Friday, August 31, 2012

Immigrants: Blood of our blood dream, of our nation--Wisconsin Sikh Temple message

Amardeep Kaleka, son of the Sikh Temple president who died trying to save his community from the attack by white supremacist Wade Page, created this beautiful video/poem and posted it last night. He asks us all to share the link as far and wide as we possibly can. After all the awful theater of these last nights in Tampa, this shows again where the real font of humanity and hope truly lies. "This is our country; this is our blood, and this is our dream."

Amardeep's message:

"Thank you all for your support. In this great hour of need - we appreciate the sentiments and empathy. When people have been hugging me and sharing their beautiful touch, I keep whispering, 'let's make this a better place'. This would be appropriate to say here on this wall. As a team, we can end violence and hate. At some point - good people have to stand up and shepherd this civilization to a better, more open and broad minded situation. You guys are those angels - you are the good people! And for that - my family and I thank you! Hope to see you soon face to face.

"Please share and share and share..."

~reprinted with deep gratitude to my Facebook friend, Wisconsonite Margaret Swedish

Photo credit: from "We Are Sikhs"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Arms Trafficking Conduct Code Gains El Paso County Commission Approval

Image source:  Caravan4Peace CaravanaXLaPaz 
The Caravan for Peace announced today the El Paso County Commissioners passed the Arms Trafficking Code of Conduct resolution with a 4-1 vote. The resolution resonates with the themes of the Caravan for Peace, which are:

  1. drug war policies
  2. arms trafficking
  3. money laundering
  4. U.S. foreign aid policy, and 
  5. immigration.

The caravan members--all surviving victims of drug war violence--and their supporters will present the resolution to the El Paso City Council for similar approval tomorrow. Insiders reported last week that Rep. Susie Byrd already was in agreement with the resolution.

Text of the resolution seeking El Paso City Council approval: 

WHEREAS, an estimated 80,000 men, women, and children have been killed in Mexico, almost 11,000 of them in our sister city of Ciudad Juárez, during the past five years; and

WHEREAS, the people of El Paso and the surrounding region recognize our personal, practical, and economic connections with Ciudad Juárez and the country of Mexico; and

WHEREAS, it is strongly in our interest to reduce death, violence, and human rights violations on both sides of the border; and

WHEREAS, trafficked arms and munitions from the United States to Mexico is deeply involved in killings; and

WHEREAS, the trade in illegalized drugs is a driver of criminal profits, corruption, impunity, and violence, with negative effects on the border region; and

WHEREAS, money is the lifeblood of the criminal system in both countries and causes corruption in our home region; and

WHEREAS, human rights and human security in Mexican law enforcement and the military are key to building and sustain a peaceful and secure society in Mexico; and

WHEREAS, accountability, civil and human rights, and security from death, harm, and exploitation are fundamental U.S. values that provide an enduring basis for a safe and prosperous border region, in particular when applied to migration enforcement and immigration policy:


That the City Council endorses the following five principles for members of the U.S. public and U.S. public policy:

(1)   Adhere to existing U.S. laws regulating gun and munitions sales, particularly with respect to trafficking to Mexico, and endorse the attached Code of Conduct for the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership; 

(2)   Spur discussion about current drug policy and alternatives to it;

(3)   Improve tools against money laundering;

(4)   Prioritize human rights and human security in U.S. cooperation with and assistance to Mexican law enforcement and the military; and

(5)   Prioritize accountability, civil and human rights, and security from death, harm, and exploitation in U.S. migration enforcement and immigration policy.


The 10 points of the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership are:

1.         Videotaping the Point of Sale for All Firearms Transactions. Participating retailers will videotape the point-of-sale of all firearms transactions and maintain videos for 6 months to deter illegal purchases and monitor employees.

2.         Computerized Prime Gun Trace Log and Alert System. Mayors Against Illegal Guns will develop a computerized system that participating retailers will implement over time to log crime gun traces relating to the retailer. Once the program is in place, if a customer who has a prior trace at that retailer attempts to purchase a firearm, the sale will be electronically flagged. The retailer would have discretion to proceed with the sale or stop the sale.

3.         Purchaser Declaration. For sales flagged by the trace alert system, participating retailers will ask purchasers to fill out a declaration indicating that they meet the legal requirement to purchase the firearm.

4.         Deterring Fake IDs. Participating retailers will only accept valid federal- or state-issued picture IDs as primary identification. Retailers will utilize additional ID checking mechanisms.

5.         Consistent Visible Signage. Participating retailers will post signage created by the Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership to alert customers of their legal responsibilities at the point-of-sale.

6.         Employee Background Checks. Participating retailers will conduct criminal background checks for all employees selling or handling firearms.

7.         Employee Responsibility Training. Participating retailers will participate in an employee responsibility training program focused on deterring illegal purchasers. The Responsible Firearms Retailer Partnership will create an online training system based on Wal-Mart´s training program.

8.         Inventory Checking. Participating retailers will conduct daily and quarterly audits. Guidelines will be based on Wal-Mart´s existing audit procedures.

9.         No Sales Without Background Check Results. Participating retailers would prohibit sales based on "default proceeds," which are permitted by law when background check has not returned a result within 3 days.

10.       Securing Firearms. Participating retailers will maintain firearms kept in customer accessible areas in locked cases or locked racks.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

El Paso poised to receive caravan of survivors from Mexico drug war

Image credit: Caravan for Peace
The caravan of Mexican survivors of the drug war violence for will arrive in El Paso on August 20. The public are invited to welcome the group in the city's central plaza San Jacinto (111 E Mills Ave) at 9 pm.

El Paso activists have arranged a full schedule for the caravan visitors during their El Paso stop while on a national tour taking them across the U.S..

The group will gather on August 21 for a City Council meeting at 9 am. They will present an arms trafficking Code of Conduct, a resolution that will increase transparency and accountability for arms sales in El Paso.

At 7 pm the group will reconvene at San Jacinto Plaza (111 E Mills Ave) to sign the Arms Trafficking Code of Conduct. From there, they plan to march to Annunciation House (1003 San Antonio). The exterior of the building, a shelter for those fleeing drug violence and seeking asylum in the U.S., will be completely lighted by the projection of names of victims of the violence in Mexico.

Javier Sicilia, who can rightly claim to be the poet laureate of Mexico, is prominently at the leadership of the caravan of survivors of the Mexico drug war violence. The murder of Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco, propelled him into the international spotlight as an activist for peace as he became an icon of the suffering of thousands of Mexican nationals. Sicilia vowed to stop writing poetry until justice is achieved, not only for his son, but also for the nameless and faceless victims of violence in his native country.

Mexico has suffered 60,000 deaths, 10,000 disappearances and 160,000 internal refugees in the last six years. The caravan counts this as the true cost of the War on Drugs. With a 98% rate of impunity, Mexicans struggle to seek even common justice.

El Paso acrivists anticipate a rich encounter on the border between caravan participants and the El Paso community. Sicilia has called on local residents to echo the caravan's call for justice with peace and dignity as a “counterpart in an exercise of civilian diplomacy that can return peace, justice and dignity to the victims of this war." Sicila continued: "We hope we will be able to count on your valuable participation as an ally and partner in this historic event.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Caravan for Peace in Mexico drug war arrives in Tucson today

The "Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity" stopped in Tucson today on its voyage across the United States, as it works to create a bi-national movement against the drug war that has left more than 60,000 dead in Mexico over the last five years.

Two events in Tucson welcomed the caravan and gave community members the opportunity to participate:
  1. A 2:30 p.m gathering at Federal Courthouse which then moved to Pancho Villa Park for a 3 p.m. press conference and 
  2. a Community Forum from 6pm to 9pm at Southside Presbyterian Church at 317 W. 23rd Street.
The event gave Tucson residents who are concerned with the interrelationship between U.S. policy and drug violence a focal point around which to rally.
Javier Sicilia addresses press in Tijuana, Mexico
at onset of caravan. Photo credit: Erin Siegal.

Led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, the goal of the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity is to engage in citizen diplomacy, to put an end to the war on drugs, and to start a healing process following the national emergency that has devastated Mexico. Since 2006, more than 60,000 people have been killed and more than 10,000 have disappeared in violence resulting largely from the failure of drug prohibition. But the United States' war on drugs has produced painful consequences here as well, especially the mass incarceration of people for non-violent offenses - overwhelmingly people of color.

More than 100 individuals - primarily families of victims from Mexico - will share personal stories of the fallout from the war in that country, while building ties with Tucsonans who have also been deeply impacted by the United States' failed drug policies. A press conference accompanied by a rally at the United States federal building in Tucson will take place at 3:00pm. At 6:00pm a community forum will take place during which families and victims of the two countries' failed drug policies will speak out.

"Our purpose is to honor our victims, to make their names and faces visible," Sicilia said. "We will travel across the United States to raise awareness of the unbearable pain and loss caused by the drug war - and of the enormous shared responsibility for protecting families and communities in both our countries."

Sicilia emerged as a leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) after his son Juan Francisco was killed in senseless prohibition-related violence last year. Since then, the MPJD has led caravans across Mexico to collect stories of the destruction caused by U.S. and Mexican policy.

Bringing together victims of the drug war from both countries, the Caravan aims to expose the root causes of violence in Mexico, to raise awareness about the effects of the drug war on communities in the U.S., and to inspire U.S. civil society to demand new policies that will foster peace, justice and human dignity on both sides of the border.

The Caravan will trek over 6,000 miles through more than 25 cities and communities in ten states-including Los Angeles, Santa Fe, El Paso, Houston, Montgomery, New Orleans, Chicago and New York City - before arriving in Washington, D.C., on September 10. The Caravan will officially conclude on September 12 by calling for an International Day of Action for Peace in Mexico. You can learn more at:

Nearly 100 U.S. organizations* are a part of the Caravan initiative, including the Tucson-area groups Coalicion de Derechos Humanos, AZ Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice, Alianza Indígena sin Fronteras, American Friends Service Committee of Tucson, Occupy Tucson, Border Action Network, Corazón de Tucson, No More Deaths, St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church, Arizona Worker Rights Center, Southside Workers' Center, Restoration Project, Tierra y Libertad, as well as national organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Latin America Working Group (LAWG), the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), National Latino Congress, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Border Angels / Angeles de la Frontera, CIP-Americas Program,, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Veterans for Peace, Witness for Peace, L.A. Community Legal Center, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, School of the Americas Watch, and Global Exchange.

Also participating are: Alianza Cívica, Sin Fronteras, INEDIM, Fuerzas Unidas por los Desaparecidos en México, Asociación Popular de Familiares de Migrantes (APOFAM), FUNDEM; Red por los Derechos de la Infancia, CuPIDH, Espolea, Reverdecer, Iniciativa Ciudadana para la Promoción de la cultura de Diálogo, Pastoral de Movilidad Humana, Alarbo, Servicios para la Paz, Serapaz; and Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (Cencos), and many more.
* Supporting organizations do not necessarily endorse all of the Caravan's policy positions.

Other internet resources:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Caravan for Peace in the Mexico Drug War Launches Tour across United States

Survivors of the dead in the Mexican drug war, an internal conflict that has claimed dozens of thousands of lives, have launched a caravan across the United States to call for an end of the violence. Led by Mexican activist, the noted poet Javier Sicilia--himself the father of a beloved son claimed by death in a brutal and senseless slaying--the caravan will draw attention to the real survivors and the real victims.

Erin Siegal, author and journalist experienced with Central American issues, generously shared with this blog some of her powerful images from the launch of the caravan. From the press conference in Tijuana to the crossing into San Diego, Siegal is present and traveling with the caravan, committed to communicating this important witness to the (perhaps largely unaware?) public in the U.S. The slideshow of images tops this post. Enlarge it for best viewing.

The caravan's objective is to raise awareness to the root causes of the violence in Mexico and to point out that both nations are involved in those causes. They demand the damages caused by the current militarized "security" approach to the situation cease. The caravan calls instead for new policies that promote peace, justice, and human dignity on both sides of the border.

The caravan is scheduled to arrive August 20 in El Paso.

This short video produced by communicates Sicilia's remarks to the press at the event: