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Villavicencio: The Impending Mass Grave Across the Border From Texas

NEW YORK TIMES: The city of Matamoros, Mexico, sits directly across the border from Brownsville, Tex. Over 2,500 people have gathered there since the Trump administration rolled out the “Remain in Mexico” policy, in a squalid encampment along the U.S.-Mexico border, while they wait for their asylum hearings. 

They live in cramped, unsanitary quarters — some in tents, others in makeshift shelters — without electricity or running water. They are increasingly susceptible to respiratory illness and malnutrition.

On April 1, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review announced that they would be postponing all hearings because of the coronavirus outbreak. They live in constant threat of the virus, all for exercising their human right to claim asylum.

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WP: This crisis requires political courage to respect our values. Trump isn’t doing that.

WASHINGTON POST: ENSHRINED IN law for four decades, the system that allows persecuted migrants to seek refuge in the United States has survived sustained assaults since the Trump administration took office. Now Mr. Trump, having weaponized a public health crisis to ignore long-established statutes, rules and procedures, has finally managed to crush it.

For the past three weeks, virtually every category of migrant without papers has been turned back at legal ports of entry along the southern border or expelled immediately upon apprehension by border agents; 10,000 have been thrown out so far in the crisis. They include minors who may have been trafficked and asylum seekers, individually or in families, who may face persecution in their home countries. Immigration courts are suspended, deportation procedures have been ditched, and due process is a thing of the past.

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Millions of taxpaying immigrants won’t get stimulus checks

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The $2.2 trillion package that Congress approved to offer financial help during the coronavirus pandemic has one major exclusion: millions of immigrants who do not have legal status in the U.S. but who work here and pay taxes.

That includes Carmen Contreras Lopez, a 48-year-old housekeeper who, though she earns low wages, files a tax return each year. Since the virus took hold, she has lost most of her clients and is getting by with help from her oldest son. But she won’t see a penny of the money promised to most Americans in response to the pandemic.

“It’s hard because to the government, we don’t exist,” said Contreras Lopez, who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years and has four grown children who are U.S. citizens.

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U.S. Weighs When to Restart Economy as Europe Looks to Ease Lockdowns

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Optimism that coronavirus infection rates may be stabilizing in the U.S.—and starting to decline elsewhere—were tempered over the weekend by rising concerns that moves to ease the lockdowns that have crippled the global economy could spur new outbreaks of the disease, which has claimed more than 114,000 lives world-wide.

In the U.S., confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, approached 560,000 on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. hit a peak of 35,100 new cases Friday, capping a seven-day stretch in which new cases averaged more than 31,500 a day—the heaviest weekly rate yet. Since then, new cases have declined, dropping below 29,000 on Sunday for the first time since April 5. The U.S. death toll has passed 22,000, the highest in the world.

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Reopening U.S. economy by May 1 may be unrealistic, say experts, including some within Trump administration

WASHINGTON POST: Public health experts on Sunday debated the question of when to reopen portions of the U.S. economy, shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic, with several Trump administration officials cautioning that a target date of May 1 — floated by President Trump, among others — may not be realistic.

“It is a target, and, obviously, we’re hopeful about that target, but I think it’s just too early to be able to tell that we see light at the end of the tunnel,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said on ABC News’s “This Week.” “I think it’s just too early for us to say whether May 1 is that date.”

The comments by Hahn and other officials came on Easter, when the number of confirmed cases in the United States stood at more than 550,000 and the number of deaths reached more than 21,000.

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An immigrant community faces a ‘catastrophic’ pandemic without help

WASHINGTON POST: He arrived home as usual, with dusty jeans and a handful of junk mail.

“Hola bambinos,” Marco said as he opened the door to the cluttered one-bedroom apartment in Langley Park, Md., he shares with his wife and two kids.

“Papi!” shouted his 9-year-old, Nataly, looking up from her Barbie kitchen play set. But instead of embracing the small girl with big eyes and a dark braid, Marco backed away.

The 55-year-old Honduran immigrant is one of the few in his apartment building to still have a job.

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Oil Nations, Prodded by Trump, Reach Deal to Slash Production

NEW YORK TIMES: Oil-producing nations on Sunday agreed to the largest production cut ever negotiated, in an unprecedented coordinated effort by Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States to stabilize oil prices and, indirectly, global financial markets.

Saudi Arabia and Russia typically take the lead in setting global production goals. But President Trump, facing a re-election campaign, a plunging economy and American oil companies struggling with collapsing prices, took the unusual step of getting involved after the two countries entered a price war a month ago. Mr. Trump had made an agreement a key priority.

It was unclear, however, whether the cuts would be enough to bolster prices. 

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Here’s how El Paso stands a month into COVID-19 cases

EL PASO MATTERS: El Paso public health officials have been providing a daily map of positive test results by ZIP code. But that map doesn’t take into account the widely different population numbers in each ZIP code. The county’s most-populous ZIP code — 79936 — has 43 times more people than the smallest, 79930.

El Paso Matters looked at the number of positive COVID-19 tests per 10,000 people in each ZIP code. These numbers don’t include Fort Bliss because the Army is tracking cases separately and not making public that information, based on a Defense Department directive.

Hover over a ZIP code for details.

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Coronavirus ravages storied New Orleans Mardi Gras group

SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS: On Fat Tuesday, 51-year-old Cornell Charles was taking part in a storied New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition central to the city’s African American community — driving a car in the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s parade.

A month later his wife of three decades was watching him take his last breath, a victim of the coronavirus epidemic raging through the city.

“I talked to him. I told him how much I was going to miss him,” said his wife, Nicole, describing those last minutes on March 24. “He literally took his last breath in front of my face and that was it.”

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Forbes: El Paso possible site for Las Vegas Raiders NFL games

EL PASO TIMES: According to a report by Forbes, El Paso could be in the running to host games for the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. 

Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is under construction but with the COVID-19 virus pandemic, construction could slow down. 

Forbes reported that Nevada Govenor Steve Sisolak declared the $2 billion stadium project and other construction projects “essential” last month. However, a second on-site worker tested positive for the virus recently, and other construction projects in Las Vegas were stopped due to virus concerns. 

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Two more Laredoans pass away due to COVID-19

LAREDO MORNING TIMES: Two more Laredoans have passed away due to complications from COVID-19, the City of Laredo announced Sunday. This represents the city’s seventh and eighth deaths.

A woman in her 90s and a man in his 20s, both with underlying health conditions, passed away at Laredo Medical Center on Saturday.

“We appreciate the valiant work done by our caregiving team and we extend our deepest sympathies to the patients’ families and loved ones,” the hospital said in a statement.

The City of Laredo Health Department is reminding the public that the coronavirus can be present in their system even if the person presents no symptoms, and that people should stay at home and cover their nose and mouth if around others.

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Local cities preparing for sharp sales tax declines

MCALLEN MONITOR: Rio Grande Valley municipalities have begun to assess how COVID-19 will impact city finances as the coronavirus pandemic continues to strangle the economy across the nation.

While local leaders in Hidalgo County anticipate a steep decline in sales tax revenues, on the whole, they hope it will not be catastrophic.

That assessment comes with a catch: the longer the crisis lasts, the harder Valley cities will be hit by its economic repercussions.

April’s sales tax figures — which track collections in February, before local orders prompted the closure of businesses deemed non-essential — already show a decline in all but eight of Hidalgo County’s 22 cities.

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RGV unemployment claims spiked in mid-March

MCALLEN MONITOR: During the last two weeks of March, the number of unemployment claims filed in the Rio Grande Valley surpassed the total number of claims filed during the entirety of March 2019.

More than 17,000 unemployment claims were filed during those last two weeks in March in Hidalgo, Starr, Cameron, and Willacy counties combined, according to data gathered by the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program. Around the same time last year, March 2019, approximately 3,700 claims were filed.

The data showed a significant jump from the first half of March — when the number of claims filed were on par with the claims filed during the same time last year — and the latter half of the month, when the numbers more than doubled.

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Hidalgo County cases reach 190

VALLEY MORNING STAR: Hidalgo County officials announced two additional cases of COVID-19 Sunday afternoon, bringing the total to 190.

Thirty-three of the positive cases remained in area hospitals, with six of them in intensive care units, health officials said in a news release.

“Because of the Easter holiday, there was little immediately known about the two positive cases beyond the fact that they and their families were ordered into home isolation and the mayors of their communities have been notified,” officials said in a news release.

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Newest sales tax receipts show declines over a year ago

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: Another kind of coronavirus curve is just beginning its swing as sales tax numbers for February among the Valley’s bigger cities showed declines over a year ago.

Things are expected to get worse for cities dependent on sales tax for filling out municipal budgets, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reported this past week.

Overall, the state will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $701.8 million in local sales tax allocations, about 0.5 percent less than a year ago.

These allocations are based on sales made in February by businesses that report tax monthly.

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Brownsville cathedral celebrates Easter Mass with empty church

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: The bell at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral rang minutes before 11 a.m. on Sunday as Easter Mass was about to begin, but this time it was different; for the first time in its lifetime, the church was empty.

Walking toward the church, from the also empty streets of downtown Brownsville, one could not help but imagine how different that moment would have been if it weren’t for the coronavirus that’s changing the way the community lives.

Whole families with children, parents, abuelitas and abuelitos and sometimes all the tías and tíos would join together at the cathedral wearing their Sunday’s best to celebrate — as they would do every year since they can remember— but this time, none of them were in sight.

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City leaders assess damage; Pandemic hits sales tax revenue

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: Sales tax revenue, a big contributor to city of Brownsville’s general fund, is taking a big hit in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic and official measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.

The good news is that, even before there was a pandemic on the horizon, the city had implemented fiscal strategies that may help lessen the impact during the remaining fiscal year and beyond. Still, there will be an impact, and Brownsville City Manager Noel Bernal said sales tax revenue, which accounts for about 27 percent of the city’s budget, is expected to be affected the most as the economic fallout continues.

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