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Border Report: Local Businesses Brace for DACA Reforms

Advocacy groups are forming a rapid response network for local immigration raids, Jose Susumo Azano Matsura is sentenced to federal prison time and more in our biweekly roundup of news from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Protesters rally against President Donald Trump’s announcement he will end DACA. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Discussions about the possibilities of fewer immigrants to the United States being granted work visas have local businesses concerned.

The Trump administration announced last month that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and called on Congress to come up with an alternative solution.

The program offered temporary reprieve for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Alliance San Diego, a social justice nonprofit, told KPBS and NBC 7 that there are at least 40,000 people either eligible for DACA or who have received DACA status in San Diego County.

In the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s October Business Forecast, 28 percent of businesses said they believed that ending DACA will negatively impact local industry. Oddly enough, when local businesses were asked about the national ramifications of ending DACA, that number jumped to 40 percent. Only 12 percent of county businesses surveyed said they thought ending visa programs like DACA would have a positive effect.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, local views on DACA vary by industry, said John Nienstedt, president of Competitive Edge Strategies, the company that conducted the survey.

Cyber firms, for example, saw no problem with Trump ending the program and counting on Congress to present a reform , Nienstedt said.

People in the education and hospitality industries feel differently.

Three-quarters of Chamber members in the education sector, which could include universities, school districts or nonprofits that work with youths, and two-thirds of businesses in the hospitality industry believe ending or narrowing DACA will hurt their industries. Zero firms surveyed in those two industries expected the reforms to help them.

“It’s not surprising, to me at least, that fewer firms see themselves as being harmed by DACA reforms, but 28 (percent) is still a big number,” Nienstedt wrote in an e-mail. “If we were to say that every 4th SD company was to take a hit due to some governmental policy, that seems like important news, especially when it’s not balanced out by improving the lot of another quarter of the business community. The effect, therefore, is heavily lopsided.”

Roughly 20,000 K-12 teachers who are DACA recipients or eligible for DACA are at risk nationwide, and about 5,000 of those are employed in California, according to Univision.

Some California school districts, which are already plagued with teacher shortages, have noticed that some of their teachers are at risk. Sacramento City Unified School District is looking at sponsoring DACA-recipient teachers employed by the district.

San Diego Unified doesn’t track which of its teachers are DACA recipients, said a district spokeswoman, but district officials have noticed that some employees are taking advantage of the immigration resources the district has extended to students’ families in light of the Trump administration’s harsher stance on immigration.

For those interested in what’s happening with DACA nationally, the Migration Policy Institute put together a handy comparison of the different legislative proposals that have been floated in Congress.

Building a Grassroots Response to Deportations

A coalition of advocacy groups has been working to develop a grassroots network to help support individuals and communities during immigration crackdowns.

The San Diego Rapid Response Network will train volunteers to help families in danger of being deported. The model has also taken hold in other cities, like San Francisco.

“No one should go through deportation or fear deportation alone,” Dinora Reyna, one of San Diego Organizing Project’s community organizers, told me. “We’ve seen in a lot of cases in the past year, deportation breaks apart and affects a whole community. The family is deeply hurt and broken, but so many parts of their lives are broken. There’s a whole family left behind, a whole school community impacted, a whole faith community affected.”

Reyna said the San Diego Organizing Project and other organizations in the coalition are recruiting volunteers and training them to be able to show up at court hearings, provide transportation or food if needed or to show up at someone’s house to bear witness if a human rights abuse or raid is taking place.

“Regular folks often feel they’re not educated, don’t have a legal background and can’t help,” Reyna said.

To volunteer, you can e-mail RapidResponseCoordinator@sdop.net.

Reyna said the coalition has received an overwhelming response to its call for volunteers. There will be an information session about the Rapid Response Network at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego in Hillcrest on Nov. 6.

Azano Sentenced

A judge sentenced Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, the Mexican businessman at the center of a 2012 campaign finance scandal, to three years in federal prison Friday, reports the Union-Tribune.

Azano illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into local political campaigns, mostly in the 2012 mayoral race.

The Mexican billionaire also dropped a bombshell last week: He said in a legal filing that he explicitly told former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who was a 2012 mayoral candidate on the receiving end of some of Azano’s donations, that he was not a U.S. citizen.

The accusation could mean serious problems for Dumanis, who is running for county supervisor: Just as it is illegal for foreign nationals to donate to U.S. campaigns, it is illegal for U.S. candidates to knowingly accept money from a foreign donor.

Azano bankrolled $100,000 in social media services performed for Dumanis’ mayoral run that was never recorded on her campaign’s disclosure forms, reports KPBS. Azano also set up a political action committee through a shell company and contributed $100,000 to her campaign.

Dumanis testified during Azano’s trial that she thought he was a U.S. citizen.

For background on the case, we wrote the definitive profile of Azano a few years ago, and tried to figure out his motivations for getting involved in San Diego elections. It seemed like his donations and political activity here were the last chapter of a long struggle against San Diego-based Sempra Energy.

Border Wall Prototypes Completed

After a month of construction, eight border wall prototypes were unveiled in Otay Mesa Thursday. All the prototypes stand about 30 feet tall – three times the height of the existing U.S.-Mexico border fence.

Over the next few months, the prototypes will be tested with cutting torches, saws and other equipment to see how difficult they are to breach, and will also be tested for their “anti-climbing and anti-digging capabilities,” reports KPBS.

The location of the prototypes is a popular place for illegal crossings, reports NBC 7. The Thursday before the prototypes were unveiled, five Nepali citizens hopped the existing fence and turned themselves into U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents near the construction site.

As the wall moves forward, The Atlantic implores us to think of both the purpose and effectiveness of the border wall: Is it symbolic, or is the thrust of the argument for the wall – that a physical barrier is needed to quell illegal entry – valid?

A point brought up in The Atlantic, which we’ve raised before, is that for every measure the U.S. government has taken in the past to build up border defense, there has been a countermeasure to defeat or get around it.

The symbolism of the wall may be why the protests that law enforcement braced themselves for never came, reports the New York Times. Protesting, said Enrique Morones of the immigration rights group Border Angels, “does more harm than good.”

“By doing that, it bring [sic] more attention to it,” Morones told the Times.

More Border News

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