1.31.2006

Tucker Carlson Doesn't Get It

MSNBC's satellite truck was parked outside the church the other day. Inside, Tucker Carlson, complete with bow tie, conducted an inquisition masquerading as an interview. Sample:
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, ‘SITUATION’: Why are you helping people break American law?

REV. ROBIN HOOVER, PRESIDENT, HUMANE BORDERS: That's not what we're doing. We're out here giving real true warnings of what is lying before these folks and trying to counteract the information that the migrants are receiving from the coyotes. We print these warning posters that show them the true distances, as opposed to the coyotes, that tell them that you'll walk a few hours and you're going to be Las Vegas.
Interview transcript and video here.

1.30.2006

False Hope? Who's He Kidding?

According to the AP in the Arizona Republic:
“I’m afraid that maps and water jugs do nothing but give illegal crossers false hope,” Arizona Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a Republican, said in a written statement. “Either we convince potential crossers not to make the journey or, failing that, we stop them from crossing the border.”
False hope? Eleven million people kind of give the opposite impression, don’t you think?
Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe, a Republican, said he supports the maps as a way of saving lives. But the best way of keeping migrants from dying in the desert is by helping Mexico create jobs and reforming U.S. laws to better manage migration, he said.

“It’s hard to disagree with giving information to your citizens to save their lives,” Kolbe said. “Ideally, what I would prefer is that they hand out flyers saying ‘You don’t have to cross the desert because there are jobs in Mexico, and here is some job information.’ But that isn’t going to happen, because there aren’t jobs in Mexico.”
It’s more than just jobs. It’s what happens when people are denied birth control and they start having babies in their early teens. It’s what happens when law enforcement and teacher salaries are so low, there’s no incentive to protect anything or educate anyone.

By the way, check out Arizona Congress Watch. We're adding it to our links section, at right. There are some choice posts about Hayworth.

1.27.2006

Response To Chertoff

Jan. 26, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In response to Secretary Michael Chertoff's statement released Jan. 25, 2006, concerning the distribution of informational maps in Mexico:

The United States has now answered the questions "Who is my neighbor?" and "Am I my brother's keeper?" in a shameful and deadly way. To deny children life-saving information in the perverse name of national security is a sin.

Secretary Chertoff has confirmed once again that the U.S. does not care about its neighbors to the south. National Security has become a form of narcissistic self-love, used to pressure other nations into consistent violations of fundamental human rights.

One of the most basic levels of ethics is informed consent. Any nation that denies children information about their health status, environments, or future is guilty of child abuse.

The maps created by Humane Borders have been already systematically deployed along our border for nearly one year.

If the maps were an invitation to cross the border, why did Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection report that crossings were down in this area in the past year? Could it be that these numbers are political as in years past, or could it be because of our maps? We make no claims on how effective our maps have been or will be, but it is immoral to deny access to the information we provide.

Our collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico should have been applauded. Instead, commission and NGO's on both sides of the border are being bullied.

Now that the U.S. has once again pressured Mexico into another form of submission, Humane Borders will continue to share the life-saving information we have compiled. In fact, what has already been distributed is sufficient for the task.

Through the internet, media outlets and churches in the Western Hemisphere, potential migrants will be informed of the possible dangers of crossing the Arizona border in the simple attempt to save human lives as has been requested by the U.S. Border Patrol on multiple occasions. More than 1000 migrants have died in Arizona in 5 years. Countless have suffered.

This nation cannot into debate about comprehensive immigration reform without considering the human cost and the image of the U.S. in the world. The policies of the U.S. result in hundreds of thousands of people being herded down death trails. Even the architects of the current failed policies say this is wrong.

The Mexico-U.S. migration is the largest in the world. Academics tell U.S. that the U.S. has not reduced on average the number of migrants illegally crossing the border by even one person each year. The result of increased law enforcement is simply that migrants have chosen to cross more deadly areas.

Faith-based support has been received through emergency relief funds from The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the United Methodist Church and multiple Roman Catholic institutions and numerous congregational gifts from all over the U.S. to support this life-saving ministry.

Humane Borders and the many faith communities that support migrant safety and basic human rights understand that Mexico is our neighbor and that we are our brother's keeper. According to Matthew 25, when we have not provided water to our neighbor, we have not provided it to our Lord, Jesus Christ.

1.26.2006

Dobbs, The Border And Faith

Lou Dobbs has used his anchor slot at CNN to campaign for a militarized border for a number of years now. But to give credit where it's due, he's offered the microphone to leaders of different faith traditions in this past week to talk about how and why they have become involved in U.S. immigration policies. In one interview he talks with (transcript) Rev. Bob Edgar, the General Secretary the National Council of Churches. In another (transcript) he interviews Richard Foltin, the legislative director and council for the American Jewish Committee, and Bishop Jaime Soto, board member of The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and an adviser for the U.S. Catholic bishops on Immigration issues. The interviews are late in his show, so they're low on the transcripts -- scroll way down to read.

1.25.2006

Blind

We've been deluged with reaction to the news about our collaboration with Mexico's Human Rights Commission. And no wonder. Stateside, the AP story about the press conference in Mexico city portrayed our work as an effort to help migrants to sneak across the border. Nowhere in the story did the reporter mention the fact that the warning posters show the real walking time through the desert. The whole point of the posters -- to show would-be migrants the reality of the situation rather than the lies whispered in their ears from smugglers -- was passed by.

1.23.2006

Crossing Arizona: Sundance

Joseph Mathews is making waves at this year's Sundance Film Festival with Crossing Arizona. Here's how festival writer Shari Frilot describes it:
Focusing on personal stories of local people on both sides of the border whose lives are directly affected by Washington policies, Mathew follows a dynamic array of individuals: the U.S. Border Patrol, the citizen border-patrol group, Minutemen, Latino activists, and the emigrants themselves. Crossing Arizona is not only essential viewing to understand how a majestic corner of the country has transformed into a political hotbed and deadly immigration flashpoint; it also creates an opportunity to contemplate and question larger issues about the American society in which we live.
According to a post by film producer Dan DeVivo, Chris Simcox of the MinuteMan Project, Ray Ybarra of the ACLU, and Mike Wilson of The Tohono Odham Nation were on hand for the premiere. Afterwards, Devivo writes, "The Q&A afterwards focused soley on the issues. And it was great to have three characters from the film there to shape the debate. Some Minute Men even showed up and we made sure they were able to get tickets to see the film. After the screening, one of them wrote me: "It is, in fact, an utter disappointment that any honorable U.S. citizen would make such a film." The official film site is here. MSNBC talks about the festival's various documentaries here. There's an independent review at Cinematical:
In Crossing Arizona, director Joseph Mathew looks at illegal immigration to America from Mexico by looking at the people and politics of one region, and the end result is a documentary that casts more light than heat on both sides of the issue, even if you can't help but wish the film had actually come up to a slightly more invigorating boil.

1.22.2006

Not Aiding And Abetting

From Mexico City (see below), Robin writes:

Various news entities frequently ask the question, "What do you say to those who say you are simply aiding and abetting criminal behavior?"

We're tired of this question, and it hurts us. Therefore, when this question is asked in interviews in the future, we will ask a few questions in return: Who specifically has made that charge? On what basis? Do they have evidence? Facts? Are you aware that your question implies we knowingly break the law? If that's what you believe, can you please be so kind as to show us evidence?

The questioner would be well advised to remember that the United States judicial system is not based on guilt by inference. Absent specific charges by specific person(s), the question merely spreads inuendo. Printing or broadcasting such accusations may be intentionally defanatory and thus slanderous or libelous.

Beyond that, and even to the degree to which we accept that the question is legitimate hypothetical inquiry, if we really were aiding and abetting criminal behavior, the following things would also be true.

First, the United States Border Patrol agents who frequently ask us for water would have to quit using our water stations for fear of being invtestigated by the Office of Inspector General for using illicit water.

Second, the United States would have to revoke permits negotiated by the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior, signed by the Solicitor of the United States which explicitly authorize the operation of Humane Borders water stations on federal properties.

Third, anyone bringing a specific charge would have to find an applicable jurisdiction and set about trying to reverse the requirements made by federal property managers exercising administrative discretion to require Humane Borders, Inc. to conduct a public education programs in Spanish, in Mexico, notifying migrants of our water station locations.

Finally, any prospective prosecutor would have to be reminded by the prospective jurisdiction and authority that what Humane Borders, Inc. is doing is protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

1.20.2006

New Maps, Warning Posters

To accompany the news release below, we've published the new migrant death and water station maps, along with the latest version of the warning posters, on the site. Click here to see them. Note: Some of the files are very, very large and will take a few minutes to download.

1.19.2006

Cooperation Agreement

(Note: A copy of this press release is also available at the Humane Borders Web site.)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Humane Borders, Inc. and Mexico's National Commission for Human Rights announce a joint migrant safety education project. A press conference hosted by a delegation of 21 Humane Borders volunteers will be held in Mexico City January 24 at 10a.m. The media are invited to Hotel Maria Cristina, Rio Lerma 31, Col. Cuauhtemoc. The hotel is just three blocks east of the US Embassy on Paseo de la Reforma.

Using Global Information System technology, Humane Borders produces accurate migrant death maps and migrant warning posters in an attempt to educate migrants as to the specific dangers of crossing the border in the desert. However, it has been difficult to systematically distribute these maps in critical areas in the interior of Mexico. Mexico's human rights commission (CNDH) has agreed to both print and widely distribute these maps into sending communities in as effort to alter the annual migration patterns and migrant decision-making.

The most basic level of ethics is informed consent. By equipping migrants with real information: where migrants die, where roads are, where water stations are and are not, distances to cities and towns, which months are the deadliest, the hope is that migrants will choose not to come in the deadliest months and to take safer routes if they choose to cross the desert anyway. This approach to migrant education is believed to be better than scaring migrants with Public Service Announcements or simply wishing the migrants well on their journey. Specific information will equip migrants to make better decisions.

The need for dependable information is urgent. On January 11, more than 1,800 migrants passed through the El Tortugo checkpoint, approximately 21 miles south of Sasabe, Arizona. This is alarming because it is both early in the annual migration and the numbers are higher than in any previous year. The percentage of migrants who are women and children is also increasing.

Humane Borders will release details of its research concerning cell phone towers and migrant self-reported rescues. Positions will be taken on state and national legislative proposals and propose alternatives to the international communities concerned with migration.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

HUMANE BORDERS, INC.
Office: 520-628-7753

Rev. Robin Hoover, Ph.D., president: 520-360-7818 or 520-247-9068

To Mexico City

A Humane Borders delegation will meet with Mexico's human rights commission Jan. 19-25 in Mexico City to present the warning posters/maps, meet with high level Mexican officials, perhaps make a presentation at the university, and hold a press conference to spread the word and warnings.

Six Day Walk

Robert Flynn, a Texas writer, penned a wide-ranging border piece for the op-ed section of the San Antonio Express-News.

1.13.2006

Hoover On Velasco: Ya Basta!

Yesterday's Tucson Citizen reports:
A federal magistrate has declined to dismiss human-smuggling charges against two volunteers of a humanitarian group.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo P. Velasco yesterday denied the request for dismissal by attorneys for Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss."

Defense attorneys and prosecutors have 10 days to submit written objections or recommendations. Those remarks will be forwarded to U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins, who will decide whether the volunteers with the group No More Deaths should be tried.

Defense attorneys argued that Sellz and Strauss were rendering medical aid and were not in violation of a law that forbids helping "in furtherance" of an illegal presence in the country.

Sellz and Strauss were driving three illegal immigrants last summer from the desert near Arivaca to Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson when they were arrested.

Velasco said rendering aid in the desert with few resources is different than transporting illegal immigrants to a metropolitan area and releasing them.

"The issue, therefore, is whether the illegal aliens treated at Southside Presbyterian Church and thereafter allowed to melt into Tucson, Arizona, have been assisted 'in furtherance' of their illegal entry," Velasco wrote. "The answer is yes."


Robin's not happy, especially because Velasco took at shot at Humane Borders from the bench, saying we construct "smuggling corridors."

"Judge Velasco needs to be reminded that everyday -- and some days, many times a day -- agents of the United States Border Patrol take migrants to the hospital and dump them out at the door. The bills for the care are not paid, and the migrants are allowed to "melt into Tucson." At least the NMD volunteers were not transferring costs to the rest of us. It seems like I remember that all authority for government rises from the authority that is inherent in the people. It certainly looks like the Border Patrol emulates the public on this one. And would this have happened like this in St. Louis? Where does the border begin and end? If the key phrase is "in furtherance", does that mean that the penalties get worse the closer you get to the geographical center of the US? Where is that? Ya Basta!"

1.10.2006

Never Peaceful

Writing in Tucson Weekly, Tim Vanderpool has an excellent piece on the escalating violence on the line.
No one has ever mistaken the U.S.-Mexico border for a particularly peaceful place. From Indian wars and cutthroat bandits to 19th-century Americans lusting for fiefdoms in Sonora, this line has always perpetrated mischief. But the broad ferocity of today's borderline seems unique.

In part, it can be blamed on a shifting drug trade, increasingly ruthless coyotes and internecine battles for smuggling corridors among various criminal cartels.

But evolving U.S. security strategies, begun in the 1990s, also play a role. They bear brawny names, from El Paso's Operation Hold the Line and San Diego's Operation Gatekeeper to Arizona's Operation Safeguard. And these variously labeled Border Patrol operations share one key element: spinning a thick enforcement web around towns like Nogales and Douglas, thereby forcing crossers out into the desert, where they're more easily nabbed.

Not surprisingly, these tactics are also highly controversial for driving migration routes deep in the backcountry, where illegal aliens are more likely to die. In the last fiscal year alone, a record 279 known immigrants died along the Arizona-Mexico border.

BORSTAR Exports

According to KVOA: "There is a multi-government effort to save lives on the border. For the first time, Border Patrol agents, trained in search and rescue, are taking their skills across the border into Mexico."

Yes. They value working with, rather than against, the Mexican government. So do we. That's why we have a delegation heading south Jan. 19.

More And More Women

The New York Times (reg. req.) uses the story of Normaeli Gallardo, a single mother from Acapulco, to explain why more and more women risk their lives to cross.

And finally, Ms. Gallardo, 38, who earned $50 a week at an Acapulco hotel, had to contemplate life without her two vivacious daughters, Isabel, 7, and Fernanda, 5. That once unimaginable trade-off - leaving her children behind so they could one day leave poverty behind - had suddenly become her only option.
Kat Rodriguez is quoted:
But to most of the women who cross the border, the debate over illegal immigration and the ire of taxpayers has little bearing, if any, on the difficult decision they make to undertake the journey. " 'Vale la pena,' " said Kat Rodriguez, an organizer for the Human Rights Coalition in Tucson, echoing a refrain among the women. " 'It's worth it.'"
Update: Here's the same story, accessible without registration, at the International Herald Tribune.

1.07.2006

Ufford-Chase In D.C.

Southside Presbyterian's very own Rick Ufford-Chase, now Moderator, 216th General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA), has his own blog. (He's had it for a while, but it's new to us. Thanks for the heads up, Kiva.) We've added a permanent link to it , and used it to find the text of his Dec. 11 sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on border justice.

1.04.2006

Kolbe Blisters Bill

"Unfortunately, the bill before us today does nothing to solve the real problems of immigration. In fact, it's worse than nothing. It's worse than nothing because it tries to fool the public. It pulls the wool over their eyes. It pretends we are doing something to secure our border when in fact we are doing nothing except throw words and money at the problem. Anyone who really cares about a solution to our immigration woes knows that border enforcement is one prong of a three-part solution. The first is enforcement - border enforcement and employer enforcement. Second, you also must have some means of allowing those who want to work, and are willing to work, (to) come legally into the United States to work on a temporary basis. And thirdly, you have to deal with the 10-11-12-million people who are already in this country illegally. Now that's the reality." From a speech by Rep. Jim Kolbe, as recounted in the Arizona Republic.

Kolbe's speech reinforces the thesis of Peter Andreas in Border Games: Policing The U.S.-Mexico Divide, that these high-profile displays of force are less about deterring illegal crossings and more about re-crafting the image of the border and symbolically reaffirming the state's territorial authority -- without actually accomplishing anything in the long haul.

The feds most recently proved this point with a 2001 GAO report about the effects of the last big show of force, Operation Gatekeeper and its offspring: "The primary discernable effect of the strategy, based on INS' apprehension statistics, appears to be a shifting of the illegal alien traffic. Between 1998 and 2000, apprehensions declined in three Border Patrol sectors, San Diego, CA, and El Paso and McAllen TX, but increased in five of the other six Southwest border sectors," the report states, and later adds that, "A study of migrant deaths along the Southwest border concluded that while migrants have always faced danger crossing the border and many died before INS began its strategy, the strategy has resulted in an increase in deaths from exposure to either heat or cold."

Check our bibliography for more background.

Reason To Be Wary, Part 4

"The bill -- endorsed by the Bush administration though it would have preferred a more comprehensive bill with a guest-worker program -- would make it a crime to assist undocumented immigrants who enter or attempt to enter the United States illegally. It has sent a chill through church organizations that help migrants in the belief that they are carrying out the will of God." From a report in the Washington Post.

Little Regard For Human Life

"As long as extreme poverty and oppression continue to exist in Latin America, people from those nations will set out for el norte. We denounce the grim deaths on the border and condemn the proposal for a punitive U.S. policy that shows little regard for human life." From an editorial in El Diario, New York City.

Reason To Be Wary, Part 3

"Sensenbrenner's bill extends its punitive reach to those who, with good intentions, assist illegal immigrants even in humanitarian ways. Members of organizations that teach English to immigrants or provide social services might be subject to jail terms, according to Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. Under some circumstances, lawyers who counsel immigrants could be ensnared as well, worries C. Duran Dodson, an immigration attorney in Decatur." From an editorial in the Atlanta Constitution.

Reason To Be Wary, Part 2

As we've said before, "The House bill, expected to go before the Senate in February, would make it a felony to render assistance to any illegal immigrant. Depending on how "assistance" is defined, the bill could make the action of hundreds of church groups, service centers and immigration advocacy organizations subject to prosecution." More in the Denver Post.

No Turning Back

Many of us have met Enrique, and others like him. He gets top billing here: "For the past eleven years, Enrique Enriquez Palafox has worked on the Mexican border, rescuing migrants in need of food and water. As an employee with Grupo Beta, a Mexican government-sponsored agency whose mission, "Protección a Migrantes," is stamped across the back of his jacket, Palafox is accustomed to the constant search for men, women and children lost in the 23 mile-long stretch of desert between the Mexican border towns of Agua Prieta and Naco."