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Judge Asks DOJ To Step Up Reuniting Families

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MEGAN BURKS

Above: Demonstrators attend the "Free Our Future" event in San Diego to protest zero-tolerance immigration policies that have led to family separations and ramped up prosecutions, July 2, 2018.

A federal judge wants the DOJ to participate more in reuniting separated families at the border. Next, President Donald Trump is losing support among suburban women. Plus, people on both sides of the US-Mexico border tell us how they’re voting in this upcoming election. Finally, how Measure E could impact San Diego’s climate plan and the Board of Supervisors.

Speaker 1: 00:01 The family separation policy at the border comes up in the presidential debate.

Speaker 2: 00:05 They, the kids, yes. We're working on it very well. We're trying very hard.

Speaker 1: 00:10 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid-day edition. President Trump tries to win back the support of suburban women and our port of entry podcast introduces us to folks who can vote on both sides of the border.

Speaker 2: 00:35 I printed it, a huge sign that said I am Mexican. It was had a big, big letters that had said I am Mexican and smaller letters that said, and I'm also American. And I love Trump.

Speaker 1: 00:45 Stay with us for midday edition. It's coming up next. A federal judge in San Diego says the U S government has to get more involved in the effort to find the parents of children separated from their families at the border. More than two years after judge Dana, sobre ordered government officials to track down the parents of children taken at the border. The families of 545 children have still not been found. The failure of the Trump administration to reunify families came up in last night's presidential debate.

Speaker 2: 01:29 The kids. Yes, we're working on it very well. We're trying very hard, but a lot of these kids come out without the parents. They come over through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs, vice president. By let me bring you into this conversation. Quick response. And then another question to you is 500. Plus kids came with parents. They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with

Speaker 1: 01:52 Johnny mez, KPBS reporter max Reveley Nadler. Max. Welcome. Good to be here. The hearing yesterday was part of the second phase in the effort to reunite children with their parents are these 545 remaining kids. The children of parents who've been deported.

Speaker 3: 02:09 Uh, these 545 remaining kids did come. The vast majority came with their parents or a close relative. So, um, vice-president Biden is absolutely right there. Um, that these were kids who were separated, not from traffickers or from, you know, quote unquote coyotes, but from the parents themselves and the parents have, for the most part been deported,

Speaker 1: 02:32 Who's been doing most of the searching to reunite these particular families.

Speaker 3: 02:36 So the search for the families was really an unfunded mandate from the judge, the federal government hasn't been expending resources to find these families. I mean, they've been coordinating with some of the groups that have been tracking these down, but really it's these nonprofit organizations working with groups like that were, that were plaintiffs like the ACLU, uh, specifically this one group justice in motion has been going down to central America, really, you know, embarking on this difficult task, especially during a pandemic to try to find these families who were separated from their children almost, you know, three years ago.

Speaker 1: 03:09 And what kind of a role does judge sobre want the government now to play in finding the parents of the children?

Speaker 3: 03:15 Well, the government has already been very involved in finding these children in terms of sharing information with the plaintiffs. What he was getting at yesterday was basically they've created a technical system, an online system, a repository of information that all these branches of the government might have information about where these parents are, right? Because family separation happened because of prosecution by the federal government. So that's the department of justice, but when somebody is deported, that's immigration and customs enforcement, which falls under the department of Homeland security. Uh, if you're being held in marshal's custody, that's the department of justice. If you're being held in immigration custody, that's ice. So you have all of these different repositories of information that may be overlap and maybe they don't, but he wants to see them all in one place. And right now the department of justice, he feels has not been sharing as willingly or as clearly, or as aggressively as they could.

Speaker 1: 04:05 Now last night, the president said the children separated from their parents are well taken care of in facilities that are very clean. Where are most of these children living now? Right?

Speaker 3: 04:16 It's tough. It varies. So a lot of them have gone on to sponsors. Uh, some have gone on to family members who already live here. A few are in, um, shelters for children and, uh, you foster care. Uh, and, and a few people have probably at this point aged out because it's happened so long ago. So they are here in the United States, uh, still pursuing their asylum claims and, and living independently.

Speaker 1: 04:42 If the parents of these kids are found, what happens then

Speaker 3: 04:45 The parents are given a choice. They can choose to re uh, connect with their children in the United States. That was something that was allowable under the settlement that was reached between the federal government and the plaintiffs here. So they could come to the United States and continue to pursue their asylum claims reunited with their children, or they could stay in central America and have their kid pursue it alone. A lot of times what happens is if you have family it back in central America, or if you have younger children, or if you're just worried that, you know, getting to the border itself is going to be far too dangerous. You don't want to take that risk, especially right now, when there are so many barriers to getting into the United States. I mean, I followed one night, um, a group of parents who had been separated from their children by this policy, as they tried to get into the United States and they weren't allowed. So it's not a given once you are identified,

Speaker 1: 05:40 There seems to be, uh, some question about whether the family separation policy at the border has really ended. Are families still being separated,

Speaker 3: 05:50 You know, by virtue of the way our system works, uh, immigration and customs enforcement is involved in family separation every day when it takes people who are family members and puts them into, uh, immigration custody. So that's family separation. If you're taking a very general view, if you're looking at it specifically where you are prosecuting the parent, and you're putting the kid in the office of refugee and resettlement and basically into a shelter that policy has by all accounts ended. But there are instances where similar events happen, where especially during the pandemic, people are crossing the border. There's very little accountability over who is being sent back and where they're being sent back to. And we've known situations over the past year, especially in San Diego, where parents have given birth to a us citizen child after crossing the border. And then they, they themselves are either threatened with being sent back to Mexico are, are sent back to Mexico under the remain in Mexico policy. So this specific program, the zero tolerance has really been phased out in terms of employing family separation as kind of a punitive way as Biden was referring to. But in general, the way we just generally run our immigration system, it's engaged in family separation every day.

Speaker 1: 07:05 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Rivlin, Nadler, and max. Thank you. Thank you. In the waning days of the campaign, president Donald Trump is openly courting, a crucial group of voters, suburban women, but polls show those voters are pulling away from the president. KQBD Katie or reports at a recent rally in Pennsylvania. President Trump appealed directly to the voting block. He knows he needs.

Speaker 4: 07:37 Yeah,

Speaker 1: 07:43 Trump's referring to dismantling an Obama era. Federal housing rule meant to decrease segregation. It's not an argument that wins over Bonnie Keller. The 64 year old Fresno woman says she's Christian and leans Republican, but Trump's crude. Demeanor turns her off. She didn't vote for him in 2016 and won't vote for him. Now,

Speaker 4: 08:05 I just wasn't impressed from the get go. That is just my complete, this pace of his behavior is just not professional. In my book. He is not a leader who has qualities I respect and admire.

Speaker 1: 08:19 Keller's views are shared by a majority of women in the country. A recent national poll conducted for ABC and the Washington post found among women likely voters, 59% support Democrat Joe Biden. That result includes 62% support for Biden amongst suburban women. Other polls find similar gender gaps.

Speaker 4: 08:41 The polling is showing that Trump is losing support among women period.

Speaker 1: 08:47 Mero directs the center for inclusive democracy at USC. She points out the political makeup of suburbs varies depending on part of the country they're in. And she says, wow, California certainly leans more liberal women in general seem turned off by that,

Speaker 4: 09:03 Particularly when it comes to his demeanor, some of the things that he said, the actions you've taken with regard to the coronavirus with, you know, race relations,

Speaker 1: 09:12 Trump thinks he's tapped into what women voters are looking for. And at the end of the day, he thinks that could overshadow any issues they have with his behavior.

Speaker 2: 09:21 So why is it that the fake news keeps saying that women aren't going to like Trump? I think more than anything else, they want safety security, and they want to be able to have that house.

Speaker 1: 09:34 That message resonates with Chico resident, Jenny Schaefer, she's 56 and lives alone. She says Trump is a narcissist and drives her crazy, but she's also worried about her safety and is planning to get a concealed carry permit.

Speaker 4: 09:49 When it comes to policies and stuff. I don't want someone taking my guns away as a woman. That's my only equalizer. And I think Biden and Harris will take that away from me

Speaker 1: 09:58 For is also strongly. Anti-abortion another policy she aligns with Trump on. So while she doesn't like his tweets or the things he says, she'll likely vote to give him a second term. And as the election draws closer, Trump is hoping there are more women like her who back his policies, if not his personality, I'm Katie or in Sacramento,

Speaker 2: 10:27 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 10:32 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. Some people in San Diego and Tijuana can vote on both sides of the U S Mexico border. The U S has allowed citizens living abroad to vote in elections for a long time. Mexicans, however, didn't win the right to vote abroad until 2006, after a hard fought battle to convince lawmakers, our port of entry podcast, team profiled, three of these binational citizens who can vote in both us and Mexico elections. And while you might think these folks all fall on the same side of the political fence, when it comes to how they vote, actually, they're all really different in the port of entry clip. You're about to hear host Alan Lillian Thall introduces us to Poloma Zuniga, a binational citizen, currently living into Juana. Who's really excited to vote in the upcoming election in the United States.

Speaker 2: 11:29 I don't know if you can hear it in my background, but I'm building a wall right now. Can you hear it sort of, okay, well, I'm, uh, we're building a wall, a lot of my, um, I've had a few things stolen from my front yard or whatever, as of about two and a half weeks ago, we started building a fence, a wall, you know, concrete wall with. So I feel that it is necessary to have national security. I, you know, I think he's looking out for the welfare of Americans. Um, I, I do think he wants to put Americans first

Speaker 5: 12:02 When Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, Poloma felt like a lot of the things he was saying were spot on. She too, wanted to make America great again. And she realized that as a Mexican woman, she had a unique perspective that might resonate with people outside of Trump's immediate reach.

Speaker 2: 12:22 I felt like I had to speak my mind. And I remember printing a big sign in 2015 when he announced he was running for president, because I saw what they were doing with the rhetoric and with the message that he was putting out. And I felt that it was being twisted. So I put, I printed it a huge sign that said, I am Mexican. It was Bly, was black, red, and white. It had a big, big letters that it said I am Mexican and smaller letters that said, and I'm also American. And I love Trump. I mean, obviously I wanted to get my message out, but the sign got more attention than I, than I thought it would. I mean, I knew it would get attention, but before I knew it, I was getting a lot of calls from different media outlets and different, uh, obviously traveling to different places. They were asking me to travel and, and, uh, and do speeches,

Speaker 5: 13:03 Whether she was ready or not that sign and the attention it got propelled her into the political spotlight and she didn't flinch. Instead, she quickly built herself a substantial online following at the height of her popularity. She had about 76,000 followers on Facebook and thousands more on Twitter and other social media accounts. But with all the positive attention she was getting from Trump supporters came just as much negative attention,

Speaker 2: 13:36 Hard last year, very, very hard. Last year, especially when I started getting a lot of death threats. Um, I had to leave my house in Tijuana for four months. I had to move to America completely for four months and not post where I was completely hide my location.

Speaker 6: 13:50 And were you prepared for that kind of reception? Like when, you know, it was overwhelming,

Speaker 2: 13:59 It was overwhelming. It was especially because I live in Tijuana and I, and I started getting a lot of death threats. I started getting a lot of attention that I did not expect to get people came out, people that I had not seen in five years that claimed they knew me, but they really didn't know me that I, maybe I met once or something that were against Trump specialty, anti Kona. Um, they came out, put out all kinds of slander, all kinds of things. So, no, I was not ready for that. Definitely not, not ready, especially since it happened overnight, even though I had already been very active, but not active in that, at that level where like one of my videos got probably about 40, 50 million views, you know? And I remember going through an airport not just a year ago. And, uh, and I remember going through security when they open up your luggage and whatever else, the guy that was one of the, you know, one of the, uh, one of the agents or one of the, uh, one of the, the guys there, he's like, Oh my God, you're a Paloma for Trump.

Speaker 2: 14:45 And then it was like, I just, it was weird.

Speaker 6: 14:47 Yeah.

Speaker 5: 14:53 One of the things that propelled Poloma into the headlines is an incident that's honestly just really hard for me to watch.

Speaker 6: 15:02 No, no, no, no, no, not [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 15:08 In this video. You're hearing Paloma is yelling at a group of migrants who just crossed the Colorado river into the us from Mexico. There's somewhere near Yuma, Arizona. And at one point balama just loses it. She starts pushing a man and his son who looks like he's just around 12 or 13.

Speaker 6: 15:44 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 15:44 I, I acted like a lunatic. That's the only thing I can tell you

Speaker 6: 15:49 If you're so excited to be in America and your face says, what do you got to hide from?

Speaker 2: 15:58 Never find another video of me acting like that or ever acting prior or ever acting like that again. Um, I, I don't know what took over me. Um, I have no idea what took over me that day. It doesn't, I mean, I got, I was reached out to, by so many people saying, what, what, what, what is wrong with you? What the hell is wrong with you? What happened to you that day? I mean, you're compassionate, you're caring. You're not violent. Like what is wrong with you? So the only thing I can tell you is that right away, I, I apologize, you know, w after the video came out and I apologized, I mean, maybe they never saw it, but it was wrong. It's the wrong approach. None of us should ever, it should never get physical in any way, one way or the other. And, uh, and I just, I made the wrong choice of words. I made the wrong choice of everything, really. Um, even though I'm against, uh, people crossing the border, obviously, but, um, but, but that's not, it, it was not my place and it was not the right approach. And it, it, it was pretty weird for me to behave that way.

Speaker 5: 17:06 So Bellamah says she wants what's best for both countries, but while she spends a ton of time involved in us elections, she actually doesn't get too deep into the politics of the country and city where she currently lives.

Speaker 2: 17:18 I haven't voted in Mexico recently because I was robbed of my a voter's registration card. I was in Tijuana and a guy put a knife to my face, and he took my purse at a salon. And my voter registration card was in there. But yeah, I'm legally able to vote in both countries. I didn't vote this past election because I didn't have my registration card. Are you just as involved in Mexican politics as you are in American? No. I'm involved in general politics in Mexico, not as far as local, though. Very dangerous

Speaker 6: 17:50 Here to be involved in local politics

Speaker 5: 17:52 Last year, Facebook deactivated Paloma's official Paloma for Trump page. They said she was breaking rules related to foreigners interfering in political campaigns, which is kind of strange, right? I mean, she is a foreigner, but she's also a us citizen. She says she's still fighting Facebook. She's told them she's a binational citizen, but that argument hasn't made any headway yet.

Speaker 6: 18:16 Hey guys, good afternoon evening. Now,

Speaker 5: 18:22 In the meantime though, she started a new Facebook pages and is slowly but surely building up a new one.

Speaker 6: 18:28 I spend a lot of time sometimes reading the comments on the left is the radical left is because that's all we can go along the radical leftist platforms out there. And that was by national citizen. Poloma Zuniga talking to KPBS is Alan Lillian Thall. Here are the full episode at port of entry, pod.org, or find port of entry on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.

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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.