Erin Sheridan

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Erin Sheridan is a reporter for the Brownsville Herald. She covers crime, plus state and federal courts. She can be reached at esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com or (956) 982-6609.

Valley farmers hard hit by virus crisis

The Rio Grande Valley’s farmers and their contracted workers are some of the hardest-hit in the community as cities and counties issue shelter in place orders to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, among residents. Cameron County’s shelter in place order has meant the closure of farmer’s markets, farm workers afraid to go to work, and a barrage of extra labor for local farmers who must harvest and sell much-needed produce underneath a broken supply chain. Ernesto and Irma Martinez, who run Laura’s Grapefruit and the Martinez Citrus Farm in Bayview with their daughter Laura, said farmers in the area have been devastated by a series of setbacks this year. “The coronavirus came in at the wrong time. It’s a time when you want to sell your product. People can’t get out,” said Ernesto. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Coalition asks ICE to release detainees

A coalition of local immigration advocacy groups penned a letter to ICE’s San Antonio Field Office on Monday calling on the agency to release detainees from the Port Isabel and El Valle Detention Centers in fear of the health and well-being of individuals in immigration detention due to a lack of protective measures against coronavirus. The letter cites inadequate medical care at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and a lack of proper precautionary measures taken to ensure detainees and facility staff at Port Isabel Service Processing Center and the El Valle Detention Facility during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Gladys Porter Zoo sets up GoFundMe page

When the City of Brownsville issued a local disaster declaration in anticipation of the spread of COVID-19, the Gladys Porter Zoo was forced to close its gate for the first time in the zoo’s nearly 50-year history. Almost two weeks later, a slightly smaller zoo staff is working in split shifts to feed animals and take care of the zoo grounds despite the fact that the facilities, which are owned by the city, face a spending freeze for the duration of the closure. Gladys Porter Zoo’s primary source of income has been admissions fees. In response to the closure, Marketing Director Cynthia Garza Galvan started a GoFundMe campaign to finance the estimated cost to feed the animals through the end of April, at $32,190. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Woman advocates for asylum seekers subject to MPP rules

An 81-year-old woman is advocating to sponsor for two young men from Guatemala who were recently denied asylum by an immigration judge in Brownsville. Fran Schindler, a former psychiatric nurse and resident of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, forged a relationship with the 21- and 23-year-old brothers living in a camp of asylum seekers in Matamoros after she began volunteering with Witness at the Border in January. Schindler gave testimony during a merits hearing on March 13 as to her knowledge of the brothers’ journey north and her willingness to serve as a sponsor should they have been granted entry to the United States. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Asylum seeker suffers asthma attack on bridge

A 60-year-old woman seeking asylum had an asthma attack on the international line at the Gateway International Bridge on Thursday. Photographs posted by the woman’s attorney on Facebook showed her collapsed on the ground as officers on the U.S. side filmed her on a cell phone. The woman, from Venezuela, presented herself at the international line to request parole into the United States for the second time on Thursday. She lives in a tent in the camp of asylum seekers on a levee just past the bridge and is considered at high risk to contract COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Her attorney, Jennifer Scarborough, said that her client has lung problems and also suffers from diabetes — both of which are conditions listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be at risk of contracting severe illness as the virus spreads worldwide. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Volunteers still helping asylum seekers

Aid workers responsible for organizing the transport of food and supplies to a camp of asylum seekers past the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros kicked into gear on Friday as the Trump administration announced it would close the U.S./Mexico border to all “non-essential” travel. Volunteers with local aid organizations have been keeping distance from the camp in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the population of an estimated 2,500 asylum seekers living in tents without the ability to quarantine. Gaby Zavala, co-founder of Resource Center Matamoros, said locally-based aid networks have been coordinating among each other in anticipation of the border closure and were prepared to shift their efforts to a remote operation through use of technology and skeleton crews volunteering asylum seekers. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Commissioners Court addresses coronavirus concerns

The Cameron County Commissioner’s Court held a meeting on Tuesday where officials discussed potential precautionary measures the county is taking to prevent the spread...

Jailer accused of smuggling drugs into county jail

A Cameron County detention officer was arrested and charged with allegedly smuggling marijuana in M&Ms packets to inmates at the Old County Jail in exchange for cash from an unnamed individual. Copies of an Affidavit for Warrantless Arrest of Ivan Montoya, 24, Brownsville, provided to The Brownsville Herald stated that he was identified by an inmate via a photograph during an investigation into the presence of marijuana in a section of the facility during the last week of February. Both the affidavit and a copy of Montoya’s inmate booking indicated that he was taken into custody on March 2 at 4:10 p.m. by the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department. An order finding probable cause to charge Montoya with a third-degree felony, signed by Magistrate Judge Erin H. Garcia on March 3, set bond at $7,500. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Asylum advocates seek clarity on MPP ruling

Asylum advocates and local aid networks sought clarification from border officials Friday in Brownsville after learning of a court injunction against the Trump administration’s...

District attorneys form coalition to share info

District attorneys representing the four counties of the Rio Grande Valley have banded together to form a coalition intended to foster relationships and facilitate cooperation between offices, according to the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Luis V. Saenz announced the creation of the Rio Grande Valley District Attorney Coalition on Friday in Brownsville. Saenz will be joined by District Attorneys Ricardo Rodriguez of Hidalgo County, Omar Escobar Jr. of Starr County, and Annette Hinojosa of Willacy County. Read the full story at themonitor.com.