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.

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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.

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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: