Migrant Lives

Across Mexican Border, Deportees Feel Trump’s Heat

Border Patrol agents closing the Door of Hope between Tijuana and San Diego
Border Patrol agents closing the Door of Hope between Tijuana and San Diego
Paolo Mastrolilli

TIJUANA — Martin Pina stands in the courtyard of the "Casa del Migrante," which was founded 29 years ago by Catholic Scalabrinian missionaries to help migrants in this teeming Mexican border city.

Sporting a tattoo of his mother Belinda on his left arm and Mexican singer Selena on his right, Pina says that he had been deported just four days earlier from California for selling marijuana. "I made mistakes, they found me and deported me four days ago," says Martin. " I've already done nine years of prison, and I would have had to serve another eight, and then a life sentence if they caught me again."

Pina is one of the three million "criminal" undocumented immigrants that President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to immediately deport from the United States. But Pina's wife and 22-year-old son, a natural-born U.S. citizen, are still on the other side of the border. "I think the new President will do what he promised, he would hang people like me if he could," he quips.

A small-time marijuana dealer, Pina is far from the drug kingpins Trump has vowed to bring to justice. "I'm just a small fry, I don't know the leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel that control this region," he says. "But this is the only way I can make a living, so what else can I do? If he builds the wall, we'll just climb over it or build tunnels under it, and if he deports us we'll just keep coming back."

A forbidding border wall already separates the two countries at the border between Tijuana and San Diego, but in San Diego's remote Border Field State Park a small fenced door known as the "Door of Hope" provides an opening in the barrier. Every weekend, U.S. Border Patrol agents open the passage to allow brief family reunions — and it has become a symbol of the immigration crisis. A Mexican border patrol agent named Arriaga insists that the area is a restricted zone forbidden to outsiders, despite its status as a symbol of reconciliation.

Change is coming to the border region with the election of Donald Trump, and no one has made this clearer than Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council and avid Trump supporter. "Our leader has changed and so has the political climate, and now border patrol agents will stop enforcing Obama's policies and begin arresting more illegal immigrants," says Judd, who heads a union of 16,500 border agents. "This will please the new President and end the assault by illegal migrants on our southern border, who are trying to take advantage of the last few months before the new administration takes office to enter the country illegally."

Battle brewing

Even before the election result that shocked the world, it was clear the border patrol agents supported Trump. But in Democrat-dominated California, a struggle is brewing between local authorities and civil society on one side and the pro-Trump border agents on the other. Immigration is under the purview of the federal government, but officials in California have vowed to oppose Trump's plans by refusing to provide lists of illegal immigrants and continuing generous assistance policies to the undocumented. They are backed by numerous civil society organizations and the Catholic Church.

Approximately 750,000 young undocumented immigrants have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a 2012 executive order signed by President Barack Obama that shields from deportation those who arrived in the country when they were children. More than 200,000 of them live in Los Angeles County, where Archbishop José Horacio Gómez has already declared he will not collaborate with deportations. Despite being a conservative nominated by Pope Benedict XVI in a country where most Catholics voted for Trump, Gómez's Mexican origins also inform his view on the issue.

"We need to build bridges, not walls," says Aida Bustos, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of San Diego. The city's Bishop Robert McElroy will hold a Christmas celebration on Dec. 10 at the border fence, "so Christians on both sides can pray together."

Bustos says she doubts Trump's immigration policy will be effective, for both moral and practical reasons. "We don't call immigrants illegals, they are our brothers in our Catholic family," she says. "I know hundreds of people here who have family members across the border, some who have papers and others who don't, so how will Trump be able to separate them?"

Antonio Marquez, who benefited from the DACA program is journalism student at San Diego City College, where Aida teaches. "I didn't violate any law or take advantage of the system, I've worked hard all my life to get into college and build my future," he says. "But now I have to live in fear because my parents took me to the U.S. when I was a kid, and at any moment the police could come knocking at my door."

Arrests and expulsions of undocumented immigrants are already at record highs, with 49,167 recorded in October. "The Casa del Migrante was founded to help those who were going from south to north, but now the flow has reversed and we receive around 30 deportees a day," says Fr. Patrick Murphy, the center's coordinator-general. "They used to come primarily from Mexico but now most are from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and we recently had a huge influx of Haitians."

Murphy says the "root causes' of this historic migration should be addressed by improving conditions in migrants' home countries. "Otherwise, we'll never solve this problem," he says. "Fixing the symptoms of the crisis, like arresting criminals when they're just a minority, isn't going to work."

Cutting potatoes for lunch at the center's kitchen, Pina nods in agreement, saying he'll soon return to Matamoros, the city on the Rio Grande where he was born. "As soon as I have enough money I'll cross the river again," he says. "But please don't tell Trump, or he'll hang me."

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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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