Sunday, February 26, 2012

El Paso Farmworkers announce annual Chavez march

El Paso Farmworkers announce their annual march to honor Cesar Chavez is scheduled for March 31. Participants will meet at the Farmworker Center, 201 East Ninth Avenue. The colorful event will pass through the streets of downtown El Paso, featuring music, banners, drumming, chanting and costumes.

For more information, contact Carlos Marentes at Sin Fronteras.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Illegal action, statements from U.S. citizens who entered their country illegally

Udu-Gama, Bourgeois walk around border fence, enter U.S. "without inspection."

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of the Americas Watch, and SOAW field organizer Nico Udu-Gama entered the United States--their country of citizenship--without inspection Sunday in a direct act of nonviolent civil disobedience. Their action climaxed a week-long delegation visit of solidarity with human rights activists on the U.S.-Mexico border.

As supporters chanted "Bienvenidos" ["Welcome"] the two returned to the U.S. side of the vigil after communing with supporters on the Mexico side of the fence during a street drama held at the end of the chain link border fence between Sunland Park, NM and Anapra, Chihuahua. The two explained the significance of their action upon re-entry. Their remarks were interrupted by a low fly-over by a helicopter, an illustration of the militarization of the border they denounced.

Bourgeois and Udu-Gama were arrested by Border Patrol agents following the vigil activities. They were detained for some hours then released without being charged.

Images of landmark Cristo Rey statue atop El Paso's Mount Cristo Rey created a dramatic backdrop for the street drama. People of faith consider noncompliance with U.S. law in protest of the U.S. foreign and economic policies that create violence and lead to countless deaths as an expression of their spirituality.

Still images of the action can be found here, here, extended video coverage here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Two arrests: Vigil and direct action on U.S.-Mexico border protest militarization, oppression

Udu-Gama (left) and Bourgeois (center front) under arrest at border.
Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Nico Udu-Gama of the School of the Americas Watch delegation were arrested today for entering the U.S. without inspection. The SOAW delegation and and local activists challenged the policies of militarization and oppression during a vigil at the U.S.-Mexico fence at Sunland Park, New Mexico and Anapra, Chihuahua that concluded with a street drama. The arrests climaxed a week of solidarity between SOAW activists and border human rights activists during a ten-day delegation that included three days in Juarez.

SOAW delegates revealed this weekduring their visit that Julian Leyzaola Perez, the controversial Chief of Police in Ciudad Juarez, is himself a graduate of the School of the Americas. The School of the Ameicas, now renamed WHINSEC, is a U.S. military school located in Ft. Benning, GA specifically to train Latin American military leaders. Activists have evidence that the U.S. taxpayer-funded school trains its graduates in torture techniques which they then use against their own citizens.

At least a third of the original Zeta cartel, the most notorious of all criminal organizations, were trained at the SOA, as have thousands of Latin American soldiers, including 4,000 Mexican military. Policies of militarization and oppression continue ot lead to the deaths of thousands of Latin Americans, as the death count nears 10,000 in Ciudad Juarez alone during the last five years.

Vigilers met at the Anapra fence in Sunland Park, New Mexico this morning at 10 AM and walked to the end of the fence, near the base of Mount Cristo Rey. There SOAW delegates performed a street drama in which Bourgeois and Udu-Gama crossed into Mexico, later reappearing and reentering the United States side of the border. It is an infraction to enter the U.S. other than at a designated port of entry.

Fickr set: Images of the vigil and action

The protest highlighted U.S. military and police aid that continues to flow into Mexico and the continued expenditure of millions more on walls, fences and the militarization of the border. Meanwhile thousands flee violence in Mexico and Latin American countries, a flight that results in death for untold numbers.

Officials arrested the two activists as the event ended. This short video documents their apprehension:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Activists plan action at Mexico border fence at El Paso this weekend

 Border Fence at Anapra, near El Paso, TX--site of Sunday's action  (file photo)
Activists from the School of the Americas Watch, Project Puente and other organizations around the border region will hold a vigil Sunday, February 19 to call attention to the role of the US government in the militarization of Mexico and the failed War on Drugs.

The vigil at the Sunland Park-Anapra Fence beginning at 10 AM also hopes to call attention to the unjust US immigration policies that criminalize those fleeing the violence.

This activity culminates a week-long delegation of 10 people, headed by SOA Watch founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois, from across the United States, which has met with people on both sides of the border in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Over 60,000 people have been killed in the violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon deployed some 50,000 troops and federal police five years ago to confront the drug cartels. Much of this militarization has been bankrolled by the US government’s Merida Initiative, which has poured over $1.5 billion into this “war on drugs,” especially in the form of US military equipment and training. The result of this militarization has failed to curtail the flow of drug, but has caused the loss of thousands of innocent Mexican lives. The death toll in Ciudad Juarez alone is nearing 10,000.

Perpetrators of the violence on both sides of this declared "war" have strong links to the US School of the Americas/WHINSEC, a U.S. taxpayer-funded military training school for Latin American soldiers, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. Ciudad Juarez Police Chief, Julian Leyzaola Perez, a graduate of the SOA, has been accused by human rights groups of participating "directly in the torture of individuals who were arbitrarily detained, transported to military bases, and subjected to beatings, electric shocks, death threats, and asphyxiation to obtain false confessions" (UNHCR report). On the side of the drug cartels, a third of the original members of the drug cartel known as the “Zetas” are deserted members of the Mexican military who have graduated from the SOA/WHINSEC.

SOA graduates across Latin America have been implicated in serious human rights abuses, from torture, disappearance, drug trafficking and murder. In 2009, SOA graduates overthrew the government in Honduras, while in Colombia, 10,000 troops have been trained to fight the “War on Drugs”. In October 2011, Time Magazine published the article “Is It Time to Shutter the Americas' 'Coup Academy'?”

This past week, people in Mexico convened for a National Forum Against Militarization in Mexico. SOA Watch stands in solidarity with them and draws inspiration from citizens of Mexico who have been rising up to resist this militarization.

Source: School of Americas Watch

Thursday, February 16, 2012

El Paso Human Rights Convention Reignites A National Movement

The next national movement for equal rights is kicking off in El Paso this weekend. As part of the national Human Rights at Home campaign aimed at building a human rights movement, the Border Network for Human Rights has organized the El Paso Regional Human Rights Convention (EPRHRC). The meeting is scheduled for February 18. The convention will bring communities in West Texas and Southern New Mexico together to define what human rights means to border communities.

The gathering will take place at Mercado Mayapan at 2102 Myrtle Avenue in El Paso from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Events begin with a brief press conference in front of Mercado Mayapan from 9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. At 9:30, the 500 convention attendees will march into the Mercado. Invited speakers and representatives from participating organizations (listed below) will give their remarks starting at 10. At 11 a.m., the event will be closed to the press.

The event will attempt to form a community agenda which is informed by local conditions but encompassing a national vision.

Organizations participating and/or sending delegates to the convention include:
  • Annunciation House
  • A.Y.U.D.A.
  • Border Network for Human Rights
  • Desert A.D.A.P.T.
  • El Comite Justicia Laboral/The Labor Justice Committee
  • El Paso Federation of Teachers
  • La Mujer Obrera
  • Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
  • Occupy El Paso
  • Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project
  • The National Association of Social Worker
Organizations coming from outside of West Texas and Southern New Mexico:
  • Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition
  • Communities for Human Rights, a Texas-wide organization
  • Dallas Peace Center
  • DreamActivist Pennsylvania
  • Juntos, Philadelphia
  • Media Mobilizing Project, Pennsylvania
  • Movimiento del Valle, Rio Grande Valley
  • National Economic & Social Rights Initiative, based in New York
  • One Love Movement, Philadelphia
  • Poverty Initiative, New York
  • Proyecto Inmigrante, Fort Worth, Texas
  • United Workers, Baltimore
  • Vermont Workers' Center
Speakers include:
  • Texas State Sen. Jose Rodriguez
  • El Paso Coutny Judge Veronica Escobar
  • Las Cruces City Rep. Olga Pedroza
  • Fr. Roy Bourgeois, of the School of Americas Watch
Information and Image Source: Border Network for Human Rights 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New figures: Hispanics power U.S. labor force

Projections indicate that Hispanics will account for an amazing 74% of the growth in the U.S. labor force from 2010 to 2020, says data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This increase is much higher than what we saw in the previous two decades, according to Pew Research Center commentary. Hispanics accounted for just 36% of the total increase in the labor force from 1990 to 2000 and for 54% from 2000 to 2010.

A major reason for the increase of Hispanics in the labor force is simply that the Hispanic population is growing rapidly. That is due both to new births and to immigration. At the same time, the aging of the non-Hispanic white population will likely reduce their numbers in the labor force.

Another important factor to consider is that Hispanics have a higher labor force participation rate than other groups. The nation's labor force participation rate is the share of the population ages 16 and older which is either employed or looking for work. That number was 64.7% in 2010. Among Hispanics, however, the rate was 67.5%.

There are two main explanations for this gap:
  1. Hispanics are a younger population than other groups. 
  2. Hispanics include a higher share of immigrants.
These new statistics about Hispanics come from the latest round of BLS projections for the U.S. labor force, covering 2010-2020. They indicate that growth will slow overall.

These projections show that the labor force will increase by 10.5 million in this decade, growing to 164.4 million in 2020 from 153.9 million in 2010. That's less than the increase of 11.3 million from 2000 to 2010, and substantially less than the 16.7 million increase from 1990 to 2000.

The projected average annual increase in the labor force from 2010 to 2020--0.7%--is also less than the annual growth of 0.8% from 2000 to 2010 and only about half the 1.3% annual rate of growth from 1990 to 2000.

The commentary, "Labor Force Growth Slows, Hispanic Share Grows," authored by Rakesh Kochhar, Associate Director for Research, Pew Hispanic Center, can be accessed on the Pew Hispanic Center website and on All Things Census at the Pew Social & Demographic Trends website.

The Pew Hispanic Center and Pew Social & Demographic Trends are projects of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C., and funded byThe Pew Charitable Trusts.

Source: The Pew Hispanic Center

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Border Troubadour Tom Russell books El Paso, his adopted hometown

I was this close to the performers; but--alas--my camera chose this night to break.
Tom Russell, the border's musical ambassador, will perform in his adopted hometown of El Paso on April 21 at the Scottish Rite Theater. Although Russell is a veteran performer with decades to his credit, I only first became aware of and interested in Russell a handful of years ago, attracted by his border-themed music. This fall, after hearing him perform in Iowa on his Mesabi tour, I transformed into a raging Russell super-fan.

There are several connections. We both:

  • have Iowa roots (Russell's father hailed from New Hampton before he migrated to California.)
  • adoped El Paso as a second home. (California-bred Russell and his Swiss wife live in the Upper Valley, when not performing or in Europe).
  • are roughly the same age.
  • are in love with the border --its ambiance and culture.
  • feel connection to Minnesota. Mesabi, Russell's latest album (and a great one!) is named for the state's Iron Range, the birthplace region of Bob Dylan. [Listen to Mesabi and purchase it online.]

And we know some El Pasoans in common, I've come to find out. It's not that large a city.

Left: Thad Beckman, Right: Russell
Not only is he a great songwriter, singer and musician and artist, he's a quintessential performer. "Nobody walks out of my concerts," he casually remarked early that October 2 evening in Fairfield, Iowa. In truth: by the end he had the audience eating out of his hand--and singing along with him, full-throated.

At "Goodnight, Juarez" I choked back tears. Don't miss "And God Created Border Towns" which captures the tragedy of the border drug war.
Stories shared from his wide-ranging life held us rapt.

Russell cycles through David Letterman's New York show regularly. He performs in Europe widely. But not so much on the border: it's been years since he's played El Paso.

Advance tickets for his 7 p.m. show are now on sale for $22 at All That Music & Video and at the theater. Entrance day of the show is $25.

As fate has it, I likely will not be in town April 21; I must return to my Iowa life. So I'll miss this Tom Russell concert. I hope you won't.

Tom Russell and Thad Beckman perform the title track from Masabi on this BBC clip.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The power of hope: 2 Minutes of Wisdom by Father Greg Boyle, SJ

Lots of parallels to the growing cancerous gang culture in Mexico and Latin America.

What if the U.S. invested in development, in Kin-ship, in building up and supporting...rather than in war?

P.S. Sorry the video embeds, but doesn't work! Gak! Hope you'll click through and watch. I'm going to leave this up anyway. Well worth it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

School of the Americas Watch to gather, vigil at US-Mexico border

Mexican children stand at the Anapra border fence.
The School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) will convene and lead a delegation of activists in El Paso-Ciudad Juarez from February 12-19. The group intends to experience the reality of this particular segment of the border. After spending three days in Ciudad Juarez, the delegation will learn about issues during a weekend in El Paso, February 17-19 in a segment of the gathering co-sponsored by El Paso-based Project Puente.

SOAW Founder Fr. Roy Bourgeois is expected to participate in the delegation and address a human rights conference Saturday morning. Other scheduled events include a march for immigrant rights, a conference on immigration and a vigil at the border fence to honor the victims of repressive immigration policies.

Why would SOAW, an organization dedicated to closing a military school, bring a delegation to the border? From their website:
For 60 years numerous graduates of the School of the Americas have returned to their countries to torture, disappear, and massacre fellow citizens in efforts to impose economic policies that benefit US corporations. As a result: tens of thousands of Latin Americans lost their lives, and even greater numbers lived in fear of such repression. Many had no option but to flee their homeland in search of safety and survival. This situation was compounded by the implementation of NAFTA in the 1990’s, forcing millions of migrants and refugees to cross the border, looking to escape the ravages of savage capitalism. 
But today, as these same voracious economic policies are being rejected by many nations south of our border, they have turned around to devour the people of our own nation. As U.S. citizens lose homes and jobs, a scapegoat must be found. Not surprisingly, it is found in the immigrants, those who were pushed away from their homeland by the same economic and military system of domination. The result is an increasing militarization of the border between the United States and Mexico, the world's longest contiguous international divide between a superpower and a developing nation. Today there are more than 20,000 Border patrol agents patrolling the 2,000 mile long border with Mexico.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said he had sent more “boots to the border” than any other administration. Record numbers of immigrants are being deported, tearing tens of thousands of families apart, leaving children without parents, sending promising students back to a home they never knew. We may actually come to lament the success of these efforts, recent studies show more Mexicans are returning to their country than coming here, opening up an economic void.
Just as the School of the Americas is a concrete expression of the injustice of our nation towards Latin America, so is the border today. [BE: emphasis mine] And, just as we gather every November at the fence of the SOA to say “no mas, no more,” we will be gathering at the border to say "no mas, no more" to immigration policies that use military muscle to criminalize the very people who have kept the wheels of our economic motor running for decades.

The public is invited to attend any or all of the weekend’s events with delegation members. Those who participate are asked to offer a $20 collaboration fee to cover rentals and expenses.

Friday, Feb. 17, at Sacred Heart Parish Gym, 231 Father Rahm the Segundo Barrior

5:00 pm Registration for Weekend Conference

6:00 pm Dinner

7:30 pm Opening ceremonies, Welcome by SOAW, short talk by Perla de la Rosa

8:00 pm Music group

Saturday, Feb. 18, Mercado Mayapan, 2101 Myrtle

9:30 am Gather and participate in the Human Rights Conference opening march

10:00 am Participate in “Opening Ceremonies” of HRC. Roy gives words of solidarity and invites to
Action on Sunday morning.

Re-gather at Cristo Rey Iglesia Luterana, 1010 E.Yandell

11:00 am Update on immigration situation nationally

12:30 pm Lunch

2:00 pm Ruben Garcia, founder and director of Annunciation House

3:30 pm Break

4:00 pm Mexicans in Exile, Mexicans who have fled the violence in Mexico

6.00 pm Dinner

Sunday, Feb. 19, Sunland Park–Anapra Fence

9:00 am Gather at Sunland Park-Anapra fence

10:00 am Ritual and Action