US and Mexico Immigration: Portraits of Guatemalan Refugees in Limbo

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

By Oscar Gil-Garcia, Binghamton University, State University of New York

Many of Guatemala’s refugees produced by its long civil war are still stateless today.

The war lasted between 1954 and 1996 and inflicted significant harm, particularly on indigenous Mayans. The conflict prompted 200,000 Guatemalans to flee to Mexico, where up to 43,000 refugees established settlement camps. For more than a decade I have conducted research in La Gloria, Mexico, the largest of these settlements, near the border of Guatemala.

Currently, due to strict naturalization laws, more than 27,000 Guatemalans throughout Mexico remain stateless. In turn, many Guatemalan refugees have migrated to the U.S., only to face similarly draconian policies.

In 2007, I began a photo-documentary project with my brother Manuel Gil, a professional photographer. Our aim was to learn about the challenges these people face as stateless refugees for more than 30 years, and the impact immigration policies have on their families. Here’s what we found.

Stateless in Mexico

In 2014, Gaspar Felix Juan, a community leader from La Gloria, requested my help to obtain legal status for several stateless Guatemalans in Mexico. The formal end of a legalization program (1995-2005) in Mexico for refugees who fled Guatemala’s civil war left many without legal status. All of them lived in former refugee settlement communities throughout the southern state of Chiapas. In collaboration with Mexican attorney Julia Torres, we filed a grievance to the Mexican government regarding the prolonged delay in processing naturalization claims. We also requested the legalization of 26 petitioners.

Maria Miguel Pedro. (Manuel Gil, CC BY)

María Miguel Pedro, one of the petitioners, was 86 years old at the time. The mother of five, with 40 grandchildren – all Mexican-born citizens – has remained stateless in Mexico for more than 30 years. In 2016, she suffered a stroke, leaving her paralyzed and mute. Lack of legal status limits her access to public health insurance. Consequently, she relies on her frail 90-year-old husband (who has legal status) to obtain affordable medications.

Angel Pascual Francisco seated. (Manuel Gil, CC BY)

Another petitioner, Ángel Pascual Francisco, is a father of four. Two of his children live in the U.S. When asked why he did not join them, he said, “I am fearful that I will get caught entering the U.S., and as I don’t have any papers identifying my national origin, I am afraid to be sent to Guatemala.”

When asked what fueled such terror, he answered: “At a young age I witnessed my father, my [pregnant] sister and younger [five-year-old] brother get killed in Guatemala.” This violent episode continues to haunt Ángel, who suffers from anxiety and depression. Legal status would allow Ángel to travel and seek employment in Mexico without fear of deportation to Guatemala.

Guatemalan exiles, despite lacking legal status, have built connections with partners and established families in Mexico and the U.S. In contrast to frequent media coverage that depict migrants as threats, our work attempts to represent Guatemalan exiles in a dignified light. We hope to show that, like millions of migrants across the globe, these people seek a sense of belonging in their host nation state.

Migration to Mexico

These portraits are part of a bigger history of Mexico’s complex relationship with indigenous and migrant populations.

Since its founding, the Mexican government actively promoted immigration policies that favored entrance of white immigrants from Europe. The Mexican government also encouraged out-migration during the 20th century, fueled by U.S. policies and labor demand. These immigration policies informed how the Mexican government received Guatemalan refugees.

A year before the war in Guatemala ended, the Mexican government announced a naturalization program, but it wasn’t until 2001 that Mexico reduced requirements for legal entry and provided temporary visas to Guatemalan refugees. The travel and employment restrictions on these visas, however, compounded poverty among refugees. Research has shown that bureaucratic mismanagement undermined the Mexican legalization program. The departure of NGOs and humanitarian agencies who were supporting refugees decreased political pressure on the Mexican state to support refugees. Thus, the government ended the legalization program in 2005.

Violence and insecurity in Guatemala since the war is still pushing people to flee, and prevents many who fled during the war from returning.

Migration to the US

The U.S. too has promoted draconian immigration enforcement measures. As the American Immigration Council has stated, “Whole new classes of ‘felonies’ have been created which apply only to immigrants [across legal status]… In short, immigrants themselves are being criminalized [for minor offenses].” This has fueled a disproportionate rate of Guatemalans being deported. Several of the stateless people we met during our research lived with the threat of being deported, or faced an actual deportation order from the U.S.

Amalia Manuel Pedro and family. (Manuel Gil, CC BY)

One of these individuals is Amalia Manuel Pedro. In 2006, Pedro faced arrest at a work-site raid and was charged with identity theft. She was deported from the U.S. to Mexico. As a result, both her husband and son, Gaspar Jr., joined her in Chiapas, becoming “de facto” deportees. De facto deportation occurs when parents take their child with them when they are deported. A Pew Hispanic study estimates that some of the 500,000 U.S.-born children counted in the 2010 Mexican Census had accompanied parents sent back to Mexico by U.S. authorities.

Gaspar Jr. faced obstacles in obtaining social services in Mexico. Such obstacles have been identified for other U.S. citizen youth who “may be subject to greater economic hardship; a weaker social safety net; difficulties in school; and, potentially, the threat of social instability and physical danger.” Amalia’s ongoing statelessness makes her vulnerable to yet another deportation from Mexico.

U.S. policies that created Pedro’s situation increasingly inform border enforcement practices in Mexico. Fortification of the southern Mexican border hampers the options available to people fleeing violence.

U.S. foreign policy has sought to bolster bilateral security measures. As a result, Mexico deported more than 165,000 people who were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in 2015. That’s twice the number of U.S. deportations to these countries.

The ConversationThe unwelcoming climate is all the more significant for stateless and indigenous migrants. While our petition to obtain legal status for all 26 stateless people who fled the Guatemalan military conflict was approved in late 2016, their indigenous appearance still marks them as subordinate in Mexican society. As a result, several may still face intimidation by immigration agents, who have been found to discriminate against indigenous people and exacerbate human rights violations in Mexico. This hostile state has prompted human rights organizations to call for conditioning U.S. funding for fortifying Mexico’s borders on efforts to protect the rights of migrants.


This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Legal Threat to Diversity on Campus

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Latino USA.

By Liliana M. Garces, University of Texas at Austin

Last summer, the Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities can use race as one factor among many in making admissions decisions. The court determined that such policies helped further an institution’s mission to attain the educational benefits of diversity.

A recent report by The New York Times, however, has brought affirmative action back to the forefront. According to The New York Times, the Trump administration may be considering a “project” to direct Department of Justice resources to investigate race-conscious admissions. While Department of Justice officials responded that the internal memo did not reflect new department policy, the story has placed colleges and universities “on notice” that their efforts may face renewed scrutiny.

As an education and legal scholar of equity in higher education, I’ve represented hundreds of social scientists before the Supreme Court to support colleges’ use of race-conscious admissions. My belief—and that of many educators and civil rights advocates—is that the alleged investigation by the Department of Justice is meant to intimidate institutions and, perhaps, sway admissions officers from considering race in their admissions policies.

Unintentional or not, the potential threat of legal action could have a dramatic impact on the diversity of college campuses across the country.

University of Michigan student Ebrie Benton protests against the state’s ban on affirmative action.
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

Legal intimidation

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling last year, conservative groups like Students for Fair Admissions continue to press lawsuits against universities that employ race-conscious admissions. Cases against Harvard University and UNC Chapel Hill are making their way through the courts and could potentially bring affirmative action to the Supreme Court again.

However, Harvard and Chapel Hill have some of the largest endowments in the country, with US$34 billion and $2 billion, respectively. Might institutions that lack the financial resources to defend against lawsuits begin changing admissions policies and practices in order to avoid potential legal threats?

A recent study found that over the last 20 years, a public commitment to race-conscious admissions has become far less common, particularly among institutions that are relatively lower in the status hierarchy. In 1994, 82 percent of “very competitive” public universities openly considered race as one of many factors in admissions decisions. By 2014, that number declined to just 32 percent. The “most competitive” universities, however, have continued their public commitment to race-conscious admissions practices unabated.

While the reasons for this trend haven’t been studied directly, it’s worth noting that the “most competitive” institutions are also the institutions that have more financial resources to defend against potential legal action.

Lawyer Bert Rein speaks to press during the 2015 affirmative action case. He’s joined by his client, Abigail Fisher, and legal strategist Edward Blum, founder of Students for Fair Admissions.
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Why opposition exists

In many ways, higher education provides a pathway to positions of power and influence in the United States.

Attending an elite institution remains an important part of the trajectory for those in the ruling class. Harvard, Stanford and Yale, for example, have graduated considerably more recent members of Congress than other less prestigious schools.

Elite institutions also provide particularly high labor market returns for students of color. Economists have shown, for example, that attending the most selective institutions made an especially big difference in the life earnings for black, Latino and first-generation students.

Keeping the path to high-status positions open for people of color was one of the reasons the Supreme Court found race-conscious admissions to be constitutional. In the words of the court, to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, “the path to leadership must be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.”

A recent opinion piece by Emory professor Carol Anderson made the compelling case for why opposition to affirmative action is grounded on the politics of white resentment – that is, a false view that opening the path to the ruling class for black and Latino students represents a “theft” of those resources from white students.

A world without affirmative action

What happens when colleges and universities cannot consider race as a factor in admissions?

Research shows that, without race-conscious admissions, the racial diversity of student bodies drops substantially. For example, African-American and Latino enrollment declined at the most selective undergraduate institutions in states with bans on affirmative action. Similar findings were reported in enrollment at law schools and business schools after these bans were instituted.

My own research documents declines due to affirmative action bans across a number of graduate fields of study, including engineering and natural and social sciences as well as medical schools.

The decline in racial diversity across these educational sectors exacerbates the already disproportionately low number of students of color in these programs and reduces the variety of perspectives that are needed to foster innovation and advance scientific inquiry.

In short, race-conscious admissions do make a difference in campus diversity, allowing universities to address, rather than exacerbate, existing racial inequities.

Next steps for universities

Though the Fisher case cleared a path for race-conscious admissions, universities must still do their part. The court ruled that institutions must be able to connect racial and ethnic diversity to their mission and demonstrate why so-called “race-neutral” efforts are not as effective as race-conscious ones.

However, these steps alone are not enough for preserving true diversity in the face of ongoing attacks.

One of the very important aspects of the Fisher decision is that the Court’s rationale reflects a robust understanding of diversity: namely, that diversity is about more than the number of students of color; it’s also about fostering an environment in which students can benefit from diversity.

Research suggests that this means ensuring that students are engaging across racial and ethnic lines. In an analysis of decades of social science research, my co-author and I learned that realizing the benefits of diversity requires healthy, even if uncomfortable, cross-racial interactions.

The ConversationDoing so requires attending to the ways that race, in explicit and subconscious ways, influences our interactions and shapes educational opportunity. It’s hard to see how institutions can do so without considering race in their educational policies and practices – including college admissions.


This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THNK 1994, a Pop Culture Museum for the Feminist Soul

It’s your typical New York City love story—woman meets man, that man is into men, and together they form a pop culture museum. That, in a nutshell, is the story of the two masterminds behind the THNK 1994 museum in Brooklyn.

But, THNK 1994 isn’t a bubblegum pop culture-centered type of space. The curators take a look at very specific and obscure early 2000s pop culture moments centered around female celebrities and provide a more in-depth analysis of the double standard faced by them.  

Matt Harkins, a New York City native, and Viviana Rosales Olen, a second generation Mexican-American from Las Vegas, met four years ago when they were both comedians trying to get their careers up and running. Each performed at different basement comedy clubs around New York City, but their “big break” hadn’t come along.

“I think before I met Matt my parents were like, ‘You tried and it’s not happening,’” Olen told Latino USA. Olen had been in NYC almost a decade before she met Harkins. They met back in 2013 when both were part of The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), the only accredited improv and sketch comedy school in the country. On New Year’s Eve, the two connected and as Olen admits, she chased Harkins until they became best friends and eventually roommates. Little did each of them know they’d become one another’s creative saving grace.

On a cold winter day, Harkins and Olen came across the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary titled, “The Price of Gold,” which focused on the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan scandal that rocked the ice skating world.

Immediately, both were hooked and wondered why this American tragedy, which they vaguely remembered from childhood, wasn’t talked about more. They were especially taken away by the role domestic abuse played in the broader storyline, something Olen said they did not take lightly.

“The last thing we wanted to do was glorify or have fun with the idea of a woman being attacked and we wanted to make that clear right away,” she said.

That moment was the catalyst for the creation of the THNK 1994 museum. The museum’s name is a combination of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan’s initials, 1994 was the year the attack on Kerrigan happened. Their vision, which started off as a passion project in the hallway of their first apartment, has now morphed into a full blown storefront museum dedicated to often ignored or critiqued tabloid moments centered on women.

Their current exhibit, “Nicole Richie’s 2007 Memorial Day BBQ,” memorializes a barbecue hosted by the former reality show star. Harkins and Olen joined forces with popculturediedin2009, who keeps his true identity private and firmly believes social media led to the demise of pop culture, to curate this exhibit.

“Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in a Car” – Painting by Laura Collins. (Courtesy of THNK 1994)

The infamous 2007 barbecue’s invitees included Lindsey Lohan (and her ankle monitor), Britney Spears, and of course, Paris Hilton. All women who went through difficult times and party-girl phases but were chastised for it, something both Olen and Harkins agree wouldn’t have made as many headlines had they been men.

In another part of the museum, you’ll see iconic moments in pop culture such as Naomi Campbell doing community service while wearing high fashion outfits, or when Winona Ryder was in court because of theft charges. In the center of the main floor, you’ll see a strawberry milkshake-colored toddler car with a cat pillow and the words, “Toot Toot Beep Beep,” written on them. The car, a staple piece of the collection, is placed near a painting of rapper Missy Elliott.

Across the hallway, they have pieces from their “Olsen Twins Hiding from the Paparazzi” exhibit, as well as other paintings from their pop-up series which pays homage to models who have fallen on the catwalk. In their loft space, you’ll find their permanent exhibit, the one dedicated to Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.

Every inch of their apartment has been turned into a museum space. Harkins and Olen work with various LGBTQ+ and female artists from around the country who contribute to their museum. Laura Collins, a contemporary visual artist based out of Chicago, has worked with them since the Olsen twins exhibit. Derek Covington Smith, a Mississippi native, creates many of their pop culture icons portraits.

Harkins and Olen believe there is beauty in the oddities and imperfect moments of pop culture icons and almost resent the fact they are not celebrated more. Neither agrees with the idea of locking people and celebrities into a box. However, they do think women get the unfair part of the deal when it comes to media critiques and overall expectations.

“We like to look at women who aren’t in the box and say ‘Hi, it’s ok because this behavior on a man would be absolutely celebrated,’” said Olen.

Both admit living together and working together can lead to friendship and business overload but can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. They perfectly complement each other and agree one’s strength is the other’s weakness. As far as what the future holds for THNK 1994, both are hoping to find investors and not have to go back to their former jobs as self-described “pizza shop girls.”

Harkins and Olen have created a safe space that welcomes artists and embraces the nontraditional. They have given their all to this museum and ignored the naysayers.

“If people say something you love or something you’re doing is stupid then absolutely don’t talk to that person anymore,” Olen said. “If someone doesn’t want something to do with you then turn around and love the world.”

All-Woman Group of Bolivian Mountain Climbers Scale High Peaks in Traditional Clothing

Jimena Lidia Huaylas puts on her colorful skirt, embroidered shawl, brooch and earrings—all part of a traditional Bolivian cholita outfit—and goes out to scale Bolivia’s highest peaks. The Great Big Story follows Jimena and her friends, who founded the all-woman group, the Cholita Climbers, and have broken stereotypes of what a woman can do in the culture of machismo they live in.

“They would say, ‘How could a woman climb up a mountain? That’s wrong!'” said Huaylas. “There’s always someone who will criticize us. They still do. But we show them with actions, not words.”

Women’s Rights Advocates in El Salvador Outraged Over ‘Legitimized’ Rape-Marriage

Marriage between minors and their abusers could be legitimized in El Salvador after judges ruled in favor of a legal union between a 12-year-old and her 34-year-old rapist in July. Women’s rights advocates fear this is a further setback in a nation where abortion is outlawed under all circumstances, including rape, incest, deformed fetus or endangering a woman’s life.

*Ana’s fate is a case study of the underlying issues in El Salvador where the legal system is biased toward men and women and girls are given little credibility in the justice process. Ana gave birth in February resulting from the rape and her alleged abuser was sent to prison. Her mother allegedly later interceded in favor of the rapist claiming he could provide milk and disposable diapers for the newborn. Judges Ramón Iván García and Santiago Alvarado Ponce used the mother’s argument to revoke the man’s arrest on July 11.

Las Dignas, a political feminist organization formed during the Peace Accords of the early 1990s between the United States and El Salvador, released a statement on July 28 calling the judges’ decision “irresponsible” and “sexist.” Members of the organization are working to eradicate the subordination of women in politics, society and the economy. By offering legal services, a school on feminism and other educational tools, members aim to bring justice to female victims of violence.

A woman makes a flier at the feminist festival marking Las Dignas’ 27th anniversary this summer. (Courtesy of Las Dignas)

Leaders of the organization worry Ana’s case could set a precedent for similar future cases. The verdict in Ana’s case violates the stipulations of la Ley Especial Integral para Una Vida Libre de Violencia (LEIV), a law implemented in 2002, that mandates eradication of all violence against women.

“We are demanding the legal and justice system abide by this law which was an effort by many feminist organizations across the country to stop femicide and implement protections for women,” said Yanileth Mejía, who oversees the feminist school and a program focused on lesbian political activism at Las Dignas.

Without proper enforcement of the law, she argues victims of sexual violence will be condemned to a lifetime of repeated sexual abuse from their perpetrator, especially if rape-marriages are legalized.

The Salvadoran penal code states that rape of a girl or teenager younger than 18 years of age is classified as a crime against sexual liberty and is categorized as an aggravated sexual assault, resulting in 20 years in prison.

“The legal system is finding loopholes in this law by adding resolutions that make certain cases exceptions and will continue to do so when convenient,” Mejía said, alluding to Ana’s case.

The announcement published by Las Dignas calls out the Chamber of the Second Section of Center Cojutepeque which presided over Ana’s case.

“We argue for absolute prosecution of individuals charged with sexual abuse of a minor and that the Legislative Assembly make necessary reforms to eliminate the practice of infantile marriages,” the announcement states.

Magistrates in El Salvador acknowledged the possibility of rape in Ana’s case, but decided the right to conserve the family as whole—Ana, her rapist and the newborn—trumped Ana’s individual rights. Family code allows for marriage between minors aged 12 to 17 with adults in cases where there is a pregnancy and the minor’s parents or guardians give consent.

From left, Viviana Días, Yanileth Mejía and Andrea Cortez participate in the rally. (Courtesy of Las Dignas)

“This directly correlates with the country’s problems of sexual abuse, early pregnancy, sexual violence and the termination of school studies for these girls,” María Teresa de Mejía, a specialist in the UNICEF System of Protection of Childhood, told reporters at digital network Taringa.

The same report also states the Salvadoran Parliament is considering the possibility of prohibiting infantile marriages.

“If Parliament follows through, judges would have no window to legitimize teenage marriages,” Yenni Acosta, an attorney with Defense of the Human Rights of Children and Adolescents, told Taringa.

Yanileth Mejía of Las Dignas takes it a step further by arguing the only way to eradicate forced rape-marriages is for lawmakers to loosen the extremist abortion law. Harsh abortion laws impact women across Latin America.

The latest report from Insight Crime uses data from 2012 and shows El Salvador topping the list in Latin American femicide with a rate of 8.9 homicides per 100,000 women. Seven of the ten countries with the greatest number of crimes against women are in Latin America.

“I insist the greatest deterrent of abuse is for women to have the tools and resources to navigate a flawed judicial system,” Mejía said. “Less stringent abortion laws are a start toward self-empowerment.”

*Note: Ana is an alias for the 12-year-old whose case is mentioned throughout the article. All quotes were translated from Spanish to English.

Pew: Despite Flat Growth Rate, Hispanics Account for More Than Half of US Population Growth

According to a report released in August from the Pew Research Center, the annual growth rate of the U.S. Hispanic population stayed steady between 2016 and 2017. However, the U.S. Hispanic population stills accounts for more than half of the nation’s population growth.

“Overall, the U.S. population increased by more than 2.2 million people between 2016 and 2017, with Hispanics accounting for 1.1 million, or about half (51%), of this growth,” the Pew analysis showed.

The Pew analysis also explored where the population growth among Hispanics reached its peak and what caused the flattening in the growth rate.

The analysis found that during the Hispanic boom of the 1990s, the population’s annual growth rate peaked at 4.2%, but shortly following came the Great Recession where the rate declined rapidly due the economy, low immigration and low fertility rates.

But despite the decline since the Great Recession, the analysis shows that Hispanics continue to have the largest growth of any ethnicity and race group.

Pew looked at how Hispanics “continue to disperse across the nation,” and discovered that the states with the most Hispanic population growth are Texas, California and Florida.

“California (15.3 million), Texas (10.9 million) and Florida (5.1 million) made up 54% of the U.S. Hispanic population in 2016,” Pew’s Jens Manuel Krogstad wrote about the findings. “However, Texas grew faster than California, adding an estimated 233,000 Hispanics from 2015 to 2016 and accounting for 21% of the nation’s Hispanic population increase during this time.”

In addition, Krogstad noted on of the fast growing areas in Texas, “Harris County in Texas, which encompasses Houston, added 39,639 Hispanics in 2016, the largest annual increase of any county in the nation.”

Featured Image: PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images

The Latino USA Playlist for ‘Inside MS-13’

If you love the music as much as your love our show, then you’re in luck. At the start of each week, we’ll be sharing the songs featured in our latest episode.

This week we feature the music highlighted in Inside MS-13.

Warning: you might become obsessed with an artist or two.

The Playlist

“Colibria (Ninze & Thomash Remix)” by Nicola Cruz

“Popcorn” by DJ Raff

“Ze Bula (Chancha Via Circuito Remix)” by Figura

“Orinoco” by Dembowsky

“Eloy Ending” by Noam Hassenfeld

“Cumbia Bichera (Tremor Mix)” by El Remolon

“Pintar el Sol (Chancha Via Circuito Remix)” by Mariam Garcia & Alicia Solans

“Ponte en Off” by POOOW!

“Cumbion de las Aves” by Chancha Via Circuito

“Libelula (Tremor Remix)” by Latinsizer

To view the full playlist on Spotify, click here.

How MS-13 Makes Money

The economic motor that supports gangs in Honduras isn’t drug trafficking, kidnappings or prostitution rings, it’s something much more simple and insidious: extortion.

No sector of the economy suffers from gang extortion quite like bus and taxi drivers. If you are a bus driver, there’s something that will happen every so often where you are stopped at an intersection. A kid will come up to you and hand you a cell phone. Then, the guy on the other end of the line will say, “Hi, I’m calling from such-and-such a gang. And if you want to keep driving this route, you have to pay me money every single week. Or else we will kill you.”

Every month in Honduras, there are probably a few million dollars that come out of hardworking people’s paychecks and into the pockets of gang members. Over 40 bus drivers were murdered by gangs this year alone for not paying up.

On top of the terrible human toll, extortion is a major drag on the Honduran economy. And it’s getting worse and worse. Latino USA’s Marlon Bishop reports on this bloody industry from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital.

This story was produced in association with Round Earth Media. German Andino, in Honduras, co-reported this story with Marlon.

A version of this story was reported for NPR’s Planet Money.

Featured Image: Marlon Bishop

What Does It Feel Like to Be Called an ‘Animal’? A Former MS-13 Member Speaks Out

Gerardo Lopez was born in Los Angeles to Argentinean and Mexican parents, and he joined MS-13 when he was 14 years old. He has since left MS-13, and now serves as Director of the Denver chapter of Homies Unidos, an anti-gang violence organization.

Lopez discusses what the constant news coverage of MS-13 feels like to someone with deep connections to the gang, and how this seems particularly different in President Trump’s America.

An extended version of this conversation is available on our sister podcast, In The Thick, a show about race, culture, and politics from a POC perspective. You can find it in your podcast feed or at

Featured Image: Courtesy of Gerardo Lopez

MS-13: Why Long Island, Why Now?

MS-13 has been making headlines recently, and attracting the Trump Administration’s attention, largely because of a string of youth murders in Suffolk County, New York. Since January 2016, MS-13 is suspected to be involved in 17 murders in Suffolk County—approximately 38% of all homicides during that time period.

Part of the tragedy is that migrants from Central America come to places like Suffolk County to flee exactly the kind of violence they are now facing. Law enforcement is stuck between trying to work with the community to prevent violence and the Trump administration’s deportation rhetoric which keeps undocumented people from coming forward with information.

Liz Robbins, an immigration reporter for The New York Times, joins us to talk about the gangs murders in Suffolk County, why the area is a hot bed for MS-13 violence, and how law enforcement has responded.

Featured Image: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times