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Border Report: Border Wall Funding Still Uncertain as Plans Move Forward

What ICE officers can do in and around schools, the NCAA is making inroads in Mexico, NPR and KPBS are hosting a cross-border discussion and more in our biweekly roundup of news from the border.

Though details about President Donald Trump’s plans for a U.S.-Mexico border wall keep tricking out, the budget deal nearing approval in Congress doesn’t appear to include any new money for the project, the Guardian reports.

Still, San Diego has played a starring role in the administration’s plans for a wall.

VOSD’s Sara Libby broke down San Diego’s involvement, and explained state efforts to interfere with Trump’s plan. Though Chula Vista and Imperial Beach were singled out by federal officials as cities that would be a high priority for the first sections of the wall, officials in those cities told VOSD they hadn’t heard anything about those plans.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly visited San Diego on April 21, and referred to the region during the visit as a “war zone,” a “beachhead” and “ground zero.” (Per the FBI, border communities in the United States boast crime rates well below the national average.)

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz introduced the EL CHAPO Act, a delightful acronymic feat that stands for “Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order” and would essentially use billions of dollars in resources seized from the former leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Lorea (colloquially known as El Chapo, or “Shorty”) to pay for the border wall.

Among its many issues with a potential wall, Mexico frets that it could worsen cross-border sewage spills.

Immigration

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials aren’t supposed to enter sensitive locations like schools or churches without a warrant. But we know that they do detain people near schools, including parents dropping off their kids.

VOSD’s Mario Koran detailed the policies outlining what ICE officers can do in and around schools, as well as what happens to children whose parents are deported.

More and more, parents are making plans in advance and often designate a caretaker. But if there’s no one available to look after a child, the foster care system takes over.

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Julie Kirchner, former executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a hardline anti-immigration group that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been quietly named Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman at the Department of Homeland Security.

It’s the latest in a series of appointments from what some call the Tanton Network, groups started by retired ophthalmologist John Tanton in the 1960s and 1970s because he was alarmed by the prospect of global overpopulation. Later, he became convinced that some cultures were more equal than others, turning his energies and interests to eugenics and immigration control due to, in his words, high birth rates and corrupt cultures in Latin American countries. The Tanton Network has flirted with white nationalism for decades, even openly embracing it; after a 2011 New York Times article revealed the many links between hardline immigration opponents and white supremacist groups, however, it has scrubbed its online presence and downplayed its many existing connections.

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On April 20, religious leaders pledged to protect immigrants, documented and undocumented, at the “Faith Not Fear” summit in Barrio Logan. About 30 different religious and political leaders showed up and promised to resist inhumane measures against refugees, undocumented people, homeless people and victims of racial profiling.

“When we deal with people, we deal with them as human beings created by the only one God,” Imam Taha Hassane, head of the Islamic Center of San Diego, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That’s it.”

Protesters outside called the summit “Marxist.”

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The Viacrucis del Refugiados, the Refugee Caravan, is making its way north through Mexico to Tijuana, where Honduran, Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan asylum-seekers plan to turn themselves in at the border at San Ysidro en masse on Sunday, May 7. Other activities and demonstrations are planned for both sides of the border that weekend, including a cross-border swim on May 5. The Pan-American Colibrí Swim is planned by the Colibrí Center, which helps track and find the remains of migrants who have died during their trek through the desert.

Crime

Hugo Castro, the American activist who went missing for several days in Mexico, has been found and is recovering from his injuries in a San Diego-area hospital — but uncertainty about exactly what happened to him during his disappearance lingers.

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A Baja California judge has ordered the release of a former U.S. Marine from a Tijuana prison. Tyler James Yeager was at one point stationed at Camp Pendleton, but had been living in Tijuana in recent months. He was arrested on April 23 after police caught him in a neighbor’s home with a shotgun, according to Zeta Tijuana. Members of the San Antonio del Mar community said Yeager had committed a long string of robberies.

Yeager’s release was ordered, his attorney said, because there was no record that anyone who arrested him was proficient in English, meaning that he hadn’t been given all his entitlements under the Mexican constitution. He will likely be turned over to Border Patrol.

Cross-Border Connections

The “Door of Hope,” a gate built into the border wall at Friendship Park, opened again on Sunday, April 30, Mexico’s Día del Niño, or Day of the Child. During the event, a handful of families that are separated by immigration status have an opportunity to embrace for a few minutes before they are separated once again. It is not clear when, or if, the “Opening the Door of Hope” event will happen again.

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KPBS will be hosting NPR’s cross-border discussion Tuesday at 7 p.m. The discussion can be joined on Twitter with the hashtag #NPRBeyondBorders.

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From Dresden, with love: The Sinfoniker Dresdner is planning a binational concert featuring performers from the Tijuana-San Diego region as well as from Germany, Guatemala and Argentina.  Founder Markus Rindt told the Union-Tribune he hopes to send a message promoting unity instead of more walls, a subject about which he is passionate: The symphony director is originally from East Germany. Coral MacFarland Thuet, a singer from San Diego and Tijuana and instructor at San Diego State University, will be among those performing at the June 3 concert.

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Rancho Ontiveros, a planned live-work community that sits directly on the international border, will be designed as a hub for people whose lives and activities cross borders on a regular basis. The community will serve people in both San Diego and Tijuana.

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Crossing the border for sports may become a little more commonplace. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is making inroads into Mexico; the organization just made permanent a pilot program allowing each division to invite Mexican and Canadian institutions to participate.

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The New York Times is the latest publication to discover the vineyards of the Valle de Guadalupe (one of the oldest wine-producing regions in North America), but at least its story doesn’t describe Baja California’s wine industry as “burgeoning.”

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