Despite ‘reopening’ of Texas, border leaders still recommend staying home, taking precaution

BORDER REPORT: Despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today lifting statewide coronavirus restrictions allowing restaurants and other areas to reopen with some modifications, many leaders on the state’s Southwest border are urging their residents not to go out and to remain vigilant against the disease as Mexico’s cases continue to rise.

From the West Texas city of El Paso to Hidalgo County in South Texas, many community leaders are suggesting residents continue to shelter in place, go out when only absolutely necessary and wear face masks in public.

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Hearings under remain in Mexico policy postponed again

KVEO 23: The temporary postponement of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) also known as the remain in Mexico policy has been extended. 

Immigration Attorney, Jodi Goodwin said because of the changes with the closure of the border and MPP courts, some of the final hearings for the migrants have been rescheduled three times now. 

“It’s a mixed feeling I guess, there’s a lot of confusion and certainly desperation, many people that are in the MPP program have been waiting for a long time and a lot of them for their final hearings,” said Goodwin.

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Parker: How New Mexico Is Beating the Virus

NEW YORK TIMES: On March 13, the same day that a reluctant President Trump admitted that the coronavirus pandemic was a national emergency, a storied New Mexico hospital established the nation’s first drive-through testing for the virus.

The next day, hundreds of cars lined the streets of Albuquerque, the state’s largest city. A second hospital jumped in with more testing. Within days, drive-through testing — still not widely available in much of the nation, even today — expanded here to Las Cruces, to the southern edge of the state.

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Mexican cartel gives out food amid COVID-19

KFOX 14: We’ve seen the need here in the U.S. this was the image seen all over the U.S. a line at the San Antonio Food Bank as thousands in San Antonio seek help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donations here come from non- profit agencies, the government and philanthropist. Across the border just 2 and a half hours south of San Antonio in Mexico there is also need, but these supplies aren’t coming from the government or a non profit.

“It’s a psychological campaign that they are waging out there,” Dante Sorianello, the assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the San Antonio district.

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COVID-19 field hospital opens in migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico

EVERYTHING LUBBOCK: A new 20-bed field hospital just for COVID-19 patients opened Thursday at a tent encampment where hundreds of asylum-seekers live in Matamoros, Mexico.

The tent facility is operated by Global Response Management (GRM), an NGO that offers free medical care to the migrants. After weeks of pleading with Mexican and U.S. authorities, the organization last week was granted permission to cross medical equipment and supplies over the border, Andrea Leiner, a nurse practitioner with GRM told Border Report on Thursday.

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Coronavirus Has Mexico’s Workers Pinned Between U.S. Business Interests and Their President’s Obsessive Austerity

THE INTERCEPT: THE UNITED STATES and Mexico are each enveloped in their own stumbling, disjointed response to the new coronavirus pandemic. The crisis is revealing the failures of the U.S.-Mexico relationship, and the cynical ways in which interest groups, corporations, and plutocrats take advantage of it.

The neighboring countries could deploy a coordinated response to the pandemic, because their contagion curves are weeks apart. A bold and creative plan that would establish a collaborative protocol to look out for cases at the border, or strategically increase the production of medical equipment, could pool the resources of both nations and save many more lives.

Instead, the coronavirus crisis has been used to further restrict immigration, violate labor rights, protect defense contractors, and double down on inflammatory and dangerous political rhetoric.

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Pentagon weighs replacing active duty troops on US-Mexico border with National Guard

CNN: The Defense Department is actively weighing reducing the number of active duty troops on the southern border with Mexico and replacing them with members of the National Guard, which would bring the deployment into line with previous military operations on the US-Mexico border under the Bush and Obama administrations, two US defense officials tell CNN.

The change could take place in September, according to one of the officials.

The border operation has been a major priority for President Donald Trump and has been criticized by Democrats in Congress.

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The U.S. is pushing Mexico to reopen factories even as workers die of COVID-19

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Even as COVID-19 deaths soar at factories in Mexico, the United States is sending a clear message: It’s time for plants that have stopped production to get back to work.

The U.S. government has mounted a campaign to persuade Mexico to reopen many factories that were closed because of the country’s social distancing guidelines, warning that the supply chain of the North American free-trade zone could be permanently crippled if factories don’t resume production soon.

“The destruction of the economy is also a health threat,” Christopher Landau, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, tweeted last week. “There are risks everywhere, but we don’t all stay at home for fear we are going to get in a car accident.”

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The U.S. wants Mexico to keep its defense and health-care factories open. Mexican workers are getting sick and dying.

WASHINGTON POST: For years, the United States outfitted its armed forces and hospitals with products made partially in Mexican factories, trusting that the world’s busiest cross-border supply chain could withstand any crisis.

Then came the novel coronavirus, and a new question: Would Mexico keep its workers on the line to continue producing goods considered “essential” to the United States?

Within weeks of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, major U.S. manufacturers were complaining that their Mexican factories were being shuttered without notice.

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‘No one’s looking out for us’: Mexico medical workers beg for PPE

ALJAZEERA: For three years, Patricia* has trained to be a surgeon at a Mexico City hospital where there is a chronic lack of surgical equipment. Each winter when supplies dwindle, she and fellow medical residents organise a stockpile of masks and gloves to tide them over until the new fiscal year. But in 2020 the new supplies never arrived.

“It was a streak of ‘there’s nothing, there’s nothing, there’s nothing’,” Patricia said. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

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Coronavirus chokes the drug trade — from Wuhan, through Mexico and onto US streets

LOS ANGELES TIMES: For drug traffickers interested in getting in on the fentanyl business, all roads once led to Wuhan.

The sprawling industrial city built along the Yangtze River in east-central China is known for its production of chemicals, including the ingredients needed to cook fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids.

Vendors there shipped huge quantities around the world. The biggest customers were Mexican drug cartels, which have embraced fentanyl in recent years because it is cheaper and easier to produce than heroin.

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Editorial: White House pressure on Mexico to keep U.S.-owned factories open is shameful

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE: Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador downplayed the threat of the novel coronavirus even as it devastated several nations and rapidly spread around the world in mid-March. The results have been grim. Mexico imposed but spottily enforced social distancing edicts, and it failed to “bend the curve” of new virus cases and related deaths. 

Now police in Tijuana are seeking donations of protective equipment. Locally, Scripps Health officials caution that people who live close to the Mexican border are much more likely to test positive for the virus that can cause the deadly respiratory disease COVID-19.

Given this backdrop, the fact that the Trump administration is pressuring Mexican officials to keep open U.S.-owned factories with virus outbreaks is especially callous — even for this White House. This pressure is open and unashamed. 

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‘Remain in Mexico’ asylum hearings suspended through June 1

ASSOCIATED PRESS: The Trump administration on Thursday suspended immigration court hearings for asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico through June 1, bowing to public health concerns while extending a state of limbo those locked down in Mexican migrant shelters.

With an order suspending hearings through Friday set to expire, the Homeland Security and Justice departments said that asylum-seekers with hearings through June 1 should appear at a border crossing when instructed to get new dates. They said in a joint statement that authorities will review conditions related to the coronavirus and proceed “as expeditiously as possible,” raising the prospect of additional delays.

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U.S. asks Mexico for help to investigate oil-for-food pact with Venezuela

REUTERS: The U.S. State Department, the Treasury Department and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico are investigating at least two Mexican firms involved in an oil-for-food pact signed in 2019 with Venezuela’s government, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

Mexico-based Libre Abordo and an affiliated company, Schlager Business Group, have since late 2019 taken millions of barrels of Venezuelan oil for resale in Asia in exchange for corn and water trucks provided to Venezuela.

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2 Major San Diego Hospital Chains Seek ‘Urgent’ Federal Help on Border

TIMES OF SAN DIEGO: Executives with Scripps Health and Sharp HealthCare, two major San Diego hospital chains, have written to the federal government seeking “urgent action” to combat COVID-19 along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Scripps Health CEO Chris D. Van Gorder and Daniel L. Gross, executive consultant with Sharp HealthCare COVID‐19 Strategic Response, urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to address the “inadequacy of medical resources” in Baja California.

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Warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico raise alarm as US storm season approaches

PRI: As storm season begins in the southeastern US, scientists are casting a wary eye on the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

Science links above-average sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico to larger tornado clusters and supercharged hurricanes in the southern and southeastern United States. The tornadoes that hit the southeastern US on Easter Sunday, resulting in over 30 deaths, came as water in the Gulf of Mexico was running three degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the long-term average.

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Health, work, groceries: Families in border cities get hit with coronavirus’ economic slowdown

DESERT SUN: Roxana Montoya pushed her grocery cart into the Soriana parking lot in Juarez with fewer than a dozen bags of food to feed her family of five for the next three weeks.

“At home, we limit ourselves,” said Montoya, a 54-year-old mother of three grown children who live with her in the border city near El Paso, Texas. “I only come to the store every three weeks. We eat more tortillas and vegetables, fewer eggs, and less meat and chicken.”

In Mexicali, Josefina Ochoa has watched the price of potatoes, eggs, even cookies going up.

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Trump uses White House events to project return to normalcy while relying on testing that public lacks

WASHINGTON POST: At the White House this week, President Trump sat less than six feet from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in the Oval Office. He invited small-business owners to crowd behind the Resolute Desk for a photo shoot. His vice president toured a medical research center without a face mask in defiance of its policy.

The daily images projected a sense of confidence that life, at least for the nation’s most prominent resident, is returning to a semblance of normalcy during the coronavirus pandemic — a visual cue to the public that conditions are improving as Trump pushes to restart sectors of the economy.

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Fearing Political Peril, Republicans Edge Away From Trump on Pandemic Response

NEW YORK TIMES: Every evening from his kitchen table in southwestern Michigan, Representative Fred Upton, a moderate Republican running for his 18th term in office, posts a coronavirus dispatch for his constituents, highlighting his own efforts to respond to the crisis and the news from Washington, often with cameos from Democrats.

Absent from his Facebook updates are any mentions of President Trump, whose response to the pandemic has raised questions that threaten to drag down Republicans’ electoral prospects this fall, or of the president’s provocative news briefings, which have become a forum for partisan attacks on Democrats and dubious claims about the virus.

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As States Begin to Reopen, Many Stay Home—Keeping Economic Rebound Elusive

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Ghulam Mustafa was back at his jewelry stand at a shopping mall for the first time in weeks. Many of the stores around him remained closed, and few shoppers walked the halls.

As states start to loosen stay-at-home orders, businesses such as Mr. Mustafa’s are slowly coming out of hibernation. Economic activity, however, isn’t.

“I had one sale,” Mr. Mustafa said a week ago.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s letter to election officials at odds with court ruling under appeal

TEXAS TRIBUNE: Despite being at odds with a court ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday asserted in a letter to county officials that the litigation over expanding voting-by-mail during the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t changed eligibility for absentee voting.

A state district judge ruled two weeks ago that voters who risked exposure to the virus if they vote in person could ask for a mail-in ballot under a portion of the Texas election code that allows absentee ballots for voters who cite a disability. After intervening in the case, Paxton’s office almost immediately appealed that ruling, which could greatly expand voting-by-mail in the state.

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A prominent Texas man’s network of hotels got millions in taxpayer loans, irking smaller businesses and some lawmakers

TEXAS TRIBUNE: A network of hotels run by prominent Texas Republican donor Monty Bennett used dozens of applications to secure tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in coronavirus disaster funds, drawing ire from other businesses and Democrats who say the entities’ loans go against the spirit of a federal aid package meant to keep small enterprises afloat during the pandemic.

The Dallas-based hotel network applied for $126 million from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program and has received $76 million, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. The network is the largest recipient of program loans by leaps and bounds, and one of the affiliated companies said it did not receive loans at the expense of mom-and-pop businesses.

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El Paso is at a COVID-19 crossroads. Here’s where we stand.

EL PASO MATTERS: Any discussion of the number of novel coronavirus infections must start with a major caveat. El Paso’s testing rate continues to lag more than 40 percent behind the national average, so the number of cases continues to be undercounted.

It also means we still don’t have a good idea of the extent of community spread in El Paso. That’s a major reason why New Mexico health authorities are saying that Land of Enchantment residents shouldn’t venture to El Paso as stores and restaurants open.

With that in mind, here is the number of reported new cases each week since the first case was reported March 13.

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Many Laredo restaurants feel unsafe opening amid coronavirus pandemic

LAREDO MORNING TIMES: Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order unilaterally allows restaurants across Texas to open up their dining rooms at a 25% occupancy come Friday.

However a wide range of Laredo restaurants will not be doing so.

“We continue to be concerned about our clients and employees’ health,” said Julio Venegas, owner of Organic Man Coffee. “We will continue doing curbside/pick up and delivery only until we see the numbers of infected community members stop rising.”

Venegas said some of their main clients are essential workers, and he feels obligated to take care of them by continuing to take preventative measures at his coffee shop.

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As pandemic policies soften, Valley restaurants reopen to an abnormal normal

MCALLEN MONITOR: The first customer to eat a ribeye at Santa Fe Steakhouse on 10th Street in the past six weeks and six days sliced into their steak at 6:06 p.m. Friday evening.

Like restaurants across Texas, Santa Fe Steakhouse was allowed to open its dining room Friday for the first time since Gov. Greg Abbott shuttered eateries across the state on March 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic

Earlier this week the governor announced that restaurants, along with malls, retailers and movie theaters, would be allowed to reopen to the public, contingent on keeping their occupancy to a quarter of capacity.

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Back in Business: Shops opening to uneasy customers

Arnoldo Munivez’s eyes sparkled over his facial covering as his restaurant’s doors kept swinging a day after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted stay-at-home orders, allowing businesses to reopen at 25-percent customer capacity.

“The people here in Harlingen have always been very loyal to the store,” Munivez, assistant manager at El Pato Mexican Food, said Friday as his customers filled every open table about a month after Abbott shut down the state’s businesses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Outside, cars packed the restaurant’s parking lot as a long line led to its drive-thru window.

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Bishop provides update on church reopenings

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: Bishop Daniel E. Flores, of the Catholic of Diocese of Brownsville, hopes to announce soon when he will order the reopening of the churches in the Diocese.

In a letter written Friday, Flores said although he has met with the Deans, the Consultors, and the Presbyteral Council, the consensus is that the churches not open this weekend.

Flores said the virus continues to spread in the Rio Grande Valley and that local officials are still concerned of the possible spread of COVID-19. He added that the churches will also need time to prepare the clergy, volunteers and church workers “for the measures that will have to take place before, during and after every Mass when we do open.”

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