Vanessa Romo

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.

Before her stint on the News Desk, Romo spent the early months of the Trump Administration on the Washington Desk covering stories about culture and politics – the voting habits of the post-millennial generation, the rise of Maxine Waters as a septuagenarian pop culture icon and DACA quinceañeras as Trump protests.

In 2016, she was at the core of the team that launched and produced The New York Times' first political podcast, The Run-Up with Michael Barbaro. Prior to that, Romo was a Spencer Education Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism where she began working on a radio documentary about a pilot program in Los Angeles teaching black and Latino students to code switch.

Romo has also traveled extensively through the Member station world in California and Washington. As the education reporter at Southern California Public Radio, she covered the region's K-12 school districts and higher education institutions and won the Education Writers Association first place award as well as a Regional Edward R. Murrow for Hard News Reporting.

Before that, she covered business and labor for Member station KNKX, keeping an eye on global companies including Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks and Microsoft.

A Los Angeles native, she is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, where she received a degree in history. She also earned a master's degree in Journalism from NYU. She loves all things camaron-based.

Citing the unrelenting spread of the coronavirus, a federal judge has ordered that all children currently held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for more than 20 days must be released by July 17.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of California issued the scathing order Friday afternoon, saying the Trump administration had failed to provide even the most basic health protections for children and their families amid the pandemic.

She described the ICE-operated facilities as being "on fire," adding that "there is no more time for half measures."

Texas reported a record-breaking number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday as the governor plans to reopen more businesses and double capacity.

Updated at 1:42 p.m. ET Saturday

Angry protests nationwide on Friday followed the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Clashes erupted between activists and law enforcement in many locations, and at least two people were dead by Saturday morning.

Updated at 4 a.m. ET Friday

Fire ravaged the 3rd Precinct police building in Minneapolis on Thursday night as thousands of people jammed downtown streets on the third night of furious protests over the death of a black man after an encounter with police. A police spokesman said personnel at the precinct were safe.

Coronavirus fatalities in long-term care facilities have surpassed a grim threshold in much of the country, accounting for at least a third of the deaths in 26 states and more than half in 14 of those.

The data, which was published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, reports tallies from a variety of care facilities, including nursing homes, adult care residences, and other skilled nursing care settings. However, it does not break out those categories separately.

Concern is mounting after a doctor at a Texas nursing home started giving the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to dozens of elderly patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and tracking the outcomes in what he's calling an "observational study."

Use of the drug to treat coronavirus infections has set up a heated debate between the Trump administration and leading health experts over its efficacy against COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first rapid point-of-care COVID-19 test, that can deliver results in less than an hour.

Cepheid, a Silicon Valley diagnostics company, made the announcement on Saturday, saying it has received emergency authorization from the government to use the test.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced on Wednesday agents will temporarily postpone most arrests due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead the agency will focus on only pursuing people who pose public safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention on criminal grounds.

It is unclear how long the new strategy will be in place but officials explained in a statement the move is designed to "ensure the welfare and safety of the general public as well as officers and agents."

Updated at 6:48 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered the Trump administration another win on one of its signature immigration policies on Wednesday, allowing it to continue the controversial "Remain in Mexico" policy across the entire southern border.

Tavis Smiley has to pay up.

A Washington, D.C., jury decided on Wednesday that the former public television host, violated the morals clause of his contract by carrying on sexual relationships with multiple subordinates. Now, they agreed, he owes the broadcaster nearly $1.5 million.

Smiley, who was fired in 2017 amid sexual misconduct allegations, sued PBS contending he was dropped from the network as a result of racial bias and that he was wrongly terminated. Smiley was the only solo black host of a show on the broadcasting organization's airwaves.

Updated at 10:17 p.m. ET

Hours after the White House rejected the idea of appointing a coronavirus czar, President Trump on Wednesday put Vice President Pence in charge of the administration's response to the disease.

"We're doing really well, and Mike is going to be in charge," Trump said, noting that Pence's experience as governor of Indiana made him adept at working with state and local health authorities.

"This is not a czar," the president later added.

There's no dispute on whether Jesus Mesa Jr. killed 15-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca.

He did. And there's a video of it.

In 2010 Mesa, an on-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent who was at the border in El Paso, Texas, shot Hernández at least twice — once in the face. At the time, the boy, a Mexican national, was on the southern side of the border in Ciudad Juarez.

More Americans are ordering more rounds, and that's leading to more funerals, according to a new study on alcohol-related deaths.

Looking at data from the National Center for Health Statistics, researchers estimate deaths from alcohol-related problems have more than doubled over the past nearly 20 years.

Death certificates spanning 2017 indicate nearly 73,000 people died in the U.S because of liver disease and other alcohol-related illnesses. That is up from just under 36,000 deaths in 1999.

Updated at 10:03 p.m. ET

Iran has launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces, targeting at least two military bases in Iraq, the U.S. Defense Department announced late Tuesday.

The strikes on military and coalition personnel at the Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar province and in Irbil — at the center of Iraq's Kurdistan region — began at approximately 5:30 p.m. ET, according to a statement.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the strike, saying it was an act of "self-defense."

The 21-year-old white man accused of driving more than 11 hours through Texas to kill Hispanics at an El Paso Walmart in August pleaded not guilty to capital murder charges on Thursday, contradicting a confession he made following the shooting, according to police documents.

In his first public court appearance, Patrick Crusius remained calm, speaking only twice in response to the judge's questions. The hearing lasted for three minutes.

The 21-year-old white man accused of gunning down 22 people and wounded dozens of others at a Texas Walmart was formally indicted on a capital murder charge Thursday.

A grand jury in El Paso County indicted Patrick Crusius in connection with the mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Walmart on Aug. 3, according to a statement from the El Paso District Attorney's Office.

District Attorney Jaime Esparza said on Aug. 4 that he planned to seek the death penalty.

The suspect surrendered to law enforcement as he was driving away from the bloodbath, saying, "I'm the shooter."

Updated 4 p.m. ET

The shooter behind the grisly mass shooting that left 20 people dead and 26 wounded at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Saturday morning has been identified by officials as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas.

State prosecutors in El Paso announced on Sunday that they will pursue the death penalty against Crusius.

Updated Sunday at 11 a.m. ET

Twenty people are dead and 26 wounded after a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Saturday morning, according to state and local authorities.

Speaking at a news conference, Gov. Greg Abbott said that what should have been a leisurely day of shopping "turned into one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas."

"We pray that God will be with those who've been harmed in any way," he added.

Nothing says, "I've been to Kuwait!" like a missile launcher keepsake.

At least that seems to be the explanation one Texas man provided officials at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport after they discovered the device in his checked luggage.

He thought this might be his big chance. He would get spotted by a coach, offered a soccer scholarship and instantly be college-bound. Instead, Francisco Erwin Galicia, a U.S. citizen, was picked up by Border Patrol officers, processed into detention and held for 26 days.

"It nearly broke him," Galicia's lawyer, Claudia Galan told NPR. "He said the conditions were horrible, inhumane. And he was about to sign a deportation order ... even though he was born here."

Updated 8:05 p.m. ET

Hours after a federal judge on the East Coast refused to block a Trump administration rule requiring most asylum-seekers to ask for protection in another country before they try to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, a judge on the West Coast put a stop to the new policy.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction against the controversial rule unveiled by the White House and applied on a "pilot" basis last week.

The Trump administration announced on Monday it is expanding fast-track deportation regulations to include the removal of undocumented immigrants who cannot prove they have been in the U.S. continuously for two years or more.

Updated July 19 at 12:25 p.m. ET

Mark Morgan, acting head of Customs and Border Protection, said on Thursday that his agency is rolling out the Trump administration's new asylum rule as a small "pilot" for now but that officials expect it to be blocked in court.

Don't see the graphic above? Click here.

On Friday, President Trump confirmed reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to conduct nationwide sweeps to arrest thousands of undocumented immigrant families that the government says have missed a court appearance or have been issued court-ordered removals from the country.

Updated at 9:55 a.m. ET

A federal judge in Seattle ruled Tuesday that asylum-seeking migrants detained for being in the U.S. illegally have the right to a bond hearing in immigration court rather than being held until their cases are complete.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said it is unconstitutional to indefinitely detain migrants who fled to the U.S. seeking asylum protections.

Customs and Border Protection has launched an investigation into a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents in which members posted derogatory remarks targeting migrants and lawmakers.

Updated at 5:58 p.m. ET

After a brief showdown over competing emergency humanitarian aid measures to alleviate the crisis at the southern border, the House voted 305-102 on Thursday to pass the Senate's less restrictive version of the bill.

The Senate had approved the legislation Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Trump supports the bill.

The Republican-led Senate passed its own version of an emergency aid measure, approving a $4.6 billion package to pay some of the costs of the surge of migrants crossing the southern border.

The vote Wednesday came minutes after the Senate handily rejected the Democratic-led House's $4.5 billion bill passed Tuesday night, signalling what will likely be a contentious battle between the two chambers to reconcile the bills.

Updated at 5:07 p.m. ET

The acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to step down in the coming weeks, according to two agency officials, amid a public furor over the treatment of migrant children in U.S. facilities.

John Sanders is expected to make his resignation effective July 5, according to the officials, who spoke to NPR on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made to agency employees.

The Trump administration is canceling English classes, recreational activities including soccer, and legal aid for unaccompanied migrant children who are staying in federally contracted migrant shelters.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is charged with caring for minors who arrive at the Southern border without a parent or legal guardian, says the large influx of migrants in recent months is straining its already threadbare budget. ORR is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

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