Category Archives: Immigration

Uninsured woman’s story, Central American package garner honors

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Nicky Stauffer at her Hooper, Utah, home. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — A story and a package I wrote for the Standard-Examiner garnered recognition.

That’s always nice.

In the Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Top of the Rockies contest, a story I did on an uninsured mother of two with breast cancer searching frantically for care garnered second place in the health reporting category. Her husband had called me, describing their plight seeking health care, worried they wouldn’t be able to find help for her. Pretty wrenching situation:

A package of stories I did on Central American immigrants in northern Utah also garnered recognition. Photographer Ben Zack and I received second-place honors in the general reporting, series or package, category. I particularly enjoyed digging into these stories, finding the Central Americans living in the area:

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Congolese refugees in Utah adjust to life in new home — Ogden

Monday, May 7, 2018

Musambo Muhanuka, center, and two of his sons, Ishara Mombamango, 6, on the left, and Faustin Nfitemukiza, 14. The are among the Congolese refugee contingent living in Ogden. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — Sometimes stories take a while to germinate and materialize.

I first latched onto the idea of writing about the Congolese refugee contingent in Ogden several months back — last summer — after attending a meeting at the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership and learning of their presence here. I can’t even remember what drew me to the meeting, but there were several people from the Democratic Republic of Congo and it piqued my curiosity.

Amani Baraka, right, and wife Charlotte Bukeye with their two kids, Freddy, at right, and Britain. They are among the contingent of Congolese refugees living in Ogden. By TIm Vandenack

I made contact with several who volunteered with the refugees and last March started reaching out to them so I could meet with some of the refugees, who came from United Nations refugee camps, mainly in Uganda. Between other stories and responsibilities, I started meeting them, learning their stories, how adjustment is going and more about the Congo. Other Standard-Examiner reporters had written about them in 2016 when they first arrived, before my time here, and my idea was to write about their transition to life here thus far.

It was fascinating — they have gone through a lot in their country, beset by strife and violence, yet they carry on, maintaining an upbeat demeanor. One man who works with refugees called them “the lucky ones” because they are among the few who have found a way out of the tough conditions of their home country:

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ICE, political heat, development, beer and Romney — it’s been busy

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Utah U.S. Senate hopeful Mitt Romney poses with a well-wisher during a campaign visit to Weber State University in Ogden on March 13, 2018. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — Elections and politics have been my main focus of late, but not the only focus.

There ‘s been immigration, beer, U.S. Senate hopeful Mitt Romney’s visit and more about the investigation into Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson. Here are a few recent favorites:

Dusty Williams, co-owner of Talisman Brewing Co. in Ogden, in the new tavern area of the locale. By Tim Vandenack

Here’s some more:

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Ogden area Latinos flex entrepreneurial muscle, move into business

Wednesday Dec. 27, 2017

A few of the Latino entrepreneurs in Ogden (clockwise from top left): Javier Chavez, Ana Maria Medina, Gustavo Ortega and Miguel Hernandez. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — Ana Maria Medina, who came to the United States from Mexico as a teen, brought by her mom, used to work the fields of California, picking strawberries.

It’s tough, hard work and she eventually moved on to cosmetology, working many years in the salons of others and now, finally, operating her own beauty shop in Ogden.

“She was already running the place where she was. Might as well run her own business,” said her daughter, Gabriela Valencia, who prodded her mom to take the leap. “She went from working in the fields with the strawberries to cleaning homes to being owner of a salon.”

Many in the sizable Latino population here may stick with service-sector and lower-paying jobs, but more and more are flexing their entrepreneurial muscles, launching their own businesses. U.S. Census Bureau numbers show an uptick and it’s the focus of a recent deep dive I did for the Standard-Examiner looking at local Hispanic business operators.

Those I spoke to came from humble backgrounds in Mexico, never saw business as an alternative when they were growing up. Here in the United States, though, they see the opportunity and have seized it:

The online version contains video of those I interviewed and colleague Sheila Wang gathered up some of the data (look here) that offers a glimpse into the Latino community here.

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Trump move to end DACA sparks concern from Ogden immigrants

Sunday Oct. 8, 2017

Clarissa was born in Mexico, brought to Ogden as a young girl, but says the United States is home. She’s one of many left wondering what comes next after President Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — They’re here lawfully, for now anyway.

But some of the formerly undocumented immigrants who have secured permission to remain in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, approved under President Barack Obama, are still uncomfortable getting too much publicity. I spoke to two young Ogden women with DACA status in the wake of President Trump’s decision to halt the program, Gisela and Clarissa, but they only wanted their first names used, worried about backlash, chiefly to their undocumented parents.

That shows how touchy the immigration issue is. More significantly, though, their comments shed light on the people most impacted by Trump’s decision, young people who regard the United States as home but, because they were brought here illegally by their parents, live in a sort of limbo.

Here’s the story: Ogden immigrants worry after Trump axes DACA, say U.S., not Mexico, is home.

It’s a big topic in Ogden, as in many places, because of the heavy Latino and immigrant population here. Some are directly impacted, like Gisela and Clarissa. Others are impacted because it affects their immigrant friends and relatives.

Here’s another related story, written in the wake of Trump’s DACA decision: Ogden advocates fear DACA decision will push immigrants back into the shadows.

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Salvadorans, Guatemalans seek new lives in the Ogden area (or, not all Latinos are rooted in Mexico)

Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017

Rufino Bocel, who now lives in Centerville, came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 1991, in part to get away from the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War, then still simmering. He’s one of many I spoke to for a package of articles on Central Americans in Utah. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — Most of the Latinos in Utah (like the United States as a whole) have roots in Mexico.

But not all of them.

A subset in the Ogden area and Utah as a whole come from Central America, most notably El Salvador and Guatemala. I’ve long wanted to zero in on non-Mexican Latinos and finally put together a package for the Standard-Examiner.

It took several months, gathering information here and there, searching out contacts, visiting people. I attended services at three evangelical churches, which draw a fair number of Central Americans. I also ate at a Salvadoran restaurant here in Ogden, broke bread with a group at a Pentecostal church and dug into U.S. Census Bureau numbers and other data on killings (violence pushes many out of the region).

I knew that gang activity and the civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s have pushed many from Central America, but it was eye-opening hearing the stories over and over of violence. It’s a far cry from the sorts of stories I’ve heard from immigrants from Mexico, pushed largely by economic concerns (though that country has its fair share of violence, too).

Here’s what I pulled together:
SALVADORANS, CENTRAL AMERICANS COME TO UTAH FLEEING GANGS, VIOLENCE: The main story, offering the accounts of the violence many have faced before coming here to the United States, whether legally or illegally. “If I hadn’t come, they would’ve killed me,” Rafael Moreira told me, alluding to the gang threats he faced in El Salvador.

CENTRAL AMERICANS ON FOOD, GANGS AND BEING MISTAKENLY IDENTIFIED AS MEXICAN: This is a series of photos and quick observations from several of the people I interviewed. “Sometimes the customers ask, ‘Can’t you make tacos, burritos?’ We say, ‘No, sorry,’” said Luis Pineda, operator of an Ogden Salvadoran restaurant, La Cabañita Salvadoreña. “They ask us if we’re Mexican. We say, ‘No, we’re Salvadoran. We’re from El Salvador.’”

SALVADORAN WOMAN SEEKING ASYLUM SAYS UTAH OFFERS PROTECTION, PEACE OF MIND: This tells the story of Araceli, who faced extortion from Salvadoran gangs as the operator of a small clothes stand in a market and paid twice before closing her shop and coming to Utah with her family. “If you don’t give it to us, we know where you live,” one of gang members had threatened back in El Salvador.

Some of the people I met, things I saw in reporting a package of stories on Central Americans in the Ogden area and northern Utah for the Standard-Examiner. See the stories at Standard.net, Visuals.Standard.net. Clockwise from upper right: A woman during a service at Shalom Christian Church in Ogden, home to a large Salvadoran contingent; Ana Canenguez, left, and other women making pupusas, a Salvadoran food, in a south Ogden neighborhood; Rufino Bocel, originally from Guatemala, at the Light and Truth Pentecostal Christian Church in Ogden; Iris Mencia, originally from Honduras, now living in Riverdale, photographed in Ogden; and Marcos Candray, originally from El Salvador, at Shalom Christian Church, where he serves as pastor. #elsalvador #guatemala #honduras #utah #ogden #immigration

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Ogden Latinos, immigrants brace themselves under Trump

Sunday Feb. 26, 2017

Employees from Beto's Mexican Food in Ogden pose outside the restaurant on Feb. 16, 2017, Day Without Immigrants. By Tim Vandenack

Employees from Beto’s Mexican Food in Ogden pose outside the restaurant on Feb. 16, 2017, Day Without Immigrants. By Tim Vandenack

I’m now reporting from Ogden, Utah, for the Standard-Examiner, the local paper here. A big change from The Elkhart Truth in Indiana, but it’s exciting to be here and there’s plenty to write about.

I’m writing about the sizable Latino population and immigration — a particularly hot topic with President Trump‘s focus on the issue.

Here’s what I’ve written on the matter:

Another unfolding story, in a decidedly different vein, has been the case of an expensive house built atop a rise in south Ogden that is gradually disintegrating, putting the home at risk.

Here’s what I’ve written:

Just last Friday, I visited a small community north of Ogden, Garland, to see how people there are coping with flooding, brought on by a particularly heavy accumulation of snow and quick melt-off last week when temperatures rose:

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Elkhart Latinos respond to Trump and other post-election coverage

Monday Dec. 4, 2016

Participants in the Elkhart County Republican Party caucus on Friday Dec. 2, 2016, in Goshen. GOP committeemen picked a replacement to fill out Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill's term when he takes over in January as Indiana attorney general. By Tim Vandenack

Participants in the Elkhart County Republican Party caucus on Friday Dec. 2, 2016, in Goshen. GOP committeemen picked a replacement to fill out Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill’s term when he takes over in January as Indiana attorney general. By Tim Vandenack

Election coverage didn’t end with the counting of votes the night of Nov. 8.

I kept busy in the days afterward as well, analyzing and understanding the results and what they meant.

In Elkhart County, the election of Donald Trump as president alarmed some Latinos and immigrant advocates, and they gathered to mull the implications of his selection:

The election of Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill as Indiana attorney general was noteworthy in the context of racial politics. He’s the first African-American GOPer, near as I can tell, and one of only a handful of African-Americans ever elected to statewide office in Indiana, but race seems to have factored little in his contest.

“I’d like to believe that we’re at a point in 2016 where there are just people. There are Hoosiers. There are Americans,” Hill said in an interview with me.

Here’s the story:

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski resoundingly won a third term and the GOPer was pretty ecstatic about the prospects, in combination with Trump’s victory.

“Now I see a path forward,” she said, alluding to hope for repeal of Obamacare, more aggressive action against ISIS extremists in Syria and an end to what she sees as stifling federal overregulation.

Here’s the story:

Me, Tim Vandenack, on far right, at taping of WNIT's Politically Speaking, aired Nov. 13, 2016. We discussed Nov. 8 elections. Screen grab from program.

Me, Tim Vandenack, on far right, at taping of WNIT’s Politically Speaking, aired Nov. 13, 2016. We discussed Nov. 8 elections. Screen grab from program.

Just last Friday, I covered the caucus of Elkhart County Republican Party committeemen to pick someone to fill the unfinished term of Hill, who’s term as prosecutor still has two years. They tabbed Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vicki Becker and also picked replacements for two other officials elected to higher office last November. The story was pretty straightforward (look here), but it offered the chance to flex some tweeting muscles and I reeled off 17 of them, reporting all the action — and Becker’s naming — in real time.

As in other cycles, I appeared on “Politically Speaking,” the political show on local public station WNIT, as a wonk, discussing and analyzing the election results:

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Elkhart man’s fight to fend off deportation enters new phase

Sunday Oct. 30, 2016

Armando Paez, second from left, continues his fight to remain in the United States. Pictured, from left, with daughter Maria, wife Martha and son Juan. By Tim Vandenack

Armando Paez, second from left, continues his fight to remain in the United States. Pictured, from left, with daughter Maria, wife Martha and son Juan. By Tim Vandenack

Armando Paez has fought for years to stay in the United States.

He’s still here, having successfully fought off deportation. So far. His efforts are entering a new phase, though, after U.S. immigration officials last month rejected his latest request to put off a pending order to return to his native Colombia.

I’ve written extensively about Paez and his family, who came here from Colombia in 1999 with visas, but overstayed them. They filed for political asylum, citing fears they’d be persecuted by leftist guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But that request was denied and they’ve been fighting for a way to stay.

Here’s the latest in the efforts:

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Theft of Elkhart man’s identity by undocumented immigrants leads to headaches, bankruptcy, frustration

Wednesday Oct. 5, 2016

In this archive Elkhart Truth photo, an Elkhart police officer holds false identity cards confiscated by the department.

In this archive Elkhart Truth photo, an Elkhart police officer holds false identity cards confiscated by the department.

Stealing IDs takes a toll.

I wrote late last month (look at this blog entry) about an undocumented immigrant arrested for identity theft, Candida Rosete. She was brought here as a child by her parents, and she defended her place here, saying the United States is her country, even if she doesn’t have papers to be here.

It was in the context of a spate of arrests by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department of people who used fake IDs to get work and calls for tips about other suspected undocumented immigrants. The sheriff’s department actions generated a lot of criticism from immigrant advocates.

Last week I went for the other side of things and spoke to a man, Joshua Buelna, whose identity had been stolen by an undocumented immigrant. Life has been terrible for him, and he ultimately had to file bankruptcy because of all the debt incurred illegally in his name. Others used his Social Security number to rent homes, get cars, acquire mobile phone contracts and more and he was left to deal with the fallout after they skipped out on the bills.

As with the first story about Candida, the story about Joshua generated a strong response, many sympathetic with his plight:

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