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Haitians At The Border

 April 1, 2021 at 4:15 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday April First. >>>> Haitian Asylum seekers in Tijuana….. We’ll have more on that next, But first... let’s do the headlines…. ###### All People 50 and older become eligible for a COVID vaccine today. That’s estimated to be about 400,000 people in the county. For now there’s a lot of infrastructure for administering vaccines, but problems with vaccine supply continue. Here’s Scripps Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ghazala Sharieff. “We still don’t know… in fact right before you called on me, I pinged the county to say, hey do we even know how many doses we’re going to get next week because it’s still a weekly thing…” Everyone 16 and older becomes eligible to get a vaccine on April 15th. ######## A San Diego woman who orchestrated a nearly $400 million dollar Ponzi scheme was sentenced on Wednesday to 15 years in federal prison. 57-year old Gina Champion-Cain ran what prosecutors called the largest known Ponzi Scheme in the history of Southern California. She took investor funds intended as loans for businesses seeking liquor licenses, and then funneled the money into her companies and personal purchases. ######## We’ll have some Santa Ana conditions today on this April Fools day. It is also the Padres Opening day against the Arizona diamondbacks. Temperatures will be in the 80’s along the coast and in the valleys, and the 90’s in the deserts. These hot temperatures are expected through the weekend. ######### From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. While much of the focus along the border has been on the arrival of Central Americans seeking asylum…. Haitians have also been fleeing violence, political instability, and racism in their journey to border cities like Tijuana. KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler tells us how black migrants are treated differently, in every step of the asylum process. A community of Haitian migrants has been in Tijuana for nearly a decade…. Fleeing a devastating earthquake, Hurricanes, financial collapse…. and now, deep political instability and violence, as an unpopular president tries to hold on to power in Port Au Prince….. Many Haitians are stuck in Tijuana… fearful that by crossing the border, they’ll be sent right back to Haiti…. But unable to make a life for themselves in Mexico…. When a migrant camp was established in February at the El Chapparal port of entry in Tijuana, hundreds of Haitians set up tents, hoping that they would soon be allowed to declare asylum in the US…. Dorlean Ito was one of them. He’d been living in Tijuana for a year. ITO: Haiti is my country and I love it, but it wasn’t possible to stay there. There are a bunch of criminals sitting around doing nothing. He said that Haiti is his country and that he loves it, but it wasn’t possible to stay there. There were too many criminals with nothing to do…. Ito had spent five years working in Chile, but the discrimination there was intense…. He was trying to get into the United States, even though he feared possibly being returned to Haiti. ITO: If they deport me, I won’t live in Haiti. I don’t have anything in Haiti. I don’t have family. I don’t have money to leave Haiti. That’s why I wanted to leave, but I’m still afraid, very afraid. I think, “If I go there, I’ll die. I’ll get killed. I’ll go hungry.” Hunger is nothing. But being killed is something. He said if they deport him, he wouldn’t live in Haiti. He doesn’t have anything there. He wouldn’t have the money to leave though. He’s afraid. If he gets sent there, he’ll get killed, he’ll go hungry. Hunger is nothing to him, being killed is what he’s scared of. A rule known as Title 42, bars the entry of any asylum-seekers into the US during the COVID-19 pandemic…. Border Patrol has been immediately sending border crossers back to mexico or their countries… Since the beginning of the Biden administration…more children, families, and single adults have been able to enter the US and continue their asylum claims from inside the United States.... And interior immigration enforcement has been scaled back... But that hasn’t held true for Haitian migrants…. The Biden administration has removed over 1200 Haitians from the United States…. That’s more than during all of Trump’s final fiscal year in office. Guerline Josef is the Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance. Since 2016, her organization has advocated for Haitians trying to avoid deportation to an unstable and dangerous country. I don’t even understand how they are deporting people to Haiti right now.But right now, it’s criminal for both the United States and Haiti to agree to send and receive people. When they land in Haiti, these people go in hiding. Josef led a group of Haitian-Americans down to TIjuana last month, in an effort to connect with the Haitian asylum-seekers and make sure they’re safe…. What they found wasn’t reassuring… the Haitians were leaving the camp, because they felt discriminated against by the Central American migrants… After a couple of weeks we saw started seeing some anti-black sentiment growing within the camp. And increasing, what we have been saying, vulnerability of black migrants in Mexico, in Tijuana, the way they can be targeted, they cannot blend in. The moment they show up, they know they don’t belong there. Christian Nester is a Haitian-American lawyer, who works with Haitian Bridge Alliance...he says many Haitians have gone broke in Mexico. A lot of Haitians are stuck here. And their worker authorization has expired, so they don’t have any way to make money. He doesn’t believe that the treatment of Haitians in the American immigration system, or the role that the US has played in supporting the current regime in Haiti, has deterred anyone from coming to the US… Even with the checkered kind of history, the United States is the land of opportunity, and people really want the chance to live that America dream. Many Haitians have jumped the border fence in recent weeks, tired of the racism and willing to risk being returned Haiti.. . Asking around the camp last week, Darwean Ito was nowhere to be found. Jean Claude Jean, is still holding out hope… He’s one of the last Haitians in the migrant encampment at El Chapparal. But even his patience is wearing thin. I think I’ll stay here two or three weeks only. Then, well, I’ll cross. Whatever happens, I have to accept it. I don’t want to live like I’ve been living here. He says he’ll stay in Tijuana another two or three weeks only… then he’ll cross. Whatever happens to him, he’ll have to accept it…. He doesn’t want to live the way he’s had to live here…..In Tijuana, Max RIvlin-Nadler, KPBS News And that was KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler. ############## At the onset of the pandemic, many electric scooter companies pulled their devices off of San Diego streets. Now, they’re back. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more. AB: Six scooter sharing companies are now authorized to operate in San Diego. And a few are brand new, hoping to capitalize on the city's gradual reopening. Colin Parent is executive director of the mobility advocacy group Circulate San Diego. He says the city's relatively lax regulations have made the scooter market hyper competitive, leading to several companies coming and going. CP: And so I think one of the things the city is going to have to examine is doing some sort of request for proposal to have a limited number of scooters and have a more regulated market so that it's more functional and permanent. AB: Scooter sharing companies are mostly staging their devices around downtown, Hillcrest and Pacific Beach. But advocates for low-income communities say they should benefit from the devices as well. SH: And they really provide communities like City Heights, Southeast, other communities like that, community access to everyday destinations. But also that comes into safety as well. Like bikes, scooters should be in protected bike lanes, spaces where people feel comfortable. AB: The City Council passed scooter regulations almost two years ago and plans on reevaluating their effectiveness later this year. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. And that was KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew Bowen. Coming up.... The state is distributing more vaccines to under-served hopes of reversing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of color. But that won't happen without the community's help. “I just tell them for the well-being of your family, you need to get this shot. And you need to really, really put your faith in God, and put your faith in science.” That next, just after the break. California is distributing more vaccines to underserved ZIP hopes of reversing the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has on people of color. But they can’t make it happen without the community’s support. CapRadio’s Scott Rodd has this story from Merced County. Arturro Barajas started playing Mariachi music over 30 years ago when he moved to Merced...where he’s provided the soundtrack for generations of Mexican-Americans marking life’s milestones. ARTURO-1: “The music is the glue of our people. Mariachi music is in every facet of life. Whether it be the celebration of a baptism or the celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday.” These days, Arturo plays mostly funerals...usually two a week. And the deadly pandemic hasn’t spared his loved ones. ARTURO-2: “The music director that I had, he passed away from COVID a month and a half ago. My own brother passed away a month ago, more or less.” Latinos make up less than 40 percent of California’s population...but account for more than half of the state’s COVID-19 cases. Merced County...which has a large immigrant and agricultural community...has been hit especially hard. But the state’s efforts toward ‘equity’ have barely moved the needle. Now, it’s directing 40 percent of vaccine doses to underserved communities...and local clinics and residents are doing much of the legwork[to reach those in need. [ambi...knocking...come in…] I catch Dr. Rodrigo Dezubiria [“deh-ZOO-bree-ah”] on his lunch break. He’s the chief medical officer at Castle Family Health Centers. RODRIGO-1: “The state has been slow in the release of the vaccine. Pretty much everything we get is gone within a few days. He’s confident supply will start to increase. But that’s only one challenge. It’s been a struggle to reach farm and food plant workers….And not everyone in the community trusts the vaccine. Castle has organized social media campaigns...and it’s depending on individual patients. Like Ricardo Juarez, who works at a nearby almond plant. He’s sitting in the waiting room before his first dose. RICARDO-1: “My idea of getting it of course was for my health and the health of the people I love around me.” He also hopes it will sway some of his coworkers. RICARDO-1: “Because a lot of people in my job, they don’t actually know the real information about it. And it’s just people that believe what other people tell them.” Local clinics are also relying on what they call promotoras...people with deep connections in the Latino community. Arturo Barajas...the Mariachi one of them. He’s helped hundreds of agricultural workers get immunized. ARTURO-3: “I just tell them for the well-being of your family, you need to get this shot. And you need to really, really put your faith in God, and put your faith in science.” As we walk through downtown Merced, his community connections are on display. We stop by a music store [door jingle] and the manager’s wife works at the same school where Arturo teaches guitar. The manager doesn’t hesitate when Arturo asks to borrow a guitar off the wall. [TUNING STRUMMING UNDERNEATH...Arturo: “Maybe I should take off my mask…” (laughs)...SINGING...FADE UNDER SCRIPT] Last month, Arturo helped organize a vaccine drive for farmworkers in the nearby town of Planada. He came with his guitar and serenaded the nurses administering shots...and the laborers waiting in line. It was a new occasion among life’s milestones worthy of Mariachi music. And one that might help Arturo avoid playing more funerals down the road. SOC That was Cap Radio’s Scott Rodd reporting from Merced County. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

South of the border, a lot of focus in recent weeks has been on a surge of Central American asylum seekers, but there is also a large group of migrants from Haiti, fighting their own battles in Tijuana against violence and racism. Meanwhile, Two new scooter rental companies have begun operations in San Diego as city officials consider ways to improve regulations of the industry. Plus, as California health officials try to deliver more COVID-19 vaccines to under-served communities they need the community’s help to get people to take the shot.