Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Worst Fears Confirmed

by John Carlos Frey

On Dec. 27, 2009 Brady McCombs of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson published a sobering article about migrant death in the Sonoran desert. He concluded that, "illegal border crossers face a deadlier trek than ever." The reason migrants are more likely to die than in years past, according to McCombs is, "increased risk of death coincides with the unprecedented buildup of agents, fences, roads and technology along the U.S.-Mexico border, casting doubt on a mantra often used by the Border Patrol that a "secure border is a safe border." I didn't want this to be the case. "The 800 Mile Wall" is based on this very premise that increased border security increases the likelihood of migrant death. I wanted to be proved wrong.

The U.S. Border Patrol continues to assert that their increased presence along the border actually saves lives. They claim more agents are able to respond to more calls of distress. What they will not admit is that increased border security is driving people into more treacherous terrain. If less people are crossing because of the U.S. economic down turn, yet proportionately more people are dying, how can you assert you are saving more lives? One cannot say increased border security is humane or helpful or prevents migrant death if the death toll continues to escalate. It is a false assumption. It is an impossible conclusion. It is a lie.

U.S. border policy has set a house on fire and is claiming to rescue people from the burning building and denying more and more people are succumbing to the flames. They are claiming victory for the few lives they have rescued even though they started the fire. Those that believe tightened border security saves lives do not believe in fact. Those that believe we still need even more fencing and increased technology are advocating for more organized crime at the border, more women being assaulted, more children separated from their families, more brutality, more smuggling and more death. The FACT is more "border security" has not worked and more of the same will continue to not work. There is no military solution.

Our current border policy may not be well understood by many, especially the lazy press that only wants immediate gratification for it's readers and viewers. We have been sold the rhetoric that if one fence is good maybe two would be better or 700 more miles. If 8,000 border agents are a good idea let's have 16,000 or maybe 20,000 like we have today. Let's throw billions of dollars at the problem and that will work. Our current philosophy at the border is, the more - the better. The only problem with this kind of thinking is, IT DOES NOT WORK. We have never had as much infrastructure, fencing, technology and have never had as many border guards as we have today yet people are still coming by the hundreds of thousands and organized crime has skyrocketed.

As a result of this failed policy more people are dying and the likelihood of death is growing exponentially. Why isn't that the headline? Shouldn't that be the only concern? If U.S. border policy is ineffective and more people are dying and more people are likely to die, shouldn't the policy be scrapped? Based on humanitarian concerns alone shouldn't the policy be dropped immediately and reassessed?

U.S./Mexico border policy is one of deterrence. It was never meant to keep people from entering the U.S. but deter them, make it hard, make it dangerous so people would think twice about the attempt and choose not to come. The fences were never designed to keep people out of the U.S. but funnel them towards areas that would be considered too risky for crossing. The policy suggests that if hopeful migrants were given the option to stay home or cross a 120 degree desert they would not make the attempt. That is the current policy. It has resulted in the death of thousands of men, women and children. It doesn't matter what the racists, minutemen, border wall proponents, media, politicians and uniformed citizens say, the fact is thousands of people have died and many more will be sent to an early grave because of a failed border policy that protects no one and continues to kill thousands.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Canal buoy stringers avoid charges

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 12:36 AM PST

John Carlos Frey and John Hunter, the two men who illegally entered the All-American Canal to install a buoy line, will not face charges for their actions.

On Nov. 17, the men strung a buoy line across the All-American Canal to raise awareness about drowning deaths in the canal, particularly those of illegal immigrants.

“I think that there is a lack of awareness within the community at large in the Imperial Valley and San Diego County about the fact the canal continues to drown people on a regular basis,” Frey said.

An Imperial County sheriff’s deputy issued the men citations at the canal for breaking a county ordinance.

Frey said the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office rejected their cases based on a “matter of justice.”

“The unlawful entry into the canal did not warrant a criminal charge based on why we entered the canal,” Frey said.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to comment but did confirm that it had dropped the charges because there were more severe charges to handle.

Frey, of Los Angeles, directed and produced “The 800 Mile Wall.” The film focuses on illegal immigrant deaths in the desert and the All-American Canal.

2009: Deadliest Year for Arizona/Mexico Border

Sonoran Desert, photo by Marlene H. Phillips

For the border state of Arizona, the year 2009 will be remembered for a marked decline in Mexican immigration to the United States, a trend many economists attribute to the loss of jobs in the still-struggling American economy. But here in the Sonoran Desert, 2009 will also be remembered as being possibly the most lethal year for the Arizona/Mexican border.

According to a report in Tucson's Arizona Daily Star, the number of bodies recovered in the Tucson sector of the Mexican border in fiscal year 2009 (October 1, 2008 - September 30, 2009) was 206, the third highest ever recorded. But the article also shows that when comparing known deaths to apprehensions of migrants, 2009 was the most lethal year in history: the ratio for 2009 was 88 deaths to every 100,000 migrants apprehended, far higher than any other year. In comparison,the ratio in 1988 was 3 deaths for 100,000 apprehensions.

Underlying these statistics is the ongoing effort to beef up border security. The Obama administration, like the administrations preceding it, has taken a strong stand on cracking down on migrants crossing the Mexican border, adding a virtual fence of steel towers with infrared sensors, remote controlled cameras, radar, lighting and communications devices to the physical fences already in place. But the fact that deaths continue to rise against this backdrop of increased surveillance comes as no surprise to groups that moniter border fatalities. Isabel Garcia, head of the Tucson-based human rights organization Coalicion de Derechos Humano (The Human Rights Coalition), told the Nogales International Bulletin: "An increase of military and police-natured responses lead to more deaths. Even though less people are crossing, more people are dying.” The non profit organization No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, also based in Tucson, has long believed that an increase in surveillance drives desperate people deeper and deeper into the desert, making survival more difficult; they reiterated that belief in their December 2009 newsletter: "The border blockade strategy has militarized the U.S./Mexico border, which drives migrants into remote desert regions." The group, bearing the motto 'Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime,' recruits volunteers to illegally deposit water, food and blankets to help migrants survive the harsh Sonoran Desert, working with other border groups toward their goal "to end this needless death and suffering in the desert by providing humanitarian aid while advocating for a more humane and just reform of current immigration policies." When reporting on the number of deaths in the desert for 2009, the group made no effort to disguise their disgust with current immigration policies; their online article was titled: "A Border Success Story."

For most of the nation the U.S. Mexican border story is one of economics. For those of us who live in Tucson, Arizona the story goes beyond economics and becomes one of survival, as desperate men, women and children die in the desert we call home. Garcia feels "we have not seen the worst of it yet," leading me to wonder how high the toll must be before the rest of the nation takes notice.

read entire article

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The 800 Mile Wall: A Matter of Human Rights

Written by Brian Erickson
Friday, 18 December 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sought to assure us all that human rights are a priority for the administration. Unfortunately, the policies in place to secure the U.S.-Mexico border have hardly been humane. That’s why Thursday, December 10th, Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) sponsored a showing of The 800 Mile Wall in honor of the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In his remarks after the film, Rep. Grijalva stressed that we have dehumanized the way we handle immigration at the border. The United States has turned to militarization, relied on enforcement, and chosen to build walls. The combination of these strategies has been lethal.

By telling the stories of the many men, women, and children who have lost their lives just for seeking jobs to feed their families, Director John Carlos Frey’s film
The 800 Mile Wall challenges viewers to remember our common humanity. As emphasized by Rep. Grijalva, the immigration debate should not be about us versus them. It’s about recognizing our shared humanity and returning to the fundamental values of this nation.

One of those fundamental values must be the recognition of human rights. With around 5,600 migrant deaths, most caused by dehydration and over-exposure due to a lack of access to water and shelter, two basic needs, immigration reform should be prioritized by the current administration this upcoming year to address this humanitarian crisis.

With that in mind,
LAWG thanks Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) for getting the ball rolling on immigration reform. For those who are unfamiliar with the border, The 800 Mile Wall is an invaluable tool to illustrate how important immigration reform is to resolve the migrant deaths crisis.

Please take a moment to visit
The 800 Mile Wall website where you can view a trailer, buy a copy of the film, access resources to help you learn more about the migrant deaths crisis, and find ways to get involved by emailing your representatives or sponsoring a home screening of the film. Click here to visit the site.

To read Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s remarks about releasing his Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) bill,
click here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Billions for a US-Mexico border fence, but is it doing any good?

The cost for adding 600 miles of new barriers is $2.4 billion so far. The new fencing has been breached more than 3,000 times, a government report finds.

By Daniel B. Wood Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 19, 2009

Los Angeles

Some $2.4 billion has been spent since 2005 on a still-unfinished project to erect more than 600 miles of new fence along the US-Mexico border – a finding that is being met with surprise, anger, and consternation by immigrant groups and at least some border residents.

A report, released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), also says $6.5 billion will be needed to maintain the new fencing over the next 20 years. So far, it has been breached 3,363 times, requiring $1,300 for the average repair.

The US Border Patrol, for its part, agrees with some findings but says several conclusions are unknowable because building the wall has no precedent. And the agency defends the new fencing as effective at deterring illegal immigration.

The report has stirred a range of reactions.

"When our nation is in the midst of an economic crisis, we wonder how many teacher salaries, police officers, miles of road, or school books could be financed instead of throwing large amounts of money for bricks to fix a problem that requires serious, long-term solutions," says Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, in a statement.

Dawn Garner, who lives on a ranch on the US-Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., says spending is so high because workers who are building the fence use local hotels for accommodations and food.

"They should live in tents near the wall and cook their own food, and that would save incredible amounts of money," says Ms. Garner, who reports that 40 illegal immigrants a day cross her small ranch. Money could be saved if the National Guard built the fence and if the Border Patrol itself maintained it, she suggests in a phone interview.

Despite the price tag of maintaining the border fence, authorities have not found a way to determine whether it is helping to halt illegal immigration, the GAO report says.

"While they [the GAO findings] have highlighted some risks and their factual statements are correct, we are not as pessimistic as they are," says Mark Borkowski, executive director of the Secure Border Initiative, part of US Customs and Border Protection. Trying to analyze a new endeavor like this fence is like trying to calculate the costs and benefits of planes in combat while they're still on the drawing board, he says.

read entire article

Monday, December 14, 2009

La Posada at border fence

Hike shines a light on immigrants’ plight

MONDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2009 AT 12:35 A.M.

Participants in La Posada Sin Fronteras yesterday walked along the beach from the gates at Border Field State Park to reach the fence. The event brings participants face to face at Friendship Park along the U.S.-Mexico border. Fencing kept people far apart, except for groups of 25 allowed into a special area for a short period.


Participants in La Posada Sin Fronteras yesterday walked along the beach from the gates at Border Field State Park to reach the fence. The event brings participants face to face at Friendship Park along the U.S.-Mexico border. Fencing kept people far apart, except for groups of 25 allowed into a special area for a short period.

Participants in La Posada Sin Fronteras yesterday walked along the beach from the gates at Border Field State Park to reach the fence. The event brings participants face to face at Friendship Park along the U.S.-Mexico border. Fencing kept people far apart, except for groups of 25 allowed into a special area for a short period.


Enrique Morones (from left), Christian Ramirez and Jill Holslin led the group in song at the border. Luminarias represent-ing migrants who’ve died crossing the border were placed along the outside of the fence.

Participants in La Posada Sin Fronteras yesterday walked along the beach from the gates at Border Field State Park to reach the fence. The event brings participants face to face at Friendship Park along the U.S.-Mexico border. Fencing kept people far apart, except for groups of 25 allowed into a special area for a short period.


After meeting with people for 30 minutes on the Mexico side of the fence, participants in the Posada from the U.S. side were moved out of the area. The celebrants sang traditional Christmas songs in English and Spanish.

U-T Multimedia: For a slide show of La Posada at the border, go to

— Faith groups from the United States and Mexico gathered yesterday afternoon at Border Field State Park in what was both a religious celebration and a political statement.

The 16th annual La Posada Sin Fronteras was a re-enactment of the biblical story of Mary and Joseph, who were forced to seek shelter after the birth of Christ and were eventually welcomed into a stranger’s home. Participants from both countries compared the biblical tale to the struggle migrants face trying to enter the United States.

One of the messages of the story, the idea of welcoming strangers — and immigrants — is under attack in our times, making the binational celebration even more significant, organizers said. Today, families on both sides of the border are separated by immigration policy and can no longer meet, even at the border fence, organizers said.

This was the first time the celebration was held since a second border fence was constructed earlier this year. The participants were not allowed to touch or exchange gifts with those who had gathered in Mexico for the celebration.

About 150 people, including many members of the media, gathered on the Mexico side of the fence, while on the U.S. side about half that number were present.

U.S. Border Patrol agents allowed 25 people at a time to go through the first fence to the Friendship Monument, which is situated to the north of the Tijuana bullfighting ring and a lighthouse. The remainder were forced to stay back behind the second fence, roughly 100 feet away.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill to Be Introduced Dec. 15

By DAPHNE EVIATAR 12/11/09 11:49 AM

Though there’s been lots of talk so far about comprehensive immigration reform from advocates, a handful of lawmakers, and even President Obama when he addresses Latino groups, no one has yet introduced a bill in Congress.

That’s expected to change on Tuesday, Dec. 15, when Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is expected to introduce the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR ASAP), along with members of the Congressional Hispanic, Black, Asian Pacific American, and Progressive Caucuses.

“We have waited patiently for a workable solution to our immigration crisis to be taken up by this Congress and our President,” Gutierrez said in a statement released today. The bill “is the product of months of collaboration with civil rights advocates, labor organizations, and members of Congress. It is an answer to too many years of pain —mothers separated from their children, workers exploited and undermined security at the border— all caused at the hands of a broken immigration system. This bill says ‘enough,’ and presents a solution to our broken system that we as a nation of immigrants can be proud of.”

If yesterday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing is any guide, expect a protracted debate over every provision.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Are U.S. Immigration Policies Contributing To Border Crosser Deaths?

Maureen Cavanaugh: The debate over the deaths of illegal border crossers landed on the doorstep of the San Diego County Water Authority offices yesterday. A band of protesters displayed 17 body bags, representing the 17 people who have drowned in recent months trying to cross the All-American Canal.

The issue of providing more safety to people using the canal as illegal access into the US, is part of a larger debate about U.S. immigration policy.

This morning we'll talk about how U.S. immigration policies are adding to the risks illegal border crossers face, and some of the proposed solutions.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Man sentenced after leaving water bottles for immigrants

By Taylor Gandossy
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(CNN) -- An Arizona man caught leaving water bottles in the desert for illegal immigrants has been sentenced to 300 hours of community service and a year of probation, an aid group said.

Walt Staton was convicted in June of littering by leaving jugs of water in a wildlife refuge.

Walt Staton was convicted in June of littering by leaving jugs of water in a wildlife refuge.

Walt Staton, a member of the group No More Deaths, left full water bottles in December in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for the illegal immigrants who routinely pass through the 18,000-acre refuge, according to court documents.

A judge sentenced him Tuesday to 300 hours of picking up trash on public property and a year of probation, No More Deaths said in a written statement. He is also banned from the refuge during that time, the group said.

Although the case involved only a misdemeanor charge, both sides used the divisive issue of illegal immigration in their arguments; Staton's lawyer argued that Staton's actions were humanitarian, but the government said otherwise.

In a sentencing memo, the federal prosecutors wrote that Staton's "actions are not about humanitarian efforts, but about protesting the immigration policies of the United States, and aiding those that enter illegally into the United States."

Noting the phrase scrawled on many of the plastic water jugs -- "buena suerte," or "good luck" in Spanish -- the prosecutors said, "The obvious conclusion is that the defendant and No More Deaths wish to aid illegal aliens in their entry attempt."

They also said, as did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that leaving the full plastic jugs on the refuge is detrimental to the health of the animals that live there.

Citing a biologist, the prosecutors said that animals could eat the plastic and that others could get feet or antlers caught on the bottles.

Prosecutors had requested a $5,000 fine, along with five years of probation, according to court documents.

Staton, who No More Deaths says is to begin seminary school at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California, had initially refused to pay a $175 fine for littering, said Staton's lawyer, Bill Walker.

After his refusal, the government enhanced the charges against him, arguing that he "knowingly littered," said Walker, who is also a member of No More Deaths.

The charge can carry a $100,000 fine and a year in jail, Walker said. Charges against three other people who were cited with Staton in December were dropped, he said.

A jury convicted Staton in June of littering. Walker said he is appealing.

"We think that Walt did nothing wrong," he said. "We do not think that this conviction will be upheld on appeal."

He described Staton as "the kind of guy you'd want to have as your next door neighbor."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona declined comment.

read entire article

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Activists string buoys in All-American Canal

Director John Carlos Frey and activist John Hunter plunged into the All-American Canal to string safety buoys in an act of civil disobedience on Tuesday, Nov. 17 2009

Activists string buoys in All-American Canal in act of civil disobedience


Wednesday, November 18, 2009 12:25 AM PST

Director John Carlos Frey and activist John Hunter plunged into the All-American Canal to string safety buoys in an act of civil disobedience on Tuesday.

“We feel we have to take matters into our own hands,” said Frey, whose film “The 800 Mile Wall” premiered yesterday.

He and Hunter, of Citizens for All-American Canal Safety, strung the buoys after speaking at the Imperial Irrigation District board meeting.

Wearing wet suits and swimming fins, the two men swam across the canal to connect a buoy line, worth about $2,000.

“It’s really amazing how fast that can be done,” said Hunter’s wife, Laura. “It took no more than 10 minutes to go across the canal.”

A convoy drove out to the canal at Drop 3, about 28 miles east of Calexico. Immigration activist Maria Jimenez, the Hunters, Frey and a “CBS News-60 Minutes” production team were some of those in attendance.

Frey asked members of the group to call the Sheriff’s Office and Border Patrol. He hoped to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

Two IID trucks drove past without stopping, and a Border Patrol officer asked what the pair was doing.

Friday, November 13, 2009


ACLU, Human Rights Group Petition Commission to Act to End Deadly Policies

November 12, 2009

SAN DIEGO – U.S., Mexican and international officials must recognize the deaths of migrants occurring during unauthorized crossings of the U.S.-Mexican border as an international humanitarian crisis and should address the ongoing violations of the right to life and identify protective measures, according to a letter sent to a commission of the Organization of American States (OAS) by the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial and Mexico's National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH).

The letter calls on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to request the permission of the U.S. and Mexican governments to make an onsite visit to the region, conduct an investigation on the crisis, issue a report for the General Assembly of the OAS, and identify measures that both countries should adopt to bring them in compliance with their international human rights obligations.

The ACLU and CNDH documented the humanitarian crisis in a 76-page white paper, Humanitarian Crisis: Migrant Deaths at the U.S.-Mexico Border, which they presented to the Commission as documentation for their requests. The release of the report marked the 15th anniversary of the border enforcement policy, Operation Gatekeeper, which concentrated border agents and added walls and fencing along populated areas, intentionally forcing migrants to hostile environments and natural barriers that increase the incidence of injury and death. Since the program’s inception, an average of at least one migrant a day has died.

“More than 5,000 people have died crossing our border, and an estimated seven to eleven percent of them are children,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “Equally alarming are the hundreds of family members who are left in inconsolable limbo, never knowing the fate of their loved one.” The issue of state obligations to families of the deceased has not been raised in the context of migrant deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Family members are confronted with complex and often contradictory bureaucratic mazes to located relatives who they believe have gone missing or died while attempting to cross the border. There is currently no centralized database for locating a relative, no uniform standards for identifying remains, and one-quarter of those who perish while crossing are never identified, leaving their families in permanent anguish.

Ten years ago, the San Diego ACLU submitted a petition to the Commission (Victor Nicolas Sanchez et al.) alleging that U.S. border enforcement-deterrence strategies violated the right to life under Article 1 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. While the petition was ultimately dismissed on procedural grounds, the Commission expressed concerns and agreed to monitor the situation.

“Since the Commission consented to monitor the border situation, we respectfully ask that they now act on their concerns,” said Jose Luis Soberanes, president of Mexico’s National Commission of Human Rights. “When they initially expressed unease, only 300 migrants had died. Today, nearly twenty times that number have died—many of their deaths directly attributable to U.S. border enforcement policies.”

Both the United States and Mexico are bound by the American Declaration. The failure of the governments of both countries to adopt domestic policies or laws or negotiate bilateral agreements to deal with the crisis highlights their abandonment of their obligations under international law to respect and ensure the rights of migrant populations.

In the face of continuing human rights violations, the ACLU and the CNDH urge the Commission to:
• Request the permission of the U.S. and Mexican governments to make an onsite visit to the region
• Conduct an investigation
• Issue a report on the crisis for the General Assembly of the Organization of American States that addresses the ongoing violations of the right to life and the right of families to identify, recover, and bury their deceased family members in a dignified manner
• Identify protective and preventive measures that the United States and Mexico should adopt to bring their actions in line with applicable human rights obligations

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, headquartered in Washington D.C., is an autonomous arm of the OAS, and is one of two bodies created for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Americas. (The other is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, located in San Jose, Costa Rica.) It’s seven elected members act independently, without representing any particular country.

For more information and to download a copy of the report, click here for San Diego ACLU (English) and here for la Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (Espanol).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The 800 Mile Wall Trailer

5,000 Crosses Placed on U.S. Border Fence by Defenders of Mexican Emigrants

TIJUANA, Mexico – Defenders of emigrant rights placed more than 5,000 white crosses on the fence dividing Mexico and the United States at the border city of Tijuana, to denounce the deaths caused by Operation Guardian.

The coordinator of the Migrant Defense Coalition, Esmeralda Siu, said that the act seeks to highlight the fatal consequences of the so-called Operation Guardian, established almost a decade ago by the U.S. government on the Mexican border.

The activist said that the total number of crosses is equal to the number of emigrants who have died in this period along the country’s northern border.

For his part, the coordinator of the Casa YMCA serving emigrant minors, Uriel Gonzalez, regretted the increasing number of deaths in recent years of people trying to get into the United States as a result of strong security measures that force them to traverse entry areas where they are at greater risk.

read entire article

Total of Recovered Remains on the Arizona-Sonora Border Reaches 206 despite continued claims of Border Enforcement Success

Contact: Kat Rodriguez: 520.770.1373
Arizona- The final number of bodies recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2008 and ended September 30, 2009 is 206, reports Coalición de Derechos Humanos. The data, which are compiled from medical examiner reports from Pima, Yuma, and Cochise counties, are an attempt to give a more accurate reflection of the human cost of failed U.S. border and immigration policies. The final count includes 141 males, 33 females, 5 minors, and approximately 99, or 48% of unknown identity. Countries represented in the final count include México, Guatemala, and Ecuador.

year total graphic

This figure is higher than last year's total of 183 remains recovered, but the true total number of deaths on the border is impossible to calculate, particularly as the number of remains recovered in neighboring states is not available.

"In looking at the data from this year, an alarming piece that jumps out immediately is the staggering increase in the number of remains of unknown gender. Two years ago, that number was 5, then 19 last year, and this year we are at 31, an incredible 15% of the total recovered." says Kat Rodriguez, Coordinator of Coalición de Derechos Humanos.

Unknown gender indicates that not enough of the remains were recovered to determine gender, and without DNA, it is impossible to know even this basic information about the individual, making identification and return to their families even more difficult. The dramatic increase in these unknown gender cases are a troubling indicator or what might be to come, as people are pushed out into more and more isolated areas, making rescue and detection less likely, and the likelihood of death more certain.

There is information to suggest that the migration flow patterns are shifting due to the Funnel Effect, which has been documented by the Binational Migration Institute*. The high number of skeletal remains recovered this year, 36 (17.5% of total) support this likely shift in migration flow, and it is possible that the long periods of time before being recovered indicates that people are crossing in more isolated and desolate areas, with less chance of rescue or discovery. It is unknown how many remains are currently near the border but have not yet been discovered, and it is possible that some of these remains will never be recovered.

"Every year we total up the human cost of militarization and wonder when our government will acknowledge that these deaths are the direct effects of border militarization and immigration policies." continued Rodriguez. "As we watch politicians and many of the large immigrant rights groups negotiate on what they deem viable politically in discussions around immigration reform, we call on all people of conscience to denounce policies of militarization and enforcement.

"We must not waver in our opposition to any reform that will continue to militarize our communities. Doing so is not only being untrue to our commitment to human rights and dignity, but an affront to the thousands of men, women and children who have died on our borders, and the families who suffer the agony of their deaths or the bitter anguish of never knowing what has become of their loved ones."

The complete list of recovered bodies is available on the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website: This information is available to anyone who requests it from us and is used by our organization to further raise awareness of the human rights crisis we are facing on our borders.

* The complete BMI study, The "Funnel Effect" & Recovered Bodies of Unauthorized Migrants Processed by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, 1990-2005, is available on the Derechos Humanos website:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Death in the desert

Los Angeles times
Operation Gatekeeper started in October 1994, focusing federal border security efforts on the five-mile stretch from the Pacific Ocean to San Ysidro. Within three years, the budget of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service -- since split into two agencies -- doubled to $800 million. The number of Border Patrol agents also doubled, along with the miles of fencing. Underground sensors nearly tripled.

In the 15 years since its inception,Gatekeeper, now shorthand for all federal enforcement efforts at the Mexican border, has had a range of consequences, some expected and others grimly surprising. For example, attempted crossings and apprehensions where enforcement is heaviest plummeted, just as officials had hoped. But migrants didn't stay home. Instead, thousands attempted to cross in the dangerous desert lands to the east, in Arizona and Texas -- and as many as 5,600 have died, according to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties and Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights. Illegal immigrants are now 17 times more likely to die while crossing the border than they were in 1998, according to the report.