Monday, July 13, 2009

Walls, Walls and More Walls

by John Carlos Frey

On October 26, 2006 President George W. Bush signed The Secure Fence Act into law. The legislation allowed the construction of more than 700 miles of new border walls between the United States and Mexico. Upon signing the bill president Bush said, "This bill will help protect the American people. This bill will make our borders more secure. It is an important step toward immigration reform." Sen. Jim DeMint (R- SC) and the Senate have recently voted to continue the construction of these walls and possibly refortify or make them double layered. For the past two years I have been working on a new film that highlights the construction of this barrier and studying it’s effectiveness in deterring migrants as well as it’s deadly consequences.

More than ten years prior to the signing of the The Secure Fence Act, the United States embarked on a similar strategy of walling itself off from Mexico and it’s neighbors to the south. New barriers were built in San Diego, CA and El Paso, TX, followed by barriers in Nogales and Yuma, AZ. The walls were built to deter migrants and drug traffickers from entering the United States. It was “an important step toward immigration reform.” Since that time the rate of undocumented migrants coming to the United States from Latin American countries has increased. The number of apprehensions at the border has remained constant. There are more undocumented migrants living within the borders of the United States than ever before. Those initial walls did not work. The only effect they had was to push migration into more inhospitable terrain. They were not a step toward immigration reform nor did they make the borders more secure.

What has happened as a result of the initial walls and increased militarization is the human rights crisis we see today. Nearly five thousand migrant bodies have been recovered in the deserts, mountains, canals and roads of the United States. Several thousand more migrants remain missing. Organized crime at the border has skyrocketed. It now costs over two thousand dollars to hire a “coyote” or “pollero.” Some estimates put human smuggling as more lucrative than drug smuggling. There has been no change in the rate of migration to the United States except the cost of transport and the cost of human life. The United States accepts no responsibility for its border policies being cause to the carnage. It blames Mexico and it’s southern neighbors for the rise in crime and death.

This information may not be new. These stories, studies and facts are well known. What is shocking and unbelievable is that the failed border policies of years past are being repeated and multiplied exponentially. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 and congress’ latest attempt to fortify the border has not taken migrant deaths into account. The nearly 5,000 recovered bodies have not been factored into how the new walls should be constructed. No studies have been done on where the walls should be placed in order to lessen the death toll. Once again migrants will be forced into even more inhospitable and deadlier terrain. Once again death and organized crime will increase. Once again the United States will turn a blind eye to its inhumane approach to “immigration reform.” Once again, death will be the barrier to migration. The new walls, new technology and added border guards will force migrants further from roads, towns and urban centers. They will literally be forced to cross the border in the middle of nowhere. Most of the migrants who have perished on U.S. soil have been found only a few miles from a road or source of water. The new fences and increased security will funnel migrants up to 60 miles away from any human services. As before, the death toll will rise and U.S. will deny responsibility and blame the poor and desperate.

The United Nations has criticized the U.S. government for the way it treats migrants and the way it manages its borders. The country of Mexico has not been consulted about the building of this new 700-mile barrier separating it from the United States. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the United States reports the current border walls are not effective and do not deter illegal immigration. Experts and scholars from all over the world say the new border walls will not stop migrants from attempting to cross. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has admitted publicly that border walls are ineffective. The U.S. Congress recognizes that a border wall is not a solution to the immigration problem but there has been no other suggestion or remedy. A bigger wall, a longer wall, a stronger wall, an ineffective and deadly wall is all congress has been able to come up with.

As a filmmaker and a storyteller I am not so much concerned with politics and legislation. I am not so concerned with contracts that are being awarded to multi-billion dollar corporations to install and maintain border security infrastructure. I am most concerned with the people who attempt to cross the border. Those are the stories that are not being told to lawmakers. Their voices, suffering and death remain silent.

The United States prides itself on being a nation of immigrants. It prides itself on being the refuge for the sick, the tired, the wretched and the poor. Today the great country of the United States is not living up to her own standards and founding principles. She lives in fear and she lives in greed. She would rather put a wall around her riches and turn her back on the desperate and the dying. She has eroded her morality for the gain of ill perceived security. The standards by which the United States lives can be measured by her actions at the border. U.S. border policy is no less than warfare against the stranger for political gain.

It is easy to criticize. It is easy to point out flaws and blame government for the ills of society. It is more difficult to do something about it. It is a demand of a civilized society to right what is wrong and shed light where there is ignorance and deception. If we are to call ourselves people of conscience or a just society, can we watch another 5,000 migrants die on U.S. soil? What if the number was 10,000? Some estimates already say there have been 10,000 deaths at the border in the past 10 - 15 years. What if the number was 50,000 or 100,000 bodies recovered at the border? What number would make us wake up? What number would make the Mexican government rise up in vehement protest against the new barrier? How many more dead bodies would finally wake the humanitarian citizens of the United States?

I was born in Tijuana, MX and grew up several hundred feet from the border fence in San Diego, CA. I cannot be witness to another 5,000 or 5 of my brothers and sisters dying without sounding the alarm. I will continue to expose hypocrisy in the halls of government and I will illuminate the stories and faces of the migrant. I will reveal greed and indifference by expressing poverty and pain that are a result of it. I am writing this article in the hope that we will not just read it and say, “oh that’s terrible” or “what a shame.” Let’s us not fall back upon the complacency of our comfort. Let us find ways to honor the sanctity of all human life – especially our neighbors. To live a life of faith is not only to profess it but also to embody its power and create a life and society that exemplifies it. I work for nothing more than to walk along the dirt roads where I grew up and see one nation embracing its neighbor, with liberty and justice for all.

1 comment:


    Don't let down your guard?

    ATTENTION! Because of the massive payments to illegal immigrants in California, their is a petition. Google--TAXPAYER REVOLUTION. Very few newspapers will mention this activist petition.

    Some Californian lawmakers demand enforcing our immigration laws? But do they believe in rigid enforcement of E-Verify in the workplace? Andronovich, a Los Angeles city manager stated back in 2004 that illegal immigrant support attributed to $11. billion dollars in benefits. How much money did the Golden state taxpayers folk out since then?

    If you--GOOGLE--illegal immigration you can research the true costs, the real numbers of those squatting here and the massive consequences? The most damaging is--irreversible OVERPOPULATION. There is a battle commencing in the House and Senate this week, to weaken E-Verify and the startling amendment to fund the original two layer border fence. Sen. Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano will try to table these new amendments or even kill them. Recall Reid nearly obliterated E-Verify, the extraction process that removes illegal immigrants from job placement. THESE NEW AMENDMENTS ARE IN INSTANT JEOPARDY, SO DEMAND RIGID ENFORCEMENT, NO AMNESTY AND NO MORE EXCUSES?

    Go to the websites NUMBERSUSA, JUDICIALWATCH, CAPSWEB, HERITAGE FOUNDATION & AMERICANPATROL for facts not found in newspapers or even the government. THERE IS GATHERING STORM OF FURIOUS VOTERS from across America. We cannot, must not--STOP-- THE BARRAGE ON THEIR SENATE AND CONGRESS. 202-224-3121 THE US TAXPAYER must remain vigilant, letting these politicians know whose in charge? That their jobs are on the line, like millions of American workers.