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.

Shallow grave holds body of probable border crosser

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A group of five humanitarians found the remains of a likely illegal border crosser Tuesday afternoon northwest of Nogales near the town of Ruby.

At 3 p.m., volunteers discovered the body in a shallow grave covered with rocks and adorned with a handmade cross, a No More Deaths press release says, adding that it was in a narrow canyon about two miles east of Ruby.

The volunteers were walking a known migrant trail conducting humanitarian patrols when they found the decomposing body. Ruby is about five miles north of the border, southeast of Arivaca.

The group called the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, and deputies recovered the body. Officials estimated the man died six to seven months ago, the press release says.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office had not yet determined the cause of death, said Dr. Bruce Parks, chief medical examiner.

read entire article

The Count of Arizona Recovered Remains is 61

Four Months into the Fiscal Year, the Count of Arizona Recovered Remains is 61
from Derechos Humanos, AZ

Arizona- The number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2009 has reached 61, reports 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. This count includes forty (40) males, four (4) females, and seventeen (17) individuals of unknown gender. Approximately forty-seven (47) of the recovered individuals remain unknown, which is approximately 77% of the total recovered thus far this fiscal year.

This number is a dramatic increase from last year, when the total of recovered remains as of January 31, 2009 was forty-five (45). In addition, approximately twenty-three (23)-approximately 38%- of the remains were skeletal; last year, there were 13 skeletal remains (approximately 29%) at the same time last year. 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 of 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.

"This year, we have seen a record number of recovered remains in the month of January in Pima County, and an alarming spike in the numbers in Cochise County this winter. We continue to see the tragic trend of the recovery of remains of unknown gender and an alarming rate of unidentified individuals" says Kat Rodriguez, Coordinator of Derechos Humanos.

'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.

"Men, women and children continue to perish on our border, communities cry out for justice, and yet nothing has been done to address the policies that have pushed migrants into the deadly Arizona terrain" continues Rodriguez. "We truly are in the midst of a devastating human rights crisis."

Thursday, February 4, 2010



A few years ago I grew concerned about the massive escalation of security infrastructure that was being built along the U.S. Mexico border. I was born in Tijuana, Mexico and grew up on the flip side of the border in San Diego, California only a few hundred yards from the actual borderline. As a kid, there were always border patrol around but I never felt threatened by our proximity to Mexico. As an adult, I couldn't figure out what had changed. Why, six long years after 9/11, were Mexico and our neighbors to the south a threat to our safety and sovereignty? They were not the perpetrators of 9/11. Why did we need to spend billions of dollars on border walls, technology and thousands more border guards? I decided this would be the subject matter of my next film and I would try to answer these questions.


From 2007 - 2009 I followed the construction of what is now close to 800 miles of border security infrastructure along the U.S.-Mexico international boundary. Vehicle barriers, pedestrian fencing, virtual fences, cameras, sensors and miles of new roads were being rapidly installed. I went from Brownsville, TX to San Diego, CA and points in between and what I found was disastrous. Dozens of environmental laws were waived in order to acquire land and build the new border walls and infrastructure. New technology was unproven, over priced and non-functional. Deserts and mountains were permanently scarred - all to protect "us from them." The assessments from scholars, government agencies and even border patrol was that this multi-billion dollar effort was not going to solve America's immigration problems. All of those details may have made a compelling documentary film. Even with all the blunders and cost overruns there was something else that caught my attention - something that the media left out of their "illegal immigration" reporting. The effect of increased border security was proving to be a massive killer.

Since 1994, when the first border fences were built, migrants began to perish in the deserts and mountains of the American Southwest. Because of the new border wall, they stopped crossing in the mild climate area of San Diego and for the first time, attempted to traverse deserts and mountains. With the exponential growth of border security infrastructure in recent years, migrant death continues to escalate. Migrants are being funneled into even more remote areas than ever before. More people are dying year after year and increased border security is the culprit. In 2009, because of the slumping economy, migration was down by thirty percent yet migrant death was up - less people crossing and more people dying. If that is not enough, the federal government is well aware that their effort to "secure the border" results in more death. It is U.S. border policy to make the migrant journey as treacherous, difficult and dangerous as possible. It is on purpose, it is intentional - I have the official U.S. Border Patrol document that reveals this inhumane strategy. It is called, "prevention through deterrence."

That's what caught my attention and is what our latest film, The 800 Mile Wall exposes. There is a human rights crisis occurring on U.S. soil. Thousands of people have died and thousands more are likely to perish. The human death toll is increasing at an almost exponential rate. I commend President Obama for reducing spending on the virtual border fence and halting construction projects but the infrastructure and policies that are now in place remain deadly. The only solution is not to keep the status quo but to reform it. If it is broke - fix it. If it is a killer - stop it. Comprehensive immigration reform has the potential to move migration from deadly deserts and rugged mountains to a legal port of entry. With reform, workers, relatives, and friends would be given visas, green cards and passes and have an opportunity to cross the border safely and legally - instead of risking their lives as the failed system supports and encourages today.

Migrants are drawn like a magnet to the U.S. with the promise of low wage jobs and then forced through a deadly obstacle course to get here. U.S. border policies are inhumane and not worthy of a country that calls itself a nation of immigrants. Many say, "If they didn't come, they wouldn't die" or "they should stay in their home countries." To those statements I say, I agree. They shouldn't come and they should stay in their home countries. BUT THEY ARE COMING AND THEY ARE DYING! All the logic, wishes and hopes will not keep migrants in their destitute, corrupt and broken home countries. They will come where there is opportunity and America has secretly and insidiously welcomed clandestine workers to our fields, meat packing plants, hotels, restaurants, constructions sites and homes as long as they risk their lives to get here and keep their mouths shut while they stay here and work and work and work so we can benefit before we scapegoat them and deport them. What part of inhumane don't you understand?

The 800 Mile Wall is about to embark on a nationwide tour to raise awareness about this under reported, ongoing atrocity. It is nothing less than that. A man made atrocity is occurring within the confines of the United States of America. Those that want to criminalize the undocumented population and block life saving immigration reform are contributing to the systematic death by dehydration, hypothermia, hyperthermia and exposure of thousands of economically deprived people. Those that blame the migrants themselves for their own demise know nothing of poverty or desperation and have an immature view of America and the world.

Hooray to the Obama administration for recognizing the failures of the "virtual border fence." Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, called for a reassessment of the project. She stated that the failed border security system was unacceptable and is searching for a "more efficient and economical approach." If the current administration believes border security will be achieved through more militarization or better militarization of more economical or efficient militarization, they will get what we have today - a failed border policy and more dead bodies. If comprehensive immigration reform fails to deal with migrant death at the U.S. - Mexico border, it is neither comprehensive nor reform. People will continue to risk their lives to flee oppression, seek opportunity, feed their families or unite with them. Forcing people to risk their lives by funneling them through deserts and mountains is inhumane. As a nation that prides itself on respecting human rights, it must be at the foundation of any immigration reform policy and the first place to start is by removing the death penalty from U.S. border security policy.

Border Fence Plagued by Glitches, Long Delays

'Virtual fence' being built along Mexican border is plagued by glitches, may be scaled back

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Body of migrant recovered near Tubac recently

By JB Miller

Published Tuesday, February 2, 2010 9:14 AM MST

An 18-year-old undocumented migrant spent two days seeking help for his father after the two men reportedly crossed into the United States from Mexico illegally looking for work.

On Jan. 21, 2010, Faustino Mendoza, 45, told his son, Senon Mendoza-Irlanda, that he was tired and needed to rest. He reportedly fell asleep and died.

At around 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 Mendoza-Irlanda was able to contact a rancher on the Sopori Ranch. Deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Officeresponded to Forest Service Road 684 and the West Frontage Road in Tubac where they were directed to the body. The body was taken to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson to determine a possible cause of death. Both men were from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Lt. Raoul Rodriguez of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said this is the first reported death of an undocumented migrant in the county this year. He said that last year 25 deaths were reported in Santa Cruz County. On Dec. 27, 2009, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call reporting the discovery of a male body, possibly an undocumented migrant, who died in the vicinity of Cienega Creek near the Empire Ranch, 12-15 miles from State Route 83, milepost 40.

It was determined the site was in Pima County. Authorities from the Pima County Sheriff's Office responded and took over the investigation.