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.

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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.