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.

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.

A young child was struck by a foul ball off the bat of Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. in a terrifying scene during the fourth inning of Wednesday's nationally televised game in Houston.

Almora kept his eyes on the ball as it whizzed past the third-base line, past the existing safety netting and into the stands at Minute Maid Park. He clasped his head in his hands and let out a cry as fans gasped. He then fell to his knees burying his face in his arms. Teammate Jason Heyward and manager Joe Maddon attempted to console him as he cried.

A Guatemalan toddler died in a hospital Tuesday night, just over a month after he and his mother crossed the southwest border and were apprehended, according to the Guatemalan consul in Del Rio, Texas.

The family entered the U.S. from the border city of Juárez, Mexico, in early April. They were apprehended on April 3 on the north bank of the Rio Grande in central El Paso, Texas, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Guatemalan Consul Tekandi Paniagua told NPR that the 2½-year-old boy "had a high fever [and] difficulty breathing."

Updated May 8 at 1:15 a.m. ET

Officials say one student is dead and eight students were injured in a shooting at a public charter school in Highlands Ranch, Colo., a suburb south of Denver.

In a tweet, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said the deceased was an 18-year-old student at the STEM School.

The Department of Justice issued an order on Tuesday that could keep thousands of asylum-seekers detained while they wait for their cases to be heard in immigration court — a wait that often lasts months or years.

The ruling by Attorney General William Barr is the latest step by the Trump administration designed to discourage asylum-seekers from coming to the U.S. hoping for refuge.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

A day after flames leaped through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris sparking fears the beloved building could be consumed, Parisians sang and prayed in processions through the streets and held vigils Tuesday evening close to the church constructed more than eight centuries ago.

The cathedral stood blackened with much of its roof gone, its spire collapsed and charred rubble inside, but it remained standing, its main structure and two towers spared.

Attempting to get to work on foot, walk the dog or enjoy a simple after-dinner stroll is becoming an increasingly risky activity, according to new estimates by the Governors Highway Safety Association, which found the number of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. has reached a 28-year high.

A new report by the GHSA determined about 6,227 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018 — a 4 percent increase over 2017 and the highest mortality rate since 1990.

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET

A 49-year-old Coast Guard lieutenant charged with stockpiling weapons and drugs is being described as a "domestic terrorist" who was planning "to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland on Tuesday.

Updated at 11:53 p.m. ET

A man armed with a handgun entered the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, Ill., on Friday afternoon and killed five civilians, officials announced at a news conference. Five police officers were also wounded.

At least six immigrant detainees on a hunger strike have been force-fed through nasal tubes by immigration authorities, while nine other asylum-seekers are starving themselves, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed on Thursday.

Eleven of the detainees refusing food, some for more than a month, are in custody at the El Paso Processing Center. Four others are in ICE detentions centers across the country: one each in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco.

Mexico's homicide rate continued to skyrocket last year, making 2018 the deadliest on record for the country with an average of 91 deaths a day.

As hope for a last-minute resolution to the political standoff that has triggered the government shutdown all but evaporates, Smithsonian officials announced Thursday that all of its museums, as well as the National Zoo, will be shuttered on Jan. 2 unless a deal is reached.

"There's no getting around it," Linda St. Thomas, chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian, told NPR.

In the wake of the death of a second migrant child in U.S. custody within the past two weeks, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced on Wednesday the government is calling on several federal agencies to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection implement a host of new directives intended to improve how it cares for children and adults held in federal facilities.

"In response to the unprecedented surge of children into our custody, I have directed a series of extraordinary protective measures," Nielsen said in a statement.

For the third day in a row, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials released hundreds of migrant asylum-seekers at a park near a bus station in downtown El Paso. The comparisons to Mary and Joseph wandering the roads of Bethlehem seeking shelter are unavoidable for dozens of volunteers who have stepped in to help. Especially on Christmas Day.

"I kept having the phrase go through my head last night, 'There's no room at the inn, we've got to make some,'" Kathryn Schmidt, a social worker who co-founded the Borderland Rainbow Center, an LGBTQ community center, told NPR.

A scathing report by the Office of the Inspector General revealed that a consulting company hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to fill thousands of new jobs to satisfy President Trump's mandate to secure the southern border is "nowhere near" completing its hiring goals and "risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars."

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