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CBP Accused Of Falsifying Asylum Seekers’ Court Records, How Prop. 187 Ushered In A New Generation Of Immigrant Activists, Les Girls Strip Club Turns Into A Theatre For ‘Heaven Or Hell 3’

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Immigration attorneys are alleging that Customs and Border Protection agents are falsifying their client records and sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico indefinitely. Plus, 25 years ago, California voters passed Proposition 187, denying public education and health care to people illegally. A look back at how it galvanized a new generation of immigrant activists. And, this weekend San Diego International Fringe performers are squaring off with new versions of their shows at Les Girls, a Midway District strip club.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 00:01 allegations that CPB is fraudulent. Lee keeping migrants in Mexico and legitimate theater at the strip club. Lay girls. I'm wearing Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition.

Speaker 2: 00:23 It's Friday, November 8th immigration attorneys working on asylum cases in San Diego and across the country say they've discovered a disturbing trend. They claimed some agents with U S customs and border protection are falsifying dates on documentation to make sure migrants are sent back to Mexico after their final court hearing. The case revolves around the details of the administration's returned to Mexico policy and the claim that border patrol agents are manipulating paperwork to keep asylum seekers out of this country. Journey. Muse reporter Gustavo's Elise of the San Diego union Tribune and Gustavo. Welcome. Thank you Maureen. The background to this story is a little complicated. Why don't you start by explaining what is supposed to happen to asylum seekers after they've had their court cases ended in the U S

Speaker 1: 01:17 so first of all, this is part of the the return of Mexico policy, officially known as migraine protection protocols went into effect in January here in San Diego. And the way it works is if you're applying for asylum in the U S you have to wait in Mexico until your court cases over. Uh, we're in November now. The cases that started in January, it takes a long time to work your way through the court and they're starting to finish now and what is supposed to happen when you're done with your case, you're not supposed to be returned to Mexico. You're supposed to be there, stay in the U S in a detention center based on the outcome or be paroled if you have family or somebody sponsor you here in the country. If you were granted asylum

Speaker 2: 01:58 and the U S agreement with Mexico says migrants, as you say, can wait in Mexico for a court hearing and they can be returned while their court proceedings continue, but they can't be returned to Mexico if they have no future court dates. Is that right?

Speaker 1: 02:13 Right. The whole point of the program is to wait while your court case is over and the Mexican government has said that they will not accept people who do not have a future court date because otherwise they would be there indefinitely.

Speaker 2: 02:26 What do these attorneys say the CPB agents have been doing?

Speaker 1: 02:29 So what happens after a court hearing? Right? People show up at the border, they get in a bus and they get driven from the border straight to the immigration court in downtown San Diego. And then when they're done with court, they get driven back to the border and they're processed over there at the border. Normally what happens if someone has a future court date, the CBP agents will give them a sheet of paper. It's called a tear sheet, basic instructions a year in migrant protection protocols program. You need to appear at the border at 8:00 AM on December 16th which would be the date of their future court hearing. And then they get sent back to Mexico. What's happening now is the uh, migrants who have finished their court case, they're still getting these tear sheets and it'll say, come back to court. You have a future court date and appear on this day.

Speaker 1: 03:21 Some of them said January, 2020 the problem with that is if you look at the court calendar for their case, there's nothing on the docket for January, 2020 because the case is closed. So the claim is that the CPV agents are allegedly falsifying these court dates that don't exist simply to send people back to Mexico. That's right. Lawyers I talked to said that Mexican immigration officials are not trained to determine whether this tear sheet is a legal document or not. They simply take CBPs word for it. They read a future date and they said, okay, come on in. What are some of the experiences these attorneys say they've had with clients whose court cases have ended and should not have been returned to Mexico but were returned to Mexico? Well, a lot of it is a confusion, frustration, being scared in at least one case that I covered, a woman was physically assaulted after she was returned to Mexico.

Speaker 1: 04:23 This way, she was a slashed on the forearm while protecting her children from it, attended kidnapping and she should have been the United States had she won her asylum claim. So she hadn't won her asylum case. What happened with her case, which is actually pretty common and remain in Mexico, is that the case was terminated, meaning the judge closed the case without making a decision. Uh, most of the time this happens on procedural grounds. Uh, so there's a judge here in San Diego who will say, uh, the program is meant only for people who turn themselves in at the border, not for people who are crossed entering legally. So if he gets a case of people crossing illegally and being put into the program, he'll say, you know, they're not eligible. I'm just going to throw this case out. He should have been remanded to a detention center on this side of the border.

Speaker 1: 05:12 That's right. Normally when your case is terminated, you're put in detention like in OTI Mesa, the government reserves the right to start over and file new charges over there. But it's a completely separate case. So for all intents and purposes, your case is closed right now. Is there any speculation as to why CPB would be falsifying these days to keep asylum seekers in Mexico? When I reached out to CBP multiple times at their San Diego offices and their Washington office, and there was no reply on that front, so we'd have to ask them why they're doing this. Lawyer speculated that the point of migrant protection protocols is to keep people from applying and getting asylum. Uh, and if that's the intent, then sending people back to Mexico is, um, is further furthering that intent. Now what about

Speaker 2: 06:03 Mexican authorities doing about the allegations that they're being sort of duped by CPB agents?

Speaker 1: 06:08 Hmm. I did reach out to the Mexican government through the console that here in San Diego. Uh, they said they're investigating this, they're reviewing the specific cases and they made it clear that their agreement is not to allow migrants back in Mexico who do not have future court dates.

Speaker 2: 06:28 I have been speaking with a reporter, Gustavo, so of the San Diego union Tribune. Gustavo, thank you. Oh, thank you. I appreciate it. KPBS reached out for comment to the San Diego based public information officer for customs and border protection, but we did not receive a response

Speaker 3: 06:51 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 06:53 25 years ago. Today, California voters passed proposition one 87 which barred people living in this state illegally from receiving public benefits or attending public schools. While the proposition never took effect, it ushered in a generation of immigrant activists that has transformed the state. KPBS reporter max Rivlin Adler spokes with spoke with three activists about our post one 87 world.

Speaker 4: 07:20 It's the element gum. The Chavez is 25 born the same year. Prop one 87 was passed. She's a DACA recipient from Mexico to her. Proposition one 87 is the world. She entered one where the lives of undocumented people has hung in the political balance.

Speaker 5: 07:35 I think there's remnants of it growing up undocumented in the border region because you know, I grew up fearing police and if my mom was driving us to school, whatever, to the grocery store, you know, I remember feeling significant fear if a police officer was behind us

Speaker 4: 07:54 for Christian Ramirez. His political awakening took place during the fight over one 87 when he was a freshman at San Diego state university growing up on both sides of the border in San Diego and Tijuana. He was shocked when one 87 passed with the two thirds majority. I live in a boat and I thought that my gosh, you know, there's no way that this proposition is going to Ramirez who now works for the labor union. FCIU is part of a generation that turned their shock into power. They spring into action in the years following when 80 sevens passage to usher in California's dream act, which gave undocumented students access to college, California also provided undocumented people with driver's licenses and severely limited the ways in which law enforcement could interact with immigration and customs enforcement. He says, his generation found out that it had to build a larger movement to overcome the resentment of the immigrant community. We learned that in order for us to be able to win, we had to have a strategy that allowed us to build rod coalition and to every single means available to us to push for the kind of change that we are beginning to see in California. Now, Chavez gives an example of those new coalitions,

Speaker 5: 09:06 you know, sitting in a room of a community of 10 folks from the immigrant community and 10 folks from the LGBTQ community and having conversations about coming out and how that kind of story was very similar

Speaker 4: 09:20 for Chavez, the Obama era executive order that allowed her to live and work in the U S pushed her into activism. She now works as an organizer for the group Alliance San Diego in the hope that an organized community could avoid another proposition one 87 moment. At the same time, the Trump administration has folded some of the content of prop one 87 into national policy.

Speaker 5: 09:41 But I do think that if we want to get systematic change, right, it's not about who's in office, it's about, again, changing those structures that allowed politicians to make the moves that they're making.

Speaker 4: 09:52 Andrea tech foil to Polly is another DACA recipient and she's still a student at USD. She got to go to college thanks to California dream act. She didn't learn about proposition one 87 until she was a freshman in college showing just how far this moment has receded in popular memory.

Speaker 6: 10:08 I didn't learn about it like I didn't realize or learn about prop one 87 until a couple of years ago and I think that was the most shocking thing to me was the fact that like so many things had happened right here in this border and that I, I didn't even get to learn about it.

Speaker 4: 10:24 Still, she's fighting essentially the same battle as the students who kicked off protest 25 years ago. Next week, the Supreme court will hear arguments over the Trump administration's cancellation of the DACA program

Speaker 6: 10:36 when DACA was rescinded in 2017 I think that I had the normal reactions that any undocumented student would have. Um, fear, anger, and I think that I was really frustrated and upset and sad, but my way of thinking was either I can continue to be sad and frustrated or I can try and do something about it.

Speaker 4: 10:59 Next Tuesday, Andrea will be leading campus protest against the cancellation of DACA, renewing a long tradition of activism that has achieved huge gains for immigrants in California in the 25 years since proposition one 87 at the same time for many undocumented immigrants across the country. 1994 is looking a lot like today, max Linda Adler K PBS news.

Speaker 2: 11:26 This weekend you can find San Diego international fringe performers squaring off with new versions of their shows. Tom Stewart has transformed his one man bond into James Bond in space for a Sunday matinee Chulavista is onstage Playhouse. Plus he'll be doing a staged reading of war of the worlds at onstage Playhouse on Saturday for a full Saifai weekend. You can also find fellow fringers kata Pierce Morgan and Kate McGrew performing the third installment of heaven or hell at Lake girls'. Part two debuted this past summer at fringe KPBS arts reporter Beth hock Amando speaks with the two women about their politically charged play kata.

Speaker 7: 12:11 I got to see heaven or hell too during fringe festival and now you have a new version heaven or hell three 1971 San Diego. So what can people expect from this one? Well, in the original heaven or hell too, we were dealing with the stages of grief. My husband had just died and so we, we put this show on the back burner and address that for heaven or hell three we're back on track with our political stance. We are exposing the darker underbelly of San Diego in 1971 and it's relevant because so much of the corruption, the abuse of power, the prejudice towards diversity, the silent bystanders with the good old boys code of silence that is relevant for today. And so this show pretty much like our town by Thornton Wilder, it's immersed with story poems, which you'll get to discover the inner workings of the pimp, the streetwalker, the stripper, the medieval ghosts, none who represents the homeless or anyone who's been dis and franchised and the sailor who was really a, an icon on the streets of San Diego in 1971 you own and run Les girls here in San Diego.

Speaker 7: 13:29 But you are also using this as a venue to perform your play. So is that something that people find kind of unexpected? It's becoming more and more accepted. You know, I started this in 2012 what's really interesting is that the energy and the spirit of the place is morphing. Like when, when I first started the after show, the girl show, the girly show was so big, it was like a big elephant in the building. And now it's like a little mouse. And what we're doing has expanded and grown and you can feel that changes that are taking place in Lee girls theater and Cade also known as lady grew, who has performed in San Diego a number of times at fringe. And you are a part of this show. You have come all the way from Ireland to be a part of this. What's your role here?

Speaker 7: 14:19 What are you doing this time? I'll be doing a rap about rape. So, um, I'll be describing a story of an incident that happened in 1971 in San Diego. And it's about police abuse and the power dynamic between people in the sex industry and the police. And it's a story that could be told today in Ireland or anywhere in the world, sadly. And are you contributing the rap to it in terms of writing it yourself or just performing? I'm writing it myself, so I'm again writing it based on the story. Uh, details of, of what happened in this one incident, but, um, as director of the sex workers Alliance in Ireland and an escort myself, I'm very familiar with, as I said, inevitable tensions between police and people such as ourselves. Both of you have jobs which seem to be informing your work, your artistic work very powerfully.

Speaker 7: 15:15 So talk a little bit about how they're, what the exchanges between what you do and what you create in your art. Um, one thing I like about Kate is that I love her dynamic. I love her stance on sex workers' rights. What we have in common, we've just discovered is that the objection that I have, the mission, I have to speak out, not be a silent bystander about police abuse. She's got the same story. And um, and that's what Kate and I have in common. Not so much. Um, I'm not advocating, um, the legalization of prostitution here in San Diego. I think we're way too conservative or military town, but that's what she's doing. And I thought there was a wall between us on that topic, but actually it's not. It's all about the abuse of power. So I'm so thrilled to have her. Absolutely. I think it's that, that I'm content and I know that life in the sex industry, people what they're doing is paying their bills and people are finding a means for survival.

Speaker 7: 16:24 And so the common ground around this, uh, police abuse is people will try and abolish, uh, the sex industry thinking that it's all exploitation or that our clients are exploiting us. Well actually it's, it's worked for many people who have little to no other option or who find it as the most, um, suitable work for them for a number of reasons. It actually is, uh, the police and the criminal aspect that comes from illegality and comes from people in the sex industry not having labor rights. That is where our exploitation largely occurs. And so that's the kind of message that we feel like it's really important that people hear that this is the, the, um, reality and this is how it gets parsed out and people need to listen to people who have real experience in the sex industry to understand this, uh, the math of it. If you all, all right. Well, I want to thank you both very much for talking about heaven or hell. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Speaker 8: 17:31 I'll talk to y'all.

Speaker 7: 17:38 That was Beth AHCA. Mando speaking with like girls, owner, cotta Pierce, Morgan and singer activist Kate McGrew about heaven or hell three that will be performed Saturday and Sunday at Lake girls.

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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.