CVIndependent

Wed12022020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

It’s horrifying that a lot of high-powered Republicans are—without any evidence whatsoever—making allegations of widespread election fraud.

However … these flailing attempts to mount a legal challenge to the election led to one of the most bonkers events in the history of this great nation—a hilarious event for which I will be forever grateful—and that’s what I’d like to discuss with you today.

By now, you’ve probably heard of Four Seasons Total Landscaping. If you somehow haven’t, strap yourself in, because we’re going on one hell of a ride.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping is the place in suburban Philadelphia where Rudy Giuliani and some other Trump representatives held a press conference on Saturday morning. Their goal was to garner publicity for their so-far baseless claims of election fraud. What they did, instead, was this:

• They caused a great deal of confusion about the venue. President Trump tweeted on Saturday: “Lawyers News Conference Four Seasons, Philadelphia, 11 a.m.” This understandably led people to assume the president meant the Four Seasons hotel. (Apparently, that’s where Trump initially thought the press conference was going to be held.) However, minutes later, he deleted that Tweet and clarified that the conference would actually be at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, as this absolutely must-read piece from The Philadelphia Inquirer explains.

• The confusion led the poor folks at the Four Seasons hotel to tweet out that, no, the press conference was NOT being held there. Meanwhile, speculation began running rampant that perhaps Trump’s team meant to book the hotel but instead booked the landscaping biz by accident; however, that aforementioned Inquirer piece makes it clear that the team booked Four Seasons Total Landscaping on purpose, so it would “take place in a section of Philadelphia where they might receive a more welcomed reception than at the raucous celebrations of Joe Biden’s victory going on in Center City.”

• As for that section of Philadelphia: It turns out that Four Seasons Total Landscaping’s neighbors include a sex-toy shop and a crematorium.

• Moments before Giuliani started speaking, the networks called the race for Joe Biden—something that Giuliani apparently didn’t know had happened. As the Daily Mail explains: “Taking a question from a reporter, the former New York City Mayor initially looked confused about ‘the call’ before asking, ‘Who was it called by?’ When he heard ‘all the networks’ had awarded Biden Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral college votes, he quickly regained his composure, taking on a sarcastic tone and looking around to his team saying ‘oh my goodness!’ He repeated that the Trump campaign would continue to fight the result as he said: ‘Networks don't get to decide elections, courts do.’” Courts do?!

• It was later revealed that one of Giuliani’s star witnesses of alleged fraud who spoke at the press conference is apparently a sex offender.

• In the aftermath of this press conference, Four Seasons Total Landscaping is milking it for all it’s worth—and selling merch!

• Buzzfeed has this interesting post-press conference tidbit: “Now, (Four Seasons Total Landscaping) exists in virtual reality—complete with weathered detailing and a last-minute Trump 2020 podium. And rejoicing furries.”

• If you don’t know furries are, um, well, uh, here’s a Wikipedia article.

• Finally, I want to yet again tip my hat to that Philadelphia Inquirer article, which reveals that the whole shebang apparently ticked off Four Seasons Total Landscaping’s neighbors. Key quote: “The 78-year-old employee manning the counter at the Fantasy Island sex shop, who declined to give his name, said the phone had been ringing off the hook since Saturday with callers asking: ‘Is Rudy Giuliani there?’”

God bless America.

Today’s news:

• The big—and very encouraging—news of the day: Pfizer announced that early analysis shows its vaccine appears to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections. This could be a huge freaking deal.

• Related: CNBC looks at where all of the leading vaccine candidates stand as of now.

As the pandemic continues setting alarming records across the country, President-elect Joe Biden announced a 13-member coronavirus task force, to help his administration battle the pandemic once he takes office on Jan. 20.

At least three people who were at Trump’s Election Night party at the White House now have COVID-19, including Dr. Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development.

The head of the General Services Administration is so far refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect. What does this mean? According to NBC News: “More than 48 hours after media outlets projected that Joe Biden had defeated Trump to win the White House, GSA chief Emily Murphy has yet to sign the letter of ‘ascertainment’ a previously mostly noncontroversial process since the passage of the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. Signing that paperwork when a new president is elected triggers the release of millions of dollars in transition funding and allows an incoming administration access to current government officials.”

A huge spike in coronavirus cases in Utah has led the governor to, at long last, issue a mask mandate. According to The Washington Post: “In a video posted to Twitter late on Sunday—which Utah residents were alerted to watch via an emergency cellphone alert—(Gov. Gary) Herbert also declared a two-week state of emergency and announced a spate of other restrictions aimed to curb infections, which the governor noted are ‘growing at an alarming rate.’”

• Related-ish: Two experts tell MedPage Today that staffing and PPE shortages could haunt nursing homes as the pandemic rages through the winter.

President Trump today fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Key quote, from CNN: “Esper's firing has raised concerns that other top national security officials who have earned Trump's wrath may be next in the line of fire.”

Our partners at CalMatters point out that COVID-19 cases are starting to increase here in California, too.

• Also from CalMatters: Who could take Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ place in the U.S. Senate? Here are some possibilities.

What does the election of Joe Biden mean for the economy? An expert from Texas State University, writing for The Conversation, points out: “Historical data suggests that those who are concerned with the economy have reason to be fairly satisfied with the election results: The economy generally fares better under Democratic presidents.

Now this is a sad, horrifying headline, from NBC News: “Lawyers can't find the parents of 666 migrant kids, a higher number than previously reported.” Sigh.

• From the Independent: The year 2020 has been a year with a lot of death. Our Valerie-Jean (V.J.) Hume lost her husband to cancer earlier this year—and learned that grief can literally break someone’s heart. She tells the story of how she learned about the medical condition called broken heart syndrome—and how she’s now hopefully on the mend.

The final episode of Jeopardy! hosted by the late, great Alex Trebek will air on Christmas Day.

• Finally … a lot of people (myself included) were making fun of Nevada for its less-than-speedy ballot counting last week. Well, it’s now time to tip your hat to the Silver State—because voters there overwhelmingly made it the first state in the U.S. to protect same-sex marriage in its Constitution.

Happy Monday, everyone. Stay safe, and wear a mask when you’re around others, please. If you have the financial means to do so, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent to help continue to produce quality, independent local journalism. The Daily Digest will be back Wednesday.

Published in Daily Digest

In 2013, there were approximately 267,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants in the United States, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

We were unable to find more-recent data on this community—and were also unable to determine the number of LGBTQ detainees held currently in the 211 detention centers operating in the United States, privately owned or under the aegis of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. However, there is anecdotal evidence that sizeable numbers undocumented LGBT immigrants are, in fact, being held in abusive conditions throughout our country.

This reality first caught the attention of Ubaldo Boido and his partner, Craig Scott, when they were living comfortably in Los Angeles with their dog, Twink. They moved to Palm Springs in September of last year.

“We got involved with the Los Angeles chapter of Democratic Socialists of America,” Boido said during a recent phone interview. “They have an immigration-justice committee that wanted to go down to Tijuana to visit shelters because of the immigrant caravans at that time. So, I went along, (and while there), we visited an LGBTQ shelter I’d heard about in Tijuana. That’s when we realized that this was something that really hit close to home for us. This was our LGBTQ community coming to this border-crossing point seeking refuge from persecution. We met Jamaican women, people from Honduras and someone from Brazil. We listened to these horror stories about the violence that people go through in other countries just for being queer. It was something that lit a fire in both of us, and we said, ‘How can we help? We’ve got to help.’ So we did that for a year, and then we moved here and decided to continue doing the same work.”

So it was that Desert Support for Asylum Seekers (DSFAS) came to be.

“We wanted to help people understand the process (of seeking asylum) so that they could then figure out ways to support (these undocumented immigrants),” Boido said. “We discovered there was an immigration detention facility in Calexico (the Imperial Regional Detention Center), and we decided we would begin by supporting people there. Now that’s what Desert Support for Asylum Seekers does. It’s about pen pals, visitation coordination and then helping people when they get released with transportation, shelter and food. We’ve enrolled several people at College of the Desert for ESL (English as a second language) classes, and kind of helped them get acclimated to the community here.”

Other, more-established nonprofits like the TODEC Legal Center provide important assistance in our region, while DSFAS has focused attention on other real-world assistance. However, it didn’t take long for Boido and Scott to realize this challenge required more attention and outreach than just the two of them could manage.

“We wanted to create this volunteer group,” Boido said. “Let’s be honest: Most people are interested in helping children in these circumstances. Now, that’s not a bad thing, and I’m not suggesting it is. I’m simply saying that children light a fire under straight people. … But for us, it’s always been about this LGBTQ thing—but we didn’t want to limit (the reach) of DSFAS, because we wanted to see how big of a volunteer group we could create. Since then, the group has really championed people from all walks of life, and we love that. Still, Craig’s and my calling has been about helping LGBTQ migrants.”

Once volunteers began joining in, DSFAS started to fulfill its core missions more demonstrably.

“My partner, Craig, went down to Calexico with a group,” Boido said. “They scheduled a visitation, met several of the detainees there and started a pen-pal visitation coordinator group. Our name started to spread like wildfire (within the detention center), and word of our efforts spread. We started to get lots of pen pals, and we got a lot of people reaching out and asking how they could support us. So right now, we have a list of about 60 to 80 volunteers who are actively writing letters to people in Imperial Regional.”

Still, the most-challenging support scenarios had yet to surface.

“The detention center was dropping people at the downtown Calexico Greyhound station,” Boido said. “Even after the station was closed, (Border Patrol was) leaving them to fend for themselves. So we started this coordinator group to pick up people and get them on a bus, or get them here to Palm Springs where we could get them on a flight.

“One night, we got a call about a guy from Honduras who was gay and had just won the status called ‘withholding of removal.’ But he didn’t have anywhere to go to live. They asked us if we would be willing to house him, and we agreed to let him stay on our couch for a while. It was supposed to be for two weeks, but he stayed for almost seven months. It was both a challenging and an amazing experience. Since then, he’s moved to Los Angeles, gotten his work papers and has started his life. That experience changed our whole perspective. The truth is, when you’re LGBTQ, you come here with nobody, and you’re (often) actually fleeing your family, because they’re usually the ones persecuting you and helping the police come after you.”

Boido and Scott have realized they need to obtain a bigger home where they can house LGBTQ immigrants in need of assistance.

“Since the guy from Honduras, we’ve housed a transgender woman from Russia who moved to New York City, and another person who is still living in the Palm Springs area,” Boido said. “So this migrant home we want to create, that we call The House, is a safe space for our queer family coming from all over the world. We want to focus the energies that we’ve generated through DSFAS and create a little niche for the LGBTQ folks who we love and want to support on their journeys.

“We decided to launch this (GoFundMe) campaign. … We’ve had offers for homes, and we just want to push forward to raise more funds and create this space. Ideally, we’re interested in making it a safe house so that people can come, short-term or long-term, and have a place while they go through their immigration process. We’re just really excited about it.”

As the first year of DSFAS’ work draws to a close, how are the founders coping with the demands of dealing with the U.S. government while trying to help victims of persecution start new and happier lives?

“Being honest,” Boido said, “this is hard work, and it’s emotionally draining. There are days when I ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It’s not like there’s a huge payoff, and we’re getting a big check. But watching that transgender woman come here and seeing her try on a dress and wear makeup for the first time, and really own her transwoman self, it changes you. It really changes you—and I can’t go back. I can’t un-see how we helped somebody, and how we’ve listened to the stories of where they’ve come from and what they’ve been through.

“The GoFundMe campaign is about getting a bigger house, so that we can house more people,” Boido said. “And, hopefully, from there, we can form into a nonprofit officially. But the urgency is now. What we’ve noticed is that, yes, we can house somebody, but for that one person, there are 40 or 100 more still imprisoned in a horrible, horrible place. They’re treated like criminals, stripped of their belongings, and they have to wear a blue jumpsuit all the time. They eat rotten food. You can’t believe the horror stories that we’ve heard. They are unimaginable. You wouldn’t believe that this is what the ‘land of the free’ is doing to people who are trying to get here.”

For more information on Desert Support for Asylum Seekers, visit www.facebook.com/DSforAsylumSeekers. For more information on the GoFundMe campaign for The House, visit www.gofundme.com/f/247ckfculc.

Published in Local Issues

Happy Monday all! Let’s get right to it:

• OK, so we’re in the midst of a crippling pandemic, and it’s hot as hell … and now we have to deal with possible rolling blackouts?! Yes, indeed we do—2020 keeps getting more bonkers by the day, doesn’t it?—and Gov. Gavin Newsom is less than pleased. He said today the power shortage was “unacceptable” and pledged an investigation into the matter. 

How hot has it been throughout California? Well, Death Valley may have reached the hottest temp recorded on Earth in 90 years yesterday.

The Trump administration’s efforts to hamper the U.S. Postal Service has drawn the attention of Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the House back into session, and Senate Democrats are asking the Postal Service’s Board of Governors to reverse Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s recent efforts to slow down mail delivery—and remove DeJoy from the job if he doesn’t cooperate. Key quote, from The Washington Post: “In recent days, DeJoy’s agency changes have reduced mail deliveries and overtime hours, resulting in massive mail backlogs that have delayed critical communications and packages, including prescription drugs. The Postal Service also sought to eliminate hundreds of high-speed mail sorting machines this month while removing public-collection boxes in states including California, New York and Pennsylvania, sparking a broad outcry.”

• We keep hearing about potential COVID-19 “game-changers,” and so far, this terrible game has not changed much. Well, here’s the latest thing to keep your fingers crossed about: We mentioned hopes for rapid saliva COVID-19 tests in Friday’s Daily Digest. Well, on Saturday, the FDA granted emergency authorization to the SalivaDirect test, created by the Yale School of Public Health. According to CNN: “Researchers said the new test can produce results in less than three hours, and the accuracy is on par with results from traditional nasal swabbing. They said SalivaDirect tests could become publicly available in the coming weeks. Yale plans to publish its protocol as ‘open-source,’ meaning designated labs could follow the protocol to perform their own tests according to Yale’s instructions, the FDA said.”

• We also mentioned on Friday that the FDA had recently updated guidelines to say that people who have recovered coronavirus will likely have immunity for three months. Well, late Friday night, they sort of took that back, and chided the media for reporting what they’d said, because absolutely nothing makes sense anymore.

Counties are beginning to move on and off of the state’s COVID-19 watch list. Today, five were added; one was removed; and another—San Diego County—could be removed tomorrow. Counties removed from the watchlist can reopen more indoor businesses—like gyms and hair salons—as well as schools. (Riverside County, for the record, can’t be removed from the watch list, because our test-positivity rate remains too darned high.)

• However, Riverside County has a plan to “fix” that: It wants the state to raise the positivity-rate criteria! It’s part of a reopening plan the county has submitted to the state. According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the county wants to open churches, offices, hair salons and indoor dining on Sept. 8; indoor malls, group meetings (!) and wedding receptions on Sept. 22; and gyms, movie theaters and bars on Oct. 6. Hmm.

• The New York Times examines hopes that we could achieve herd immunity with just 50 percent of the population having antibodies to the damned virus, via either recovering from COVID-19 or getting a vaccine. Key quote: “I’m quite prepared to believe that there are pockets in New York City and London which have substantial immunity,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “What happens this winter will reflect that. The question of what it means for the population as a whole, however, is much more fraught.”

• The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill brought students back to campus for classes a couple of weeks ago. Well, that didn’t work out so well: 135 students and staffers have tested positive over the last week, and the school has decided to cancel all in-person classes and shift to remote learning. Sigh.

Should the U.S. allow people to be deliberately given COVID-19 as part of the vaccine trials? Two scientists, writing for The Conversation, make the case that “human challenge trials” should be allowed for the greater good, because it would speed things up. Key quote: “Rapid development of an effective vaccine could save hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide. At present, more than 5,000 people die of COVID-19 each day. At that rate, every month of delay in vaccine availability costs 150,000 lives.”

• Also from The Conversation: Some indigenous communities in Mexico have found ways to battle the coronavirus, despite poverty and a lack of access to health care. A professor of anthropology from Ohio State writes: “I find the Zapotec are surviving the pandemic by doing what they’ve always done when the Mexican government can’t, or won’t, help them: drawing on local Indigenous traditions of cooperation, self-reliance and isolation.

• A new study out of Stanford attempts to explain why some people get ill from SARS-CoV-2, and others don’t. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: “Three key molecules appear to play a crucial role, new research revealed this week. These key indicators, all found in the bloodstreams of severely ill patients, can be characterized as specific cytokines, or hormone-like molecules produced by the immune cells in the body that can regulate immune response. When overproduced, cytokines accelerate inflammation and can induce severe results.”

This lede from The New York Times … just ugh: “The Trump administration has been using major hotel chains to detain children and families taken into custody at the border, creating a largely unregulated shadow system of detention and swift expulsions without the safeguards that are intended to protect the most vulnerable migrants.”

• Bloomberg reports that homeowners with Federal Housing Administration mortgages are being delinquent with payments at a rate not seen in at least four decades. “The share of late FHA loans rose to almost 16 percent in the second quarter, up from about 9.7 percent in the previous three months and the highest level in records dating back to 1979, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Monday. The delinquency rate for conventional loans, by comparison, was 6.7 percent.”

Do you have questions about voting—when the registration deadline is? Do you need a photo ID? NBC News answers each of these questions, state by state.

The cost of insulin is soaring … and that’s just fine with pharmaceutical companies. FairWarning, via NBC News, reports: “Spurred by stories that diabetics are spending thousands of dollars a year on insulin, or even dying trying to ration it, lawmakers in at least 36 states are trying to tackle the issue, according to a FairWarning review of state bills introduced in the past two years. But the lawmakers are finding that the drug industry is working full-time to weaken or kill insulin price caps.”

That’s enough news for the day. Hooray—we’re one day closer to the end of this mess, whatever that may mean. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you’re around others. If you value independent local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Wednesday.

Published in Daily Digest

One of the most interesting cases Megan Beaman Jacinto has handled as a civil rights attorney involved a class of farmworkers. About 70 percent of the 60 workers in the crew were female—and in need of protection from gender discrimination.

“One day, about 32 showed up at my office,” she says, “and I ended up with 42 clients in a suit for discrimination. Their supervisor was always on them about what tasks they could perform and (wanted) to bring more men into the crew, and if they didn’t, then they were terminated. This is common for farmworkers. I sued for discrimination, and it took until we were readying for trial for a settlement to finally get done. It had taken four to five years. This is one of the cases I’m most passionate about.”

Beaman Jacinto grew up poor in rural Iowa.

“Where I came from,” she says, “it was about 99 percent white, and yet there was evidence of a lot of racism. It was about when I was in middle school that I realized it just wasn’t right to treat or speak about people by making those kind of comments or jokes. A passion developed in me in opposition to racism. I became ostracized—but that motivated me.”

Beaman Jacinto, 38, the oldest of four siblings, was influenced to pursue education by her parents.

“My dad was a factory worker, and my mom was a homemaker until she began working after I graduated high school,” Beaman Jacinto said. “They also maintained a very small family farm with about 30 cattle. They really emphasized the importance of education. Our rural schools were typically underachieving, and I finished all regular classes by the 10th-grade. My mom found other opportunities for us to learn.

“I always knew she would be there for us. It’s a type of advocacy that’s reflected in the way I stand up for others. And there was always an emphasis on treating other people the way you want to be treated.”

After high school, Beaman Jacinto majored in sociology at Grinnell College. “I wanted to better understand where racism comes from, and my responsibility as a white person,” she recalls. “At that point, I had no professional role models.”

Beaman Jacinto finally found a mentor in an American-studies professor who had been a Black Panther and had managed a group of civil rights lawyers who fought against racism. “It was like a light bulb went off,” she says. “I thought that potentially, I could make a difference.”

Before law school, Beaman Jacinto spent some time in San Francisco (“I was a waitress,” she laughs) and Chicago, where she went into an urban-studies program.

While studying law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Beaman Jacinto says she realized she had the drive to help others. “I worked in student clinics, and I always strove to make the greatest impact. My goal was to find meaningful work, so I applied all over the country, with private law firms and nonprofits. I got an offer from California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) and came to Coachella 12 years ago. It was my first job out of law school, and the great bulk of the work was representing farmworkers.

Beaman Jacinto worked with CRLA for four years before setting out to build a private practice. “CRLA was federally funded, so I couldn’t represent undocumented individuals or take on class actions,” she says. “I decided the time had come to grow. I had the choice to either leave CRLA for another nonprofit out of the valley or start my own practice here. It was scary at first, but (starting my own practice) would give me independence and room to grow. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Going out on my own, I overcame fear, and I was able to grow and value myself in addition to providing service to people who need help.”

Beaman Jacinto was elected to the Coachella City Council two years ago.

“From the time I came to Coachella, I’ve always tried to build relationships,” she says. “I value the importance of community, and I value the opportunity to serve. I see myself as a community advocate, but I had never seen politics as a goal for myself. There were many factors that came to play in my decision to run for Coachella City Council, including that women are underrepresented. I am driven to ensure that all voices are at the table when decisions are being made, about things like access to water and housing.” Beaman Jacinto is also adamant about helping develop other leaders within the community.

With a husband and two small children, how has Beaman Jacinto managed to get through the pandemic?

“It’s an ongoing process of adjustment,” she says. “I’m able to continue working and providing income, and working from home has given me so much more family bonding time. We all just have to keep the anxiety at bay.”

Does Beaman Jacinto have any talents that might surprise those who know her? “I have to admit I’m pretty good at cooking, although my clients are always surprised that a lawyer can cook,” she says. “And I’m fully bilingual, which is a real help in what I do. I’m also in the Iowa softball pitchers’ hall of fame!”

After coming from such a humble beginning, Megan Beaman Jacinto has established herself as someone who cares about her community and the people she represents.

“If I had to give advice to my younger self,” she says, “I would paraphrase something Michelle Obama once said—that I see all these men making decisions and having a seat at the table, and then I realize they aren’t all that smart. I would say, ‘Don’t be afraid. You’re just as capable as anyone else.’”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs on IHubRadio. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

On June 18, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—seemingly giving a lifeline to the program that allows some undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children to gain legal status.

Celebrations, sparked by the relief felt in undocumented-immigrant communities, spread across America. But they would be short-lived.

“Today’s court opinion has no basis in law and merely delays the president’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program,” said a statement by Chad Wolf, the acting Homeland Security secretary.

A few days later, the Independent spoke to Megan Beaman Jacinto, a Coachella Valley immigration and civil rights attorney, about the impact of the ruling.

“What the decision did was essentially say that the Trump administration didn’t (try to) end DACA in the right way, and for that reason, DACA should be reopened for first-time applicants,” Beaman Jacinto said. “So it not only preserves DACA for those who are already in it, and (allows them) to keep renewing, which was already available, but it reopens it for people who qualified and weren’t able to apply after the program stopped. Hopefully, now there will be new people coming into the program. … But the ruling was very narrow and sort of temporary.”

On July 28, it became clear just how temporary hopes were for a reinstatement of the DACA program, when Wolf issued a statement saying he was directing “DHS personnel to take all appropriate actions to reject all pending and future initial requests for DACA, to reject all pending and future applications for advance parole absent exceptional circumstances, and to shorten DACA renewals (to one-year periods) consistent with the parameters established in this memorandum.”

The lives of roughly 640,000 current DACA recipients—and countless aspiring participants—were thrown into turmoil once again.

Vanessa Moreno, a resident of Coachella, is the program coordinator at COFEM Coachella Valley. The mission of COFEM—the Council of Mexican Federations in North America—is “to empower immigrant communities to be full participants in the social, political, economic and cultural life of the United States and their home country,” according to COFEM’s website. As someone who came to the United States as an undocumented child, Moreno said Wolf’s July 28 announcement was extremely upsetting.

“I felt so super-angry and frustrated. My ears started getting hot, and my hands started getting sweaty, and my stomach turned,” Moreno said. “I just didn’t know what else to say. I just couldn’t believe this was happening. We celebrated just a month ago that people were going to be able to apply for the first time, and we were preparing infographics to explain to people what the requirements are, and what documents they need. It’s like when you get to a point that you’ve had enough—you’re just so fed up, and I think everyone was feeling the same. I talked to my friends, and all of them were on the same page. They pretty much said that they can’t (fight) anymore. They said, ‘I have to review my future, and where am I going to be at? Will DACA be gone soon? Will I have to go back to my country? Should I go back?’”

Moreno said she’s fortunate, because she has two years of DACA protection left.

“I know I’m privileged to have DACA right now,” Moreno said. “Still, working with COFEM and knowing about all the other applicants, I didn’t know how to tell them that they can’t apply. That same day, I had to communicate with one parent who was interested in applying for DACA for his son. He had everything ready—the application and the money order. He just wanted the greenlight to send it. It broke my heart to tell him that under this memo, you can’t (apply), but we’re going to continue fighting. He was upset. But I started thinking about what else I could do to support (the parent). I asked, ‘Hey! Is your kid thinking about going to school, or is he in college right now?’ He told me that his son had just graduated from high school, but because he doesn’t have DACA, he can’t get a work permit. So, I told him right then that his son doesn’t need DACA to go to a two-year college. I know that DACA helps because you are able to have a job—to have that income to support your studies or get a car. But, at the end of the day, you can still go to college even without DACA.

“I told him about the Dreamer (Resource) Center at the College of the Desert, and the student club that I could help connect his son with. So he lit up and told me all this was great news. He said he would talk to his son about going to college, or at least taking a class or two, so he could connect to the resources. It made me think that there are probably a lot of cases like that, and that this is what the potential DACA applicants are dealing with right now. They want to seek a higher education, but they feel that they can’t. If they don’t know the resources (available to them), then I can only imagine what the state of their mental health is right now.”

In the early 2000s, when she was 8 years old, Moreno and her family left Michoacán, Mexico, before settling in the Coachella Valley. They managed to maintain a foothold in this country despite numerous challenges.

In June 2012, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a memorandum establishing the policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

“When I graduated from high school in 2012,” Moreno said, “it was just a couple of months before (President Barack) Obama’s executive order establishing the DACA program. I had already decided to go to community college, and because DACA was new at that time, and it had never been done before, there was still a lot of fear in our communities, and I was hesitant to apply right then. When my sister and I—she’s now in DACA, too—saw that it was safe to apply, and that people were getting their work permits delivered to them, we figured it would be best to apply. So we did, and I think that helped me gain more confidence.

“In high school, I was very involved, but then I became really discouraged since I couldn’t attend a four-year college because of my status. Not that it was impossible for me, but the economic hardships were there, and I couldn’t afford it. Thankfully, though, with the support of my mom, we (managed) to pay for my first semester at the College of the Desert. Also, the California Dream Act had been passed, so we were able to apply for state financial aid.”

According to the California state website, “the California Dream Act allows students interested in attending eligible California colleges, universities and career education programs to apply for state financial aid. It is unrelated to the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.” It became law in 2011.

Moreno said she at first struggled with her status during her college years. “I went to a conference at UCLA for undocumented students, and I think that’s what brought me back to my old self and got me really involved in the community,” she said. “That’s when I officially came out of the shadows. Before that, I was afraid to share my status with friends and other folks. But going to this conference made me realize that I wasn’t alone, and it helped to bring my motivation back.”

Moreno completed her college education after transferring to Cal State Fullerton. Her a future as an immigrant-rights advocate solidified as she participated in school clubs such as Alas Con Futuro (Wings for the Future) at COD, and the Titan Dreamers Resource Center at Fullerton, where she co-founded the Dream Co-op, also known as the Diversity-Resilience-Education-Access-Movement-Cooperation student lab. She was also accepted for an internship with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). According to the organization’s website, CHIRLA’s mission “is to achieve a just society fully inclusive of immigrants.”

“When I graduated, I thought about staying in Fullerton, but it was difficult to find a job,” Moreno said. “Then I saw a position here in Palm Desert with an attorney who was looking for someone who had an immigration background. I came and took the job, but I was only there for a month. I realized that being involved over in Fullerton, and again in L.A. with CHIRLA, if I came back to the valley, I needed to get involved with other organizations.

“That’s how I came across COFEM. I got an email from the club adviser at the College of the Desert that they were looking for volunteers for a citizenship clinic. So, I thought, ‘Hey! This organization’s mission is to empower immigrant communities, and that’s perfect.’ So, I went to volunteer. I think they were expecting a big event, so pretty much the whole (COFEM) team came down (from L.A.), and I got to meet them. They told me they were hiring, so they interviewed me on the spot.”

Moreno said she wasn’t prepared yet to work for COFEM—"but it was definitely meant to be.”

“On Sep. 5, 2017, Trump first terminated DACA. I called COFEM (again) to ask if they were doing any advocacy on DACA, because Trump had terminated the program. They asked to come to L.A. to talk again. So I did, and they hired me. In the beginning, my main focus was to support undocumented students, but then I started taking on more responsibilities with the organization. I’ve been working there almost two years now. Still, it’s crazy (this job) happened due to the termination of DACA.”

Both Moreno and Beaman Jacinto pointed out that DACA is just a small part of the work that needs to be done on behalf of the nation’s immigrants.

“We want people to understand the importance of a permanent solution (to the U.S. immigration quandary) and not having something temporary,” Moreno said. “Also, they should know that we’re going to continue fighting.”

Said Beaman Jacinto: “There’s been a lot of focus on DACA for the last eight years, since it became law under President Obama. It’s been an important step in the right direction, but it’s a very limited program that only serves a very limited number of people, and not even all youths are covered by it. So it was a small step in the right direction—but there is so much work still to be done.”

Published in Local Issues

Forgive the tortured metaphor here … but the reopening train has left the station. And I don’t think there’s anything this country can do to get it back in the station now—no matter how dire things get.

Late this afternoon, the Wisconsin Supreme Court—in a disturbing 4-3 decision—struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order. The result is chaos: According to the Wisconsin State Journal, some counties have stepped in to issue their own orders, which remain valid. As for the other counties …

“For now, it looks like businesses and restaurants in counties that have not prohibited opening may operate as they wish,” the story says.

Closer to home, two Southern California casinos—Sycuan Casino Resort and the Valley View Casino and Hotel—just announced they’re reopening next week. And even closer to home, Morongo’s Canyon Lanes bowling alley will be reopening on Monday, according to the Facebook page.

All of this is happening on a planet where other countries that have eased restrictions are now needing to tighten things back up due to an increase in infections. Would that even now be possible in Wisconsin, if needed?

What a weird, alarming mess.

Meanwhile, May rolls on. And it’s only the 13th.

Other news from today:

• I am going to start off with some encouraging stories, as I cross my fingers really hard: The Washington Post talked to some doctors about how much they’ve learned about treating COVID-19 in the last two months. They’ve learned a lot, and that increasing knowledge is saving lives.

• From The New York Times: Scientists are working together more than they ever have before to find treatments for this damned virus. That’s leading to some very good things.

• Related: Vaccine-makers are considering joining forces to test their various candidate vaccines in one large trial. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach, however, as CNN points out.

• Public-relations guru David Perry drew my attention to this article, from Foreign Affairs magazine. The headline says it all, and as David presented it, I present it to you—without endorsement or critique: “Sweden’s Coronavirus Strategy Will Soon Be the World’s: Herd Immunity Is the Only Realistic Option—the Question Is How to Get There Safely.

• In a similar vein, here’s a piece from The Atlantic with this headline: “Take the Shutdown Skeptics Seriously: This Is Not a Straightforward Battle Between a Pro-Human and a Pro-Economy Camp.”

• I am holding back tears and counting my ample blessings after reading the opening paragraph of this San Francisco Chronicle piece: “More than 40 immigrants being held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego are alleging that a detainee’s recent death due to COVID-19 was caused by reckless and inhumane conditions, according to a letter begging the governor and other California lawmakers to intervene.”

• Some companies stepped up and offered their “essential workers” what amounted to hazard pay as the pandemic broke out. However, some of that extra pay is coming to an end—even though the hazards have not.

• Our colleagues at Dig Boston have done yet another compilation of alternative-newsmedia coverage of the pandemic, across the country and the world.

• Speaking of kick-ass media: Five media orgs with deep pockets are suing the Small Business Administration for information on which businesses got billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded loans.

The Hollywood Bowl’s summer season is officially cancelled. Surprising? No. Sad? Undeniably.

• If you’re a nerd like me, you’ll be fascinated by this San Jose Mercury News piece on how geneticists mapped the spread of SARS CoV-2 across the country. This data could help guide future travel restrictions.

• From the Independent: Palm Desert’s two new voting districts—which are decidedly unconventional—have been finalized for the 2020 city election. However, the pandemic has delayed the city’s planned adoption of a ranked-choice voting process.

• The federal government has decided some companies don’t need to follow the EPA’s pollution-monitoring rules during the pandemic. Nine states, including California, have filed suit against the EPA as a result.

Bankruptcy courts, alas, are going to probably going to see a lot of filings in the coming months and years. The Conversation shows how the courts are not ready for what’s about to hit them.

• A fantastic read from the Los Angeles Times: Janice Brown spent time at a Victorville hospital after getting sick with COVID-19. She improved, went home … and then the infection came back. This story, while alarming, is also oddly filled with hope.

• More from the “Elon Musk is a dick” files: Some of Tesla’s employees aren’t too thrilled about being rushed back to work at the carmaker’s Fremont plant.

• Creepy, or creative? A restaurant in Virginia with three Michelin stars doesn’t want to feel empty when it reopens with social-distancing restrictions … so it’s “seating” mannequins at unoccupied tables.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. If you can spare a few bucks to support quality, independent local journalism, please consider supporting the Coachella Valley Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with whatever craziness Thursday brings.

Published in Daily Digest

President Donald Trump published controversial new rules earlier this week making it harder for legal immigrants to get green cards if they use—or are likely to use—Medicaid, food stamps and other social safety net programs.

California has reacted with anticipated outrage.

“This is a reckless policy that targets the health and well-being of immigrant families and communities of color,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press release.

Added Attorney General Xavier Becerra: “We will not stand idly by while this administration targets programs that children and families across our state rely upon. We are ready to take legal action to protect the rights of all Californians.”

The expansion of the so-called “public charge” rule was long-anticipated—as was the response in California, home to a disproportionate number of the nation’s immigrants and headquarters of the anti-Trump resistance.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, has said the proposed new rules are intended to deny green cards to immigrants seeking U.S. benefits and to “promote the self-sufficiency of aliens within the United States.”

Here are six things to know about the latest immigration battle between the Trump administration and California.


What Would This Rule Actually Do?

Under the new regulation, legal immigrants into the United States could be denied permanent residency if immigration authorities deem them “likely at any time to” enroll in any number of public benefits for more than a year. The list of benefits includes food stamps, federal housing assistance and health insurance through Medicaid.

It’s an idea that the Trump administration has been kicking around since the very beginning of his presidency. Following multiple leaks to the press of versions of the rule, the Department of Homeland Security finally published a proposed draft last October. Earlier this week, the administration published the finalized rule, which will go into effect 60 days from Wednesday.

The new rule would also discourage immigration officers from granting visas to those making less than 250 percent of the federal poverty line, those receiving healthcare subsidies through the Affordable Care Act, and any applicant “likely to require extensive medical treatment or institutionalization.” The regulation also includes certain exceptions for immigrants serving the military, children, pregnant women and some students.

It’s one in a series of Trump administration initiatives that would curtail government benefits for low-income people and immigrants, including a proposal posted in late July that would cut food stamps to 3.1 million Americans.


Why the Concern?

Since 1882, the federal government has given immigration authorities broad authority to keep people out of the country if they’re deemed likely to become “public charges” of the state. Though the term “public charge” is never actually defined, since 1999, immigration officials have applied it only to people likely to be “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence” through cash welfare programs or publicly funded institutional care.

The new rule dramatically expands that definition to include “people who may have the occasion to one time use that type of benefit,” said Deep Gulasekaram, a professor of immigration and constitutional law at Santa Clara University.

“That is unprecedented,” he said. “And that is what truly makes this really a scary proposition for a lot of people.”

The new visa standards would—for now—only be used to approve or deny applications. But the Trump administration is also reportedly considering whether participation in these programs by otherwise legal immigrants could also be used as grounds for deportation.


Who in California Would Be Directly Affected?

Across the country, roughly 382,000 people applying for green cards would be reviewed to determine whether they are—or are likely to become—public charges under the new definition, according to the government. Given that nearly one in five people who received a green card between 2015 and 2017 lived in California, according to federal data, the rule will likely have an outsized impact on California green card applicants.

Advocates expect the impact to reach even further. Many mixed-status families are expected to unenroll from public benefits due to a fear that the public charge rule would impact their or family members’ chances of adjusting their status in the future.

According to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, as many as 765,000 people across the state may lose access to Medi-Cal and food stamps due to fear alone.

The UCLA researchers project that the rule could have a particularly strong collateral impact on low-income children in California, where one in two children are part of an immigrant family. Nearly seven in 10 Californians predicted to lose benefits would be children, according to the study.

The federal government offered up a much smaller estimate of the impact, predicting that fewer than 400,000 individuals across the country would forego applying or disenroll.


Has Talk of the New Rule Had a Chilling Effect Already?

Yes. As different versions of the rule have been leaked and then proposed over the past two years, California service providers and advocates have reported immigrant families opting out of public benefits in large numbers.

Elizabeth Ambriz, a CalFresh outreach worker for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, says this is the main reason that people have given for not applying for food stamps in the past eight months she’s been on the job.

“There are a lot of people who are working on becoming permanent residents, and their lawyers tell them, ‘Do not get CalFresh, because that will make you not be eligible to get your green card,’” Ambriz said in early August while tabling for CalFresh at a local health clinic.

Coupled with a decreasing unemployment rate, the looming new rule has been viewed by anti-poverty workers as a primary driver of a substantial decrease in enrollment in public benefits over the past two years.

One sign that immigrant families are already spooked in California is the drop in the number of households in which only children are eligible and enrolled in food stamps, usually because the parents are undocumented. These households declined by more than 40,000 in the state—including more than 85,000 children—between January 2018 and January 2019, according to an LAist analysis.

Meanwhile, a national poll by the Urban Institute of nearly 2,000 adults in immigrant families found that one in seven reported that someone in their family had declined a public benefit in 2018 because they didn’t want to risk a future green card. The effect was stronger among low-income families, Hispanic families and families with children.


Will California Be Suing?

Will the president will be tweeting? When the Trump administration announced a preliminary version of the rule late last year, Becerra fired off a 51-page letter, in which he called the rule “not supported by evidence, logic, or Congressional action,” “an arbitrary and capricious attack with no legal justification” and, in short, “unlawful.”

As a preview of the state’s legal argument, the letter suggests Becerra may once again argue that the Trump administration failed to follow the rules that govern how new regulations must be introduced. 

For anyone who has watched California take on the Trump administration again and again, it’s a familiar argument. The state has struck down or successfully delayed a number of new regulations by persuading a judge that the administration didn’t explain why a new rule was necessary, didn’t provide enough compelling evidence to support the justification, or simply didn’t give the public enough time to weigh in on the change—all in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

But that argument may be harder to make in this case, said Gulasekaram. 

“As a formal matter of changing the administrative rules, they complied with what is required,” he said, adding that courts give “a lot of deference” to agencies when deciding how to interpret a vaguely written law, particularly in immigration law.

Given the California Justice Department’s propensity for taking the Trump administration to court, state prosecutors could be typing up a complaint as you read this. Asked about a possible lawsuit, the press office for the Office of the Attorney General provided a short written response: “Stay tuned!”


Why Does This Remind Me of California in the 1990s?

According to reporting from Politico, Stephen Miller, one of President Trump’s most loyal and truculent policy advisers, has been the driving, hectoring force within the White House for this regulatory shift.

The Santa Monica-born 33-year-old was only 9 in 1994, when a majority of Californians passed Proposition 187, denying most public services to undocumented immigrants. The proposed constitutional amendment was later thrown out by the California Supreme Court. But Miller seems to be channeling the spirit of Prop 187 anyway, said Mike Madrid, a GOP consultant and frequent critic of his own party and President Trump.

Alongside more aggressive immigration crackdowns, the administration’s family separation policy and ceaselessly hostile immigration rhetoric, Madrid sees this latest regulation as yet another bid to “stoke the fire” and keep the party’s base energized for 2020.

“Will it work? It might for another two years,” said Madrid. “But if history is a guide, those two-year gains will lead to a generation of evisceration (for the Republican Party) at the national level.”

Despite winning the overwhelming support of California’s electorate, many experts say that Prop 187 turned an entire generation of Latino voters away from the California Republican Party. Many political commentators have drawn parallels to that moment in California history and the current political climate nationally. 

“The textbook has been written,” said Madrid. “The history is not old. It’s in the last decade or so.”

Today, proposals to extend legal protections and social services to immigrants who have entered the country illegally enjoy broad support in California, and any policy that could be characterized as an attack on legal immigrants isn’t likely to be well-received.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

On this week's evergreen-scented weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat sends Milkman Dan's truck in for repairs; Apoca Clips quizzes Li'l Trumpy about the immigrant caravan; Jen Sorensen looks at what's not changing following the midterms; The K Chronicles has a modest proposal for coal mines; and This Modern World brings us the latest mystery for the detective-in-chief.

Published in Comics

Alan has now lived in the Coachella Valley for 17 years, ever since he was 17 years old.

Even though he has always worked hard and played by the rules—at least the rules that aren’t stacked against him—he doesn’t want his last name used in this story. The reason: Both he and his wife are undocumented immigrants. They have a son, 10, who is a U.S. citizen by birth.

“Since President Trump has been in office, we have seen all the anti-immigrant statements and all the news coverage on TV of what’s happening,” he said. “We’ve been afraid to go out and go about our normal life routines, because if a cop stops us, they will call the immigration (agents), and we will be taken away.

“We’re very uncomfortable, and it is not easy for us to live every day. We always have to be looking behind our backs.”

The government under Donald Trump seems to be quite proud of such discomfort. On Feb. 16, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release stating that the agency’s personnel had arrested 212 individuals for violating federal immigration laws, and had served 122 notices of inspection to businesses in the Los Angeles area. On March 16, another ICE news release trumpeted the arrests of 115 individuals in San Diego and Imperial counties, again for violating federal immigration laws. On June 14, yet another ICE news release announced the arrests of 162 individuals in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, including 15 people in San Bernardino County, and 12 here in Riverside County.

Yet another ICE news release, from May 14, proclaimed that between Oct. 1, 2017, and May 4, 2018, Homeland Security had opened some 3,510 worksite investigations, and had made 594 criminal and 610 administrative worksite-related arrests. Compared to the entire previous fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, the number of investigations had more than doubled—and the number of arrests had quadrupled.

Anyone believed to be in this country illegally is fair game. “ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” ICE Director Thomas Homan said in a statement. “All those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

It’s clear: Not only is the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration violations intended to identify and remove convicted criminals from American society; it’s also designed to create a climate of fear in the daily lives of all undocumented immigrants—including many of our neighbors here in the Coachella Valley.

“The U.S. Border Patrol has jurisdiction over our streets and our community; that’s why immigration has always been a problem, and our community continues to be at risk,” said Luz Gallegos, the community programs director for TODEC Legal Center, an organization with offices in Perris and Coachella which seeks to empower disenfranchised immigrant communities, according to its website. “But what has changed lately is that a lot of the rhetoric is creating more fear, and all of the political division at the federal level is really impacting people at the grassroots level.”

This rhetoric has brought out a lot of hate—and it’s plaguing both undocumented and documented immigrants in our community, Gallegos said.

“We hear from students what they are going through in their schools,” she said. “Even kids are emboldened to talk on their hate, saying things like, ‘Go back to Mexico!’ and calling them wetbacks. We see that people now feel empowered to speak out about feelings they’ve carried their entire lives.

“Having grown up here for my whole life, as a child, we heard that the KKK would gather in Rainbow (in northern San Diego county), and we always feared the KKK growing up. Back then, we didn’t know who they were, because they wore robes and covered their faces, but now, you really know who these people are, right? People are coming out, and now we can really see where people stand.”


Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia represents the state’s 56th District, which includes much of the eastern Coachella Valley. He said the hatred being openly expressed toward immigrants ignores the valuable contributions they make to our community.

“It’s important to highlight just who we are talking about,” Garcia said. “We are talking about people who work in very significant and important industries to the Coachella Valley economy—folks working out in the farming fields of the eastern Coachella Valley who are putting food on people’s tables, along with the men and women who make up a large part of the hospitality and service industry that is essential to our economy in California. So we’re talking about just putting a face to the subject. These are the working people who help drive the economic engine of our region.”

Megan Beaman-Jacinto is an immigration-rights attorney, activist and candidate for the Coachella City Council.

“A lot of things that this president has tried to do against immigrants have not been able to proceed, like trying to end DACA,” Beaman-Jacinto said. (DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allows some younger people who came to the United States without documents to stay and work legally in the U.S.) “But other things have happened—things like people being denied immigration benefits at higher rates now (than under previous administrations). And (President Trump) is trying to pass new regulations that will make it harder for even permanent residents to become citizens if they used certain public benefits, even legally, in the past.

“Every day, almost, there’s a new attack on immigrants—and the media’s exposure of that is definitely having mixed results. On the one hand, it’s great that people are finally seeing this and paying attention when they didn’t before. But on the other hand, for people who are personally impacted by it, it is really stressful to see all the time, everywhere you look. I went with some clients to a citizenship interview a few weeks ago in the immigration offices in San Bernardino. In that lobby, there are two TVs, and they’re always on CNN. So the whole time we were waiting there, it was like, ‘Trump says this about immigrants, and Trump says that about immigrants and this about the immigration department.’ … I’m thinking, ‘Well, at least my client is about to become a citizen,’ but who knows what other status everyone else in that room has? That’s really terrifying if you’re one of the people directly impacted, and it goes on nonstop.”

The nation’s immigration system has been broken for a long time, since long before Donald Trump became president. In fact, some immigration activists referred to President Barack Obama as the “deporter-in-chief” due to his administration’s high number of deportations.

However, the intensity of the rhetoric is indeed new.

“Now you get an administration that begins to utilize the state of fear—(saying) that illegal immigration is taking over, that illegal immigration is the reason for increases in violent crimes. … ‘They are rapists, murderers, etc., etc., etc.,’ Garcia said. “The fact that we still remain with no comprehensive immigration reform policy creates a huge level of uncertainty for a lot of people in this country, in California and in the Coachella Valley.

“I’ve got to imagine that this type of fear-mongering has disrupted our economy to some extent. Perhaps people are not presenting themselves for work. Perhaps the kids are not showing up at school. (There’s a) decrease in the number of people who want to access health-care services due to the concern that they may be ‘outed’ for being here undocumented. I would even argue that our public-safety services suffer, because the cooperation between our residents and law enforcement is impacted negatively. For instance, a victim of crime or a witness to crime, who might be here undocumented, might not be willing to cooperate with law enforcement. So it’s a very huge issue, and it goes back to the inability of a U.S. Congress and an administration to put together what would be a comprehensive immigration policy that would bring about certainty for the people in our valley, our state and in our country.”

Gallegos said she and her colleagues at TODEC have seen the damage this rhetoric is causing.

“There is a lot of fear out there, and (at TODEC), we believe that our role is to educate the community,” Gallegos said. “But that fear still exists, and it even impacts our local economy. We talk to the farmers in the east end of Coachella Valley, and they tell us they’re concerned that they are losing their workforce. The stores, like Cardenas, tell us that they’ve lost a lot of business because of this whole fear factor. It’s affecting our community and the local economy.”

The hyper-politicization of the immigration issue has also led to another type of fear—a fear of speaking out. The Independent reached out to numerous agricultural and retail businesses, and they all declined to go on the record for this story.

The same thing happened when we tried to talk to valley health-care providers about the effects ICE enforcements have had on immigrants seeking treatment and services: Only one person agreed to go on the record, and that was Doug Morin, the executive director Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine, an organization in Indio that offers no-cost health care to adults who are uninsured or underinsured. He said his clinic has noted a substantial and ongoing decline in patient visits since the Trump administration took office in January 2017.

“I would say we’re still 20 percent below the number of patient visits we had during the pre-Trump days,” he said.

The decline has continued despite a concerted effort on the clinic’s part that included hiring an outreach specialist to make door-to-door contact with underserved populations to assure them that both they and their personal information would be safe if they came to get medical attention.

“We even changed our fliers that we had out for patient recruitment,” Morin said. “They used to just say, ‘Your health is our number one concern,’ and now it says, ‘Your safety and your health is our number one concern.”


So … where do we go from here? After all, Trump’s four-year term is less than half over, and there’s no hint that his administration will ease up on either the enforcement actions or the rhetoric anytime soon.

“We tell community that ‘our faith will keep us strong,’” Gallegos said. “There are a lot of young people coming up who want to make change. They see how this uncertainty and fear is impacting their family, friends and (everyone’s) mental health, and they’re taking it very personally. We tell them, ‘We have to continue resisting—and the way you’re going to resist is go to school. Finish your high school; go to college; and be a professional. You will prove everybody wrong,’ and that’s what our kids are doing. They are people of character, with morals and compassion. It’s become personal to them.

“Most importantly, we tell them to make sure to vote because that’s the way you create change.”

Garcia said some actions can be taken on the local and state levels.

“It is a federal question, but you know, states have rights,” he said. “When we have an emergency in California—as we’ve seen in recent months with the fires, the droughts and other natural disasters—we have the ability to declare a state of emergency and have the federal government support that position via policy and/or resources needed to address that emergency. In California, I believe that the issue of labor shortages in very specific industries that are highly occupied by immigrants could be considered such an emergency. I think that in itself is reason to work as a state in addressing our labor needs. These labor shortages are having a significant impact on our local economy right now—and not addressing the immigration issue ties into this threat very closely.

“I made an effort this past year to exercise that states’ right and develop a working group (in the state Legislature), that would ultimately need the blessing of Homeland Security and the federal government, to put together a program that would bring certainty of legal status, allowing those California residents working in these critical industries to continue contributing to our economy. Also, it would address ways to ensure that people are being paid salaries, receiving benefits and having housing that are respectable by California’s high standards. Stabilizing the existing unpermitted workforce by removing their tremendous fear and giving them and their families some certainty would be the first objective, and the second would be to develop a framework that would allow for us to address the real labor shortages that exist for these industries. I just think there’s a better way to go about this than disrupting the economies of the country, state and the Coachella Valley.”

Garcia’s effort did not get very far; his Assembly Bill 1885 didn’t even make it up for a vote in a committee.

“It continues to engage a number of individuals in a dialogue,” Garcia said. “… Unfortunately, we had a lot of people who got stuck on the notion that this issue is a federal issue only. They would not look at it as an economic and labor-shortage issue in California, as well as a national food-security issue. You know, we feed a large part of the world, and if our agricultural industries see a significant decline, because we can’t get enough people to do the necessary work, then we’re looking at being dependent on other nations for our food and commodities, which should be a major concern for people from a security standpoint, a health standpoint, and because we would be supporting other countries’ practices of underpaying and undervaluing their workforces.

“So the bill did not move. Next, we introduced a resolution, (Assembly Joint Resolution) 34. The resolution took a strong position supporting the same principles we supported in the legislation, and it had bipartisan support built around a coalition of assemblymembers and senators from farming communities throughout the state. This resolution would send the message to Washington, D.C., about what California is thinking, and wanting to do, and we encouraged our federal counterparts to engage with us in this conversation. It was passed and sent to the governor’s desk. Resolutions are position papers. As a result, they are not as controversial as trying to set something in stone as a law.”

Meanwhile, Coachella Valley residents like Alan and his wife continue to live in fear.

“Thank God I haven’t had to go to the hospital or seek medical services of late, but if we had to, we would go to get medical help here. My son is attending school,” he said. “What upsets all of us the most is that we feel like we’re being held back, and we’re not able to move forward with our lives. (The federal government) now is putting all these obstacles in our way.”

Upper right—Immigration-rights attorney and Coachella City Council candidate Megan Beaman-Jacinto: “Every day, almost, there’s a new attack on immigrants—and the media’s exposure of that is definitely having mixed results. On the one hand, it’s great that people are finally seeing this and paying attention when they didn’t before. But on the other hand, for people who are personally impacted by it, it is really stressful to see all the time, everywhere you look. Below—“We talk to the farmers in the east end of Coachella Valley, and they tell us they’re concerned that they are losing their workforce,” said Luz Gallegos, the community programs director for TODEC Legal Center. “The stores, like Cardenas, tell us that they’ve lost a lot of business because of this whole fear factor. It’s affecting our community and the local economy.” Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Local Issues

Last winter, at a talk in Aspen, Colorado, author Luis Alberto Urrea described his childhood in a rough San Diego neighborhood near the border, where his family moved from Tijuana during a tuberculosis outbreak.

Born to a Mexican father and an American mother, the blue-eyed, blond child spoke Spanish before he spoke English and spent his early years buffeted by the cultural tensions between his parents.

Urrea’s mother yearned for him to be “Louis Woodward,” the idealized offspring of her own East Coast origins. His father, who wanted his son to be more Mexican, affectionately called him cabrón (in English, “dude,” or a more friendly rendition of “dumbass”). “I was raised twice, and this was very hard, but I thank God for it,” Urrea said.

That complicated family dynamic is the inspiration for his latest novel, The House of Broken Angels, a multigenerational saga about a Mexican-American family, much like his own, in San Diego. It is also a border story, a genre for which he is well-known: Ever since the success of his 2004 nonfiction book, The Devil’s Highway, which recounted the struggle for survival among 26 men who crossed the border in 2001, Urrea has been called the “literary conscience of the border.”

But his latest book is less about the physical border than it is about the familial relationships that both challenge and transcend it—the small moments that, as one of his characters puts it, allow each of us to see our own human lives “reflected in the other.”

Drawing on the final days of Urrea’s older half-brother, Juan, who died in 2016, the narrative revolves around Big Angel, the patriarch of the sprawling De la Cruz clan, a raucous cast of characters who encapsulate a variety of American experiences—veterans, academics, undocumented immigrants, a singer in a black-metal band called Satanic Hispanic and a “non-cisgendered, non-heteronormative cultural liberation warrior.”

Sick with cancer, Big Angel decides to throw a final fiesta for his 71st birthday with all his friends and relatives—and not even his mother’s sudden death will stop him. The party is scheduled for the day after her funeral, and in the lead-up to it, we glimpse the melodrama of daily life amid vivid flashbacks of the past. Like the De la Cruz family, Urrea’s writing is exuberant, unruly and sometimes profane, filled with splashes of Spanglish and sensual imagery, from Big Angel’s San Diego bedroom to his memories of La Paz: “the creeping smell of the desert going wet.”

The writing is political, too, as the author describes the often-arbitrary cruelty of the border that has shaped the characters’ lives. Technically, Big Angel and his wife, Perla, are undocumented, having entered the U.S. as teenagers. Urrea, however, does not dwell on legal status, focusing instead on the ever-changing politics of America’s immigration laws, which have alternately embraced Mexicans for their labor and expelled them as soon as they were no longer needed.

In Big Angel, we see another side of the story, too: the tale of those immigrants who manage to ascend to the middle and working classes. After years of working multiple jobs, Big Angel is able to buy a home in San Diego. He finally lands a position running computers for a gas and electric company, even though he never liked computers. “A Mexican doing what these rich Americanos couldn’t do was the point.”

Other family members have not been so lucky. A stepson, Braulio, was killed in a gang shooting. Big Angel’s own son, Lalo, struggles with drug addiction and his undocumented status, which even his U.S. military service in Iraq cannot resolve.

In the De la Cruz family, these tragedies live next to the frequent bouts of absurdity that Urrea evokes—a reminder, he says, “that people are funny. Especially in dire circumstances.”

Recounting a memory from his own childhood, fictionalized in a chapter of the book, Urrea describes how his “gangster granny” almost became a border smuggler—of a green parrot. Had one bird not awoken from its tequila-induced slumber at the very moment that grandmother and grandsons were about to drive across the border, she might have succeeded. Instead, the parrot erupted from her dress in a burst of green feathers, while the elderly woman calmly rolled down her passenger window. At that moment, Urrea writes, “two Mexican boys, a Mexican grandma, and a U.S. federal agent watched as one as the bird entered the U.S. illegally.”

The author’s humor does not diminish the daily horrors on America’s border; it merely reveals the awfulness more clearly. In Aspen, Urrea explained his choice: “Laughter is the virus that infects humanity. And if we laugh together, how can we walk away and say that person is an animal?”

At a time when the language of borders is more chilling than ever before, with mass deportations and children kept in cages, Urrea hopes more of us will consider this question.

This piece originally appeared in High Country News. Sarah Tory writes from Carbondale, Colo.

The House of Broken Angels

By Luis Alberto Urrea

Little, Brown and Company

336 pages, $27

Published in Literature

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