Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu & Factory Farms: Connected?!??

A recent article on asks: Is Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak [of Swine Flu]?

Author Tom Philpott notes that Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations at Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz-the state where the outbreak originated. Operations at a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carroll there raise 950,000 hogs per year (2008).

Paula Hay, on the blog Peak Oil Entrepreneur, is covering the story on the factory farm/Swine Flu connection daily of late. She cites Veretect, a company tracking the development of this health challenge as saying:

Residents [of La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico] believed the outbreak had been caused by contamination from pig breeding farms located in the area. They believed that the farms, operated by Granjas Carroll, polluted the atmosphere and local water bodies, which in turn led to the disease outbreak. According to residents, the company denied responsibility for the outbreak and attributed the cases to ‘flu.' However, a municipal health official stated that preliminary investigations indicated that the disease vector was a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms. It was unclear whether health officials had identified a suspected pathogen responsible for this outbreak.

Residents of La Gloria have long complained about the clouds of flies that are drawn the so-called "manure lagoons" created by such mega-farms, known in the agriculture business as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) according to the TimesOnline.

Philpott (4/25) says: The link is being made in the Mexican media. "Granjas Carroll, causa de epidemia en La Gloria," declared a headline in the Vera Cruz-based paper La Marcha. The quote was echoed on the Wall Street

"A food system that kills - Swine flu is meat industry's latest plague" headlines the April story from GRAIN, an international non-governmental organisation which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity: "...the global meat industry is at the centre of the story, ramping up denials as the weight of evidence about its role grows."

For their part, Smithfield took a pummeling on the stock market as well as in the court of opinion this week, but is currently denying all wrong doing.

Evidence is not conclusive. These are only questions. But they are questions which must be respectfully asked, carefully considered, and scientifically investigated.

Note: Veratect, has established a Twitter feed for nearly real-time updates on the unfolding swine flu situation.
My interest in this topic was triggered by Enigma, at Watergate Summer and by a conversation this morning at the Farmworkers' Center.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Helping Hands Award--going out today to...

I hope that many of you have already discovered The Soaring Impulse
and it's charismatic author Maithri Goonetilleke, the young Australian physician who has dropped everything to work in Swaziland with some of the poorest people you can imagine.

Maithri (pronounced My3) is one of these people who seems wise waaaaay beyond his 28 years. In the short time he has been on Blogger he has developed a huge fan base. A visit to his site is really a love fest, of sorts, as people respond to him as he is toward them--poetic, loving and open-hearted. I'm really touched by his interest in Border Explorer and in me. His loving and supportive comment pulled me through a mini-blogging crisis some weeks ago when I interfaced with a listserv of people who were upset with a post I wrote (to put it mildly). He gifted me with the Helping Hands award, for which I am truly grateful. It is time for me to pass it on.

Fortunately, Maithri cares not a whit about rules, so I don't have to follow any now either.

One of the benefits of our volunteer-lifestyle is that we meet many wonderful people who are genuinely selfless and self-giving. Most of them don't have energy left at the end of the day to blog. There are a few who make the effort to share their experiences.

First I want to honor Libby at Rejoice Always. She gave a year of her life to doing unpaid volunteering at a homeless shelter on the border. We met her at that shelter where we helped the easy way--coming in and taking a shift, then going home to our privacy. Libby and the other post-college volunteers got as recompense for the gift of a year of their lives the opportunity to live in a small, windowless room IN THE SHELTER! (Really, I've seen closets much larger than the rooms they get.) It isn't easy to transition from that lifestyle back into the mainstream, so send your good energy to Libby as she again finds her place in society now that her commitment as a volunteer is fulfilled. I always say that once you've been a volunteer at that shelter, you're probably overqualified for any other job you'll ever do. Love you, Libby.

Next, I also want to award Matt and Misty who moved into Juarez last year and are making a home and a community for themselves in a neighborhood there. They are two very remarkable and talented people who I'm lucky to know and to be able to read about in their blog: The Desert, Learning to live life in Mexico. This weekend we're all going to be tabling at an ELCA convention, selling Fair Trade products for people Mexico, by the way. Their blog is developing in to one of my very favorites, so if you have not visited them yet, don't wait.

We are all much obliged (as the award reads) to those who share. To the entire blogging community I extend my gratitude for your self-expression and sharing of self--with your helping hands on the keyboard. Special thanks to Libby, Matt and Misty!

Before I close, I want to point out the Grooveshark widget above. I recently discovered where you can listen to any song you want...FREE! It also can auto-establish a music queue for you based on your preferences, like Pandora. But Pandora won't play any specific song you request. Grooveshark will.

I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make a better place
With my own two hands
Make a kinder place
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands
I can make peace on earth
With my own two hands
I can clean up the earth
With my own two hands
I can reach out to you
With my own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands

Im gonna make it a brighter place
Im gonna make it a safer place
Im gonna help the human race
With my own
With my own two hands

I can hold you
With my own two hands
I can comfort you
With my own two hands
But you got to use
Use your own two hands
Use your own
Use your own two hands

With our own
With our own two hands
With my own
With my own two hands

Friday, April 24, 2009

Susan Boyle sings "I Don't Know How to Love Him"--1980's recording

As a public service to my readers who are interested in Susan Boyle, the overnight singing phenomenon, I'm posting a sound bite from a family gathering in the 1980's: her parents’ golden wedding party 23 years ago. She sings "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar, interweaving the title song from that musical into a mini-medley:


I don't know how to love him.
What to do, how to move him.
I've been changed, yes really changed.
In these past few days, when I've seen myself,
I seem like someone else.
I don't know how to take this.
I don't see why he moves me.
He's a man. He's just a man.
And I've had so many men before,
In very many ways,
He's just one more.
Should I bring him down?
Should I scream and shout?
Should I speak of love,
Let my feelings out?
I never thought I'd come to this.
What's it all about?
Don't you think it's rather funny,
I should be in this position.

I'm the one who's always been
So calm, so cool, no lover's fool,
Running every show.
He scares me so.
I never thought I'd come to this.
What's it all about?
Yet, if he said he loved me,
I'd be lost. I'd be frightened.
I couldn't cope, just couldn't cope.
I'd turn my head. I'd back away.
I wouldn't want to know.
He scares me so.
I want him so.
I love him so.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Democracy Now's Amy Goodman: What she really thinks about Obama, the media and today's crises

photo caption: Ever the journalist, Amy Goodman had camera in hand--when she was not pouring over her iPhone.

"For eight years [before
Nov. 4, 2008] we felt like we were hitting our heads against a brick wall. Now the door is open a crack. We can kick it open wide or watch it slam shut."

As a featured speaker at the Border Book Festival, Amy Goodman rocked a packed house in Mesilla, NM Sunday. The journalist-host of the 13 year old independent news program, Democracy Now, stepped out from her usual spot behind her news desk. Taking full advantage of the opportunity to speak personally, she promoted both the important role of independent media and the themes of her recent book, Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times.

I was swept away in her storytelling and by her inspiring perspectives even while I was sitting in row three of the audience--along with my good friends from Deming, Mr. and Mrs. Dada, and those singers from Las Cruces who have been known to frequent the High Desert Brewing Co. I guess I could be more estatic, but it would be hard.

By insisting that it's up to the public to demand the debate that will bring the truth to light in the many crises we face, she threw the ball into the citizens' court, so to speak. While Obama's election was a "relief," we are still in critical times. She cited specifically current global wars, global warming, the economic meltdown, national health care, and U.S. immigration issues. There is a failure to bring those who are affected by policies to the policy discussion table, she noted.

When, as a presidential candidate, Senator Obama was asked if he would bring peace to the Middle East, he emphasized the citizens' role. He cited, remarked Goodman, an incident about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and activist A. Philip Randolph. FDR told Randolph: "Make me do it." Now the people must demand debate and push Obama on critical issues, making him take action.

Goodman emphasized the importance of journalists to shine that light on truth. She played jaw-dropping video of her own inappropriate arrest at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis last summer. The video "went viral" on the internet immediately after the arrest resulting, she said, in the release of her journalist crew after two hours. The Associated Press reporter who had also been apprehended was not so lucky: "Show the pictures; show the images."

Goodman noted that mainstream media has in recent memory promulgated "fiction," giving as examples: Iraq has weapons of mass destruction; the US does not torture; there is no such thing as greenhouse gas. Citing studies by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, she revealed the mainstream media as complicit in "manufacturing consent" to the rush to war with Iraq. Citing the recent lack of debate in the news about the increase of US troops in Afghanistan as an example of today's "corporate" media news coverage, she quipped: "A mainstream media would be a good idea."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Susan Boyle sings "Cry Me a River;" I learn a lesson.


(lyrics below)

The world got a lesson on rash judgments this week, courtesy of Susan Boyle, YouTube and Simon Cowell. It was, for me, a refresher course from a similar lesson earlier this month I'd like to share.

Husband and I were managing a shift at a local homeless shelter; a group of nine or so upper-middle-aged women came by for a visit and a tour. They were maybe a touch older than I, most of them. They looked like they were well-to-do, and I was distracted a bit by their clothing, jewelry, makeup...they made a nice-looking group in a casual sort of way. But I was busy and had time to interact with only a few of them as they interfaced with the house and it's functioning.

Just as they were gathering in the office for their final goodbye, I noticed for the very first time one of the group: the shortest, most plainly dressed, without makeup, a very short & cropped straight haircut...the least spectacular of them all. I had not even seen her...literally...until just before they were to leave.

She stood out to me because she was the dowdy one. In my grungiest jeans and a hair pulled back for my shelter-management work...I felt some affinity to her. How sad that I had been distracted by the other more showy women and missed my chance to talk with this one who was so clearly an individual.

As they said their goodbyes to their tour guide, only this woman reached unobtrusively into her purse and slipped the guide a folded bill, whispering that it was a donation to the shelter.

I felt at that moment like I was among the group to whom Jesus remarked, when he observed the widow donate her coins at the temple, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them..." To me, the plain woman in that moment showed up the others who were more attractive.

How much more do I miss?

Now you say you're lonely
You cry the long night through
Well, you can cry me a river
Cry me a river
I cried a river over you

Now you say you're sorry
For being so untrue
Well, you can cry me a river
Cry me a river
I cried a river over you

You drove me, nearly drove me, out of my head
While you never shed a tear
Remember, I remember, all that you said?
You told me love was too plebeian
Told me you were through with me and

Now you say you love me
Well, just to prove that you do
Come on and cry me a river
Cry me a river
I cried a river over you
I cried a river over you
I cried a river...over you...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nourish Your Soul in 4 Inspiring Minutes

Actress Sandra Oh reads the speech given by anarchist Emma Goldman in San Francisco before the United States entered WWI. Part of a reading from Voices of a People's History of the United States given October 5, 2005 in Los Angeles California (featuring Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove.)

Oh, how prophetic! This all has come to pass.

Emma Goldman's words are just too good to miss! In case some won't want to spend four minutes watching, here are some excerpts from the reading: What is Patriotism? (1908),
Speech given in San Francisco, California

* What is patriotism? Is it love of one's birthplace, the place of childhood's recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the place where, in childlike naïveté, we would watch the passing clouds, and wonder why we, too, could not float so swiftly? The place where we would count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one "an eye should be," piercing the very depths of our little souls?

* "Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels," said Dr. Samuel Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our time, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment in the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the honest workingman.

* Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that from early infancy the mind of the child is provided with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition.

An army and navy represent the people's toys.

* We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that she will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.

Such is the logic of patriotism.

* Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time.

* The spirit of militarism has already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that militarism is a greater danger here than anywhere else, because of the many bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it wishes to destroy.

* When we have undermined the patriotic lie, we shall have cleared the path for the great structure where all shall be united into a universal brotherhood — a truly free society.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Felony charges for young activist who countered Bush admin's environmental assault

It is no accident that I post this on Good Friday.

"This auction was a fraud against the American people and a threat to our future."

Last week, University of Utah student Tim DeChristopher was charged with two felonies for disrupting a December 2008 auction of over 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and gas drilling. Activists had viewed the auction as an attempt by the outgoing Bush administration to deliver a last-minute gift to the oil and gas industry. In a creative act of civil disobedience, DeChristopher posed as a bidder and purchased 22,000 acres of land to save the property from drilling. He was arrested, and now faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of $750,000. The government is also demanding $81,000 in a civil fine, unrelated to the criminal charges.

The felony charges came as a discouraging surprise this month in the wake of the new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to withdraw 77 parcels from the Bureau of Land Management's December Utah state oil and gas lease sale, saying they were too close to national parks and never should have gone up for sale.

However, the Associated Press, quotes Daniel Gunnell, managing partner of Twilight Resources LLC, one of the affected companies as saying: "We are angry. Tim DeChristopher is a guy who walked in the auction without a penny and cost our company $600,000."

DeChristopher isn't the first bidder at a federal oil-and-gas auction to fail to come up with the money, but he's the first to face criminal prosecution for it, said his lawyer Pat Shea, who was BLM director during the Clinton administration.

The public can leave messages of support and donations for DeChristopher's defense fund at his website: . The site also carries a comprehensive collection of relevant information: news articles, blog posts, video, and updates.

Tim's statement (4/4/2009):

On December 19th, 2008 I took what I considered to be ethical, necessary, and direct action to try to protect our planet, our democracy, and my fellow human beings. In that spirit of protection, I took nonviolent action which did not harm anyone nor destroy any property.

My actions stopped what I believed was an illegal and certainly unethical auction of red rock public lands in Southern Utah. This auction was a fraud and a threat against the American people and their future well-being. My motivation to act against this auction came solely from the exploitation of public lands, the lack of a transparent and participatory government, and the imminent danger of climate change.

I acted openly and honestly because I was then, and still am ready today, to accept and suffer the consequences of my actions. I had hoped the wheels of justice, particularly with a new Administration, would recognize the impetus of my actions and the merit of their results, by choosing not prosecute me, especially in light of the leases in question being voided by the new Administration. You can well imagine my shock and disappointment to find out that my hopes were misguided, and my future may well rest in the hands of a jury of my peers.

I have been gifted with a proven legal team, spearheaded by the efforts of Ron Yengich and Pat Shea. In a matter which will undoubtedly go to trial, they will have a chance to demonstrate the corruption of a system that "awards" oil and gas leases to the highest bidders, while the public and the environment are without any legitimate competing representation, thus consigning them to the catastrophic effects of climate change. This trial will be an opportunity to address our moral imperative to craft and defend a livable future for our children.

It is my deepest hope that my actions will be understood by others in the context in which they were forced to play out, and that those people who come to know what has befallen me here is the direct result of the corrosive manipulation that grips our system by the throat, choking off the oxygen of free and fair choice our democracy requires.

I am profoundly grateful for the the enormous support which I have already received, and I have every belief it will continue in the future. As my initial actions taught me, it is still possible to work for change, real change. I know I don't stand alone in that belief or in the fight that is gathering even as I type these words. And as my actions inspire others to work for change of all stripes, any consequences I have to face will be well worth it.

my post about the original action (3 months ago):

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Immigration Board Game

Wondering what it is like to seek citizenship in the United States?

Want to dispel immigration myths?

Want to increase understanding of people who are in the process of becoming citizens?

A board game developed by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations provides such an experience with the goal to obtain citizenship amidst unfolding life events.

Sign in and share how you will use the game before downloading at: (look on the left sidebar of the webpage)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Time to Pour It ON for Lomas del Poleo...Make it a happy ending!

The filthy rich Zaragosas ran out of stalling tactics. A day in court is dawning for the peasants of Lomas del Poleo, a settlement of the poorest of the poor just outside of Juarez whose real estate happens to suddenly have spiked in value. No one wanted their stinking desert wasteland until a proposed NAFTA-inspired bridge and highway got slated to plow right through it.

Theirs is a story told and retold throughout human history, a Jack-in-the-Beanstalk tale of the big and powerful robbing the poor. But most of those real life stories don't conclude with the peasants getting their stolen stuff back and the giant getting chopped down to size. The big guy generally wins.

This is the first time in my sheltered life that I've ever witnessed it happening myself.

This week's email update tells of the unexpected, although long-hoped-for development: a Mexican land court is starting to hear the case. This comes after four years of Zaragoza's stalling to evade facing up to his illegal landgrab.

From this week's email:

Now, more than ever, the people of Lomas need our prayers and monetary support. Please pray that the judge be guided by the principals of the law in conducting a fair trial, that God keep the Lomas residents in the palm of his hand as they go through this emotionally trying time and embark on more travels, and that the Holy Spirit awaken the Zaragoza family with love, compassion, and justice...... please consider writing a handwritten letter in support of the residents. For more information regarding addresses of U.S. and Mexican politicians, please let me know. Great things can happen with your help!

For those of you who pray....PRAY.

For those of you who don't...WRITE.

I'll be at a meeting Friday and will update you on this.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could help write this tale a storybook ending?


photo caption: I was one of the last people to enter Lomas del Poleo, about a year ago. Thus, this is one of the last photos taken (by a visitor) of the area. As ugly and dead as this land looks to me, it is is the people of Lomas. And it is being wrestled out of their hands.

I took this photo through the windshield glass as we drove through the area. My camera would have been confiscated had it been noticed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Finding a Clue

My palms were sweating the first time I commented on Katie Schwartz's blog. I felt out of my league. Katie fascinated me, charmed me, yes, even intimidated me with her easy, breezy, chatty prose, her unflappable attitude, and her ability to address subjects head-on that I carefully tiptoe around.

While I was blitzed by Katie's wit and eloquence and attitude, what I did not know--but quickly learned--was that Katie Schwartz is as compassionate and caring as she is witty and articulate. With her, I was in safe and gentle hands.

Today she has honored me by inviting me to participate in an ongoing, online project on a new blog she co-authors with Joy Hurwitz and Belle Zwerdling aptly named Three Dames with a Clue. The project-My Authentic Expression-offers women writers the opportunity to answer important questions about their self-identity from their feminine perspective. The interviews are powerful; the women are mighty and wise.

Katie's questions forced me to look deep within and articulate what I am attempting here on Border Explorer. I'm grateful to her and only wish I had asked myself those same questions a long time ago. Here is a taste:

What does being a woman mean to you?

I interface with the world through my femininity; being a woman is essential to who I am. Sometimes that makes me vulnerable. Sometimes it gives me power. I can identify with the marginalized because as a woman I've been pushed aside in a sexist world...

I hope you visit Three Dames with a Clue, not so much for my interview as for the powerful authentic expressions that are being archived there. Really, they are moving. Our world is full of wonderful people. It never hurts to remember that.

Thank you, Katie, for gifting me with the chance to experience feel your acceptance and affirmation. And how I love meeting your friends at Three Dames!

Monday, April 6, 2009

You found me....HOW?

I operate a small blog here. I don't get a lot of traffic. I do this for fun. And for social justice.

It pleases me when someone finds the info they're looking for on Lomas del Poleo, or Postville IA, or Cuba, or immigration, or whatever worthy cause when land on Border Explorer from their Google search.

It irks me that I get traffic every day for a little "toss-off post" I did last year that was a joke about Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Shrek. Sheesh. People, get a life!

But this one takes top honor! I don't know how it happened, but some Spaniard landed on Border Explorer looking for "Sexy." My stars and garters, I've died and gone to heaven.

P.S. It does not embiggen. You'll trust me on this--right? I mean it. The search was for "sexy." I'm not lying......darn....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm an Iowan Who's Proud to be Iowan Today

I did not do a whole lot for gay rights when in Iowa, but some of my friends were REALLY INVOLVED. One of them is quoted in this article from the Ames, IA newspaper (His comments in bold.) Needless to say, it is a great day to be an Iowan, even if I'm currently far away on the U.S.-Mexico border. I'll be on the road back just one month from today.

Favor: no Iowa jokes for the next several months now, hear? It is the least you can do when we out-liberaled California, the hot-tub haven! Whoo-hoo!

By Kathy Hanson

Published: Saturday, April 4, 2009 9:51 AM CDT

About 100 people gathered near Parks Library on the Iowa State University campus Friday afternoon to celebrate the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage in the state.

“This is history in the making,” Ames resident Joel Geske said. “I’m so proud of Iowa’s continuing role as a civil rights leader, since the 1800s, on the forefront of rights for women, blacks and now gays.”

Gene Larson, also of Ames, said it’s been an emotional roller coaster.

“The announcement brought tears to my eyes,” Larson said. “Now we are free to be who we are.”

People carried brightly colored signs, wore “It’s OK with Me” T-shirts, hugged and smiled broadly.

“Justice has finally been done,” Ames resident Keith Schrag said. “I realize religious people think it’s not right for gays to marry, but I think Jesus is right here with us celebrating.

[I omitted the section on evangelical Christian disapproval here.]

Iowa joins only Massachusetts and Connecticut in permitting same-sex marriage. For six months last year, California’s high court allowed gay marriage before voters banned it in November.

The Iowa justices upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected a state law restricting marriage to a union between a man and woman.

Sean and Tim McQuillan, of Ames, the only couple to get a marriage license during the one day when same-sex marriage was legal in Iowa in August 2007, came from Des Moines wearing their “Supreme Court clothes,” all dressed up in suits and ties.

“Now our marriage will remain legal,” Sean said. “We filed our taxes as a married couple and were happy to pass that legal test.”

Callen Ubeda, president of ISU’s LBGT Alliance, led the rally, shouting, “It’s a wonderful day,” through a megaphone.

Frances Anderson, of Ames, said she was happy for her gay friends “who can now get married.”

Court rules dictate it will take about 21 days for the ruling to be considered final and a request for a rehearing could be filed within that period. That means it will be at least several weeks before gay and lesbian couples can seek marriage licenses.

“The staff has had some phone calls and e-mails with questions,” Story County Court Reporter Sue VandeKamp said.

But, she added, the county would not be taking names or creating a waiting list.

“We don’t want to be in the position of having to call a list of people back,” she said.

Vandekamp said the application process would be in place and available at the beginning of the effective date.

Tribune staff writer Laura Millsaps and Associated Press writer Amy Lorentzen contributed to this story.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Oasis of Hope Arises from Pain in the NM Desert

"Suffering is the sandpaper of our life. It does its work of shaping us. Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise." Ram Dass

Her voice broke and her eyes misted in pain as Sister Chabela recalled the immigration raid that ravaged this very poor, remote desert community in SW New Mexico two years ago. The Otero County Sheriff's Department deputies are said to have harassed and interrogated residents, and searched homes in Chaparral, NM while searching out undocumented immigrants. Speaking alternately in Spanish and English, the sister who has ministered here for eight years, recounted the horror of families ripped apart by immigration detention, leaving children stranded without parents and the community in deep distress.

photo caption: Immigration lawyer (left) and Catholic sister (right)

Last month two positive outcomes emerged from that pain.

1) A civil-rights violations suit is settled for $100,000

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit discuss the outcome. (RUBEN R RAMIREZ/EL PASO TIMES) 3/19/2009

"We wanted to make sure what happened in Otero in 2007 would not happen again," said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso TX. That is why fourteen plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Otero County, N.M., sheriff's deputies utilized racial profiling, unlawful stops and other civil-rights violations while targeting undocumented immigrants. The Department agreed to a settlement of $100,000 and to changes to its operational procedures, which activists said would help eliminate fears that deputies are enforcing federal immigration laws.

2) A Legal aid office opens in Chaparral, NM

Last week a Catholic Church-sponsored legal aid clinic that provides immigration assistance to low-income immigrants and refugees, Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, blessed their newly-opened a satellite office in Chaparral. A lawyer will staff the office two days a week, serving those she can and providing appropriate referrals to those she can't assist. This office is twinned with another satellite office also slated to operate two days per week in Anthony NM, the two offices providing a resource of assistance directly where it is most needed.

This week, a 60 mile/hour wind blew the desert sand outside, but at the Casa Maria Eugenia in Chaparral, a sprinkle of water blessing a new legal aid office symbolized that many good people working together can create an oasis in the desert.

The sandpaper of suffering became a font of new growth and hope.

cross-posted on The Sirens Chronicles
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bi-national Blogger meet-up!

Even if their self-portrait wasn't so cool, I'd have wanted to meet Matt and Misty from their blog (about "our hearts and our experiences since moving to Juarez"). They choose to live in Juarez, moving there in 2008, and simply by being there, they make a difference...a big one. Matt gently chided me earlier this year on some of my posts about the drug war, encouraging me to be positive, to not give up hope on Juarez. "What," I responded, " would action for hope look like in this situation?"

Matt and Misty had a answer.

They are pursuing an initiative to "green" the neighborhood. No pie-in-the-sky initiative, this is based on a TED talk: “Greening the Ghetto”, wherein MacArthur-winning activist Majora Carter details her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx.

If we are affected by our environment, Matt and Misty are changing the environment in Juarez, and they are changing the emotional climate, too. They are acting from their Christian faith perspective and would see themselves as lay missionaries of a sort, I believe. But they serve also as goodwill ambassadors for the United States and liasons between "worlds"--the haves and have nots.

One of the greatest "bennies" of my border exploring life is meeting up with wonderful people like Matt and Misty.Mr. BE & I, Misty & Matt in our dining room.