Fighting to be with the People You Love

By Jasmin López | Published by Immigrant Defense Project‘s Indefensible Podcast

In 2016, William Diaz Castro was arrested at his home in New Orleans by ICE agents who were looking for someone else. He was charged with “illegal reentry” because he had been deported to Guatemala before. But this time, William’s wife Linda and their son witnessed the traumatic arrest. William is a leader with the Congreso de Jornaleros/Congress of Day Laborers, an organization of immigrant workers founded by day laborers who helped rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina, and drove a grassroots campaign for his release from inside the detention center.

To support William’s case, Linda found an attorney, Sima Atri with the New Orleans Workers Center Racial Justice. She hadn’t seen cases like William’s, individuals without prior convictions or extensive immigration records being charged with illegal reentry, which are more common along the border. Sima says that William’s case demonstrated a dangerous trend in New Orleans – one that compounds the entrenched racial and economic disparities of the world’s “prison capital.”

Since 2005, over 730,000 people have been prosecuted in our federal courts for the crime of improper migration. Last year 52% of all prosecutions in the federal courts were for either crossing and recrossing the border. In April 2017 Attorney General Jeff Sessions specifically directed federal prosecutors to increase prosecutions and punishment for immigration related offenses including illegal entry and re-entry. At the same time, ICE agents have been directed to treat all undocumented immigrants as “priorities” for deportation.


Latina Magazine Features Silent Beauty

Read my interview on Latina Magazine’s website


When Jasmin Mara López was a child, she was abused by her grandfather, a beloved minister who regularly served his community. She didn’t tell a soul. In fact, like many survivors of childhood abuse, López lived with those tormenting memories and the trauma it carried in silence for decades. It wasn’t until 2014 when the New Orleans-based mexicana opened up about the sexual violence she had experienced in her youth. In doing so, she, unbeknownst to her at the time, allowed her relatives who had also suffered similar abuse in silence to discuss their haunting pasts and heal together.

But López, an award-winning journalist and producer, wants to explore the culture of silence around sexual abuse deeper, and she is using her family’s history to do that. The 37-year-old is writing and directing a documentary about that past.

“Silent Beauty” is an experimental documentary about the impacts of trauma, and the healing that sometimes occurs when opening up about it. The film, which is expected to be completed in fall 2017, includes López’s family’s super 8 archive (silent home films), cassette tape recordings and interviews that offer a unique tapestry of film, sounds and voices from her past and present.

We chatted with López about her film, the need to ditch the culture of silence around childhood sexual abuse in Latinx homes, what she has learned in the process of making “Silent Beauty,” her distinctive use of sound in the documentary and more.

Read my interview on Latina Magazine’s website

Silent Beauty: A documentary about child sexual abuse

Silent Beauty explores my family’s history with child sexual abuse and a culture of silence.

It’s an experimental documentary about the effects of trauma, and the healing and beauty found in the process of coming forward. This film utilizes my family’s super 8 archive, old cassette tape recordings, and interviews that bring forth a rich tapestry of film, sounds, and voices from our past and present.

Silent Beauty is also a project that will document the stories of other survivors, and hold screenings to share the film with youth, community groups, and survivors around the U.S.

Please share our fundraising campaign:

Thank you,

Jasmin Mara López

Silent Beauty from AnnieFlanagan on Vimeo.

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New Orleans Reconstruction Workers Fight to Remain

By Jasmin López | Published by Making Contact

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Southern Gulf Coast. Reconstruction after Katrina drew thousands of people from India, Brazil, Mexico, Honduras, and other Latin American countries. Workers were charged with pulling dead bodies from abandoned homes and rebuilding New Orleans. But the influx of migrant workers also increased immigration crackdowns.

Maternal Matters: Indigenous Women in the Yucatan Challenge Violence and Indifference

By Jasmin López | Published by Making Contact

In Mexico an indigenous woman is three times more likely to die during childbirth or postpartum than a non indigenous woman. Both culture and government policies play a role in the violation of their rights, which often leads to death. Reporter Jasmin Lopez went to the Yucatan to find out more. This piece was produced in collaboration with  reporter Karen Tenorio.

Deadly Divide: Migrant Death on the Border

By Jasmin López | Published by Making Contact

Over 6,000 migrant deaths were recorded on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico between 1998 and 2013. The true number of deaths is likely higher, and thousands of families never hear from their loved ones again.

This documentary travels to the desert ranch lands of Brooks County and the border town of Reynosa, Tamaulipas to introduce us to the human cost of “prevention through deterrence,” a border enforcement strategy introduced during the Clinton administration.

Deadly Divide is part of an on-going immigration collaboration with Photographer Brandon Thibodeaux exploring the human cost of current a border enforcement strategies.

Click here to see the photos.

Living Wage: Profile of a low-wage earner

By Jasmin López | Published by KALW

D’Wana Stewart is a native San Franciscan. She graduated from June Jordan School for Equity, a small high school on the southeast side of the city. Now 24, she’s working three jobs and shares a home with her mother – it’s the only way she’s been able to stay in San Francisco. We spent a week with D’wana, to get a sense of her life, living on the minimum wage.

“Definitely like to be further ahead in my life. Even though it seems like I’m doing so much.” – D’wana Stewart

Living with HIV as a senior

By Jasmin López | Published by KALW

People 50 years or older now make up the majority of HIV and AIDS cases in San Francisco. Since HIV emerged in the 1980’s, treatments have improved — allowing people to live longer with this chronic illness. So as the number of older people living with HIV grows, so do the other things that come with age — like access to affordable housing and health care, mental health issues and isolation.

You can find a reporter’s notebook about my personal connection to this story here.

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Young Immigration Activist Struggles to Balance Courage with Fear

By Jasmin López | Published by The California Report

“My name is Marco Perez. I am undocumented and unafraid,” he said.

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Foreclosures hollow out a community

By Jasmin López | Published by

On a sunny afternoon, as a handful of tourists participated in guided tours and marveled at the Watts Towers, a National Historic Landmark, 19-year-old Jeremiah Cotton stood among a group of young men nearby gathered around a broken-down car.

As the men waited for mechanical assistance, Cotton stared pensively in the direction of a vacant home across the street. Cotton has lived in the South Los Angeles community of Watts since birth. He has experienced many changes within his community – the good and the bad.

Foreclosed and vacant homes are nothing new to Cotton – a common sight in his neighborhood. In an unaffected style, he discussed the high number of foreclosed, vacant, and abandoned homes.

Foreclosed homes are hollowing out the community of Watts in South Los Angeles. Photo by Jasmin Lopez.

Foreclosed homes are hollowing out the community of Watts in South Los Angeles. Photo by Jasmin Lopez.

“Just walk down the street. They’re worse. They’re everywhere. Everyday, everywhere,” he said.

Despite declining foreclosure filings in California and Los Angeles County, the short block alone had five recently foreclosed homes, and the community is ridden with hundreds more. The home-foreclosure rate in Watts is more than triple the national average, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate information company and an online marketplace for foreclosed and defaulted properties in the U.S.

The vacant properties raise concern with community members for a number of reasons, but the foremost concern is the number of displaced families. Families are forced to leave their homes, their communities, and sometimes end up homeless.

“They just move to the projects,” said Cotton. When asked if he believed that to be the fate of most families, he assuredly stated “pretty much.”

Legislation extends new rights

New legislation that aims to protect homeowners took effect on Jan. 1. The California Homeowner Bill of Rights extends key mortgage and foreclosure protections to homeowners and borrowers such as a guaranteed single point of contact and restrictions on dual track foreclosure – the practice of initiating the foreclosure process against a homeowner while the homeowner is seeking to renegotiate their loan terms.

According to a statement from the office of the Attorney General, the Homeowner Bill of Rights “will provide basic fairness and transparency for homeowners, and improve the mortgage process for everyone.”

“For too long, struggling homeowners in California have been denied fairness and transparency when dealing with their lending institutions,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris. “These laws give homeowners new rights as they work through the foreclosure process and will give Californians a fair opportunity to stay in their homes.”

Another key provision, tools to curb blight, assists local governments and receivers in combating blight and crime associated with multiple vacant homes in neighborhoods.

Some advocates think the Homeowner Bill of Rights came too late for the many families that were involved in unfair foreclosures, and fear that the positive impact will be minimal.

“It’s very little, and it’s coming kind of late. Certainly, it will help some troubled homeowners, but not to an extent that it will make a real impact,” said Arturo Ybarra, director of Watts/Century Latino Organization, a HUD-approved agency that provides housing education and counseling to troubled homeowners.

Ybarra, also a resident of Watts, witnessed the damage foreclosures have caused his community over the years. When homes are foreclosed upon, the negative effects extend beyond the displaced individuals and families and adversely affect the entire community’s health.

In Watts, many foreclosed homes become vacant, neglected or abandoned properties that increase the risk of blight and introduce community health risks such as crime, pest infestations, disorder, and violence.

Ybarra believes that Watts, Compton and Lynwood were hit the hardest by foreclosures. Entire blocks of homes that were in some stage of the foreclosure process were vacant, unattended, vandalized, and became eyesores as well as a health risk. Trash from foreclosed properties ends up in alleys and streets, invites pests and encourages further littering. Public services are also not responding as soon as they should.

Abandoned properties are used as drug houses, sleeping quarters for homeless people, and houses for prostitution.

“Many of those houses have been used as drug houses, some are taken by homeless people. There’s prostitution. One way or another, it affects our community, our neighbors, and other properties,” said Ybarra.

A study, soon to be published in the Journal of Urban Economics, found that recent foreclosures elevated the chances for criminal activity, especially on blocks with concentrated levels of foreclosure activity and in neighborhoods with moderate or high levels of crime.

Damaging the social fabric

Foreclosures have also contributed to decreased social cohesion and increased isolation within Watts. Relationships between families and neighbors have been damaged or strained, disrupting the health-promoting social networks and the sense of community. Residents that remain when families and neighbors are forced to leave the neighborhood are also often left with feelings of frustration, loneliness, and hopelessness.

“This automatically transmits a sense of hopelessness, not only for those that are affected but also for those that are witnessing the foreclosures. These situations hurt them because they know these people, too. This hurts us all; it hurts the social fabric,” said Ybarra.

Paying the price

A report published by the Center for Responsible Lending states that people who live near foreclosed homes lose significant home equity, with communities of color bearing the largest share of the cost – a huge setback for homeowners who had previously made economic progress in the neighborhoods.

When a home falls into foreclosure, it affects the property value of the foreclosed home as well as neighboring properties. The decline in property values diminishes tax revenue streams that fund municipal services essential to community health, and increase the local government costs of responding to foreclosure-related problems such as maintenance, inspection, trash removal, or public safety calls.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and The Home Defenders League published a report that estimates that between 2008 and 2012, the neighborhood of Watts (zip code 90002) experienced property value losses (foreclosed and neighboring homes) of $896 million; property tax losses of $5.5 million; and local government costs of $25.2 million.

Declining property values also spur neighborhood disinvestment, another effect with long-term impacts on community health.

“The foreclosure crisis has decimated the homeowner constituency in Watts. The African American and Latino communities were targeted to receive predatory loans, and during the housing crisis lost the most. Every foreclosed home in the city of L.A. costs the city about $20,000 in lost tax revenue,” said David Mazariegos, lead organizer with ACCE.

“We need to keep the pressure on the big banks and make them pay for the damage they have caused our communities, cities, states, and country.”

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