Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.

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Wearing this until Wednesday

On Thursday I had a metal plate screwed into the broken radius bone of my right wrist. Today (Saturday) I’m in only modest pain, but I’ll have this cast on my right arm until Wednesday.

I’m right handed, so don’t expect much from me that requires a keyboard for the next few days. On Wednesday, I should be going back to a brace that lets me use my fingers.

Thanks to the folks at Georgetown University Hospital who made it look easy on Thursday. I was in and out in less than 6 hours, 2 of them spent totally unconscious.

On the disabled list

You can barely see it in the picture, but I’ve slightly broken my wrist in two places while being an idiot in the park on Sunday, trying to jump from a tree stump to a high branch.

I’m not in horrible pain, which is why it took me three days to even schedule a doctor visit. But now I’ve got a fiberglass cast immobilizing my wrist and much of my right hand (I’m right-handed).

My output on this website is likely to slow down for a few weeks, because I can’t type anywhere nearly as fast as I’m used to typing. Bummer!

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After many years of accumulating home office-type gadgets, working at home is tolerable.

In the frame: Mac Mini with dual monitors, MacBook Air, sheet-fed scanner, podcasting mic, HD camera, blu-ray burner, printer, mechanical keyboard, mouse, Hue lamp, amp, LED lighting, speakers, turntable, headphones.

If you find this horrifying, I totally understand. If it’s any consolation, there’s a washer/dryer and a litterbox behind me.

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Can I afford it? Barely. But a 2014 laptop with a busted trackpad connected to a big monitor just wasn’t working as my main work machine.

This fully loaded Mac Mini arrived two days earlier than expected. You may hear a bit less from me over the next day or two while I set it up.

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While looking for a photo of coca bushes, I came across this shot from Putumayo, Colombia in 2016. Isn’t that cute.

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Washington DC’s MacMillan Reservoir this morning.

As an urban runner, I always notice the air quality difference when I get a chance to run in a forest or a rural setting.

On this morning’s solo run in Washington DC, that’s what the air felt like. The air really is noticeably cleaner.

Cleaned out

After seeing that Italy closed all stores except groceries and pharmacies due to the coronavirus outbreak, I said to the family, “Maybe we should go to Costco tonight.”

Virtually everyone else in DC had the same idea; the place was jammed on a Wednesday night. Here’s the “organic brown rice” display.

Betelgeuse, the rapidly fainting star

I just went outside here in Florida, where I’m visiting relatives, and yes, Betelgeuse, one of the most familiar stars in the northern night sky (it’s in Orion’s shoulder), is way dimmer than it used to be.

I took this shot with my phone. Betelgeuse used to be about as bright as Rigel, the star at the very bottom of the photo:

This all happened quickly: before October, Betelgeuse was near the top ten brightest stars in the sky. Now it’s lower than 20th. Some speculate that the red giant, 600 light-years away, might go supernova. But the dimming has slowed over the past week. Here’s a good explanation in the New York Times.

A few photos from El Paso and Juárez

From Tuesday and Wednesday.

Outside the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.
Mount Cristo Rey, west of El Paso in the New Mexico desert, viewed at night.

The Rio Grande, seen from the Paso del Norte border bridge.
These tents on the Ciudad Juárez side of the border denote the area where asylum-seeking migrants get returned when subjected to the “Remain in Mexico” program, which requires them to await their hearing dates on Mexican soil. Kidnappers who prey on migrants often operate just outside this tent area, making them very vulnerable here.
Caribe Queen, a Cuban restaurant in downtown Ciudad Juárez, founded within the past year by Cuban asylum seekers forced to “Remain in Mexico” pending their hearing dates in the United States.
Mexican National Guardsmen in a playground along the Rio Grande (the area of green brush behind them). The border fence is in the background, set far back from the actual borderline—the elevated highway is actually in the United States, between the fence and the river.
A Mexican National Guardsman reads his phone near the border fence.
Graffiti on the fence in Anapra, west of Juárez.
Central American children forced to “remain in Mexico” play at the Pan de Vida shelter in western Juárez.
Only five of twelve lanes open at the Paso del Norte port of entry, where the wait to get back into the United States was about 45 minutes.

Here’s a big new report about last week’s trip to El Paso and Ciudad Juárez

My visit to the border last week went well: logistics were flawless, the people we encountered were amazing, and we learned a lot. But I came home feeling disturbed. Even more than after my four visits this year to San Diego/Tijuana and to Mexico’s southern border.

Maybe it was the relentlessness of the Trump administration’s non-stop assault on some very weak people. Maybe it was the grinding fatigue that the cities’ activists and service providers exuded. But when I got home late Saturday I was having trouble relating to family and friends. I was only happy with my butt in a chair, typing up my notes and my thoughts about what I’d just seen at this part of the border.

I figured I’d write a memo about my trip. But I typed and typed. There was so much to talk about, as you can see from the table of contents below. I worked a late night Monday night, slept a lot Tuesday night (had to give a talk in Spanish on Wednesday), and last (Wednesday) night, I didn’t sleep at all: I pulled my first true all-nighter, not even a break to lie down, in many, many years.

I just wanted to get it done. So much that I saw and heard was so out of balance and awful, the holidays are nearly here, and the writing became like a form of therapy.

12,000 words, some graphics and several photos later, I posted this memo to WOLA’s website late today. It’s sprawling, and honestly I’m in no condition to judge whether it’s easy to follow. But I feel at least somewhat better for having written it.

I hope it helps you to understand what’s going on at the U.S.-Mexico border after a very trying year, and what is at stake there in the next year, for all of us whether we live at the border or not.

Hope you get something out of it too. The memo is here.

“I Can’t Believe What’s Happening—What We’re Becoming”: A memo from El Paso and Ciudad Juárez

  • The big 2019 Increase and Decline in Family Asylum Seekers
  • Box: a Terrible 2019 in el Paso and Ciudad Juárez
  • The Decimation of the U.S. Asylum System
    • Remain in Mexico
    • Metering
    • Conditions during the wait in Juárez
    • Conditions for Cubans
    • The July 16 asylum ban
    • GACA: Sending people to Guatemala
    • “PACR” and “HARP”
  • Rights Issues
    • Processing
    • Migrant deaths
    • Use of force and community relations
  • Wall Construction
  • Security in Ciudad Juárez
  • The Helpers are Exhausted

This morning in Ciudad Juarez

By a drainage ditch on the Mexican bank of the Rio Grande, a soldier with a “National Guard” armband buys what looks like cigarettes from a vendor.

Back at the border

CBP officers “metering” border-crossers last night outside the San Ysidro port of entry.
The San Diego River, very early this morning.

I’m here at the U.S.-Mexico border again. This is my fourth visit to San Diego and Tijuana this year. I’m spending most of this visit at a gathering of migration attorneys and experts from the United States, Mexico, and Central America. The situation is grim right now, but there’s a lot of talk of solutions.

Street scene in Arauca, Colombia

Going over my photos from our early October visit to Colombia, I found this one, taken on October 3 from our car window, while driving through the hamlet of La Esmeralda, between Arauquita and Saravena, Arauca. This area is heavily under the influence of the ELN guerrilla group.

An unremarkable photo of a tidy small-town street. Until you zoom in:

You’ve got a mom and 2 cute kids, some street-sweeping equipment—and, below the window on the right, some stenciled ELN graffiti.

“Duque, president, don’t fool the people. ELN is present.”

A tranquil scene, marred by a message from a group responsible for, by all accounts we heard, the largest share of Arauca’s 130-plus homicides so far this year.

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