September 8, 2006
migrant and minutemen photos
The following caught my eye today... If you live in Denver, go check it out.
Regis University is pleased to announce a unique and rare display of photographs showing both sides of the immigration conflict. The Border Film Project features a collection of photos taken by undocumented migrants trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States, and by the American minutemen trying to stop them.
The exhibit was put together by the Border Film Project, three college friends with a passion for the immigration dilemma in common. More than 600 disposable cameras were sent to undocumented migrants crossing the desert and the American minutemen protecting our borders. The hope was to find a way of reaching a more personal, human understanding of the illegal immigration issue.
If you are not local to Denver or cannot get to the gallery, go check out the photos on the Border Film Project web site. There are 45 photos from migrant cameras and 40 from minutemen cameras.
August 30, 2006
the tie clip says it all
PBS News Hour recently concluded a series on immigration. You can find all segments of this series online. While the content of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's interview did nothing short of make me want to move to Phoenix just to vote against him in two years, his interview should be viewed. Here is the interview with Sheriff Arpaio on the News Hour.
Among the other segments in this series was an articulate discussion by an immigration attorney who deals with the law and people every day. The News Hour interview with Priscilla Labovitz is well worth watching.
Finally, as commentary on Arpaio's tough-as-his-tie-clip enforcement measures, this Op-ed piece in the Tucson Citizen:
Blatant misuse of Arizona's "coyote law" - seeking to prosecute not only human smugglers, but also illegal immigrants as "conspirators" - has been an enormous failure, and rightly so.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has violated the intent of the law in his zeal to prosecute illegal immigrants. State Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, says the law he co-sponsored was intended to be used against human smugglers, not their contraband.
Thomas has applied conspiracy laws to the year-old anti-smuggling statute in 263 arrests, but he has yet to obtain one conviction of conspiracy to commit human smuggling.
The "coyote law" was designed to help law enforcement and prosecutors bring the heads of major smuggling rings to justice. Instead, Thomas and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are wielding it against those who are not even smugglers, much less conspirators, but are the easiest to apprehend and least able to defend themselves.
Aside from being a misuse of state law, this effort also is a major tactical error. Conviction of key smugglers could have some effect on illegal immigration here, whereas prosecution of a few dozen more illegal immigrants accomplishes virtually nothing.
August 23, 2006
beauty at the border
No author is mentioned, but the following report was found on the website of No More Deaths.
It’s mid-afternoon and the sun has taken its harsh toll since the morning hours of meeting deportation buses. By 10am we have given water, food, and medical care to more than two hundred people. Hundreds and hundreds of tired eyes, blistered feet, and hungry stomachs.
"We have another bus," shouts a volunteer who sees the large, white Homeland Security bus pull up next to the U.S. customs and immigration building at the Mariposa Truck Port of Nogales, Arizona and Sonora-Mx. By now we know the drill and we station ourselves to be a team of hospitality. Volunteers take on the roles of handing out fliers telling of migrant shelters and aid for migrants in Nogales, distributing baggies of bean burritos and 1-liter bottles of water, conducting interviews for abuse documentation and general statistics, and ready to provide medical care. From a distance we watch and count, twenty-three…thirty-eight…fifty-two…a full bus. My stomach sinks, however, when I see that among the figures walking in a line through the port and in our direction are quite few smaller figures as well.
"Looks like there are women and children," I add. As it turns out, they have been in the desert four to six days. The children’s clothes reek of urine and there is dirt smudges on their faces. They are disturbingly quiet and still for the bundles of energy normally characterizing the ages of 1.5, 3, and 5 years of age. They sit on the curb near our humanitarian aid station while we bustle around trying to provide care and aid as quickly and to as many people as possible before they move on.
A young girl, twelve years old named Isabel, sits with her head between her knees. She has been vomiting and from the touch of my palm seems to have a fever. Her younger siblings and mother sit beside her, with the other young families nearby. I ask some of the mothers if they drank the dirty water from cow tanks in the desert, infamous for parasites, bacteria, even Giarrdia; indeed they have. The youngest ones, in diapers, have diarrhea as well. As a surface-level response to this situation, I’ve heard debates coming from others of my socio-economic background automatically blaming the parents of neglect for putting their young children in such a dangerous position. A twisted position to take in light of this reality.
Worried and thinking medically of what I know about the rapid physical deterioration of a severely dehydrated child, I find myself almost lecturing one of the mothers while distributing glasses of Gatorade and clean socks. "She must drink a lot, especially electrolytes," I say in my basic Spanish, "It is very dangerous for children to be so sick in the heat. It is very dangerous out there..." and I stop myself. The dark, weary eyes of the mother are staring back at me.
I feel as if my deep concern and genuine intentions are patronizing. I was telling her something she already knew, talking about the very dangers that have turned over in her mind so many times they haunt her like chronic pain in the bones. She has endured this emotional distress ever since she made the decision to make this journey with her children from the far away southern state of Oaxaca to join her husband who is working in Atlanta. My concern quickly turned into respect. Despite governmental and economic systems that do not allow a livelihood for her family in their native land, she was using her feet to demand to live and prosper. Most of all, she was demanding the human right to provide opportunity for her children and to reunite their family.
Suddenly the popsicle cart carrying fruit-filled "paletas" comes strolling by and the eyes of the young ones light up and they surrounded the cart. The mothers scold that they do not have money for that expense, 5 pesos each—about fifty cents. "It’s okay," I say, even though it is not within our protocol to give beyond what we have for all. "Paletas all around!" I reach for change in my pocket reasoning, of course, that they needed to cool their body temperatures and needed the sugar intake anyway.
Simply, I want to give the best possible care and the largest doses of compassion to these people who move quickly through my life and forever strengthen my soul, hundreds each day, knowing that I am sharing moments with the human rights heroes and heroines of our time.
August 8, 2006
According to this Houston Chronicle article, 291 immigrants have died in attempted border crossings in the past 44 weeks. The deaths Monday, also mentioned in the article, bring that number to 300. With 8 weeks remaining in this fiscal year, the deaths are on track to surpass the 400 mark, as they have over the past 6 years. Additional troops at the border have only served to push the crossings back into California. The number of deaths has not been reduced.
Meanwhile, No More Deaths continues their tireless work of washing immigrants' feet and providing them life-giving food and water on both sides of the border.
Don't be fooled by those who argue that tighter border security will solve our immigration issues. They are tragically mistaken.
August 4, 2006
action alert -- call your senators
This today from the American Friends Service Committee:
Today the Senate overwhelmingly voted to add an amendment proposed by Senator Jeff Sessions (R -AL) to an appropriations bill for the Department of Defense. Sessions amendment will "provide $1,829,100,000 for the Army National Guard for the construction of 370 miles of triple-layered fencing, and 461 miles of vehicle barriers along the southwest border." The Senate is expected to approve the appropriations bill (with the amendment attached) later this week.
Senator Sessions told the Washington Post that "By passing my amendment today, we are sending a signal that we are serious about stopping the flow of illegal immigrants over the border." (The phrase 'sending a signal' is interesting in many ways...)
Sessions has been among the most vocal members of Congress who has been calling for enforcement-only immigration reform. He was among the Republicans senators who did not vote for the Senate immigration bill back in May.
Today's action is disturbing in many ways:
1. Today's vote could herald the future of immigration reform. For months, Congressional representatives have threatened to pass other immigration enforcement provisions by attaching it to must-pass legislation if no immigration bill is passed in this Congressional session. Actions like this are more difficult to rally opposition against, especially when they are piggybacking on unrelated legislation that are likely to pass.
2. Almost all of the pro-comprehensive reform senators (both Democrat and Republican) voted for this amendment. Senators appear to think that voting for tougher enforcement is a definite vote-getter for their parties. Standing up against further militarization of the border seems too dangerous for them to consider.
3. The substance of the bill is alarming. Adding more fencing and border enforcement in no way addresses the root causes of why people take such risks to enter the United States without documents. To date, beefed up border enforcement has resulted in thousands of deaths by forcing migrants to cross in areas that are dangerous. More enforcement pushes people to even more desperate means of entering the U.S.
ACTION STEP: Call your Senators today (202.224.3121) and tell them that you do not agree with this amendment. Tell them that we need a truly comprehensive approach to immigration reform.
Human Rights Program Director
American Friends Service Committee
901 W. 14th Ave. #7
Denver, CO 80204
July 27, 2006
can't spell congress without a big con
The U.S. House Republican Conference has a new immigration page on its website.
I found it fascinating that they can't see their nose in front of their face... front and center on their immigration page:
Since 1995, the Republican Congress has dramatically increased spending on border security and immigration enforcement – from $1.2 billion to $12.7 billion – and more than doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, from 5,000 to 12,000. However, despite these improvements, illegal immigrants continue to flood across our borders and make their way into our country. It’s clear that we need a new approach to border security, and that’s exactly what House Republicans are working to provide.
House Republicans want strong border security legislation that the President can sign into law this year. We’re holding hearings and conducting site visits to talk to the people who deal firsthand with the problem of illegal immigration. This is not a time for half measures and band-aids – we are going to take the time to fully address this problem and give the American people the strong border security bill they deserve.
It is what immigration advocates have been saying all along... if any legislation was a failure it was the 1995 border security laws, not the 1986 amnesty laws. Amnesty in fact was a huge success. The 1995 Border Security measure a complete failure. Yet, the GOP insists on increasing those measures as a solution to the current immigration crisis.
First time shame on you. Second time shame on me.
November is coming.
In the meantime, maybe you can get into one of the GOP's upcoming "hearings" announced today. More hustle at taxpayer expense.
The House leadership is no longer trying to disguise their true motives: House Majority Leader John Boehner said, "We believe that these hearings will help strengthen our hand as we negotiate with our counterparts in the Senate and hopefully get a bill to the president some time this year." source
Strengthen our hand. Great. That's so humane.
July 12, 2006
a glimmer of hope
I think we need to match up a No More Deaths Volunteer with each member of the Colorado GOP too...
The following article which was published on www.azcentral.com
Desert-rescue tales sway GOP legislator
Apr. 7, 2006 12:00 AM
Rep. Doug Quelland stuck out as he waded through the prayer rally on the lawn of the state Capitol. And not just because of his trademark handlebar mustache.
Quelland, a Republican who represents north Phoenix, has been a reliable vote on "get-tough" immigration measures. His name is listed on several bills this session, including one that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to be charged with felony trespassing and another that seeks to deny them benefits.
They're the kinds of bills the Tuesday rally was designed to protest. The group of religious leaders asked for humane immigration reform.
But there was Quelland, who once stood on the lawn to support anti-undocumented-immigrant legislation, standing on the lawn amid people pleading for sympathy toward border crossers.
Quelland said his position on illegal immigration hasn't changed as much as it has evolved.
"I think it's good intentions," he said of the legislation introduced at the Capitol. "But I would like all the people in the House and the Senate to open dialogue and talk with people. You don't get anything done by staying uninformed."
Quelland's education was partly aided by talks with the woman who was standing next to him. She's the daughter of a longtime family friend he met at church. She was a fair-haired 22-year-old, wearing a bandanna on her head and a long prairie dress. She seemed to be constantly smiling. Her name was Maryada Vallet, and as her T-shirt indicated, she was a volunteer for No More Deaths.
That's the organization that camps out in the Arizona desert during the summer looking to rescue border crossers in distress. Two volunteers from that group are facing federal charges after they drove three undocumented immigrants to get medical attention.
Vallet, who was the class president and homecoming queen at Centennial High School in Peoria, became intensely interested in border issues while at Azusa Pacific University, a private Christian college in California. Upon graduation, she volunteered to work a summer with No More Deaths.
She said her parents were not immediately supportive of her plans, not because they feared for her safety as much as they didn't support the cause. "I had to de-mythicize a lot of this," she said. Her parents, she said, watch a lot of Fox News Network. "A lot of what they thought is what most people think about migrants."
But Vallet tells stories that put a face on the problem. She tells of Lorena, the 22-year-old she met who was crossing into the United States to make enough money to care for her sick son. She tells of Alberto, the corn farmer she found in the harsh Arizona desert. How she gives them water, tends to their blistered feet.
"It's very much like the good Samaritan," she said, referring to one of the parables told by Jesus in the New Testament.
Those tales softened her parents' views, she said. And apparently Quelland's. At least, it's made him take a second look.
"I don't know if my basic beliefs have changed," he said, "but I do know that there's some information out there that everyone should have, and they're just not getting it."
Part of it is faith based. The two share the same religious convictions, and Quelland seemed to get emotional as he heard this young Christian woman speak of her call to help the stranded in the desert.
And as we stood on the Senate lawn, and Vallet spoke of more experiences with No More Deaths, Quelland started openly weeping. "There's your story," he told me, pointing to Vallet. "Make her your story."
It will be a couple of more months before No More Deaths starts its summer saturation of the desert. Until then, the group might do some good by assigning a volunteer to each Republican member of the Arizona Legislature. A rescue mission to cool down their hearts.
Reach Ruelas at (602) 444-8473 or richard.ruelas@arizonarepublic .com.
Here is how we can help No More Deaths:
***Food and First Aid Kits Needed at the Border*** No More Deaths and Coloradans for Immigrant Rights (CFIR) need your help! We must take death out of the migration equation! The number of tragic, migrant deaths in the desert along the Arizona/Mexico border is continually increasing. Coloradans for Immigrant Rights (CFIR) is helping No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes collect the following items to distribute to migrants.
For each Gallon-Sized Closable Plastic Bag, place 7-10 items, ideally 1 bag contains each of the following items:
„X Sports Drink
„X Pop-top lid meat or tuna
„X Nuts, Trail mix, dried fruit, chips, fig bars, or cookies
„X Granola, Power, or snack bars
„X Pudding or fruit cup (with spoon)
„X Peanut Butter or Cheese filled crackers
FIRST AID KITS:
For each Small Closable Plastic Bag add the following items:
„X 4 to 8 bandages
„X Gauze Pads
„X Small first aid cream or ointment
„X Alcohol Wipes
„X Sunscreen, Chapstick, Hand Cream or Lotion
„X Foot care creams, powders, or Moleskin
„X Wrapped Candy or throat lozenges
„X Aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil packets
What You Can Do!
1) Create a collection drive for the above materials at your church/organization/job etc.
2) Mail kits directly to No More Deaths, c/o St. Mark¡¦s Presbyterian Church, 3809 East 3rd Street, Tucson, AZ 85716.
May 14, 2006
duct tape and the national guard
I laughed when 8 of Colorado's most extreme right-wing representatives sent a letter calling for Bush to "Call forth the Militia". It is hard to believe he is actually considering it. Just last year, Bush signed into law a plan to place thousands of Border Patrol agents on our Southern Border, but then provided for just 210 new agents in his budget proposal (source). On a gut level, I see this latest announcement as a manipulative move for both TV and approval ratings in addition to votes for the GOP in November.
The nation has been worked up into a frenzy about immigration over the last year and the government has done nothing to dispel the many myths that have surfaced -- not the least of which being that placing troops at the border will fix broken policy.
While part of me remains optimistic -- that perhaps having troops there would deter would-be-immigrants from crossing the desert in this deadly season (and thus saving lives), troops have been placed on the border in the past -- with horrible results. Read of the devastating loss for one family which occurred the last time troops were placed on the border: link
So, to put it simply, placing the guard on the border is like telling everyone to load up on duct tape: it will provide a lot of peace of mind, a false sense of security and accomplish little good.
May 5, 2006
Why is my heart heavy?
Because I've recently learned that a dear one may soon cross the Arizona desert in an attempt to re-enter this country.
I cannot pretend to know God's mind on this, but ask Him to protect her and to reunite her family -- be it here or there.
It could be that this story describes the very desert she will cross:
CABEZA PRIETA WILDLIFE REFUGE - Jerry Wofford studied a set of tiny footprints, no bigger than the palm of his hand, as a light wind swept across El Camino del Diablo, the Devil's Road.
Wofford, a seasoned U.S. Border Patrol agent, can tell a lot from a footprint. If the weight falls on the ball of the foot, the migrant is running. A knee print, dragging a soft line in the sand, means he is crawling.
Both of these are bad signs.
As temperatures start to climb, Wofford is getting more and more apprehensive. To avoid more heavily patrolled stretches of Arizona border, more undocumented immigrants are crossing through this vast expanse of unpopulated desert east of Yuma, made up of thousands of square miles of sand, volcanic rock and stunted creosote bushes.
Arrests in the Border Patrol's Yuma Sector are up nearly 15 percent from last year, and the death tally is already outpacing 2005, a record year. Agents in the remote corridor where Wofford patrols are reporting an 86 percent increase in arrests and are tracking smugglers and undocumented immigrants into increasingly isolated desert.
When Wofford finds migrants out here, and they start to run and scatter, he hollers after them: "Where are you going? You're in the middle of nowhere, in the godforsaken desert!"
They still run.
read entire article