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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Virginia is more than 1,500 miles from the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, epicenter of the border crisis.

And it is the home state of Rep. Eric Cantor, who was defeated by a Tea Party novice who attacked the former House majority leader for being open to “amnesty” for at least some immigrants in the country illegally.

But Yesenia, 16, and her brother, Herson, 12, are here.

Junior, 14, is in Virginia too. So is Claudia, 13.

The Washington, D.C., region is drawing a number of the children caught illegally crossing the border because it is home to an estimated 165,000 Salvadoran immigrants, the nation’s second-largest population after the Los Angeles area’s 275,000, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The capital region had 42,000 immigrants from Guatemala and 30,000 from Honduras.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families reports that 2,234 unaccompanied minors were released to sponsors in Virginia between Jan. 1 and July 7, ranking the state fifth after Texas, New York, Florida and California.

As a measure of the influx of young immigrants into Virginia, when the legal aid organization Ayuda began taking new appointments at its Falls Church office, it received more than 300 calls within an hour, said attorney Rebecca J. Walters.

Central American populations took root in the Washington area when political turmoil racked their homelands in the 1980s. Fear of violence, this time from gangs, often drives the current migration.

“This is something that no parent wants their kid to go through,” Arminda said of her children’s journey to the United States. But in El Salvador, she said, “it’s just a matter of time before they’re going to die.”

Arminda, like a number of others interviewed, spoke through an interpreter and on the condition that only first names be used. She entered the United States illegally about nine years ago, leaving behind her three children.

Arminda, who cleans offices for a living, paid a coyote $7,000 to bring Yesenia and Herson to the United States. Their father had abandoned the children. They were being cared for by their grandmother, who became ill.

Her youngest son, nine-year-old Milton, followed his siblings six months later; she needed time to save the additional $5,000 to pay a coyote for him.

Yesenia and Herson brought only what they could carry in backpacks and traveled by bus and car, and sometimes by foot. They say they were often hungry.

Yesenia said that when she grew tired of walking, one member of her group warned her that unless she continued, she would be killed. They crossed the Rio Grande on a raft and were immediately apprehended by the Border Patrol.

Arminda said she received a call from immigration authorities about 1 a.m. alerting her that her children were safe and in custody. They were flown — in their first airplane ride — to Washington and reunited with their mother.

The children are attending school while they seek to remain in the country. No hearing date has been set, but the hearing is expected to be in Los Angeles as immigration authorities try to find available courtrooms and judges. Milton, apprehended later, is in a detention facility in New York.

Her children had to leave El Salvador, she said, to “get away from a place where gangs kill people and chop them up.”

“One day a boy — they robbed him, took his things and chopped him up,” she said. “I don’t want this to happen — I don’t want these children to grow up in this crime-ridden place. Because the gang members, when the girls are older, they force them to join their gang and they force them to be their women.”

Junior’s journey began in Honduras. “I felt alone,” said Junior, the last of his family to come to the United States. “I wanted to be with my mom.”

His mother, three brothers and two sisters were already in the United States. His father had left the family. And his grandfather, who was caring for him, was sick.

Junior was caught within minutes of crossing the Rio Grande and assumed he would be deported right away. But he ended up spending about two weeks in custody in Texas, Arizona and Los Angeles, before he was flown to reunite with his family in Virginia.

Now he is back with the mother he hadn’t seen since he was six. And he is embracing his new home, wearing a T-shirt in the University of Virginia’s orange and navy blue.

Claudia’s journey, which lasted about a month, began in Guatemala. Her mother, Margot, had entered the country illegally eight years ago, leaving a son and two daughters. She has two U.S.-born sons, ages five and seven.

Margot wanted Claudia, 13, to come to the United States because she feared she would be forced into marriage like her 14-year-old sister, who remains in Guatemala.

Asked about the public furor over the surge of young immigrants crossing the border, Margot said: “Consider what life is like in their shoes. … They can’t survive where they are.”

Yasmine, who cleans houses for a living, started saving from the day she arrived to raise money to pay a coyote to bring her daughter Marbeli, 15, and son Manuel, 12, to the U.S. from El Salvador. But she still needed help from her father-in-law to cover the $16,000 bill.

She had entered the country illegally two years ago, joining her husband, who had already found work here.

Marbeli said that while the journey was difficult — sometimes she and her brother went days without eating — she said she trusted in God. When she began her journey she carried only a backpack and a Bible.

Marbeli and Manuel got separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Marbeli was apprehended by the Border Patrol shortly after she crossed the Rio Grande on an inner tube. She has already been granted special juvenile immigrant status.

Manuel was never caught but made it to Los Angeles and then, like many others, to Virginia.

Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times/MCT

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]