Sunday, January 24, 2010

Film About Deadly, Failed Border Policies Set for Nationwide Tour

Award winning filmmaker, John Carlos Frey’s latest documentary film, “The 800 Mile Wall,” will begin a nationwide tour in February 2010 to raise awareness about the current human rights crisis caused by U.S. Border policy. “The 800 Mile Wall,” highlights the construction of border walls along the U.S.-Mexico border and takes an unflinching look at the failed U.S. border enforcement strategy that many believe has caused the death of thousands of migrants and violates fundamental human rights.

Since border walls have been built, well over 5,000 migrant bodies have been recovered in U.S. deserts, mountains and canals. Some unofficial reports put the current death toll as high as 10,000 men, women and children. As a direct result of U.S. border policy, migrants are forced to cross hazardous deserts and mountains in search of low skill and low paying jobs in the United States. The New York Times writes, “Current border strategy is serving as a funnel through deadly terrain.” “The 800 Mile Wall illustrates, in great detail, the ineffective and deadly results of this failed border policy and offers some thoughts and suggestions on how the current human rights crisis may be resolved.

“Director John Carlos Frey’s powerful independent film, “The 800 Mile Wall” sounds the alarm on the neglected human rights crisis on our nation’s Southwestern border and puts on the table the life and death questions we must address in comprehensive immigration reform." Congressman Raul Grijalva (D - Arizona 7th District)

The national tour of “The 800 Mile Wall” will initially cover 25 cities with more to be added. The film’s tour is supported by the ACLU, American Friends Service Committee, The National Immigration Forum, Reform Immigration for America, CHIRLA, Humane Borders and No More Deaths among others.

Written and Directed by John Carlos Frey

Produced by Jack Lorenz

Total Running Time: 90 min.

For more information about the tour and the film, visit:



Jack Lorenz

Gatekeeper Productions, LLC


213-324-6101 mobile

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

National Geographic Channel Profits from Humanitarian Crisis


by John Carlos Frey

On Jan. 10, 2009 The National Geographic Channel premiered its new series entitled, Border Wars to the highest ratings in the history of the channel. That seems like a victory and an important milestone for National Geographic but unfortunately it comes at the expense of the worst humanitarian crisis occurring on U.S. soil today. According to National Geographic Channel’s Border Wars,

“Over the past few years the Border Patrol has raised the stakes for anyone attempting to cross. They are daily adding to their arsenal of high tech cameras, ground radar and cutting edge unmanned predator drones.”

What the show fails to mention is that “raising the stakes” has deliberately and inhumanely forced migration over deadly terrain resulting in the death of thousands of migrants on U.S. soil. Conveniently, Border Wars also fails to mention that current border policy and security infrastructure is not working. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report recently featured on 60 Minutes,

“Three years and a billion dollars later, the "virtual fence" that is eventually supposed to secure America's entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico still doesn't work as it should.”

The multi-billion dollar project was supposed to be completed in 2008 and now is scheduled for completion in 2016 if at all. If that is not the most shocking evidence of a failed border security strategy, the GAO goes on to state,

“…despite the price tag authorities have not found a way to determine whether it is helping to halt illegal immigration.”

Billions of dollars, tens of thousands of border guards and horribly, thousands of dead migrants later, the National Geographic Channel’s ratings darling, Border Wars, forgets to mention the border policy they are glorifying in their program is deliberately forcing people to cross deadly terrain and may not be “halting illegal immigration.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Boat capsizes on smuggling run; 1 dead


— The furtive journey by sea was nearly over for about two dozen illegal immigrants crammed into a small fishing boat in the pre-dawn darkness.

But unlike the hundreds of similar illicit landings each year along San Diego County shores, the one early Saturday ended in tragedy when the panga capsized in the surf at Torrey Pines State Beach, scattering people in the chilly water and ultimately claiming a man’s life.

The 30-foot panga boat is shown beached on the shore Saturday morning. (Anthony Porrello photo)Medical personnel tend to a victim on the beach. (Albert D. Johnson photo)

The accident marked the first known death associated with human smuggling by sea in the area’s recent history.

Illegal immigrants are increasingly ignoring the risks of marine smuggling as federal authorities continue to crack down on land crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego. The number of sea-smuggling arrests nearly doubled in the past year, prompting U.S.Homeland Security Department officers to beef up patrols along the region’s coastline, especially in North County.

Sixteen passengers were rescued Saturday from the 58-degree water or found along the shoreline. The search continued until sundown for the remaining people believed to have fled.

“This is our worst nightmare,” said Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “We’ve been warning about this dangerous activity, and unfortunately now we have our first fatality.”

Faced with unpredictable seas, shaky navigational tools and unreliable boats, illegal immigrants and their smugglers frequently underestimate the risks of sneaking into the United States via the Pacific, authorities say.

read entire article

Friday, January 8, 2010

US-MEXICO: Humanitarian Aid Criminalised at the Border

ARIVACA, Arizona -- Humanitarian aid groups trying to avert migrant deaths on the U.S- Mexico border are facing increased roadblocks in their mission. The hazards are not connected to a spike in drug cartels’ violence, but rather restrictions from the federal government.

By Valeria Fernández, IPS

Transporting a migrant in despair to a hospital could mean a volunteer is charged with human smuggling. A simple act of kindness like leaving water in the desert can be subject to penalties as well.

"We’re being intimidated and criminalised as humanitarians," said Walt Staton, a 27-year-old volunteer with No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid group.

Walt Staton, a volunteer with No More Deaths, was convicted for Staton knows this firsthand. He was convicted on Jun. 3 by a 12-person jury of "knowingly littering" for leaving unopened water jugs on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge southwest of Tucson, Arizona.

Arizona, the main gateway for undocumented migration into the U.S., is ground zero to a human rights crisis, according to border activists. In the summer, triple-digit temperatures in the remote Sonoran desert have caused a deadly toll.

Over the past decade, it is estimated that at least 5,000 men, women and children have lost their lives attempting to cross the U.S-Mexico border.

No More Deaths (NMD) has been providing help in the form of water and food to migrants. This June, for the sixth consecutive year, they set up a campsite 24 kms from the border with volunteers from all over the country.

Water can be a lifesaver in some of the most remote areas of the treacherous Sonoran desert, explained Steve Jonston, 64, a volunteer with NMD.

Daily, volunteers set up hundreds of gallon-sized water containers at drop points in some of the most heavily transited migrant trails. Once the jugs have been used, they recycle them.

By the time some of the migrants find them, they have spent from three to four days lost in the desert, Jonston said.

"To ticket Walt Staton for littering would be to ticket an ambulance for speeding," he told IPS.

But not everybody agrees on the approach.

"There’s other ways it can be done," said Michael Hawkes, elected director and manager of the Buenos Aires Refuge. "Just leaving the jugs there is like leaving trash, it is like a McDonald´s happy meal in front of your yard, it is trash."

Hawkes said garbage left by migrants during their trek has been a challenge for preserving the 117,000 acres refuge. He believes Border Patrol beacons, which allow migrants to call for rescue, are more effective than putting water.

The refuge currently allows for at least two water stations set up in the area by another volunteer group. But Jonston argues that’s not nearly enough.


"60 Minutes"

Three years and a billion dollars later, the "virtual fence" that is eventually supposed to secure America's entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico still doesn't work as it should, says the director of Homeland Security issues for the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO's Richard Stana tells Steve Kroft that the project's main contractor, Boeing, has failed to live up to promises it made when it originally received the contract. Kroft's report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday, Jan. 10 (7:00-8:00PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

"Here we are three years and hundreds of millions of dollars since SBI was first conceived of and where are we? We're still waiting for something that works," says Stana of the much vaunted Secure Border Initiative Network or SBInet project. "When Boeing first got the contract back in 2006, they made promises that they would be able to apprehend, at least detect and apprehend, 95 percent, plus or minus five percent, of all the incursions," he tells Kroft.

But there have been delays and problems with the system of cameras and radar mounted so far on strategically placed towers along a small stretch -- about one percent - of the border. The system is meant to greatly enhance the effectiveness of Border Patrol agents but when it was first deployed, it sometimes did the opposite. Says Stana, "The radar, they were very susceptible to weather.if it was raining, it would train on raindrops. If the wind blew mesquite leaves on a bush, it would train on that as an don't want agents out looking for bushes and raindrops."

A demonstration of the system for 60 MINUTES on a clear day indicated it was somewhat effective, but it has its limits says Stana. "The issue is, in what weather does it work? And how reliable is it?"

One of the main reasons for the problems and delays was Boeing and the Department of Homeland Security's initial failure to speak to Border Patrol agents about their needs and the conditions under which they operate. Stana says there was too much haste at the onset. "They wanted to go full-steam ahead with this virtual fence back in '05, '06, for whatever reason. So the kinds of things you would expect to see in a large multi-billion-dollar program, you didn't see right away," he tells Kroft.

So far, SBInet covers roughly 28 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border and is in the process of being replaced with new equipment originally due this month in response to the failures and limitations of the initial system. Boeing was supposed to hand over the first 23-mile section of the new system to the Border Patrol this month, but in the latest delay, it will not be ready for at least three months. The old, flawed system, now considered a "prototype," must do until the new one is implemented.

"Some people have called it a do-over," says Mark Borkowski, the executive director of SBI, who was brought in about a year ago to fix the program. He says the initial system was oversold. "We told Congress, 'It's going to work's going to lock down the border for you.' Shame on us."