Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Border deaths in Arizona may break record

This year, Arizona became known as the state with the toughest policies against illegal immigration. That's why Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Eric Peters didn't think thePima County coroner would see a surge in migrants killed while trying to cross Arizona's southern deserts.

But despite beefed-up efforts to stem illegal immigration and an economy that makes work harder to come by, migrants are still trying to get into the country. And many are dying.

In 2007, a record 218 bodies were found in Pima County. This year, the death toll could be worse. Already, authorities have recovered the remains of 170 migrants.

"We're kind of looking at a record-breaking year this year," Peters said.

July was the worst month of this year so far, with 59 people found dead. More than half of them died from heat-related causes. On July 15, the deadliest day of the month, seven bodies were found, among them the remains of Omar Luna Velasquez, 25. The high temperature that day was 108 degrees.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

More migrant deaths rights abuses likely as obama congress increase border security say orgs

President Obama today signed a bill authorizing an additional $600 million to increase border security, strengthening a deadly border militarization strategy. It is a move that pro-migrant groups say will undoubtedly increase the number of migrants who die at the U.S.-Mexico border. They critique the bill which, they say, "contributes nothing to ensuring the safety and rights of migrants and border communities."

The new bill promises to enhance immigration-police collaboration and places more military technology, including surveillance drones, on the border. It enables an additional 1,000 Border Patrol officers, 250 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and 250 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. These increments do not include Obama's recent announcement of the deployment of another 1200 National Guard troops to patrol the border in Arizona.

The Coalicion de Derechos Humanos (CDH) based in Tucson, Arizona reports that the remains of 214 migrants have been recovered as of July 31, 2010, on the Arizona stretch of the border alone. The tally already surpasses last year's toll with still two months remaining in this fiscal year's final count.

As many as 8,000 migrant dead have been recovered on the U.S.-Mexico border since the U.S. government's current "prevention through deterrence" strategy was implemented in 1994. Human rights groups working to prevent migrant deaths and abuses on the border believe that for every migrant dead found at least ten others are missing in the desert.

Along with a record number of migrant deaths at the border, the U.S. under the Obama Administration is achieving a record number of deportations this fiscal year.

"The Southwest Border Security Bill is a reminder of what type of "CIR," or immigration reform, is being offered: A piece-meal enforcement approach that continues gutting the rights of immigrants, with more jailings and deportations and promises of restrictive access to "legalization" and guest worker programs," laments the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) in a statement in response to the new law.

Demilitarize, Decriminalize: End Border Deaths

The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) criticizes the Obama Administration's militarization of immigration control and border communities, a process that they say is "further fueling the criminalization of immigration status."

Their statement continues:

The U.S. must end the deliberate "funneling" of migrants through the border desert, stopping the death of migrants and the criminalization of status.

Instead the U.S. must:

  • increase access to legal immigration with the protection of rights,
  • provide more options for permanent residency and citizenship and
  • create routine programs of legalization.

But this will not be enough if the root causes are not addressed.

Fair and just immigration reforms must be accompanied with fair and just trade policies and initiatives. By taking such measures and steps, the Obama Administration can make immigrant families, workers and communities less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and create safer environments and strengthen everyone's rights.

Raging Grannys on Border Fence

Friday, July 16, 2010

July migrant deaths could set record

Illegal border crossers are dying at record rates this month.

Since July 1, the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office has handled the bodies of 38 illegal border crossers, said Dr. Bruce Parks, chief medical examiner. That midmonth total puts July on pace to match or break the single-month record of 68 in July 2005.

"I never thought we would see that again," Parks said. "It's scary. Maybe the rain will slow these down."

Parks said his office has been picking up and examining between one and four bodies of illegal immigrants daily since the beginning of the month. Field agents were on their way to pick up four more bodies Thursday, he said. Most of the people are being found recently deceased.

The deadly month puts 2010 even further ahead of the pace from the past three years. From Jan. 1 to July 15, the office has handled 132 bodies of illegal border crossers, up from 93 at the same time last year and 102 in 2008.

It's been a deadly decade for illegal immigrants trying to cross through Arizona. The bodies of more than 1,750 men, women and children have been discovered since 2001 - about 175 a year.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office has handled about 1,600 of them.

The fact that the deaths continue at such high numbers despite widespread indications that fewer people are crossing the border has led many experts to conclude that illegal border crossers face a deadlier trek than ever across Arizona's desert.

Apprehensions in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector have decreased each of the past five years; remittances to Mexico have declined and anecdotal reports show the economic recession has slowed illegal immigration. Yet more people are dying than ever.

Border-county law enforcement, Mexican consular officials, Tohono O'odham tribal officials and humanitarian groups say the buildup of border fencing, technology and agents has caused illegal border crossers to walk longer distances in more treacherous terrain, increasing the likelihood that people will get hurt or fatigued and left behind to die.

The Border Patrol disagrees that it's pushing illegal immigrants into more hazardous terrain and points to its rescue efforts as evidence that its presence prevents deaths rather than causes them.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com

Friday, June 18, 2010

DHS backing off Mexico border fence

It was once an ambitious plan, to build a fence with the most sophisticated technology along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Originally expected to run about 655 miles, the troubled, multibillion-dollar project has now been reduced to a plan for 387 miles, and its designers have lowered its technical standards “to the point that … system performance will be deemed acceptable if it identifies less than 50 percent of items of interest that cross the border.”

“The result,” said the Government Accountability Office in a withering report Thursday afternoon, “is a system that is unlikely to live up to expectations.”

DHS doesn’t even have “a reliable master schedule for delivering” even the “first block of SBInet,” as the Secure Border Initiative is known.

“As a result, it is unclear when the first block will be completed, and continued delays are likely,” the GAO said.

Meanwhile, DHS doesn’t have a realistic grasp of SBINet’s future costs, investigators found.

All in all, the report amounted to a grim picture of the project’s future, noting its “decreasing scope, uncertain timing, unclear value proposition, and limited life cycle management discipline and rigor ….”

It "remains unclear,” the GAO said, “whether the department’s pursuit of SBInet is a cost effective course of action, and if it is, that it will produce expected results on time and within budget.”

Indeed, DHS is rethinking the whole thing, SBINet’s executive directortold Congress, according to the National Journal’s Nextgov.com Web site.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rep. Steve King's Distortions About Border Security

by John Carlos Frey
A few days ago The Iowa Independent featured an article about U.S. Congressman Steve King's assertion that a 2,000-mile long border wall between the U.S. and Mexico would have prevented the shooting death of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, a fifteen year old Mexican National who was recently gunned down by a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Congressman King also said, "A border wall would dramatically reduce illegal immigration." According to King, more border walls would prevent violence, death and illegal immigration. On all accounts Mr. King is factually wrong and possibly lying to score political points. A bullet killed the Mexican teenager, not the lack of a border fence. We have never had more border walls than we do today and the federal government that built the structures cannot even ascertain whether or not they are effective. Yes, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), after billions of dollars in contracts to build the current border walls, cannot determine whether or not they prevent illegal immigration.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona immigration law ignores migrant deaths

Margaret Regan knows the Arizona border tensions up close. The Tucson journalist has written on migration from Mexico over the past decade and has poured her experience into “The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands,” published by Beacon Press in February. The book focuses on Josseline Hernandez, a 14-year-old girl whose death during her crossing underscores the danger and chaos in the region. Regan believes Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration overlooks a serious problem: the rising number of migrant deaths.

By Margaret Regan

When Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s harshest anti-immigration law on Friday, she declared that federal policy had left the state dealing with “an unacceptable situation."

That’s about the only thing she got right when she unleashed a law that gives the police unprecedented powers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

Brewer misidentified the real problem. To her, what’s unacceptable is that as many as 600,000 illegal immigrants are living in Arizona. What she should really be worried about is the deaths of some 2,000 border crossers in the Arizona desert in the past 10 years.

Since the year 2000, the state has been ground zero for immigration. Migrants from Mexico and Central America used to take safer routes through big cities like El Paso and San Diego, but the federal government cracked down on those urban crossings in the mid-90s. After that, migration shifted to the dangerous open terrain in between -- that is, to Arizona.

Read Entire Article

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Georgia: Making a Scapegoat of Immigrants

from The Huffington Post

by John Carlos Frey

Georgia state lawmakers are discriminating against immigrants through proposed legislation SB 67 that would restrict driver's license exams to be issued in English only. Currently the state offers the exam in 13 different languages but according to State Senator Jack Murphy, the chief proponent of the legislation, restricting the privilege to English-only drivers is a matter of safety. The senator believes that foreign language drivers pose a danger because they cannot read English language road signs. If Georgia offered driving tests only in English it would eliminate the perceived problem.

I say perceived because I could find no evidence that non-English speakers are a danger. Even in legislative hearings, as the bill was being debated, there was no testimony by road safety experts to prove that English-only drivers would improve safety. Not only was there no evidence the bill would make Georgia roads safer, the proposed bill offers driver's licenses for illiterate drivers. Fifteen percent of driver's licenses in Georgia are issued to people who cannot read at all. According to Senator Murphy, they qualify as safer drivers than the non-English literate immigrants. If the bill passes, U.S. citizens and legal residents who are not proficient in English will be prohibited from driving.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Report says immigration reform critical to border security

By JARED JANES, The Monitor

A recent report by the Center for American Progress criticizes the Department of Homeland Security for repeated failures in its major border security and surveillance program.

The report by the Washington D.C.-based think tank highlights cost overruns and extensive delays in the Secure Border Initiative, the DHS plan developed to control the nation’s borders and stem illegal immigration through more Border Patrol agents, the border wall and use of technology to create a ‘virtual fence.’

But the report also includes recommendations on what can be done to improve border security, including passage of comprehensive immigration reform, greater collaboration with Mexico and outreach to border communities. It says the concept of fences, cameras and sensors can work if they are successfully integrated together.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee on border, maritime and global counterterrorism, said the report indicates that a comprehensive approach is needed to address security concerns along the Southwest border.

Read entire article

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Arizona A State With Hate

Arizona state legislators are once again positioning themselves to be the most hate-based state in the union. Arizona State Senator Russell K. Pearce (R) is a perfect example of hate mongering and overt racism. I realize that terms like "hate monger" and "racist" are strong accusations but I can find no better terms to describe the current attempt to curb illegal immigration in the state of Arizona.

From Senator Pearce's own website:

"Republicans and Democrats in DC are terrified to oppose illegal immigration out of fear that they will be labeled racist. This assertion is ridiculous. There is nothing racist about upholding the law."

Senator Pearce's proposed legislation (SB1070) has nothing to do with upholding the law and everything to do with racial discrimination. According to Jennifer Allen, executive director of Arizona based Border Action Network who is working to defeat the bill, local law enforcement must make the eradication of undocumented immigrants a priority over other public safety responsibilities. Without any form of training, local law enforcement will be given authority to arrest someone if they have probable cause to believe they are undocumented. Who do you think they will suspect? This construct sets up a blatant system for racial profiling. The nearly 2 million Latinos in the state of Arizona will become prime suspects solely based on ethnicity. The bill's discriminatory tactics include attacks on day laborers and individuals that hire them as well as anyone who may transport, know, harbor, shield or protect undocumented immigrants. The bill represents nothing short of a witch-hunt with impunity. It sets up a system of law enforcement abuse that will drive immigrants, legal or not, deeper into the shadows of society.

When I was a child, I was out for a walk with my mother in a rural part of south San Diego County. We lived within walking distance of the U.S. Mexico border. This particular morning, like many others, I ran ahead to investigate the seasonal creek several hundred yards away. When I came back to meet up with my mother she was nowhere in sight. I looked everywhere and quickly ran home to tell my father. My family spent 24 hours searching for her -- calling everyone we knew including law enforcement. The next morning we received a telephone call from Tijuana, MX. My mother had been picked up by U.S. Border Patrol and deported. When I ran ahead of her, a Border Patrol agent suspected my mother was in the U.S. illegally. She tried to convince the officer that she was "legal" but he didn't believe her. My mother had deep brown skin and spoke poor English but had lived in the U.S. as a legal resident for 25 years. She had raised four children but was deported because of her ethnicity. It was a horrible case of racial profiling that scarred my mother and family for life.

State Senator Russell Pearce has been pushing racially motivated, anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona for years. He is endorsed by and has direct associations with known white supremacistsBuffalo Rick Galeener and J.T. Ready amongst others. Rick Galeener was cited for publicly urinating in front of a Latino mother and her child. 2010-04-05-JTandRK.jpg
J.T. Ready has publicly campaigned for Senator Pearce and has close ties to Neo-Nazi organizations. J.T. Ready has publicly stated, "I firmly believe in having a minefield across the border, this is 100% effective." Senator Pearce did not return calls to comment on these associations nor has he denounced them publicly. Both Galeener and Ready have been monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League and are classified as nativists, extremists and white supremacists but Senator Pearce remains silent.

Jennifer Allen of Border Action Network has collected and sent over 20,000 postcards to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer opposing the legislation, yet the governor continues to support the bill. The bill is opposed by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and dozens of Latino organizations and civil rights groups, yet the bill continues to make progress in the legislature. Scholars, lawyers, and fellow legislators believe Pearce's push to rid the state of undocumented immigrants violates basic civil rights and constitutional law, yet the bill has strong Republican support. Hate crimes against Latinos are up 40 percent, yet John McCain and his primary challenger JD Hayworth claim they are tough on undocumented immigrants and neither of them have the courage to denounce the racially motivated legislation.

If Arizona lawmakers were interested in resolving the complex dilemma of immigration they would address poverty, trade imbalances, work visas, corporate greed and family reunification. Instead, leaders of the great state of Arizona have grabbed their pitch forks and nooses and are continuing to scapegoat the voiceless and vulnerable for cheap political victories. Hate begets hate and hate solves nothing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Time to fix immigration system, Campos says

Sunday, March 28, 2010

After more than a year of campaigning, President Obama finally won much-needed and long-overdue changes to our health care system. Achieving what four other presidents could not, Obama broke through the political impasse to obtain health care coverage for the vast majority of uninsured Americans. The president now needs to take this mandate and act quickly on what should be the next major item on his domestic agenda: modernizing our immigration system.

Comprehensive immigration reform requires a balanced and measured approach that includes a broad legalization component, a foreign policy that promotes meaningful and equitable economic development in the region, and humane enforcement measures that strengthen, rather than divide, local communities.

Right now, more than 12 million people live under the shadow of fear because they lack legal immigration status. Many are hardworking mothers and fathers who, rather than watch their families suffer under the brutality of poverty and political turmoil, made the difficult and often dangerous decision to leave their homeland in search of the American dream. Many are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who fled death threats and persecution, or whose same-sex partners lack the legal right to file a petition on their behalf.

read entire article

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Case for Immigration Reform


John Carlos Frey


On March 21, 2010 immigrant rights advocates by the tens of thousands will be in Washington, DC to make their case known to the nation. For me, the need for comprehensive immigration reform is obvious. I was born in Mexico of U.S. citizen parents. My parent's citizenship automatically made me a U.S. citizen even though I was born in a foreign country. By birth, I have been afforded the privileges of U.S. society, for which I am grateful. Through my work as a filmmaker, I have come to personally know those that seek refuge and opportunity in the United States and are not as fortunate as I. I have met people that live in constant fear of deportation, of being ripped from stable jobs, family and loved ones. I have seen and documented the migrant corpses that litter the southwestern deserts of the United States -- people who are so poor and desperate they will risk their lives for a job. I was born to the "right" parents so I can live better and freer than 99% of the entire world's population. My U.S. citizenship was a gift. There are millions living and working in this country that were not so fortunate and millions more coming that will be forced to live underground, afraid, taken advantage of and without a voice. That is the system we have today and it is at best, reprehensible.

Several weeks ago I met a man named Fernando who had been deported after being pulled over for a burned out tail light on his truck. Fernando spoke English, but not perfectly. He did not have a driver's license and of course, he was Latino. In addition to dealing with Fernando's infraction, the police officer that pulled him over also asked Fernando for proof of legal residency. Fernando truthfully admitted to the officer he did not have any legal papers. He was detained and deported to Mexico several days later. What the officer did not ask was how long Fernando had been in the United States. If so, he would have answered, 25 years. Fernando was not asked if he had U.S. citizen children -- he has three -- ages 8 to 16. His wife is a legal U.S. resident. His parents are U.S. citizens. Fernando was deported in spite of all this information because it is irrelevant given our current immigration system. If that is not enough insult, Fernando will have to stay in Mexico for approximately 10 years while his application to legally reenter the U.S. is under consideration. The fact that he has worked on a U.S. farm providing manual labor for 25 years means nothing to immigration courts. The fact that he has no criminal record, never been late on his rent or utility bills, goes to church and coaches his son's soccer team is meaningless.

Some may say that Fernando should never have crossed the U.S. Mexico border without documents. Fernando was covertly invited to the U.S. to work amongst the millions of undocumented laborers in our agricultural industry. Each year we (businesses) import unauthorized labor to the United States by the hundreds of thousands. Yes, I say we, they are here, they are working and we are benefiting. We are a magnet for undocumented labor and we look the other way.

People say, "He should get in line." "My Grandparents got in line." Our current immigration system provides no line for Fernando. If our ancestral immigrants were subject to today's immigration laws they would have never gained legal access. There is no fine Fernando can pay to make restitution, there is no judge he can plea his case before, the cries of his family carry no legal weight and there is nothing he can do but apply for legal reentry and wait ten years to be with his family, maybe longer.

Fernando found himself in a shelter of deportees in Tijuana, MX. He was desperate. He had a wild, distant stare in his eyes. He appeared catatonic. The only thing he talked about was seeing his wife and children. He was thinking about crossing the border through the desert. He won't wait ten years for his immigration application to be considered. I told him the desert is dangerous, I even told him I made a film about migrants dying in the desert. I offered to show it to him in the hope he would not make that journey. He left yesterday, and crossed the border into the Arizona desert. I have no way to contact him. I have no way to know if he will ever find his way to his family. I have no way to know if he is still alive.

Inhumanity is the cornerstone of our current immigration system. The work is here and the poor are there. Desperate people will find a way to reach opportunity and reach the people they love. If I were in the same situation, I would do the same thing. The need for comprehensive immigration reform is urgent. People are dying, workers are being abused and Fernando should be with his wife and children.

On the eve of what may be the beginning of the immigration reform debate, are we a big enough country to consider the poor and desperate amongst us? Can compassion and forgiveness guide our judgment or will we hate, fear monger and slog it out healthcare style? I wonder how many of us are U.S. citizens by sheer luck and if so, can we extend the bounty that was freely given to us?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Work to cease on 'virtual fence' along U.S.-Mexico border

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Obama administration will halt new work on a "virtual fence" on the U.S.-Mexican border, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitanoannounced Tuesday, diverting $50 million in planned economic stimulus funds for the project to other purposes.

Napolitano said the freeze on work beyond two pilot projects in Arizona was pending a broader reassessment. But the move signals a likely death knell for a troubled five-year plan to drape a chain of tower-mounted sensors and other surveillance gear across most of the 2,000-mile southern border.

That vision, initiated in 2006 by President George W. Bush, called for a series of networked cameras, radar and communications gear to help speed the response of U.S. Border Patrol officers to catch illegal immigrants and smugglers over the vast border area. However, the effort has been plagued by technical problems and delays with prime contractor Boeing Corp.

Obama officials embraced the program, known as SBInet, on taking office in 2009, setting out a newfive-year timetable for completion. However, the administration last month proposed cutting funding to finish SBInet's first phase by roughly 30 percent to $574 million, under new congressional questioning about the plan's feasibility.

In a four-sentence statement, Napolitano said the department will immediately redeploy $50 million of stimulus funds to other technology, including mobile surveillance devices, sensors, radios and laptop computers.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Arizona Recovered Remains Reach 85, a 60% Increase From Last Year

Kat Rodriguez
Coalición de Derechos Humanos

Arizona- The number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2009 has reached 85, reports the Tucson-based Coalición de Derechos Humanos. The data is comprised of medical examiner reports from Pima, Yuma, and Cochise counties, and is an attempt to reflect more accurately the human cost of failed U.S. border and immigration policies.

The count to date includes fifty-four (54) males, ten (10) females, and twenty-one (21) individuals of unknown gender. The identities of approximately sixty-five (65) of the recovered individuals remain unknown, which is approximately 76% of the total recovered thus far this fiscal year. This number is a 60.3% increase from last year, when the total of recovered remains as of February 28, 2009 was fifty-three (53). Approximately twenty-five (25), or 28.3% of the remains were skeletal, and sixty-five (65), or 76.4% remain unidentified.

The continued increase in the recovery of skeletal remains indicates that more and more individuals are being funneled into more isolated and desolate terrain of the Arizona-Sonora border. This "Funnel Effect," which has been documented by the Binational Migration Institute*, has shown that the practice of sealing traditional crossing points ultimately pushes migration into the deadliest areas. The extent of this crisis is not known as the numbers of human remains recovered in neighboring states are not available. "The cold, along with the continued effects of the Funnel Effect, has resulted in a horrifically high number of skeletal remains and deaths due to exposure and hypothermia." says Kat Rodriguez, Coordinator of Derechos Humanos. "We also continue to see the tragic trend of the recovery of remains of unknown gender, which make up about 24.7% of the numbers this year. This means that approximately one in four individuals recovered are of unknown gender, making identification all the more difficult." '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 these unknown gender cases are a troubling indicator of 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. It is unknown how many remains are currently near the border but have not yet been discovered.

"The continued appalling issue of human remains being recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border should be a measure we use when offered "comprehensive immigration reform"" continues Rodriguez. "We must strengthen our resolve to reject any proposal of reform that does not immediately and meaningfully address the issue of border deaths, and does not ensure dignity and respect for the human rights of all migrant and immigrant communities."

Coalición de Derechos
Humanos website:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

In Eagle Pass, divided view of border fence

Many see 2-mile barrier as an eyesore and waste of money; some say it helps quality of life.

By Jeremy Schwartz


Updated: 1:07 a.m. Sunday, March 7, 2010

Published: 10:55 p.m. Saturday, March 6, 2010

— As the sun dips toward the horizon, Shelby Park becomes an idyllic place, a rare patch of manicured green along the Texas-Mexico border. Kids practice soccer on the expansive sports fields, and joggers make their afternoon revolutions. A couple of Border Patrol trucks hover in the parking lot alongside the dense stands of cane that hide the Rio Grande from view. Above, two international bridges funnel traffic between Eagle Pass and its Mexican counterpart, Piedras Negras, Coahuila .

Jose Luis Zuniga, watching his two sons practice soccer kicks, takes in the park's newest addition: an $11 million, 14-foot-tall black metal fence.

This part of the fence, finished in October, has roiled emotions like little else in this fast-growing city of 50,000. Like many of his neighbors, Zuniga is bewildered and angered by the placement of the fence, which cuts through nearly two miles of downtown and leaves the city's golf course and premier parkland in what some see as a no man's land between the fence and the river. Illegal immigrants and drug traffickers will simply go around, reasons Zuniga, an engineer at a plant that builds Mossberg shotguns.

"I don't know why they did it," Zuniga says in Spanish as he watches his two sons practice under the lengthening shadows of the international bridge. "Imagine, all that money for nothing."

As construction of 670 miles of fencing along the Southwest border nears completion, at a cost of at least $2.4 billion, border communities like Eagle Pass are struggling to come to terms with their new reality. Is the barrier an effective way to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs across what was an inadequately protected border? Or is it, as Zuniga contends, the physical symbol of a misguided — and expensive — policy that ignores the unique dynamics of the border?

Local Border Patrol agents say the fence plays a vital role in driving immigrant and drug smugglers to the city's edges, where agents have more time to catch them out in the brush — people crossing near downtown can quickly vanish into crowds.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Border deaths topic of documentary

‘800 Mile Wall' examines how increased security has affected immigration


Octavio Mendez wanted to see his mother before she died. He was found in November pitch black, his fluids leeched out and his body mummified about 20 miles east of Palm Springs.

“Less people are crossing and more people are dying,” said John Carlos Frey, a Los Angeles filmmaker. “We've never found a body 90 miles north of the border in the Coachella Valley.”

The coyote he paid to help him cross the Mexicali border — a six-day trip on foot — left Mendez to die in the desert last summer after he got sick from dehydration. He's not alone.

More than 3,800 people have died crossing the border since 1994, a 2009 report by the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties found.

In 2009, roughly 70 bodies were recovered in the California desert and canals, Frey said.

“The 800 Mile Wall” is a 90-minute documentary by Frey that looks at how the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and the push for border security has shaped U.S. immigration policy and extended the border fence.

The documentary highlights the 500 drownings in the All-American Canal, which is a Coachella Valley water source, that have occurred since the fences were built.

A free screening will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cinemas Palme D'Or theaters at Westfield Palm Desert Shopping Center.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Death by design: border crossers dying in greater numbers

The Rev. John Fife, an immigrants' rights activist based in Tucson, Ariz., calls it "death by design." He's referring to the policy by immigration officials of sealing off traditional border crossing areas, leaving immigrants with no choice but to cross from Mexico into the United States in the most dangerous of areas. Fife's long-held observation has proven right once again. People forced to cross the border through mountains, canyons and other lethal areas are dying in ever greater numbers.

A new report from the Tucson-based Coalicion de Derechos Humanos indicates a dramatic increase in the number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border. Between Oct. 1, 2009, and Jan. 31, 2010, the remains of 61 people have been recovered. This is a dramatic increase over the same period a year ago, when the total of recovered remains was 45. This year's count includes 40 males, four females and 17 individuals of unknown gender.

read entire article

Monday, February 22, 2010

A complex tragedy at the border

Los Angeles Times

People need to know the full nuanced story of those who die trying to walk into the United States.

Hector Tobar

9:11 PM PST, February 21, 2010

John Carlos Frey wants you to be angry about the U.S.-Mexico border.

He wants you to feel such a deep sense of moral outrage that you'll get out of your chair and write a letter to your congressman.

That's why he invited me to the border town of El Centro, to stand in Imperial County's pauper's cemetery, a dusty field dotted with about 900 concrete markers the size of bread loaves.

Each was stamped with numbers or the name "John Doe." Several hundred marked the final resting place of Mexican and other Latin American migrants who've died walking across the desert or drowned trying to cross the nearby All-American Canal.

Frey, a 46-year-old filmmaker, blames the U.S. government for their deaths. In all, some 6,000 people have died crossing the Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California borders with Mexico since 1994, according to human-rights groups. About 500 more die every year.

In his new documentary film, "The 800 Mile Wall," Frey says this tragedy is the foreseeable result of a policy that sealed off urban crossing routes, driving migrants into the desert.

"Doesn't this qualify as an atrocity to you?" Frey asked, after we'd walked to the center of the cemetery on a warm winter day last week.

I thought about Frey's question for a moment and tried to imagine the individual stories that had brought all these people to this sad end.

I've lived in Mexico and I have family in Guatemala. I've been to the urban neighborhoods and the rural villages of adobe and cinder-block where migrant journeys begin. But I wouldn't apply the word "atrocity" to what I've seen, not in the sense that Frey means.

On our long drive to El Centro, he had compared the migrant death toll to horrors that no one would dispute deserve that stark label: genocide in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

"Their deaths are systematic and they're the results of a policy," he said of the border crossers. "And it's not just a few. It's thousands." Some people, he said, think the death toll might be as high as 20,000.

"You wonder how long it will take people to get angry," he said later. "How long did it take in Darfur?"

Comparing the deaths at the border to massacres of Darfur makes for a poor analogy for lots of different reasons. But Frey's hyperbole is understandable. "Maybe it's because I've seen the bodies," he tells me.

Frey's film contains gruesome images and heart-breaking stories. He interviews a tearful Guatemalan man who had to identify his wife's remains at an Arizona coroner's office before being deported.

We meet an artist who gathers the objects migrants abandon in the desert, including the journal of a girl crossing with her family. The girl sketched a picture of the truck that drove her to the border, and the green grass she imagined on the other side.

We're shown the mummified remains of a woman -- we never learn where she's from -- who was traveling to the Bay Area to meet her fiance. We see the long hair flowing from her skull and the bones that have been stripped by animal predators.

Frey told me he's going to take his film on a tour of the United States this year. "I think if Americans knew what was happening here, they would be compassionate," he said. "Maybe I'm naive."

He wants to use the film as a tool to build support for an immigration reform bill in Congress that would allow migrants a safe crossing to the jobs that await them.

That's a laudable goal. But there's something about the way he and a lot of other people see the issue of immigration that deeply troubles me.

As a son of immigrants, I just don't buy the constant portrayal of immigrants in U.S. media as either victims or victimizers.

A number of television personalities have sold the American people on the idea that Latino immigrants are a criminal force undermining U.S. society. In "The 800 Mile Wall" the ill-fated migrants are all victims of forces beyond their control.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Death of Josseline

An excerpt from 'Weekly' scribe Margaret Regan's new book featuring dispatches from the Arizona-Mexico border

Friday, February 12, 2010

Illegal Immigration Declining

Homeland Security estimates show a decrease in 'unauthorized immigrants'

By Jim Fogarty
Epoch Times Staff

The U.S.-Mexico border fence. A Department of Homeland Security report estimates the number of illegal immigrants continues decline for a second year. (David McNew/Getty Images)
The number of illegal immigrants living in the United States has declined for the second year in a row, according to a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report. The economic downturn appears to be the reason for the drop.

The report, prepared by DHS's Office of Immigration Statistics, estimated the number of “unauthorized immigrants” in the United States as of January, 2009. The report concluded that there were 10.7 million illegal immigrants in the United States, down from 11.6 million in 2008.

The trend of decline started in the 2008 report, with the number dropping slightly from a 2007 total of 11.78 million—a peak year over the last decade.

The 2009 total is still above DHS estimates for years 2000 and 2005, which come in at 8.46 and 10.49 million unauthorized immigrants, respectively.

The largest percentage of 2009 undocumented aliens —61 percent or 6.6 million—were between the ages of 25 and 44 years old; 58 percent of these are male.

The report's statistics were generated by using a method called “residual” methodology, where the number of legal immigrants is subtracted from the total of foreign-born U.S. residents.

The foreign-born estimates were obtained through the use of the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) sampling data, with a 10 percent error margin for “persons who should have been counted in a survey or census, but were not.”

The bulk of illegal immigrants in 2009 continue to come from Mexico, making up 62 percent—or 6.65 million—of the total number of undocumented immigrants. This total is a 5.4 percent decrease from 2008 statistics, which estimated the number of Mexicans without papers at 7.03 million.

The number of unauthorized immigrants from some Central American countries actually rose in 2009, with an 11.6 percent increase from Guatemala and a 6.7 percent increase from Honduras, compared with the report's 2008 totals.