The latest chapter in American death

Pointless, random, painful and never-ending.

The truck has 10 bullet holes in it and the seat is covered with his blood three days after police shot him in Fort Worth. His stepdad and I are looking at the truck together because we both want to know what happened. The stepdad gives me his phone number so we can keep in touch in case I end up writing a story for one of the publications I write for, which of course didn’t happen because it looks like police were relatively justified in killing JaQuavion Slaton, and in America in 2019 that is what you call Not a News Story.

Some would say it’s resiliency that less than 24 hours after a madman armed himself to the teeth with plans to kill a bunch of innocent people in a major American city, Dallas was pretty much back to normal on Monday afternoon when I dropped by the scene of Brian Clyde’s would-be rampage. Some would say positive things like you can’t scare Americans but I think it’s just dystopian that we can all process something like what happened on Monday so quickly, probably because things like that or much worse happen all the time.

I think it’s dystopian that I can be sitting at my desk on a Monday morning and then have to hop in my car, turn on my police scanner, and go downtown in the city I live to walk around and look at cops with assault rifles ushering people into work while I go into a 7-11 and get batteries and taquitos like everything is fine. Everything is not fine.

Any given day any one of us can be gunned down or blown up by a terrorist who has been radicalized in the dark corners of the Internet, like I suspect Clyde was. For years we feared threats like those coming from the Muslim world — teenagers from across Europe who had trekked to Syria and elsewhere to murder people in the name of the Islamic State or who had blown up some place in Europe under the same twisted ideology. We worried about them coming here and doing the same which has happened less than a dozen times since 9-11 and has cost fewer American lives than your average Texas freeway does in a given year.

Now, the threat is coming from our own backyard.

Clyde’s family told the Dallas Morning News that the 22-year-old had dealt with mental health issues and depression in the past and that he wanted to kill himself. For some reason the newspaper did not address any of Clyde’s Facebook posts showing what my colleague Kelly Weill described in our story on Clyde as a “familiarity with the right-wing Internet.” Swastikas, homophobic and transphobic memes — in line with what a gay classmate of Clyde’s told the News were some bigoted personality traits of his — and at least a couple references to QAnon dotted Clyde’s Facebook page as I scrolled through it Monday morning.

But it wasn’t just the memes from the far-right Internet’s radicalization engine — which Weill has written about extensively — that showed up on Clyde’s page; there was also general sense of dispossession and separation from the larger world that bled through his posts. You can blame Clyde’s actions on what his family says were unaddressed mental health issues but take a run through his Facebook page and any reasonable person would also conclude that his problems were exacerbated by the right-wing garbage he was consuming online.

“A modern gladius to defend the modern Republic,” he wrote above a picture of a sword the day before he strapped up and headed into downtown Dallas.

That is not something your average depressed young man says before deciding to die of suicide-by-cop, which is what his dad told the News he thought Clyde wanted. We don’t know everything Clyde was looking at online but his Facebook shows that his apparent depression and accompanying death wish probably weren’t getting any better by whatever he was reading.

Watch Fox & Friends any given morning and you get the extremely watered-down version of what that Clyde’s and a lot of other people’s worlds looks like: creeping marauders around every corner, strange foreigners trying to take something that you were given by birthright, an entire industry of fear and hate of the other that gives young, dispossessed men like Clyde a sense of identity and community that they’ve never had before. Sanctuary from the evil forces that are surrounding and outnumbering them.

Generally speaking: them fucking over you.

***

Maybe Slaton found a sense of community in the streets of Fort Worth before his brief, 20-year-old life came to a violent end on June 9. Maybe he just made a mistake when he fled from a traffic stop because he had warrants and hid in a truck, allegedly brandishing the gun he was carrying with him. Police say he shot himself in the head then, killing himself, as five officers surrounded the truck with their guns drawn. Or maybe it was one of the nine rounds they fired into the truck — hard to tell.

The medical examiner can’t say which bullet it is that killed him because that’s how multiple gunshot wounds work.

But that didn’t stop anonymous sources within the Fort Worth Police Department from going to the Morning News and saying that their investigation had concluded Slaton killed himself before the ME had released its findings.

At the press conference last week where police chief Edwin Kraus showed body camera footage of the foot chase that preceded Slaton’s death, I asked him if Slaton’s head had powder burns on it — something that is almost always present in close proximity shots, like someone putting a gun to their temple to end their life.

Kraus said he didn’t know because he hadn’t seen the autopsy report yet. A very smart reporter then followed up and asked the chief whether he could say with certainty that Slaton killed himself.

“I’m not going to speculate on that. I’ll wait until I see the ME’s report,” he replied.

I asked him, then, if he knew who from his department had gone to the News a few days earlier and closed the case in the public eye without having the report, the most important physical evidence there is in Slaton’s death. He said he didn’t know.

“I have no idea who that would be,” he replied.

***

We’re now at a point where this is done and no one really cares all that much whether another black kid was shot by cops for very good or no good reasons at all. Or that some kid professing a few different varieties of white, hetero grievance alongside weaponry fetishization on his Facebook page had enough bullets on him just a few days ago to kill 100 people, but apparently got scared and decided not to.

The locals cover these events because they happen in their communities. The nationals cover them only if the body count is high enough or if there’s some sort of political angle, like Clyde’s Facebook page. For a national to cover a police shooting in 2019 there would have to be major protests or very serious questions about the incident itself.

But because there aren’t usually reporters just standing around when someone is shot by police those questions can only come about by eyewitnesses and, most importantly, reporters talking to those eyewitnesses and getting their sides of the story.

That’s why I drove out to Fort Worth last week and wound up standing next to Slaton’s stepdad as we looked at the truck where his son died.

Eventually Slaton’s friends showed up and told the stepdad that, yes, his son did have a gun. In that moment, I could see the heartbreak in his eyes. Where before he at least had hope that the cops did something terribly wrong and he could dedicate his time to seeking justice for his son, now he knew finally that they may have justified in taking his child from him.

There may be fewer things that are simultaneously more painful and frequent than random American death.

P.S. All of the photos on this post are mine. Inside the truck where Slaton died, his stepfather’s friend — an ex-cop — showing entry bullet holes from Fort Worth police, and Slaton’s stepfather walking away from the scene.

We will pay one way or the other

If tariffs on Mexico go through we'll be paying a tax for the president's racism. You can fight back by helping migrants and their advocates.

I joked that, of all the terrible things Donald Trump has done, potentially slapping a five percent tariff on my beloved Tecate was the worst of all.

Moments of levity are all we have now in the face of the never-ending onslaught of meanness and stupidity that surrounds us each day. When it came to immigration policy, the Trump administration has engaged in widespread cruel stupidity that does nothing to address the root causes of migration. With the possibility of tariffs against Mexico, Trump is now opening a new front of economic stupidity, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board noted a few days ago.

The tariffs on Mexico are our Child King’s latest salvo in his flailing attempts to completely stop the migration of brown people to the United States. This time, he thinks he can do it by making Americans pay more for fruits, vegetables, beer and many other things. He thinks somehow the cost of the tariffs, which he says will only stop if Mexico is somehow able to solve a problem — migration — that no one in the span of human history has been able to solve, will be paid for by Mexico.

This, of course, will not happen.

He believes he can stop people who are in part fleeing a lack of economic opportunity by imposing more economic inopportunity. If the goal is to get Mexicans and Central Americans to want to stay in their countries, tariffs that will kill jobs and reduce income for those countries will do the exact opposite.

Many people, to use one of Trump’s favorite phrases, have noted this. They include Shannon O’Neill, of the Council on Foreign Relations. From Bloomberg:

The U.S. government is pushing Mexico to sign onto a safe third party agreement in exchange for continuing free trade (something the previous Enrique Pena Nieto administration refused). This would designate Mexico a safe place for migrants, even though it is patently not. It would also free the United States from any Central American asylum claims along its southern border by forcing Mexico to deal on its own with the hundreds of thousands of refugees. Which it obviously can’t.

The ensuing humanitarian crisis would likely send Mexico’s economy, which already shrank in the first quarter of 2019, into recession if not a full-blown crisis. If that happens, more migrants will head to the U.S., as Mexicans join Central America’s sojourners.

The US Chamber of Commerce is considering suing the Trump administration over the tariffs. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce noted that a lot of those working class Hoosiers who voted to Make America Great Again will now be “innocent victims [...] paying what amounts to tax increases.”

Fellow old white man who normally supports Trump’s radicalization of immigration policy Chuck Grassley said the tariffs are a bad idea. The markets acted predictably to the world’s largest economy seeking tariffs on its second largest trading partner over something that has nothing to do with economic policy while also in a trade war with its largest trading partner, China, by posting some of their worst losses since 2011.

“He’s gonna create a recession or die trying,” a friend texted me.

Good thing that folks as wealthy as Donald Trump are usually immune to recessions. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

If the tariffs on Mexico go through, American citizens and companies will be forced with the choice of either paying a lot more for things or not buying them at all. It’s a pretty safe assumption most will choose the latter, something Trump and his fellow millionaire advisors don’t understand, because they’ve never really had to make decisions on things like weekly grocery bills, rent, putting gas in their cars and child and health care.

One of the concessions Trump is looking for is what O’Neill mentioned — a safe third party agreement. This means the Trump administration — and by that, we mean Stephen Miller, the 33-year old, fascist anti-immigrant advisor with no experience in economic policy who is pushing the Mexico tariffs — wants the country to designate itself a safe third party state. In other words, a place where migrants fleeing rampant gang and drug violence will be “safe” while they wait for their asylum cases to be heard in US immigration courts. Mexico cannot do this, obviously, because violence there has been rising in recent years to its highest levels in years.

Migrants are especially vulnerable targets for exploitation in such environments. Not that the Trump administration cares. If Mexico were to agree to safe third party designation that would open the doors for the US government to send even more migrants there, which it’s already been doing under Remain in Mexico.

At least three migrants seeking asylum were murdered after being returned to Juárez to await their court date, according to the Hope Border Institute, an El Paso-based non-profit. Hope has been documenting the various problems that migrants are facing under the program. They include lack of access to attorneys, advocates, and translators. A mother and her five-year-old daughter were kidnapped in Juárez after telling a judge they feared returning there. The judge sent them back anyway.

You can donate to Hope here.

El Paso has quietly remained ground zero for the historic surge in migrants in recent months. On May 30, the Homeland Security Inspector General detailed “dangerous” overcrowding at facilities at Paso Del Norte. You might remember that El Paso-based photographer Justin Hamel and I detailed the growing tent cities that migrants are being held in there back in April. They’ve grown larger since then.

Meanwhile, a company with major Republican ties whose CEO is constantly on Fox News yammering about border security is behind a crowdfunded effort to build a wall in nearby Sunland Park, New Mexico.

While migrants are held in poor conditions and the US government is engaged in what courts may decide is a mass-denial of their rights under the constitution — let alone human rights — this is what some Americans have chosen to spend their money on.

Readers of Where Do We Go From Here can do the opposite. Authorities continue to release as many as 1,000 migrants a day to Annunciation House in El Paso, which has been scrambling to keep up with the demand for food, clothing and shelter for the men, women and children who have trekked thousands of miles for a chance at a better life. You can donate to A-House here.

Finally, a bit of good news. Rubén, the Honduran migrant I met in Juárez in February, has finally made it to Texas where he is staying with family. This wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of this newsletter’s readers, who raised more than $1,000 for Rubén’s asylum defense back in April. Some of those funds got us a consultation with an attorney, which led us to the very helpful folks at the University of Tulsa Legal Clinic. A few dollars more got Rubén a ride — you might remember that he is confined to a wheelchair — down to Texas, about five hours in the car.

We are both incredibly grateful for you generosity.

I’ll be updating the fund soon, which you can still donate to here, because we now must begin the asylum application process for Rubén. Once he’s given a date for a credible fear interview, we’ll need to raise more money to hire a lawyer. But for now, thank you all.

As always, if you like what you see here please consider sharing this newsletter with a friend, or subscribing to receive it in your inbox. And remember what Rubén said:

Pedir es fuerza y dar es voluntad.

***

P.S. The photo at the top of this post is mine. It’s from February in Juárez, the day after I met Rubén.

A hidden report, and history repeating itself

The State Department has yet to release a 2003 report that shows John Bolton's role in bad intelligence that led to the Iraq war. He may be doing the same thing with Iran.

“We assure you that we will notify you as soon as an EDC has been determined in your case,” the unnamed government official wrote to me last week.

An EDC is an estimated date of completion, in this case for a Freedom of Information Act request I filed last March that seeks a government report about the faulty intelligence that led us into the Iraq war — a report that was written 16 years ago for a war we’re still in.

The report details the false intelligence claiming Iraq had sought uranium from the north African country of Niger. It has never been publicly released. More important than my petty FOIA beef  — considering how loudly the drums of war have been beating in recent weeks — the report looks at John Bolton’s role in pushing that bad intel, something he may be currently doing in regards to Iran, a country he has wanted to bomb for years.

Last week, House Democrats demanded information on a report that was posted and quickly removed from the State Department’s website claiming Iran is not complying with arms control agreements. The situation has downright eerie similarities to the events of 16 years ago, when a State Department “fact sheet” was posted on the agency’s website claiming Iraq had sought uranium from Niger to pursue a nuclear weapons program.

It was the first public claim by the US government that Iraq was seeking weapons of mass destruction, but what has never been clear is Bolton’s exact role in the fact sheet — something the report I’m seeking will shed light on.

Currently, Bolton is leading the charge within the Trump administration for war with Iran. The situation has escalated in recent weeks, with the administration claiming Iranian-backed militias moved rockets within range of American military bases. Then came an attack on four oil tankers in off the port of Fujairah, which a shipping insurer claims was carried out with, at the very least, Iran’s blessing.

No one has claimed credit for the attack, but unnamed intelligence officials are now saying they believe it was carried out by Iran, and are considering releasing the photos to make their case that Iran is threatening the United States.

Sunday, a rocket landed a mile from the US Embassy in Baghdad, apparently fired from an area of the city that is home to Iranian-backed Shiite militias. Monday morning, Trump responded in typically petulant fashion, saying any threats to American interests would result in the “end of Iran.”

A rocket landing in the Green Zone is one thing, but so far the Trump administration is asking the American public to simply believe it when it says Iran is becoming more hostile by moving rockets closer to US troops and perpetrating or supporting the tanker and Green Zone attacks. If this isn’t met with vociferous skepticism by everyone over the age of 27 then we truly have forgotten history.

Bolton was part of the Bush Administration back when it made its case for war in Iraq, partially based on intelligence it asked us to believe. Bolton is now Trump’s National Security Advisor, a powerful position that provides him with reams of global intelligence in addition to daily access to a mercurial president with a disdain for reading anything longer than a few pages or listening for more than a few minutes.

If Bolton is behind efforts to slant intelligence against Iran, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who remembers the events leading up to the war in Iraq.

At the time of the Niger uranium claim, Bolton was the State Department’s Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security. His office was tasked with creating the fact sheet on Niger, which represented the US government’s response to Iraq’s declaration to the United Nations Security Council that it was complying with an agreement not to pursue weapons of mass destruction.

“The declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger,” the fact sheet stated.

Greg Thielmann was a director at State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) when the fact sheet was published. When we spoke last year, he cautioned against overestimating the role the fact sheet played in making the case for war because “prior public comments by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet and Condoleezza Rice had already set the stage for congressional and public perceptions prior to December 2002.”

But, he said, Bolton’s role in the fact sheet has never been fully discovered.

“I have not read all of the books and articles written about the inside workings of the Bush administration prior to the Iraq invasion,” Thielmann said, “but I have the impression that Bolton's role has not been adequately reported.”

There is one place that Bolton’s role is described in great detail, and that’s in the 2003 report that I requested in March of last year.

***

The report is titled “Alleged Iraqi Attempts to Procure Uranium from Niger” and was written jointly by State and CIA’s offices of the inspectors general. It examined the completely false intelligence that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium from Niger. The report holds clues to Bolton’s role in pushing — against the protestations of Thielmann and many others in the intelligence community — the faulty Niger claim.

The claim first came to the attention of the US intelligence community in October 2001, according to a 2004 report compiled by the the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). Back then, a “foreign government service” claimed to have discovered documents laying out the scheme: Iraq would purchase several tons of yellowcake uranium from Niger, where a French consortium of companies had been mining the material for nuclear power. The uranium could be enriched to provide Iraq with a nuclear weapon, the thinking went.

An analyst at INR, Simon Dodge, expressed great skepticism of the Niger uranium claim in a February 2002 meeting with intelligence officials from several agencies, including State and the CIA. In that meeting, the officials gave the go-ahead for Joe Wilson, a former ambassador to Niger with connections in the country, to travel there to investigate the claims. Soon, Dodge and others came to the conclusion that the documents were forged and, in March 2002, the INR released a report titled, clearly enough, Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq is Unlikely.

Upon returning from Niger, Wilson was debriefed by the CIA, which issued a report on his findings that likely made it to Vice President Dick Cheney’s desk that same day, according to the SSCI report. Wilson had issues with the CIA’s debriefing report, later telling the SSCI that he believed the CIA had misrepresented his findings and not refuted the uranium deal strongly enough. Wilson was so concerned, he told the SSCI, that he eventually became the source for a June 2003 story in the Washington Post titled CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data; Bush Used Report of Uranium Bid.

Over the next several months the Niger uranium claims made the rounds within the intelligence community, showing up in various amounts of detail and certainty in several reports, according to the SSCI report. Then, in September 2002, the British government produced what came to be known as the “September Dossier.” In it, a single line: “there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” (This morphed into George Bush’s infamous 16 words, uttered during his 2003 State of the Union address, that marked the first time many Americans heard this shocking claim. The British intelligence about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger came from the same forged documents that had been making the rounds in the US intelligence community for more than a year prior to the publication of the September Dossier.)

The next month, a National Intelligence Estimate from US intelligence agencies mentioned the Niger uranium claim. Then Congress approved war actions in Iraq. It is then, October 2002, that the faulty Niger intelligence entered Bolton’s universe.

The same documents that INR had determined were forged resurfaced at the State Department on October 11, 2002. That day — the day after Congress approved military operations in Iraq — the Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba dropped the documents off at the American embassy in Rome. (The US government has never said if it determined who gave her the documents, but the general belief is that it was someone working on behalf of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was apparently trying to curry favor with the Bush Administration.) The embassy then sent the documents to the State Department’s Bureau of Nonproliferation (NP), which shared them with INR.

Again, Dodge flagged the documents as extremely suspect. He emailed other members of the intelligence community, noting “a funky [Embassy] of Niger stamp (to make it look official, I guess)."

And here, I’ll let David Corn and Michael Isikoff take it. From their 2006 book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War:

Dodge Wasn’t alone. When INR analyst Wayne White (who had once served in Niger) saw the papers, he, too, questioned their authenticity — within about 15 minutes. The uranium deal, he thought, seemed completely impractical. And Larry Wilkinson [Colin] Powell’s chief of staff, was visited at his office by an intelligence analyst who explained the implausibility of transporting massive quantities of uranium by trucks through the barely paved roads of Niger and across Africa to a port city — without any executives of the French consortium that controlled the uranium mines or any international inspectors noticing. By the time the two were done talking it through, Wilkerson later recalled, “we were laughing our asses off.”

The INR shared its findings and the forged documents with the CIA, who simply put them, unexamined, in a vault. Then came some interesting back-and-forth, according to the SSCI report.

In November, the CIA briefs someone — the report doesn’t say who and the identity of the individual or organization is redacted — about the Niger claim, saying that reports “on Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Africa are fragmentary, at best.” A week later a French nonproliferation official meets with the INR and says the French had determined no uranium sales ever went through, but “indicated that French officials believed the reporting” regarding the Iraq-Niger uranium deal “to be true.” Three days later, the Navy and a component of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) issued a report within the intelligence community noting that the two agencies had investigated claims that uranium purchased by Iraq from Niger was being stored in a warehouse in the west African port city of Cotenou. Inside, investigators found only cotton.

Whatever happened between the issuance of that joint Navy-DIA report on November 25, 2002 and December 7 — when Iraq issued its declaration to the UN Security Council claiming it was not pursuing nuclear weapons — remains lost to history. But the report I’m seeking contains some of those details.

All we know now is that the timeline picks up on December 17, according to the SSCI, when the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) produced a paper containing language that would eventually be used in the fact sheet. The paper noted that Iraq’s UN declaration “does not acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger, one of the points addressed in the [September] dossier.”

The next day, State’s public affairs division asked Bolton’s office to craft a response to the Iraqi declaration. Now comes the key time frame: how involved was Bolton in creating the fact sheet? Very? Not at all? Former Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman and others believed that Bolton was intimately involved in the fact sheet, which represented the US government’s first public claim based off its own intelligence that Iraq was seeking weapons of mass destruction.

In a 2006 hearing regarding the Bush Administration's Oil for Food program, Waxman dressed Bolton down over the Niger uranium claim. The California lawmaker noted that multiple officials within the CIA had refuted the claim, including then-director of the agency, George Tenet. This is, of course, not to mention the many officials within the State Department — Thielmann, the analyst Dodge, his boss at the time, Carl Ford, and Colin Powell himself, as Waxman noted — who didn’t buy the Niger uranium story for a second.

Bolton, then the UN Ambassador, denied any responsibility for the fact sheet’s creation and its explosive but false claim.

“I have no idea; I didn’t participate in the drafting of the fact sheet,” Bolton said at the hearing. “I first saw it for the first time I believe last year during my confirmation hearing.”

Later, Waxman read directly from the 2003 report I’m seeking, which lays out a detailed timeline showing Bolton’s office was intimately involved in the fact sheet prior to its publication — the only time the report’s language has ever been uttered publicly.

“I have here a timeline prepared by the State Department (office of the inspector general) and here’s what it says: ‘December 18, 2002, 8:30 a.m. At [Powell’s] morning staff meeting, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of Public Affairs [...] asked the Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security’ — you — ‘for help in developing a response to Iraq’s December 7 declaration to the UN Security Council that could be used with the press. The undersecretary, Bolton, agrees and tasks the Bureau of Nonproliferation,’” Waxman said, asking Bolton to explain the discrepancy between his insistence he had nothing to do with the fact sheet and the report’s timeline.

Bolton then contradicts his previous statement that he had nothing to do with the fact sheet by describing a conversation he had regarding which State Department bureau should be responsible for drafting the document. Then, he clarifies.

“I had no involvement myself in the preparation of the fact sheet.”

Afterward Waxman presses Bolton as to how it is, as the State Department’s leading authority on arms control, he somehow wouldn’t be involved in drafting a fact sheet on that very issue. Bolton steps in after the gavel halts Waxman’s line of questioning.

“I may say, congressman, I wish I could explain to you more comprehensively how the State Department works because I think your questions reveal that perhaps you would benefit from that information,” Bolton said.

Waxman fired back: “I think my questions are about what you did as the boss of the department that was supposed to be in charge of arms control, which was directly involved in the biggest issue of our time.”

“I think the biggest disappointment to you, congressman, is that I had no involvement [in the fact sheet] and I’m sorry about that,” Bolton replied.

“That is disappointing,” Waxman said. “You didn't do your job.”

***

The clues to Bolton’s role in the fact sheet will come not just in the report itself, but the transcripts of interviews that officials conducted with Bolton around July 18, 2003, which I’ve also asked for. Nine months after filing my request, State told me that it had to “conduct some research” regarding the report.

I have no idea what that means, but I know I’m not the only one who hasn’t forgotten about the report and tried to use FOIA to obtain it.

In 2016, State told a man named David Lindsey that it had “no records” of the report. In 2007, a woman named Joyce Battle requested the report and State closed that request 15 months later. As of this writing I’m unable to tell whether she received the report.

In some far corner of the internet I managed to find the first page of the report, which is what you see at the top of this story.

Of course, the rest of the document is missing.

It baffles me that the report has never been released, and it seemed to baffle Waxman, too.

“That fact sheet falsely accused Iraq of seeking to obtain uranium from Niger, and that’s the argument that the president used in his State of the Union address — and that’s the principal reason that Bush used for launching the Iraq war,” Waxman told me last year following Bolton’s appointment to the post of National Security Advisor.

The parallels to the events of the last few weeks are stunning. On April 16, the State Department posted a report on its website that contained damning allegations against Iran’s compliance with arms control agreements. The report was taken down apparently after it sparked vehement disagreement within the Trump administration and the intelligence community, according to Reuters. (Incredibly, the link remains online but leads to a dead page.)

Last week, the chairmen of the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding documents describing the parties involved in the report and the intelligence sources behind it. The chairmen expressed their concern that the report “may have been the product of political appointees disregarding intelligence or distorting its meaning” to make the case for war against Iran.

“Our nation knows all too well the perils of ignoring and ‘cherry-picking’ intelligence in foreign policy and national security decisions, as evidenced by a prior White House’s disregard of the intelligence community’s analysis on Iraq and its selective use of Iraq-related intelligence to justify the march to war in 2003,” the chairmen wrote.

While Thielmann downplayed the role that the fact sheet had in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, Waxman seemed to consider it a nearly-forgotten document that forever changed history. That Bolton — as Trump’s National Security Advisor — is in the most powerful position of his career was not lost on Waxman when we spoke last year.

“This fact sheet isn’t a simple mistake; this is a mistake that led us to an unnecessary war that cost thousands of lives,” Waxman said. “It makes you wonder, if they did it once, would they do it again? And would the fact that they think they got away with it, would that make them more willing to do it again?”

What to call the people who don't get passes

Fascists. They are fascists. Civility will not return us to a time that never existed.

Every time we walk back through I remember. I’ve been here many times before but the time I remember the most was right after Trump was elected. We forget it now with everything that’s bludgeoned our sensibilities each day for the last two years, but Trump kicked off his presidency by trying to ban members of an entire religion from even entering the United States. For almost a week we were in a state of sustained chaos as people from seven Muslim-majority countries were detained and interrogated at airports from New York to LA. In Dallas, we met the family of an elderly Iraqi woman who had been locked in some room at the airport overnight.

I stood right where I took that picture below and talked to the woman’s son — who had worked with the U.S. government in Iraq after we invaded that country, a government that later saw fit to help him flee his homeland — as he waited for those doors to open and see his mother again. Other families were there, too, along with hundreds of protesters. It was the beginning of the Trump presidency but it feels like another era. Even though Trump was talking about immigration it’s worth remembering that his first big official act was the Travel Ban. Or were we calling it the Muslim Ban? I can’t remember, but the second one is far more accurate, so let’s go with that.

Since then Trump has pretty much forgotten about the threat he says Muslims pose to our safety and freedom and has replaced them with Mexican and Central American migrants who he says are so dangerous we must build a wall to keep them out.

So, every time we return from a trip overseas we walk through those same doors in the international terminal of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and I remember what I saw there that day, more than two years ago — government-sanctioned discrimination against entire groups of peoples because of their race and religion.

Every time we walk back through I remember and am surprised that I ever could have ever forgotten. This is how I return to my country every time I have left it, and this is the disturbing  memory that hits me in this very normal place.

***

Since Trump was elected there has been a reticence to call him a fascist. Phrases like “autocratic tendencies” or “sympathetic to dictators” are often allowed by the punditry class that presides over the Rules of Objective Journalism in this country. But alleging outright fascism by an American president has been too uncivil for the vast majority of reporters, pundits, writers and publications. These people are laboring under the false hope that, by remaining civil, reason and understanding will prevail, and we’ll return to a simpler time when liberals and conservatives and everyone in between will respectfully agree to disagree, comfortable in our shared understanding that We’re All Americans or some other flawed canon that makes us sleep a little better.

Of course, this is not true. The first reason this is not true is because there never was such a time. Recently, 9/11 has been brought out of the back of the political broom closet by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as a shining example of this alleged ability to Come Together. Its memory is “sacred,” Nancy Pelosi has said. 9/11 is such a powerful stimulant that people lose all ability to understand the proper context of words, resorting to the flag-humping rhetoric that is exactly the type of stuff that riles people up to the point where they might go from saying they’re going to kill Rep. Ilhan Omar to actually doing it.

All one has to do to understand the rage-inducing properties of 9/11 is to remember what happened to Arab-Americans, Sikhs and Muslims following the attacks. Like much of history, 9/11 was not as pristine as we’d like to remember it.

There were hundreds of assaults, threats, acts of vandalism against people who were either Muslim or had the appearance of someone from the Middle East in the first month after 9/11, according to the Arab American Institute.

The violence culminated in the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man in Arizona who paid for the attacks with his life because his killer mistook him for a Muslim — which is to say Sodhi died because Americans were so enraged about 9/11 they believed they were justified in going after people who had nothing to do with 9/11 because they slightly resembled the attackers. Sodhi was planting flowers outside of his gas station in Mesa when Frank Silva Roque rolled up with a .380 pistol and put five bullets into Sodhi. Roque then tried to shoot a Lebanese-American clerk at another gas station but missed before driving to a home in which he used to live that was then occupied by an Afghan family, firing several rounds into the house but not striking anyone.

The whitewashing of 9/11 as moment of complete national unity is just one example of why the right’s bad-faith calls for civility — their insistence that words like fascist are too hyperbolic — cannot return us to a time that never existed.

The second reason it is not true that the left toning down its rhetoric about this administration will somehow heal our deep divides is that the right has never played by their own supposed rules.

For the entire Obama administration, the right-wing media complex, Trump himself and the Tea Party accused the president of everything from being a secret Muslim terrorist to the antichrist while the mainstream media punditry weakly lamented the Breakdown of Civility. In those years, the Republican Party and right-wing Americans repeatedly punched liberals in the mouth with their fascist and racist rhetoric, and liberals responded by saying I respect your position of wanting to punch me in the mouth, but I will not punch you back because two wrongs don’t make a right.

It is time to ask ourselves where that has gotten us.

***

This is all Luke O’Neil was trying to do when he wrote for the Boston Globe last week that he regretted not pissing in Bill Kristol’s salmon when he had the chance as a waiter a decade ago. Kristol, you might remember, was one of the leading drum-beaters advocating to invade Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 but that we targeted anyway. They became our victim just like Sodhi became Roque’s — because we felt justified in retaliating against anyone who vaguely fit the description of the men who flew their planes into our buildings.

O’Neil led his column with this regret, then segued into a discussion of how people like Kirstjen Nielsen shouldn’t feel comfortable being seen in public due to her support of this fascist administration's war on immigrants.

Make sure she has to eat “GrubHub over her kitchen sink” for the rest of her life, Luke implored. When Nielsen was “shame-marched” out of a restaurant in Washington D.C. — around the same time Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mitch McConnell and Stephen Miller experienced the same consequences for their actions — “was the last time I remember being proud to be an American,” Luke wrote.

The piece went predictably viral, eventually making it on to Tucker Carlson’s show. This launched things into the stratosphere. Soon, Luke’s mentions were inundated with vile threats and unending vitriol. Someone dug around the Internet and posted photos of his in-laws and his wife’s uncle, which is a terrifying combination of creepy and potentially very dangerous. He shut down his social media for a few days until things blew over, and the right-wing mob moved on to the next outrage, which turned out to be the ridiculous fracas over Omar’s comments about 9/11.

“I don’t mind people telling me I suck — we’re all used to that,” Luke told me. “But i just takes one person to get riled up by the ‘loony libs’ to actually do something about it.”

Luke is just the latest in a group of liberal, working class writers who have been targeted by the most powerful media apparatus in the country — Fox News and its sprawling empire of millionaire grifters and hate-mongers who falsely believe they are oppressed for being Christians, being white, or not “politically correct.” About a month ago it was Talia Lavin, who was targeted by Laura Ingraham and called a “journo-terrorist” to Ingraham’s millions of viewers because Lavin took an adjunct professorship at New York University teaching students how to cover the far-right.

Ingraham and her media allies have had it out for Lavin ever since she briefly mistook an ICE agent’s tattoo for a symbol of a white nationalist group while working as a fact-checker for the New Yorker — a mistake Lavin noted immediately and apologized for.

Ingraham, who is worth an estimated $45 million, punched down at Lavin, who like most freelancers lives paycheck to paycheck.

“I am 29. I have no job. I am teaching a single course, for $7k as an adjunct,” Lavin noted.

Just as the Republican Party convinces working class Americans to vote against their own interests for oligarchs who give themselves tax breaks and pass laws to help their own companies, their allies in the media convince viewers that people like Talia and Luke are the enemy — not the elected officials trying to take away their health care with no replacement.

Carlson, another millionaire who claims he and his fellow white nationalists are being oppressed while their friends in the Republican Party run the country, made sure his millions of viewers knew Luke’s name when he spasmed over the Globe piece on his show last week.

“I’m 40 years old and I’ve got $40,000 in student debt and I rent a house and drive a shitty used car. I’m not David Brooks and Jake Tapper or some shit,” Luke said. “But none of that matters to people because everything’s culture war now. I don’t see any way out of it.”

***

As coverage of Nielsen’s resignation evolved from somewhat-unexpected breaking news to leaks and palace intrigue, it was easy to see the public image rehabilitation at work.

Nielsen was actually fighting the good fight, NBC News reported, preventing Trump from enacting even more draconian policies than he already has, including apparently still wanting to separate migrant families despite his executive order prohibiting the practice. She was forced out amid a new push by the architect of Trump’s immigration policy, Stephen Miller, who has been on the warpath within DHS, pressuring officials to do something — anything — to stem the flow of migrants that has been increasing exponentially in the last two months.

“They failed in the courts and with Congress and now they’re eating their own,” Politico quoted an anonymous source close Nielsen as saying.

Poor Kirstjen Nielsen. She was just doing her job, doing what she was told, and then not doing it when she knew it was blatantly illegal — like turning away migrants seeking asylum, their right under U.S. and international law. The unnamed sources went to work on Nielsen’s behalf, laying the groundwork for the time-honored practice of rewarding people in Washington D.C. who have done terrible things by ensuring they can go directly into lobbying, the private sector or academia and make very good money while maintaining prestige despite their horrendous acts in government.

Except this time it was slightly different. Some professors have signed a petition saying they’ll refuse to work with Nielsen if she’s offered any sort of position at their universities, which is where Trump lackeys Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski landed — Harvard, incredibly — following their disgraceful tenures. And writers like Luke spoke up to say that people like Nielsen should never feel completely comfortable in public again, that it’s our right and duty to remind her that separating 2,000 migrant parents from their children was an inexcusable act and she should be reminded of her wrongdoing for the rest of her life.

But that was too uncivil for right-wing pundits, whose supporters went to the very civil work of threatening Luke in detailed and disturbing fashion, including saying that he and Omar should be beheaded.

***

The right always wins in this country because it is the basic instinct of all humans to work for their own benefit at the expense of everyone else. Because most people are selfish and consider themselves more important than everyone else, many Americans are thus to the right of the political spectrum.

To live with other people’s well-being in mind as much as your own is to fight against the selfish DNA we have carried inside of us for millions of years. Conservatives will always win in one form or another because it is much easier, safer and more efficient to go through life being a piece of shit to your fellow man than to do things that might help someone other than yourself.

Any debate about whether it is appropriate to call Trump a fascist is simply an extension of the silly argument that those on both sides of an issue deserve equal coverage.

When one side is banning people from an entire religion from entering the country and separating parents from their children, they do not get a pass as if their policies are reasonable. Both acts are objectively wrong, and it is a matter of simple morality to say so in the moment. The tendency is to cop out and Let History Be the Judge. The position of many journalists is that it’s not their responsibility to make these judgments in real time, but it is only those judgments that will separate those on the right side of history from the wrong one.

For this reason and many more, it is reasonable and appropriate to call this president and his supporters fascists. If that gets some of us less work because we’re not being Objective, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

What I cannot stomach is walking through the international terminal in Dallas and not remembering that this presidency began with the identifiably fascist act of banning people because of their race and religion. To not call it so would be to relinquish my responsibility to the truth and cede an air of legitimacy to this administration’s clearly fascist policies.

Those policies are rooted in the ideal that only the right-wing is allowed to decide who becomes and is considered an American. The maddening irony is that their policies are fundamentally un-American.

I know this because every time I meet a migrant I am struck with the overwhelming impression that they possess more American qualities than all the right-wing millionaires on TV and in the government who would do away with a democratic form of government in a heartbeat in favor of an autocrat who would achieve their goals.

In fact it is clear that is exactly what’s happening right now.

***

I was coming back from Juárez in January when I had another one of these experiences of a migrant’s American-ness. On the plane was a young man and his child or younger brother. He carried a ziploc bag containing a few boarding passes and a note:

Hello, I don’t speak English and this is my first time travelling in the United States. Please help me get to my destination. Thank you.

By the time the plane landed we were looking over his documents. A fellow traveller explained to him in Spanish what gate he’d have to find. We pointed at the screen.

“Omaha,” the young man said, repeating what he’d been told.

Another man approached, speaking Spanish.

“Omaha?” he asked, and beckoned for the young man and the child to follow. The three were off.

This is the way it’s always worked here, we were told growing up: Someone knows the way or knows someone who knows the way. Someone has a house to rent or a job to work. Someone has a brother or a friend who can help you get settled in.

Every single one of us who isn’t Native American has a story like this in our family history. People named Serrano should have just as much of a chance at telling those stories as people named Smith.

In every story, someone, somewhere helped to make it happen, whether it was finding a gate at an airport in Dallas, or crossing a river in southern Mexico.

America is supposed to be the only place in the world where the someones and somewheres are.

***

P.S. All the photos in this post are mine from a recent trip to Mexico City. By the way, thank you to any readers who chipped in on Rubén’s asylum defense fund. We nearly reached our goal, and for now I’m going to transfer the $755 we raised straight to Rubén. If the lawyer takes his case we’ll try to raise some more. Thanks as always for reading, and share this post with anyone who you think might be interested in subscribing to Where Do We Go From Here.

Asking is strength and giving is will

At the border they told him, "We don't want you here" because he is in a wheelchair. In Honduras they told him, "We will kill you one by one."

He is 31 and in the United States now after a few months spent wheeling his wheelchair across two continents to make it here. I met him at a shelter in Juárez, where he was separated from the other migrants because he had an infection, and the 100 or so people sleeping, eating and living on the floor of a basketball court next to his small room could have made him more sick with their combined humanity. A day after we met, volunteers came to the shelter and took him to Paso Del Norte, the main bridge spanning Juárez and El Paso where migrants are beginning to pile up as the Trump administration continues to restrict people from claiming asylum as much as possible.

He came to America because the gangs in his hometown in Honduras threatened to kill him and his family. Also, in America he may be able to make enough of a living to afford the medication that keeps the infection away, the infection that required him to have two surgeries in recent weeks in an American hospital that can properly deal with such things. In America, he may be able to get a job even though he can’t walk. Where he is from, there are no jobs for people who are in wheelchairs.

His lifelong best friend was with him on this journey, but now he is gone because he tried to get food for him, and when he came back the Mexican immigration authorities had deported him. He name is Rubén (1) and he is a Godly man who believes with his whole heart in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Even though his life has been hard, his faith sustains him. He has witnessed much violence and lived in fear for most of his life in Honduras; many people in this country think that’s not enough of a reason to be allowed to live here. President Trump himself says people like Rubén shouldn’t be believed.

His supporters cheer this because they don’t listen to stories like the one I am about to tell you.

***

Rubén is one of six boys and was born in a town in Honduras not far from the border with Guatemala. In the mid-2000s he came to the United States and ended up in the panhandle of Texas, working as a roofer and eventually marrying an American woman. One day he was riding in a car with a friend when they struck another car by accident in a gas station parking lot. When the police arrived they found out Rubén was undocumented so they arrested him, and he was eventually deported.

There, he worked whatever odd labor jobs he could find. Then, he wrecked a motorcycle he was riding, paralyzing him from the mid-chest down. It’s possible his injuries wouldn’t have been as severe had he been in America when the accident occurred — medical care in Honduras is nothing like it is here. “If you go to a hospital, you might be damaged more,” he says. That’s what happened to his younger brother, who died in the hospital after going there with a minor illness. “They did not take care of him,” Rubén says. Rubén’s father was more lucky. He survived after being shot four times in the stomach and lives with plastic intestines inside of him.

The crime is bad in Rubén’s hometown but not as bad as elsewhere in Honduras. Still, Rubén says the narcos and criminals basically run his town, killing with impunity. After his accident Rubén thought often about coming back to America  but the journey seemed impossible — 2,000 miles of open country, sometimes inhospitable towns, dangerous crossing routes patrolled by gangs who would take you for everything you had and then take you for ransom when you had nothing left.

Then, two years ago the violence came directly to Rubén, forcing him to make a drastic decision.

His brother and step brother were sleeping on the front porch when the bullets came. His step brother never woke up because of the two bullets that went into his chest and the one that entered his head. The shots woke Rubén’s brother and he started running, so he lived.

But neither the brother nor the step brother were the intended targets, Rubén says. The gangbangers got the wrong house. Rubén’s father started telling people in the neighborhood that he knew who did the shooting. So the gangbangers came to Rubén and his father and told them that if they kept talking, they would also be killed.

“We will kill you one by one,” the gangbangers said.

At that point, Rubén’s life consisted of sitting around the house and watching a lot of TV, almost all news. Some days he’d go to the store and get the money his relatives in America were sending back to him so he could buy the food and medicine he needed to survive. But the rest of the time was spent mostly at home, watching the news — and the news was constantly talking about the caravans.

The news mentioned the logistics of the caravans, and how a new one planned to form in Guatemala after smaller groups from elsewhere in Central America trekked there. But the news came with a warning: it was hard to make it and it was not going to be easy. For all the talk of liberal groups helping, encouraging and even funding caravans — remember the brief and ridiculous spat about Beto O’Rourke supposedly paying to transport Honduran migrants to the border? — Rubén says the news was trying to dissuade people like him from making the trip.

But he was determined, so, with his best friend who is his cousin and maybe 500 others from the town, he joined up. Whoever had food and water on any given day shared it. People in towns along the way sometimes gave the migrants in the caravan sustenance. They walked dozens of miles each day. With his cousin’s help, Rubén made it to Piedras Negras, on the border with Texas, in a few weeks.

That’s where we first saw evidence that the Mexican government was doing Trump’s dirty work by preventing migrants from even reaching the border to apply for asylum. It’s where Rubén spent a few weeks before the buses came and the migrants were shipped all across Mexico, because the government needed to do something after all the bad news about Piedras Negras and what was happening there.

A bus took him to Juárez, and to the little room in the back of a gymnasium where he lay by himself to avoid getting sicker. We met him there on a Tuesday afternoon.

***

It is a very difficult thing to watch someone cry. It is more difficult when they are crying because you have just asked them a question that brings up something painful. But this is the job and it must be done, which means it was not an easy thing to watch Rubén cry as he recounted the story of his cousin being deported back to Honduras because he’d been mistaken for one of the migrants who had protested conditions at Piedras Negras.

“He is more like a brother to me,” Rubén said that day in the room you see above, and the tears came quickly.

The next day, Rubén’s fortunes changed. A migrant advocacy organization called Grupos Beta came to the shelter and, without any prior notice, put Rubén in an ambulance and took him to the border. The paramedics said nothing on the way there. Along with a few other migrants whose number had reached the top of the list of those waiting at shelters in Juárez to apply for asylum, members of Grupos Beta wheeled Rubén up the steep incline of the Paso Del Norte bridge and toward the apex, where an invisible line separates worlds. He told the border agents there that he wanted to apply for political asylum.

“Do you have fear?” was the first question they asked. He told them that, yes, he most certainly had fear.

Then they held him in a room with a dozen other migrants for three days.

“Why are you coming here? We don’t want you here. You cannot work.” an officer told Rubén, noting his disability. “Here, everything is money.”

The tears came again.

It was a Mexican-American officer who told him this. Her name is Belinda Ramos.

Ramos then tried to trick Rubén into admitting he’d been previously deported by officers in El Paso. This had never happened but Ramos knew if she tricked Rubén into saying it then it would be more difficult for him to obtain asylum.

“You’ve been deported before,” Ramos said, motioning to another Mexican-American officer. “He was the one who deported you,” she lied.

After Ramos left, the second officer, whose last name is Quintana, came and reminded Rubén that he is not worthy of being in America.

“We don’t want you here. You cannot work,” Quintana said.

“If I go to Honduras, nobody will give me anything,” he told Rubén. “I have to work.”

Quintana then quoted the Bible, or what he wrongly thinks is a quote from the Bible.

“Help but yourself and I will help you,” Quintana said, repeating a variation of “God helps those who help themselves,” which is not in the Bible and runs counter to Christ’s mission of giving comfort and aid to all, regardless of their abilities and talents.

This made Rubén cry, but he was not afraid anymore because he is a strong believer in Jesus Christ, and he knows that he is a Godly man.

“Pedir es fuerza y dar es voluntad,” he told Quintana.

“Asking is strength and giving is will.”

Then Quintana went away.

***

In the middle of a night after three days sleeping on a pad in a cold, cement block of a room, the officers took Rubén away. First, he went to a hospital, where he was treated for his infection and was able to finally reach his family. Soon, they had purchased him a bus ticket to a plains state, where he is staying with a family friend while he waits for his day in court.

He has been given an “order for expedited removal,” which means the government wants to deport him. Rubén hasn’t yet had his credible fear interview, the most important part of any asylum case. If he passes and is given what is called a “positive credible fear determination,” he’ll need to get a lawyer to have any chance at winning asylum and staying in America.

With a lawyer, Rubén’s chances of obtaining asylum are five times higher, according to the National Immigration Council, which notes that 90 percent of applicants without an attorney were denied asylum in 2017. Only about 37 percent of all immigrants — which includes asylum-seekers — are able to to gain access to a lawyer, according to a 2016 study.

Rubén is not automatically provided with a lawyer under the current make-up of the immigration court system. If he is able to obtain one, he’ll likely have to make what’s called a family-based particular social group (PSG) claim. This type of asylum claim means that Rubén — the asylee — is trying to convince the court that he has been targeted or threatened because of his membership in a particular social group, in this case his family. Other particular social groups include members of the LGBTQ community, police officers, political dissidents — and not the false ones that so many in this country believe they represent — and many others. Of course, since the immigration court system is not independent and is part of the Department of Justice, which itself an arm of the executive branch and therefore subject to a given president’s political whims, family-based PSG claims are being targeted by the Attorney General’s office for removal from acceptable asylum claims.

In this way, the category of acceptable asylum-seekers gets more and more narrow. Former Mexican police officers who were threatened by gangs don’t count, journalists threatened by gangs and police don’t count, and domestic violence victims shouldn’t count, the Justice Department maintains and a judge has disagreed with.  Only the “perfect victim,” an improbable category of asylum-seeker who has spoken out directly and publicly against the government or a political party, and was directly and with evidence threatened by that entity, qualify these days. Many others — 59,557 of the 92,828 whose cases have been decided since Trump took office — don’t quite count. (2)

Without a lawyer, Rubén will likely become a member of that first category and sent back to Honduras. There is just one immigration attorney in Tulsa who is currently accepting asylum cases. Rubén needs $100 for the initial consultation, which is already taken care of. But he’ll need more money than that if the lawyer takes his case. He will also need money to pay for some of his medical and living expenses, which may include large bills from two surgeries he has had in recent weeks to take care of the infection.  

The first thing he did when he got out of surgery was write a Facebook post that praised God for helping him. He hasn’t asked for any help in trying to get a lawyer or for anything else, despite his belief that there is strength in asking.

So I am asking for him. I’ve started a GoFundMe page with the initial goal of raising $1,000 to help Ruben. Please consider donating, and sharing this story so that others might as well.

***

P.S. The top photo in this post was taken by my friend and colleague, the photographer Zach Nelson, who collaborated with me on a story from El Paso and Juárez for VICE early this year. The second photo is mine, taken at a temporary migrant shelter in Juárez. On the right is Andrés, a Honduran migrant who introduced us to Rubén — and with whom we’ve sadly lost touch. On the left is Julián Cardona, a photographer, journalist and fixer in Juárez with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with many times. Along with Chuck Bowden, Julián published a book about migration in the city. It is called Éxodo and sits on my coffee table. You can read his words about Juárez here and view some of his work here. The third photo is of the room in which Julián, my editor at The Daily Beast, Justin Miller, and I first met Rubén.

I’m very hopeful that we can reach the fundraising goal I’ve set — the last time I did something like this was with the family of Juan Salgado, who you might remember from this post back in January. We exceeded the goal that Juan’s family set to fund a proper funeral in Mexico. Back then I had the help of Miller and The Beast, which ran Juan’s story. This time I’m trying to do it on my own — and with your help. Thanks as always for reading.

(1) Ruben is not his name. It has been changed to protect the identities of him and his family. He fears the gang will retaliate if he uses his real name and they see this story, so I have agreed to change it.

(2) This statistic was reached using Syracuse University’s TRACImmigration system, which allows you to manipulate immigration data obtained from the federal government in many, many ways.

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