Immigration

Convoca dreamer a ‘no tener miedo’

Haz click aquí para leer mi artículo publicado en El Diario de El Paso “Convoca dreamer a ‘no tener miedo‘”.

“Viridiana Villa está convencida de que si uno hace las cosas bien, no tiene nada que temer. Ese es el mensaje que guarda para sí y comparte con otros de los llamados ‘dreamers’ en estos tiempos de zozobra.

Los comentarios de la ‘dreamer’ de 27 años surgen en medio de un ambiente de temor por recientes redadas de indocumentados en todo el país, y el arresto de dos jóvenes adultos que, como ella, viven en el país sin permiso desde antes de cumplir los 16 años.

Los ‘dreamers’, personas que entraron al país a los 15 años de edad o más jóvenes y se quedaron sin autorización, desde hace varios años cuentan con la protección de la Acción Diferida para los Llegado en la Infancia (DACA) que estableció la administración de presidente Obama…”

Temen que muro demore construcción de nuevo cruce en Columbus

Haz click aquí para leer mi artículo publicado en El Diario de El Paso “Temen que muro demore construcción de nuevo cruce en Columbus“.

“Columbus, N.M. – Funcionarios locales temen que la construcción del muro que quiere construir el presidente Trump a lo largo de la frontera sur, así como el impuesto de importación para financiarlo, afecten la disponibilidad de fondos para terminar el nuevo cruce con Palomas, México.

Norma Gómez, directora de la Cámara de Comercio de Columbus, dijo que el impacto positivo inmediato que la reconstrucción del cruce trajo a Columbus es evidente, ya que  hogares circunvecinos se ocuparon por los contratistas y trabajadores de la construcción. Pero teme que la construcción del muro demore la terminación del cruce.

“Esperemos que no nos impacte en una manera muy negativa”, dijo…”

Recibe UTEP a posibles futuros universitarios migrantes

Haz click aquí para leer mi artículo publicado en El Diario de El Paso “Recibe UTEP a posibles futuros universitarios migrantes“.

“Cuarenta estudiantes de secundaria del programa de Educación Migrante del Distrito Escolar Independiente de Canutillo visitaron la Universidad de Texas en El Paso (UTEP) ayer  para aprender más de cómo la educación avanzada puede mejorar sus vidas.

“I Can be Here Too” (Yo También Puedo Estar Aquí) fue el tema del evento, que está en su segundo año de realización.

Establecido por Reynaldo Reyes, profesor del Colegio de Educación de UTEP, con la colaboración del programa Educación Migrante, el proyecto busca motivar a los estudiantes, hijos de padres migrantes, a continuar su educación e ir a la universidad…”

Optan más hispanos por hablar inglés y matrimonios interraciales

Haz click aquí para leer mi artículo publicado en El Diario de El Paso “Optan más hispanos por hablar inglés y matrimonios interraciales“.

“El Pew Research Center publicó un estudio esta semana destacando que la población latina, debido a su juventud, vive un estilo de vida cada vez más distinto en comparación a generaciones hispanas anteriores.

Su asimilación a la cultura se refleja en tasas más altas de preferencia por el inglés y en más matrimonios interraciales, entre otros factores.

Según el estudio, 6 de cada 10 hispanos son parte de la Generación del Milenio –millennials– de Estados Unidos (18 a 33 años) o más jóvenes…”

Marcha católica al pie de la frontera reza por la reforma inmigratoria

By Vianey Alderete for Borderzine on September 12, 2013.

Read this story in English here.

SUNLAND PARK, NM – Con los dedos enganchados en los diamantes de metal que forman la malla fronteriza, Johan, 10, y su hermano Irving, 11, luchan contra los penetrantes rayos del sol desde el lado mexicano para poder abrir sus ojos y observar en detalle a la gente que ya empieza a llegar por carro de este lado de la frontera.

Unos 150 feligreses católicos y los obispos de Ciudad Juárez y El Paso se reunieron el sábado 7 de septiembre junto a la malla que separa dos países en el vecindario Anapra, para orar por la reforma migratoria.

Con líderes de la diócesis de Ciudad Juárez del otro lado y las diócesis de El Paso, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Brownsville, San Ángelo, Piedras Negras y San Antonio de este, la comunidad católica mostró  su apoyo por los derechos de los inmigrantes al reunirse en el desierto fronterizo celebrando una misa de solidaridad.

Las oraciones fueron dirigidas por el obispo Gustavo Rodríguez Vega de Nuevo Laredo y el arzobispo de la arquidiócesis de San Antonio, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, quienes mencionaron claramente que el evento era para señalar la necesidad de una amplia y justa reforma migratoria americana, según los principios de la enseñanza social católica.

“Lo que queremos conseguir es pedir la bendición del señor e irnos concientizando por el tema de los inmigrantes, que es el tema central de esta reunión. Es un quehacer que la iglesia ha querido tomar como atención a nuestros hermanos más vulnerables”, dijo Constancio Miranda Weckmann, arzobispo de Chihuahua.

El servicio de oración fue el tercero de la semana. Rosarios para los inmigrantes fueron rezados en diferentes parroquias durante agosto.

Marchas, cartas dirigidas a el congresista Beto O’Rourke (D – El Paso) y presentaciones son algunas de las actividades organizadas por la comunidad católica de El Paso apoyando la reforma inmigratoria. El departamento de Servicios del Migrante y Refugiados tiene una comunicación y colaboración constante con los líderes de la comunidad católica, que les permite estar informados de cambios legislativos y así tomar acción a nivel local.

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“Nosotros estamos empujando un cambio no sólo para recibir inmigrantes, pero para hacer un cambio a nivel legislativo”, dijo Marco Raposo, director del Ministerio de Paz y Justicia.

Entre las personas que asistieron al evento, llegaron montando motocicletas los “Caballeros en motos,” (Knights on Bikes), un grupo de motociclistas de la parroquia San Pío X quienes dijeron que habían respondido al llamado de los obispos.

En El Paso, el ministerio del inmigrante de la parroquia de San Pío X deriva a inmigrantes indocumentados de la ciudad a distintas organizaciones y centros de ayuda incluyendo Casa Anunciación y también organizan oraciones y rosarios.

Para Eina Holder, encargada del ministerio del inmigrante de la parroquia, es importante divulgar los servicios de la iglesia hasta en las áreas más alejadas. “Todos en algún momento hemos sido inmigrantes o conocemos a alguien que lo es. La ayuda no es solamente para la comunidad católica, es para cualquier persona puesto que son nuestros hermanos en Cristo.”, dijo Holder.

Las hermanas de San Francisco de Asís, Francis Hicks estacionada en El Paso, y Arlene Woelfel, estacionada en Ciudad Juárez, han trabajado con inmigrantes en la frontera por más de 40 años.

El cambio que ha surgido en la frontera durante los últimos años ha sido extremo, dijo Woelfel, por la poca vigilancia que solía existir y las medidas de seguridad que han surgido hacen parecer que el gobierno tiene algún tipo de fobia contra la inmigración, dijo Woelfel.

La dependencia entre los Estados Unidos y México, según Woelfel, es algo muy importante que la comunidad tiene que considerar y así exigir una nueva reforma migratoria.

“La gente tiene que luchar por una reforma migratoria más respetuosa, que tenga límites en ambos lados, pero que sea abierta y no cerrada”, dijo Woelfel.

El impacto que el servicio de oración en la frontera pueda tener depende de los medios de comunicación, dijo Hicks. “No podemos dejar que éste problema se pierda entre otros problemas como los de Siria y otros eventos, y esperamos que sea transmitido afuera de El Paso para demostrar cuanta gente está involucrada en la reforma de inmigración”, dijo Hicks.

En el senado de Estados Unidos, un proyecto de ley de 1200 páginas fue aprobado a principios de septiembre, en donde por primera vez desde 1986 se revisan las leyes de inmigración y se les daría la oportunidad a inmigrantes indocumentados de obtener ciudadanía. Al mismo tiempo, la seguridad en la frontera aumentaría, nuevas visas serán creadas y se añadirían restricciones al uso de estas.

Los padres de Johan é Irving, quienes se encontraban trabajando, los mandaron atender el servicio de oración de solidaridad. Durante el evento los niños sonríen cuando hablan de todas las cosas que harán cuando su padre les compre la visa que les prometió hace algunos años, y así puedan cruzar a El Paso para visitar a su hermanastro.

Miembros de las parroquias Corpus Christi, San Martín de Porres, Santa Lucía, San Lucas, Jesús Obrero y Cristo Rey estuvieron presentes en la oración que finalizó con la promesa de solidaridad y una llamada de acción.

“Nos comprometemos en seguir trabajando para un fin al tráfico de armas y a la violencia armada en nuestros países. Y también por la protección para todas las víctimas de esta violencia. Por eso les pedimos que contacten a su diputado en el congreso sobre estos retos”, dijo el arzobispo Garcia-Siller.

Catholics gather at the U.S.-Mexico border fence to pray for fair and humane immigration reform

By Vianey Alderete for Borderzine on September 17, 2013.

Lea en español aquí.

SUNLAND PARK, NM – With their fingers sticking out through the chain-link border fence from the Mexican side, Johan 10, and his brother Irving, 11, squint their eyes against the penetrating afternoon sun to make out the people who drive up on this side of the fence.

About 150 members of area Catholic congregations and the bishops of Ciudad Juarez and El Paso gathered on Saturday, September 7th along the fence that separates two countries in the neighborhood region of Anapra to pray for immigration reform.

With leaders of the dioceses of Ciudad Juarez on the other side, and the dioceses of El Paso, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Brownsville, San Angelo, Piedras Negras and San Antonio on this, the U.S. side, the Catholic community showed its support for immigrant human rights by gathering for a solidarity prayer on the border desert.

Nuevo Laredo bishop, Gustavo Rodriguez Vega, and archbishop of the San Antonio archdioceses, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, conducted the prayer and said the purpose of the event was to acknowledge the necessity for an ample and fair immigration reform, according to the teachings of the Catholic society.

“What we want is to ask for the Lord’s blessing and become aware of the issue of immigrants, which is the issue of today’s meeting. It is a task the church has taken to pay attention to our most vulnerable brothers,” said Constancio Miranda Weckmann, Chihuahua archbishop.

The service was the third of its kind during that week. Rosaries for immigrants were prayed in different parishes during the month of August.

Walks, letters to congressman Beto O’Rourke (D—El Paso) and presentations were some of the activities organized by the El Paso Catholic community supporting immigration reform.

The department of Migrant and Refugee Services stays in touch with the leaders of the catholic community, which allows them to be informed of any legislative changes and so they can take action at a local level.

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“We are pushing for a change, not only to welcome immigrants, but to make a change at a legislative level,” said Marco Raposo, director of a Catholic Peace and Justice Ministry.

Among the attendees of the event, the Knights on Bikes, a group of bikers from the San Pius X, parish arrived on their motorcycles in response to a call from the bishops.

In El Paso, the San Pius X parish Immigrant Ministry organizes rosaries and prayers, and refers undocumented immigrants to different organizations and help centers including Annunciation House.

For Edna Holder, an attendant at the Immigrant Ministry, it is important to publicize the services offered by the parish. “We have all been an immigrant at one moment or know somebody who is. The help is not only for the Catholic community, it is for anyone since they are our brothers in Christ,” said Holder.

The Saint Francis of Assisi sisters Francis Hicks, based in El Paso, and Arlene Woelfel, from Ciudad Juarez, have worked with immigrants along the border for more than 40 years.

The changes that have occurred along the border during the past years have been extreme according to Woelfel, going from discrete surveillance to the latest systems of electronic security. It seems that the government has some sort of phobia against immigration, said Woelfel.

The mutual dependence between the U.S. and Mexico, according to Woelfel, is something very important the community has to consider in order to demand new immigration reform. “People have to fight for a more respectful immigration reform that has limits on both sides, but is open and not closed, “ said Woelfel.

The impact the prayer service on the border can create depends on the media, according to Hicks. “We cannot let this issue drown among other issues, like Syria and other events, and we hope it is transmitted outside El Paso to show how many people are involved in the immigration reform,” said Hicks.

A 1200-page bill was approved by the U.S. Senate at the beginning of September, where for the first time since 1986 immigration laws will be overhauled and undocumented immigrants will have a path to citizenship. The bill provides for augmented borderland security, new visas and restrictions. Similar legislation has yet to be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The parents of Johan and Irving, who were at work, sent them to the solidarity prayer service. During the event, the boys smile when they talk about the things they will do when their father buys them the visas he promised them years ago, to cross the border and visit their stepbrother who lives in El Paso.

Parish members from Corpus Christi, San Martin de Porres, Santa Lucia, Saint Luke, Jesus Obrero and Cristo Rey also were present at the prayer, which concluded with a promise of solidarity and a call for action.

“We commit ourselves to keep working to bring an end to gun trafficking and armed violence in our countries. And also to protect all victims of violence. This is why we ask you to contact your members of congress about these challenges,” said Archbishop Garcia-Siller.

Central American immigrants risk lives, limbs to make it across the US-Mexico border, UNM researchers say

By Vianey Alderete for Borderzine on October 4, 2013.

EL PASO – Researchers from the Cross-Border Issues Group at the University of New Mexico unveiled the faces of traveling migrants in an hour-long, eye-opening presentation at UTEP recently for journalists on the realities of immigration.

“Central Americans have no sense of the distance they will have to walk to the border,” said Carolyn Gonzalez of UNM who co lead the presentation with Richard J. Schaefer, co-founder of CBIG and a professor at UNM.

“The Ebb and Flow of Immigration: Getting Away from the Buzz,” as the presentation was titled, covered hot topics of immigration, including personal stories gathered by members of the CBIG during their visits to migrant shelters in Mexico and Central America. They also presented photos of the conditions migrants face when traveling through Central America and Mexico to the U.S., and valuable data regarding border security and the economic impact of immigration on the nation.

Their presentation was part of a national immigration-reporting workshop at UTEP September 26-29 called “Immigration from the Border to the Heartland.”  Twenty U.S. journalists from online, print, TV and radio outlets in both English and Spanish participated in the workshop that was sponsored by the McCormick Foundation and hosted by the online magazine Borderzine.com.

Shaeffer and Gonzalez have worked with U.S. and Mexican students over the past several years to collect stories, information and pictures on the migration of undocumented men, women and children from Mexico and Central America to the border. Their research includes interviews with hundreds of victims of human trafficking, unaccompanied minors and migrants who have lost limbs and sustained other injuries during their trek north on top of trains, referred to as “La bestia.”

he number of migrants from Central America has been growing steadily in the last few years, according to Shaeffer. (Aaron Montes/Borderzine.com)

“Pictures are so much part of this,” Schaefer said before starting his presentation, which included photos of migrants with missing or cauterized limbs. One photo showed a young man had lost a foot after being struck by a live electrical wire while clinging to the top of a train.

During the past several years, Shaeffer and Gonzalez have visited nearly a dozen private albergues, or refuges, that provide food, safety, medical attention and shelter to the traveling migrants.

Run mostly by churches and volunteers, the albergues are often located near freight yards and rail hubs, and host migrants for two to three days, according to the UNM researchers.

A rise in drug-related violence in Central America has been one of the catalysts forcing children to travel north alone, and often become victims of violence and human trafficking.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 5,252 unaccompanied immigrant minors arrived in the U.S. between the period of October 2010-March of 2011, including 1,390 apprehended in the month of March only. This is a 93% increase from the correspondent period the previous year.

Santiago López Gomez is a Human Rights Committee leader in Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico and became one of Shaeffer’s sources.  Although López Gomez only attended school through third grade,  “I thought I was talking to some hot-shot lawyer,” said   Schaefer.

López Gomez made Gonzalez and Schaefer aware of the trafficking of Guatemalan girls aged 12 to 16 who are being taken from their villages and brought to the U.S. to serve as prostitutes for farm workers. According to Shaeffer, he learned that the practice has created a large HIV problem in Central America and Mexico.

Shaeffer said he also learned that many unaccompanied minors caught in the U.S. are being sent to orphanages or returned to their home villages.

Although the majority of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. in the last decade are from Mexico, the number of migrants from Central America has been growing steadily in the last few years, according to Shaeffer.

The three main countries where immigrants travel from other than Mexico are Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. As of 2011 the U.S. Border Patrol reported a rise in apprehensions of Hondurans from 12,734, Salvadorans from 10,471 to 20,041, and Guatemalans from 19,061 to 32,486.

Phony lawyers calling themselves notarios continue to scam unsuspecting immigrants

By Vianey Alderete for Borderzine on March 21, 2014.

EL PASO — A “Now Renting” sign and an empty office is all Irma Castañeda found when she went to ask her immigration attorney how her deferred action petition was proceeding. She had paid the man who turned out not to be a lawyer at all $2000 to solve her immigration problem.

Had the scam never happened, Castañeda would be done with her deferred action process. In the meantime, she is not allowed to work and she is desperate because her husband was deported recently, the house he started to build for them at Horizon City is unfinished, and she cannot feed or provide any comfort to her two daughters — Rosalva, 12, and Jackeline, 9, who was born with a developmental disability.

According to immigrant advocates, individuals setting up phony legal offices on the bilingual U.S.-Mexico border are taking advantage of the frequent confusion between the term notario público understood to usually denote a lawyer in Mexico and notary public, which in the U.S. is a person with no legal training, with the very limited legal authority of a licensed notary public to basically attest to the validity of a signature on a document for a $6 fee.

As a consequence, this misconception often leads to cases of immigrants becoming victims of extortion from shady individuals passing themselves off as immigration attorneys.

“Undocumented immigrants are in desperate situations and end up seeking help fromnotarios and other persons who prey on persons in most need,” said Eduardo Beckett, a private attorney based in El Paso.

In Latin America, notarios públicos are highly trained licensed attorneys or practitioners who provide legal services including preparation of legal documents, authentication of transactions, and legal advice.

The powers and functions of a Texas notary public primarily consist of signing documents as an impartial witness. Their role specifically prohibits legal advising, and the authorizing or preparing any other legal documentation, including those pertaining to immigration law.

Three months before realizing that she had been scammed, Castañeda had started visiting the “promising immigration lawyer” her neighbor recommended. His office was only a few blocks away from the International Paso del Norte Bridge and the Consulate General of Mexico, in downtown El Paso. “I never suspected anything. There was always a long waiting line and people would say how he was a good lawyer and he had friends and contacts in the immigration office,” she said.

Diocesant Migrant & Refugee Center. (Vianey Alderete/Borderzine.com).

In order to become a notary public in Texas, the applicant must be at least 18 years of age, live in the State of Texas and be a legal resident of the United States and pay applicable fees. The accessibility of becoming a notary public is such, that an applicant interested in becoming a notary in the state of Texas can purchase an electronic application package from the National Notary Association official website, ranging from $108 to $185.

Without further education or a law degree, some public notaries advertise themselves as notarios públicos accepting money from immigrants. They make false promises of having the knowledge and the total capacity to seek relief from deportation, getting them work permits, residency or even naturalization that often leads to serious legal ramifications for the immigrant.

Searching for asylum away from an ever-increasing number of homicides — mostly of women — occurring near her home in the Valle de Juárez, Mexico, Castañeda first emigrated with her mother, sister and niece to Fabens, Texas, in 1999. After a confrontation with a classmate who physically bullied her for being an immigrant to the U.S., Castañeda along with her mother were arrested and deported in 2003.

With children and a sister waiting for them in the U.S., Castañeda and her mother reentered the country illegally that same year. Castañeda was deported again in 2009. She again reentered the country illegally and decided to request a pardon and a deferred action in the U.S. in order to obtain a work permit to provide for her family.

Notary public in the U.S. are not supposed to give legal advice for fill out forms. A local business in El Paso correctly advertises only translation services and filling forms. (Vianey Alderete/Borderzine.com)

“Notarios aren’t bound by ethics; attorneys are. We have to return our client’s phone calls; we have to use any client fees that they pay us responsibly and justify what they pay us. Notarios take your money and they run,“ said Melissa M. Lopez, Interim Executive Director of Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc.
There is a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe on a wall at the Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services office. On that same wall, a notice from the U.S. Department of Justice, “’Notarios,’ Visa Consultants, and Immigration Consultants Are Not Attorneys.”

The lack of contracts, receipts, or retainer agreements from lawyers, attorneys, and public notaries is the biggest obstacle for victims of legal malpractice. To make a report, victims of fraud are required to show proof, (in this case, documentation) to the Better Business Bureau or any other government authority.

Adding to these misconceptions, many clients are victims of neighboring businesses they have been directed to by employees at the El Paso U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office, according to an immigration law attorney.

After he disappeared from his office, Castañeda saw the phony immigration attorney meeting clients at supermarkets and parking lots. He would run away every time she tried to approach him. Word of mouth led her to his new office, located in the same building as a national bank. It was there she found out from one of the people in the waiting line that he was not an attorney.

Without much time before her court date, Castañeda found legal assistance at a registered immigrant advocacy center. A licensed attorney informed her she could still file a report to the authorities against the scammer in order to help her case. As instructed by the attorney, the next day Castañeda visited the scammer’s office to gather other fraud victims.

According to Lopez, the most difficult process is reversing the legal damage of notario victims. “When people who live in the shadows file an application and it is not filed correctly, the consequence for them can be deportation,” she said.

As of November 2013, there are only seven recognized organizations and accredited representatives for immigration assistance in El Paso, according to the Department of Justice Recognition and Accreditation Program.

With plenty of opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting undocumented immigrants, numerous notario offices are found inside the city limits. A few blocks away from the International Paso del Norte Bridge in downtown El Paso, most commonly known as Santa Fe Bridge, there are several businesses that advertise themselves in English and Spanish as public notary and notario público.

According to the Texas State Notary Bureau, public notaries are allowed to advertise their services in any language other than English as long as there is a clear notice of the public notary fees and the statement “I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW IN TEXAS AND MAY NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE OR ACCEPT FEES FOR LEGAL ADVICE.”  

Las Americas, a non-profit immigrant advocacy center that has helped immigrants since 1987. (Vianey Alderete/Borderzine.com)

According to the Tex. Gov’t. Code Ann. § 406.024, the fee a Texas notary public can charge for their first signature is $6, additional signatures are $1. A notary public charging more than the maximum fee is subject to possible criminal prosecution and suspension or revocation of the notary’s notary public commission by the Secretary of State’s office.

Notaries cannot charge for filling out forms, as it is prohibited for public notaries to give legal advice. The number of notary fraud cases or a complete list of names of notaries involved in this kind of activity are not offered or collected by the American Association of Notaries, nor the Texas Secretary of State. This information is currently lacking in El Paso, the state of Texas, and the nation.

Castañeda was able to find almost 20 fraud victims, “He (the alleged immigration attorney) was very loud and he yelled a lot. I was afraid he would come out of his office and see I was gathering people to fight against him,” she said. A report was made to the authorities, but no further investigation was done at the time, and the District Attorney Office and County Attorney Office could not take any action.

“[Notario fraud] is a big thing we have been seeing for a while, and it doesn’t seem to be a priority for law enforcement agencies here in El Paso,” said Christina Garcia, accredited representative at Las Americas, a non-profit immigrant advocacy center that has helped immigrants since 1987.

A few months ago, the phony immigration attorney was arrested by a federal agency, three years after the report was filed. It was discovered he was forging legal documents, and it was not the first time the former customs inspector had been arrested on federal charges.

Castañeda is still waiting for her deferred action and for her husband to come back home. In the meantime she is working cleaning houses and yards and selling homemade food, but she is on a constant watch for the authorities, or people not paying her at the end of the day.

Her daughters, both born in the U.S. receive food stamps and a check that she uses to feed them and pay for the gas to take her daughters to school and the youngest to the doctor. “I’m very frustrated with not being able to work and having to eat from the aid the government sends to my daughters. I am not like that, I’d rather go out to work, whether it is in the cotton or chili fields, than to be dependent on my daughters’ money,” she said.