an order by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of San Diego to reunite families separated at the border by U.S. Border Patrol agents. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in February that resulted in Sabraw’s reunification order.

During a status conference on Friday, Sabraw said “the government deserves great credit” for its efforts to reunify the parents deemed eligible. But he also said the government “is at fault for losing several hundred parents in the process.” Following another status conference on Monday, Sabraw issued an order telling the parties to have a plan by Thursday to reunite children with deported parents, or children the government has lost track of.

Experts have said reuniting children with deported parents will be particularly challenging because the government doesn’t have mechanisms for tracking people after they’ve been deported. “There’s a very good chance they’re going to be permanently separated,” John Sandweg, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2013 to 2014, told CNN.

Sabraw’s order was the latest of several developments since his deadline on Thursday to reunite families.

Late Saturday, the ACLU filed an affidavit from a volunteer lawyer working with the Annunciation House Legal Project in the El Paso area who said parents were being coerced by ICE into signing a form that said they wished to be deported with their children.

The affidavit said the forms presented three options:

  • I want to be deported with my child
  • I do not want my child to be deported with me if I lose my case
  • I want to speak to a lawyer before deciding what to do.

The affidavit said the first option was pre-checked when the forms were handed out on a bus shortly after several parents and children were reunited on Thursday at the ICE detention facility in El Paso. Several parents said they wanted to choose the second option, and were yelled at by ICE agents, according the affidavit.

When at least four parents continued to insist that they wanted to be deported without their children so the children could press their own asylum claims in the United States, the parents were taken off the bus and not allowed to say goodbye to their children.

Department of Homeland Security officials didn’t dispute the allegations in a statement to Vox, which first reported on the affidavit. “Asking parents in ICE custody, who are subject to a final order of removal, to make a decision about being removed with or without their children, is part of long-standing policy. For parents who have a final order of removal, and whose children have not received a final order, it is the parent’s decision whether to return with or without their children,” the statement said.

Texas immigration attorneys who say they’ve been working virtually around the clock for the past month to reunite families have said the work will continue well past Sabraw’s deadline.

“It’s not over on Thursday. Nuh-uh. As much as I want it to be, it’s not over,” said Ruby Powers, a private immigration attorney in Houston.

Linda Rivas, the executive director and sole attorney at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, said: “I think that beyond the reunifications, there’s still trauma in these people’s lives after enduring the separation, as well as those parents who remain detained, and the parents who remain deported, and the children who remain without their parents. The problem is not over yet. I don’t know when the end will be, but I think the damage is irreparable.”

Both Powers and Rivas said the response to the family separation crisis from local communities has been remarkable. Lawyers have volunteered their time to help parents and children, nongovernmental organizations have provided care for newly reunified families, and people have stepped forward to donate clothing, food and money.

“As a person who lived through Harvey last summer, it feels like a hurricane without the water. I feel like everyone is pulling together,” Powers said.

Pressure brought by an outraged public led to the end of family separation and the reunification of most of the 2,600 children taken from their parents, said Ruben Garcia, the founder and director of Annunciation House, an El Paso nonprofit that cared for more than 200 reunited families. That public pressure must continue, he said.

“Historically, as a country we have said we are a country that believes in protecting the vulnerable. I am saying to the American people, let’s not let go of that identity. Let us not lose our moral fabric, our moral integrity,” Garcia said at a news conference on Friday.

Robert Moore is an El Paso-based independent journalist who has been covering the family separation crisis for the Washington Post and Texas Monthly magazine.

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Categories: Local Blogs

Colorful costumes adorn Folklórico performances at Centro La Fe

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 5:24pm

By Emma Leslie

Vibrant colored skirts glide through the room. Dance music pumps from all corners of the studio. The young dancers of Centro Salud Familiar La Fe chuckle as they buckle their shoes and assemble props in preparation for the cue to walk on stage.

El Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe has become the solution for many parents struggling to find programs nearby for their kids to participate in.

Girls facing the lack of recreational activities in Segundo Barrio have the opportunity to learn dance at Centro La Fe, through the Ballet Folklórico Toltec La Fe program. Dance is a method of wellness. Centro La Fe’s folklórico program stands to prove that the program promotes physical and mental well-being.

A young folklórico dancer adjusts her flowers next to bright orange garments. Photos by Emma Leslie for Journalism in July.

Emmanuel Alfaro, dance instructor at La Fe, has taught dance at the clinic’s cultural center in Segundo Barrio for ten years. His troop consisting of 18 girls performs several styles of dance and focuses on the variations of ballet folklórico, a traditional Mexican ballet dance that conveys folk culture through dramatic elements such as bright colored garb and lively choreography.

Alfaro’s work is in aspiration of helping his dancers to pick up the tools they will need in the future to become successful adults and change the world, as he knows they can.

“I think it’s very important for young ladies to be part of groups like this because it’s not only teaching them about discipline and self esteem, … but they’re doing something positive for themselves,” he said.

Folklórico dancers wait for their next routine to start.

The public outreach from Centro La Fe creates an environment where youth can feel like they have a second home. “When we have an opportunity to speak to young people, we fully take advantage of it.” Says Estela Reyes-Lopez, Media and Public Information Officer for Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe.

Ballet Folklórico Toltec La Fe has created through this dance program, an environment which strengthens the city’s cultural pillars, crucial to its structural integrity.

Alfaro says that “when people come to the folklórico group, they realize this place is a clinic as well. It teaches kids culture, and gets everyone the help they need.”

Young dancers from all over the El Paso area attend Folklórico dance practice twice a week for about two hours at Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe. Practice is tough for the kids, repetition after repetition, until perfection is achieved. Alfaro says he pushes his dancers to benefit their future in dancing.

A Ballet Folklorico dancer at La Fe buckles her shoe before a performance.

Alfaro expresses his expectations for punctuality as well. “I’m teaching them right now that they have to be on time. They always have to be ready” Alfaro adds. “Discipline. Being on time. Being dressed in your dance attire, it’s a rule.”

This independent attitude is taught early-on. It not only shows the girls the value of autonomy, but makes them think and act according to their own terms as well.

“Some of the girls come in with low self-esteem. They’re not sure of themselves– shy, embarrassed, but when they get on that stage, the moment they walk out, and they love it on the stage. Sometimes they love it so much that they become little drama queens.” Alfaro joked.

A Ballet Folklórico Toltec La Fe performer adjusts her shawl.

A benefit of being involved in this dance program, is the variety of ages in participation. Younger girls and older girls alike learn to interact with one another. The older girls naturally fall into role-model positions for the younger ones, making the program a place of flourishing growth and maturity among the group.

“I have little ones, and there are older kids here as well…, the little ones look up at the older ones, and the older ones become their mentors,” Alfaro explained.

Through the instruction of dance, the girls are able to develop a confident demeanor. Performing ballet folklórico shows the girls how they can be creative, active, and well. “They’re involved in their community. They’re exercising, doing something positive, being proactive,” Alfaro explained.

Aside from rehearsing at the studio, Alfaro explained that the ballet folklórico group has performed in official settings before. Alfaro says with pride, the ensemble has even performed out of town, travelling as far as San Antonio.

A Ballet Folklórico dancer prepares for a rehearsal at La Fe Cultural Center.

In 2016, the ballet folklórico dancers travelled out of the state, as they were among the participants in the Día de los Muertos and Marigolds parade in Albequerque, New Mexico.

The group is currently preparing for future performances. “We’re having a big event at the Chamizal, and these girls get to showcase what they can do,” Alfaro mentioned.

As the girls of Centro La Fe’s folklórico program dance, prance, and leap, they continue to amaze the people of El Paso through performance. With the influence of dance, these girls are guaranteed to grow into confident, well-rounded women.

Alfaro said, “women are powerful, they are. They’re showing it and they’re proving it.”

This story was produced as part of the Journalism in July 2018 workshop for high school students at UT El Paso.

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Categories: Local Blogs

El Paso health center recognized for cultural approach to community wellbeing

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 4:55pm

By Maria Venegas

Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe is an award-winning, non-profit clinic in the heart of Segundo Barrio, which provides health care services to primarily indigent Hispanic families living near the border.

Currently, La Fe has 22 facilities and 11 regional clinics that serve low income community members.

Media Relations Administrator Estela Reyes said that the center started out as a small organization and was established in 1967 by a group of parents, mostly mothers and grandmothers that felt their community needed to be changed for their children’s future.

“They didn’t want violence and substance abuse, instead they wanted good jobs, education, a future, community infrastructure- a better life for the community they called home,” Reyes said.

The Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe is a social justice organization that provides medical care and other services. Photo by Elliott Hinojos

The first clinic opened on 700 South Ochoa Street located in Segundo Barrio, a neighborhood in downtown El Paso known for its poor living conditions and bad reputation.

Back then, six buildings were so unmaintained that they became known as “Los Seis Infiernos” (The Six Hells) and just living in Segundo Barrio felt like “The Seventh Hell” Reyes said.  

To change the community’s bad reputation, the parents in Segundo Barrio began the movement of creating a non-profit organization that still lives on today: Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe.

“We have first, second, and third generations of people who lived in Segundo Barrio that still live here,” Dance Instructor Emmanuel Alfaro said.

Reyes said that what truly sets their clinic apart from others is their focus on health care not as a simplistic physical health care but the emotional, and total well-being of a family of an individual.

Fliers of Centro La Fe’s programs promote the center’s many services and events, including Ballet Folkloro. Photo by Maria Venegas

Some of the programs that La Fe offers include a preparatory school and adolescent wellness centers where they push students to find a voice in society and further their education.

Another big activity in the center is Ballet Folkorico, taught by Emmanuel Alfaro to educate children and adults on the history behind this historical dance.

“Growing up, I didn’t have facilities like these where they teach you, help you, educate you. We had streets, in which we’d get in trouble,” Alfaro said about his reason of teaching ballet folklorico at La Fe. “I didn’t want that for the kids.”

La Fe clinics know just how necessary social justice is for their community, which is why everyday they’re coming up with new programs and services such as the Senior Companion Program and the Culture and Technology Center to provide the most possible resources to its people.

Mural in Centro La Fe of a family surrounding the food pyramid. Centro La Fe cares every patients well-being and focuses on community health. Photo by Maria Venegas

“It is culturally vibrant, focused on social justice and total well-being, a holistic comprehensive circle of elements that influence what we call health,” Reyes said when describing the clinic. “Justice is important because people’s lives matter. Anybody who doesn’t understand the power of social injustice is lucky. They don’t understand what it feels like to be judged.”

La Fe also prides themselves on treating their patients as family. Salvador Balcorta, the CEO of La Fe, tells his workers to treat every patient as their own mother, brother, and father, Reyes said.

Since La Fe provides health services mainly to people below the poverty line, they aim to make their medication affordable. La Fe Pharmacist Sam Aboud said that about 95 percent of the pharmacy’s prescriptions cost only seven dollars.

“We buy our drugs through a government program which allows us to purchase medication at an extremely discounted rate,” Aboud said. “It helps us generate some cash flow for the clinic and helps the patients have access to a wide variety of medication- It’s a win-win situation.”

However, to be provided with medication, one has to register at the Centro La Fe Clinic and according to Reyes, everyone is welcome regardless of economic status. To register, one has to show proof of identification, address, and income.


La Fe Preparatory School is an educational school in Segundo Barrio that begins from pre-K to 8th grade. Photo by Maria Venegas

“Everybody qualifies to be a registered member but not everyone will qualify for our discounts and benefits,” Reyes said. “It depends on your income and where you live, most of our patients, because they are low income and live in South El Paso, a low poverty zone, they do qualify for a lot of our discounts.”

The pharmacy also has a different type of function than most other clinics and pharmacies. La Fe’s clinics deal with a predominantly Mexican-American community who treat their pharmacists as doctors. Therefore, Salvador Balcorta made his pharmacy the focal point of the clinic so patients can directly access their medication through their pharmacist. The clinic makes the experience unique for patients to so that they can feel at home.

Centro La Fe clinic continues to demonstrate that a community can continue to grow through diligence. For La Fe, the work is never finished. The completion of one service project is just the beginning of the next.

“Our organization has been here 51 years and I hope that we will be here many more decades to come because the opportunity to serve our families and the humblest among us, is an honor and a privilege,” Reyes said.

This story was produced as part of the Journalism in July 2018 workshop for high school students at UT El Paso.

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Categories: Local Blogs

Diabetes rampant among Hispanics in El Paso

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 4:08pm

By Nicole Revilla

Diabetes is on the rise nationally and in El Paso, where healthcare workers and patients are taking on the chronic disease that has been especially devastating for Hispanics.

El Paso is ranked No. 1 with the highest number of adults living with diabetes among 100 cities, according to a statistics compiled by personal finance website WalletHub.

The flow of patients is constant at Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, a health clinic in the heart of El Paso’s Segundo Barrio, a neighborhood where many residents have low incomes and often struggle accessing healthcare.

A small banner near a series of classrooms greets patients as they receive instruction on diabetes and other helath issues. Photos by Itzel Giron for Journalism in July

The clinic and health center by the nonprofit organization offers help for those who suffer, especially people who could not afford adequate health care otherwise. It sees about 300,000 patients each year with diabetes being one of the most common diseases it treats.

On a Wednesday morning, patients waited their turn to see a doctor in La Fe’s modest building near Downtown El Paso. A posted sign shows that a typical visit costs patients $25.

In addition to the access to medical professionals, La Fe offers free diabetic education classes to help sufferers learn useful skills in living with their disease, such as how to cook health conscious meals and carry a positive mindset.

Leticia Rodriguez speaks about her battle with diabetes to the rest of the class during a Diabetes Education class.

Leticia Rodriguez, a student of this class, offered some feedback and advice that has helped her through four decades of dealing with diabetes, which can be a costly challenge.

Rodriguez, 66, said she takes insulin shots that anywhere else would cost her up to $400 a month.

However, Rodriguez, whose income qualifies her for benefits at La Fe, pays only $28 monthly for her insulin medication.

The kind of healthcare and support offered by La Fe has never been more important. About 40 percent of U.S. adults are expected to develop Type 2 diabetes, according to the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention. That number will climb higher for Hispanics – more than 50 percent, the CDC reports.

Media relations administrator, Estela Reyes, stands in front of a mural of revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara at Centro La Fe.

“There isn’t a single person in our community who has not been touched by this horrible and chronic disease,” said Estela Reyes Lopez, media relations administrator for La Fe and a diabetic. “Even if you don’t have it yourself, you have it in your life.”

“It’s a disease that if you don’t manage it or control it, it will control you.” Reyes said.

Looming above the financial hardships of taking on the disease are possible complications from Type 2 diabetes such as blindness, amputation, kidney failure, ischemic heart disease and stroke.

Centers like La Fe are helping El Pasoans suffering from diabetes and also a myriad of other health conditions in providing resources, access to medication and education about their disease.

The challenge of living with diabetes can be more difficult for people from low-income backgrounds, Reyes said. It’s expensive to be diabetic. Annual health care costs for diabetics are more than double than those without the condition in the United States.

The cost of insulin has been increasing every year. A vial of insulin costs up to $400. Patients with Type 1 diabetes typically require two or three vials of insulin per month, but patients who are more resistant to insulin, such as those with Type 2 diabetes, may require six or more.

Many diabetic patients must first accept a diagnosis of diabetes and all of the changes that will be required to deal with the disease, said Monica Cedillos, a nutritionist who teaches the diabetes education class at La Fe.

Monica Sedillos leads a diabetes class at Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe.

That means learning how to take responsibility for one’s health, from transitioning to a healthier diet to exercising more, Cedillos said.

“Even little changes to your lifestyle can help your body tremendously,” she said. “Small changes in your eating habits and even small walks help.”

Diabetic patients should be aware of their condition and take care of themselves. Regular checkups with physicians, staying on track of blood sugar levels and never falling behind on medications are all key to successful treatment.

“It takes a lot of work and commitment to do the things you need to do for your health.” Rodriguez said.

La Fe’s diabetes class focuses on setting up realistic goals for each of its participants and provide motivation to accomplish them.

Veronica Espinoza, an employed caregiver and diabetic, talks about all the help La Fe has provided herself and family.

“I’ve learned a lot of things in my class, I’ve learned things I didn’t even know how to do with diabetes. It’s good to look for help,” said Veronica Espinoza, another student of La Fe’s diabetes class.

Family support is also crucial for diabetic patients. The class is also open to family members of patients to sit in on classes and learn ways they can be supportive of their loved ones.

“It’s a lot more difficult for a diabetic to stay on track of their disease when their family members aren’t making the effort to eat healthy with them,” Cedillos said, adding that El Paso’s bounty of Mexican cuisine becomes a challenge.

La Fe’s mission to help low-income El Pasoans receive quality healthcare does not stop at just treating those with diabetes. With 11 clinics operating all over the El Paso area, La Fe also offers dental care, ophthalmologists, an HIV/AIDS treatment center, operates its own pharmacy center, among other services.

“There’s a lot of places that offer help. I knew I had diabetes but since I didn’t have insurance, I was always worrying, ‘well how am I going to pay for the doctor?’” Espinoza said, “… but there’s places like La Fe that I could’ve found a long time ago, but thankfully now I have,” she said.

This story was produced as part of the Journalism in July 2018 workshop for high school students at UT El Paso.

One of the biggest murals in the clinic is of Salvador Balcorte, CEO of Centro La Fe.

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Categories: Local Blogs

Diabetes and subsequent weight gain make healthy living a daily challenge

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 3:18pm

By Isabel Garcia

Leticia Rodriguez – a 66-year-old Segundo Barrio resident – has lost vision in her left eye due to diabetes and says she struggles with everyday living because she is obese.

Rodriguez has trouble getting into cars, can’t see her feet and her caregiver performs most of her day-to-day tasks for her because she’s suffering from diabetes and obesity.

“My diabetes was part of losing my vision and then it went from there to not being able to lose weight,” Rodriguez said. “You go into all these diets and they work for a little bit, but you get it right back.”

Rodriguez has found support at Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe. Rodriguez is one of the 300,000 patients who use the services at La Fe. The center has guided her on taking care of herself and combating the chronic conditions.

Leticia Rodriguez explains her struggles of dealing with diabetes during a Diabetes education class at LaFe. Photos by Isabel Garcia for Journalism in July.

Before Rodriguez was forced to retire due to blindness that developed as an effect from diabetes, she worked at Providence Memorial Hospital for 33 years.

After retiring, the company softball games that helped Rodriguez stay in shape ended and her weight gain began. She could no longer rely on the purpose she found in her work, causing depression to set it, and obesity to takeoff.

With obesity on the rise, El Paso women like Rodriguez, dealing with the disease turn to La Fe, to improve and maintain their health.

“I was always healthy, I’ve never said I’ve been skinny,” Rodriguez said. “The weight started when I stopped working.”

“We The People,” a piece of art work, paying homage to ‘Segundo Barrio’ is on display in the lobby of La Fe for patiemts to see every day.

In a 2018 survey conducted by Wallet Hub, El Paso ranks as the 33rd most obese city in the United States. Many people do not know that diabetes and obesity are not directly connected to each other.

The Harvard Gazette reported that about 30 percent of people who suffer from obesity also suffer from diabetes. Additionally, 85 percent of the people who are classified as diabetic are overweight.

Monica Sedillos teaches a diabetes education class at Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe on Wednesday, July 25, 2018.

Monica Cedillos, a diabetes educator at La Fe, said “we are doing better than other years but I think we are still up there in one of the largest cities with overweight and obesity problems. Get up and move.”

Cedillos is just one of the many professionals working at one of the twenty-two sites La Fe has including, 11 clinics, HIV testing centers and other wellness centers. The organization is made specifically for lower income families who would not have access to health care treatments otherwise. The services are given to any registered member who lives in El Paso County.

A sculpture of Aztec diety Quezacoatl is in the lobby of the Child and Adolescent Wellness center at Centro La Fe.

 “One of the best activities people can do to watch their weight is, get up and walk,” Cedillos said. Another tip Cedillos has is to limit the amount of television we watch on a daily basis. Sedillos suggests only one hour of television for every four hours.

“One of the biggest reasons it is a problem here is the food and not being as active as other cities,” Cedillos said. “Usually when we have couch potatoes we just tell them not to sit too long just watching TV.”

A poster promoting healthy eating is in the diabetes education classroom at Centro La Fe.

El Paso’s widely known Mexican cuisine makes it difficult to eat sensibly since many dishes are greasy, and high in carbs and cheese. Posters on display during a class at La Fe directed patients to walk 30 minutes a day and make healthier choices.

Rodriguez, who has been struggling with obesity and diabetes for 40 years, has expressed interest in cooking like she once did before obesity changed her diet, and cannot remember how to do some tasks that many others take for granted. She depends on her caregiver to help with chores such as washing clothes and dishes.

“I have a caregiver in the morning and I have one in the evening because I can’t reach my feet and I can’t get in the shower. I have a shower chair, but being able to get in there, she has to help me.

“My motivation is my grandkids,” Rodriguez said. “I was literally on my death bed with an infection and I had a granddaughter who kept crying and telling me that I needed to be here for her quinceñera.”

For Rodriguez, the struggles that come with obesity are worth it because she wants to stay healthy for her family especially her six grandchildren. The grandchildren act as a motivation to keep up with her physical health and to do the best she can to live a longer life.

Rodriguez gets through her health struggles by going to dialysis, changing her diet, and being as physically active as she can daily.

In addition to altering her home routine, Rodriguez also attends the diabetes education class offered by La Fe where she educates herself and gets assistance from the friendly staff members which try their best to give outstanding service to all their patients.

This story was produced as part of the Journalism in July 2018 workshop for high school students at UT El Paso.

The post Diabetes and subsequent weight gain make healthy living a daily challenge appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

Photo gallery: The art of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 2:16pm

By Ailani Silvas

Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe – headquartered in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio – offers a variety of services to people through its 22 facilities and its 11 clinics. The clinics are a hub of activity as people work together to serve its more than 300,000 patients annually. The Centro, which opened in 1967, offers a variety of wellness programs, including Ballet Folklorio as part of its program to keep mind and spirit healthy, and preserve the neighborhood’s vibrant culture.  

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The post Photo gallery: The art of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe appeared first on Borderzine.

Categories: Local Blogs

by Dr. Radut