Wednesday, April 12, 2017

More than 400 Immigrants Join Hunger Strike at Tacoma Immigration Prison

Over 100 immigrants incarcerated at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) refused their lunch on Monday this week, launching a hunger strike to protest their treatment inside the immigration prison. Supporters who rallied outside the facility received constant updates from people detained as more pods (housing units inside the facility) joined the call to not eat, not to use the phones, and not to buy from the commissary.

Work Stoppage

By Tuesday morning over 400 people had begun refusing meals, with reports of strikers in 9 different pods throughout the facility. Incarcerated immigrants are currently paid $1 a day to clean and provide upkeep for the the facility, cook the meals, and do the laundry. However, in at least four pods, the people detained also called for a work stoppage, throwing the immigration prison’s functions into chaos.

Protest Conditions

On the second day of the hunger strike, ICE moved forward with their planned Tuesday morning deportations, with two buses emblazoned with the GEO Group logo leaving the facility, each filled with people. Additionally, ICE cancelled the daily immigration courts hearings, attempting to break the unity and morale of those on hunger strike by halting the hearings some immigrants had waited months for. Hunger strikers also reported that GEO guards were blocking television access, barring strikers from watching news accounts of their efforts.

Despite the retaliation, the strike continued, with participant Alejandro Macias noting that losing his freedom emboldened him to strike, "We won't give up, what else can they do to us? These abuses must end.” Another hunger striker, detained artist Juan Manuel with the popular musical group Raza Obrera, has begun writing a song about the strike, saying, “We are united and we won't stop, we need to be treated fairly. We are humans beings not animals.”

Outside Supporters

Community members set up an encampment at the gates of the facility, planning to stay for the duration of the strike. For ongoing updates, visit

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why not call out the National Guard on undocumented immigrants?

Round 'em up and throw 'em out? What could possibly be wrong with THAT?

A leaked memo, published by the Associated Press, has ignited more Trump Administration controversy this afternoon. It purports to show that there's consideration afoot for using 100,000 National Guardsmen to round up undocumented immigrants. The administration has denied the report accuracy; Press Secretary Spicer called it 100% false.

Suppose it's true? What'd be wrong with that? Plenty!

For starters, that approach would: 

  • strip children of procedural protections, 
  • disregard the fact that many new arrivals are seeking protection here, and 
  • require DHS officers to detain nearly everyone they apprehend, with very little discretion to release them, even for humanitarian reasons. 

For the first time, people throughout the country – not just those at the border – would be subjected to expedited deportation without going before a judge. 

It also envisions calling up State National Guards to join in these roundup efforts. That has distasteful connotations for those with a knowledge of history (20th Century history!).

These kinds of policies do not accurately reflect American values. So far, the Trump Administration’s policies appear to be CEO-like to me.They are punitive, impractical, and will simply tear apart local communities. Don't exclude the destabilizization the economy. They pander to fear and ignorance and inflame both. 

I volunteer daily in a place that works hard to promote love and care for migrants. They educate about human rights regularly. Let's promote policies that respect the dignity of all individuals. We need to capitalize on the power and innovation that immigration brings to our country--before it's too late.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Anthony Bourdain: "Every restaurant in America would shut down" without immigrants

a day without immigrants
Like to eat out? Thank an immigrant!

Today the nation "celebrated" an informal and impromptu holiday: a “Day without Immigrants.” Immigrants stayed home from work and school, giving the nation a taste of life without them. Restaurants across the nation closed today. We'd been warned by TV's Chef Bourdain.

SiriusXM host Pete Dominick has interviewed celebrity chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain. He has strong opinions on how the restaurant industry in the US would suffer should President Donald Trump deport 11 million immigrants.

“Every restaurant in America would shut down,” Bourdain responded. 

Although people bandy about the complaint that immigrants are "taking our jobs" Bourdain says that's not the case in the restaurant industry. According to Bourdain, part of the problem is that in his 30 years in the restaurant business,

“not once did anyone walk into my restaurant – any American-born kid – walk into my restaurant and say I’d like a job as a night porter or a dishwasher. Even a prep cook – few and far between. Just not willing to start at the bottom like that.”
Bourdain continued to say: 
"I grew up in the restaurant business – thirty years in the restaurant business. I came out of, like a lot of other white kids, I rolled out of a prestigious culinary institute and went to work in real restaurants. I walked into restaurants and always, the person who had been there the longest, who took the time to show me how it was done, was always Mexican or Central American. The backbone of the industry – meaning most of the people in my experience cooking, preparing your food. Twenty of those years in this business I was an employer, I was a manager employer... 

"If Mr. Trump deports 11 million people or whatever he’s talking about right now –

DOMINICK: Would restaurants close?

BOURDAIN: Every restaurant in America would shut down.

Thanks to SiriusXM and SiriusXM’s Pete Dominick for show quotes and permission to reprint. Listen to the entire interview here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Instead of $21.6 B for a border wall, let's do something else...

Wall already exists on Mexico border, cost over $1 M per mile and more. [Nogales, AZ]

Reports give an internal DHS cost estimate of $21.6 billion to construct a 2,000 mile wall on the southern border.

What could we do with that money?

$21.6 billion would be enough money to extend the Pell program year-round, helping career-focused students complete their degrees and get on the job. They'd be enough left over to train 2 million Americans for careers in high skill industries.  

It would be enough for a massive infusion to protect public and private cyber networks from malicious attacks, and help local law enforcement agencies keep communities safe.

Spending this much money on a border wall without exhaustive review and analysis would be a tragic misallocation of resources and a clear example of misplaced priorities.

More people without documents enter the nation legally and then overstay their visa than do those who enter through the southern border. 

So, okay--it's YOUR turn. What would YOU like to see us spend $21.6 Billion on? 

Post your wish list in the comments!

Thanks to Congresswomen Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and Nita Lowey (NY-17) for this financial data.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

DHS Cancels Meeting with House Members--Why?

Thanks to a communique from Washington, Border Explorer has learned the the Department of Homeland Security cancelled a meeting they had scheduled with members of the House of Representatives. House Members requested a meeting with leaders of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Recent events in the nation that involve immigration enforcement prompted the request. It's unknown why DHS backed out of that meeting after agreeing to it.

DHS logo
According to information dispersed by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) as of the time of this post, the meeting is not yet rescheduled. She urges that they address the Representatives' concerns at a meeting "immediately."

According to her statement, she's dismayed at the unexplained cancellation:

“I am extremely disappointed and concerned that DHS canceled today’s scheduled meeting that I and several of my House colleagues requested with ICE leadership. Frankly, ICE’s failure to meet and provide us with important information regarding ICE’s recent wave of arrests raises serious questions about the transparency of the agency’s activities.

“ICE has a responsibility to provide Members with a full and clear accounting of the arrests and to answer questions about specific incidents reported by our constituents. The recent ICE actions have created fear and panic in our communities. Our constituents worry about what these arrests could mean for them, their families, and their friends. It is essential that Members of Congress know the facts about these enforcement activities in order to properly inform our constituents, who deserve truth and transparency from ICE.

Fear and panic pose concerns to national security, in the opinion of Border Explorer. DHS needs to step up to the plate and address Congressional questions.

  • Would you expect DHS to back out of a meeting with Congress? 
  • What accountability should we expect from the agency carrying out raids throughout the nation?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Testimony of a Deported US Marine, Veteran of War

February 11, 2017 was a particularly sad day at the aid center for migrants in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico where I volunteer. Early in the day, a man presented himself declaring himself to be a US Marine war veteran who was deported. He spoke in English, which appeared to be his first or preferred language. But, as most of the migrants there are Spanish speakers, they asked him to repeat his story for them. He complied, but stumbled some and sometimes struggled to find the correct words.

I was horrified at the story, particularly because he was clearly feeling so betrayed and so abandoned and forlorn. 

Later that morning, I had the opportunity to visit with him privately. He told me that he graduated from high school in Colorado, where he lived most of his childhood. Immediately after graduation, he joined the Marines. Later he was shipped off to war.

War was a particularly traumatic experience for him, he told me. In fact, he said that he couldn't allow himself to think about that at the moment because it would induce emotional overload. He already appeared to be struggling, confused and fearful.

Rene doesn't have any family or relatives in Mexico, he told me. He doesn't know the country at all. He misses his family and feels isolated. 

He also told me that his possessions and cellphone were taken from him by immigration authorities--and never returned. "They took anything that could connect me to anyone. I don't have any identification. They took it." Money? "Only fifty cents," he told me.

He feels like a victim of Trump's executive orders on immigration.

Although eager to record his testimony, I didn't want to further traumatize him. Fortunately, the staff had recorded his story in Spanish. My own rough translation follows:

My name is Rene ______. I’m a US Marine, Infantry Division, the 332nd. I was in the Afghanistan and Iraq War. That was a very rough experience for me. I lost many of my brother Marines who died in front of me. Many of them with expressions very grave when they were shattered with bullets.
I myself almost lost my life. I lost feeling in half of my face. My lip was destroyed and reconstructed. I have an injury in my private parts. I served the four years of my contract—my tour of duty—with the United States. I was returned. When I completed my tour of duty, I decided not to continue.
I have three little children—well, [unintelligible]. I’ve lived in the US for 24 years. It’s always seemed like my country. I gave up a lot for them. Nevertheless, the country—the President—made it easy for them to eliminate my documents and deport me. Because he feels like I’m a risk to the country. What I did for them wasn’t enough. Here I am in Mexico--without my family, without my children. I’m all alone, with only the assistance of these church people.
Who knows what the future will be for me?
I haven't verified any of this information. I simply relay what I heard. You can make your own judgement.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A critical, dangerous moment in US-Mexico relations

Just who is the "bad hombre" in this situation?
Journalist Laura Carlsen knows Mexico. When she speaks, I listen with respect. Her press release in the wake of reports of President Trump's recent phone call to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto bears amplification. [I have added the emphasis and take responsibility for it.]

February 1, 2017
Mexico City, Mexico
The Americas Program of the Center for International Policy condemns and deplores the statements of President Donald Trump, reported by both U.S. and Mexican press, that "the United States doesn't need Mexicans or Mexico" and could send its armed forces into Mexico to control "bad hombres".
"In 30 years of tracking the binational relationship I have never witnessed a more critical and dangerous moment. Donald Trump's reckless statement that the US doesn't need its closest neighbor and third-largest trade partner is ludicrous beyond words and has caused a diplomatic crisis. His warning that he would send an invading army over the border is horrifying and places both the U.S. and the Mexican populations in grave danger," said Americas Program director, Laura Carlsen.
"The U.S. and Mexico has $584 billion dollars of cross border trade; U.S. consumers depend on Mexican exports: producers and the service industry employ Mexican labor and the cultural, social and political ties between the two nations run deep. We share a peaceful, prosperous and complexly intertwined border. To jeopardize that relationship for what appears to be a personal vendetta against an entire nation and its people is shockingly irresponsible." 

Friday, January 27, 2017

My kind of Catholic speaks about Trump's immigration executive orders

It's rightly said that "Catholic" means "everyone." This makes it hard to say there's a 'Catholic' stance on anything. Even what the Pope says can be subject to change. The church is large enough to hold lots of dissent. What about US immigration? Is there a "Catholic" approach?

Right now, there are lots of differing opinions. The USCCB--the US org of Catholic Bishops, who represent official leadership--agree that family separation is bad. But, they fall all over the spectrum of the topic of U.S. immigration reform and best how to do it.

Bishops can be a bit too deferential to political power for my personal taste. I look to NETWORK, the Roman Catholic social justice lobby, for guidance on political issues. Fortunately, Sr. Simone Campbell--commonly known as "the nun on the bus" and executive director of the center--issued a statement on January 25, immediately in response to Trump's executive orders:

“Catholic teaching is very clear: we are called to welcome the stranger. We are also called to love our neighbor. President Trump’s actions today are antithetical to our faith.

“When Nuns on the Bus visited the U.S. /Mexico border in 2014, we walked along the wall and listened to the stories of communities that have been torn apart for decades. That is the reality experienced by border communities: the wall is there and it affects the daily life and commerce of the people. Federal appropriations for border security have grown to $3.8 billion in FY2015, from $263 million in FY1990, and fencing exists for hundreds of miles along our southern-border.

Be aware: any fear-mongering done by Trump administration officials is based on ‘alternative facts’ and simply not the reality of our nation.

“President Trump’s attacks on Sanctuary Cities are also falsely motivated by fear: studies have shown that Sanctuary Cities are in fact safer. His executive order, if not found unconstitutional, would dismantle a faith-based tradition that supports the dignity of all people.

“Donald Trump need not be afraid of immigrants, refugees, and children.

“Unafraid, the Catholic Sisters and community of NETWORK Lobby will continue to do all we can to welcome refugees and immigrants in accordance with our core faith belief to welcome the stranger. As we anticipate additional executive actions in the coming days, aimed at Muslims, refugees, and DACA-recipients, Catholics in Congress would do well to remember what Pope Francis said when he addressed Congress, “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners.” We call on Congress to do all they can to protect the vulnerable in our world, which include refugees, immigrants, and children.

“We also acknowledge that many people who will suffer as a result of President Trump’s actions are already our neighbors, positively contributing to our churches and our communities. While we wait for common-sense immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., we urge Congress to pass safeguards like the BRIDGE Act. The BRIDGE Act is just one of many safeguards our community needs in an unstable Donald Trump presidency. We must do all we can to show love to our neighbors.”

Photo: By Bruce C. Cooper (Crop and remove persons in background) (Derivative Original Work by Thomas Altfather Good) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How a Kino Border Initiative Volunteer Feels in Wake of Trump's Executive Orders

Refugee family--nothing to be afraid of here.
I reaffirm my commitment to work toward binational solidarity and humane, just and workable migration policies, especially considering President Trump’s executive actions that instead cause division, dehumanization, and injustice.

I'm deeply concerned about the Trump Administration’s plan to dramatically expand border enforcement, including hiring an additional 5000 agents. Every day I assist Mexican brothers and sisters who are deported to Nogales, Sonora. I see firsthand the suffering caused by dramatic increases in border policing.

One third of people surveyed in the KBI migrant assistance center have received degrading treatment or abuse when detained by US Border Patrol. In the past 14 months Kino filed 45 complaints on behalf of migrants who reported abuse. Dramatically and hastily expanding this agency without adequate training and accountability will just make the situation worse, not promote safety.

It's urgent that the US take responsibility to protect individuals fleeing violence. Every day, men, women and children are forced to leave their homes and arrive at the KBI aid center. For many, their only option to seek safety is to ask for asylum in the United States. The people who request asylum are already being routinely rejected by Customs and Border Protection officials, subject to harsh and unnecessarily prolonged detention, and given little access to due process in pursuing their legal claims. Trump’s executive orders will only make their situation worse. Our moral and religious principles--let alone our international obligations--require us to welcome people seeking protection.

Rather than focusing solely on security, our nation must recommit itself to work with our brothers and sisters in other countries to address the reasons people migrate in the first place. We need to examine the extreme poverty and violence that force people from their home communities.

In his address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis in 2015 invited us “to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.” Working toward peace, justice, and prosperity is a challenging task, but that is our call. Let's abandon approaches that sow division and cause more suffering.

photo credit: KBI; text: taken from KBI press release 1/25/2017