Wednesday, June 29, 2011

VIDEO: Performance artist "erases" U.S.-Mexico border wall

The artist creates an alternative reality. In this video, performance artist Ana Teresa Fernandez creates an alternative for the border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border in Playas de Tijuana. Almost magically, through her art--she "erased" that wall on June 14, 2011.

This slide show, entitled "Borrando La Barda/Erasing the Border" and posted on YouTube, documents that feat. Sometimes I hesitate to watch a video that lasts much longer than a minute, but I assure you that this one is well worth your time, particularly if you have reservations about the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The action starts a little slowly, with the photos taken on the Mexico side of the border wall. The camera records just one incident of interaction with Mexican law-enforcement authorities. About this incident YouTube user "lavinistasrevenge," who posted the video, states:
The only complaint came from bomberos/lifeguard/beach patrol from Tijuana--they were worried about the environmental impact if we were to discard paint or solvents into the sand. So they told Ana to "finish the part she started" and they did not return.

The video condenses the performance event that lasted over four hours. According to "lavinistasrevenge,"
the encounters that emerged naturally from the situation were priceless.
"Priceless," also, is the conclusion of the video, particularly for anyone who has ever raged against the border wall. Magically, the artist "erases" it! It is an amazing, almost breath-taking process. Inspiring. Hope-filled.

Photographer Jill Holslin deserves honors for creating powerful images that add subtle commentary, at times. I enjoyed her documentation of the paint: Martha [Stewart] Living®.

Walls do not remain. This one is not an exception. It will come down. The artist is a prophet.

And I love that she does this in high heels!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

6 Undocumented Youth Arrested at Georgia Capitol. Civil rights summer for immigration?

Felipe Baeza. Twitter photo: Likeafox23
(Atlanta, GA) - Six undocumented students have been arrested for an act of civil disobedience near the state capitol building this afternoon. The youth risk deportation for their protest of HB 87, a recent Georgia law modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070. Its restrictions will negatively affect and severely isolate the state's immigrant community. Some call the law "draconian" and consider it far worse than the Arizona predecessor.

“It is time for undocumented youth across the South to come out and fight against injustice,” said Dulce Guerrero, one of the students participating in the action. “My dreams and my family are under attack.”

Dulce Guerrero, 18; Jessica Vasquez, 18; Rolando Zenteno, 16; Nataly Ibarra, 16; Felipe Baeza, 24; and Leeidy Solis, 16 were arrested by capitol police. All are current high school students except for Guerrero, who graduated earlier this month, and Baeza, who received his Bachelor’s degree from The Cooper Union in New York in 2009. All are Georgia residents except for Baeza, a college graduate who lives in New York.

Baeza immigrated from Mexico at the age of 7. His participation is in solidarity with the undocumented youth from Georgia. Felipe states, “I am tired of waiting, I am tired of living in the shadows of hate and ignorance, I am tired of people deciding and having the power over my future. I can no longer allow myself to be fooled and placated with smiles, promises and handshakes. I want actions, I want to be free!” [read Felipe's story here]

The protest is the second of its kind in Atlanta in 2011. A similar action occurred on the campus of Georgia State University in April. Students who attempted to block an intersection near the State Capitol were arrested in that incident. Protest organizers vow to continue taking action until states stop attempting to persecute undocumented immigrants and the federal government lays out a pathway to legal status.

A statement from The DREAM is Coming project advises the public to anticipate more civil unrest: 
"Acts of resistance like the one today are part of a rising trend in undocumented youth using direct action to advocate for themselves and their families. As undocumented youth grow impatient with Washington games and increased criminalization, we will continue to step out of the shadows and into the streets."
Source: The DREAM is Coming; New York State Youth Leadership Council

Monday, June 27, 2011

60 Human Rights Orgs urge Congress to investigate Border Patrol use of lethal force

More than sixty organizations signed a letter to two congressional committees calling for an immediate investigation and an end to the Border Patrol's use of deadly force against rock throwers on the U.S.-Mexico border. The latest in a series of disturbing deaths as a result of the U.S. Border Patrol use of lethal force occurred last week.

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, Amnesty International, American Friends Service Committee, and organizations along the entire U.S.-Mexico border are requesting that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano make it clear to her Border Patrol agents that it is not acceptable to use deadly force when confronted with rock throwers. 

“Deadly force should always be an action of last resort, and only used if an imminent risk of death is present and no other tools exist to ameliorate a dangerous situation,” reads the letter. “To shoot stone throwers is exceptionally disproportionate and inhumane.”

On June 21, 2011, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a man who was allegedly trying to illegally enter the United States from Mexico. The facts are still being sorted out, but initial reports indicate that the Border Patrol agent fired at the man as he was throwing rocks at the agent. 

This is not the first time that an incident of this kind resulted in the death of another human being. This latest use of lethal force caps a chronology of events and deaths stemming from disproportionate use of force by U.S. Border Patrol agents between January and June of last year:

• In January, a 17-year-old who was also said to be throwing rocks was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent near Nogales, Ariz. 
• In March, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen who was allegedly running from agents was shot and killed near Douglas, Arizona, after a rock-throwing incident.
• The last death in San Diego, CA, involving federal agents was in May of last year when Mexican citizen and long-time Encanto resident Anastacio Hernandez Rojas, 42, was arrested in the U.S. after being deported. He got into a fight with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in which he was shot with a stun gun and died days later. 
• On August 11, 2008, another instance of this disproportionate use of force took place at the U.S.- Mexico border near San Diego. Edgar Israel Ortega Chavez, whom Border Patrol alleges was throwing rocks, was in Mexican territory when he was shot by a Border Patrol agent.
• In 2010, an agent shot and killed a 15-year-old boy who authorities said was throwing rocks at him near the border in El Paso. 

These cases, taken in totality, demonstrate why it is necessary to bring transparency and accountability to federal law enforcement agencies. Training, oversight and accountability measures for border enforcement agents have not kept base with the rapid escalation of numbers of agents deployed at our border. 

“Congress needs to investigate and put an end to this recurring disproportionate use of force,” said Cynthia Buiza, policy director of the San Diego ACLU. “The public needs to be aware of and evaluate our law enforcement’s policies and practices, because they are acting in our name. While there are rare instances when lethal force may be necessary, the pattern and regularity of its use makes it feel like official policy and that raises serious constitutional and legal questions.”

Source: ACLU of San Diego

IMAGE (top of post): "SERGIO"--a graffiti protest: the name of 15 year old Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca, killed for allegedly rock-throwing on June 7, 2010 by a Border Patrol agent, silently shouts across the U.S.-Mexico border from Juarez to El Paso. Photo taken January 1, 2011.

The Border Patrol representative stands by the policy of the use of lethal force in response to  rock throwing, in this clip from NBC news:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The ROI of Border Security

When someone asks about ROI--Return On Investment--they are really asking:
What do I get back ('return') for the money I'm being asked to spend ('investment')? What is it really worth (the "ROI")? ~from Resource Management Systems
This morning the Associated Press released data that should help the nation assess its ROI on border security:
how much have taxpayers spent to secure the U.S.-Mexico border?

The price tag, until now, has not been public. But AP, using White House budgets, reports obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and congressional transcripts, tallied it all up: $90 billion in 10 years. ~from US Border Security: Expensive with mixed results

Border patrol agents now capture fewer unauthorized immigrants than before. But many attribute that to the decline in the U.S. economy that has produced fewer jobs to attract them. And the spending has not diminished the flow of illegal drugs into the United States. And, regarding the threat from terrorism, experts say that the U.S.-Canada border poses a more plausible threat than does the Mexico border.

The AP article cannot be criticized for neglecting to include other, more intangible, costs into its calculations.

  • How does one quantify the diminished quality of life on the border that an increased militarization has imposed? 
  • How does one assess the damages wreaked by the border wall to the fragile environment and border animal ecosystems? 
  • How does one heal the racism inflamed by vigilante militia?

I'm a newcomer on the border. I've lived there only half of the last ten years. Only $45 Billion dollars worth of time. But that has been long enough to have seen a palpable decline in the quality of life. While a good share of that is due to the drug war raging in northern Mexico, the entire problem is more than Mexico's responsibility. The U.S. political system has victimized the border.

Regarding border security, simply from the point of view of ROI, we taxpayers have not gotten our money's worth.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mexico President Calderon pranked in California; U.S. media mum

While 30,000 students watched President Felipe Calderon deliver Stanford's commencement address on Sunday, June 12, an airplane flew over the Stanford Stadium with a massive banner reading "40,000 DEAD!  HOW MANY MORE?" 

According to the Mexico Solidarity Network, San Francisco-based Global Exchange may have had a hand in the incident. However, if anyone claimed responsibility for the protest, I did not hear it. There's an excellent reason for that!

US mainstream media by and large ignored the incident. I understand that this is part of their "good manners" policy toward visiting heads of state. Unless, of course, those heads of state come from countries at odds with the US State Department. Rules are made to be broken, as the saying goes.

The valiant Mexican press, who pay for publishing the truth with their lives [3 more assassinated this week], did immediately cover the incident. As a political statement, this is a major news story in Mexico. Their population is traumatized and decimated by Calderon's war.

Just yesterday Calderon was publicly asked to apologize for his war and its affects on the Mexican people. But he did not.

Calderon's speech at Stanford was described by the Mexico Solidarity Committee as "forgettable"..."full of platitudes encouraging youth to 'never stop defending your ideals and dreams.'"

It certainly is nice that U.S. youth have the opportunity to pursue an education. Masses of Mexican youth, most of whom are lucky to graduate sixth grade, cannot. Indeed, about half of Mexican youth between 15 and 19 are both unemployed and out-of-school. Many struggle to read and write. They are ripe for the picking for syndicated crime groups because they have no other options.

Banner behind airplane clearly visible over Stanford stadium during  Calderon's commencement.
If you have 5 minutes to invest, you can watch a YouTube video of the event here. You'll hear a lengthy introduction that extols Calderon's accomplishments.  Just as that is drawing to a conclusion, the airplane begins to circle above the stadium.

Grateful acknowledgement: Mexico Solidarity Network

Thursday, June 23, 2011

UPDATE: Detained immigrants still in mortal danger (from: No More Deaths)

Santa Muerte

This post reprints a very important email message from the Arizona org No More Deaths. Billie~>
Two weeks ago, we read with horror the letters from 21 men held in the Torrance County Detention Facility, fearing kidnapping and death if deported on the Mexican border and particularly on the part that borders Texas. These men are some of the hundreds of “Streamlined” Mexicans who are arrested, prosecuted and sentenced in Arizona on immigration charges every week. Their initiative and call for support sparked the outrage of thousands here in the U.S. and set in motion a national campaign to end dangerous deportation practices taking place daily.
This campaign continues. ICE has explicitly refused to act. Please call (202) 282-8495 and leave a message for Janet Napolitano: “Where deportation isn’t safe, it isn’t an option.”

Here is the latest information we have as of tonight, Wednesday, June 22:
  • Over 2,000 people have responded to the action alert so far, delivering almost 7,000 letters by fax to officials of the Department of Homeland Security!
  • Of the 21 who spoke out, 7 were deported prior to June 17, we believe through Texas. We have no news from them.
  • No one has been deported since. Ten of the remaining 14 are currently in ICE custody, having completed their Streamline jail sentences; some have been with ICE since June 16.
It is very unusual that they are still in custody this long past their release date. We don’t know exactly what it means, but we know that NOW IS THE TIME to put pressure on the El Paso ICE field office in charge of their cases: PLEASE CALL (915) 225-0885 and keep calling, with the message: DON’T DEPORT THROUGH TEXAS!
  • No More Deaths humanitarian-aid workers in Nogales regularly meet migrants with nightmarish experiences of being deported through Texas. This week, a young man reported being kidnapped upon his deportation 10 days ago, beaten, threatened with death, and held for $2,000 ransom (which was paid). He could have been one of the 21: just like them, he was arrested in Arizona in April and held in Torrance County until his deportation this month at Eagle Pass, Tex./Piedras Negras, Coah.—after a nine-hour bus ride from New Mexico.
  • ICE issued an official response to your calls and faxes on June 16, rejecting responsibility for anything that happens to a person after they are deported. “While ICE recognizes the current situation relating to violence inMexico, the agency is not in the practice of allowing detainees to request repatriation to specific locations in Mexico. ICE makes every effort to work closely with the Government of Mexico to ensure the safe and orderly repatriation of all detainees.” (Read the full response from ICE.)
  • The 14 remaining detainees have been contacted by the ACLU and other legal-aid organizations, and in some cases have been taken on as clients. This would not have happened if they had not raised their voices and if we had not responded as a community.
Fueled by U.S.-backed militarism, U.S. guns, and the U.S. drug market, the drug war is escalating and public security is deteriorating all along the border and throughout Mexico. It is not a given that we have to deport people somewhere, anywhere. A fundamental policy change is needed. The Obama administration and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano have the authority to act. We need to give them this message:


If you haven’t sent a fax yet, please do so now. It only takes a few minutes.

If you haven’t made a phone call, or even if you have, please call now and leave a message for Napolitano on her public-comment line: (202) 282-8495.

The policy of disregarding Mexican deportees’ safety is an outrage. We are in territory not ventured since the 1980s when Central Americans fleeing political violence were denied asylum by the U.S. We need to ask ourselves, our friends, and our families to do more than we have done before to end deportations into the drug conflict.

Media response to this campaign:
Current deportation sites:
Targeting of Mexican migrants and deportees in Mexico:
 Violence against migrants in transit through Mexico:
Background on Operation Streamline:
I highly recommend that you connect with No More Deaths, an organization that is all-volunteer. Billie
Stay connected with No More Deaths online:
Check out our new blog, Border RealitiesJoin the Facebook groupOur YouTube channelFollow us on Twitter @NoMoreDeaths_______________________
Image credit: Flickr--Tjcowboy 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pros and Cons of the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011"

Today, the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011,” a bill that seeks to fix a system that has been broken for far too long, hit the U.S. Senate. Introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Kerry (D-MA), the legislation proposes a balance of solutions, such as: 

  • enhanced enforcement measures and a mandatory E-verify program which is paired with strategies to address the current population of undocumented workers, 
  • improvements to regulating future flows of legal immigration, 
  • a commission to study and regulate temporary worker programs, as well as 
  • efforts to support the integration of immigrants into America.  

The American Immigration Council’s Executive Director, Ben Johnson, commented rather positively on the bill:
“We welcome the introduction of the 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011’ the first immigration reform bill of the 112th Congress that proposes a framework for lasting reform. Senator Menendez and co-sponsors should be commended for offering the country an alternative to the enforcement-only bills proposed by immigration restrictionists. 

While some politicians propose mandatory E-verify without any counter-balancing attempt to help needed workers retain their jobs, the Menendez bill proposes a strategy for the current population of unauthorized immigrants to get right with the law, implementing mandatory E-verify only in the context of broader system reforms.

At least the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act gives Congress a clear choice between enforcement-only bills that squander the country’s resources and human capital, and thoughtful, long-range legislation that puts in place the tools for a 21st century immigration system. 

Members of Congress have, thus far, provided only simplistic enforcement-only solutions and sound bites. The Menendez bill, however, gives Congress the chance to prove that it is willing to put good policy over political expediency, engage in a serious and constructive debate over immigration reform, and focus on realistic solutions rather than passing this year’s political Band-aid.” 

My own reaction is less enthused. I've written on E-Verify HERE and am dissatisfied to see it as a component of this bill. I'm not a politician, and I'm impatient with incremental change. I tip my hat to people who have the ability to work on The Hill. That is not my gift. I refuse to be happy with the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011.”

"Better than garbage is not good enough for me." Call me grumpy, if you will.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Good news for U.S. asylum seekers on World Refugee Day: June 20

A Court of Appeals decision came just in time for World Refugee Day, an annual event commorated every June 20. World Refugee Day raises awareness of the obstacles facing more than 11 million refugees worldwide. Today's decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Singh v. Holder upholds the rights of men and women who come to the United States seeking protection from persecution.  
U.S. immigration laws require individuals seeking asylum to apply for that protection within one year of their arrival in the United States. Nirmal Singh appealed the immigration judge’s rejection of his asylum case when a judge found that it was not enough for Mr. Singh to testify as to his date of entry. He also had to produce documentary corroboration to show when he entered the United States, according to that ruling. 
The Court of Appeals rejected this ruling, thus permitting greater access to human rights protections for thousands of asylum seekers. They commonly flee their countries of origin under precarious circumstances and often are unable to provide documents proving when they entered the United States.  
From the perspective of an asylum seeker, the problem of letting immigration judges deny asylum claims because they think an applicant could have produced more evidence is not tenable. Asylum seekers often obtain evidence only at great risk to themselves or their families, and documenting U.S. entry dates is particularly problematic. A study released in October 2010 found that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the highest level of administrative appeal for individuals in immigration proceedings, failed to provide meaningful review of asylum cases that were rejected by immigration judges because of the one-year deadline.
“We hope the court’s decision will encourage the BIA to more closely examine rulings that deny asylum claims based on the one-year deadline,” said Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) Director of Litigation Chuck Roth. “Every time an asylum claim is wrongly rejected due to a perceived failure to file on time, a person is potentially subject to deportation to face torture or persecution.”

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mexico activist gains U.S. political asylum: U.S.-Mexico relations shift

Cipriana Jurado (file photo: March 2011)

One woman's request for political asylum reverberates across the U.S.-Mexico border and perhaps signals a change in U.S.-Mexico relations.

The attorney for a Mexican human rights activist announced this weekend that the U.S. government has granted her political asylum request, according to a report in the Associated Press. Cipriana Jurado applied for asylum in March after her friend and long-time human rights colleague Josefina Reyes was apparently assassinated in Juarez in January.

This is a dramatic new development in U.S.-Mexico relations. Jurado's lawyer, Carlos Spector, reports that it is the first time an asylum request has been granted to a human rights activist who accuses the Mexican army of persecution.
"[Spector] called the decision a "political message" that officials will look at cases more openly," says the AP.

The U.S. government has been reluctant to grant political asylum to Mexican applicants because doing so is an indication that it acknowledges that aid from Washington finances military abuses against the Mexican civilian population.

The blog explains just how rare it has been for a Mexican to receive asylum:
As drug violence has worsened in Mexico, businesspeople, law enforcement figures, journalists and other professionals have been seeking refuge in the U.S. But individuals seeking refuge in this country face an uncertain future: If their asylum applications are rejected, they can be deported to Mexico, to face near-certain retaliation from the cartels. To avoid such a fate, they can try to strike a deal with U.S. authorities to provide information about drug trafficking in Mexico. Or they can try to remain in this country illegally. The U.S. receives nearly 3,000 asylum requests from Mexico each year, but just 252 of those cases were granted between 2005 and 2009, and government sources and immigration attorneys suggest the number of requests is increasing. (my emphasis)
Last week another Mexican National Jose, Luis Anguiano-Aguirre, became the first reporter to receive asylum since Mexico’s bloody drug war erupted and media members became targets to silence their coverage.

Jurado, a 46-year-old activist, started as a worker rights advocate and later assisted relatives of murdered women. She was outspoken in her criticism of the militarization of Juarez. A recording of the press conference in March 2011 at the time of her asylum request is archived on Border Explorer. It offers good, first-hand information on the daily reality of the Mexico drug war as experienced in Juarez.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Alabama to Arizona: I'll see your "SB 1070" and raise you an "HB 56"

Yesterday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed HB 56, a draconian law that takes immigration enforcement far beyond Arizona’s SB 1070. This makes Arizona the strictest state to-date, as the effort to regulate immigration drops from the federal to state level in the new game of "U.S. immigration poker."

While Alabama's new law mimics SB 1070 by requiring local law enforcement to verify peoples’ immigration status during a stop, it also hits new lows. It forces public schools to make students and their parents provide proof of legal status, turning school administrators into immigration officers. [And violating federal law!] The law also contains a broadly defined provision making it a crime to knowingly rent to, transport, or harbor unauthorized immigrants, as well as requiring employers to use E-verify.  Alabama now joins Arizona, Utah, Indiana, and Georgia in passing costly immigration enforcement laws.

To make matters worse, Governor Bentley, much like Governor Deal in neighboring Georgia, is turning a blind eye to the state’s $586 million FY2011 budget shortfall—a deficit that is bound to grow in light of this costly enforcement law. Yesterday, the ACLU and several civil rights groups announced a forthcoming legal challenge to Alabama’s immigration law. To date, Arizona has already spent $1.9 million defending its law, key provisions of which were blocked by a federal judge, not to mention the millions Arizona has already lost in cancelled conferences and tourism revenue. 

Arizona has demonstrated that using a “get tough” immigration law to drive unauthorized immigrants out of the state is not only costly, discriminatory, and unconstitutional; it also does nothing to actually solve our larger immigration problems. In its lawsuit challenging Arizona's SB1070 the federal government rightly asserted its authority over national immigration policy. 

What continues to be missing is Congressional action. Until Congress acts to fulfill its constitutional role in creating a functional immigration system, states will continue to look for ways to fill the leadership vacuum.

When will Congress step up to the plate? All bets are off on that one. 

Veterans for Peace support El Paso June 11 rally with Javier Sicilia

Veterans for Peace are throwing their support behind tomorrow's rally at 11:00 AM in San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas, joining U.S. groups who support Javier Sicilia’s movement to end the bloody war in Mexico.  This selection, taken from an urgent email message to their members, explains why:

Like Cindy Sheehan, Mexican poet and peace activist, Javier Sicilia, lost his son, Juan Francisco, in an undeclared, unconstitutional, unjust war, the “war on drugs,” in which more than 40,000 people have died. Juan Francisco, like many others, was an innocent victim.

This carnage would not be possible without the support, political and financial, of the U.S. Supplying the cartels with their principle market for drugs and easy purchase of arms with laundered money, the U.S. has been more a part of the problem than the solution.

Javier Sicilia, again like Cindy Sheehan, chose to go public with his grief and anger. He founded a peace and justice network and organized a massive demonstration in Mexico City on May 8 where hundreds of thousands of people joined him in demanding that the government change its failed war policy and reform corrupt political institutions.

The network then organized a peace caravan which is now traveling through northern Mexico, the area of the country most affected by drug violence. Thursday, June 9, they arrive in Ciudad Juarez, the most dangerous city in the world. Friday, June 10, there will be an historic signing of a citizens’ pact, to be presented to the government later this month, demanding institutional reforms and changes in drug war policy. If the government refuses to sign, the network has promised boycotts, national strikes and acts of civil disobedience.

A crucial element in the success of this movement is the collaboration and support of U.S. peace and justice organizations. On Saturday, June 11, at 11:00 AM, in San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso, Texas, there will be a demonstration of U.S. groups who support Sicilia’s movement to end the bloody war in Mexico...

Post Image at top: via Carlos Marentes on Facebook

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bi-National Event in El Paso to Protest Violence in Mexico--June 11, 2011

The El Paso-Juarez community will host Javier Sicilia, the Mexican poet whose son was murdered, along with other victims from the "War on Drugs" in Mexico on Saturday June 11th. The event will take place in San Jacinto Plaza (Plaza de Lagartos) at the heart of downtown El Paso. Please widely distribute information about this important event.

The El Paso side of the border will show its support for the victims of the violence and will manifest solidarity with those who oppose the current policies which have resulted in over 40,000 deaths since the start of the U.S. and Mexico "War on Drugs."

The event supports the "Marcha Nacional por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad" (National March for Peace with Justice and Dignity).


10 am – Gathering in San Jacinto Plaza

11am – Receive Javier Sicilia, presentation of/by family's, victims, and people
in exile in El Paso

12pm – Ritual/symbolic act of commitment

1 pm – Close of event

¡Ya Basta de Violencia!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What are "sanctuary cities?" Who believes in them? Who doesn't?


Texas Governor Rick Perry, unannounced candidate for U.S. president, announced that he plans to resurrect his proposal to crack down on cities that provide "sanctuary" to unauthorized immigrants, the so-called "sanctuary cities." Department of Homeland Security and other government officials, however, have determined that so-called "sanctuary cities" do not exist. Local police agencies regularly cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to identify and detain immigrants who commit crimes, so the Governor is looking for a solution without a problem! 

What Perry is calling "sanctuary cities" are cities that have implemented community policing policies. Those policies stop police agencies from asking community residents who haven't been arrested to prove their legal immigration status.

Refraining from asking the community's residents about their immigration status supports community policing strategies. It creates an atmosphere that makes it safe for immigrant crime victims and witnesses to report criminals to the police and help put them behind bars. These policies make it easier for the police to do their jobs and make communities safer.

If you're interested in the concept of "sanctuary cities" and want to learn more about why some regard Perry as grandstanding when he promotes their existence, read: Debunking the Myth of "Sanctuary Cities" Community Policing Policies Protect Americans, written by Lynn Tramonte. This paper responds to the claim that some cities are providing "sanctuary" to unauthorized immigrants. In it, police officials and other authorities explain why community policing policies are so critical to effective policing and to keeping American communities safe.

After all, we all want safer communities. It pays to know what's worth believing in.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sinister Juarez allegation: Mexico Federal Police illegally entered, searched human rights office last night

Photo Credit: Staff/El Diario. See original story for more photos.

Five or six units of the Mexican Federal Police operating without a warrant broke into and entered the offices of the human rights center in Juarez--  the Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte--last night, June 5, at about 8 PM. They proceeded to conduct an illegal search of the entire facility. Federal Police tried to break in through the Centro's front door. When that proved difficult, they went to the rear of the building and broke in through two doors in the back.

These agents left broken windows in their wake. They searched through the data--including confidential files on human rights abuses, leaving the offices ransacked.

Father Oscar Enriquez, Catholic priest and director of the Center, cannot fathom the motivation of the Federales. The action, described as "very, very violent" during a press conference this afternoon in Juarez, layers a new level of threat on the human rights organization. The Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte has been very active in the organization for the impending visit to Juarez of Mexican author and poet Javier Sicilia who is leading a caravan calling for peace with justice and dignity in the ongoing Mexican drug war. The incident prompted Sicilia today to urge Mexican President Calderon to assure the security and safety of the peaceful caravan. Calling the incident the act of a "dirty war" in a statement to the press, Sicilia calls for a complete disclosure of the operation.

Neighbors reportedly were able to identify the specific Federal Police units by the numbers printed on their vehicles. An article appearing today in the Juarez newspaper El Diario lists those units and also reports that federal police vehicles circled the block to secure the area during the operation. The article carries pictures of the damage done to the doors in order to gain entry into the center. 

Ransacked offices: Photo credit~El Diario de Juarez, more photos on original story.
A press conference at 3 PM today in El Paso at Casa Vides [PHOTOS/STORY HERE] denounced the illegal search and called for accountability. A broad cross section of El Paso human rights organizations, legal projects, academics, civic organizations, and elected officials attended in support. 

Some U.S. activists are encouraging U.S. citizen letters to the State Department, to Senators and Congressional Representatives, denouncing the many human rights violations in Mexico. U.S. tax dollars through the Merida Initiative fund the military and their abuses. The U.S. can slow the violence in Mexico by removing tax dollar support of the Mexican war on drugs, they say.