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Hunter’s Wife Pleads Guilty, Vehicle Emissions Standards, Border Troops

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Congressman Duncan Hunter’s wife Margaret pleaded guilty to charges of misusing campaign funds for personal use. Also, President Trump plans to roll back vehicle emissions standards and a San Diego Congressman has another idea, U.S. troops are keeping a low profile along the U.S.-Mexico border and a new novel for middle schoolers tackles the issues of body image and self-acceptance.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Margaret Hunter, the wife of indicted San Diego. Congressman Duncan Hunter appeared in federal court today to change her plea from not guilty to guilty. The pair are accused of using $250,000 in campaign contributions for their own personal use. We'll talk about what the bleed deal means for her and for Congressman Duncan Hunter's defense when he goes on trial later this year. But first, let's find out what happened in court this morning. Joining us now as KPBS report. Matt Hoffman. Matt, thanks for being with us. Thanks Alison. So tell us what happened in court today.

Speaker 2: 00:31 Yeah, so today, Margaret Hunter, uh, the wife of Duncan Hunter was in a federal court, um, before she came into court though, uh, there was, uh, a little scrub. We had a chance to ask her a couple of questions. He didn't respond to any of them. Um, we asked her if she had talked to her husband. She didn't respond, but it's worth noting that she didn't have a wedding ring on. And then she went into the courtroom. It was a fairly short hearing. She changed her plea from not guilty to guilty under terms of a plea agreement. Uh, there was a number of counts that they were charging. They just decided to charge her under this plea agreement with one count. Um, and that's, uh, agreeing to plead guilty to conspiring with codefendant a Duncan Hunter to spend campaign funds for personal use from 2010 to 2016. That is a maximum sentence of five years, uh, for these charges. Per the plea agreement, she agrees to provide statements, um, including even possibly testifying I'm in front of a grand jury, a or any jury in terms of a pretrial, regular trial or a post trial. Her attorneys did read a statement immediately following the court hearing.

Speaker 1: 01:32 Let's listen to that statement.

Speaker 3: 01:33 Earlier this morning, I entered a guilty plea before the United States district court. In doing so, I have fully accepted responsibility for my conduct. I am deeply remorseful and I apologize. I am saddened for the hurt that I caused my family and others. I understand that there will be more consequences stemming from my actions. But as demonstrated this morning at the entry of the plea, I've taken the first step to face those consequences.

Speaker 1: 02:07 So Matt, just quickly remind us of the, the, the full charges that were laid out in the indictment. What, what are Margaret Hunter and her husband accused of?

Speaker 2: 02:15 Right, yeah. The original indictment from last year a accuses them of spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses, uh, to, you know, hotel fare, um, air fare, um, food books. Um, and they, they said that the prosecution said that she did this and her husband to enrich their lives. Um, and they knowingly did it, um, when they didn't have any personal funds. They spent these campaign funds, she's do it in court for sentencing on Monday, September 16th. So between now and then, um, we might learn more about a potential deal in terms of is she going to actually have to go and do hard time or is there going to be some other sort of a deal worked out?

Speaker 1: 02:56 And we understand that congressman hunter has a statement.

Speaker 2: 03:00 Yeah. Uh, immediately following the court hearing, Congressman Hunter, uh, issued a statement saying, quote, I do not have the full details of Margaret's case, but it's obvious that the Department of Justice Doj when after her to get me for political reasons, as Margaret's case concludes, she should be left alone. I am the congressman. This is my campaign in any further attention on this issue should be directed solely at me. He also then went on to say that he believes that the DOJ should not be handling this, that the federal elections commission, the FEC should be handling this case.

Speaker 1: 03:31 That was [inaudible] to Matt Hoffman then at the federal courthouse this morning. Thank you man.

Speaker 2: 03:36 Thanks Alison.

Speaker 4: 03:37 Okay,

Speaker 1: 03:37 and joining us now is Jason forge a former prosecutor with the US attorney's office who prosecuted Congressman Duke Cunningham back in the 1990s the largest corruption case in congressional history. He's now a partner with the San Diego Office of the law from Robbins Geller Rudman and Dowd LLP. Thanks for coming in, Jason. Thanks for having me. So now I'm Margaret Hunter has just pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. How does this change the penalties that she's facing in this case?

Speaker 4: 04:06 Well it actually lowers the penalties significantly. And one of the most salient aspects of the plea agreement is that the government has already provided a recommendation that she has earned substantial credit for her cooperation with the government, which means in effect that she's already provided substantial assistance to the government in its prosecution of her husband. Yep.

Speaker 1: 04:31 What do you think could motivate her to change her plea here? Cause she pleaded not guilty last year.

Speaker 4: 04:38 Right. Well first and foremost, as we saw from the level of detail in the indictment, there was an overwhelming amount of evidence against her. So that's the number one motivation. The second one, which is probably very close to that first is as everyone observed at the time, her husband took the very unusual and not necessarily very honorable, a approach of blaming his wife for this activity that was not very honorable. And a number of respects. Uh, probably the most prominent one being a number of these allegations seem to indicate that he was using campaign funds to pay for activities related to extra marital affairs that he had. So the fact that he's actually engaging in activities that made these offenses more readily provable activities, uh, of infidelity against his wife and then turned around to blame her for the very activities that they're charged with. It was very unusual for a couple to be charged and have their cases resolved separately.

Speaker 1: 05:47 We do actually have a cut of hunter who said earlier that although the campaign, he admitted they did make mistakes. He basically blamed his wife Margaret. And here's what he told Fox News shortly after he was indicted,

Speaker 5: 05:58 you handle my finances throughout my entire military career. And that continued on when I got into Congress cause I'm gone five days a week. I'm home for two. So why? And she was also the camp, the campaign manager. So whatever she did on that, that'll be a, that'll be looked at too, I'm sure. But, uh, but I didn't do it.

Speaker 4: 06:15 I mean, how feasible is it that he was unaware over a period of several years that he was using campaign contributions to live his lifestyle? Well beyond his means, given the level of detail that has been provided at both of the indictment and in this plea agreement, it does not seem remotely plausible. What are you saying now? What kind of information could Margaret Hunter reveal now that would affect the outcome of this case for the congressman? Well, she can reveal a tremendous amount of information that removes any ambiguity about a number of these transactions. Because as you can see in the plea agreement, and this was also true in the indictment, many of these transactions involve what are ordinarily routine family activities, holidays in Italy, dental expenses, Irish river dance competitions, those types of activities. And for a couple that was financially underwater to the point of hundreds of bounce checks and overdrawn credit cards, it's just not plausible that that wouldn't be a discussion between husband and wife and that he wouldn't be aware of it.

Speaker 4: 07:21 But the fact that she's going to be testifying to that effect just eliminates any room for doubt. Do you think the prosecutors didn't have a strong enough case to, to win it and that's why they entered into this PDL with, with his wife? No, I wouldn't look at it that way at all. First of all, it's very common for the prosecution to try to cooperate a, a defendant, a lower level of responsibility against a defendant of a higher level of responsibility. So they obviously view Mr. Hunter as being more culpable. If for no other reason, he is the actual elected official. And so no, it does not betray any sort of weakness in our case against her. In fact, it, it reinforces the strength of the case against her because she's looking at an overwhelming amount of evidence. And so the notion of going to trial just for the sake of going to trial when she's going to be convicted, obviously it wasn't very attractive to her.

Speaker 4: 08:22 I wanted to ask you to explain a comment that uh, the Congressmen's attorney, Gregory Vega wrote. He says, we're aware of Mrs. Hunter scheduling a hearing to change our plea. And that doesn't change anything regarding congressman hunter. There is still a significant motions that need to be litigated, specifically the speech or debate clause of the u s constitution. What does he mean there? Well, the speech or to be clause of the constitution is a clause that protects members of Congress from prosecution for their legislative activities. It's in essence, an important part of our separation of to make sure that individuals are not prosecuted for political reasons and not prosecuted for their legitimate political activities. Frankly, anytime you charge or even investigate a member of Congress, this is virtually a reflex there. They are always going to raise speech or debate issues and tried to drag any type of activity into the purview of legislative activity.

Speaker 4: 09:23 There are a number of protections that they can avail themselves of, including a right to immediate appeal if the district court rules against them. If you were to look ahead at the congressman's political future, how does this play deal do you think affect it? Well, I think that depends on his constituents and that depends on his opponent. The initial charges obviously did not dissuade a majority of the people in that district from voting for him. So by the time of the next election, he may be a convicted felon. They might think differently about voting for him again, and he appears in court again next month and then the child starts in timber. Jason, thanks so much for getting us a bit of your insights. My pleasure. That's a former prosecutor with the US attorney's office. Jason Forge.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Climate activists are roiling at the Trump administration's plans to roll back vehicle mileage standards. To give you perspective, the EPA says transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country. More than half of that comes from gas fueled cars as SUVs, trucks and minivans. Now the California air resources board is vowing to stand firm on the state's tougher emission standards. Stanley young as the communications director with the California Air Resources Board as part of coverage from the KPBS climate change desk. He joined me to talk about how this could impact drivers in California. Stanley, thanks so much for joining us. Pleasure. The White House says it will move forward with efforts to relax federal auto emission standards and fuel economy regulations despite pleas from the auto industry to negotiate those standards with California. What is your reaction to that?

Speaker 2: 00:55 Well, we're disappointed we would definitely like a, a one national program, a program that includes both California and the 13 states that follow our rules and all the other states. Uh, uh, we just think that this is a moving backwards from every possible perspective

Speaker 1: 01:14 under the Federal Clean Air Act. The state has the authority to enact stricter vehicle emissions rules. Will the board now move in that direction?

Speaker 2: 01:23 Well, we're going to continue with the standards that we have now, so we're not going to enact new standards. We're just going to keep moving forward with the standards that are in place. Uh, the federal, uh, proposal, the federal rule would role those standards back.

Speaker 1: 01:41 And I've heard talk of banning internal combustion engines and cars burning petroleum based fuels. Um, is that something that would happen here in California?

Speaker 2: 01:50 I think that the right way to approach this is what we need is more zero emission vehicles and our focus is on ensuring that the fleet that is all the vehicles and cars transforms quickly as possible so that they don't emit any pollution.

Speaker 1: 02:09 So where do we stand then in terms of negotiating at this point?

Speaker 2: 02:14 Well, we're not negotiating. We've made it clear to the federal government that, uh, w we are willing to have areas of compromise, but they've simply slammed the door in our face.

Speaker 1: 02:25 And what type of regulatory adjustments do you think would provide the flexibility needed to meet future environmental goals and meet consumer needs? Automakers have even asked for,

Speaker 2: 02:36 right? Well, you know, we've, we've discussed the possibility of talking about they're fairly, um, technical elements like credits for instance, how many credits you get for zero emission vehicles or plugin vehicles. So there are areas of flexibility that we could, uh, have entertained. But as I mentioned, uh, despite the fact the autos are saying that this is a bad idea, the White House is simply not interested in negotiating with anyone on this.

Speaker 1: 03:07 What is the consequence in California and across the country? If you missions and fuel economy standards are relaxed?

Speaker 2: 03:14 Well that would produce massive uncertainty in the automobile industry. Uh, you know, the automobile industry is always living four to five years ahead of itself because that's the time range that they need for their planning and their manufacturing. The federal rollback is going to affect cars in 2020. That's just round the corner and they don't know right now what the standards are going to be that they're going to have to meet. So this just royals, the water for, uh, the planners and the entire American automobile industry.

Speaker 1: 03:53 So it throws the automobile industry. I'm in turmoil, but I want to get back also to how this could impact consumers. You mentioned congestion fees, what other things could be implemented in order to try to meet environmental goals?

Speaker 2: 04:06 If this rollback goes into effect, then that means that the cars will be less fuel efficient. Consumers will be paying more at the pump for these less efficient cars. So this hits consumers directly in the pocket book. This is like a mystery to us why the federal government would be supporting cars that use more fuel.

Speaker 1: 04:31 In what ways would California work to meet environmental goals and the event that, that the White House does roll back these regulations?

Speaker 2: 04:39 Well, what we do, uh, like I said, is that we would go to court to ensure that we are able to continue with these standards that produce cleaner cars, help clean the air and, and fight climate change. That's the course that we're on.

Speaker 1: 04:53 That was Stanley Young, the communications director with the California Air Resources Board for more on climate change and transportation. Here's KPBS round table host Mark Sauer,

Speaker 3: 05:04 California's among states leading the way on efforts to combat climate change. Now Democratic Congressman Michael Levin has introduced national legislation to phase out gas burning vehicles. His proposal was sharply criticized and an op Ed by Republican Bill Wells, the mayor of El Cahone wells was filed paperwork to run against embattled Congressman Duncan Hunter in the 50th district. I spoke with both 11 and wells about climate change and transportation. First Congressman Mike Levin via Skype. Mike Levin, thanks for joining us. Thank you for having me. We'll start by explaining why you think we are in a crisis regarding manmade climate change. Well,

Speaker 4: 05:43 I'm an environmental attorney by background. I've been involved in the clean energy industry for the last 15 plus years and uh, I, uh, like so many others, uh, actually believe in science and, uh, no. Uh, uh, our climate is changing and if we don't take bold, dramatic steps to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint and we're going to suffer the consequences and look no further for the experts on the issue. Uh, then, uh, right. Uh, in San Diego at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography where they've studied the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for many years, and they know that it is now 415 parts per million the most that we've ever recorded in human history. Uh, which is why we've got to take bold steps to reduce those emissions. Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, makes up about 39% in California, which is why we've got to change the, the way that we move people and goods around.

Speaker 4: 06:40 Uh, in addition, we've also got to look at the way we build buildings in the way we generate electricity. Uh, and the good news is we're already doing all of those things in California. And my hope is that we can take a lot of the lessons learned and the leadership that we've exhibited in California. And we can replicate it to on the federal level. Uh, you know, we already, uh, have a bold strategy around electric vehicles in California and it's working. And you introduced your bill along with a Democratic Senator, Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Uh, what does it specifically call for? Well, the bill would require that by 2030, a 50% of sales for new passenger vehicles be zero emission vehicles. That could be a battery electric vehicle. Uh, it could be a fuel cell electric vehicle, uh, that would ramp up 5% per year. And we're already doing most of this in California.

Speaker 4: 07:32 You know, we already have a 20, 25 target of a million and a half evs, and then that dramatically it goes to 5 million evs by 2030. We're also in the process in California of going from the roughly 14,000 electric vehicle charging stations we have today, all the way to 250,000, uh, Evie charging stations by 2025. So we're already doing the work in California, uh, in many of the auto makers have said that this is the direction they intend to go. You probably saw that they reject the Trump administration's a desire to roll back emission standards. Uh, the folks in the auto industry that I speak with on a regular basis, they want certainty and stability. They want to understand that we're all working towards a path to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint and improve the efficiency of automobiles. And they're onboard. And, and transitioning to zero emission vehicles won't only help us combat climate change.

Speaker 4: 08:29 It will also improve public health and very significantly, it will create great jobs. All right. And finally on this subject, critics say the government should not be picking winners through subsidies. Your response, well, in California, we've already seen that if you take bold steps to set targets, uh, and to, uh, help nurture along, uh, innovative native technologies such as electric vehicles, that you actually have a great outcome from those, uh, from those types of activities. So when you think about, uh, what we've done again in California, you know, going back 15 years, I've heard naysayers straight through, and this goes back even further when you think about growing up in southern California's, I'm sure many of your audience a did, is I did a, we used to have the smog alerts all the time. Uh, and there were many naysayers saying, well, if you want to cut air pollution, it's going to harm the economy. It's going to hurt industry and it's going to create, uh, economic, uh, harm. But in fact, exactly the opposite happen. Uh, we took bold steps. Uh, we reduced our, uh, pollutants from, from cars, uh, from, uh, industry and exactly the opposite has occurred. We've had bold, uh, uh, climate policies. At the same time, we've had robust economic growth, uh, in just like the naysayers were wrong about air pollution and I believe they're wrong about greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaker 3: 09:48 All right. And before ramping up, I have a question on a different topic. What's your reaction to the news that Congressman Duncan Hunter's wife Margaret pleaded guilty in federal court today to one charge of miss using campaign funds along with her husband?

Speaker 4: 10:02 Well, obviously I'm following the, uh, ongoing court case just like everyone else in the region. Uh, I can only say that we take our responsibilities very seriously as member members of Congress to ensure that we're using campaign funds properly and we're using official funds properly. Uh, there's some very bright line rules that we cannot cross. Uh, and uh, you know, ultimately, uh, those of us that are so honored to serve, uh, we do all we can to try to, uh, abide by those rules, uh, to protect the public trust and the confidence in our institutions. So, uh, I'll be, uh, looking, uh, just as I'm sure you will too. Uh, the ongoing case, uh, to see what happens. Uh, I have endorsed a Amar camp in a jar in that district. I think you would do a fine job as the next representative for the 50th district.

Speaker 3: 10:51 Right. I had been speaking with Democratic Congressman Mike Levin. Thanks very much for joining us. You got it. Thank you. Joining me now as El Cahone mayor bill wells, welcome. Thanks. Well, you wrote an op Ed in the Union Tribune challenging representative Levins legislation to eliminate combustion engine vehicles in California by 2040 and you make several points now. One is the gas burning cars and trucks today are far cleaner than 50 years ago and the zero emission cars really aren't that much cleaner. Explain that. Where'd you get that information? Well, I got that information through research. In fact, I cited all in the op Ed that I wrote. I was actually surprised to find out that the [inaudible] 68 Mustang that I drove when I was at high school I, it was about 99% more dirty than a modern car. So they say that modern cars have about 1% of the admissions that cars in the sixties and seventies had them.

Speaker 3: 11:44 And some of the folks who study this say that that's true, but they don't have much up end beyond that because they've made such progress as you note here since sixties whereas electric cars and Evie and low emission vehicles are just starting out, so they are efficiency. We'll have a a great higher end on that. That's what some of the, uh, the observers say. Yes. You also know that electric vehicles are so expensive that only middle and upper income people can afford them. But the Chevy bolt costs less than half of the top end Teslas and GM and Ford and other auto makers. They've got plans to vastly expand their lines in coming years for, for electric vehicle models. Doesn't it make sense of the competition? We'll drop those prices? I think so. I think, and that's the really, the whole point of my article was not that I'm against zero emission cars.

Speaker 3: 12:30 I think that's a great idea. But what I'm against is the government getting involved in picking winners and losers. You know, the free market has worked for America in a way that no other country has seen such results. I believe in the free market. I think we should keep it and I, I don't like the concept of the government getting involved in making a market trans artificial because they, artificial market trends have a tendency to collapse and we can be in a situation where we're, the poor will drive cars based upon subsidies. The rich won't care, they'll pay the price and the middle class will find it very difficult to, to own an operate cars. All right, well just picking up on that point here, I wanted to get into the specifics. You will criticize in your op Ed, the Democratic Congressman and 11 of the 49th district for pushing legislation to mandate 50% zero emission vehicles by 2030 and a hundred percent zero emission by 2040 and you're opposed to that and it gets to this picking winners appoint you're making.

Speaker 3: 13:26 Well that's part of it. You know, apartments, the economics part of it is just, I think it's an overreaction. Um, you know, the, there's a government agency, they cited the, in the, in the article that said, even if all the zero emission cars that are training will come to pass, we're only going to see one half of 1% of reduction in emissions. And you know, to me that's a lot of, of ado about nothing. I mean, you've got the government spending millions and millions and millions of dollars on subsidies. And by the way, I'm not even talking about how much it costs to subsidize the charging stations, which could be in the trillions of dollars. You know, the, the government is putting us in a situation where we could actually bankrupt several states and bankrupt individuals as a result of this. For what to get half of a percent of emissions gain a, and then you're not even talking about the emissions than it costs to produce the batteries and to produce cars themselves.

Speaker 3: 14:18 Well, a couple of points on that. Uh, one of the links in your op Ed is to Jonathan Lesser. I was in political, he wrote a, uh, a piece there, uh, that he also wrote for about a report in the Manhattan Institute. That's a think tank that's taken millions from the oil and gas industry in the Koch brothers, and he's a longtime climate change denier. Uh, what's your stance on climate change? You know, I, I don't really know what's happening with climate change. I think that, that it, it's obvious that there is a change in changing the climate, that that is hotter right now. But I also know that, uh, that these cycles have been around, uh, as long as the earth has been around. Okay. What about manmade? The, uh, the, uh, you know, to me, to me, I feel like I'm pretty objective about this. I, I know people get really worked up about this.

Speaker 3: 15:02 The, the manmade stuff I'm looking at for every article that I read that says that there's manmade climate change and there's a lot, there's a lot of articles that say that, that it's all a hoax. Uh, one of the question on this point, uh, there was a scientific report, the mandated by Congress, 13 federal agencies in November laid out the devastating cost and effects of climate change on the economy. Don't we really need to stop burning fossil fuel as soon as possible? Oh, I think that that's going to be a natural natural evolution. If we could have cars that, that you put water into the why not? I mean that, that, that's a fantastic thing. I have no problem with moving forward in that regard. And I think the market usually drives things in the direction of what's best for people because people have a conscience.

Speaker 3: 15:51 People want, people want the air to be clean, they want the water to be clean. I certainly do. Before wrapping up, I have a question on a different topic. What's your reaction to news that Congressman Duncan Hunter's wife Margaret changed her not guilty plea in federal court today to charges along with her husband of misusing campaign funds? Well, certainly very interesting to me. I, as you know, I ran for Congress last year. I'm running for Congress again this year. In the 50th district against tuck hunter. Um, I, I, I think that this is something everybody's watching very closely. It's been an embarrassment for the district and I'm hoping that this a nightmare will be over soon. I've been speaking with El Cahone mayor bill wells, thanks very much for joining us. Thank you. I had a good time and that was round table host Mark Sauer as part of coverage from the KPBS climate change desk.

Speaker 1: 00:00 In the coming months, US troops are likely to have more direct contact with migrants along the US Mexico border. KPBS reporter Steve Walsh recently visited El Paso, Texas. That's where soldiers showed how the military has so far tried to keep its distance.

Speaker 2: 00:17 Soldiers

Speaker 3: 00:18 Marines are stretched along the border from California to Texas monitoring mobile surveillance cameras sitting in trucks provided by border patrol. At times, troops are so far away from the border that soldiers say they can't tell whether they're looking at a cow or a person been. So they are armed says task force commander, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Gatlin. A soldiers always or marine is always authorized to defend him or herself. Uh, but that is not why we are here. That's not why the service member has the side arm. Uh, we are not taught to engage in this particular mission. Said we want to deescalate every situation that we come in contact with and turn it over to the supported element, which is the quarter patrol

Speaker 4: 01:00 soldiers from Fort Lewis Mcchord near Tacoma, Washington are stationed around El Paso. They've been drilled on the rules of forest. When working with border patrol soldiers carry flashcards in Spanish to communicate with asylum seekers and other migrants. Colonel Paul and Nathan Garcia is deputy commander of joint task force north, which is in charge of the operation. He says troops mainly encounter people looking for water or people who want to turn themselves into border

Speaker 3: 01:27 patrol. I would say on average we may be across the entire southwest porter wall. We'll have a, we'll have one or two that that APP, we routinely have maybe a couple of weeks

Speaker 4: 01:38 hold of interactions a week. He says a handful of more serious encounters have been made public in April. Mexican military personnel stop to US Army soldiers conducting borders support operations in Texas, mistakenly believing that the soldiers had crossed into Mexico in May. Police in Yuma, Arizona made arrests after troops in the mobile surveillance mission reported someone aimed a weapon at them. Army north is also investigating a marine who discharged his weapon while stationed near El Centro, California Brigadier General Walter does need the deputy commanding general of US army north says contact between troops in migrants is uncommon.

Speaker 2: 02:18 It is very uncommon for the duration that we've been involved in this operation and really the size of the operation in terms of, you know, the, the geographic size of the border, uh, it's actually small.

Speaker 4: 02:32 They first arrived at the border in October. Troops have mostly perform missions that kept them away from anyone crossing the border. Soldiers and marines laid miles of concertina wire and erected barriers at the ports of entry in El Paso, a city heavily depended on trade with Mexico. Every aspect of border policy draws attention though the military's presence has barely registered.

Speaker 2: 02:55 [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 03:00 sandstones. Los Benito's Dick Carlos in Mickey's a busy Mexican restaurant just south of Fort Bliss. El Paso is also a military town. Some of its customers were in army uniforms. The day I visited. Sans is one of several restaurant owners who deliver food to asylum seekers, dropped off by border patrol. She says there are a lot of problems related to the way migrants are being handled, but so far she says most people don't blame the military

Speaker 5: 03:26 in El Paso. We understand what the military is about. We don't blame them. We know it's there following orders are doing their jobs. You know how you follow orders. Of course, you know you can either do it with a certain amount of assertiveness or you can do it with understanding that these were just people

Speaker 4: 03:45 troops could become more visible along the border. The Pentagon has agreed to begin transporting migrants to detention facilities and provide food service troops will also build six new detention facilities. Though the details of those operations haven't been released, meaning El Paso could see much more of a military presence in the coming months. Steve Walsh KPBS news

Speaker 1: 04:08 and for more on this story, KPBS military reporter Steve Wash sat down with Priya. Sure. Either. Here's that interview. Remind us again what the troops are actually doing along the US Mexico border.

Speaker 4: 04:20 So they've been a along the US Mexico border since about October, just before the last election. And they've been there pretty much ever since. Um, though they've kept a, as you said, a pretty low profile. Right now they have about 4,000 troops there, including National Guard, which means the number has been going down steadily. Um, there's actually been little interaction with them since the beginning of the year. We haven't really talked to anybody with the marines here in California since before Christmas. So when we had a chance to go to El Paso, we decided to take them up on it.

Speaker 1: 04:54 So what exactly did you see while you were down there? So

Speaker 4: 04:57 the biggest, most high profile mission all along the border has been the laying of this concertina wire, this razor wire. But that mission wrapped up, uh, more than a month ago. So now the biggest thing that they're doing about 1200 troops are involved with, uh, uh, they're in a mobile surveillance trucks. They, they're monitoring cameras from California all the way through Texas. Um, but you know, they have kept their distance. Um, they're very concerned about having interaction with migrants. Um, when I talked to one of the camera operators, they said sometimes they're so far away from the border that they can't really tell whether they're monitoring a person or a cow. So I may, there have been a few problems. They say a couple of times a week they'll, um, they will encounter migrants. Usually it's somebody who's looking for water or to turn themselves into border patrol. Then they quickly call border patrol and they take them away.

Speaker 1: 05:50 So how are they measuring the success of what they're doing down there?

Speaker 4: 05:54 So I talked with a Brigadier General Walter doesn't he? Who the deputy commander of army north, which is in charge of this whole operation. He says in the nine months and say been there that they've aided in the apprehension of 13,000 migrants and 3000 pounds of marijuana, which is a sizeable number. But when you look at the border patrol's figure, they came out with numbers thing that since the beginning of the year they've had 593,000 apprehensions and they seize more than 5,000 pounds of narcotics every month. So it's a small part of a much larger problem. Um, now the military says that they're, they're helping. What they're doing is they're freeing up, uh, agents. So the border patrol agents can move forward and interact more directly with migrants. But again, it's a small part of a larger problem.

Speaker 1: 06:43 And this must be quite a unique situation for the city of El Paso and the people who live there. How are they reacting to all these troops being there?

Speaker 4: 06:51 Right. So keep in mind, El Paso is a military town, just like San Diego. They have fort bliss there, so they're, they're well aware of the military. Uh, and right now there's a lot of fear and a lot of consternation about border policy just like there is in San Diego. But really that has not been reflected on the military's role in that. Now this could change. We're probably going to see more troops coming to the border in the next month or so. They've already signed on the Pentagon is signed on to a building six more detention centers along the border. They're also going to to, uh, start, um, transporting migrants to the various facilities and they're also going to be involved in feeding them. Um, they're also doing things like painting borders, uh, border barriers in Calexico, which some members of Congress that said, that's really not the role of, uh, of the, of the active duty military. So, uh, we're going to see more coming up the next couple months.

Speaker 1: 07:49 Yeah, it's definitely gonna be an interesting situation to keep monitoring. I've been speaking with KPBS military reporter, Steve Walsh. Steve, thanks so much for your insight. Thanks for you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Chris Barron has written a book that's a fictional retelling of his own middle school years. A story that reveals from the inside what it's like to grow up feeling like an outsider struggling to find acceptance and friendship. It's a story told in verse laid out on the page like poetry and the words lead your eye on as the tail and frozen boy coming to terms with the question, who am I? It's called all of me and it's Barron's debut novel. Chris, thank you so much for joining us. So now this is quite a gripping story. It's kind of like a stream of consciousness in verse on the page, who did you write this book for? I wrote it for all the kids out there who are like me, who are really struggling to understand who they are. So much of my own life I was super happy.

Speaker 1: 00:45 And then people start attaching labels to you and you know, they start testing you and seeing you know who you're supposed to be and you kind of lose sight of who you are. And so I wrote it for kids who are really coming of age and try and understand their place in the world among their friends, among their family and who they really want to do with their lives. The story is it's such a glimpse into the mind of a middle school boy who's being taunted mercilessly because he's, he's overweight. How close is this to your experience? It's pretty close. One of the reasons I wrote it in versus because I wanted to have them more intimate look at the mind like you said, of a middle schooler because so much of the torment, it really is internal as you come to grips with the way people are treating you.

Speaker 1: 01:26 So it's close to my own story. I suffered a lot of discomfort. It was, it was a big struggle for me internally even as my body would change and grow on the outside and maybe if I got more athletic or healthier and society's standards, those feelings of being bullied or harassed or even some self hate early on don't go away necessarily. Even now, you know, it's, there's still memories of that young kid who went through that. What was it that made you realize that your story could help others and that you wanted to write it? I'm having my own middle grade aged kids I think really brought it to the front, hanging out with them and their friends and um, I love being a dad obviously, and just, they love stories. They, they learn so much from everything around them, but they're hungry to hear stories about real life.

Speaker 1: 02:14 I mean, they love, you know, Harry Potter and all the other stories of course, because there's so much truth there, but they want to know real stuff about what life is like. And so really they've inspired me to tell this story so much. Yeah. It takes us through areas, the name of your [inaudible], how it changes his relationship to food, his relationship to himself basically. And the turning point when he really starts to take control of his own weight. What would you say is that turning point? It comes in different stages because I think, you know, early on he, he suffers something really terrible that causes him to say, I've got to make a change here. And, and so he does some things he shouldn't do. And then through the help of his family, he, you know, he, they find a diet for him to go on and he thinks this is the right thing to do. Things are gonna change and his friends are with him on this. But I think eventually he discovers that this can't be the answer. It can't be a scripted life of diets. And so I think, you know, and I'm midway through the book, there's this change that this has to be more than about just dieting has to be about self acceptance in some way.

Speaker 2: 03:19 Could you read us a passage? There's one which you talk about level three, which is in fact about the time that he's on. But go ahead and read that for us.

Speaker 1: 03:26 Sure. Level three, at the start of August, I've lost 30 pounds. All the biking and swimming is changing me to the insides of my thighs are a straight line all the way to my knees. But most of all when I see myself in the mirror or a store window, I noticed my jaw is smooth. Just one chin, my Chin at the end where it's supposed to be. My mother asked me if I'm ready for level three. I'm supposed to eat more carbs now I'm supposed to stress my body with food tested, stress it, I don't want to, I'm tired. Berries, cherries, melons, orange pair, a small banana. The book says they may soon experience uncontrollable cravings, but I've come so far. How could it get any worse?

Speaker 2: 04:14 So you, you really take us through the process of the struggle really are kind of changing your identity just through changing what you eat. Yeah. Um, what, what would you say helps already come to that place that you reach in the book of self acceptance?

Speaker 1: 04:27 I think that sudden independence over the summer. Um, because in the book, um, with all the struggles at home with his family and kind of being whisked away to this summer, I'm in the bay area at Stinson Beach, he is, you know, with his friends, his mother is occupied by her artist's life and he has this kind of sudden independence to experience adventure and, and he's trying to stick to the Diet and he's trying to think about his spiritual life and his friends were encouraging him and so he takes it upon himself to make a change. And it's the first time in his life that he's tried to do that. And I think a lot of middle school kids start to experience that at that age they start to become more independent. And that's where some of the real changes, the internal self changes sink in. And so I think with Ari seeing himself being able to do things that he's never done before, you start to accept that maybe he can do things.

Speaker 2: 05:21 He's got a very good friend, girlfriend Lisa, who's very supportive as she kind of a role model of how to help somebody come to terms and accept themselves.

Speaker 1: 05:28 I think she is, I think she's a role model. She is a model of independence. Um, she has her own struggles but this is a very loving person. She really cares about Ari even as she struggles with their own stuff. And so I think he sees her and he, you know, he wants to be like her. He certainly cares for her quite a bit and you know, she's an important part of the book to show him you kind of the, you can do anything. She also really cares about him unconditionally and that's an important part of the story for him.

Speaker 2: 05:53 Using, we spend more time worrying or thinking about girls with their,

Speaker 1: 05:58 their body image then we do for boys peps. Boys need more attention on that. More help. I think everybody needs attention and more help on this. I think that boys are often overlooked in this body image area. I think boys really need help and resources to deal with. Some of these things are quite often even my own experience we kind of turn to a boys will be boys attitude that they've just got to suck it up and deal with it. If they want to change, they should just work out eat right. Um, but boys struggle the same way as anyone else in the body image issues. And I, I'm really hoping, I mean some data says, you know, one third of kids deal with weight issues, body image issues and it's probably more than that. And I think boys are at the heart of that.

Speaker 1: 06:38 The way that you wrote it in verse really guides your eye. You, it's very hard to start reading. It really flows. And you're an English professor at City College. Have you found that working with your students on writing in verse helps them to get to the heart of their story? Without a doubt. First of all, it's one of the best jobs ever and I learned so much from my students all the time. And it's true. There is an emotional level that comes with writing poetry and an intimacy that comes, uh, getting to the heart of the matter using port at craft that you don't have time to elaborate, you know, in the long way. You have to find the heart of the matter and explore it figuratively with images. It's wonderful. And I, I certainly think of over the years of experience a lot of that with my students. Well, Chris, thanks so much for writing the book and coming in and talking about it. Thank you for having me. I've been speaking with Chris Barron, who is author of the book, all of me, and we'll be discussing and signing his book on Saturday at two o'clock at mysterious galaxy books in Clairemont Mesa.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.