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Misinformation At The Border

 March 26, 2021 at 9:34 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Misinformation at the border. As San Diego prepares to shelter, unaccompanied minors, right-wing influencer is trying to stir up resentment toward asylum seekers who counts as white. When it comes to the census. The term is far more broad than you might think. And some local immigrant communities saved, diminishes their representation and saying goodbye to a local landmark. How the crumbling stadium in mission Valley is unlocking decades of San Diego memories. I'm Maya [inaudible] and the KPBS round table starts. Now Speaker 2: 00:41 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:45 Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Maya trouble Sans joining me on this remote edition of the KPBS round table are Jean Guerrero, investigative reporter for the daily beast voice of San Diego reporter Maya, Sri Krishnan and Antonio Morales college football reporter for the athletic misinformation is an undercurrent for the political divide in America. It was evident in the unfound claims of voter fraud pushed by president Trump during last year's election. It's also the fuel for the Q Anon movement that played a role in the January 6th ride at the us Capitol. Now with immigration and our asylum system back in the headlines, Magda supporters are stirring up their allies with content from the Southern border, much of it antagonizes. Those who are seeking asylum, literally steps away from the U S former KPBS immigration reporter. Gene Guerrero is covering the story for the daily beast. Welcome back to the round table gene. Great to be here now, before we dive into your story, let's get your, your general reaction to the news here in San Diego, that the convention center will be used as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied minors. Do you believe that this is going to ease the situation? Speaker 3: 01:58 Absolutely. I mean, I think that the government is obviously having some capacity issues in part because of the huge backlog of, you know, asylum seekers, having to wait for their turn to enter the United States under the Trump administration. And finally, some of them being allowed through, and I think the San Diego convention center because of its very large space, is going to help ease some of those capacity issues that border patrol is having. One thing that I thought of though is, you know, that that was actually the site of one of the biggest, uh, clashes between Trump supporters and Trump, uh, opponents in back into 2016 when Trump had a rally at the convention center. So I know that some advocates are concerned about, you know, potential bad actors being attracted to the convention center, but I'm sure that the city is going to be taking that into consideration and having security Speaker 1: 02:49 Let's get into why this migrant story has taken off most recently, what has changed from what we've seen at the border in recent years? Well, Speaker 3: 02:57 So the change is the administration is trying to implement a more humanitarian approach at the border. He's he's trying to scale back some of these really draconian policies that Trump put into place that targeted asylum seekers that targeted children, the targeted families. Um, he's doing so very, very slowly though. Uh, so one of the things that, one of the few things that he's actually rolled back so far is, uh, this decision that the Trump administration made to turn away children as a result of the pandemic. So, but Biden has kept the center for disease control and prevention rule that allows the government to turn back families he's kept that in place. So they're still turning away. Most families who present at the U S Mexico border and most adults, but he decided that it isn't humane and it isn't safe to be turning back children to danger, uh, just because of the pandemic. And so that is why we are seeing a slight uptick in the number of children who are currently in border patrol custody. There are some capacity issues, even though there is a lot more space than there used to be to house these children, uh, because of the pandemic and the need to maintain a safe distance between people. A lot of this space isn't able to be used, and this is why we're seeing the need for temporary shelters, such as at that at the convention center, Speaker 1: 04:13 Your story for the daily beast gets into how right wing social media influencers are trying to leverage the story for the mega audience. One of those is Poloma Zuniga known as Poloma for Trump. How does she go beyond just commentary and into these asylum camps directly confronting these asylum seekers? Speaker 3: 04:34 She has been going and, uh, antagonizing the asylum seekers for years now. I mean, she gained a very large following more than 70,000 followers under the Trump administration. Uh, she was involved in a clash in which rocks and epithets were hurled at the central Americans back in, I believe it was 2018. Then in 2019, she was caught on camera, uh, actually chasing and physically shoving a migrant child who was trying to enter the United States with his father, uh, to request asylum. She screamed at him that he was not welcome. She didn't want him here. She has since apologized for that incident. She says that a D a deem, a quote, unquote, demon entered her and forced her to do that. Um, but she remains a problematic figure in my reporting shows, you know, she was just very recently at the migrant camp filming, uh, the asylum seekers in Tijuana against their will. Speaker 3: 05:26 You know, they asked her to please stop broadcasting their images. Many of them do not feel safe having their locations broadcast. They're fleeing death threats, they're fleeing gang violence. They do not feel safe in Northern Mexico. And so they requested that she stopped filming and she refused. She continued filming. She said she had the right, because she was on a public street. Um, and you know, it, it turned pretty tense that, that exchange and, and she uses those videos and those, um, antagonistic confrontations to create hysteria, to whip up hysteria in the United States about the asylum seekers, because let's Speaker 1: 05:58 Talk about another one of these influencers. His name is Oscar Ramirez. You reported that he is a convicted drug trafficker who was subsequently deported. Then in April, 2020, he was allowed back into the country as an essential worker, in spite of his inadmissible status as a felon, you mentioned, even for families with no criminal record, this is almost impossible. How do you suspect that this happened? Speaker 3: 06:21 I mean, when you look at the families who are allowed to actually pursue their asylum claims in the United States families, without any criminal records, you know, the very small percentage are actually, uh, they actually are actually allowed to enter the United States, but somehow Oscar Ramirez, despite the fact that that federal immigration law says that someone convicted of a drug trafficking conviction, uh, is inadmissible to the United States. He somehow was able to reenter the United States repeatedly under the Trump administration to broadcast alongside Marjorie. Uh, the Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor greens allies in the United States, some, some longtime friends of hers who are, who, who collaborate with us, right when media, particularly one network called real America's voice. Um, the only way that he would have been able to do this is if he had obtained a very hard to get waiver, uh, either from the attorney general himself, uh, or someone very high up in the state department or the department of Homeland security. Speaker 3: 07:20 I reached out to these agencies and, you know, the state department declined to comment because of privacy protections and the others simply did not return my requests for comment. Ramirez himself told me that he was able to get a visa under the Trump administration, but he declined to give details as to how he obtained that. Um, if actually he became very agitated when I, when I pressed him for details and then told me to be careful, um, saying that he knows all of the journalists and Mexico and accusing the daily beast of, of promoting child trafficking by trying to look into his past. But, um, but yeah, I mean, it, it would, he would need political connections or he would need to be working as an informant. So I'm not sure which, which one is true of him, but there's some speculation that his close partnerships with Marjorie Taylor greens, longtime friends may have played a role. Speaker 1: 08:10 He even seems to flaunt has positioned. Speaker 3: 08:13 Yes, he, he flaunts the fact that he's able to reenter the U S but he, even though the border is closed to all but essential traffic, he was in just a couple of, you know, he was, he was in this week, uh, just visiting, um, you know, the, the USS midway, uh, and broadcasting there. So he he's, he's, he's flaunting the fact that he can get into the United States Speaker 1: 08:33 In your article. You also point to people with white supremacist ideals, utilizing people of color as shields against any kind of criticism. Can you talk to us about how these individuals like Ramirez are being used to push right wing political sentiment without being accused of being racist? Speaker 3: 08:51 Yeah, so I mean, Ramirez in particular, he has been regularly on the U S right wing media network, real America's voice. He's been featured repeatedly on Steve Bannon's new show called the war room. Um, and this is something that is very common, you know, th this, this use of, you know, Brown and black allies in the far right community as shields against criticism, you know, it's this idea that people of color or Latinos can not be racist despite the established problem of colorism and internalized white supremacy in these communities. But it's, it's a long-time strategy. You know, in my book about Stephen Miller, the Trump's senior advisor and speech writer, one of his closest friendships was with Larry elder, a Los Angeles based black man who argues that black people are more racist than white people. And that will racism against communities of color as a figment of the left's imagination. And Larry elder told me that, you know, he believes that because of the fact that he is black, he's allowed many people like Steven Miller, many white men to, to, you know, more confidently express their racist beliefs, um, without being perceived or seen as racist. Speaker 1: 10:06 Your story includes how social media platforms are policing this sort of content. And Palomas Zuniga had her Facebook account actually shut down in 2019, but she since launched a new one, is this simply a matter of freedom of speech? Does this sort of content cross a line at some point? Speaker 3: 10:26 Yeah. I mean, it's, it's a matter of, of misinformation that is being branded as objective news. Obviously people have the right to express their opinions. The reason that this content is incredibly problematic is that, you know, both of these individuals, but especially Oscar Ramirez who goes by Oscar L blue, they, they brand themselves as, as live streaming accurate and objective content. And the fact of the matter is that it's, it's, it's not at all that it's, you know, it's conspiracy theory, state, dangerous conspiracy theories, and also just, uh, use of very negative stereotypes to, to turn public opinion against variableness populations. And, and it's problematic because you know, it, it interferes with our democracy. It interferes with the safety of not only the asylum seekers who are seeking refuge in the, in the United States, but Latino communities and other communities of color across the United States. Speaker 1: 11:23 I've been speaking with Jean Guerrero reporter for the daily beast. Thanks Jean. Thank you. Despite the political obstacles in our immigration system, America remains one of the world's great melting pots. Every 10 years, we take count of who was living here to determine just how much representation each state gets in Congress behind every return census form is a personal story on who calls America home, but are some immigrant communities, especially here in San Diego County being whitewashed Maya Sri Krishnan explored that question for voice of San Diego. Welcome back to the show. Maya, thanks for having me. The central issue in your report is who gets lumped into the white category. And you found people from the middle East, from North Africa and South Asia that fall into that designation. Why is that? Speaker 2: 12:15 So back in the early 19 hundreds, many immigrant groups that were arriving to the United States actually tried to be considered white because at that time being white legally meant access to jobs, housing, voting rights, and more, so many Arab Americans for example, were actually able to be considered white in that time. But after the civil rights movements, many oppressed communities and communities of color, um, in the 1970s began to see census data as a way to redistribute government funding and resources to kind of close those racial inequities that they had been experiencing. So there was a shift from trying to be seen as white to get access to things, to sort of owning their identities and the ways that they were disadvantaged by those identities so that they could bend work to close those gaps. Speaker 1: 13:04 So you were talking about the 19 hundreds and how Arab immigrants lobbied to be considered as white. Now, the assimilation helped them escape racism a hundred years ago, but how has that assimilation now created a modern day challenge for them Speaker 2: 13:16 Today? Not having separate comprehensive data that describes their experience means that their experience may not even be recognized by the government. And so, for example, we have a large refugee population in the San Diego region, especially from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, places like that. And we have limited data to know whether those people and their family members have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. We don't know whether they were more vulnerable to COVID-19 itself because they have certain risk factors like certain jobs or housing situations that may have left them more exposed, or whether they have higher end employment rates than other groups. You know, those are things we just don't know. And so they can't get resources to address any issues that they may be having, because those issues are in even identified with. Speaker 1: 14:08 Let's talk about those identifiers government data and statistics. They often come with a lot of acronyms. And that's also the case here. What does Menna identify mean? That's M E N a. Speaker 2: 14:19 So the minute category represents and specifically means middle Eastern and North African nationalities. Uh, so that can include people from Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, um, a lot of countries in those regions. Speaker 1: 14:32 And then what about, uh, memes, a M E M S a Speaker 2: 14:36 And then so stands for Arab middle Eastern Muslim and South Asian. Uh, and that once again, includes countries like around Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt, Speaker 1: 14:45 And in your report, you mentioned the Obama administration actually proposed changing standards so that the men demographics are reported in the 2020 census that failed in 2018 with the Trump administration deciding to not include men in the census. Does this lack of identifier skew the numbers in favor of the white demographic? Speaker 2: 15:06 It does, although we don't really know by how much excuse those numbers, but effectively, effectively it lumps, you know, a group of people who have roots in the men or region into the white category, which then adds numbers to the white population and therefore hide some of the experiences that those nationalities may be specifically experiencing in the U S that are different than experiences of other people in the white category. Speaker 1: 15:32 Why would the census not simply create categories that better describe a person's ethnic background? Speaker 2: 15:38 So during a public hearing in 2018, when the issue was discussed, that chief of the census Bureau's population division said that she felt more research and testing was needed before adding that category, you know, that is a pretty vague reason, but I think, you know, this whole process has sort of shown how political, um, gathering census data can become. Um, if you look at the difference in how the Obama administration was evaluating it versus, you know, the decision that they Speaker 1: 16:06 Administration made, what are the benefits and extra federal spending and resources at these communities could benefit from? Should they be counted as their own separate community? In essence, what I'm asking is what are they missing out on Speaker 2: 16:19 Census data determines a lot of things, including how federal money drips down into local communities. And so without accurate data that reflects the needs of those communities, that he's like alcohol and may not be getting money to provide, um, Arabic language translations, for example, in their public forums and public hearings, um, and community organizations that work with those communities who are also dependent on much government funding may not be getting funding to be able to work with those communities because they can't show that those communities have needs Speaker 1: 16:47 Moving to a new country, especially as a refugee or an immigrant can be an all consuming experience. In many ways, people might be more invested in helping their family make that transition and not really closely following our politics here. When talking with members in these communities, is this on their radar? Speaker 2: 17:05 Well, I think it is maybe not as explicitly in the way that we've been describing it, um, right now in this discussion or in the story. But, you know, when we talk about politics, they really govern everything, um, to be down to the extent of, you know, who has access to certain food banks or who, you know, has helped when they don't have a job. And so I think that people in the community do recognize when they can't access assistance that they need, even if they don't understand exactly why that is. And I think what's been happening especially in the past year, is that community organizations that have been working with these communities have really been pushing hard for them to be counted in the census. And they've also been pushing really hard for them to be involved in redistricting efforts because redistricting which sort governance, Speaker 1: 17:50 You know, who will represent what communities is a process where those communities can actually go in person and say, you know, we have something in common, even if it's not shown in the census and we want to stay together so that we can maintain our voting power. And hopefully one day vote someone who represents our interests into power, the census results were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When do we expect the numbers that determined representation in Congress and so much more so we're getting an initial data dump at the end of April. Um, but the redistricting data, which helps us determine sort of how congressional and city council districts are drawn, that will be released in September. I've been speaking with Maya Sri Krishnan reporter for voice of San Diego. Thank you, Maya. Thank you. Maybe it's a place where you saw your first baseball game or watch charger, great LaDainian Tomlinson break, NFL records, maybe it's where your parents saw the rolling stones or where your kids saw one direction, whatever your story about the old stadium in mission Valley, it's where countless San Diego memories were made. And now the building affectionately known as the Murph and the cue is just a memory itself. The final section came down this week and our guests caught up with some of the people who called the place home. Antonio Morales is a native San Diego and reporter for the athletic welcome to the round table, Antonio. Speaker 4: 19:13 Thanks for having me guys. I really, really appreciate it. Speaker 1: 19:16 Your regular beat. You usually cover USC football in LA, but why did you want to dedicate some time to telling the story of what used to be known as Qualcomm stadium, Speaker 4: 19:26 Uh, growing up in San Diego? There's some things that really stand out to me last summer. I wrote about extra sports, 60 90. I wrote an oral history about the rise and fall of that station last summer. And it did really, really well for me. It got a lot of lottery spots and people all across San Diego and Southern California. So when I saw the videos of Qualcomm, when I saw the demolition started starting, you know, this story idea kind of came to mind. There's certain things, you know, growing up in San Diego that, you know, matter to people, I felt like extra sports, six 90 matter to people at obviously Qualcomm stadium does too. Speaker 1: 20:05 You started your story with this drone video that went viral locally when demolition actually began. And then you talked with the person who shot it, how did he describe the response? And why does he think it reached so many people? Speaker 4: 20:20 Yeah, Ernesto Perez. He's a 24 year old who bought these drones to kind of display to people how the stadium was, was being torn down. And I asked him what kind of response he thought he was going to get initially, like what he was expecting. And he said, he showed it to his family and his family didn't have many ties to the chargers or whatever. So they were kind of lukewarm about it. And so he didn't know how the reaction was going to be. And then he started putting these on Tik doc Twitter, and they're getting shared across, you know, multiple outlets and things like that. And then it started to kind of blow up. And he said, he realized during, during that whole process, that it was allowing people to kind of process the stadium, like finally coming down. And I kind of tapped into those emotions that, that people had about the place. Speaker 1: 21:08 Well, let's talk about that for a moment because losing a local landmark, like the stadium usually comes with some sort of sendoff or big implosion, none of that happened in mission Valley. And that was largely due to the pandemic. Do you feel like the fans really wanted some sort of last hurrah and feel like they were short changed? Speaker 4: 21:26 I kind of get the sense, because even when you see like these demolitions, you have like the countdowns, like the three, two, I know California has the clean air laws, but even when I was watching the video of section 22 of section 22, we're getting torn down the other day. You're kind of waiting for some big, like tumble of last section, all of a sudden, it's just like the light tower coming down and it's like piece by piece, everything kind of slowly coming together. So it's, it's, it's not as dramatic as like a big implosion or a big collapse. Yeah. I do think there would have been a, kind of a bigger reaction, a bigger response if there was one final sendoff Speaker 1: 22:02 And in the story, you got a lot of reactions from some former athletes, fans and media. Is there one person who you did not hear from that you really wish that was part of the story? Speaker 4: 22:14 Yeah, definitely. Uh, Phillip rivers, just because he spent so much time at that stadium and throughout the chargers final years, he was, he was the defining, uh, player, but it was kinda, it was kind of odd timing just because he had the whole retirement stuff going on, like, right, right. As I was kind of really starting to report this, I reached out to the Damien Tomlinson or just the NFL network. I mean, to talk to Danny and Tom him, but they said he wasn't available for comment. I know some people in San Diego kind of had have hard feelings toward them now because you know how he's been supporting the, uh, the LA chargers. Um, so I know there's some mixed feelings there and, and I wanted to reach out to drew breeze, but I know he was kinda going through the same thing and Phillip reproducible, this was just this retirement stuff. And those are two. Those are some of the people I would have liked to talk to. Speaker 1: 23:02 And you got a lot of response in the comment section of your article. Why do you think people are so eager to share their own memories? Speaker 4: 23:10 Uh, just because they have their own personal attachment to it. Everyone has their own story of how they remember Qualcomm, whether it's, you know, playing hacky sack or whatever in the parking lot, or, you know, tailgating, or if it was a certain game, the 98 world series or something, the 98 playoffs or the Padres, or, you know, the charters for me, I remember all the playoff failures Speaker 1: 23:33 And speaking of memories, one of those memories, of course, tailgating with the stadium's expansive, seemingly never ending parking lot. Did you find in many cases, this experience is something people will miss just as much as they miss the games and the concerts at the queue. Speaker 4: 23:48 Yeah. I talked to Sean Walchuk well, Sean wash up the owner of Kylie copper, barbecue and spring rally. And he was telling, he told me, he said, the thing I want to get the most is that being able to take my children to the parking lot, uh, for that, for those tailgates, you know, it was, it was a very festive place. I think that's something that kind of gets overlooked very easy to go from tailgate to tailgate and see different people. Uh, I remember my mom, uh, she wasn't big into tailgating, but we had, we always had to leave early for the charger games. So like way to leave hours early, just to get a decent parking spot, because if we didn't get there early enough, you know, wouldn't be way back in the parking lot. Obviously there's a lot of people there. I remember the RVs, the smell of hot dogs and burgers, and as I was walking through the Gates and stuff, so yeah, I think that was a very, you know, big piece of it that people are gonna miss Speaker 1: 24:38 Oftentimes an all day affair. And you wrapped up your piece, you mentioned your mom and the memories that you have with your mom. Isn't that what, this is really all about the shared memories and the culture with family and community and meeting new people and all that come with it. Speaker 4: 24:53 Uh, definitely. I think, like I mentioned, I had had people who responded like, Oh, it reminds me of like, you know, racing my dad to the car or sitting next to my dad or sitting with their parents and watching Tony Gwynn or the chargers or, or something or something like that. Or as a friends, they made their, I know that as when I was a charter season ticket holder, always not one of the coolest things was seeing the same people and see if you have a season ticket holders every year and you know, getting to know them and kind of developing that sense of community and the charters of bodies were the thing that connected everybody. Speaker 1: 25:29 I've been speaking with Antonio Miralis reporter for the athletic. Thank you, Antonio. Thank you. That wraps up this week's edition of the KPBS round table. And I'd like to thank my guests, Jean Guerrero, from the daily beast, Maya Sri Krishnan from voice of San Diego and Antonio Morales from the athletic. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen anytime on the KPBS round table podcast. I'm Maya troublesome. Thanks for listening and join us next week on the round table.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump use social media to spread misinformation about asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees from Middle Eastern and North African backgrounds are underrepresented in the census, and reflections on the demolition of San Diego Stadium in Mission Valley.