Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mr. Obama, Tear Down This Wall!

by Becky Akers for the Foundation For Economic Education

In its zeal to protect us from Mexicans who want to pick our fruit and clean our homes, the federal government is walling off our southwestern border. Congress passed the Secure Fence Act (SFA) in 2006, authorizing barriers along some portions of the 1,969-mile boundary; other stretches will be fitted with a “virtual” wall of motion sensors and cameras. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was supposed to have built almost 700 miles of physical fence by the close of 2008 and the Bush administration.

We can assume it fell short since the federal government is ever incompetent and has been tight-lipped about how many miles it has completed.

More people cross this international boundary each year than any other in the world—250 million with government permission, a fraction of that without. (Estimates range from 400,000 to a million.) Patches of the border, particularly urban ones, have been fenced and policed for decades. But this dotted line inconvenienced rather than stopped folks who neglected to secure a bureaucrat’s consent for their trip: Travelers trying to exercise their inalienable right to free movement simply went around the barriers. The feds never like being outfoxed, so they extended the fencing beyond populated areas. This drove migrants into increasingly remote and hostile terrain. There they not only had to survive encounters with America’s Border Patrol but also dehydration and other dangers in the desert. No More Deaths, a group that caches food and water along routes migrants are likely to take, estimates that at least 238 travelers perished in Arizona alone in 2006, with more than 4,000 “men, women, and children [losing] their lives in the deserts of the US-Mexico borderlands” from 1998 to the present.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Battlefield: El Paso

by Douglas S. Massey

From the July/August 2009 issue of The National Interest.

IT IS commonly accepted that the United States was “invaded” by an unprecedented wave of illegal immigrants beginning in the 1980s. According to the Department of Homeland Security, by 2008 there were 11.6 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, 61 percent from Mexico. The next-closest source was El Salvador, at just 5 percent. Hence the “invasion” was framed as a Mexican issue, with pundits from Lou Dobbs to Patrick Buchanan warning of dire consequences for America if it was not checked, by force if necessary.

The only problem with the invasion is that it never happened. The U.S.-Mexico border is not now and has never been out of control. From 1950 to the present, the total number of migrants entering the United States from Mexico has varied very little. There has certainly been no massive upsurge. What changed were the auspices under which Mexicans entered the country, their place of entry, their ultimate U.S. destination and their tendency to remain here rather than return home. Workers previously labeled immigrants became illegals. The border was fortified. States with high immigrant populations cracked down. Walls were built. Immigration turned into a militarized policy issue. And since it became increasingly risky for Mexicans to cross the border, once here, they remained. All these changes are a consequence of our own misguided immigration and border policies.

THE FOREGOING assertions may seem outlandish given the prevailing wisdom, but there is no arguing with the numbers.1 U.S. policy has in many ways created our immigrant problem. During the 1950s, the United States took in hundreds of thousands of Mexican migrants each year. Most entered as temporary workers under the Bracero Program, a bilateral agreement with Mexico in force from 1942 through 1964. In the late 1950s the inflow of temporary Mexican workers was on the order of 450,000 per year. At the same time, there was no statutory limit on legal immigration from Mexico and around 43,000 Mexicans settled each year as permanent residents. Given ample options for legal entry, illegal migration was nonexistent.

Read the entire article

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Count of Arizona Recovered Remains Exceeds 100 Halfway through the Month of June

Arizona- The number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2008 has exceeded 100 halfway through the month of June, reports the Coalición de Derechos Humanos. The compilation of data from medical examiner reports from Pima, Yuma, and Cochise counties is an attempt to reflect more accurately the human cost of irresponsible U.S. border and immigration policies. From the beginning of the fiscal year to the end of May, 95 human remains were recovered-this figure does not reflect any June numbers, which will include the recent rollover that resulted in the deaths of at least 8 individuals in Sonoita, and the body of a man recovered in Douglas earlier this month.

The count of 95 includes fifty-eight (58) males, eight (8) females, and a staggering twenty-nine (29) individuals of unknown gender (31% of the total). The numbers also reflect fifty-two (52) individuals of unknown identity, approximately 55% of the total remains recovered. The remains of 88 individuals had been recovered by the end of May at the same time last fiscal year.

"What is extremely disturbing is the alarming increase in the number of recovered remains of undetermined gender," says Kat Rodriguez of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos. "Last fiscal year, at the same time, there had been a total of five remains of undetermined gender recovered-nineteen the entire fiscal year; this year, there have been at least 29."

'Unknown gender' indicates that not enough of a body was recovered to determine gender, and without DNA, which is costly, 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 unknown gender cases is a clear indicator of what happens as border enforcement strategies push migrants out into more and more isolated areas, making rescue and detection less likely and the likelihood of death more certain. This "Funnel Effect," which has been documented by the University of Arizona's Binational Migration Institute, has shown that the practice of sealing of traditional crossing points ultimately pushes migration into the deadliest areas. The real extent of this crisis is not known as the numbers of human remains recovered in neighboring states are not available.

"It is unconscionable that we continue policies we know are directly resulting in horrific deaths," continues Rodriguez. "We must demand an end to the killing fields that the Southwest border region has become. The current administration must show leadership in ending the costly militarization of the border and interior that has lined the pockets of the military-prison industry at the expense of real human security."

The complete list of recovered remains 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.

Coalición de Derechos Humanos

P.O. Box 1286 Tucson, AZ 85702

Tel: 520.770.1373

Fax: 520.770.7455

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Humanitarian Groups Call on Wildlife Refuge Officials to Join Efforts to Save Lives

What: Joint Press Conference, Announcement of Open Letter to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and Department of the Interior

Where: Southside Presbyterian Church, 317 W. 23rd St

When: Noon, Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tucson, AZ – Local humanitarian, environmental, human rights and religious organizations are joining together to demand that Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and the Department of the Interior participate in, rather than penalize, efforts to save lives on federal lands.

At a press conference on Wednesday, June 17, representatives from more than fifty organizations will unveil an open letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge manager Mike Hawkes asking for a meeting with officials within two weeks, or no later than July 1st.

The groups are challenging federal officials to proactively respond to the deaths along the border in a way consistent with international human rights laws. Among the participating organizations will be No More Deaths, the Tucson and Green Valley Samaritans, and Humane Borders.

The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge has regularly denied permits to humanitarian groups to put environmentally friendly water tanks for migrants in distress on their land. Humane Borders operates three such stations, but has for several years been denied requests for additional ones.

The remains of eight people have already been recovered from the Wildlife Refuge this year alone. The June 3rd conviction of a humanitarian volunteer for placing clean drinking water on the refuge highlighted the importance of having more cooperation from federal land managers in responding to the humanitarian crisis unfolding along the US/Mexico border.

“The United States in is violation of human rights by pursuing a failed border strategy that uses death as a deterrent” said Rev. John Fife, retired pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church. “The prosecution of humanitarian aid workers and the continuing refusal to place water where people are dying is evidence of that systemic violation of human rights and destruction of public lands.”

“I was picking up empty bottles when I was cited for littering, which makes the charge even more ridiculous” said Walt Staton, a volunteer with No More Deaths, who now faces prison time for putting out water on the refuge. “I expect the leadership of Buenos Aires to sit down and talk with us rather than have their staff chase us around the desert and use their resources on littering tickets.”

In seeking the cooperation of officials from BANWR and the Department of the Interior, the organizations represented will affirm their commitment to work to end the humanitarian, environmental and human rights crises on the border. It is our firm belief that faith, good sense, civic responsibility and the law require us to do so. The era of border enforcement that uses death as a deterrent must come to an end.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tear Down This Wall

TUCSON WEEKLY June 3, 2009
by Sarah Jacoby
The 800 Mile Wall will be shown at 8 p.m., Wednesday, June 10, and at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 11, at the First Christian Church, 740 E. Speedway Blvd. John Carlos Frey and many local humanitarian workers will be present to discuss the film after the screenings. Tickets cost $10 per person, and are tax-deductible. For more information, call 628-7753, or

Arizona is stuck in the heated center of the immigration debate, and after years of failed strategies, it's hardly surprising that the debate led to an effort to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.But a new documentary—made by filmmaker and actor John Carlos Frey—that follows the construction of that wall makes the case that we need to put the wall on hold, and instead seek out a truly effective solution.The 800 Mile Wall documents the construction of the new border wall, a projec that has already proven to be extremely costly and far too deadly. Frey's previous films (The Gatekeeper, The Invisible Mexicans of Deer Canyon) also explore the complex struggles of migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border and live as undocumented workers. However, The 800 Mile Wall has particularly strong ties to Tucson. Including interviews with local humanitarian workers, immigration experts and politicians, the 90-minute film offers a comprehensive look at the events that got us into this situation—and shows why we so desperately need to find a way out.Since construction of the wall began, more than 5,000 migrant bodies have been recovered from the desert; however, the exact death toll along the U.S.-Mexico border is impossible to know."The more walls we have, the more deaths we have," declares Sue Goodman, the executive director of Humane Borders, a local volunteer organization responsible for setting up water stations in the desert to help thirsty migrants. She explains that the first border walls, built in the 1990s in San Diego and El Paso, were successful at keeping immigrants from crossing in those urban areas. But by eliminating these urban routes, immigrants are now left with no choice but to cross over the border in the wilderness—meaning migrants have been forced into dangerous and deadly territory.Most supporters of the wall hope that the barrier will deter illegal entry attempts into the United States, especially when combined with high-tech surveillance towers, new retrofitted vehicles, ground sensors and an increased border patrol presence overall. However, Goodman says these efforts are unlikely to be successful."Surveillance can't detain," Goodman says. As a result, she—along with volunteers at Humane Borders and other organizations working along the border—believes "there is no benefit" to the wall.Since putting up their first water station in 2001, Humane Borders has been a leader of local humanitarian efforts to put an end to border fatalities and come up with a real, equally beneficial border policy. Humane Borders is motivated by faith to help find a safe, practical and effective immigration policy, and to prevent migrant deaths along the border until one is found. In order to do so, they operate more than 80 water stations near the border. Along with large barrels of water, each station is equipped with first-aid kits, emergency rations and, in the winter, warm clothes.The screenings of The 800 Mile Wall at the church that doubles as Humane Borders' headquarters will bring together efforts to inform the community, offering members of the public a chance to discuss and formulate possible solutions to a problem facing the entire country.Although the film does not offer its own concrete solution to our immigration dilemmas, Goodman sees the film as being motivational. She says it "inspires people to do the right thing" and to "look for a more creative solution."Frey seems to agree. In The 800 Mile Wall, he asks, "Does it work? Do we need to spend billions to build fencing and technology? Should we do anything about migrant deaths? Is there a solution?"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Trial Against No More Deaths Volunteer

A jury trial will begin Monday, June 1, to determine if No More Deaths
volunteer Walt Staton is guilty of “knowingly littering.” Walt received a
littering ticket on December 4, 2008 while putting out gallon jugs of water
on migrant trails in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.
Three agents and a helicopter were
used to follow the NMD volunteers on December 4, 2008.

A US Fish and Wildlife officer gave Walt and his three companions citations
for littering after Border Patrol agents, who had been following the NMD
volunteers, reported them to Buenos Aires officials. The US Attorneys office
has dropped the
the other three.

Walt refused to accept guilt and pay the original $175 fine associated with
the ticket. He now faces a punishment that could include up to one year of
prison time and a large fine if found guilty.

Dan Millis, a friend and colleague of Walt’s, received a similar ticket in
February, 2008. Dan was found guilty last September>after
a bench trial before magistrate judge Bernie Velasco in Tucson. Dan
appealed the case to the US District Court, where the original ruling was
It is currently under appeal at the 9th Circuit Court.

According to Pima County medical examiner's data mapped out by Humane
Borders <>, approximately 20 bodies of deceased
migrants have been recovered from Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge since 2002.
Dehydration is a factor that leads to many of the deaths. More than 5,000
bodies have been recovered from the US/Mexcio border as a result of the
current enforcement strategy, which was implemented in the mid-1990s—many
thousands more will never be discovered.

Walt hopes to be able to speak about his personal motivations in order to
defend himself, but the government has already filed motions to preclude him
from testifiying about his intent. It is clear that the US Government wants
to intimidate and push humanitarians out of the desert, which will directly
lead to more death and suffering. No More Deaths urges all people of
conscience and faith to speak out against this strategy of deterrence and
death. [read our principles for immigration