Originally Published in the Los Angeles Times
Fidel Martinez - April 29, 2021
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.
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.”