Many people are angry and many others don't care. We enter a new national era.

Protest and indifference in Dallas after a white bartender beats a black woman provides a glimpse at what the next two years will look like.

It started the other night when a white bartender beat the hell out of a black woman, and it ended early Sunday morning with the cops clearing the street under threat of arrest so traffic could flow smoothly in the busiest bar district in Dallas.

“This is the Dallas Police Department,” an officer said through a bullhorn as 1 a.m. approached. “This is your third and final warning. You are blocking a roadway and need to move to the sidewalk immediately. If not, you will be arrested.”

“Thank you for coming out,” the cop added.

A young black woman twirled in front of the line of officers who were smart enough not to have escalated the situation by showing up in riot gear but were ready to go with those plastic zip ties they use to make mass arrests. Hidden behind them a block back and around the corner was a couple of cops in a paddy wagon, waiting to fill it if they needed. I heard this over the police scanner I had piping through earphones into my ear, so I told one of the main protesters that the cops were not fucking around.

By the time we went to grab a last call beer it was all over. No one had been arrested and, other than a brief and stupid three-way scuffle between a drunk guy, protesters and the cops, there had been nothing remotely approaching violence. The worst part was watching a black female cop have to stand there and absorb vitriol from the twirling woman and her friends who were reminding that cop that the white officers around her would never save her, would never be there to help her.

“I hope you sleep well tonight, sista,” they taunted her. “Because we won’t with all these white supremacist cops running around.”

After three hours of walking through Deep Ellum — a drunk and rowdy neighborhood packed with bars, clubs and restaurants every few feet — the protesters were done. They made their taunts and eventually most of the cops dispersed, leaving just two of them and a squad car on the corner. I watched them from across the street as I sipped my beer.

They waived their flashlights on the street to let drivers know traffic was flowing again. The cars rolled by, blaring music. Girls in short skirts and high heels plotted out their final drinks of the night. Young men followed them, tongues wagging.

If you passed through that intersection at that moment you would have had no idea that dozens of protesters had spent their Saturday night there expressing their pain and anger that the bartender — who viciously beat the women over a parking dispute and has been accused of using racial slurs while doing so — hasn’t been charged with a hate crime.

Hours’ worth of heated moments that are partly the product of hundreds of years of scars building on top of each other for black Americans were once again on display — only to be wiped quickly away so people could carry on with their Saturday night.

I think of the firefighters I used to watch wash the blood off sidewalks and streets in Peoria and Chicago where I saw so many people die. It reminds me how quickly we all forget about things that just happened, and how numb we have become to things that happen every day.

“Yeah it’s amazing. Our Republic is falling but I can still get my zingers at Casey’s,” someone wrote to me the other day.


We’re at the end of something we know and the beginning of something we don’t, now that the key finding of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — that the president didn’t work directly with Russia to interfere in our election — has been released. For the last two years this question has been hanging over us, or at least some of us.

Never discount the fact that, at any moment, at least a third of the country has no idea what’s going on and more to the point doesn’t care. They only care when something happens directly to them or someone they know, or something happens in front of them, like it did last night.

There were a dozen great moments of white and hispanic folks stumbling upon what was at one point a group of nearly 100 black protesters walking through the streets, chanting. In each of those young faces you could see the wheels slowly starting to turn that they were witnessing something quite a bit bigger and more important than their Saturday night, before the wheels reversed and they went back to focusing on themselves.

But my favorite moment, simply because it was both enraging and stupid enough to nearly perfectly encapsulate this exact, terribly dumb time in this country’s history, goes like this:

White guy 1: “Hey man we should yell at them ‘We support the cops!’”

Black guy turns around: “What?’

White guy 2: “So what’s going on, man?”

Black guy: Explains, I chime in, saying they’re protesting the beating of a black woman.

White guy 2: “Well, did it really happen? Because, you know, fake news.”

That’s how easy it is now. Someone just has to say fake news and it somehow qualifies as a meaningful statement or sentiment, a thoughtful criticism, even. Before, it was just that the media was biased. No matter who you talked to, no matter what you were talking about, the media was biased. Now, you just say fake news.

But before it was different. Even it was as short sighted, the criticism was at least somewhat reasonable: The media is biased. Although it never made much sense considering no matter who you were talking to, they always said the media was biased, without recognition that the very same criticism was coming from the other side at the same time.

One of the great joys of being a journalist is being screamed at by people on completely opposite ends of the political spectrum because you were being biased against them. We go out there every day to try to tell people what we’ve learned and found, and they come back at us with, That’s because you’re biased — no matter what is that you’re saying.


I was looking through my notes from Charlotte when I started writing this because it was the last time I remember walking around with protesters like I did last night. That was in September 2016, and it was toward the end of a run of two years in which I travelled around the country covering police shootings. Most of the national media did the same. Then we elected Trump and now we don’t really cover that stuff anymore.

Anyway I found this, which I can attribute to a white guy I met in a sports bar while we a Carolina Panthers game on one of the first Sundays of the season.

“What needs to happen in this country is that the media needs to quit trying to divide us. In my opinion the media is the biggest problem in this country. The media reports purposefully the stuff that’s gonna cause controversy.”

Think about the deep and fundamental lack of understanding of how journalism works that is reflected in that statement. It’s the same misunderstanding that the president has about the role of journalism — that no one should report anything that makes him look bad. This man in Charlotte was saying, essentially, that we shouldn’t report anything that makes anyone look bad.

To clarify, the media covers “stuff that’s gonna cause controversy” — otherwise known as bad things — because that’s the only way that bad things can maybe become good things. We have to know about bad things that are happening if we want to put a stop to them, which most people do.

So now, after two years of wondering about what Robert Mueller would find, we’re at the end another era. The last era pretty much ended in Charlotte, which was the last time the national media covered a police shooting in large numbers. And this era ended on Sunday with a simple statement from the Department of Justice that said the president didn’t conspire with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

Now, we enter something different. I don’t what it will bring or how it will end but I do know this: it will be marked with a great level of indifference by the many and significant obsession by the few. I think a lot about how easy it is to ignore or not even know about what’s happening in this country. Because people have to go to their jobs and pay their bills, clean their cars and buy groceries, take their kids to school and feed them dinner and get them to bed at night — all the things we have to do each day just to keep on living. But we ought to pay attention and be involved or else we’re going to be in worse trouble than we are now.

How we get people to care enough to know what’s happening and get involved is something I can’t even begin to have an answer to, but I think I caught a glimpse of it how some will respond to this new era of heavy partisan warfare for the next year as the next election nears.

After the protesters left and the traffic resumed a young man returned to the table his girlfriend was sitting at. She was trying to talk to him and he held up a finger to let her know he wasn’t feeling well. She kept talking and he started looking very bad. He vomited right on the table they were sitting at and she rolled her eyes. The bouncer politely asked him to leave and motioned to the waitress, who was cleaning other tables of spilt beer and leftover pieces of hamburgers. I’m sorry, the bouncer said with his eyes.

She walked over to the table and began wiping away the vomit, cleaning up a mess she hadn’t made.


P.S. All the photos in this post are mine. I’m not sure how many people reading this newsletter come here specifically for immigration coverage, but for those who do, we’ll be getting back to that later this week. As always, if there’s something you like, don’t like, are ambivalent about or whatever, reach me at justin.glawe@gmail. And if you like what you see please forward this email to anyone else who might want to join Where Do We Go From Here.

False dissidents: They say they're oppressed but they run the country

The White Grievance Industrial Complex convinces Americans are oppressed. The reality is they're in charge.

Under the chyron, CRACKDOWN ON DISSENT, Tucker Carlson laid out the desperate situation he and other conservatives face in this country.

Without citing any specific examples, Carlson last week described a stunning series of events in which “fairly prominent, well-educated people with dissenting political opinions” have been “disappeared.”

“This is what an authoritarian society looks like,” he declared. “It’s a place where the group in charge will tolerate no criticism at all.”

The “group in charge” in this description is an imagined coalition of Democrats, mainstream media organizations, liberals, progressives and pretty much anyone who was offended by comments unearthed last week that showed Carlson calling women “extremely primitive,” disparaging Iraqis as “semi-literate primitive monkeys” and defending convicted child rapist Warren Jeffs by saying the multiple felonies he was convicted of amounted to “bullshit.”

There’s just one problem with this: the coalition Carlson described isn’t in charge. Instead, the party most closely aligned with his increasingly white nationalist rhetoric — Republicans — are.

To be a political dissident, as Carlson claims he is, one must be speaking out against those in power, not facilitating them by creating propaganda in support of the ruling party, as Carlson and his fellow grifters in the White Grievance Industrial Complex do each night. They are so adept at selling their wares of false oppression that many of Americans deeply believe their voices are being silenced despite all evidence to the contrary.

They believe Carlson when he says a “Twitter mob” came for him not because he made racist comments on a shock jock radio show a decade ago, but simply because he is a conservative. They believe Devin Nunes when he says his tweets aren’t showing up in people’s timelines because Twitter has an anti-conservative bias. They believe Trump when he says that basically any story that doesn’t make him look good is fake news.

They believe the Complex when it tells them they’re being oppressed, but the reality is that everyone in their belief ecosystem is in power.


In addition to holding the White House and the Senate, Republicans also control most state governments. Thirty state legislatures are controlled by Republicans, which is slightly down thanks to Democratic gains in the midterms. (It’s actually surprising that Republicans don’t control more state houses, considering they’ve been in charge of redistricting voting districts to their advantage for the better part of the last two decades.) In 22 of those 30 states, Republicans also occupy the governor’s mansion — a regional fiefdom that includes the massive populations of Texas and Florida, and much of the southeast and midwest, accounting for nearly half the states in the country.

Some 193 million Americans live each day under at least one form of Republican government while sixty million fewer Americans live under Democratic control. If you consider things like school boards, county, regional and municipal government bodies, we can say that two-thirds of Americans live in areas where conservative citizens are active enough in the political process to have identified the GOP as consistent with their values, and elected leaders who support the party’s platforms.

But the Republican domination of American life only begins with this examination of numbers. To dig deeper you have to look at what the party is doing in those 30 statehouses and 22 governor’s mansions. Here’s a brief and disturbing rundown:

  • In Florida, Republicans are trying to place new restrictions on a recently-passed law that allows felons who have completed their sentences to vote, saying they should have to pay all of their court fees and fines associated with their crimes. It would affect nearly 80 percent of the 1.4 million new voters, many of whom are people of color. Under the proposed rule they’ll essentially have to pay for their right to vote, which 64 percent of their fellow citizens gave them in a referendum passed in November.

That’s what’s happening in four states where Republicans have legislative majorities. There are 26 more whose statehouses are staffed by fewer and fewer reporters as local newspapers continue to scale back coverage and staff.


At the federal level, Trump has been filling courts with conservative judges at a record pace. Some of them hold virulently anti-LGBTQ views. One has said that Kentucky death row inmates are not guaranteed a “pain-free” execution. Another sided with a Michigan county board that asks members of the audience to join them in a Christian prayer before each meeting. All can be counted on — as Mitch McConnell has planned since the Obama administration — to fundamentally transform the federal court system to reflect more conservative points of view.

Now, one out of every five judges in federal appeals courts are conservative Trump appointees. McConnell plans to speed the process even more for circuit and district courts, and will likely be successful thanks to Republican control of the Senate.

With so much power, how can it be that conservatives are being oppressed for their political views, as Carlson, Sean Hannity and other members of the White Grievance Industrial Complex claim daily? The obvious answer is that they are not, which begs the larger question of, Why do so many Americans apparently believe them?

First, Republicans are incredibly talented at convincing working class Americans to vote against their own interests by electing politicians who have far greater wealth than themselves — and who then create laws that benefit the wealthy more than the poor and the middle class. They achieve this through all of the culture war, race-baiting tactics that have been discussed to death since Trump was elected.

Most importantly, they have created a completely false narrative that conservative or center-right beliefs — which remain those held by a majority of Americans — are under attack.

Republicans know they must amplify this exaggerated threats to stay in power. And so, understanding that anger motivates, the ruling party in this country can’t very well remind its supporters that Republicans are in power — and that if someone is looking to blame a political party for the problems in their life, they would likely have to look toward the GOP. Instead, Republicans have found a variety of scapegoats, primarily immigrants and the media, to blame.

The icing on the cake is the brilliant and untrue story that the party that controls more government bodies than any other is actually in danger of extinction. It is a persecution complex for the ages, and a complete twisting of reality that should scare the hell out of anyone who thinks that autocracy and fascism can’t happen here.

Carlson, Hannity and many others are co-conspirators, beaming this message of fake dissidence into millions of American homes every night — in primetime and on the country’s most-watched news channel, no less. Meanwhile, the party they support holds power in nearly two-thirds of states, the White House, Congress and an increasing percentage of federal courtrooms.

After the message successfully goes out, Sean Hannity calls the president, or dines with him, or speaks at one of his rallies.


P.S. The photo on this post is from Doug Mills of the New York Times. This post is part of a new project I’m undertaking with my friend and colleague, Jeremy Borden, called The Gonzo Primary. We’ll slice directly through the bullshit of standard national political reporting to bring everything from detailed policy examinations and analysis to raw, honest, and sometimes uncomfortable conversations with Americans of all stripes as Democrats work their way across the country in an attempt to take back the White House. We will not be doing horse race coverage and generally speaking care less about how people feel than what they know. You can read more about it here, and subscribe to Jeremy’s newsletter here.

They lock them in an abandoned factory to kill their spirit

The situation unfolding in Piedras Negras provides a chaotic preview of what Remain in Mexico will look like

There are 2,000 men, women and children locked inside a shuttered factory that used to make body bags for the U.S. Army. They are being held there by three layers of Mexican government at the behest of the Trump administration, and none of them know when they will be released.

The factory is in Piedras Negras, Mexico, a few miles from the Eagle Pass port of entry where the migrants tried to reach so they could apply for asylum. For almost all of them, their journey began in Honduras, an incredibly violent country with a murder rate 10 times higher than that of the United States. In Saltillo, outside Monterrey, the migrants were loaded onto buses by regional government officials. The buses took them to Piedras Negras and the factory, where they wait.

“Many of them have said, ‘If I had known that this was the situation I would not have taken that ride,’” says Joe Rivano Barros, a 26-year-old field officer for RAICES Texas, a migrant advocacy organization.

Rivano Barros is gathering information about the situation in Piedras Negras to give to RAICES’ lawyers, who represent migrants in their asylum and other immigration court cases. Like everyone else, Rivano Barros is just trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Here is what we know: Almost all of the migrants in the factory at Piedras Negras are from Honduras. When confronted in Saltillo, the migrants told whoever had the buses that they were trying to reach Eagle Pass, likely thinking it would be easier to apply for asylum there because it’s a smaller port of entry, where there are no lines like there are in Tijuana and Juarez. Once they arrived, federal police and INM — that’s Instituto Nacional de Migración, the Mexican version of ICE — told them they’d have to apply for “humanitarian visas.” The migrants would be held in the factory until that was sorted out, which has been going on for almost two weeks now.

“We have been talking to people through the fence a lot,” Rivano Barros says. “Mostly there’s just extreme frustration about the lack of clarity. They wonder, How long will we have to wait here for the visas and to apply for asylum? They haven’t been told anything about the [asylum] application process or how it works and because we can’t get inside there’s no third party to tell them what that process [is supposed to look] like.”

The short answer is: not like this. You are supposed to be able to walk up to a port of entry and tell a U.S. official that you want to apply for asylum, then given the chance to pass an initial screening and taken into custody by immigration authorities. The Trump administration hasn’t increased the ability to process the ever-growing number of Central American migrants arriving at ports of entry from California to Texas, so often the migrants are told to wait.

At Eagle Pass, they’re not even making it to the waiting part. That’s because Mexican officials are intercepting them and sending them to the shelter in Piedras Negras, where they’re told they must first obtain a humanitarian visa in order to walk to the port of entry to apply for asylum. Sometimes even then they are turned away.

Some migrants have told advocates that Mexican police officers have ripped up their visas, believing they’re fake, forcing the migrants to return to the shelter to get new ones.

As far as Rivano Barros can tell, the main thing the visas get you is the ability to leave the shelter and walk down the street to get something to eat. On Wednesday, some migrants tried to do just that, but the authorities at the shelter wouldn’t let them leave, so they tried to push their way out.


The humanitarian visas are part of a new initiative launched a few months back by Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador. Instead of allowing migrants to travel freely through Mexico to the U.S. border, AMLO would require them to submit to a background check and fingerprinting — thus obtaining the humanitarian visas. That’s what the migrants in Piedras Negras are doing now, waiting in lines in a courtyard to go through this process.

Some are becoming impatient, as you might expect. In addition to the altercation on Wednesday, there have been other scuffles inside the facility. RAICES obtained audio from a migrant being held there who asked for warmer clothes to be donated because of the cold temperatures inside the factory, or maquiladora.

Yesterday, Rivano Barros saw a woman sitting in the courtyard holding up a sign: Retorno voluntario. She has given up on claiming asylum, and just wants to go home. The Trump administration will be pleased to hear this.

Although the migrants in Piedras Negras have not yet been able to apply for asylum, their growing frustrations provide a preview of what a large-scale rollout of Remain in Mexico will look like. Those sent back to Mexico under the program — now called Migrant Protection Protocols — may find themselves in a similar situation, living in government-run shelters under strict supervision, perhaps unable to come and go as they please.

Of equal concern is migrants’ access to attorneys and advocates. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees visited the factory yesterday to document conditions there, but reporters, attorneys and advocates have not been allowed in.

When reporters, attorneys and advocates have entered Mexico to speak with migrants, they’ve been detained and questioned by U.S. authorities. One advocate in Texas told me she was grilled on whether she had “coached” migrants on how to apply for asylum — as if there’s something wrong or illegal about informing migrants of their rights under U.S. and international law. I haven’t had any such issues returning from Juarez, but more than a dozen journalists and activists described increasing harassment and questioning by U.S. immigration officials to the Intercept.

“Our goal was to go inside today but that didn’t happen. They just tell us to come back tomorrow and talk to their bosses,” Rivano Barros said of officers at the factory. “So now we’re here to just keep telling stories, to be here, to assess the situation and figure out what we can do going forward.”


All photos on this post are courtesy of Rivano Barros. The first was taken outside the factory, where Captain America was sent in to entertain children being held there. The second is of Coahuila state police, one of three Mexican law enforcement agencies guarding the facility.

'Once you reach this point, how do you go back?'

The blunt object of God and Country continues to mash its way through the truth about immigration.

It’s usually around the one-hour mark when I start to fade. He is talking about North Korea, about how good of a deal he made with his buddy, Kim. Or he is talking about taxes, and how they’re lower now because of him which has made the economy better and only he could have done that. He is describing in great detail how bad men tie up women and put tape over their mouths to smuggle them across the border, where they are sold as sex slaves. No one knows where this story comes from but it doesn’t matter because he is saying it, and when he is saying things Many People pay attention, and that is the point.

Donald Trump spoke at the El Paso County Coliseum last night and at the one-hour mark I had had just about enough, but at least I wasn’t there.

The last time I was, hundreds of people from all over the world were becoming citizens at a naturalization ceremony. A local judge told the new citizens that they’d soon have the ability to exercise the most important right of all Americans in the upcoming mid-term elections. Last night it was filled with men and women who have lives, jobs, and children, and who used that right to elect Trump president. They are people who pay their taxes and contribute to their communities and make sure the trains run on time. Doctors, lawyers, garbage men, plumbers, teachers, maybe some writers.

But last night they were empty vessels, capable only of consuming and spitting out various messages and catchphrases when prompted by Trump. It is a bizarre thing to witness even if you’re only watching it on TV. Reporters aren’t supposed to say things like the following because we’re supposed to always be curious and never assume things but there is nothing you can really learn from a Trump rally, even one in as diverse and fascinating a place as El Paso.

Trump rallies only serve to reinforce one’s own beliefs. He is a bizarre idiot or a groundbreaking genius. He is keeping us safe or prompting the downfall of our empire. You are a patriot or a traitor, a believer or a heretic.

It is the zero sum game of politics.

“The money that he’s proposing to spend on a border wall would be much better spent on ports of entry. If you want to spend $5.6 billion on infrastructure at the border, spend it on beefing up security at ports of entry,” Vince Perez, an El Paso County commissioner, told me after Trump’s rally. “But, no, it’s about the wall. That’s what I’m saying, it’s about absolutes. It’s you’re either with us or against us, and I think that’s exactly what his speech was about. It’s not about whether the wall will stop drugs and crime and illegal immigration, it’s just about getting the wall built. Building it for the sake of building it.”


Perez is a big fan of noting that Trump’s rhetoric does not match the reality of life in El Paso, which is to say it doesn’t match the reality of life in many places on the border or the facts about immigration at all.  

Here are some of those facts.

Illegal immigration is not a crisis threatening the vast majority of Americans’ lives and jobs. It’s pretty easy to understand this when you consider that no one was holding rallies on the border and demanding billions of dollars for a wall until Trump became president. If illegal immigration was as big of a problem as he claims, you’d think Republicans would have been clamoring for these policies before 2016.

More migrants are travelling to the border to claim asylum because the countries they’re coming from are starting to look like failed states, but they are not being granted asylum in much greater numbers than in the past.

Trump has responded to this new trend of asylum-seekers not by increasing the ability to process claims at ports of entry, but by sending troops to the border, most recently to Eagle Pass, Texas. There, the troops wait on our side of the line while hundreds of migrants take shelter in an abandoned factory in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent dozens of Texas Department of Public Safety officers to Eagle Pass, where they joined other law enforcement in lining up along the border at night with all their lights flashing in some bizarre, tough-guy show of force against desperate migrants.

The three empty vessels on Fox & Friends called the act “impressive” the other morning, speaking about the episode with the same sort of reverence you get with a 21-gun salute or taps playing — thank God for these brave men and women keeping us safe.

At the border, a mother and her child with a pink backpack approach a line of border officers, who have their fucking riot helmets out like something is actually going to happen.


After the rally I called Perez. I wanted to hear his thoughts on Trump’s speech, but I also just needed to hear a sane voice on the other end of the phone, saying accurate and truthful things about the border specifically and life more generally.

Trump and many Republicans are blunt objects that destroy things like knowledge, debate, context and nuance. Just mashing their way through such complexities by making everything about God, Family and Country.

“At the end I think was a good example, it was exactly what Ted Cruz was doing to Beto,” Perez said of Trump’s speech.

During their battle in the mid-terms, Cruz constantly portrayed O’Rourke as an open-borders socialist. The messaging was so effective that even some Hispanics in El Paso told me that’s who O’Rourke was, using that exact phrase, open borders socialist. Where Cruz believed in Jesus and the Flag, O’Rourke wanted a secular world in which countries were just identities of the past.

This is Texas, so it worked.

“We are a country that’s about freedom and we are about family values, not government bureaucracy, we will always believe in Democracy,” Perez said, mimicking the simplicity of Trump’s and Cruz’s message.

This was perhaps no more evident last night than during a moment that surely got a lot of blood pumping throughout the land. Discussing various Democratic Party policy positions and the Green New Deal, Trump took a hearty stand against the growing threat of socialism in this country.

“We’re born free, we will live free and we will die free. We will always be free,” he told the crowd.

Then, the big line.

“America will never be a socialist country.”

Because socialism is bad, while capitalism is great. A wall will fix things, and Democrats will make them bad. This is black, that is white. He is right, they are wrong.

Things are much more simple this way. More manageable.

“I’ve been in government and politics for over a decade,” Perez said. “And it seems like, once you reach this point, how do you go back?”


P.S. The first and second photos in this post are mine. The first is from Trump’s failed rally in Chicago in 2015, when a diverse group of young activists shut it down before Trump even took the stage. He hasn’t returned to an area that diverse in a major city ever since. He stays in his safe spaces now. The second photo is from June at Paso del Norte. The third photo is from yesterday in Eagle Pass. It was taken by Stephanie Leutert, a researcher and academic who studies migration and border policies and procedures. It was used with her permission.

They pull tricks and do things quietly where no one is looking

Flyers in Portland and New York ask migrants for personal information. The DOJ continues its assault on longstanding immigration law.

The immigration system is a funny thing. The only people who truly understand its ins and outs are those trapped inside and those trying to help them — and the government, which does its best to hide what’s actually going on.

This opacity has increased in the Trump administration. The latest example comes from Portland and New York and probably a lot of other places, although it’s hard to tell because the defining characteristic of the system is that it’s a black hole of information.

Eileen Sterlock is an immigration attorney in Portland. A recent situation she dealt with was passed on to me by an advocate source in Texas. I contacted Sterlock, who told me she knew of the same situation happening in New York through the internal and informal network of attorneys and advocates who deal with this stuff each day.

It goes like this:

Sterlock’s client is an indigenous Mayan woman from Guatemala. She is out on some form of release while her asylum case is being tried in immigration court. As a condition of her release, she must check in with an official working for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the least transparent of all immigration agencies, which is like being fattest person at Golden Corral — a tough prize to win. On a recent visit, Sterlock’s client was given a flyer that said ICE was conducting a survey. How old are you? Did you attend university?

Then, Why did you leave your country? And Why did you come to the United States?


These are important questions for an asylum-seeker, because the answers might determine whether or not the government believes you are truly in fear for your life or, you know, trying to seek a better life for you and your family by working in the United States. If you say the second thing, you will not get you asylum. If you say the first, you might. The flyer was in English and Spanish, neither of which Sterlock’s client speaks.

The flyer was then explained to her in Spanish because the second defining characteristic of the immigration system is that nothing makes any sense and migrants have few rights and fewer resources.

The client took the flyer to Sterlock who advised her to absolutely not fucking call that number and give ICE any information. Typical lawyer stuff.

“I don’t know why they’re doing it now but based on everything the administration has done to target, discourage, and discriminate against asylum-seekers, I’m assuming this survey is to help support that mission,” Sterlock told me. I can’t imagine that it would be helpful to Central Americans at all.”

Sterlock was upset, naturally, and called ICE to ask why it gave the flyer to her client. They said they didn’t know, but Sterlock persisted.

Eventually, ICE admitted that it was paying a contractor to conduct the survey, which the agency insisted was completely innocuous. The company conducting the survey is a sub-contractor of GEO Group, one of the biggest private prison corporations in the country and a huge beneficiary of policies that lock up as many migrants as possible for as long as possible.

If you believe the survey is harmless then you haven’t spent much time looking into the black hole of the immigration system.

“I assume they could use these answers to create statistics that say people are coming here for work, not asylum,” Sterlock said.

That would help the administration back up its claim that too many people are being granted asylum, which is part of its master plan to reduce total immigration as much as possible. If you listen to the people working in the black hole they say these types of things constantly. Yesterday an attorney in California told a reporter that the new Remain in Mexico policy was just the latest part of this government-wide effort to reduce immigration as much as possible.

“From step one, it seems that the administration has tried to do everything they can to put as many hurdles in front of these individuals, and make it as hard as possible for them to make their [asylum] claim,” said Andrew Nietor, an immigration attorney in San Diego.

I can’t count the number of times immigration attorneys have said nearly those exact same words to me.

Because the days are extremely long now, further evidence that the Trump administration is doing everything it can to reduce immigration came last night. That’s when the American Immigration Lawyers Association announced that wait times for green cards and citizenship have increased exponentially in the last few years — even though the number of applications has gone down.

You must be willfully blind to not understand what this is about: Republicans and the Trump administration are engaged in a historic radicalization of immigration policy in an effort to keep as many brown people out of the country as possible. To say otherwise is to ignore the facts that many people work very hard to dig out of the black hole each day.


Sterlock asked around about the flyer and found a lawyer in New York whose client was also given one. I tried to get a hold of that lawyer through a non-profit she used to work for, but got pulled down a rabbit hole when I discovered a post on their website about an obscure decision that is now pending with acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker.

That was when I was in El Paso and I’ve been straightening it out ever since. I can report now that Whitaker plans to undo protections for victims of domestic violence, including child victims of sexual assault, who are seeking asylum. Basically, he’s going to change U.S. immigration law to say that someone who is abused by a family member can’t obtain asylum because they’re fleeing family violence.

They do these things quietly.

Thanks to the fact that we’re still a functioning democracy there are certain things that the government can’t do in the black hole, where they tried to trick migrants like Sterlock’s client into giving up personal information in a bogus survey that would have probably been used against her. One of the things they can’t necessarily do in the black hole is radically change immigration law, which Whitaker will do when he makes his decision on domestic violence asylum claims.

For an administration that was founded and elected on fear-mongering about immigrants, you’d think they’d be proud to announce that they’re changing the law dramatically through executive fiat in order to reduce the number of people admitted into the country. But they’re apparently not, because they announce these decisions on a remote corner of the Justice Department’s website where most people who aren’t always searching for things in the black hole will never go.

There are no press releases that say We Plan to End Protections for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse.

The U.S. Government Doesn’t Care About Central American Children Abused by Their Relatives, the chyron on Fox News will never say.

Now, there’s another black hole they’re looking to exploit. While lawyers here find the time to talk to people like me and tell us what’s going on in the black hole, the black hole in Mexico is more difficult to penetrate. That’s why the Trump administration has started sending migrants back there to wait while their cases go through the immigration court system. It’ll be harder for attorneys and people like me to find the migrants in Mexico and ask them what they’ve gone through.

Disposable people. Sub-human. This is the third defining characteristic of the black hole: It consumes and spits out people without regard to their humanity.


P.S. All the photos in this post except for the flyer were taken by Zach Nelson, who rolled with me on the VICE piece about life in the borderland a few months back. The first photo was taken from Juarez looking back to El Paso, where there’s this weird DMZ-type area that migrants walk into in order to be purposefully picked up by Border Patrol and apply for asylum. Once they got in those SUVs, who knows where they went. They could have ended up in Georgia or New York for all we know. The second photo was taken in an area west of Juarez where a source had seen a ladder leaned up against the wall there. That’s how good the wall that’s already there is working, in case you wondered... Zach and I are digging in to a new project to expand the type of coverage we did at the border that’ll include all types of issues, if we ever find the proper time for it, that is.

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