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U-Visa requests from immigrants

 August 9, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Hey, Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Tuesday, August 9th.

S-D-P-D denies more U-Visa requests than other local law enforcement agencies.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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SeaWorld is disputing claims that whales were attacking each other in a cell phone video released by PETA (like pita bread) on Friday.

The park says the video shows normal orca behavior known as rake marking … that’s when one whale runs its teeth over the skin of another.

Dr. Christopher Dold is SeaWorld’s head veterinarian.

He explained the behavior in an interview SeaWorld posted online in 20-15.

“ … all tooth whales and dolphins rake each other.”

A day before the video was released, a whale named Nakai died of an infection at the park.

The two incidents are not related.

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Some good news for beachgoers.

You can again head into the water in Imperial Beach and along Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado.

The I-B shoreline was previously closed, and there was previously a warning regarding water quality along the Silver Strand.

Both were lifted on Sunday.

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Some areas in San Diego are being asked to reduce water usage until further notice.

While about 600 Tierrasanta residents are being asked to boil their water due to low water pressure.

The notice was issued as a precaution following a water transmission line breaking over the weekend.

Because of the low pressure issues, customers in Bay Park, Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Linda Vista and Tierrasanta are being asked to reduce their water usage to only critical needs.

That includes cooking and drinking.

But not watering lawns or washing clothes

Water pressure is expected to be restored by the end of the week.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

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The U-Visa is a special visa specifically for immigrants who are victims of crimes in the U-S.

But police departments play a key role in granting the visas.

KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis says some departments are more likely to help than others.

The U-Visa was created in 2008 to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes to the police. In exchange for cooperating with an investigation, undocumented immigrants who are victims of a crime can get a visa and work permit. Paula Gonzalez is an immigration attorney who has been helping people get U-Visas since they first became available. “It’s supposed to kind of give some kind of reassurance for people who are undocumented that they can report a crime.” But advocates say a person’s chances of getting a U-Visa depend too much on where the crime occured and not enough on whether they deserve one. A big reason for this is the role police agencies play in the process. To apply for a U-Visa, applicants first need to get a certification form signed by a local police department. That form verifies a crime took place and that the applicant cooperated with the investigation. “They’re just one step on this. They are not making the decision on the U Visa. But it is a requirement for the U Visa. If you don’t have a certification, you are not going to get a U-Visa.” Tessa Cabrera is an immigration attorney who’s been helping people apply for U-Visa’s since 2016.She says police departments have too much influence over the application process. “They essentially hold all the cards as far as the first step goes. Without step one, there is no step two.” Cabrera says an immigrant’s odds of getting a certification go down significantly if the crime happens in the  San Diego Police Department’s jurisdiction. “I mean I think generally there’s just been a more noticeable uptick in denial rates from SDPD and I’ve been doing this work – specifically with this firm – since 2016.” “It does seem like SDPD is an outlier as far as the other agencies in San Diego.” Data requested under the California Public Records Act shows the SDPD has a higher certification denial rate than any other law enforcement agency in the county. Between 2017 and 2020 SDPD denied 40 percent of certification requests the agency processed. During the same period,  the Chula Vista Police Department denied just 18 percent and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department denied 21 percent. But why? Cabrera says it has to do with SDPD’s record retention policy. “Most recently, we had a case denied because SDPD said they could not verify the victim’s level of helpfulness and cooperation with the investigation solely based on the fact that their report had been purged.” That specific case was from a domestic violence incident in 2001 – seven years before the U-Visa was first offered. In that case, SDPD denied an original request because the case records had been purged. So Cabrera found court records showing her client had filed a temporary restraining order after talking with police. SDPD still denied the certification request. Without the U-Visa, the woman had virtually no chance of getting legal status in the United States. “It just kind of returns her to living under the shadows.” SDPD Captain Jeff Jordon says the department keeps records from as far back as 2004 – that’s when they switched from a paper system to a computer system. He says the main reason why most applications get denied is because people fill them out incorrectly, or don’t provide enough documentation.“People should be aware, and I hope this story conveys that, these packets have to be complete. They have to have proper documentation and there is some level of responsibility for folks to provide these documents.” Jordon believes SDPD’s high denial rate is largely due to the fact that the department receives multiple applications from the same individuals. “If they are not complete, it’s going to lead to multiple denials.” Cabrera says it is unreasonable to expect immigrant crime victims to hold on to police records dating back 20 years. “I mean, I think it sends a pretty demoralizing message honestly. Specifically in this case, she was a victim in 2001, the U-Visa wasn’t even an option at that point so when she comes forward it’s just simply too late. She didn’t know she needed to go to SDPD and request a copy of her police report to make sure she kept if for 21 years in order to get to this point.” Jordon says SDPD will start putting more information about the U-Visa on the department’s website. The information will include a list of qualifying crimes and what kind of documentation officers are looking for. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News

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Cal Fire San Diego is keeping an eye on the weather as possible thunderstorms have the potential to spark fires …

KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado has more.

Cal Fire San Diego County Cpt. Thomas Shoots says most fuel moistures are now at the critical levels in most  places in the county that’s going to make the fire behavior more explosive Shoots says the weather has been humid raising moisture levels and they are monitoring the potential for thunderstorms closely but so far the effects seem positive if the lightning does strike and start a fire the moisture helps keep that fire at bay Shoots says it’s never too late to clear dry brush and remove anything that is up against your home that poses an extra fire danger, with one exception The caveat with that is absolutely any kind of mechanized clearing outside… We saw two fires in a two week period in Ramona both started by somebody who was out there clearing trying to clear their property and do the right thing Kitty Alvarado KPBS News.

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Homelessness can’t be tackled by a single organization.

That’s why Interfaith Community Services and Neighborhood Healthcare says they joined forces to put on a healthcare fair for people experiencing homelessness on Monday in Escondido.

Dr. Rakesh Patel is the C-E-O of Neighborhood Healthcare.

“When we think about healthcare what we know is we need to fix housing, food, other issues that at neighborhood health we know were not the best at doing that. But when we partner with Interfaith we can start to address those things and on our end we bring medical services, mental health, really filling in this complete picture.”

150 people attended the fair on Monday where they were able to get clothing, showers, haircuts, dental services and information on health insurance.

Patel says healthcare fairs like yesterday’s help build trust with the community and supportive organizations.

Interfaith Community Services will host another healthcare fair next year.

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It’s been years since the military lifted the ban on gay and lesbian troops serving openly, but veterans kicked out under the ban are still on their own to clear their names.

KPBS Military reporter Steve Walsh has the story.

Teresa Hogan was discharged from the Navy in 1980, after she confided to another sailor that she was attracted to a civilian woman. Recently the Veteran Law Project at USD helped her upgrade her discharge. “I don’t even have dog tags. I don’t have anything. And the thing is too, my dad died last year, before this happened. I can't even tell him. He didn't talk to me for so long. My brothers just disowned me for so long.” Though the ban on gay and lesbian and bisexual troops serving in the military ended in 2011, veterans still have to go through the process of upgrading their own discharge. Hogan says the decision to pursue the upgrade changed her life. Steve Walsh KPBS News.

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Coming up.... The window to apply for college loan forgiveness is closing soon. We’ll tell you about the program and more, next, just after the break.

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There is an important reminder that could save you from paying off thousands of dollars in student loans.

A temporary waiver to the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program will run out in just two months…

The waiver allows anyone working in the public sector for 10-years to have the remainder of their college loans canceled after that.

The program was supposed to begin in 20-17, but was cut short by the Trump administration.

California and other state attorneys general sued to re-instate the program and won.

The window to apply for the loan forgiveness is closing quickly…according to Attorney General Rob Bonta…

“We must ensure every public sector employee from teachers, to firefighters, and non-profit administrators knows about the public service loan waiver period it closes on October 31st.” 

In order to qualify, you must apply before the Halloween deadline.

You can start the process by going online to W-W-W-dot CALIFORNIA BORROWERS-dot ORG.

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And before you go, we have some news of our own to tell you about.

After nearly a year-long search, KPBS has a new news director who will lead our newsroom of 45 journalists and editors.

Terence Shepherd started in the role yesterday.

He was previously the news director of a public radio and TV station in Florida.

He joined KPBS’s Maureen Cavanaugh to introduce himself and talk about his plans for the station.

You have an eclectic background for a news director, you originally trained for a business career. What made you switch gears into news?

What interested you in applying for the KPBS news director’s position…all the way across the country?

What’s your philosophy about the news directors position…how should he or she go about helping to direct and focus the work of reporters and staff?

Can you share any of your big plans for the station?

TAG: That was KPBS news director Terence Shepherd, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh.

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That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

U-Visa requests from immigrants are being denied at a high rate by the San Diego Police Department. In other news, local organizations hosted a healthcare fair for people experiencing homelessness. Plus, the deadline to apply for college loan forgiveness is approaching.