Friday, February 27, 2009

Conflicting Viewpoints, in Dialogue

My last post attracted the attention of an internet listserv about legal US immigration. [It shall go unnamed here.] After posting a "comment" rivaling the length of my post, one new Blogger-ista (I don't accept "anonymous") wanted to continue an extended dialogue on the topic in front of this readership.
I don't use this blog that way. But I'm not into censorship either; I didn't delete her post or the one from the guy who outright asked me if I'm "racist." I was respectful in reply. It is good practice for everyday life.
Meanwhile, here's what transpired on their site with my commentary in italics. Read on, because I've got a question for you at the end:

Listserv Original Poster (#1): reprinted my post verbatim [obviously did not read it, simply read the title]
--Oh well, we all make mistakes, Buddy!!

Listserv user 2 says: "Economic injustice is forcing the American taxpayer to subsidize employers that hire illegals (sic). We're sick and tired of illegals' (sic) hands in our wallets. At the same time we struggle to get by, getting fewer benefits from our governments than these criminals."
--OK, this person has a point I agree with: I wish US employers were not taking advantage of the desperate status of immigrants. But these people he calls "criminals" are guilty of a misdemeanor. Ever get a traffic ticket? Guess that makes you a criminal, too. And did you read the part about Social Security? [I thought not.]

Listserv user 3: "Deport, deport all undocumented illegal immigrants in our Country."
--We tried "just say no" to drugs, but that didn't work either.

Listserv user 4 catches on to the O.P.'s confusion and says: "Hey, if YOU know this is a piece of propaganda, like MANY other posts I see that you've posted, then WHY NOT note SOMETHING in the title..? ..or either at the top or bottom of said crap?

IGNORANT Americans are having a hard enough time differentiating the difference between "immigrants" and ILLEGAL ALIENS before visiting [group name] for the first time..

I surely don't think it's the responsibility of other [group name] members to come by and repeatedly point this out..!!"
--OK, that was supposed to shame the OP, I guess.

Listserv user 5: "Gee, I feel SO DUMB!!!!! All this time wasted calling Represenatives,writting letters, donating money & time and there it was right in front of me (kinda hidden by MSM)...
They just WANT WHAT I HAVE.... Gee, might have to discuss this one with my kids because it was thier (sic) country too.

Up here in North and
South Dakota we are taught at a very early age...
RESPECT... and, You Just CANT Fix STUPID !
There is 10 minutes of my Life I can NEVER replace!!!"

--I'm not sure but I think this guy is ranting because other people want their basic human needs (like to eat) met. But maybe he's upset because other people would like to be citizens, I don't know. Again, I'm not sure, but I think I might figure in the "You Just CAN'T Fix STUPID" part of his post.

User 6 from Texas: "This is the biggest bunch of BS I have seen. Economic injustice, so now these poor illegal aliens are victims? We should feel sorry for them and open our wallets? Give me a break. Send them all back home so we can deal with our own economical problems."
--Did not a regular commenter here only yesterday say that immigrants are going to be scapegoated? You just saw Exhibit A, Folks!

Listserv user 7: [copies the earlier remark calling my post BS] Amen to that. I responded to this woman and tried to open a debate, but she doesn't want to use her blog as a place for that. Which tells me that she just wants to run her mouth about things she has no real understanding of. People like her are part of the problem. All complaint and "oooh, feel sorry for the poor, abused illegal immigrant, but don't call me on my obviously biased opinion and don't ask me to have a solution, I just can't think that far ahead..." You've never going to change the minds of these kinds of people until a tragedy happens.
--From my point of view, the tragedy is well underway already!

Listserv user 8: With the economy and job losses in the US, with temporary aid (welfare) being cut, how long before Americans will need to "migrate" to another country (Canada?) to be able to put a roof over their children's heads and food in their mouths? Like the author said, "When there is no work, there is no food, no livelihood, workers must migrate to live".

But YES, let's worry about Mexico FIRST!!! Sounds like a good idea.
--There was Exhibit B.

I'm a person more prone to action than words, but I'm tempted to join this Listserv.

What do you think about my trying to dialog on that listserv? I'd really like your opinion.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Illegal Immigration is NOT a Problem in the United States!

Former Republican presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo, The American Legion, Lou Dobbs, the Minutemen, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix AZ might try to tell you differently, but illegal immigration into the United States is not actually a problem. It is a symptom of the underlying problem: economic injustice. Estimates suggest that 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. Something pushed them out of their home countries. Something drew them here. To understand where the real problem lies, consider the push/pull factors.

Economic desperation pushed these people to the U.S. out of their own homes and countries and far from their loved ones and families. Free trade agreements like NAFTA contribute to the problem in North America. Yes, NAFTA created a half million Mexican manufacturing jobs. However, at the same time, it displaced 1.5-2 million workers. When there is no work, there is no food, no livelihood; workers must migrate to live. According to the World Bank, 53% of Mexico's population live on less than $2 a day and closer to 24% live in extreme poverty, less than $1 a day.

Thus enters the "pull" factor. In fact, Mexicans and Central Americans are willing to risk death for a chance to find employment, and they continue to take increased risks to cross borders. Once in the U.S., they will work at low paying jobs that no one else will fill.* Because they're willing to work at the most dangerous jobs, one immigrant a day will die in the work place. They will work for lower wages and for minimal or no benefits. They are, as the 2006 film title suggests: "Dying to Live."

Illegal immigration to the U.S. is not a problem to U.S. employers who maximize their profits on the backs of desperate people. Illegal immigration is no problem to the U.S. Social Security Administration that receives perhaps $7 billion annually due to contributions from undocumented workers who will never receive any benefits back from that system. And because the U.S. politicians want to ingratiate themselves with business and keep Social Security afloat, illegal immigration is no problem to them either.

Illegal immigration into the U.S. is not a problem. Rather it is the symptom of a much bigger problem. The real problem is economic injustice.


* From Pew Hispanic Center statistics: These industries have more than twice the representation of unauthorized workers than the whole labor force: Landscaping services 26%; Animal slaughter & processing 20%; services to buildings & homes 19%; Dry cleaning & laundry 17%; Cut & sew apparel mfg 16%; Crop production 16%; Private households 14%; Traveler accommodation 14%; Restaurants & food services 11%; Construction 10%; Groceries and related prod. 8%

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday: Dust

There is so much wisdom in the Christian tradition. This meditation carries the message through signs and symbols. Christians enter into the Lent/Easter season today. There is always room for change in our hearts.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Unsettling Info about the Men Who Pick Your Food

I admit it: I was shocked this week during a visit to the Farmworkers' Center here in El Paso. I learned some things about the guys who pick the raw ingredients for our spaghetti sauce and salsa. Maybe you didn't know, either, that:

***About half of all ag workers in New Mexico earn about $5,850 per year. Agricultural workers are among the poorest of the working poor. Paid by the bucket, a worker would have to pick thousands of peppers per hour to make even close to minimum wage. Essentially, we make poor workers pay for our food!

You might think this next one is incredible, but it's true...

*** Ag work is among the most dangerous of jobs in the US, according to the Department of Labor.

And, as you might expect...if we ever thought about it:

*** The average life expectancy of an ag worker is just under 50 years. Many of those who manage to live longer than that are seriously disabled due to work-related injuries and illness.

BUT, get this one (!):

*** The "man" who picks your food might be a woman.

*** Farmworkers labor seven days a week, 10 to 14 hours per day during the 25 week seasons. (I couldn't keep that pace--even for one day.)

*** Ag workers aren't eligible for worker's compensation in New Mexico, a state that has discriminated against them that way since 1917. All other industries there--including seasonal construction work--must provide it. Farmworkers don't have money for medical insurance; they live in a continual health crisis.

This can change! The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is lobbying right now for an amendment to give workers' compensation to ag workers. Find more info on their website.

[They filmed the video (above) at the Farmworker Center where I volunteer each week. If you watch it, you'll see some people I know and love.]

--crossposted on The Peace Tree

Monday, February 16, 2009

Los Tres Bloggeros: "Everybody Knows"

This post is 2nd in the "Los Tres Bloggeros" series in which Dada, eProf and I independently blog our own perspective on a common topic and post them simultaneously. Visit Dada and eProf for their perspective on Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows." The lyrics of the song are found at the end of this post.

"Everybody Knows"--the song electrified me. How have I never before heard it? But then again, would I have even listened to it before last year? An optimist and an idealist by both nature and nurture, I would perhaps have dismissed Cohan as an intellectual cynic.

What changed me?

About a year ago, I visited a tiny impoverished community on the very outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico--our sister city. I had heard about Lomas del Poleo and visited their website Paso del Sur. The once worthless desert wasteland on which these poorest people squatted until they earned their lot for huts [built of warehouse pallets covered with cardboard] now lay smack in the path of proposed international economic development interests. Big Money!

The richest family in all Northern Mexico--billionaires, I've heard--decided that Lomas del Poleo was really theirs. And to drive out the residents they launched an aggressive campaign:
  • Enclosing the area in barbed wire,
  • Requiring residents to pass a paramilitary gate-keeper to get to their property
  • Lying to residents about who turned over their land's deed, for how much money
  • Removing electricity from Lomas--uprooting the concrete poles, yanking meters & cable
  • Setting fire to a Lomas home and, in the process, burning two little children to death
  • Bulldozing their little church/chapel
  • Digging a trench around the federal public grade school, so it's hard for the kids to attend
  • Kidnapping and beatings of residents; home destructions
  • Using stalling tactics to postpone a Mexican court decision on the case
I've never had a front row seat on oppression and injustice this blatant in my life. And it's located only ten miles from where I live and sleep. I was one of the last people to enter their community. No one gets past the guards now.

"Everybody Knows" this is how the world took me almost all my life to catch on. In fact, I still refuse to believe it. Were it not for international attention, Lomas del Poleo would be toast by now.

Amnesty International issued a public action appeal on behalf of Lomas last month. This is HUGE! With their help...with YOUR help, perhaps some justice can triumph.

I cling to ideals, but they are slipping from my grasp. Please help.

Click this AI link, scroll to the end and choose just ONE person to write or fax. [You can choose them all, but "Everybody Knows" I'll be pretty lucky if you choose even one!]
Directions are clear: what to say and how to send or fax it.
Email a copy to Foro Lomas del Poleo at

Or don't do anything... And settle for the world that "Everybody Knows."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Here Begins A New Bolivia!"--Pres. Evo Morales

[photo credit: AP] Aymara indigenous woman casts her ballot on the Constitutional referendum in a rural Bolivian schoolhouse.

"This is the second independence, the true liberation of Bolivia," President Evo Morales exclaimed. "It protects all Bolivians and excludes no one."

Bolivia voted to adopt a new Constitution with over 60% approval last month . For the first time ever, Bolivian law will grant clear legal recognition of the nation's indigenous people, "those who have been the most discriminated against, humiliated and excluded," declared President Evo Morales.

The new Constitution formally enacted just last week (2/7/09) ushers in other important changes:

1) The state will take an expanded role in the management of the nation's resources;

2) Large land purchases are limited to 12000 acres;

3) President Evo Morales, as the first indigenous Bolivian president, will be allowed to run for a second term.

Bolivia remains the poorest South American country, but the new Constitution brings hope to the poor that they can shake their colonial history and take their lives and their country into their own hands.

I watched Evo Morales' inauguration while I was in Bolivia, and experienced the enthusiasm of the indigenous nations. Much like Obama, as the first US African-American president, signaled a dramatic and new era in the country's history, Bolivia knew that Morales signaled change. I hold him in my heart with great affection, and I feel like he is an ally in values. This new Constitution is a triumph of the human spirit.

Congratulations, Bolivia!

Friday, February 13, 2009

War Breaks Out in the U.S. & There's No Geneva Convention!

Speculation that the Mexican drug war would cross the border into the U.S. was both right and wrong.

Right: Drug war action is already occurring in the U.S., as witnessed by kidnappings, beatings, torture and slit throats documented in U.S. cities.

Wrong: The U.S. Border cities are not necessarily the first affected. Bloodshed is occurring miles from the border in, for instance, Atlanta and Phoenix.

It is a particularly ugly war. Rusty Payne, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman in Washington, stated that cartel operatives are capable of doing anything. Very little is off limits "when you are willing to chop heads off, put them in an ice chest and drop them off at a police precinct, or roll a head into a disco, [or] put beheadings on YouTube as a warning," he told reporter Alicia Caldwell of the Associated Press.

While the U.S. violence has so far not matched the extensive and grisly nature of Mexican drug war action, intelligence from the U.S. Dept. of Justice shows Mexican cartel activity in 230 U.S. cities. Police found five men with slit throats in Birmingham AL in August who were apparently tortured with electric shock before their deaths in a murder-for-hire action by a Mexican drug organization due to a $400,000 debt. Is this the wave of the future for the U.S.?

Citizens with no connection to drug cartels have also suffered a sharp increase in home invasions and kidnappings in Phoenix AZ where they've logged 350 annually for the past two years. Police say the majority of these were perpetrated by Mexican drug organizations. In a June cartel action heavily armed men in stormed a Phoenix house and opened random fire, killing one. The number of kidnappings is difficult to estimate because victims do not always report to the police, but Phoenix is named the "Kidnap for Ransom Capital" in yesterday's LA Times.

Law officers are worried. "The violence follows the drugs," according to David Cuthbertson, who heads the FBI's office in El Paso TX. U.S. citizens, whether or not they have any connection to the illegal drug industry, also have reason for concern. We on the border with Northern Mexico know that drug war chaos creates a climate of lawlessness that restricts both individual's livelihoods and society's functioning.

War is ugly. It's even uglier when it is undeclared...and outside the bounds of the Geneva Convention. And the evidence indicates that war is breaking out in the United States.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bloggy Meet-up of Los Tres Bloggeros!

I wasn't there when it all began.

Dada and eProf were already blogging friends when Dada helped me into the Blogger community. With the Southwest in common, we three all enjoyed commenting with one another. When Dada posted about his favorite brew pub, one thing led to another. I promised to buy the first round...eProf headed east on I-10...and that's how we pulled off a "blind date" of Los Tres Bloggeros [with our spouses and other rebel friends] last Thursday.

"How will we recognize eProf?" we wondered nervously as we approached the High Desert Brewing Company, since he's never published a photo of himself.

Someone piped up, "Easy, he'll look like a Greek statue!" Roars of laughter ensued as we pictured eProf's avatar:

But then--when we met him: Danged if he didn't bear an uncanny resemblance to Aristotle!

caption: Los Tres Bloggeros (Will Blog for Alcohol) meet up at Great Desert Brewing Company in Las Cruces, NM. [l-r: Dada, Border Explorer, eProf]

We got along just as well face to face as we do online. So we arranged yet another get together at the Dada's lovely home in El Paso on Saturday.

It was a highlight of my third round of Border Exploring for sure. We talked about EVERYTHING...All Afternoon!...and wished you all--our other blogger friends--were there with us.

We agreed we'd synchronize our blogs and post about this today [I scheduled this to publish at midnight so I can scoop the guys!] so hop the links over to Dada's and eProf's to get their take on the bloggy meet-up of Los Tres Bloggeros.

It was our first meet-up, but somehow I suspect it won't be our last.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"Don't Divorce Us"

The California Supreme Court is hearing arguments on the validity of Proposition 8 on March 5th, and in case you hadn't noticed: This Blog Supports Marriage Equality. So watch this, cry some, and then email it to someone (maybe someone who's not totally sure of where they stand on marriage equality). Even better: go sign the petition at the Courage Campaign.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Friday, February 6, 2009

State Dept. Visits War-Torn U.S.-Mexico Border--But Will It Help?

Photo caption: McGlynn enters auditorium at Chamber of Commerce gathering in downtown El Paso, TX Monday. El Paso Times photo.

When a U.S. State Department official accepted U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) invitation to El Paso, we locals hoped for insight. Could Mexico collapse, as a recent U.S. Joint Forces Command report suggests? Will the U.S. $1.4 Billion Merida Initiative package effectively help Mexico quell the drug cartel war? When will the horrifying violence that plagues Mexico, and especially Ciudad Juarez, end?

William L McGlynn, the State Department official, was touted by Reyes as "pre-eminently qualified to share insights about what is really going on in Mexico, and between the governments of Mexico and the United States." However, the presentation was less than enlightening, according to the El Paso Times report on the Chamber of Commerce gathering of 100 civic and business leaders on Monday.

McGlynn, after arriving an hour late, could neither predict a cessation to the violence nor disclose what portion of the Merida Initiative aid package would be earmarked for U.S. border security. The audience expressed concerned about the negative business image of the border. Nearly 1700 murders in Juarez since January 2008 make it one of the world's most violent cities. They heard little to assuage their concerns.

City Representative Beto O'Rourke, who attracted national attention last month by suggesting the U.S. discuss drug legalization as a way to diminish the cartel's reign of terror, was "disappointed." When Reyes' twice compared the situation to the movie Last Man Standing, O'Rourke felt he implied we should stand back and watch to see who wins. He commented that simply to "let people duke it out is not showing leadership."

Reyes disallowed a local radio station president, who inquired about drug-related kidnappings in El Paso, from asking a second question after she refuted his contention that the kidnapping reports were "urban legends."

McGlynn is the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the State Department. He intended to also visit Mexico later in the day, but I don't have any information to share about that part of his itinerary.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Naco Procession, April 2008

I don't know anything about the faith community who produced this video. But when I watched it, I felt a great affinity to them. If you watch this, or even just the first part of it, you'll hear some good comments about borders and see some people of faith in action for the poor:

Monday, February 2, 2009

An Award Worthy of Valentine's Month

Two wonderful women bloggers blessed me with the Friends award. I love, admire and respect them both: Missy of Missy's Big Fish Stories and Sherry of A Feather Adrift. They are both fabulous writers and story tellers, intelligent, critical thinkers, good cooks, tuned into spirituality and values--and then they each have their own individual specialties, too!

The last thing I expected when I started Border Explorer last May was that I would make friends here. But that has been the best part. That's why I'm still here, doing this. When I think about quitting, I just could not give up these relationships with the people who visit me here and comment as well as share their lives on their blogs.

The truth is that many of you have become my personal life friends, even though we have not met. I'm passing this "Friend" award on to the bloggers who are also my Facebook friends. They are:

Robert Rouse of Left of Normal
Missy of Missy's Big Fish Stories
Diva Jood of Journeys with Jood
Diane of Faith in Community
Jan of Yearning for God
Helen Wheels of Just Ain't Right
Lisa of That's Me
Dada of Dada's Dally
Thailand Chani of Finding My Way Home
Linda Sama of Ramblings of an Ageless Hippy Chick
Ingrid of Blogger Round Table
Jamie of Duward Discussion
David Rice of Yoga Korunta
Grandmere Mimi of Wounded Bird
Craig Crawford of Craig Crawford's Trail Mix
Katie Schwartz
Libby of Rejoice Always
Sue J of Nailing Jello to the Wall
Marde of SeevsPlace
John of Hermano Juancito

I thank you who enrich my life--friends I've found in cyberspace. I'm counting all Border Explorer readers as friends, and if you're on Facebook, I'll be delighted to add you to the list. Email me so we can get started.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

U.S. Intervention in Mexico Is Possible!

caption: Will the U.S. jump the Border Wall to intervene in the drug cartel war?

U.S. officials are considering heightened intervention in Mexico if the drug cartel violence continues, according to recent reports. An enhanced U.S. role in battling Mexican drug cartels could include joint operations with Mexican forces. Involvement of U.S. contractors, military and intelligence personnel are further options, according to a Dallas Morning News report last week that cited anonymous sources.

Juarez, Mexico's 2008 violent death toll--counting assassinations, murders, and beheadings--shot past 1600. This was the tip of the violent crime iceberg in a city additionally wracked by extortion, kidnapping and corruption. The violence continues unabated in 2009. The number of homicides in the Juarez area in January surpassed the number logged at the same time last year, an indicator that the drug cartel war is spiraling downward.

An insertion of U.S. personnel on Mexican soil would mark a major reversal to Mexico's historical aversion to U.S. interference. However, the challenge of shoring up Mexican stability, particularly along the border, could overwhelm historical reservations. Friday's El Paso Times cites some precedent for U.S. involvement. For decades U.S. agents from the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI have operated offices in major Mexican cities and shared intelligence with Mexican authorities. In addition, Mexico has cooperated in the extradition of drug traffickers to the U.S. recently.

A recent report on worldwide security threats issued by the U.S. Joint Forces Command designated Mexico as at risk for "a rapid and sudden collapse" due to the impact of drug cartel violence. The ramifications to the United States of a failed state in North America heighten the likelihood that U.S. intervention is indeed under consideration.

U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence told the press this week that the situation was "very serious and very critical" and discouraged public speculation about potential U.S.-Mexican cooperation to stem cartel violence and restore stability. Reyes, however, announced that he helped arrange for a U.S. State Department official who was "pre-eminently qualified to share insights about what is really going on in Mexico, and between the governments of Mexico and the United States" to speak tomorrow in El Paso.


cross-posted on The Peace Tree. This story needs wider coverage than it is receiving in the mainstream media.