Covering The El Paso Mass Shooting
KPBS Roundtable / August 9, 2019
A look at how Spanish-speaking media covered the El Paso mass shooting, 2020 presidential candidates speak at the UnidosUS conference in San Diego, and how a man from Honduras became the first to win asylum under the "Remain in Mexico" policy.
Speaker 1: 00:01 Mass shootings killed dozens and in one case, hatred of immigrants who appears to be emotive. How are Spanish speaking communities processing this trauma? According the Latin x vote, 2020 Democrats come to San Diego hoping their message will reach a key voting block and why the first asylum seeker to win his case under the Romaine in Mexico policy still had to fight for his freedom. I'm Ellison St John and the KPBS round table starts now.
Speaker 2: 00:34 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 00:37 welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I am Alison St John and from Mark Sour and joining me at the KPBS round table today are Mako Serrano television news anchor for New Zealand and San Diego. Kate Morrissey, immigration reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune and Charles T. Clark, who covers county government and was also with the San Diego Union Tribune. So let's begin with a story that has dominated the headlines this week. Last Saturday, a pair of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas left 31 people dead and dozens more wounded. The motive in Dayton, Ohio is less clear, but in El Paso, the accused shooter was taken alive and investigators believe he may have posted a racist screed online before the attack describing immigration as a motive for the violence. So Marco, this tragedy must have really affected the Spanish speaking community, particularly at hard. How has new vizio on tackle the stories around this? Hello Alison. We've been covering this story the way that we do every time that our community lets us know that they're either feeling attacked or they have been attacked and so with a lot of respect with a lot of care, but specifically this time around, it's treating it with the importance of not only is it a another mass shooting again or one of two in 13 hours, but the first time that the Hispanic community has been targeted.
Speaker 1: 02:05 And so that makes it even more important. And, uh, the responsibility of covering every single angle and staying there and not dropping the story after a few days when it's just not a headline. It's key to, to our demographic. The fear, I think in the Spanish speaking community must be one of the things that you're looking for stories to cover. You know, what are you finding when you go out and talk to people here? It's mostly sadness. It's not necessarily fear or anxiety. I think it's sadness intensified by, like I said, the fact that it's the first a major attack. People are used to being bullied out in the street and being attacked. Um, racial profiling or, but this time I think it's more sadness of just in the whole situation changed rather quickly in a few days on Wednesday when as president Trump was flying into El Paso to be with the
Speaker 3: 03:00 victims, we find out that ice is wrapping out, wrapping up one of the largest rates that we've had in a about a decade in Mississippi and rounding up people and detaining more than 600 and then that fear, I mean that sadness turned more into indignation and anger towards the politics that surrounds this whole subject.
Speaker 1: 03:21 Mm. Um, the fact that the shooting happened in El Paso I think has some significance for the Spanish speaking community. It's one of the top 20 markets, isn't it? For Spanish speaking listeners. Um, talk a bit about wild Paso and you know, really hit home
Speaker 3: 03:37 specifically for the San Diego community. We're also a border town by national [inaudible] and so I think we can relate to that rather quickly. Let's not forget that eight of the people that died in that Walmart are Mexican nationals and we were there covering on Wednesday when that Hurst crossed the international bridge into see that quiet is to a funeral home to have the services for the first uh, body that actually went back to Mexico, which was a woman, a teacher, and the pain is the same. It's felt the same way on both sides. There's no rubber or wall that's going to stop it or make it any different. And we as San Diego is living in a national, a community can understand and feel that [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 04:21 well, speaking of a binational community, have you been watching any of the English speaking media coverage? Do you feel that the English speaking media coverage is, is really doing a good enough job of explaining how this is affecting the Spanish people speaking community?
Speaker 3: 04:37 Well, I think it's not for me to say whether are doing a good job or not, but I have identified a different way of looking at immigration stories and crises. Um, I think that when these kinds of subjects make it to the English speaking media, it's seen through the lens of Washington. So whenever a new road rage is common comes out of the White House or a pep rally, we get the soundbite, we get the clip. But this time around we're seeing faces and there's the stories becoming, they're starting to become more humanized. And so you're getting a more of a ground level feeling of who's being affected, who's on the receiving end of all this rhetoric that's coming out of Washington and how people have been feeling for a very long time because this hasn't really, s didn't really start with Trump. Um, it's been going on for generations past. And, I mean, we can go back to prop one 87 and I, yeah, and I keep hearing a lot of that people saying, I feel again, like we felt in the mid nineties under Pete Wilson, but now amplified are on a nationwide level.
Speaker 1: 05:48 Right. Do you think that, um, what is happening with the rhetoric coming out of the Trump administration that this will be, uh, dynamiting the vote
Speaker 3: 05:58 in the coming election? Definitely. And, and, and again, going back to 1994, it prop one 87 how that really helped change the politics of California. And eventually, um, going from a red state to blue, the, the, the power of the, of, of the Hispanic vote and the immigrant vote really helped reshaped the future in politics of, of our state. And I think it also, um, has going to have, uh, an important role to play on in 2020 cycle. Right. Well, uh, you know, I think the president is, is, has stated pretty much that he's hoping that the kind of news that's been coming out this week might discourage people from coming to this country. Uh, I don't know whether you think that this kind of news, how fast it's reaching, um, southern Mexico and Central America and whether it's having his desired effect or whether it might be having a stronger effect on Latino voters in this country.
Speaker 3: 06:55 I think it's both. I think, um, when you see those horrific images of the father laying face down on the Rio Grande with, for two of his two year old, um, those go around the globe and, and now in the social media era, things travel quite fast. But I don't think people really understand in Central America what they're about to, what kind of trip they're about to begin and whether the risks of it. Because once they get here and they finally made it to a border town and they start now applying for asylum and they see that there are so many things that they have to go through that it's almost impossible. Some of them just want to go back. In fact, on Thursday, Thursday night, a plane went from Tijuana to Mexico City and then to San Pedro Sula with 20 migrants that opted and took advantage of this program to go back to their country because they were just giving up. And in Kate, you've been covering some of the people who are on the other side in the Romaine in Mexico program and I mean, what kind of impression are you getting of the changing feeling there as a result of what's happened here this week? Well, it's,
Speaker 4: 08:12 I think even before this week, people have been really struggling in Tijuana to find places to sleep, to find food to eat. And so like he said, a lot of them are, um, either considering giving up or are already given up and going back to, um, the countries that they fled. Um, or, um, in some cases they may be trying to find a way into the u s that would not have them be detected. I, I only know of, of a couple of cases of that. I don't think that's as widespread as the giving up and going home. But, um, we do see people trying to do other things in order to, to further their futures besides waiting,
Speaker 1: 08:56 either because of remain in Mexico or because of the, um, metering program that has them waiting to begin with to request asylum. Okay. Well let's, let's move on to a big conference that we had in San Diego this week. The, you need us u s conference. And while they're shootings over that conference earlier this week, the event was still a major platform for Democrats hoping to unseat president Trump in 2025 candidates spoke on Monday, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Camela Harris, Chu, Julio, and Castro and Amy Klobuchar, their presence shows the influence of if you need us, us as a major civil rights organization and the importance of the Latinex vote. So Charles, you were at that conference and you've done quite a bit of coverage about the changing influence of the, the Latino vote. Um, historically there's been some disappointment about the voter turnout of the Latino voting population, but that's changing though.
Speaker 1: 09:50 Tell us how it's changing. Right, right. So, you know, in 2018 we saw, you know, across all voting blocks, a huge surge in voter turnout. Um, but Latinos in particular, they set record numbers, you know, all time for midterms. And I think actually their turnout was second to any election ever including presidential outside of just 2016. Um, when you take that into account and then you look at the changing demographics, we're on pace to have 32 million registered Latino voters heading into 2020. So kind of as mark pointed out earlier, they're really this growing influence that a lot of presidential candidates are having to take into account. When you also add to the fact that the primary schedule has adjusted and now states like California and Texas have a bigger role, the two states with the largest Latino population in the country, they very well could determine who's the Democratic nominee.
Speaker 1: 10:39 Right. Do you want to say anything more about that, Marco? But how it's, I think it's very interesting that even if we want to put it in a local level, look at Escondido and that efforts that they've been doing for about two, three years now to get people out there to become citizen and then registered to vote and then once it's registered about to actually go and vote, did they have the election? And we've seen the change. So it could happen at a, at a national level, if people do go out and are energized enough to, to really show up and have those numbers registered. Right? It's interesting how it starting at a local level and they've got somebody on the city council know who's Latina. Um, and so now people I guess are waiting to see how it will affect the presidential race. And we had these Democratic candidates. We have, um, some sound from the candidates and what they said, the conference. So let's watch that. Now.
Speaker 5: 11:34 Do oftentimes politicians come in front of you and the act like everybody just got here five minutes ago,
Speaker 1: 11:41 right?
Speaker 5: 11:43 I know that there are people here whose family members were here before. These were the United States of America,
Speaker 1: 11:53 unless you
Speaker 6: 11:54 are native American [inaudible] or your ancestors were kidnapped and brought over on a slave ship, your people are immigrants.
Speaker 2: 12:09 [inaudible]
Speaker 6: 12:09 so let's speak that truth. Nine Times he said that he wanted to see universal background checks nine times, and then the next day he met with the NRA and he folded. And I can tell you as your president, I will not fold. I will get it done. What a president should be doing is talking about how we bring our people together and how, in fact, in my case, and in your case, this country was [inaudible] built by immigrants who did the hardest work. And by the way, the polling data shows I can win North Caroline, I can win Florida, I can win George, I can win Texas. But it's a long way out. Yeah.
Speaker 1: 12:57 So Charles, did you get an impression as to who the audience were appreciating the most of those five candidates? Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know who then Castro absolutely got the biggest round of applause. Um, second to him was actually common-law Harris and then Bernie Sanders. And then Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar. Um, yeah. Okay. I wondered whether, because Julio and Castro was obviously very popular at the lead us us conference, but does he have a very broad appeal across the Latino community nationally? He's got a challenge ahead of him because if you're not really into politics, you might know the name, but you don't necessarily can't pinpoint who it is and what his platform is. And so he does really need to, to reach out more and, and, and pretty much just getting more attention from the media. Yes. So that people know what he's about and he's not just a Hispanic candidate cause I don't think Hispanics just both for the Spanish sounding last name.
Speaker 1: 13:54 Right. It has to be also something with substance that appeals to them, has to convince them. So, you know, the, the two top issues I guess. So the conference where we're gun, uh, issues and immigration issues, would you say the candidates focused more on one than the other? Which you who, who con who focused most on the immigration issues? I'd say as far as immigration, I think Kamala Harris probably was the most direct, I mean generally speaking all the candidates spoke about, you know, the immigrant story and kind of how immigrants have really built this country into what it is. Conwell Harris was kind of the one candidate who specifically looked at policy, um, and she spoke about DACA and actually extending protections beyond just the dreamers but also to their parents and siblings. Uh, which to this point I hadn't really heard many candidates suggest. Um, and that was very well received in the crowd.
Speaker 1: 14:40 Kate, I've sort of wondered how they, how people who have have put them forward and tend to do that just because I think that was something that former president Obama tried and that was blocked in court. The, the DAPA part of his, his program was stopped. So I'm just curious how they plan to sort of shift the way that they do that this time around. Yes. Did anybody give any specifics as how they could do something that has not yet been accomplished, you know, for that issue civically? Not as much. I know generally speaking, there was quite a bit of talk about executive orders, um, which obviously the danger of that is that's a temporary measure to just until whoever's the next president comes in, especially from Senator Harris who had yet, she hasn't been mentioning that a whole lot. That she can actually do certain things from day one through an executive order, even an immigration issues.
Speaker 1: 15:29 But I mean, we're at that stage right now of the campaign where we're not getting much of the details on the how just the ideas are being tossed around and, and, and, and mentioned. But we don't really know what's behind that card. So easy for her to say that. And it would be very appealing to that audience. But, um, what are the specifics? Yeah. And of course the other big, one of the other biggest issues is the, the census and the fact that the, the president has threatened to put a question about, uh, status, uh, on the sent on the 2020 census. The conference participants talked a bit about strategies to how to handle that and to make sure that everybody is represented. Can you tell us what they came up with? Yeah, yeah. So when they looked at, you know, they really tried to focus on how are you going to empower communities to kind of step up and get, you know, make sure that everyone's counted.
Speaker 1: 16:17 Um, they talked about, you know, what the Latino community, I guess one big factor is making sure that you have trusted community members who are talking about the census. Uh, you also want to be very honest cause people have some very legitimate concerns including some of the researchers themselves about how the data will be used. Um, there's also afterschool programs, uh, reaching out to teachers, people like that. Uh, and really, you know, a lot of people talked about trying to turn to your local elected officials, you know, be it at the city or county level and get them to take an active role in it as well. How does California look? Cause California has one of the most at stake in the whole nation with this issue. How are they, how do they look like they're shaping up to, to make sure that the census is not, uh, you know, skewed.
Speaker 1: 16:57 Yeah. So, you know, California is an outlier in that our governor and legislature allocated a lot of money, uh, to pursuing accurate census counts. Uh, I mean, advocates argue they should probably do more just given how much is at stake, but it's over $150 million right now. By contrast, Florida, the state with the third largest Latino population, governor on the Sante said, we're not allocating anything to it. I'm arguing that it's, well, the federal government's job to do it however they please. Is Your station doing much coverage of this issue and what are you finding in the community? We have. And, and I think people's main issue here is whether they're going to be asked that question or not. And um, I think this is, the seed has been planted of that seed of fear and doubt. And, uh, it's gonna, it's gonna take a lot.
Speaker 1: 17:51 It does gonna take a lot to, to, to convince them otherwise and to have them participate in an open and like you were saying, honest way. Yes. Yeah. So continuing with our theme here of, of Immigration, uh, president Trump's remain in Mexico policy for asylum secrets began in late January, but only now seven months later was the first asylum seeker who followed that law, granted asylum in the United States. Alec, he's a 30 year old from Honduras, was the first person nationwide to win his asylum case. And it happened here in San Diego. Here's his attorney Robyn burner talking about his case.
Speaker 4: 18:29 Alex fled his country, Honduras, uh, because he was an evangelical Christian leader in his community. He spent his life going around the community and speaking to people about the word of God. And because of that work, he was targeted by the gang [inaudible]. He recruited Emma's 13 gang members away from the gang. And because of that, he drew the ire of [inaudible]. He was threatened with death, he was attacked and he was shot by the gang. And based on that, the judge found that he was a refugee because of his religion.
Speaker 2: 19:00 Okay.
Speaker 1: 19:01 So Alec did actually win his appeal and um, was granted by the judge granted asylum. But tell us Kate, what happened immediately off to that?
Speaker 4: 19:10 So normally when a judge gives a decision in an immigration case, the judge will ask the side that lost in, in that decision whether or not they want to reserve appeal. So in this case he asked the government attorney, do you want to reserve appeal? And the government said yes. So the government has 30 days to appeal the appeal, the case to the board of Immigration Appeals. And so then the judge asked the question that was on everyone's mind in the room, which is, so what's going to happen to Alec while you decide whether or not to appeal this case? Because he's the first, we don't have a precedent under the remain in Mexico program about what's going to happen to people. Every time there is a new outcome, there's an entirely new set of legal questions that come up about what is supposed to happen to this individual sitting in front of you.
Speaker 4: 19:57 And so, um, the government attorney responded, well, he will remain in our custody and he may be returned to Mexico. And so he was taken away in custody and taken back to the San Isidro port of entry and his lawyer and um, uh, organizing group here called Alliance San Diego, rallied people locally, rallied faith leaders, started getting the word out to people like me and said, this guy just won his asylum case and he's being held and maybe sent back to Tijuana again. And, um, we wrote a story early the next morning and other, other folks picked it up later in the day as well. And then, um, he was released by early evening finally and allowed to come into this country. He's been allowed to come in. He's still waiting to find out whether or not the government will appeal his case. So he's not done, but he is least here. So he followed all the rules.
Speaker 4: 20:49 So what kind of message do you think that sends to people who are watching this process? Well, I think the concern that the attorney voice to me was that, um, if he was returned, it would just destroy the hopes of people waiting for their cases to be heard. People who are waiting in Tijuana to ask for asylum, people who are waiting in the Romanian Mexico program that if he was actually sent back again, what hope would they have? And so the fact that that didn't happen, I think makes it a little bit more ambiguous as far as, as what the message is. Um, I think there's definitely a lot of questions still about what's going to happen to the next person. Or if somebody wins their case and doesn't have an attorney, which is a lot harder to do but possible. Um, what would happen to that person?
Speaker 4: 21:40 He did have a big advantage, right? He had an attorney. I mean, what proportion of the people coming in have attorneys? So, according to the data that's been analyzed about the remain in Mexico program, it's about 1%, 1%, which is dramatically lower than any other group of people going through the immigration court system. Even people in detention have better represented representation rates than that. And he had a sponsor in the United States as well. Right. Someone who would take responsibility for his wellbeing when he came in. Yes. He, um, the group Alliance San Diego found somebody locally willing to, to vouch for him to be here. Um, and he also has family elsewhere in the country. So he has, uh, quite a number of supporters. So I mean, his ground seemed very strong. Um, give us a sense of what some of the grounds that are being used to apply for asylum are.
Speaker 4: 22:30 What are the ones that are the most commonly being used? Rhino? It was, so, it depends what country someone's from, what is the most common sort of claim to be made. Um, in his case, his claim was on religious grounds because he's an evangelical pastor. Um, and religious grounds are some of the strongest grounds, at least according to his attorney. Um, when you look historically back at asylum law, the reason why we created the asylum system was because of what happened to people in the Holocaust. And that was on, you know, religious and ethnic grounds. So when you're making claims based on those, those are incredibly strong because of the history of the law and the history of immigration in this country. Right? Um, but you can, you can make claims on a number of other things, uh, race, political opinion, um, as well as membership in a social group, which gets very complicated and a lot of the cases coming out of the northern triangle, um, fall into that category.
Speaker 4: 23:20 Do we know how many people are waiting in this Romaine in Mexico? Sort of limbo land, hoping to get an asylum hearing. So the latest number I've seen, which was in a rather scathing human rights first report that just came out yesterday, um, was about 28,000 people. So the last number I saw from the Mexican government in mid July was, uh, close to 20,000. So in a couple of weeks we've gone up another 8,000 people. And how is Tijuana dealing with this influx of people that they are being forced all of a sudden to, um, take responsibility for? Like I said, there's, um, there's not a lot of place for people to go. Um, they're not finding that they can stay at the shelters for the months and months that they have to wait for their cases. Um, I've interviewed people who are sleeping under bridges in Tijuana. Um, I don't think there is the kind of infrastructure in place in Tijuana to take care of 12,000 extra migrants. You'll station most have done some coverage of, of, of this problem to Marco.
Speaker 3: 24:21 Yes. Uh, every day we were just amazed sometimes that at, at the level of complexity and intensity that's coming out of [inaudible] now with this whole situation where they're receiving hundreds of people every day who are not from the region. Some of them obviously not even from Mexico now, most of them. And suddenly they're there and there's this whole battle between the state of Baja California with the federal government, whether they're going to get fun so they're not going to get the funds or they're going to get the help or not from the, um, Mexican immigration institute to, to, to just kind of sort things out and, and, and help alleviate some of the hardship that they're going through. But in the other hand, I mean, Mexico in a way allowed this when, when they came to these because of the strange agreements with yes, with the United States,
Speaker 4: 25:16 we only have a few seconds left that said that they would, um, do well. Like there were humanitarian promises in, in sort of the original language that came out from Mexico, but we haven't even seen work visas getting to most of these folks. A lot of questions remaining about this situation, not the least of which is how it will affect next year's elections. Thank you all so much for joining us. That wraps up another week of stories at the KPBS roundtable. Thank you to Marco Serrano of university in New Zealand, San Diego. Kate Morrisey from the San Diego Union Tribune and Charles de Clark, also from the Union Tribune for joining me. Thank you. A reminder to all of this that all of the stories that we discussed today are available on our website, kpbs.org I'm Alison St John. Thank you.