Saturday, August 29, 2009

183 Remains Recovered in Arizona Five Weeks Left in the Fiscal Year

CoaliciĆ³n de Derechos Humanos

August 28, 2009

Arizona- The number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2008 has reached 183 three weeks into the month of August. With five weeks left in the fiscal year, the count has already reached the fiscal year total for 2007-08. From the beginning of the fiscal year to the end of July, 162 human remains were recovered-this figure does not reflect any of the 21 remains recovered through August 24th.

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. The count of 183 includes 121 males, 27 females, and 34 individuals of unknown gender (19% of the total). The number includes 98 individuals of unknown identity, which is approximately 54% of the total recovered. The identification of at least 29 of the unknown individuals is hampered by the fact that only skeletal remains were recovered. The remains of 168 individuals had been recovered at the same time last fiscal year.

"While the media has hailed the efforts of the Border Patrol in rescuing migrants, nobody questions the policies that are pushing migrants further and further into the gauntlet of death" says Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos. "How disingenuous is our government to applaud itself for taking measures to rescue people from the danger that it has placed them in? This is precisely why proposals to reform immigration must not agree to more militarization of our borders and communities. Our community security must come before any political gain sought or misinformed media hype."

'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. This fiscal year, the families of at least 34 individuals will suffer the continued agony of not knowing what has become of their loved one.

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.

"In addition to the staggering number of recovered remains reported, Derechos Humanos has received a record number of reports of missing migrants." continues Rodriguez. "There are countless cases of individuals who have never been heard from again.

The complete list of recovered remains is available on the CoaliciĆ³n 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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Migrant death count scrutinized

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SAN DIEGO — Flying low over the Sonoran Desert, Border Patrol agents spotted a skeleton sprawled in the brush.

The harsh terrain along the southern edge of Arizona is a busy trafficking corridor for illegal immigrants and the remains could have been from a person who died while trying to sneak into the United States. But busy Interstate 8 runs nearby and it also could have been a slain U.S. citizen, a suicide, a runaway.

The Border Patrol is facing criticism for the way it counts the dead along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

"It's rarely a cut-and-dry decision," said Joe Brigman, spokesman for the Border Patrol station at Yuma, Ariz. "In some cases, you just don't know."

The agency says its increased vigilance has helped reduce deaths among illegal immigrants.

Human rights activists, however, say it's in the government's interest to keep its count low. They contend the agency tries to shave the number of deaths by excluding many skeletal remains, car-accident victims and bodies discovered by local law enforcement agencies.

"The American people have the right to know the human cost, the real human cost, of these policies," says Claudia Smith, a San Diego attorney with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.

From documents and other clues found on the body spotted east of Yuma, agents concluded the victim was indeed an immigrant — among 325 the Border Patrol counted in the fiscal year which ended Sept. 30, down from 340 the year before.

Smith, who has tracked migrant deaths for 10 years, says the counting method is inconsistent from one government agency to the next — and sometimes even from one Border Patrol sector to another.

read entire article

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yet more migrants are going to die because the president put immigration reform on the backburner

Tucson Weekly
by Kent Walker

The news out of the recent trilateral summit between Canada, Mexico and the United States is that the Obama administration will wait until 2010 to tackle immigration reform. The justification Obama offered for the delay is that his "plate is full" with more pressing issues: the economy, health care, two wars and so on.

For those concerned with the ongoing border crisis in Southern Arizona, the choice to delay reform is terrible news. As we speak, more migrants have died in fiscal 2009 (161) in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector than at the same point in 2008 (137), a particularly disturbing fact given the overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence that illegal immigration is declining.

In early August, we learned that 209 Border Patrol agents were added to the Tucson Sector under the ludicrously mistitled "Operation Guardian." What the Border Patrol would have you believe is that this buildup will enable agents to carry out the mission of its mantra that "a secure border is a safe border." While this thesis may have been tenable five years ago, it no longer holds water. Quite the opposite, in fact, since there is a growing amount of empirical data suggesting that migrant deaths in the Tucson Sector correlate with law enforcement more than any other variable used in research and analysis.

If you press the Border Patrol, they will be unable to account for increases in three separate but related statistical trends: The rate of deaths is up; the risk of dying is up; and the average distance that migrants die from the nearest road is up. With these trends in mind, we should not be surprised that the number of deaths is up, too.

Nevertheless, let's take each of them in turn.

read entire article

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tragic neglect of immigration

By Rudy Ruiz
Special to CNN

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (CNN) -- One of the greatest challenges for minorities in any democracy is that their priorities often differ with those of the majority.

Consequently, even if a minority group does not experience outright tyranny, it can suffer tragic neglect. That's the lingering problem with immigration reform.

Latino leaders have long called for comprehensive immigration reform. During the presidential campaign, it finally seemed destined for reality as candidates sought the crucial Latino vote.

But today, where's immigration reform on the list of priorities?

Apparently, it's plummeting faster than bank stocks were during the market's freefall. Maybe the president hoped we wouldn't notice. He mentioned it in passing while we were engrossed in the health care drama. And instead of telling us directly, in a meeting with the Latino leaders that supported his candidacy, he announced it while chatting with foreign heads of state.

What did he say? No immigration reform until 2010. But since he's expending massive political capital on health care, and 2010 is a midterm election year renowned for inaction on controversial matters, the postponement is as menacing as the promise is dubious.

read entire article

Friday, August 14, 2009

Seeing Right Through Our Own Great Wall


Barrie Maguire illustration

Barrie Maguire illustration

Despite urban legend, China's Great Wall is not visible to astronauts. But if angels are looking down, they might be laughing.

Stretching out broken and crumbling over 5,000 miles, China's Wall is a monument to political folly. And now, with even less hope of success, we are building an American version.

Built up over thousands of years and costing millions of lives, the Great Wall was able to slow, but never stop, any major invasion from China's north.

It didn't stop the Mongols in the 13th century. Their lord Kublai Kahn swept across and founded what later became Beijing, or "Northern Capital." It didn't stop the Manchus in the 17th century, who poured over to found China's last dynasty, nor did it stop the Japanese in the 20th century.

America's variation is actually a Great Fence, a 10- to 15-foot-high barrier mostly consisting of chain link topped with barbed wire. It now runs over 500 broken miles, mostly along the border between Mexico and three states: California, Arizona and New Mexico. It is projected to run twice that length, well into Texas. It is not intended to cover the entire border; a "virtual fence" with sensors and cameras will fill in the intervals.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Arizona immigration debate at heart of littering case

August 13, 2009

The heated issue inflames a court case, in which an Arizona man is convicted for leaving water jugs for migrants in the desert.

Reporting from Las Vegas - Walt Staton wanted to help people, and his tool was a water jug. On the morning of Dec. 4, he and three others drove southwest from Tucson, to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which tens of thousands of illegal immigrants traverse each year.

But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the plastic jugs he left for the immigrants endanger wildlife, and this week Staton was sentenced in federal court in Tucson on a charge of littering. He was given one year of unsupervised probation and ordered to spend 300 hours picking up trash.

The sentence, however, does not quite capture the emotions surrounding the case -- yet another testament to the volatility of the illegal immigration debate in Arizona. Prosecutors had asked for a $5,000 fine and five years' probation. Staton, for his part, had insisted on a trial, rather than pay a $175 fine.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Current Border Fence Map

The latest border fence construction zones as well as completed areas.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Two Arrested in Prayer at Virtual Border Tower Under Construction in Arizona

Contact: John Heid, Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa - 520-323-8697

Two men were arrested this morning during a prayer vigil at a virtual fencecommunication tower under construction west of Arivaca, in southern Arizona. John Heid, 54, a Quaker with Christian Peacemaker Teams and Fr. Jerome Zawada, 72, a Franciscan priest, had gone to pray at the site out of deep concern for the deaths of migrants resulting from border walls and virtual fences. Shortly after 11 a.m., a Pima County Sheriff's deputy called to the scene arrested both men for trespass. The pair were taken into custody and are being transported to the Pima County Adult Detention Center in Tucson for processing.

Fr. Zawada stated today, "For the past 26 years I've come to know and love many of ourmigrant families who have taught me something of the heart of God. As a Catholic priest and Franciscan friar I feel called to accompany these suffering travelers and work with others who believe in this journey of compassion."

John Heid said, "The virtual fence is as lethal as a bomb. It is billed by proponents as more aesthetically pleasing than a traditional fence or wall. It is touted as environmentally friendly, allowing animals to roam freely. Yet it remains undeniably lethal to human beings by forcing people further into remote desert terrain on their journey north. I decry this loss of life. This loss of civility. This loss of sensibility. Construction must be halted. Could not the $100 million being spent on these towers be put to humanitarian use? Humane means of resolving issues such as economic disparity and subsequent migration must be undertaken. Ultimately our own survival alongside that of our southern neighbors depends on cooperation."

The pair released the following statement:

"On this, the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, we call for anend to militarization in all its guises. An end to bombs, nuclear and conventional. An end to the use of Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles). An end to walls, fences and their virtual counterparts that divide us and promote fear of each other. An end to war without end.

"This morning we vigil at the gates of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, home of a Predator UAV unit which now flies missions around the clock in Iraq and Afghanistan armed with Hellfire missiles which have killed hundreds of unarmed civilians. We demand an end to the unilateral slaughter.

"This afternoon we vigil at a communication tower, "Tucson-1" (virtual fence) construction sight. Fences and walls, solid and virtual, have funneled people in migration deeper into the harsh, dangerous terrain of the Sonoran desert, resulting in more than 5,000 deaths since 1994.

"These three - bombs, drones and fences/walls - are lethal weapons directed specificallyat noncombatants. Cities like Hiroshima, villages in Iraq and Afghanistan and theU.S.-Mexico borderland have been deliberately targeted and violated. These are crimes against humanity. A betrayal of civility. In spiritual terms, a sin.

"Today we pray without ceasing for a world without weapons and fences. We pray for peace, for justice, for unity which makes walls and war obsolete."

For more information about Christian Peacemaker Teams, visit

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Deadliest SW border stretch is getting 209 more agents

By Brady McCombs
"It allows us to have a bigger presence out there. That will allow our agents that are from the area to be out in the field and reach out to more people."
Omar Candelaria, a Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman
An additional 209 U.S. Border Patrol agents will be in Arizona starting today in an attempt to address border deaths in the Southwest border's deadliest stretch.
The agency's "Operation Guardian" initiative kicks off after the two deadliest months for border deaths — June and July — have already passed.
At least 40 bodies of illegal immigrants were recovered in July across Arizona's stretch of U.S.-Mexico border from New Mexico to Yuma County, and at least 135 bodies have been found along that stretch since Jan. 1, up from 120 at the same time last year, medical examiners' records show.
The agents assigned to the Tucson Sector in the "Operation Guardian," program will be here through September, said Omar Candelaria, a Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman. They'll be used primarily in processing centers and at highway checkpoints to free up the other 3,300 full-time agents in the sector.
"It allows us to have a bigger presence out there," Candelaria said. "That will allow our agents that are from the area to be out in the field and reach out to more people."
From Oct. 1 through June, the most up-to-date figures available from the agency, agents in the Tucson Sector had rescued 300 people, he said.
While the extra help is welcome, the initiative is too little, too late, said Robin Hoover, president of Humane Borders, which operates water stations in the desert.
"They are responding kind of late in the game," Hoover said. "The numbers are higher, the rate is higher and the feds are just now responding to it. It looks to me like they don't monitor this situation very closely."
The Arizona Daily Star's border-death database shows that June and July are the two deadliest months for illegal immigrants.
An average of 43 bodies have been recovered each July from 2004-2009, along with 31 bodies each June during that span, the database shows.
August is the third-most dangerous month, with an average of 24 bodies each year from 2004-2008.