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Monica Velez

Reporter

Monica Velez is a reporter at Valley Public Radio. She started out as a print reporter covering health issues in Merced County at the Merced Sun-Star. In 2018 Monica and her colleague at the Sun-Star won a first place George F. Gruner award for breaking news coverage. She was also awarded with a  first place California Newspaper Association award in 2017 for her coverage on the lack of doctors in Merced County and other health access issues.

After growing up in the Bay Area, Monica moved to Sacramento where she received a degree in journalism and creative writing from California State University, Sacramento.  As a Latina and Spanish speaker, she is passionate about telling stories that touch on issues in Hispanic communities.

Tulare County

Currently, four out of the five Board of Supervisor districts in Tulare County have a majority Latino population. On the surface, it looks like Latinos should be well represented. But dig a little deeper and the story changes.   

“What you have in Tulare and in many other communities in the Central Valley are small farmworker communities where many of the residents are not U.S citizens and if they are U.S citizens they’re not necessarily registered to vote,” says Jesus Garcia, a local demographic consultant.

Sonia Nazario

It's hard to go through a news day without hearing something about, say, border control or that term, fake news. Well, next week, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario will address both topics at a Bakersfield College forum.  Nazario recently spoke with FM 89’s Monica Velez and talks about how she went from being an investigative reporter to more of an advocate for immigrants.

The event “Immigration and Journalism: A Conversation with Sonia Nazario” will be at Bakersfield College on October 9. To register and for more information go to bakersfieldcollege.edu. 

Kern County

Lidia Gonzalez still lives in the same part of Delano she did a year ago. But even though she’s in the same place, she says one big thing is different- the district she lives in and the Kern County supervisor who represents her. 

She says it’s not just the districts that changed, but how the people in them are responding to the changes.

Since President Donald Trump took office there’s been a lot of attention on immigration policies and undocumented people. But, these talks have actually been taking place well before Trump’s candidacy. Here speaking with us is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who also happens to be undocumented, Jose Antonio Vargas. He just released his memoir “Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen" that chronicles his life being undocumented and the emotional toll that takes on him.

Monica Velez

The Alomari family arrived in the San Joaquin Valley from Yemen in June. They settled into a small apartment in Visalia and have been adjusting to their new lives. 

Now that they’re thousands of miles away from the Yemeni civil war, things are a lot better than they used to be. Nageeb Alomari, a U.S citizen, went to Yemen to bring his wife and three daughters to the U.S because their living conditions were getting dangerous, especially for one of his daughters, Shaema. 

PICO California

Ever since President Trump came into office, we at Valley Public Radio have been reporting on his administration’s changes to federal immigration policy—like its so-called “zero tolerance policy” of prosecuting asylum applicants as well as rollbacks on temporary protected status from certain countries—and their consequences on San Joaquin Valley residents and businesses.

Martín Navarez

On Wednesday, the annual Reel pride Film Festival kicks off five days of films from around the world that explore LGBTQ people and issues. One of the films premiering in the festival is about a drag queen known in Fresno drag scene. She’ll share a part of herself not everyone sees on stage. Leilani Price will be featured in the documentary “The Life of Lei: The Man Behind the Makeup.” We spoke with the director, Matthew Broughton, and the queen herself, Leilani, about the film. 

For the record, Valley Public Radio is a community sponsor of the Reel Pride Film Festival. 

Monica Velez

The soft chatter in the waiting room at the Yarra Law Group offices in Fresno are muffled by a Food Network show playing on TV. Receptionist tap their keyboards and answer phone calls. 

A 23-year-old woman from El Salvador, who we’ll call Ana, is among the dozen people in the room. A receptionist calls her name and she goes in to see her immigration attorney, Jeremy Clason. He’s preparing documents he’ll eventually file with the immigration court in San Francisco. She speaks to him softly as she begins to tell her story.

Monica Velez

Mark Arax, who’s a journalist and author, says he remembers when William Saroyan would come over to his grandfather’s house in Fresno for dinner. And when he finally got a driver’s license, he recalls picking Saroyan up at his home on Griffith Way for those dinners.

Monica Velez

About eight years ago Mirsa Urias was working at a restaurant in Bakersfield. She was the only person working up front and says it was business as usual until one man entered.

“He pointed a gun at me and said I had to give him money," the 30-year-old says in Spanish. "I gave him money and he went running out of the store and threatened me before that. He said if I didn’t give him the money he would shoot me.”

Flickr user Derek Dirks, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Working 11 hours shifts in corn fields in Mendota is some of the hardest work to do. Add school and immigration court to the mix and you might start losing track of the days, like one teenager who recently moved to the Valley.  

“I would wake up at 11 at night to make food and leave at about 12:15,” he says in Spanish. “We go into work at 1 a.m. and get off at noon that day.”

U.S. Forest Service - Sierra National Forest (Facebook)

UPDATE: 6:00 PM 7/27/18

Yosemite Valley is going to remain closed for a little longer than initially planned due to the Ferguson Fire. The Park Service announced today that the valley will reopen on Friday August 3rd at 4:00 PM. The Wawona community and Mariposa Grove will remain closed due to smoke and impacts from the fire. Highway 41 will also remain closed. It’s unknown when they will reopen. The popular park attractions closed earlier this week due to the fire. The closures had been set to expire this Sunday.

 

Monica Velez

As the Ferguson Fire continues to burn, part of Yosemite National Park is closing Wednesday. 

By noon, Yosemite Valley and Wawona will be closed, causing thousands of park visitors to cancel their plans. Although the air is smokey and skies are muggy, one group of five tourists from Mexico and Germany decided to take their chances. 

Ari Rodriguez and her friends arrived at Yosemite on Tuesday afternoon. She says they planned to stay at the park until Wednesday, but are heading out before the park closes.

Monica Velez

Jose Robles scrapes up handfuls of dried chilies into a bag for one of his customers at the Cherry Avenue Auction in Fresno County. He’s been selling chilies and other vegetables at flea markets in the San Joaquin Valley for 19 years.

But business has gone down, he says, mostly because people are scared to leave their homes.

Monica Velez

We’re standing in the middle of 350 acres of table grapes just outside of Selma. Soon they’ll be on tables everywhere. Water drips down on the roots of the vines to keep them hydrated in the sweltering heat.

The shade of the grapevine arches keep a person, we’ll call Bob, cool. He’s a grower and labor contractor. He agreed to talk to Valley Public Radio anonymously because he fears being vocal could spur a visit from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

PICO California

About 50 people across the San Joaquin Valley packed their bags and headed to a detention center in San Diego. 

The group represented Faith in the Valley, an organization that advocates for immigrants, low-wage workers and former inmates. Trena Turner,  the executive director, says they went to the Otay Mesa Detention Center, which has been open for three years, to protest the effects Trump’s policy has had on families.

Laura Tsutsui

Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions made changes to the qualifications of those seeking asylum in the United States. Now, people fleeing domestic or gang violence no longer qualify for asylum. 

To be granted asylum, people have to prove they’re in fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. An immigration appeals court during the Obama administration ruled those fearing domestic and gang violence fall into the “social group” category. Sessions overturned that decision.  

Courtesy of Brett Lebin

Voters in Fresno could have the opportunity in November to vote on taxing medical marijuana businesses. But first, the Fresno City Council would have to approve the measure to go on the ballot next week. 

On Thursday the Fresno City Council is expected to decide if people can vote on November 6 to add a tax to medical cannabis businesses.

The legislation is sponsored by three council members and needs at least five votes to pass. Clint Olivier representing District 7 is a sponsor of the measure and is confident the vote will pass.

Monica Velez

While the governor’s race heats up one top candidate made another visit to the San Joaquin Valley, where he met with locals and received endorsements from law enforcement officials.  

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

We’re standing in a fridge that’s the size of a two bedroom apartment at Food Link Tulare County. The ice box is stacked with produce and dairy products that will soon be in the fridges of Tulare families. Development director for the food bank, Nicole Celaya, says some families who need food won’t get food.

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