Atlanta, Georgia 2021-03-30 12:23:38 –
Noel King, Host:
Georgia police are investigating several deadly shootings in the Atlanta area last night.
Eight people were killed, many reportedly of Asian descent. Authorities are still investigating motivations, but note that advocacy organizations have recently released data showing that reports of hate crimes against Asians surged by nearly 150% in 2020.
King: With us is Alex Helmick, a WABE reporter in Atlanta. Alex, I know you had a very long night. Tell me, what do we know so far?
ALEX HELMICK, signature line: Police said four people were shot dead in a place called Young’s Asian Massage in Cherokee County, northern Atlanta. Another person was shot and taken to the hospital there. Shortly after the shooting, another two spa shots killed four more people, about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta. The spa was across the street. According to police, many of the dead are Asian women.
King: I see. Police arrested a man. What do we know about him?
Helmic: 21-year-old Caucasian Robert Aaron Long does not seem to have a criminal record. According to police, he is from Woodstock, Georgia, about 30 miles north of Atlanta. He was arrested about 150 miles south of Atlanta in Crisp County, where he was detained. Sheriffs there say state soldiers arrested him after plunging his car along the freeway. And officials say they have a long surveillance video allegedly near the first parlor (of Cherokee County) around 5 pm yesterday when the shooting took place. And Atlanta police say Long’s car was subsequently picked up by surveillance and spliced together that Long’s black SUV was in the area of the two Atlanta parlors. Therefore, officials say it is very likely that this was the same suspect in all three shootings.
King: Have the police ever said if they believe this is a racist motive?
Helmic: They have. And they say they are still investigating motivation. They say that, as we said, most of the victims look like Asians, but they do not directly link race to this shooting.
King: I see. And Alex, what do you know about what will happen next?
Helmic: Authorities say the Cherokee County authorities are working with Atlanta police to further link the shooting suspects. And the FBI says it also supports both law enforcement agencies. And Long will probably be moved from southern Georgia to either Cherokee County or Atlanta. And Atlanta police say they are planning a press conference later this morning.
King: And I think we’ll learn a little more about some of the victims. Alex Helmic of WABE. Alex, thank you for your report. Thank you.
Helmic: Thank you.
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King: All right. President Biden said this to those who were heading to the US border via Mexico.
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President Joe Biden: To be clear, don’t come. We’re in the process of preparing, and it won’t take long, but we’ll be able to apply for asylum on the spot. So don’t leave your town, city or community.
Martinez: He was talking in a recent interview with ABC News. The Biden administration has sent most cross-border adults and families back to Mexico. Well, it is causing a humanitarian crisis there.
King: Angela Cocherga covers this story. She is a reporter for El Paso’s member station KTEP. Good morning, Angela.
ANGELA KOCHERGA, signature line: Good morning, Noel.
King: All right. So President Biden’s message was clear. He is responding to real-life events, the surge of people coming to the border. These events tend to be periodic. Who is coming now, why are you coming?
KOCHERGA: Um, Noel, for many reasons, many of these immigrants tend to leave home because it can be a long journey to reach the Mexican-US border-and they. Said he left home a few months ago in a presidential election where he doesn’t know who won or who won. We talked to Jose Hernandez, who traveled from Honduras. He is a father of two, leaving his family at home and trying to send money to help them as soon as he enters the United States and finds a job. And he told me that the situation in Honduras was so bad that I had to leave Honduras.
Jose Hernandez: (Spanish-speaking).
Kocherga: And what he told me was that he inevitably left him. The economy of his country is very terrible. He said there were no jobs available and Honduras was devastated by a hurricane that hit nearly half of the country. And he already tried to travel to the United States once a few weeks ago, and he was sent back to Mexico, and he says he intends to try again.
King: You have covered border areas for years. Is there anything different this time?
KOCHERGA: Well, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the surge in immigrants is at its highest pace in nearly 20 years. The Customs and Border Protection said in February that more than 100,000 people were arrested or expelled at the border with Mexico. Well, that’s the highest monthly total since 2019. Many of those intersections have been tried once and will be retried. They were returned to Mexico. So, according to CBP, at least 40% are trying many times, pushing up the total. The surge occurs in a relatively short period of time, putting great pressure on border communities and authorities.
And children traveling alone have not been sent back to Mexico. As a result, more than 4,200 unaccompanied children are currently being detained in the United States. According to CBP, more than 400 children arrive at the border every day. Parents and families with children and adults over the age of 18 are being sent back to Mexico. And it’s not their home country, as many of the people trying to cross come from other countries, primarily Central America. Today, the border guard processing center in El Paso, built about a year ago to deal with the surge in immigrants during the Trump administration, has already reached capacity. It can accommodate about a thousand immigrants. And the border guard is now expanding its facility to a parking lot here in El Paso, creating space for more people.
King: I would like to ask you about what you said there. You said many of these people are from Central America. They are sent to Mexico, which is not their country of origin. What about the people who arrived in Mexico?
KOCHERGA: Well, across the city borders here from El Paso in Juarez, Mexico, they have their own surge to deal with, not only more people trying to enter the United States, but they Is also helping those who have returned to Mexico. They offer humanitarian relief. Then I went to Juarez and talked to Enrique Valenzuela. He is the coordinator of the rescue operation. And they are helping to set up shelters and working with churches to accept all those who are blocked from entering the United States. Here’s what he had to say:
ENRIQUE VALENZUELA: At this point, I think we need to set up and build more capacity. I need more shelter. And, of course, everything that comes with it, and of course, the health care and attention of the children.
Kocherga: So Noel, it’s not just here in Juarez. It is located in many border cities along the border between the United States and Mexico.
King: Angela Cocherga belongs to El Paso’s member station KTEP.
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King: All right. Therefore, the latest COVID bailout round passed by Congress has billions of dollars in rental assistance for those who are taking a break from work and trying to avoid evictions.
Martinez: Yeah. However, this can also benefit the landlord. Many are struggling to keep the apartment building up and running, and some are helping residents get the new COVID bailouts they are entitled to as soon as possible.
King: NPR’s Chris Arnold has been talking about this for months. Chris, you were talking to the landlord, and what are they saying to you?
Chris Arnold, signature line: Hey, Noel. So yes, I was talking to them. I talked to some people in Texas this week. And, as you know, they say that keeping the lights on and keeping things moving is the only big challenge. As you know, this is a kind of shocking number. Nearly 10 million Americans are still lagging behind in rent payments, according to the Census Bureau. So that’s just that. So when it comes to the level of eviction you might face if you don’t fix it, it’s scary. But it’s also a lot of money that the landlord doesn’t get. Then I talked to Stephanie Graves, who owns a building around Houston.
STEPHANIE GRAVES: There is a small property in the town. With about 22 units, eight residents were unable to pay for more than half a year. You can get $ 100 for a rent of $ 1,000.
Arnold: Now Graves says he can pay as little money as possible and if they are in contact with her, no one will evict, but that’s because she’s lost money and she The rent brought in means that she does not cover her mortgage and cannot be paid to the staff.
Graves: Then it froze in Houston and the water heater came out. And that was an investment of $ 22,000 that we had to make without income. And I’m worried, if this lasts much longer, how am I going to pay that loan?
King: What are she and the other landlords doing to survive this?
Arnold: Well, for some properties, things just haven’t been fixed. Similarly, she says that if a security gate breaks, there’s no $ 5,000 to fix it. The pool and gym were closed at some of her facilities to make people say, “Hey, you know, don’t stand too close,” without the money to pay for additional cleaning. I am. And you have something like the people paying the rent are angry and I’m paying for the pool, do you know? And yes, they get angry with people and maintenance, as you know. Anyway, there is frustration around me. For all these reasons graves and other landlords really want to get this money given by Congress. Over $ 50 billion in the last two stimulus bills. In other words, they are like knocking on the door. They are installing computers in their offices to help lessors apply. The mechanism is that the lessor applies and the money flows to the landlord.
King: Is that happening now? Can the lessee access the COVID bailout, as we are talking about?
Arnold: Well, that’s the problem. It’s starting to happen now. Similarly, these portals will crash after opening and allow people to apply, but it will take months for this money to flow through the state and reach the many who need it. On the other hand, there is a federal order aimed at preventing evictions-this is from the CDC-but it expires in two weeks. And the housing group is worried, look, if you allow the eviction to start moving forward, it’s not enough time. I’m Peter Hepburn from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab.
Peter Hepburn: We are concerned that if these protections expire, one million eviction proceedings may be filed in a very short order nationwide.
Arnold: And, as you know, this is happening during a pandemic, and evictions spread COVID. There was research on this. People double and families move together. And you know, we’re talking about a delay of 10 million people in their rent. It also hurt people financially. Therefore, the housing group wants the CDC’s order to be strengthened and expanded. Basically, let’s take a look and pause the eviction for a few more months to give people time to get this money.
King: Chris Arnold of NPR. Thank you very much, Chris.
Arnold: Thank you, Noel.
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