An asylum seeker’s journey, films to watch this Thanksgiving weekend: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: An asylum seeker’s journey

Border reporter Lauren Villagran tells the story of a Venezuelan family’s journey and where things stand for Venezuelan asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S. Plus, why you might want to consider not shopping this Black Friday.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson, and this is 5 Things you need to know Friday, the 25th of November 2022. Today a look at Venezuelan asylum seekers and their tough journey to the US. Plus, will a tribal delegate be seated to Congress? And why you might want to consider not shopping this Black Friday.

According to US authorities, more than 180,000 Venezuelan asylum seekers were apprehended at the US border in roughly the past year. That’s a huge increase from previous years, largely due to a Biden administration policy put in place last year granting Venezuelan refugees temporary protection status. Partly in response to political pressures, that policy was allowed to expire last month. The families that made it onto US soil before the policy lapsed on October 12th are the lucky ones. They get to stay in the US while their asylum claims are evaluated. After that date, any Venezuelan refugee found on the border is returned to Mexico, where they have just one week to come up with a plan before they have to leave.

In a collaboration between the El Paso Times and USA TODAY, veteran border reporter Lauren Villagran followed one family who made it to the US before the temporary protection status policy expired. Lauren followed the Perezes this fall as they made their journey from El Paso, Texas to New York City, a city that has seen an influx of nearly 20,000 migrants in the past six months. Producer PJ Elliott recently sat down with Lauren to discuss her reporting on the topic.

Lauren Villagran:

What we have seen all summer long are Venezuelans fleeing Venezuela, fleeing the economic and political conditions in that country, traveling through South America, Central America, and Mexico to the US border. And a large number of them were coming through El Paso.

PJ Elliott:

Why are the number of Venezuelans coming to the El Paso border so big?

Lauren Villagran:

It has slowed down quite a bit since the Biden administration struck a deal with Mexico to return Venezuelans to Mexico under a policy called Title 42, which allows the US to quickly expel migrants back to their home country or a third country, in this case, Mexico. But as listeners may know, Title 42 is continuing to be litigated in the courts, and so it’s on again/off again situation. People were arriving something like 2,100, 2,200 per day just in El Paso. That definitely slowed down with the Title 42 policy. But as immigrant advocates will say, that’s a stop gap measure. It doesn’t really solve the issues of global migration or America’s broken immigration system.

PJ Elliott:

I want to talk about what happens when these asylum seekers get to a new city, whether it’s New York or Chicago or wherever. They have little money, no job, most likely don’t know anyone in those new cities that they get to. They’re literally starting from zero. Are there any programs in these new cities to help them out when they get off the bus?

Lauren Villagran:

It seems like it’s really sprung up in a grassroots way, PJ. The city is providing shelter space, but like you said, people are stepping off the bus. What happens? Right now, there are a group of volunteers, just regular New Yorkers who are showing up at New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal every single day and greeting people who are getting off the buses.

PJ Elliott:

So on the political side of this, it’s obviously been a huge problem for Democrats. What have they been doing to discourage asylum seekers from coming to the border?

Lauren Villagran:

I know Vice President Kamala Harris had said in the announcement of some of the Biden administration’s plans last year, “Don’t come.” But that sort of message, it gets lost in the cacophony of everything that’s going on in the countries that people are fleeing. So we can say, “Don’t come,” all you want, but as long as America remains a beacon of freedom, a strong economy, a place that people see as one of the greatest countries in the world, or as my grandfather would say, the greatest, people are going to come. And when you follow this family on their journey in the documentary that we’ve produced, you really see what they’ve been through, and no one makes that choice lightly.

Taylor Wilson:

The story of the Perez Family’s journey from El Paso to New York City is the subject of episode five of States of America, an original series that amplifies original journalism, investigations, enterprise reporting, and expert commentary across Gannett. The episode premieres tonight at 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM Eastern on USA TODAY’S Network’s streaming channel. For a full list of platforms offering the free channel, follow a link in our show description. The episode can also be found on USA TODAY’S YouTube.

The House Rules Committee held a historic hearing to consider seating the first ever tribal delegate to Congress. PJ Elliott spoke with indigenous affairs reporter Molly Young from The Oklahoman, part of the USA TODAY Network, to find out more.

Molly Young:

So the Cherokee Nation has been working for three years now to exercise its treaty rights established through an 1835 treaty with the United States, where Cherokee leaders at the time agreed to cede all of their homelands east of the Mississippi and move to what is now Oklahoma. And one of the concessions that the federal government agreed to was to ensure that the Cherokee nation would have a voice in Congress. And that right to a delegate has never been granted to the Cherokee nation, and that is what they are hoping to see, a delegate, very quickly.

PJ Elliott:

So why is this happening now and why did it take so long?

Molly Young:

The government’s stance on working with tribal nations did not take a turn until the last half century, where the government started recognizing the rights of tribal nations in trying to help tribal nations rebuild themselves. And so the Cherokee’s story follows that path as well, where they began to gain more political power in the 1970s and have been building that since, both through economic development as well. And that has led us to today where in 2019, they launched a campaign to seat a delegate that was first granted in 1835.

PJ Elliott:

Molly, is the Cherokee nation seeing any opposition for a possible delegate into Congress? And for that matter, are other groups looking at ways to get their own in.

Molly Young:

So some lawmakers are wondering how the process would work to actually seat the delegate. A delegate has never been appointed from a tribal nation, so there are questions about what that process should look like if it can be a simple house vote or if it needs to be a standalone law. And then separately, other tribal nations, four so far, have pointed to their own treaty rights and have said, “If Congress moves forward to seat a Cherokee nation delegate, we believe we also are owed a delegate in Congress as well, based on our treaty rights.”

Taylor Wilson:

New Russian missile strikes this week have sent much of Ukraine into darkness.

Sound: Explosion, frightened reaction of witnesses

Taylor Wilson:

That’s the scene in Kherson, where medics have had to treat victims of recent attacks largely in the dark. Ukraine recaptured the city two weeks ago, but missiles killed four people there yesterday in the worst barrage since Russia’s withdrawal from the area. Moscow’s missiles this week slammed the country’s power grid, and even the capital of Kyiv, at about 70% without electricity as of yesterday.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine passed the nine month mark yesterday, but many Ukrainians remain defiant that they will hold out even with a tough winter approaching. 34 year old Alina Dubego told the AP, “Nobody will compromise their will and principles just for electricity.” She said she’d rather be without power than live with the Russian invasion. But of course, Russian attacks are not just hitting infrastructure. Ukrainian authorities said seven people were killed in Kyiv during yesterday’s strikes.

Today is Black Friday, a day when many Americans will wake up at the crack of dawn to crowd into stores and snag those once a year deals for Christmas. But there’s another way to celebrate Black Friday, and according to the Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping, that’s to, well, not shop.

Rev. Billy:

We started it opposing the Disney company and sweatshops in Times Square. As the satirical Christian televangelist picked up steam, we went to Starbucks, and community gardens, and whoever asked us, and then gradually we developed a choir. People started singing around the Reverend Billy character as he preached.

Taylor Wilson:

And the Stop Shopping Choir was born.

Stop Shopping Choir:

(singing)

Taylor Wilson:

It was a cool day in November when the Reverend Billy, his co-founder and director, Savitri D and the Stop Shopping Choir gathered in Times Square to spread their message of anti-consumerism. The Reverend Billy character is the creation of actor and playwright Billy Talen. About 30 people currently sing in the choir, including several professional musicians and voice artists. Their street performances are a sort of performance art.

Rev. Billy:

The Church of Stop Shopping is about consumerism. The thing is, consumerism embraces the entire culture. But over the years, gradually we swung over to the other end of the spectrum of consumerism, which is of course climate change. And now we’re 100% the Earth is the whole issue. There are a lot of companies that are hurting the earth right now. So we create invasive theater. Sometimes we get arrested, usually we get away with it.

Stop Shopping Choir:

(singing).

Rev. Billy performing:

Slow down our consuming of fossil fuels!

Rev. Biilly

But the earth is so beautiful and moving, and it is under attack by our economy. And we want the earth to live. And if the earth lives, then maybe we get to live, too.

Taylor Wilson:

But the choir also sings professionally, and at clubs in New York and abroad. They see their music as a powerful way they get their message out. The Reverend Billy hopes that the group’s activism inspires others to fight climate change by changing how we live.

Stop Shopping Choir:

(singing)

Taylor Wilson:

We told you yesterday about the latest Christmas musical to hit theaters, but lots more will premiere in the world of movies this weekend. That includes a follow up to Knives Out, the hit 2019 mystery.

Clip from Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Taylor Wilson:

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery follows a tech billionaire who invites his longtime crew for a murder mystery getaway. It stars Edward Norton and Daniel Craig, and is in theaters now. Or if Steven Spielberg is more your thing, his semi-autobiographical drama, The Fabelmans, hits theaters.

Clip from The Fabelmans:

In this family, it’s the scientists versus the artists. Sammy’s on my team. Takes after me.

Taylor Wilson:

And if you want to just stick to your couch, The Woman King is now available to rent.

Clip from The Woman King:

An evil is coming that threatens our kingdom, our freedom. But we have a weapon.

Taylor Wilson:

And you can find more of what to watch this holiday weekend in the entertainment section on USATODAY.com.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us every day of the year right here, wherever you’re listening right now. Thanks to our great team for their fantastic work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.