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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.

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.

Fresno County Sheriff's Office

Local law enforcement and elected officials met with President Donald Trump today in Washington D.C. They discussed California’s sanctuary state policies and how they’ve impacted communities. As Valley Public Radio’s Monica Velez reports, one county sheriff thought the meeting was productive.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said she wants to see Fresno County say “we don’t agree with SB-54,” which restricts when state law enforcement can interact with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities. She said they discussed strategies to have full disclosures with ICE.