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Biden Administration To Start Processing Asylum-Seekers Sent Back To Tijuana

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MAX RIVLIN-NADLER

Above: A migrant calls out numbers from the unofficial list of asylum-seekers in Tijuana on July 16, 2019

Right here at the San Diego-Tijuana border, the Biden administration will officially begin to allow thousands of asylum-seekers to re-enter the United States. Plus, residents of wealthier Zip codes are more likely to have been vaccinated than those in low-income areas. And this weekend in the arts: Hill Street Country Club, Red Brontosaurus Records, a world premiere concert, experimental percussion and a globe-trotting dance film.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Asylum seekers emerged from the remain in Mexico policy

Speaker 2: 00:04 25 asylum seekers who are at high risk were identified and they crossed early this morning into San Diego.

Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS day edition. The wealthiest parts of San Diego have the highest rates of COVID vaccinations. I can't take time off work to go sit at Petco or my doctor's office or a super station for hours. I don't have a private car. And I'm concerned about taking public transportation. Our weekend preview looks at arts events that shake up the expectations that's ahead on midday edition,

Speaker 1: 01:00 Asylum seekers stuck in limbo at the San Ysidro border. Have new hope today. The us will begin processing asylum claims from people kept in Tijuana under the Trump administration's remain in Mexico program. The Biden administration has reversed that program, which forced people requesting asylum in the U S to wait in Mexican border cities for their cases to be heard ending the remain in Mexico program is part of the president's effort to change border policy, which includes putting a hall to border wall construction and the introduction of new immigration legislation, which includes a path to citizenship for 11 million people living in the U S illegally. Joining me is KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler, who was in San Ysidro this morning and welcome max. Good to be here. Tell us what starts happening for asylum seekers at the border today.

Speaker 2: 01:54 So today asylum seekers who were sent back to Mexico under the remain in Mexico program are allowed to go on a website, enter their information and be given a time that they could come to a port of entry to continue their asylum case from the inside of the U S today, specifically 25 asylum seekers who are at high risk, either medical or living conditions, danger were identified and they crossed early this morning into San Diego. They, I just got word that they're at a local hotel in San Diego. So these are the first asylum seekers who were put into remain in Mexico, who are now allowed to continue their case from the U S under the Biden administration.

Speaker 1: 02:35 Can you remind us of the conditions asylum seekers had to contend with while waiting in Mexico,

Speaker 2: 02:41 Really difficult conditions? Um, often they lacked, uh, identification, the ability to work last night, I spoke with Herson or Duardo Keno. He's 36. He left Honduras with his wife and their two children. They came to the border at the Rio Grande in Texas, where they were enrolled in, remain in Mexico. Uh, they were unsafe when they were there in Texas. They came to Tijuana where they've been waiting and Tiquana for the past few months, but here he told me exactly how difficult his life has been, uh, for his family in Tijuana

Speaker 3: 03:15 [inaudible] are not [inaudible].

Speaker 2: 03:26 So, because they didn't have documents, it's very difficult for them to find work. And they also had continued harassment from the Mexican police, the municipal police in Tijuana.

Speaker 1: 03:36 So you say 25 of the people who have been waiting in Mexico are already in San Diego, and they're going to be staying at a hotel is that's. What's going to happen to all of the asylum seekers who are now allowed to wait in the U S

Speaker 2: 03:50 That's not going to happen to all of the asylum seekers right here in San Diego. We kind of have a robust network. The San Diego rapid response network, which for the past few years has created a system where a asylum seekers are welcomed into San Diego. They're given a checkout, they're given a hotel room and they're provided with travel and other places, less sparsely resource places along the border. People are going to be fitted with alternatives to detention, including ankle monitor bracelets, given numbers that they have to check in on places that they have to be at a certain time, uh, because of those ankle bracelets. So there'll be monitored electronically. And again, not everyone will be released into the interior. Some people will be detained.

Speaker 1: 04:29 The process of getting out of the remain in Mexico program requires online registration. How are asylum seekers supposed to accomplish that?

Speaker 2: 04:38 I spoke with some asylum seekers today who had no idea about the online registration, and that's going to be a huge hurdle. A lot of people have cell phones, but they don't have data. They need wifi. I spoke with a shelter operator yesterday in Mexicali. He said, he's secured four laptops that he's just going to set up in his shelter, where people come, and this is all they do with it is that they go and they sign up for this program. But this program really only applies to a small amount of asylum seekers currently waiting in the Southern border and in Tijuana.

Speaker 1: 05:09 And what about people who've already had their asylum claims denied? Does the new policy give them any hope of a second chance?

Speaker 2: 05:17 Yeah, so that's already really interesting right now. It doesn't, if they're appealing their case, there's an opportunity for them to continue their case and the interior of the U S but a lot of people who are denied asylum have left the border area. And more importantly, there are thousands of people who are never even put into the remain in Mexico program who were just denied entry into the U S have never even begun an asylum claim. Almost everybody I spoke with and met this morning at the Santa seizure, port of entry had never even been enrolled in this program. Many of them are Haitians. Many of them are Cameroonians. They were not eligible for the most part for the program. So they are stuck in Tijuana right now. And even if this program was expanded, other people who've had their claims denied and remain in Mexico. They wouldn't even be considered.

Speaker 1: 06:03 Now yesterday, the president and democratic lawmakers unveiled immigration legislation, that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented people. Is this what was expected from the Biden administration?

Speaker 2: 06:15 Absolutely. From day one of his campaign, Biden had promised a path to citizenship for quote, unquote dreamers. People who came here at a young age. Um, this was actually a lot more expansive legislation than people had considered. It would radically alter how we deal with immigration in the United States. That being said, it's going to change quite quite a bit before. Uh, it even faces the possibility of passing.

Speaker 1: 06:42 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Revlin Nadler and max. Thank you. Thank you. We know that wealthier and wider parts of San Diego County have fared far better during the pandemic than poorer areas. Now, KPBS investigative reporter Claire triglyceride tells us residents and high income zip codes have so far been much more likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Speaker 4: 07:20 Maria choice to Gonzalez is a 74 year old housekeeper. And Elka hone. She says she wants a COVID-19 vaccine, but doesn't know how to get one [inaudible] the doctor wanted us to go today. But since I had this appointment, I said that we call him back. I don't know who called us access issues like hers are playing out across the County lower income areas with high COVID-19 case rates, such as Logan Heights, alcohol and Chula Vista have low vaccination rates. Meanwhile, wealthier areas with low case rates have the highest vaccination rates in places like Cornetto, Rancho, Santa Fe, Del Mar and LA Jolla, at least one in four residents have received vaccines. This disparity stems from the way the system has been designed. It says Rebecca fielding Miller, an epidemiologist at UC San Diego. For example, vaccine appointments are for the most part only offered online.

Speaker 1: 08:19 It's hard to access these websites. It really is. Um, you needed access to the internet. Um, you needed to be comfortable if you were at Petco with a forum that at least asked you your social security number, even if you could just put it in all zeros, um, and you needed to be pretty quick and anecdotally, and you needed to be pretty tech savvy

Speaker 4: 08:40 After healthcare workers, older, people have had access to the vaccine first, and that population is generally wider and more well off. And so far vaccines aren't available through the health networks, many people of color use, even for those over 65,

Speaker 1: 08:57 I can't take time off work to go sit at Petco or my doctor's office or a super station for hours. I don't have a private car and I'm concerned about taking public transportation. So those, those access issues, um, the, the, the perceived benefits of running those risks have to really outweigh what the actual barriers

Speaker 4: 09:19 Problem is. We have too many people who want vaccines, assemblywoman, Lorena Gonzalez says it's crucial that racial and economic divides be addressed before vaccinations are opened up to more age groups and professions. If we move on too quickly, um, those, those folks are going to continue to stay in vaccinated. Those barriers don't go away by opening it up to teachers and police officers. Vaccination sites are now open across the County, and many have hundreds of appointment openings every day, but that doesn't mean people in South Bay or East County have ready access to a vaccine. Gonzales says what happened is when they went online, um, individuals with more resources and capabilities took those vaccine appointments. So we had a ton of people coming from, you know, North County down to Chula Vista, Sammy organizations, such as the Chicano Federation are now working with the County to help people schedule and get transportation to vaccine appointments.

Speaker 4: 10:16 Nancy Maldonado is the Chicano Federation CEO. We have dedicated staff that is, uh, helping people on the phone and in person to schedule those vaccine appointments all day, Monday through Friday, also to ensure that they have transportation. And if they don't to help them find transportation, making sure that they have childcare. We're also employing community health ambassadors known, as Promatores says, they stationed themselves outside grocery stores and other community locations where they talk to people about their concerns and help them get vaccine appointments. We are seeing a very small increase in the number of Latino people in the County who are getting vaccinated. It's interesting slowly, but we are starting to see some movement. So hopeful that once this is all of these efforts get underway, that we'll start to really see that that percentage increase Claire Asser, KPBS news

Speaker 1: 11:12 For a searchable map of vaccination rates by zip code, go to kpbs.org/vaccines. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This weekend, our event pics from the art world are all about reframing. Seeing the world in a different light KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans is here to guide us to a few contemporary music ensemble performances and visual art exhibitions that shake up expectations, and she joins us now. Welcome Julia. Hi Maureen. Thanks for having me. No. First off, what's new with the San Diego museum of art. It's a virtual SDMA plus concerts.

Speaker 5: 12:02 Yeah. These are collaborations with performing arts groups across town, like the ballet, the Shakespeare society and music ensembles to host performances in front of and inspired by specific works in the museum. They've kept this up as free online video projects throughout the last year. And this time they've paired up with the chamber group art of lawn.

Speaker 1: 12:24 And then what can we expect in tonight's program?

Speaker 5: 12:27 Yeah, for tonight, they centered the show around the idea of abstraction and allegory in art from the museum's garner collection. And they worked with Mexico based composer and Jay Isabel Gonzalez to write a new solo based clarinet work and video inspired by Lewis Carol's Jabberwocky poem. It's from the Alison Wonderland books. And it mostly uses nonsense words for all the nouns, but we still understand it. Our brains still somehow figure out who the monster is. And I spoke to the composer consolidator about Lewis Carroll too.

Speaker 6: 13:02 I love Lewis Carroll. Then, uh, a couple of years ago, I read the book, at least through the glass. It was something shocking to see that nonsense. Boy, I didn't think before to make something with that something musical, but this was a great opportunity.

Speaker 5: 13:28 In addition to consolidate his works world premiere, they're also performing another work by contemporary South Korean composer, Lyndsey chin also for bass clarinet, all performed by Joshua Rubin. And so Chin's piece is based on the scene where Alice talks to the Caterpillar. These programs are relatively short concerts, and this one should be really fun the way they are pairing up music, art, and fantastical, classic literature like this

Speaker 1: 13:55 SDMA plus art of alones obstructions and allegory premieres on the museum's YouTube channel tonight at seven, next up the visual art world. There's a new exhibition on the walls at Hill street country club in Oceanside and Julia, how can we see it? Yeah,

Speaker 5: 14:13 This is Exodus from iniquity. It's a new exhibition of photography and collage work by artists, Tiara Williams. I love that history country club always introduces me to new artists and really meaningful work. They're big on giving emerging artists solo show space to really flourish and show off a larger breadth of work. Tiara Williams has taken familiar scenes and placed black bodies. They're ranging from romantic embraces to the sublime Renaissance style and some the evoke religious iconography, her work puts the body forward stretch marks in all it's thought, provoking inventive, and also just really beautiful Williams herself. We'll talk about these ideas and the work at the virtual opening reception on Saturday, but you can also make an appointment to view the works in person

Speaker 1: 15:03 Tiara Williams, Exodus from iniquity opens tomorrow at Hill street country club with a virtual discussion at 5:00 PM. And in some outdoor visual art what's on at the Japanese friendship garden this weekend.

Speaker 5: 15:16 Yeah, so Christy Lynn was part of the Azure project, civil liberties fellowship that studied the Japanese American incarceration during world war two. And the, the ways that we can understand this now against other histories, Lynn's work is installed outside at the Japanese friendship garden. She uses food diet fabrics, her clothes actually, and wire in these woven patterns. She was inspired by a concept in landscape design, known as borrowed scenery. That's really important in both Chinese design and Japanese design and it frames items in the faraway landscape from further away with design elements inside the garden to kind of claim them or, or borrowed them. And when seeing an artist talk Saturday at four on Facebook or Instagram live as well,

Speaker 1: 16:05 You can visit the Japanese friendship gardens outdoor exhibition by Christie Lynn through Sunday, February 28th. And finally you have a more off the beaten path recommendation in the music world, the group red fish, blue fish premieres a new video tonight.

Speaker 5: 16:22 Yeah. So this is an experimental percussion ensemble based out of the UC San Diego music department founded by the great Steven Schick more than 25 years ago, they're performing a pretty impressive work for percussion. It's like nine movements long by the contemporary Alaska based composer. John Luther Adams, his writings often about nature. This one's no exception. It's called strange and sacred noise and it's performed with marimba vibraphone Tom's snare and more. I thought a lot about the weather when I first heard it. And here's a sample that's

Speaker 1: 17:47 Red fish, blue fish performing 1997, composition, strange and sacred noise by John Luther Adams. You can tune in tonight at five or find it archived online afterwards. And for more arts events visit the KPBS arts calendar or sign up for the weekly KPBS arts newsletter@kpbs.org slash arts. I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans. Julia. Thank you.

Speaker 5: 18:15 Thanks Marie. You have a good weekend.

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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.