Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My experience of migration on the northern Mexico border

~a guest post by Paloma Patlán, Student of International Relations at the Jesuit University of Guadalajara. 

Paloma Patlán at the KBI's Migrant Assistance Center 
Before serving breakfast in the comedor for the Kino Border Initiative, located on the border between Sonora and Arizona; my partner Bernadette Eguía gives a brief talk on Human Rights to the diners. After this, some raise their hand, seem baffled and outraged. A man shares his anguish at being separated from his family, now being deported after living 18 years in the US. He doesn't know what he'll do in Mexico, his country:
"They threw me out like a criminal. And if anyone has stolen anything, it was them. I gave them all my working life. And what grieves me most is my family that's left behind on the other side, my children." 
The comedor's cook Lupita, after leading grace before the meal, hopes the food she's prepared for these men and women will give them strength and health to continue on their journeys. In this place they can relax a little, feel safe and not violated, forget some of their worries and concerns--or at least feel listened to and share some encouragement.

Those of us who work here are aware that many of the human rights shared in that presentation haven't been respected. But it's important that they know their rights so that they can demand them. And it's the least we can do. Every day brings people sharing experiences of violations of integrity. It's not the same to read stories on paper as it is to listen to the voices of men and women who migrate under vulnerable conditions or who suffer family separation due to immigration policies.

My experience here is enriching to me as a student of International Relations. A bi-national project of the US and Mexico, Kino Border Initiative's work is a clear example of how civil society, concerned about a situation that involves both nations, can combine in a collaborative effort to encourage immigration policies that respect human dignity.

In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, Kino Border Initiative directly accompanies migrant men and women. And this aspect is the most rewarding experience. The issue of migration is very complex. In Mexico it's been problematic due to structural factors and analyses of various areas and fields of study. But, to listen to the migrants is to understand and to literally see in their eyes

  • the sadness of having to leave their loved ones, 
  • the illusion of having better opportunities somewhere else, 
  • the frustration and fear of not feeling protected by the State in their journey and in their lives in Mexico. 

There is so much concern on their faces, as if migration was a crime. And what's rough is that they have to risk their lives in the journey and live with so much uncertainty. As a society, we should understand that it's human nature to seek out better opportunities and to take care of one's own family. Really understanding this will be easier than the struggle to punish those who do so--as though they were criminals. They're guilty only of being human beings in a situation that risks their life and well being.
--------
What a gift it is to know and work with Paloma and her coworker Bernie at the KBI! These two young women bring me hope. I see in them leadership and commitment to join with others to work toward a more just and compassionate world. I did the translation from the original Spanish and some minor editing/formatting of this piece. Thanks, Paloma, for writing it and for letting me publish it on this blog! ~Billie

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Protests today in over 10 cities anti-border militarization component of immigration reform


Border residents and communities across the country are participating in a National Day of Action Against Border Militarization on Wednesday, July 17. Residents and community organizations in 10 cities will protest the “border surge” component proposed in the bi-partisan Senate's Corker-Hoeven amendment and other legislation being proposed in the House of Representatives. The Border Network for Human Rights, Presente.org, Detention Watch Network, and the Southern Borders Communities Coalition, among others, are leading the effort.

The Senate’s immigration reform package was passed with the last-minute addition of a “border surge” that's guaranteed to increase racial profiling, abuse, death and other destruction in border communities. The bi-partisan Corker-Hoeven amendment in the Senate proposes increasing the number of border patrol agents by 20,000 while adding 700 miles of additional border wall. Increased spending of billions of tax dollars on unnecessary surveillance and other wasteful technology at a border that has been certified as safe by the FBI and other sources is also included.

Over the next 10 years, the bi-partisan “border surge” in S.744 would further militarize border zones in the southern United States, transforming peaceful communities into some of the most militarized regions in the world. Already, more than 7 million U.S. Citizens, residents and families that live in border communities are subjected to the “100-mile rule," which the ACLU and other groups denounce as a “Constitution Free Zone” stretching from San Diego, California to Brownsville, Texas.

LOCATION INFORMATION:

El Paso, Texas:

Where: Downtown El Paso
When: 10 a.m., Wednesday July 17
Contact: Border Network for Human Rights


Washington, D.C.

Where: Meet in front of the White House to march together to CBP Headquarters (1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20004)
When: 8:00 a.m., Wednesday July 17
Contact: Detention Watch Network and School of the Americas Watch


Tucson, AZ

Where: Meet at the Federal Building on Congress and Granada to march to Sen. John McCain’s office for a Muerte-In (“Die-In”)
When: 3:30 p.m., Wednesday July 17
Contact: Coalicion de Derechos Humanos AZ


San Francisco, CA

Where: 275 Battery Street, San Francisco , in front of SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation)
When: 12 Noon- 1pm

Where: Corner or Montgomery and Market Streets in San Francisco, CA
When: 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., Wednesday July 17

Contact: On Facebook


Houston, TX

Where: in front of Allen Center, 1200 Smith Street downtown Houston
When: Noon, Wednesday July 17
Contact: Houston United


Las Vegas, NV

Where: New York – New York Hotel and Casino at 3790 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
When: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Wednesday July 17
Contact: Immigration Reform For Nevada


San Benito, TX

Where: 1390 W. Expressway 83 San Benito, TX 78586
When: 10 a.m., Wednesday July 17
Contact: La Union del Pueblo Entero – LUPE and Movimiento Del Valle Por Los Derechos Humanos


Austin, TX

Where: Congress & 11 Street- Front Steps of the Capitol
When: Action at 4 p.m., Vigil at 5 p.m.
Contact: Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition


Milwaukee, WI

Where: The Milwaukee office of Customs & Border Patrol at 4015 S. Howell Ave.
When: 11:00 am, Wednesday July 17
Contact: Voces de la Frontera


San Diego, CA

Where: The Office of Representative Darrel Issa
When: 4 p.m., Wednesday July 17
Contact: Convened by the San Diego Human Rights Network: Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Bi-Nacionales, Oceanside Human Rights Network, Comité de Derechos Humanos de Escondido, San Diego Immigrant Youth Collective, Fallbrook Human Rights Committee, Comité de Derechos Humanos Digna Ochoa, Comité de Derechos Humanos de El Cajon, Association of Raza Educators, Unión del Barrio, Comité de Servicios de los Amigos.

Source: Media Advisory

Online Action

Join the photo petition online sponsored by the Latin America Working Group by taking a picture of your friends, colleagues, and family holding this sign. Tweet it to@borderjustice or send it to Ruth at rrobles@lawg.org giving them your permission to post on your behalf to Facebook.

Source: Latin America Working Group

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Bible and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The Bible weighs in on immigration, thus bringing the influential weight of the centuries on the contemporary subject of comprehensive immigration reform. How should the migrant be treated, according to the Judeo-Christian heritage? One need look no farther than the third book of the Hebrew Scriptures, the book of Leviticus, for instruction.

When the Saint John's Bible toured through Davenport, Iowa, I snapped one image from this impressive rendering of the ancient rule from Leviticus:

"The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you. You shall love the alien as yourself for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

View trailer: The Dream Is Now movie to pressure Congress on DREAM Act

Today, The Dream is Now campaign released the trailer for a new documentary film that explores America’s broken immigration system. Produced by Davis Guggenheim ("Waiting for Superman" and "An Inconvenient Truth"), the film tells the stories of undocumented youth and their families who are desperate to earn their citizenship in the U.S., only country they've ever called home. The 30-minute film will premiere on April 10 with a special screening in Washington, DC to keep the focus on Congress to pass immigration reform.

Here's the trailer:



Following the Washington, DC premiere, the film screens on campuses and in communities across the country. The campaign is spearheaded by an organization founded by philanthropist and widow of Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Davis Guggenheim.

The public is encouraged to sign the Emerson Collective's online petition in support of immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for America’s immigrants.

“Our campaign is going to do everything possible over the next several months to promote common sense immigration reform that will fix our country’s broken immigration system,” said Guggenheim.

“Over the course of reporting and filming the 30 minute documentary...we have heard humbling and compelling stories that we are confident will put a human face on this issue. We're really looking forward to sharing the film over the next month with both legislators and everyday citizens. By highlighting the problems faced by Dreamers and showing the economic benefits of fixing our immigration system, we hope to broaden support for common sense immigration reform in this country.”

Some of the central subjects featured in the documentary will travel to Washington, DC, for meetings on Capitol Hill and to participate in the screening, which will be followed by a panel discussion with Guggenheim, young immigrants, and policymakers. The Dream Is Now will screen  in states and districts of policymakers deemed essential to passing immigration reform.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Borderlands and Disposable Women: Intersection of Ecofeminism and Feminicide

Disregard and disrespect of women is experienced frequently and horrendously here on the border. The culture of disrespect of women culminates in feminicide--the killing of women simply because they are unimportant and powerless. The perpetrators do not come to justice. Authorities collude in this.

Last night, at Yale Divinity School, Reverend and Doctor Daisy Machado presented the Bainton Lecture, entitled "Border, Borderlands and Disposable Women: A Look at Ecofeminism and the Maquiladora Murders."

Ecofeminists, particularly in the work of Yvonne Gebara, have called Christians to think about the connections between poverty, violence (to Earth and humans), and immigration. When examined from the reality of the U.S./Mexico border the ecological damage/violence, which has been a reality of the maquiladora industry since the 1970s, has escalated to violence against female maquiladora workers, women who “personify the meaning of human disposability.”

This lecture examines how this long history of violence and ecological ruin along the U.S./Mexico border has expanded to a femicide that has taken more than 400 female lives in the city of Juárez. It also considers how the ethical challenges made by ecofeminists can examine this reality and issue a call for justice for the women killed.

Click the video (below) to play it. Mouse over, and the slider appears at the bottom. Move the slider ahead to minute 5 1/2 to arrive at Machado's intro.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reflections on the death of Hugo Chavez by former US Pres. Jimmy Carter

By José Cruz/ABr 
via the Carter Center
Rosalynn and I extend our condolences to the family of Hugo Chávez Frías. We met Hugo Chávez when he was campaigning for president in 1998 and The Carter Center was invited to observe elections for the first time in Venezuela. We returned often, for the 2000 elections, and then to facilitate dialogue during the political conflict of 2002-2004. 

We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized. Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez's commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.

President Chávez will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments and for his formidable communication skills and personal connection with supporters in his country and abroad to whom he gave hope and empowerment. During his 14-year tenure, Chávez joined other leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean to create new forms of integration. Venezuelan poverty rates were cut in half, and millions received identification documents for the first time allowing them to participate more effectively in their country's economic and political life.

At the same time, we recognize the divisions created in the drive towards change in Venezuela and the need for national healing. We hope that as Venezuelans mourn the passing of President Chávez and recall his positive legacies — especially the gains made for the poor and vulnerable — the political leaders will move the country forward by building a new consensus that ensures equal opportunities for all Venezuelans to participate in every aspect of national life.

Photo credit: (Agência Brasil - Foto no:130922 [1]) [CC-BY-3.0-br (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 11, 2013

Secretaries Condoleezza Rice, Henry Cisneros and Governors Haley Barbour, Ed Rendell to lead new immigration task force


A high-level bipartisan task force on immigration has launched to develop a politically viable package of policy recommendations and work with Congress to help pass immigration reform. The immigration commission, announced this morning, is co-chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, and former Governors Haley Barbour and Ed Rendell.

The new Immigration Task Force will consider all pillars of immigration reform, including enforcement, legalization and worker visas.  Over the next several months, the group’s agenda includes developing and advocating for consensus recommendations to guide national immigration policy.

Working with diverse interests, the group intends to develop and advocate practical solutions that will further the conversations in both the Senate and the House.

The bipartisan group comes together at a critical time. “In the last month, there has been considerable attention paid to this issue, kick starting the momentum for legislative action,” commented Governor Rendell about the announcement.

The task force, created by the Bipartisan Policy Center, will also encourage substantive, bipartisan dialogue among key interest groups and decision makers on national immigration goals and strategies. The intent is to engage and shape the immigration policy debate as it unfolds over the course of the coming months.

Governor Barbour touched on the challenge of the group’s agenda: “Despite our divergent views, I am confident the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force will propose recommendations that push the country forward.”
Image by Eric Draper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons:
Rice answers press questions, August 7 2006
 Secretary Rice commenting on the role of bipartisan dialogue toward legislative action stated:  “I am eager to develop a set of recommendations for immigration reform that both Republicans and Democrats can support.”

The full task force membership, which will be announced in the coming weeks, will be comprised of leading immigration experts, business and labor leaders, former elected officials, and other stakeholders.

Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros.
“We are determined to be helpful to the current immigration debate around the country and have already begun talking to major constituencies,” said Secretary Cisneros.  “While our recommendations will take time to develop, we intend to regularly weigh in on the ongoing debate as it develops on Capitol Hill.”

The project will be directed by former Chief of Staff and long-time aide to Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Rebecca Tallent, who joined BPC earlier this month to lead this effort.  Starting in 2005, Tallent served as Senator McCain’s lead staff person on immigration issues.  She advised and drafted bipartisan immigration legislation in the 108th, 109th and 110th Congresses.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Unintended consequences of the "drug war": International Crime Syndicates

Cartels are now International Crime Syndicates.
Turning a blind eye to negative repercussions of the co-called "drug war" for far too long produced a monster. Instead of snuffing out crime, the "drug war" only made it worse. The enemy we formerly termed "drug cartels" has morphed into International Crime Syndicates.

No longer content with merely trafficking drugs, international crime syndicates began growing and producing illegal substances. Seeing lots of potential for lucrative income in extortion and kidnapping, guess what came next?

Arms trafficking was a natural. They could use weapons and, in Mexico, arms sales are illegal and possession of arms is, too. Crime enters in.

Now, international crime syndicates have adopted the most lucrative enterprise of all: human smuggling and trafficking. From my (limited) perspective on the border, nearly all illegal entry into the U.S. is controlled by the crime syndicates. This opens the door to exploitation of those smuggled, many are duped and then imprisoned to work for the cartel in the sex industry or as laborers.

When an elderly Catholic sister retired from a decade of ministry at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Juarez a few years ago, she announced at a meeting I attended that she'd devote her remaining years to activism in the cause of legalizing marijuana in the US. She'd seen enough death, mayhem and suffering, so she'd take the obvious first step in opposition.

Illegal drugs are cheaper now than ever, and more easily obtained. Humans charged with drug possession fill U.S. prisons. Police arrest more people for possession than for violent crime. The drug war has helped munitions manufacturers and international crime syndicates prosper and grow.

No matter how you name it, evil is evil. End the drug war.

 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Looks like DREAMers will be (legal!) drivers

This afternoon, the federal government updated its guidance page for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) page. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Obama Administration has now confirmed that recipients of deferred action are authorized to be in the United States. They are now, therefore considered to be “lawfully present” under federal immigration laws. This counteracts the arguments from those opposed to allowing them to receive drivers licenses.
DREAMERS may be drivers in all states now.
Acting under the assumption that DACA recipients aren't “lawfully present” under federal law, four states have refused to issue driver’s licenses to DACA recipients.These states are Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, and Nebraska. The DACA beneficiaries are eligible for work permits under the federal order. Lacking access to transportation, however, has been a curtailment that has handicapped them.

This new clarification from the federal government will give DREAMers a tool with which they can contend those states' rulings.

In a separate release, the administration also updated statistics on the DACA program. As of Thursday, USCIS had received 407,899 requests for deferred action (an average of 80,000 per month since the program began). Of these, 394,533 had been accepted and 154,404 approved.

Interestingly, USCIS received an average of less than 1,500 requests per day in January, down from a high of more than 5,700 per day in October soon after the program began accepting applications. The majority of DACA recipients continue to hail from Mexico and reside in California.

Source: American Immigration Council "Immigration Impact"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Major sex trafficking ring broken by U.S. immigration (ICE)


Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the major success of a lengthy investigation into a U.S. sex trafficking ring. Operation Dark Night broke a major criminal enterprise operating in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The investigation culminated in a takedown yesterday.
Authorities made 13 criminal arrests and 44 administrative arrests that were tied to the investigation. Additionally, they rescued as many as 11 victims. The investigation was led by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).


Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the results of a lengthy investigation, called Operation Dark Night, into a sex trafficking stretching from Florida to Georgia to North and South Carolina. The investigation was led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Seen here is HSI agent with criminal. [Image credit: ICE]

Among the many duties ICE serves, preventing sex trafficking ranks among its most critical.

"ICE investigates a wide array of crimes, but the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution is among the most sinister," said ICE Director John Morton, who explained the urgency of the task.

"Few crimes so damage their victims and undermine basic human decency. Our fight against this evil must be relentless, both here and abroad," Morton stated.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Edward Tarver called sex trafficking “modern day slavery” that is “reprehensible” and "a cancer facing our society….”

According to the indictment, Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, known as “El Flaco”, conspired to transport people across interstate boundaries for prostitution. Mendez-Hernandez also allegedly conspired to lure women from Mexico, Nicaragua and elsewhere to travel to the United States. He offered them false promises of the American dream.

However, once the women were inside the United States, they were allegedly threatened. The victims were forced serve as prostitutes in many locations in Savannah and throughout the Southeast.
The indictment alleges that Mendez-Hernandez told a Mexican woman that she would be sent back to her home country unless she serviced 25 clients a day.

HSI provides relief to victims of human trafficking by allowing for their continued presence in the United States during criminal proceedings. Victims may also qualify for a T visa, which is issued to victims of human trafficking who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in investigations and prosecutions.

ICE relies on information from the public to alert them to human trafficking. They operate an HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423). The Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 also accepts information. Anonymous calls are welcome.

Like dark energy, human trafficking is all around us, unseen but influencing lives.

Don't allow it to slip under your radar.

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