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