EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — From a “giant rat” that turned out to be anything but, to an American family terrorized by gunmen on a popular Mexican highway, to a massive explosion caught on camera at SpaceX’s test-launch facility in South Texas, a variety of Border Report stories sprang to the top in 2020:
At No. 10, a tale of a tamale transaction. A Border Patrol agent was caught on camera buying tamales from a vendor who was working on the south side of the border barrier on the east side of Tijuana. The vendor is seen reaching through the wall and handing the on-duty agent tamales, though it’s unclear what type they were. You can hear the vendor say in Spanish, “If you don’t like them you don’t have to pay me, taste them first.”
The “Year of Fear.” In partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review and the Delacorte Review, the literary nonfiction journal of the Columbia Journalism School, Border Report correspondent Sandra Sanchez contributed several articles to “Year of Fear” project, which focused on the stories and conversations going on in communities leading up to the November election. The conversation quickly turned to the coronavirus pandemic and how it ravaged the Rio Grande Valley. Sandra describes how the pandemic literally hit home when her husband came down with the virus.
Those restrictions remain in place as the year ends and the new one dawns. They are travel restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border, in place since March 21, on non-essential land traffic from Mexico to the U.S. and from the U.S. to Mexico. The point is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from one country to another. The current restrictions are set to expire on Jan. 21, 2021.
Immigration detainees paid tribute to George Floyd with a controversial hunger strike at a California detention center. But when Immigration and Customs Enforcement first announced the hunger strike at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, Calif., they alleged that detainees were being coerced — both internally and externally — into a hunger strike, and detainees reportedly said they were told that the purpose of the hunger strike was to protest the repetitive cycle of the menu.
In a stunning admission of how dire the COVID-19 situation got in South Texas, the health authority for one border county announced the formation of an ethics committee to screen all patients for survival potential and send home those with low probabilities. They would determine what type of life-saving equipment and treatment they would likely require and whether they would likely survive. Those deemed too fragile or sick or elderly will be advised to go home to loved ones.
Prompting an outcry from criminal justice and court officials who said the action undermines local authority and deters immigrants who are in the country illegally from participating in the U.S. justice system, U.S. immigration agents arrested two people at a Northern California courthouse, including a man detained in a hallway on his way to a hearing, flouting a new state law requiring a judicial warrant to make immigration arrests inside such facilities.
Among Border Report’s live border cameras is one in El Paso’s Chihuahuita neighborhood. Also known as the “First Ward,” it is considered the oldest neighborhood in El Paso and is located directly along the border fence line.
Regarded as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s top enforcer with the Sinaloa cartel, Jose Rodrigo Arechiga, had in May escaped from custody in San Diego. Arechiga, better known as “El Chino Antrax,” was arrested seven years ago in Amsterdam, and two years later he pleaded guilty in the United States to conspiracy to import cocaine and marijuana. Ten days later, Arechiga and two family members were murdered in Culiacan, Sinaloa.
Border Report correspondent Sandra Sanchez was covering the origins of SpaceX’s commercial rocket launch pad and its economic impact on a relatively poor South Texas community. South Texas community leaders wooed SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk in 2011 and came up with a $30 million incentive package for the company to build there. Her camera was rolling when a Starship SN4 prototype exploded during a failed test at the rocket testing launchpad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas.
Men brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle robbed an Arizona family vacationing in Mexico. The robbery took place on a highway leading to the town of Caborca, near the resort of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora. The men took a four-door Toyota Tundra, a 20-foot flatbed trailer, at least one all-terrain vehicle and the cellphones of the Davis family of Mesa, Arizona.
People can’t get enough of this “giant rat.” With more that half a million pageviews at BorderReport.com and more than a million pageviews on Nexstar websites across the nation, the rat that turned out to be a Halloween prop, is our No. 1 story for 2020. It started out when crews were cleaning 22 tons of trash from Mexico City’s drainage system and came across what was described as a “giant rat.” It remains a mystery how the rat ended up in the sewer.