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VOSD's biweekly roundup of stories on the border, immigration and the San Diego-Baja California region (Mondays)
The case of a local man deported last week underscores how rapidly changing policies affect families. Plus: how human smuggling at the border really works, cross-border sewage isn’t fueling San Diego’s hepatitis A crisis and more in our biweekly roundup of news from the border.
For the past five years, Gaston Cazares, an undocumented immigrant living in Carlsbad, had been routinely checking in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in hopes of avoiding deportation.
Cazares, who first arrived in the U.S. almost 30 years ago, is married and has two children — a daughter attending Scripps Ranch High, and a son who has autism, according to Tribune Media. He had been the family breadwinner, paid taxes and had no other criminal record. His son’s condition had allowed Cazares to obtain a stay of removal.
But when Cazares went in for his annual check-in back in April, things had changed.
The arrival of the Trump administration – which has begun imposing stricter immigration rules – meant Cazares was scheduled for deportation. Cazares’ case has gotten a lot of attention because of his family’s pleas that he be allowed to stay. It wasn’t enough, and Cazares was removed from the country last week.
Cazares had been deported once in 1998 but returned to reunite with his family.
In 2011, an investigation into the restaurant where he worked revealed to immigration authorities that Cazares was back in the United States.
Cazares’ case demonstrates how policy changes under Trump have put undocumented residents and their families on high alert.
I spoke with Nicole Leon, Cazares’ attorney, for an update on the family and to talk about the scramble to keep up with rapidly changing policies.
Where does the family go from here, now that Cazares has been deported? What are their options?
Unfortunately, their options are to build up a new life the best that they can with the family being separated. As far as legal options, it’s very limited. There’s not many legal options that they have in terms of him re-immigrating to the U.S. or anything like that. Unfortunately, they have the very difficult task of building their lives around this very unfortunate event.
I know the family is still trying to figure out what comes next, but is there any status of where Cazares is currently living or what path he’s going to take?
That I don’t know, and I’m sure he doesn’t even know at this point. One thing that we were looking into is far as a legal remedy was something called a private bill in Congress. Basically, it’s a bill that’s introduced into Congress that allows for the immigration of one specific individual. So, we’re looking into that, although it’s definitely something that is a long-shot because it’s very tough to get to that level, but it’s something we’re looking into.
How has it been adjusting to changes in immigration policy that seem to be occurring very frequently?
It can make it difficult sometimes because of the ever-changing policies that keep getting worse and worse and more punitive as time goes on. For example, when people say, “I don’t know if I want to report a crime that happened to me because I might be apprehended by immigration if I come forward.” Well, there is a visa for people who are victims of crimes and report crimes, but we’re at a point where we have to tell people that they would have to come forward at their own risk. We couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t come to the attention of immigration authorities.
What advice would you give to anyone stuck in a limbo similar to Cazares’ case?
Know your rights. If they have the right to a hearing, they need to ask for it. If they have a fear of returning to their native country, they can indicate that to officials. We also advise our clients not to travel where they might come into contact with immigration authorities, like traveling out of the county where there could be checkpoints, traveling within the country or places where they might come in contact with authorities. And beyond that, they should just have a plan in case the worst happens.
– Adriana Heldiz
Even as construction on prototypes for a border wall get under way at Otay Mesa, data shows that illegal immigration has been on the decline.
Mario Koran sat down with Victor Clark-Alfaro, a lecturer at San Diego State and director of Tijuana’s Binational Center for Human Rights, to talk about how immigration and smuggling has changed over the years.
“At this moment, many Mexicans aren’t thinking about going to what used to be known as the Promised Land,” he said.
Clark-Alfaro includes fascinating details about the nuts and bolts of how human smuggling actually works, including how much coyotes charge and how they decide which route to take.
• The routes immigrants take to cross the border can be significant: According to a report dissected by ProPublica, more migrants are dying while illegally crossing the border even though there are fewer total crossings. A big factor: “efforts by the Border Patrol to push migrants away from easy-to-cross, hard-to-police urban corridors and into barren, isolated terrain.”
For years, sewage has spilled across the border into the United States through the Tijuana River. This sends dangerous pathogens into coastal waters that prompt officials to often close beaches in San Diego’s South Bay.
In the past, spills from the Tijuana River have brought hepatitis A into coastal waters and prompted surfers to get vaccines. But public health officials and water quality regulators do not believe this year’s hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego is linked to cross-border sewage. Instead, public health officials are looking at the San Diego River, which runs entirely within the United States. County officials have said at least four cases, including one death, can be linked to the river, which several hundred homeless people are believed to live near.
The problems in the Tijuana River are getting renewed attention, though, in part because of a large spill earlier this year and a series of smaller spills that continued throughout the year. Reps. Juan Vargas and Darrell Issa are backing a bill that would direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work on cleaning up the river.
Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego are taking another route, as they consider a lawsuit against the International Boundary and Water Commission, a binational agency tasked with overseeing water-related border issues. The cities and the Port think the agency could do more.
– Ry Rivard
• ICE arrested 167 people in the Los Angeles area after promising to crack down on sanctuary cities. (Los Angeles Times)
• The state is setting aside $20 million to help undocumented students renew their DACA status by Oct. 5. (KPBS)
• Tijuana residents living near where border wall prototypes are being constructed seem unfazed by the effort. (Union-Tribune)
• ICE isn’t supposed to detain pregnant women, but it does – and some have miscarried while in custody, including at least one detained at Otay Mesa. (Huffington Post)
• Newly pardoned Joe Arpaio appeared at a Republican fundraising dinner in Fresno last week. (Mercury News)