KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Angela Kocherga

News Director

Emmy winning multimedia journalist Angela Kocherga is news director with KTEP and Borderzine. She is also multimedia editor with ElPasoMatters.org, an independent news organization.

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We're going to stick with immigration for a few more minutes.

The Biden administration is ramping up exceptions to a public health order that has largely shut the U.S.-Mexico border to migrant traffic since last year because of the pandemic.

More migrants are being granted humanitarian exceptions because they are considered the most vulnerable, including families with young children and transgender people who had been living in dangerous conditions in Mexican border towns.

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informal workers window cleaner
Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters

 

EL PASO -- A year after the U.S. border was closed to all non-essential travel, the pandemic has underscored an informal economy that many fronterizos prefer not to talk about even as they struggle to adapt to a new reality.

 

“We were quickly trying to scramble and figure out what we do next,” said Patricia, a single mother of three in El Paso. Her family relied on a woman from Ciudad Juárez to help care for her ailing grandmother.  

 

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Memory Bear Ramos
Gina Ramos

CIUDAD JUAREZ -- Every time Gina Ramos looks at her teddy bear, she remembers her father. The bear is a deep indigo color, made from one of her father’s shirts. “It’s a blue shirt I had given him on his birthday. His last birthday,” Ramos said.  Her 62 year-old father Jose Womhar Ramos Hernandez died in December.

Claudia Araceli Ramirez Pereira’s bear is blue and white plaid with a touch of brown, made from her father’s favorite winter jacket. “This year he didn’t get to wear it,” said Ramirez. Her father 70-year old father Lorenzo Ramirez died in October.

Border Fence/Wall Sunland Park
Angela Kocherga / KTEP

 

 

 

PALOMAS, Mexico –  Jhon Jairo Ushca Alcoser, a 25-year-old migrant from Ecuador, said when he fell off the border wall, “my dream” of reaching the U.S. ended. 

 

  

Pedro Gomez, 37, of Guatemala was so determined after he injured himself toppling off the top of the fence, he “crawled on hands and knees” away from the structure because he couldn’t walk. 

 

Fort Bliss Training
Staff Sgt. Michael West / U.S. Army

EL PASO – The Army has launched a criminal investigation after eleven Fort Bliss soldiers were hospitalized suffering from antifreeze poisoning. The soldiers are recovering at William Beaumont Army Medical center. They were sickened Thursday at the end of a 10-day field training exercise at McGregor Range.

“Initial reports indicate soldiers consumed this substance, thinking they were drinking alcoholic beverage,” said Lt. Col. Allie Payne, a Fort Bliss spokeswoman for the 1st Armored Division during a news conference Friday afternoon.

Missing Fort Bliss Soldier
Halliday Family

EL PASO – As the Army continues to search for missing soldier Pvt. Richard Halliday, the commanding general at Fort Bliss has ordered an investigation of the soldier’s unit. 

“I directed an investigation into the leadership, climate and treatment of soldiers in the 1st Battalion 43rd Air Defense Artillery Battalion, “said Maj. General Sean C. Bernabe, senior mission commander at Fort Bliss.

Bernabe announced the investigation during an extensive update on the case for handful of journalists on post. 

U.S. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar
Veronica Escobar

EL PASO-- Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) was one of the lawmakers in the U.S. Capitol when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building. In a phone interview with KTEP's Angela Kocherga she talks about the terrifying experience of being trapped inside as Capitol Police tried to keep the violent mob from breaking into the U.S. House Chamber. 

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Bowie Bakery
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

EL PASO -- The phone is ringing off the hook and people are lined up outside of Bowie Bakery in West El Paso. The shop is only allowing three customers inside at time as a COVID-19 precaution. With Christmas around the corner, the bakery is even busier than usual this holiday season.

“So we’re buying red tamales for the office. We figured we’d spread some holiday cheer for our 14 employees,” Fred Lopez said as he was paying for his order.

Outlet Shoppes of El Paso
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

EL PASO --Twinkling holiday lights cast a warm glow and Christmas carols blare from speakers at the Outlet Shoppes of El Paso. But in these pandemic times, something is missing from the traditional holiday scene on the border: shoppers from Mexico.  

 

Pandemic Christmas Decorations
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

EL PASO-- The holidays during the pandemic are filled with anxiety and heartache that extends to both sides of the border.  In Juarez, the Castillo family is in mourning confronting the first Christmas without their patriarch. “He had this gift of helping others,” said Michell Castillo remembering her father.

In El Paso COVID-19 nearly claimed the Perez family matriarch.  “We’re terrified,” said Jennifer Perez about the current deadly surge in cases. Her mother was sickened by COVID this summer.

“I almost died,” said Inocencia Perez.

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Businesses remain open amid shutdown order
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

EL PASO --A district court judge in El Paso upheld a county order to shut down non-essential businesses to slow the spread of Covid.

Judge William Moody reject a request for a temporary injunction on Friday saying while there is no legal precedent there is a historical one. He used the 1918-1919 pandemic as his guide and actions taken by local officials in Texas cities and counties. 

Social gatherings
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

EL PASO -- The governor of Texas is helping El Paso set up a field hospital at the convention center and the county judge has imposed a nightly curfew from 10pm to 5am to keep more people at home and stop rampant community spread.

But the night before the curfew took effect as officials urged El Paso residents to stay home amid a record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases and hosptializations, social gatherings continued.

UTEP mobile COVID testing site
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

EL PASO -- El Paso is struggling with contact tracing, a crucial means of slowing the spread of COVID-19, as it experiences one of the nation’s worst outbreaks of the disease.

In recent weeks, the number of people notified within 48 hours that they were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 plummeted from 88 percent on Oct. 1 to 32 percent on Oct. 23, the day a record 1,216 El Pasoans tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Young voter
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

EL PASO -- Social justice, racism, and hate crimes have become hot-button issues on the presidential campaign trail and debate stage.  Voters in predominantly Latino El Paso are paying attention. They know the horror and heartache caused by a hate crime.  This August marked a year since a gunman from North Texas traveled to border city and went on a shooting rampage inside a Walmart.

Early voters in line
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

In this in-depth interview El Paso County Elections Administrator Lisa Wise talks to KTEP's Angela Kocherga about early voting, polling places including extended hours, voting by mail or absentee drop box and election day vote centers available to anyone from any precinct. Also she discusses efforts to combat disinformation during this election season as a record number of voters cast ballots.  

Border Shutdown Paso del Norte Bridge
Angela Kocherga / KTEP News

CIUDAD JUAREZ --It’s been more than six months since the U.S. and Mexico border closed to all but essential travel to slow the spread of COVID-19. The disruption of lives and livelihoods has been widespread on both sides during the pandemic. 

Marco Antonio Corral, 60, has watched it all unfold from the middle of the Paso del Norte Bridge where just over the borderline on the Mexican side he peddles potato chips and cold water to drivers and passengers stuck in idling cars calling out “Papitas! Agua!”  

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