Reynaldo Leaños Jr. / Texas Public Radio | KERA News

Reynaldo Leaños Jr. / Texas Public Radio

Reynaldo Leanos Jr. covers immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border for Texas Public Radio.

Prior to joining Texas Public Radio, Reynaldo was a freelance journalist in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and in New York City. His work has appeared in Public Radio International’s The World and Global Nation, NBC News, NPR’s Latino USA, KUT’s Texas Standard and KUT.

He has an undergraduate degree from Texas State University, where he studied journalism and international studies. Leanos also has a master’s degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, where he specialized in international reporting.

Thousands of asylum seekers in Matamoros, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, don’t have access to clean water. They have to use the Rio Grande for bathing, washing clothes and cooling off from the blistering heat. Migrants have developed skin infections, and some have drowned. But a group of volunteers is trying to make their lives better.


The Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program forces asylum seekers who reach the southern border to wait in Mexico until their court date in the U.S. This has become an especially dangerous limbo for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, who have reported violence and harassment against them.


More than 30,000 asylum seeking migrants have been returned to Mexico to await their day in immigration court — a process that can take months. This is part of the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy. The program says vulnerable populations may be excluded from the program, but many migrants who are considered vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ asylum seekers, are still being sent back to Mexico.


U.S. officials have sent back to Mexico more than 30,000 asylum-seeking migrants to wait for their immigration court dates. This is part of the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico program. Pregnant women are among some of the people sent back. But one attorney from the Rio Grande Valley pushed back at the policy. She tried to get her client paroled and back into Texas.


Tens of thousands of migrants are in limbo in Mexican border towns because of the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy. The migrants wait for months in sometimes-dangerous conditions before they may appear in a U.S. immigration court. So some volunteers decided to transform a problem into an opportunity. They opened a special school for migrant children in Matamoros so that the kids' education could continue.


The massacre in El Paso sent shockwaves across the country, and especially throughout the Rio Grande Valley. People in McAllen held a vigil on Wednesday to honor their fellow border city hundreds of miles away. At the event they expressed defiance and sadness. But they also expressed fear — fear that what happened in El Paso could someday happen to them.


Native American activists from across the country came to the Rio Grande Valley on Saturday to protest the treatment of migrants at the U.S. border, including children detention and family separation.


Vice President Mike Pence and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee visited a tent-like temporary detention facility in Donna and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Station in McAllen Friday.

The same day, groups across the country scheduled vigils to protest conditions at migrant detention facilities.

Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress will visit the Rio Grande Valley later this week.

Residents in the Rio Grande Valley gathered at vigils in McAllen and Brownsville on Sunday evening to remember the lives of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria.

The Salvadoran father and daughter drowned as they tried to cross the river between Matamoros and Brownsville last Sunday. Valeria’s mother, Tania Vanessa Avalos, watched as her family was swept away.

Associated Press

U.S. Border Patrol agents have located four bodies by the Rio Grande in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, near the U.S. border with Mexico. Three of the deceased were children — one toddler and two infants — and the other was a 20-year-old woman.

U.S. Border Patrol agents have located four bodies by the Rio Grande in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, near the U.S. border with Mexico. Three of the deceased were children — one toddler and two infants — and the other was a 20-year-old woman.

"It's an incredibly heartbreaking situation, which seems to happen far too often," said Special Agent in Charge Michelle Lee of the San Antonio FBI office.

Veronica G. Cardenas / Texas Public Radio

Residents of Laredo, Texas are reacting to President Trump’s threats to implement a new 5% tariff on all goods coming from Mexico. The president said the tariff will increase if Mexico doesn’t stop the flow of illegal immigration into the U.S.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the death of a migrant minor at the Weslaco Border Patrol station.

Giant tent structures have been erected in Texas to serve as short-term detention facilities to process a huge influx of families and unaccompanied minors from Central America arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The facilities are open Friday in El Paso, Texas, and in the state's Rio Grande Valley next to the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge.

A large white tent-like structure sits next to the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In recent months, the Department of Homeland Security has been dealing with an influx of unaccompanied minors and family units from Central America arriving at the southern border.

DHS recently announced the agency will expand its border detention facilities in Texas with the opening of two new tent-like structures, which were completed this week.

Two NFL players made a stop in the Rio Grande Valley this week to learn first-hand what is going on at the border and to provide some help to migrant families in both the U.S. and Mexico.

The acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security continued his tour of immigration facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday.

Hugh Fitzsimons is a rancher and writer. He raises bison at the Shape Ranch in the southwestern part of Dimmit County, about 10 miles away from the Mexican border. He considers his ranch a world apart from the two nations divided by the Rio Grande.


Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, visited the Rio Grande Valley Thursday and met with local and state law enforcement. The visit came just days after Border Patrol in the Valley began releasing asylum-seeking migrants from detention, citing overcrowded facilities.

The future of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, has been uncertain ever since President Trump took office.

Thousands gathered in Brownsville on Saturday to celebrate Charro Days, a multi-day annual event that commemorated the relationship between the border city and Matamoros, its sister city in Mexico.

Drag queens from throughout Texas' Rio Grande Valley gathered last weekend in Brownsville to protest further construction of the border wall and bring attention to LGBTQ migrants who have been detained or are seeking asylum.

In a public park, a performer who goes by Beatrix Lestrange did not have to struggle to catch the attention of protesters gathered for the No Border Wall Protest Drag Show. Lestrange, whose real name is Jose Colon-Uvalles, wore a multicolored dress, a red wig, black pumps and a choker with studs.

Beatrix Lestrange stood before a crowd of protestors near in a Brownsville park, ready to fire them up and ignite this demonstration against the border wall project. Catching their attention was not a problem. Lestrange wore a multicolored dress, a red wig, black pumps and a choker with studs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has confirmed a 45-year-old Mexican national died Monday morning while in their custody.

Veronica G. Cardenas / Texas Public Radio

Editor's note: KERA radio will air a statewide call-in special from Texas Public Radio on Monday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. It's called "The Reality At The Border" and features voices from the Texas-Mexico border in the wake of President Trump's national emergency declaration. Listen here or on 90.1 FM.

Updated at 5:07 p.m. ET

President Trump's emergency declaration will potentially free up over $6 billion to build hundreds more miles of barriers along the Southern border. One of the places prioritized for construction is the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where the majority of illegal crossings now occur. Residents there have strong views about the barrier, both pro and con.

Tuesday night, President Trump stands before a joint session of Congress, assesses the state of the union and likely makes another case for more than $5 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has said he'd be willing to shut the government down again if the funding doesn't materialize. 

But money has already been allocated for some border wall projects, including a 6-mile stretch of wall in South Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

The partial government shutdown is entering its third week and it’s not helping the current backlog of immigration cases across the country.

 


The Trump administration deployed 2,800 troops to the Texas-Mexico border in October to confront a migrant caravan moving north from Central America. And by December, most of those soldiers were sent home, but border cities like McAllen are still dealing with the aftermath of the military presence.