Texas police looking for a missing woman and her two children found something else on Wednesday — 108 people imprisoned in an overflowing, squalid stash house where human smugglers had reportedly locked them up while waiting for payment.
As Barack Obama considers ways to enforce immigration laws “more humanely,” VICE News travels to Guatemala to meet a deportee named Ray Jesus, who lives apart from his American wife and 5 American children. When Ray lived in the U.S., he was the family’s breadwinner. Now they rely on welfare to get by. It turns out that deporting parents costs much more than the price of a one-way ticket home.
The Lost Boys of California Are Literally Dying to Pick Your Fruit
t the age when most American teenagers are trying to decide whom to ask to prom, Ernesto Valenzuela was instead weighing whether it was worse to die of thirst in the desert or have his throat slit by gangsters.
That’s the choice the 16-year-old faced in his hometown of Mapulaca, Honduras, a drowsy village where MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangsters are known for recruiting youth—sometimes as young as kindergartners—into their cartels. If the kids refuse, they are often killed. Now Ernesto was being recruited, and he didn’t want to end up one of the 6,000 people murdered each year in Honduras. With a total population just shy of 8 million, that means nearly one of every 1,000 Hondurans is a victim of homicide, making it the most dangerous place—after the war zones of Iraq, Somalia, and Syria—in the world.1
After mulling it over for months—and trying to dodge the tattooed gang members who wanted to sign him up—Ernesto decided his potential fate at home presented far more danger than what he might face at any distant desert crossing. So, early one morning in June 2013, after his mother sobbed and begged him to stay safe, he set out for a place he’d only seen in movies, a place where he’d heard a kid like himself—with just a fifth-grade education—could earn $60 a day working in the fields: America.
They’re Only ‘Illegals’ if They’re Brown: American Conservatives Welcome Immigrants—Just as Long as They’re White Christians
The key to getting asylum in the United States is to be white, socially conservative, and really into Jesus—or at least that’s the lesson imparted by the US government’s decisionnot to deport a family running away from Germany’s educational system. And conservatives—the same sort who complain about immigrants destroying our culture, insofar as we have one—couldn’t be happier.
Devout Christians Uwe and Hannelore Romeike came to the US in 2008 because they wanted to keep their kids out of school, for religious reasons. Although Germany allows children to attend faith-based schools, those schools must comply with German educational standards—and apparently none of them were devout enough for the Romeikes, who moved to Tennessee after being hit with thousands of dollars in fines by the German government for homeschooling their kids.
“Like the Pilgrims, they fled their homeland yearning for a place where they could be free,”wrote Todd Starnes, a bigot who appears on Fox News, in a recent article on the plight of the Romeikes that gives the unfortunate impression they’re here to spread disease, slaughter the natives, and steal their land. The family of nine’s case has been taken up by all the usual right-wing suspects, from Breitbart to TownHall to the Blaze, Glenn Beck’s bullshit “news” service. The family and its supporters say the German state has no right to indoctrinate their children and to dictate what they can and cannot learn; that right belongs to mom and dad.
Denmark’s Controversial Teenage Muslim Superstar Poet
Yahya Hassan is an 18-year-old Muslim Palestinian immigrant to Denmark who has become a social critic, celebrity writer, and general shit-stirrer—all thanks to a slim volume of poetry. Since the release of his self-titled debut collection in October, he’s been all over the Danish media, at least in part due to his subject matter. His poetry, written in all caps in Danish, is full of rage directed at his parents’ generation, a group of Muslims he accuses of hypocrisy and abandoning their children. He’s penned lines like:
YOU YOU’RE A MUSLIM? / YOU YOU DON’T KNOW/ IF YOU WANT HALAL OR HARAM / YOU YOU KNOW YOU WANT HARAM / BUT YOU YOU PRETEND YOU WANT HALAL / YOU YOU DON’T WANT PIG / MAY ALLAH REWARD YOU FOR YOUR FOOD HABITS.
Some of his poetry documents an abusive childhood; Yahya grew up in a poor neighborhood of Aarhus, and flirted with crime from an early age. He blames much of that on his mother and father. “As soon as our parents landed in Copenhagen airport it felt as if their role as parents was coming to an end,” Yahya told the Danish newspaper Politiken in the interview, published on October 5, that turned him into a teenage social commentator.
Italy’s Largest Immigrant Ghetto Is Incredibly Bleak
The colored neon lights and the music pumping from the speakers rip through the silence of the countryside near Foggia, in the region of Apulia, southern Italy. I should be in the middle of nowhere but there’s actually quite a lot of traffic here: cars, motorbikes, and people coming and going. It’s around 10 PM and after almost two hours wandering in the roads around Foggia I find myself in front of what the locals call “The Big Ghetto,” or more simply the Rignano Ghetto.
The “ghetto” was spontaneously formed more than 15 years ago, after the evacuation of an abandoned sugar mill, which had served as accommodation for foreign men working in Foggia’s “slavery triangle.” Exploitation of migrants in agriculture is not particular to Apulia—it is common all over Italy, especially in the south. A 2012 report by the Flai Cgil (the Italian General Confederation of Labor’s affiliated Agro-industrial Workers’ Union), said that 700,000 regular and irregular pickers work in the fields and about 400,000 of them are recruited irregularly for very low wages.
Over the last decade the Rignano “village” has expanded. The demography of the ghetto changes depending on the season and the demand for work in the tomato fields. During winter it hosts around 200 immigrants (mainly coming from French-speaking African countries), while during summer the population rises to 800. Some of its inhabitants arrived in Italy by plane 20 years ago, while those who arrived recently had to cross the desert and pay thousands of dollars to travel in rickety fishing boats across the Mediterranean, hoping they wouldn’t lose their lives like those inLampedusa recently.
Once they succeed in crossing the Mediterranean, day laborers in southern fields are forced to camp out in abandoned factories, with no money and a daily dose of violence from landowners who make enormous profits out of their work. The work conditions border on the Medieval.
I Got Kicked Out of America for Having a Guitar
As any noncitizen who’s traveled to America knows, it’s a pain in the ass to pass through customs. The border officers are suspicious of everyone with a foreign-sounding name or accent, they’ll treat you like a terrorist until you prove to them you’re not, and, as I found out last month, they really, really hate guitars. At least, I assume they do, because I can’t think of any other reason they would have held me up for hours, given me a full-body search, and kicked me out of their country, when all I wanted to do was tour the South and maybe play some unpaid gigs with my guitar.
I was planning on following in the footsteps of my musical idols—Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, John Lee Hooker; well-travelled men with guitars and drug addictions—by taking the Greyhound through the South and up to the West Coast before visiting my aunt in Alabama and holing up in some motel somewhere in the Mississippi Delta to record some music of my own. I’d also emailed a number of bars in the hopes of playing some open-mic nights along the way, which I assumed would be OK with the US government. On the State Department’s website, it specifically says you can visit America without a visa if you’re an amateur who’s taking part in “musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating.”
So I planned my trip without worrying about any bureaucratic red tape. Before going to the South, I’d meet my girlfriend in California. Since I live in London and she’s in Constance, Germany, we flew to the US independently, planning to meet at Los Angeles.
Talking to Berlin’s Hipster Defense Squad
Berlin is often hailed as a mecca for ex-pats and creative types fed up with New York and its stratospheric cost of living. Now, as hordes of graphic designers and writers have begun gentrifying the city, locals have started a concerted attack on members of the German capital’s young “creative class,” who are being blamed by natives for the rising property prices. Bar owners have started anti-hipster viral campaigns, and some locals have begunopenly calling for physical violence to be visited upon the invading hordes.
A group called Hipster Antifa Neukölln have formed to counter this rhetoric, using slogans such as “Tourists, hipsters, everybody is welcome—party like it’s 1945.” Speaking from Berlin, Hipster Antifa’s spokesperson Jannek, explained why his group is doing what they’re doing and why gentrification is a global phenomenon that needs to be seen in a new context.
VICE: When did Hipster Antifa Neukölln start?
Jannek: I guess it began about two years ago when anti-hipster and anti-tourist graffiti started appearing around the city. What was being written just seemed too serious to be a joke, so we decided to make a Facebook page and start a counter-offensive. We had a good idea of who was behind this, and we wanted to criticize them and make people aware of what’s going on.
What sort of graffiti?
Stuff like, “Tourists go home!” and “Kill all the hipsters!”… that sort of thing. There was so much of it. A lot of people thought it was just a joke, but then in the summer of 2011, there were a lot of anti-hipster attacks and there were more and more incidents of people getting thrown out of bars for dressing like a hipster. Some bar owners even started putting signs up in their windows saying “No Hipsters, No Tourists”, stuff like that. Things started to boil over, to get really nasty. That’s when we decided to do something about it. We just thought, ‘Berlin should not be this way.’ And we wanted to know why people were doing this. My friends all had a background in left-wing activism and anti-fascist movements, and we kind of knew that the people writing this anti-hipster graffiti were also from a leftist background. Their idea about gentrification is that it’s the fault of tourists, which is a very simple-minded explanation. So we decided to found a group to defend ourselves.
I Almost Died Traveling from Somalia to Lampedusa
Hassan Ali is a 23-year-old Somali who survived gun battles and poverty in his youth in his native country before deciding in 2009 to embark on Tahrib, the perilous journey from Africa to the Italian island of Lampedusa. Thousands of Somalis make this trip every year, and this month it made headlines after a boat caught fire and capsized on October 3, killing over 300 would-be immigrants. Eight days later, a different vessel capsized in an accident that claimed at least 34 lives. Here, Hassan speaks about his troubled life before the trip and the horrors he experienced en route to Europe.
The cannibalism didn’t start until our second boat journey, from Libya to Lampedusa. We had already been traveling for ten days; people were dying and there was no food. I actually saw one guy cutting a piece of flesh from another man’s body.
I’m still one of the lucky ones.
I grew up in Beled Hawo, near the Kenyan border. I love my city but life there wasn’t very happy for me. I lived in a flat with my parents, a younger sister, and two older brothers. When I was ten years old the inter-clan fighting began. One afternoon while I was in the mosque, a fierce gunfight erupted outside. There were bullets flying everywhere. I was all alone in there and I didn’t know what to do, I was just looking around trying to find a way out and all the while bullets were echoing off every side of the mosque. I eventually found a way out and ran towards my home, but just before I got in the door two guys with AK-47s started firing at me. I ducked, ran inside, and fell into my parents’ arms. After five hours the fighting finally stopped. But I knew then that my future wasn’t in Beled Hawo.