Bay Area documentary filmmaker follows immigration crisis

Jose Antonio Vargas from the Bay Area spoke with ABC7 News about documenting the plight of families at shelters near the border.
Monday, July 14, 2014
ABC7 News had exclusive access in the Bay Area to documentary footage on the Central America immigration crisis-- the children pouring across the border to Texas are coming to the Bay Area as well.

A delegation of California lawmakers is headed to Central America to deal with a growing immigration crisis. They will visit Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama over the next nine days to intervene in what the governor has called a human tragedy -- thousands of children, many traveling alone -- pouring across the U.S. border illegally.

We've heard about the thousands of children being housed in immigration facilities along the border and the protests because of their presence. However, there are lots of children who are now being cared for by churches in those areas and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist is trying to tell that part of this story. ABC7 News spoke exclusively to him on Monday.

Half a dozen California law makers, led by Sen. President Darrell Steinberg, D- Sacramento, hopped a plane headed to Central America. They had planned on talking about economic development, but the conversation has changed.

"This trip was planned many, many months ago, but of course the timing cannot be more interesting or important. And we want to go down and see what we can do to help these kids," Steinberg said.

State lawmakers will be meeting with the president of El Salvador and Guatemalan national officials. Many of the children held at these facilities have fled those countries because of deadly gang violence.

"For those young people that meet the definition of asylum, we've got to welcome them and treat all these kids with dignity and compassion," Steinberg said.

Over the last few weeks, shocking images of Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities packed with children, has focused new attention on this issue. Demonstrations against minors being allowed to stay in the U.S. have erupted in places like Murrieta, Calif.

In McAllen, Texas -- one of the country's highest profile undocumented immigrants, Jose Antonio Vargas, is there reporting on the situation.

The Pulitzer Prize winner was brought to the U.S. from the Philippines as a child. He grew up in the Bay Area and is currently documenting the plight of families at shelters near the border.

ABC7 News viewed an excerpt from his project called "Define American" and spoke to Vargas. He said, "An El Salvadoran woman had met, she had been threatened by gang members who were peeling people's skin off."

Right now, Vargas is also at risk of being deported because there are lots of border checkpoints in that area and he doesn't currently qualify for a visa to remain in the U.S.

This weekend, about 40 adults, along with their children, were returned to Honduras by immigration officials.

The children who come to the U.S. on their own pose one of the biggest problems for immigration officials because it's difficult to figure out exactly where they're from and why they left.

Under a law passed in the Bush administration, the U.S. is required to verify that they are not the victims of human trafficking.
Related Topics:
politics immigration children border patrol protest texas San Francisco Sacramento
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