President Biden promised to bring “human dignity” to the U.S. immigration system. But his administration’s continued use of a Trump-era policy has cast doubt on that stated goal.
Back in March 2020, Trump invoked Title 42, an obscure public health statute from 1944 that allows the president to deny entry into the United States to foreign nationals who might spread a communicable disease. The start of the COVID-19 pandemic gave Trump an excuse to shut down the border and have immigrants caught trying to enter the U.S. without authorization expelled quickly into Mexico. The Biden administration has kept that immigration enforcement tool in place in an effort to stem criticism from political opponents who see a growing crisis at the border.
But as my colleague Molly O’Toole reports, Title 42 has become “a gold rush for human smugglers.” She spoke with several Central American asylum seekers who were kidnapped after being removed to Mexico, and with their families, who were extorted.
Among them is Karen Cruz Caceres, a single mother from Honduras who was just granted asylum. Her pregnant sister Tani wasn’t as lucky. She and her 4-year-old son were abducted in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and the kidnappers wanted more than $20,000 in ransom.
“My sister and my nephew were told they were going to kill them and feed them to the dogs,” Cruz Caceres told The Times.
“If [U.S. officials] want to deport them back to their country, why don’t they do it now like prior presidents did? Why dump them to try their luck in the most dangerous cities in Mexico, to get abducted by kidnappers?”
The logic behind Biden keeping Title 42 in place is that he needs to look tough on border enforcement now so that he can pass meaningful immigration reform later. I’ve written in the past about how claims of a crisis at the border have been used to derail a change from the status quo.
Given the president’s statements on the subject during a speech to a joint session of Congress last night, the reality of how tough it will be to pass his preferred legislation appears to be dawning on him. “If Congress won’t pass my plan, let’s at least pass what we agree on,” he said, signaling a move toward a more piecemeal approach to policy rather than an all-or-nothing one.
And if that’s really the case, if Biden is already conceding ground before the fight even starts, then that makes Title 42 an unnecessary evil. There’s little moral difference between using Title 42 to implement a nationalist immigration agenda and doing it as a means to a different political end, especially when the road to real immigration reform looks perilous.
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Foos gone crypto
The work of legendary tattoo and graffiti artist Mark Machado, better known as Mister Cartoon, has appeared on just about every medium, including sneakers and NBA jerseys. As Times arts and entertainment writer Daniel Hernandez reports, you can now add nonfungible tokens to that list.
Machado and King Foo, the pseudonymous person behind the popular Foos Gone Wild social media brand, are among the first Chicanx artists to be entering the NFT market. Don’t know what an NFT is? Business reporter Sam Dean wrote this handy explainer.
The NFT craze has been lucrative for some artists. The Foos Gone Wild token seen above was bought at auction by a person in Dubai for 20 ethereum, which as of today is roughly $53,000.
“After that, I’ve seen the power,” King Foo told Hernandez. “I feel like it’s the future of currency, man, the crypto game.”
Meet our Latinx staff: Martina Ibáñez-Baldor
The Los Angeles Times employs more than 100 Latinx journalists. One of the goals of this newsletter is for you to meet them all. This week, we highlight Martina Ibáñez-Baldor, art director and the person responsible for the look of this newsletter.
It’s important to have Latinx representation in every department of a newsroom, including design. When art directing something like the Latinx Files newsletter logo and look, there’s a lot to keep in mind — hiring a Californian Latinx illustrator (Jackie Rivera), making sure the logo design isn’t too gaudy and stereotypical (we drew inspiration from the Mexico 1968 Olympics logo), deciding what iconography to use (we went with a red flower coming out of a Myspace era desktop file — a file, get it?). We wanted the newsletter to feel Latinx without falling on those easy tropes.
I’ve been a designer and art director at The Times for six years, and my favorite projects to work on are always the ones that tell Latinx stories. Like creating a zine for the Chicano Moratorium 50-year anniversary. Or finding Latinx artists to illustrate restaurant critic Patricia Escárcega’s columns. Lately, I’ve been proud to share stories of POC folks in the plant world on L.A. Times Plants through a series I created called Plant PPL. We’ve profiled local plant shop owners like Latinx With Plants and Indigenous cultural educators like Nicholas Hummingbird.
Keep an eye out for an upcoming collaboration with Las Fotos Project, a Boyle Heights nonprofit that elevates the voices of teenage girls from communities of color through photography and mentoring. We commissioned 10 students to work on mini Plant PPL profiles that include their moms, tios, neighbors and local plant shop owners. I can’t wait to share their work!
Things we read this week that we think you should read
— For the Atlantic, Annie Lowrey makes the case against the term “low-skill workers,” which she argues is used to demean people who do what is now called “essential work” because of the pandemic. When you’re done reading that, check out her colleague Christian Paz’s story on the challenge that Sen. Alex Padilla faces in his crusade to speak for and represent Latinxs.
— Times reporter Julia Barajas wrote about Bloom Homie, an Instagram account started by three friends trying to combat machismo and toxic masculinity that has since grown into an active support group on Zoom.
— The De La Torres, the father-son team behind the popular Los Angeles taco chain Guisados, were recently profiled by Thrillist. Over the last decade, the duo have developed a mini empire that includes several Guisados locations (there’s even one in Beverly Hills), a burger joint in Boyle Heights and a fish taco/ceviche stand in Silver Lake.
— A 2019 Office of Inspector General report found that there were at least 57 incidents of sexual harassment reported by the Capitol custodial staff since 2018. For Latino Rebels, Pablo Manriquez writes that more and more elected officials are asking for a follow-up investigation, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The best thing on the Latinternet: TBT to this brilliant “Star Wars”/Cardi B mashup video
Shout-out to the homie Omar Villegas, who made the viral video that added Cardi B sound effects to clips from the “Star Wars” franchise. Since last May, the video has amassed more than 8 million votes on YouTube, and it was just nominated for a Webby Award. I swear, I cannot watch this video and not laugh.