CVIndependent

Thu12032020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Some thoughts on Riverside County’s descent into the purple, “Widespread” coronavirus tier:

• This will have a devastating impact on some local businesses. It means that within 72 hours, gyms and movie theaters must close all indoor operations. Places of worship can’t have indoor services. Restaurants can only operate outdoors—and, according to the county, it’ll be at LEAST three weeks before we can move back up into the red, “Substantial” tier. Make no mistake: This will result in some businesses closing for good.

• To those of you who look at this information and shout, “Lives are more important than businesses!” You need to realize that lives and businesses are inextricably intertwined. Business are life-long dreams, sources of income, sanity-maintaining distractions and so much more, to so many people.

• While sliding backwards is very bad, the news is not ALL bad. First, the local weather is getting less-scorching, which means that businesses that have the wherewithal to move operations outdoors will probably have better luck doing so than they would have back in August.

• Also, the county’s numbers are trending in the right direction. The county’s positivity rate (5.2 percent), adjusted daily cases per 100,000 (9.1) and health-equity metric (which tracks the positivity rate in disadvantaged neighborhoods; 6.9 percent) are all better this week than last, and two of those three numbers remain in the red, “Substantial” range. Unfortunately, the adjusted daily case rate is too high—and while the state gave Riverside County a reprieve last week, the state Department of Health declined to do so for a second week.

• While the purple, “Widespread” tier is the most restrictive, it’s actually not as restrictive as things once were: The state now allows hair and nail salons to remain open indoors in all of the tiers.

• We should ALL take this as a call to be as safe and responsible as possible. That means wearing masks around others, washing hands, cooperating with contact tracers, getting tested and, in general, behaving like responsible adults. Our numbers are not great, but they’re waaaay better than they were a couple of short months ago. While much of the rest of the country is surging, we are not—and we all need to work to keep it that way.

More news:

College of the Desert announced today that instruction would remain almost entirely online for the winter intersession and spring semester. Read the details here.

• The state has, at long last, announced reopening guidelines for theme parks—and Disney officials are NOT happy with them. As the Los Angeles Times explains: “The protocols announced Tuesday allow a large park to reopen once coronavirus transmission in its home county has fallen enough for the county to reach Tier 4—the state’s least restrictive designation. A small park, meanwhile, can welcome guests once its home county reaches Tier 3, the second-least-restrictive level.

The state also announced that a limited number of fans can attend live sporting events—but only at outdoor stadiums; only in counties in one of the two least-restrictive tiers; and only if local health officials give the OK. As the San Jose Mercury News explains, all of this means fans won’t be attending games in California anytime soon.

• Here’s the latest weekly Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and rural-ish points eastward.) The news is mostly decent, with cases and hospitalizations holding steady—and the weekly positivity rate is down to 4.7 percent. However, COVID-19 claimed the lives of two of our neighbors last week.

• I’ll let this lede from The New York Times explain the big national news of the day: “The Justice Department accused Google of illegally protecting its monopoly over search and search advertising in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the government’s most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation.” Read more here.

People are voting early in record numbers. The Washington Post breaks it down.

• Some reassuring news: ProPublica is reporting that Dr. Anthony Fauci will play an important role in checking the results of various vaccine studiesalbeit with one big exception.

• Related and also reassuring: The state of California also plans on reviewing any vaccines before giving the OK for them to be distributed.

• Related and not reassuring: The president yesterday referred to Fauci as a “disaster” who “got it wrong” on the coronavirus.

• Sort of related and, well, sort of bonkers: Several media experts, writing for The Conversation, say that Russian media sources are starting to refer to President Trump in less-than-glowing language. Key quote: “Russian outlets tended to chastise Trump’s unwillingness to avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing or wear a mask, all of which violated his administration’s basic health guidelines. Likewise, Russian reports criticized Trump’s post-diagnosis behavior–like tweeting video messages while at the hospital and violating quarantine with his public appearances–as ‘publicity stunts’ that jeopardized the safety of his Secret Service detail and supporters.

A human challenge study—in which people are willingly exposed to SARS-CoV-2—is taking place in the United Kingdom. According to The Associated Press: “Imperial College London and a group of researchers said Tuesday that they are preparing to infect 90 healthy young volunteers with the virus, becoming the first to announce plans to use the technique to study COVID-19 and potentially speed up development of a vaccine that could help end the pandemic.

• As mentioned above, coronavirus cases are surging in much of the country—however, as The New York Times explains, the news is not all that dire. For starters, case numbers are up in part because testing is up, too—and deaths are holding fairly steady, in part, because we’re getting better at treating this darned disease.

Health departments across the Upper Midwest are reporting that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally played a rather large role in the surge in COVID-19 cases. Sigh.

Also sorta related comes this headline from CNN: “Minnesota traces outbreak of 20 COVID-19 cases to September Trump rally events.” Bleh.

• You may have heard about the New York Post’s big scoop regarding Hunter Biden’s hard drive. Well … the story’s principal writer refused to have his byline on the piece, because he had questions about its credibility, according to The New York Times.

• Yikes: Someone apparently set the contents of a ballot drop box in Los Angeles County ablaze Sunday night.

• From the Independent: A new Coachella Valley organization called Desert Support for Asylum Seekers is working to make sure refugees in the area—specifically LGBTQ refugees—get the help that they need. They’re focusing much of their efforts on people being detained at or released from the Imperial Regional Detention Center in Calexico. Key quote, from founder Ubaldo Boido: “The detention center was dropping people at the downtown Calexico Greyhound station. 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.

• Three scientists—who are increasingly getting the ear of the Trump administration—have been advocating against lockdowns in favor of herd immunity ever since the pandemic started. MedPage today looks at their backgrounds and their possible motivations.

• CNBC examines Joe Biden’s tax plan. Key quote: “While Americans earning less than $400,000 would, on average, receive tax cuts under Biden’s plan, the highest earners would face double-digit increases in their official tax rates, according to nonpartisan analyses. In California, New Jersey and New York City, taxpayers earning more than $400,000 a year could face combined state and local statutory income tax rates of more than 60 percent.” However, as the story explains, almost nobody winds up paying the statutory tax rate.

• So, uh, the phrase “Zoom dick” was trending on Twitter yesterday, because Jeffrey Toobin, of The New Yorker and CNN, apparently decided to have a wank in the middle of a Zoom call with colleagues. Read the sordid details here.

• And finally, because the news in outer space is far less horrifying than the news here on planet Earth, take a few moments to learn about what’s happening with a NASA mission called OSIRIS-Rex, which is attempting to gather “loose rubble” from an asteroid.

That’s enough for today. Be safe. Hang in there. Check in on a loved one. Oh, and please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have the financial means, so we can keep producing quality journalism. The Daily Digest will be back tomorrow.

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