Immigrant Rights News -- Mon, Sept. 18, 2006
Immigrant Rights News -- Mon, Sept. 18, 2006
1. CNN: "Immigration raids make a ghost town in Georgia"
2. Charlotte Observer opinion: "Exploiting workers: Despite law, illegal
immigrants missing out on job injury pay"
3. Arizona Republic: "Saving immigrants from a horrid death is not a crime -
4. Arizona Daily Star: "Report shows soaring entrant deaths: U.S. study also
critical of Border Patrol reporting"
5. Washington Post: "Overstating Border Reform's Price"
6. San Antonio Express-News: "House border fence bills passes despite
criticism from Demos"
7. Washington Post: "As Border Crackdown Intensifies, A Tribe Is Caught in
8. From AfricaFocus Bulletin "Africa: Migration and Rights"
A. "Spain's borders strengthened after African refugees storm European
B "Libya: Migrants Abused, But Europe Turns Blind Eye. EU Countries Must
Press Libya to Protect Migrants, Asylum Seekers, Refugees" Human Rights
Immigration raids make a ghost town in Georgia
POSTED: 3:25 p.m. EDT, September 15, 2006
STILLMORE, Georgia (AP) -- Trailer parks lie abandoned. The poultry
plant is scrambling to replace more than half its workforce. Business
has dried up at stores where Mexican laborers once lined up to buy
food, beer and cigarettes just weeks ago.
This Georgia community of about 1,000 people has become little more
than a ghost town since September 1, when federal agents began
rounding up illegal immigrants.
The sweep has had the unintended effect of underscoring just how vital
the illegal immigrants were to the local economy.
More than 120 illegal immigrants have been loaded onto buses bound for
immigration courts in Atlanta, 189 miles away. Hundreds more fled
Emanuel County. Residents say many scattered into the woods, camping
out for days. They worry some are still hiding without food.
At least one child, born a U.S. citizen, was left behind by his
Mexican parents: 2-year-old Victor Perez-Lopez. The toddler's mother,
Rosa Lopez, left her son with Julie Rodas when the raids began and
fled the state. The boy's father was deported to Mexico.
"When his momma brought this baby here and left him, tears rolled down
her face and mine too," Rodas said. "She said, `Julie, will you please
take care of my son because I have no money, no way of paying rent?"'
For five years, Rodas has made a living watching the children of
workers at the Crider Inc. poultry plant, where the vast majority of
employees were Mexican immigrants. She learned Spanish, and considered
many immigrants among her closest friends. She threw parties for their
children's birthdays and baptisms.
The only child in Rodas' care now, besides her own son, is Victor. Her
customers have disappeared.
Federal agents also swarmed into a trailer park operated by David
Robinson. Illegal immigrants were handcuffed and taken away. Almost
none have returned. Robinson bought an American flag and posted it by
the pond out front -- upside down, in protest.
"These people might not have American rights, but they've damn sure
got human rights," Robinson said. "There ain't no reason to treat them
The raids came during a fall election season in which immigration is a
Illegal immigrant population doubles
Last month, the federal government reported that Georgia had the
fastest-growing illegal immigrant population in the country. The number more
than doubled from an estimated 220,000 in 2000 to 470,000 last year. This
year, state lawmakers passed some of the nation's toughest measures
targeting illegal immigrants, and Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue last week
vowed a statewide crackdown on document fraud.
Other than the Crider plant, there isn't much in Stillmore. Four small
stores, a coin laundry and a Baptist church share downtown with City Hall,
the fire department and a post office. "We're poor but proud," Mayor Marilyn
Slater said, as if that is the town motto.
The 2000 Census put Stillmore's population at 730, but Slater said uncounted
immigrants probably made it more than 1,000. Not anymore, with so many homes
abandoned and the streets practically empty.
"This reminds me of what I read about Nazi Germany, the Gestapo coming in
and yanking people up," Slater said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Marc Raimondi would not
discuss details of the raids. "We can't lose sight of the fact that these
people were here illegally," Raimondi said.
Businesses may have to close
At Sucursal Salina No. 2, a store stocked with Mexican fruit sodas and
snacks, cashier Alberto Gonzalez said Wednesday that the owner may shutter
the place. By midday, Gonzalez has had only six customers. Normally, he
would see 100.
The B&S convenience store, owned by Keith and Regan Slater, the mayor's son
and grandson, has lost about 80 percent of its business.
"These people come over here to make a better way of life, not to blow us
up," complained Keith Slater, who keeps a portrait of Ronald Reagan on the
wall. "I'm a die-hard Republican, but I think we missed the boat with this
Since the mid-1990s, Stillmore has grown dependent on the paychecks of
Mexican workers who originally came for seasonal farm labor, picking the
area's famous Vidalia onions. Many then took year-round jobs at the Crider
plant, with a workforce of about 900.
Crider President David Purtle said the agents began inspecting the company's
employment records in May. They found 700 suspected illegal immigrants, and
supervisors handed out letters over the summer ordering them to prove they
came to the U.S. legally or be fired. Only about 100 kept their jobs.
The arrests started at the plant September 1. During the Labor Day weekend,
agents with guns and bulletproof vests converged on workers' homes after
getting the addresses from Crider's files.
No people, no work
Antonio Lopez, who came here two years ago from Chiapas, Mexico, and worked
at the Crider plant, said agents kicked in his front door. Lopez, 32, and
his 15-year-old son were handcuffed and taken by bus to Atlanta with 30
others. Because of the boy, Lopez said, both were allowed to return. In his
back pocket, he carries an order to return to Atlanta for a court hearing
But now, "there's no people here and I don't have any work," he said.
The poultry plant has limped along with half its normal workforce. Crider
increased its starting wages by $1 an hour to help recruit new workers.
Stacie Bell, 23, started work canning chicken at Crider a week ago. She said
the pay, $7.75 an hour, led her to leave her $5.60-an-hour job as a Wal-Mart
cashier in nearby Statesboro. Still, Bell said she felt bad about the raids.
"If they knew eventually that they were going to have to do that, they
should have never let them come over here," she said.
Posted on Sun, Sep. 17, 2006
Despite law, illegal immigrants missing out on job injury pay
Francisco Ruiz's story is, sadly, too common. He came to North Carolina,
illegally, when jobs dried up in Mexico and he couldn't support his family.
He landed a job in Charlotte with Belk Masonry Co.
Within six weeks he was badly injured on the job, when a crane hoisting him
and a load of bricks collapsed.
As Observer reporter Liz Chandler tells in articles on today's front page
and the front of this section, Mr. Ruiz became a victim again -- this time
of an insurer that didn't want to follow the law. Belk Masonry's insurer,
Companion Property & Casualty Insurance Co. of Columbia, paid his initial
medical bills but rejected further claims because he was an illegal
immigrant, even though the law in North Carolina, as in almost every state,
says companies must pay injury benefits to all workers.
The company, a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, said
it wanted to test the law. So for six years -- until the case was turned
away by the N.C. Supreme Court -- it kept fighting ruling after ruling that
it should pay worker's compensation to Mr. Ruiz. Today Mr. Ruiz is back in
Mexico, unable to work. But at least he received $438,000 for his injury.
In another way, Mr. Ruiz's case isn't at all typical. He fought in court
until he won. As Ms. Chandler reports, many immigrant workers are
intimidated into keeping quiet about injuries or are turned away when they
seek the workers' comp legally due them. In one national study of 2,660 day
laborers, most of them working illegally, one in five reported a workplace
injury. Of those, more than half said they didn't get needed medical care.
Only 6 percent got workers' comp.
No government agency tracks the number of illegal workers injured or killed
or denied benefits. However, the U.S. Labor Department reports a
disproportionate number of workplace deaths among Hispanic and foreign-born
workers, including illegal workers.
It's outrageous that companies are willing to use illegal workers' labor yet
avoid paying them if they're injured at work. Worse, it's illegal.
The widespread flouting of the law by employers is, as one analyst called
it, "a toxic cocktail" eroding workplace safety standards for all workers,
legal and illegal alike. With rising numbers of illegal immigrants, more and
more workers are being exposed to that illegal exploitation.
It's just one more reason the U.S. immigration system needs a top-to-bottom
Saving immigrants from a horrid death is not a crime - yet
Sept. 17, 2006 12:00 AM
One very hot day in July 2005, a few miles north of the Mexican border in
Arizona, a pair of 23-year-old college students were arrested and hauled off
to jail for having committed a crime for humanity.
Many of us didn't know that such a thing was possible until Shanti Sellz and
Daniel Strauss were taken into custody.
The two were volunteers for No More Deaths, a Tucson-based organization that
sets up camps and provides food, water and medical assistance to border
crossers who are lost in the searing desert.
Last year, the Border Patrol recorded more than 500 deaths along the
southern border with Mexico. More than half of the corpses were found in
On July 9, 2005, Sellz and Strauss came upon three men who were dehydrated
to the point that they could not hold down water. They were advised by
volunteer doctors to drive the men to a Tucson clinic, as others in the
group had done before.
Along the way, they were stopped by Border Patrol agents and arrested. They
were charged with illegally transporting undocumented immigrants and could
have landed in prison.
Still, Sellz and Strauss refused to accept a plea bargain, even one that
would have allowed them to walk away free. They said that offering
assistance to people in need couldn't to their minds be considered a
In December, when I first spoke to Sellz, she told me, "When I called my mom
and told her that I was not going to accept the plea, she kind of paused a
little then told me that she was very proud of me."
The trial of the two students was scheduled to begin next month, but this
month U.S. District Judge Raner Collins dismissed all charges against the
pair. Collins said, essentially, that the students were following guidelines
that others had not been prosecuted for following.
"I feel a little relieved," Sellz told me last week. "I've learned a lot and
stand even more strongly on the convictions that led me to work with No More
Though she continues her college studies, Sellz has spent a lot of time over
the past year speaking to groups about her prosecution and the work that led
"So many people are immediately closed off to the humanitarian aspect of the
border issue because of their politics," she said. "As soon as you start
talking about immigration, some people shut off. But once you can bring out
the reality to them, that these are people - mothers, fathers, children -
who are dying terrible deaths in pursuit of something simple like work, some
of them come around."
Among those who don't come around, however, are politicians looking to get
elected. Which means that the best Sellz and Strauss can say of their
ordeal - and it's a lot - is that it established that in the United States
of America, humanitarian aid is not a crime. For now.
"There's a lot of work still to be done," she said. "This is one of those
problems that isn't going to go away. I know that people look at the issue
from different angles but we're going to have to work together to solve it."
Sellz has said throughout the long legal process that she would do it all
over again, risk going to prison again, if someone in authority were to
again decide that providing humane assistance to those crossing the border
To her and others like her, while helping such people may again be
considered a crime against the state or the nation, not helping them is a
crime against humanity.
Reach Montini at email@example.com or (602) 444-8978. Read his
blog at montiniblog.azcentral.com
Arizona Daily Star
Report shows soaring entrant deaths
U.S. study also critical of Border Patrol reporting
By Dan Sorenson
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona, Published: 09.14.2006
A federal report released today documents the dramatic increase in deaths of
illegal border crossers in Arizona and is critical of the way the Border
Patrol compiles those figures.
The Government Accountability Office report on illegal-immigration-related
border-crossing deaths was done at the request of Senate Majority Leader
Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and coincides with his scheduled introduction of a
Senate immigration bill this morning. The bill would authorize $1.5 million
for more "rescue beacons" illegal border crossers could use to signal for
emergency medical help, and calls for a prison term of up to 20 years for
"coyotes," smugglers, who abandon a border crosser outside sight of a rescue
beacon or a paved road.
In a prepared statement Frist said Tuesday that while he doesn't expect a
comprehensive immigration-reform package to be approved anytime soon, he is
introducing the Border Death Reduction Act because, "We need to secure our
borders, but we also have a moral obligation to protect the life of every
person who sets foot on our soil."
A spokeswoman for Frist said Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Kay Bailey
Hutchison, R-Texas, are co-sponsoring Frist's bill.
The GAO report notes that the location and type of border- crosser deaths
have changed dramatically since 1994, when the U.S. attorney general's
Southwest Border Strategy caused the former Immigration and Naturalization
Service to increase enforcement pressure in the heavily populated border
areas of San Diego and El Paso.
"The strategy assumed that as the urban areas were controlled, the migrant
traffic would shift to more remote areas where the Border Patrol would be
able to more easily detect and apprehend migrants entering illegally."
It was assumed that "natural barriers," including the Rio Grande in Texas,
the mountains east of San Diego and the Arizona desert, would "act as
deterrents to illegal entry."
But in practice, the action forced border crossers to increasingly use the
more remote and rugged desert of Arizona, and the number of deaths in
Arizona sectors increased.
Overall, the GAO report notes that U.S.-Mexican border deaths increased from
the late 1990s, from 241 in 1999 to 472 in 2005, and "the majority of the
increase in deaths during this period occurred within the Border Patrol's
The leading cause of death changed from traffic-related ? often pedestrians
being hit by cars near the San Diego-Tijuana border ? to heat-related deaths
in the Arizona desert.
Even with some likely undercounting of deaths due to methodology problems
noted in the report, recorded border-crosser deaths in the Tucson Sector
increased from 11 in 1998 to 216 in 2005.
While adult men continue to make up the majority of dead illegal border
crossers, the report noted that overall, female border deaths increased from
9 percent to 21 percent between 1998 and 2005. And, during that period, the
Tucson Sector alone accounted for 57 percent of that increase.
Among the problems noted in counting all border-crossing-related deaths is a
lack of uniformity from one Border Patrol sector to the next in the way they
gather death records from medical examiners within their areas.
"Some coordinators also reported regularly scheduled contact with local
authorities, while others stated that communication was informal and
infrequent," the report said.
One example cited was an unidentified county medical examiner in the Tucson
Sector. The report said it was a "county where a relatively large number of
deaths occurred," and that Tucson Sector Border Patrol officials "only began
contacting them in 2005 to request information on border-crossing deaths."
Gustavo Soto, a Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman, said mistakes were
made in the past that resulted in undercounting border-crosser deaths.
"If there is someone out there that we encounter as skeletal remains, we
count that," Soto said. "There was a time when we didn't, and obviously that
He said the sector's chief, Michael Nicley, is committed to getting accurate
numbers of border-crosser fatalities, and to rendering aid.
"That's one of the things we pride ourselves on," Soto said.
"We rescued 980 people last year, people in need in (fiscal year) 2005,"
The report also notes that it is difficult to separate the effects of Border
Patrol safety and enforcement actions. In recent years some agents have been
trained and deployed for search and rescue work, both in special units and
as part of their regular mission.
Kat Rodriguez, a coordinator for Derechos Humanos, a Tucson-based, nonprofit
human-rights organization, said the refusal of counties outside the
immediate border area to report border-crosser deaths is a significant
source of underreporting.
"Maricopa County does not track migrant deaths, even though migrants are
often transported to safe houses there. They maintain they're too far from
the border," Rodriguez said.
And she says fatalities resulting from traffic accidents involving vehicles
loaded with border crossers are often not reported as border-related deaths.
The report notes that besides the inconsistencies in collecting and
compiling border-crosser death data, there are problems with drawing
conclusions from the numbers. For instance, the report questions Border
Patrol assumptions that increased enforcement efforts prevent would-be
crossers from even attempting illegal entry into the U.S. Instead, the
report says, the enforcement action may cause illegal immigrants to cross in
even more remote, and possibly more dangerous, areas.
The rescue beacons proposed in Frist's bill are intended to address the
problem of imperiled crossers in particularly remote areas.
"I'm all for beacons. I understand the intent. I support Frist's attention
to the Tucson Sector," said the Rev. Robin Hoover of Humane Borders and
pastor of Tucson's First Christian Church, 740 E. Speedway.
"I'm for all that, but I think it's a little off the mark to say we're going
to prosecute this out of existence," Hoover said.
Rodriguez, who says she was interviewed by the GAO several months ago,
applauded the report for being critical of the Border Patrol's methodology,
but said the effort should instead have been devoted to asking why Mexicans
are coming into this country illegally, and finding a way to prevent that.
"Rather than track the deaths, why not talk about preventing the deaths?"
Rodriguez said. "It comes down to money. Our economic need is not being met
by immigration laws."
She said there are more jobs in the United States for immigrant workers than
can be filled legally.
"We don't have the legal means to bring that number" of Mexican workers into
the U.S., Rodriguez said. "We need them filled, but in a safe, legal way,
not in a way that criminalizes them and exploits them."
On StarNet: Search the database of illegal immigrants who have died along
the border at azstarnet.com/border
? Contact reporter Dan Sorenson at 573-4185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Overstating Border Reform's Price
By Robert Greenstein and James Horney
Friday, September 15, 2006; Page A19
Would offering undocumented immigrants a path to legalization bust the
federal budget? Critics of the Senate immigration bill, which seeks to crack
down on illegal immigration while giving many currently undocumented workers
a chance to work legally in this country, tout a Congressional Budget Office
study that they say shows the bill would cost a whopping $126 billion over
10 years. A fair reading of that study, however, suggests that the bill's
actual impact on the deficit would be close to zero and that it could even
Critics add up the bill's increased tax-credit and entitlement costs while
ignoring the increased tax revenue it would produce. They also substantially
inflate the increased discretionary government spending that would result
and overlook the bill's expected positive effects on the economy.
Let's start with revenue. The CBO found that the Senate bill would boost tax
revenue by $44 billion over 10 years by increasing the size of the workforce
and the number of immigrants working "above ground" and paying taxes. This
would roughly offset the $48 billion in increased entitlement costs that the
CBO projects under the bill. Indeed, it estimated that after the first few
years, new tax collections actually would exceed new entitlement spending.
The CBO also predicts that this increase in the size of the workforce would
produce benefits for the economy. Both the Congressional Budget Office and
the Office of Management and Budget expect a slowdown in economic growth in
coming decades as the population ages and growth in the supply of workers
grinds nearly to a halt. The CBO estimates the Senate bill -- because it
would expand the workforce -- would boost the economy, possibly by enough to
produce an additional $100 billion or more in revenue over 10 years.
This means that the Senate bill would probably reduce long-term deficits,
not enlarge them. Similarly, the Social Security actuaries have found that
the Senate bill would reduce the Social Security trust fund's long-term
deficit and extend the program's solvency by two years.
So how did critics of the Senate bill arrive at the sensational $126 billion
figure, which appears nowhere in the CBO report? First, they counted all of
the bill's spending increases while ignoring all of its increases in
revenue. For example, they counted the increased costs of Social Security
and Medicare benefits for those additional immigrants who would qualify for
them, while ignoring the increased Social Security and Medicare payroll
taxes the immigrants would pay to qualify for those benefits.
They also incorrectly assumed that the Senate bill requires $78 billion in
added discretionary spending. To be sure, the bill would authorize future
appropriations of roughly that amount over 10 years. But none of these funds
would actually be spent unless Congress provided them in future
appropriations bills. The federal budget contains hundreds of programs that
Congress funds below -- often far below -- the authorized amounts.
In addition, each year Congress must fit appropriations within an overall
appropriations limit, as set in the congressional budget resolution. Funding
increases for one set of programs often must be offset by reductions in
other programs. Consequently, any increase in discretionary spending arising
from the Senate bill is likely to be offset, at least in part, by cuts in
other areas. For each of the past four years Congress has made
across-the-board cuts in discretionary programs to accommodate new
priorities while remaining within the prescribed limits. The CBO itself did
not include the $78 billion figure in its estimate of how much new spending
the Senate bill actually provides.
Finally, whatever portion of the $78 billion ultimately shows up in future
appropriations will probably be provided whether Congress passes the Senate
bill or not. That is because more than 90 percent of the authorized
discretionary spending would go toward the kind of enforcement measures the
bill's critics strongly support, such as expanded border security and
stronger measures to identify immigrants illegally seeking employment.
Republican congressional leaders have made clear their intention to increase
funding for enforcement activities by billions of dollars in appropriation
bills that they will consider this month. Indeed, Rep. Harold Rogers, a key
Appropriations subcommittee chairman, declared this week that the leadership
will provide "tons of money" for this.
Because it is a subject that stirs strong emotions, debates over immigration
policy demand fact and solid analysis. As Congress searches for agreement on
immigration legislation, mistaken claims that the Senate bill would bust the
budget only make this already difficult job harder.
Robert Greenstein is executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities. James Horney is a senior fellow at the center and former chief
of the budget projections unit at the Congressional Budget Office.
San Antonio Express-News
House border fence bills passes despite criticism from Demos
Web Posted: 09/14/2006 04:59 PM CDT
Express-News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - A Republican bill to build 730 miles of fence along the
U.S.-Mexico border passed Thursday over Democratic criticism that the
legislation was merely GOP posturing to drive conservatives to the election
booth this fall.
The measure to build fences in border cities - including Brownsville,
Laredo, Eagle Pass, Del Rio and El Paso - passed on a 283-138 vote, drawing
"Overwhelmingly, the American people want to secure the border," said Rep.
Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "This
is something that can be done. It will work."
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, said the measure was the first in a series
of bills that would show "the American people we are serious about a serious
issue. We are going to secure the borders."
A provision calling for 730 miles of fence was included in a border security
bill the House passed in December.
The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that includes 350 miles
of fence, along with earned legalization and guest worker programs.
But House Republican leaders oppose the legalization and guest worker
provisions in the Senate bill, and the House and Senate bills have not been
sent to a conference committee for reconciliation.
GOP leaders said the Senate could consider the border fence bill in upcoming
weeks, before Congress adjourned to campaign for the Nov. 7 election.
Still, the outcome of a vote on the bill was less certain in the upper
chamber, where lawmakers in both parties favor a more comprehensive
During the House debate, Democrats accused Republicans of deceiving
constituents with claims that the illegal immigration problem was being
addressed after five years of control of the House, Senate and White House.
"The America people can see through this charade," said Alcee Hastings,
Republicans, meanwhile, tried to label Democrats as weak on border security.
"I'm not going to take that rap," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston,
"You need to do your job on border security."
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, charged that Republicans were trying to fool
Americans into thinking Osama bin Laden was headed north to cross the border
wearing "a sombrero."
Even Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., a border congressman who is stepping down this
year, called the fence bill "feel-good legislation" that would not address
the problem of illegal immigration.
"It is time to reject these partial measures," said Kolbe, who voted against
The South Texas congressional delegation voted along party lines, with
Republicans casting votes to build a fence and Democrats opposing it.
Most Republicans praised the erection of physical barriers as a tool to help
seal the Southwest border. The bill also includes a study for similar
measures on the northern border with Canada.
The bill would erect 176 miles of fence, from Laredo to Brownsville; 51
miles of fence from north of Del Rio to south of Eagle Pass.; and 88 miles
of fence from El Paso to the New Mexico border.
Additional fencing, ground sensors, cameras and lighting would be built in
Funds for fence, whose costs is estimated at between $2.2 billion and $9
billion, would be attached to a separate spending bill.
"We are going to fund it," Smith said. "We are serious about it."
As Border Crackdown Intensifies, A Tribe Is Caught in the Crossfire
By John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 15, 2006; A01
ALIR JEGK, Ariz. -- Elsie Salsido was breast-feeding her baby when Border
Patrol agents walked into her house unannounced this summer. "Are you
Mexicans?" they demanded.
Salsido's four other children cowered on the bed of her eldest, a girl in
second grade. Night had fallen on this village on Arizona's border with
Mexico, nestled in a scrubland valley of stickman cactuses hemmed in by
mountains that look like busted teeth. The agents explained their
warrantless entry into Salsido's house as "hot pursuit." They said they were
chasing footprints, she recalled, of illegal immigrants sneaking in from
Mexico, just 1,000 feet away. But the footprints belonged to Salsido's
children -- all Americans.
As the United States ramps up its law enforcement presence on the border
with Mexico, places like Alir Jegk, a village of 50 families in
south-central Arizona, are enduring heightened danger, as they are squeezed
between increasingly aggressive bands of immigrant and drug smugglers and
increasingly numerous federal agents who, critics say, often ignore
regulations as they seek to enforce the law.
Alir Jegk's experience is complicated by the fact that it is on the
second-biggest Indian reservation in the United States, belonging to the
Tohono O'odham, or Desert People, who hunted deer and boar and harvested
wild spinach and prickly pear in this region before an international border
was etched through their land in 1853. Now, the Tohono O'odham Nation
occupies the front line of the fight against drug and immigrant smuggling --
costing the poverty-stricken tribe millions of dollars a year and
threatening what remains of its traditions.
"We have the undocumented and drug smugglers heading north and law
enforcement heading south. We're smack in the middle," Vivian Juan-Saunders,
chairwoman of the tribe, said in an interview at the tribal headquarters in
Sells, Ariz. "We are being squeezed."
In testimony to the U.S. Senate, the tribe's vice chairman, Ned Norris Jr.,
described a "border security crisis that has caused shocking devastation of
our land and resources."
About 11,000 Tohono O'odham live on a 2.8 million-acre reservation, the size
of Connecticut, with a 75-mile-long border with Mexico. A rickety
four-foot-tall, three-strand barbed-wire fence delineates the border, which
is punctuated by 160 trails and four cattle crossings. For decades the
nation saw little or no illegal traffic from Mexico. The main movement was
members of the Tohono O'odham who live in the Mexican part of the
reservation trickling into the United States for health services in Sells.
In the mid-1990s, however, the Clinton administration cracked down on
illegal crossings in San Diego and El Paso. Instead of stopping illegal
immigration and drug running, however, the operations simply rerouted
traffic through the deserts of the Southwest. And in Arizona, Tohono O'odham
land, bisected by State Highway 86 -- an easy link to Phoenix to the north
and California to the west -- became ground zero.
The flow of drugs and undocumented immigrants through the reservation has
caused a host of problems. Juan-Saunders estimated that about 1,500 illegal
immigrants cross reservation land each day, depositing on average six tons
of trash. Some well-traveled knolls have been renamed "Million Backpack
Hill" because of the refuse.
The tribe routinely devotes more than 10 percent of its budget to coping
with the crisis. Annually, Juan-Saunders said, the 71-member Tohono O'odham
Police Department spends $3 million on problems related to illegal
immigrants and drug traffickers. The reservation pays an additional $2
million each year to provide emergency health services for undocumented
travelers. Since 2002, 315 crossers have died on the reservation's land,
including, this year, a 3-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl.
The Tohono O'odham are a poor nation, with an average per capita income of
$8,000 a year, well below the U.S. average of $23,000 and the Indian average
of $13,000. Forty percent of the families on the reservation live below the
federal poverty line, and unemployment is at 42 percent. Juan-Saunders said
an increasing number of nation members are sucked into the drug- and
Two of Juan-Saunders's relatives have been arrested on drug-related charges,
tribal officials said. And in Alir Jegk, drug smugglers have plied Elsie
Salsido's sister with so many narcotics over the years in their attempts to
turn her into a mule that the woman has never been the same, residents say.
"The pressures have dramatically increased on the tribe over the last five
years," said Robert A. Williams, a law professor at the University of
Arizona who works as a judge in the tribe's courts. "The community is fairly
well isolated, so they are very vulnerable to coyotes [immigrant smugglers]
and drug runners. We've seen signs of gang activity coming from L.A. and
Mexican gangs coming up."
Fifteen years ago, the nation, invoking its limited sovereignty, barred the
Border Patrol from the reservation because its agents harassed the
population, said Eileen M. Luna-Firebaugh, an expert on American Indian
policy at the University of Arizona. But that policy changed after drug and
immigrant smuggling skyrocketed, although the tribe was always more focused
on narcotics, she said.
The tribe is home to the Shadow Wolves, a storied, largely Indian unit of
U.S. Customs and Border Protection that uses ancient tracking techniques to
chase down drug smugglers. But after the creation of the Department of
Homeland Security, the Border Patrol has run the Shadow Wolves and has
shifted their focus away from drugs and toward immigrant smuggling,
prompting several senior officers to quit.
Nonetheless, under Juan-Saunders's leadership, which began in 2003, the
tribal council has welcomed more federal law enforcement. It has allowed the
Border Patrol to establish two permanent facilities on its land. It recently
agreed to the construction of a 75-mile vehicle barrier, costing more than
$1 million a mile, to replace the wobbly fence.
The tribe has complied with Border Patrol wishes to close one traditional
gate connecting the American side of its land to the Mexican side. It has
also recently consented to allow the National Guard to operate on the
border, on the condition that the Guard repairs roads and "respects the
people and the laws of this land," Juan-Saunders said.
Winning that respect, however, has not been easy. Tribal members are
routinely harassed by federal agents, Juan-Saunders said. "They cross
property without asking. They enter homes without knocking," she said.
In March, Juan-Saunders was driving her 8-year-old son in her Jeep, going 45
mph in a 55 zone, when she was ordered to pull over by a Border Patrol
officer. She stopped by the side of the road, and the officer leapt out of
his vehicle and pointed his gun at her. "Now I know what my constituents are
experiencing," she said.
Juan-Saunders acknowledged having mixed feelings about ceding more of her
nation's sovereignty to federal agencies. "But we are in dire straits here,"
Chuy Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Border Patrol in Tucson, said relations
between the Border Patrol and the tribe are "getting better and better over
"There's a lot more dialogue with folks in positions of power," he said. He
said that Border Patrol community relations officers make regular visits to
the reservation and that his agency has established a process for
complaints. Tribal representatives instruct Border Patrol agents about the
tribe and its traditions.
"We can't go into anyone's property," he said. "We have to get someone from
the Tohono O'odham police to come. However, if it's hot pursuit, it's a
Back in Alir Jegk, Margaret Garcia, 68, and an older neighbor, Francisco
Garcia, sum up the pressures facing the tribe.
Margaret Garcia, who lives in a two-room shack with, at last count, 19 cats
and six dogs, said she awoke late one night to discover that Border Patrol
agents, with shotguns and night-vision goggles, had established an
observation post in her yard.
Francisco Garcia, on the other hand, used to live in Mexico. He was kicked
out of his village by drug dealers, so he moved to the American side of the
line. "I didn't want to die," he said.
"A long time ago there was no one but us," Margaret said. "It was peaceful.
When the cactus was ripe, my daughters would go out with a stick to harvest
the fruit. Now if we go out, the Border Patrol follows us. Everyone is a
Africa: Migration and Rights
Sep 16, 2006 (060916)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Chartered planes started flying illegal African immigrants back from Spain
to Senegal last week, resuming a repatriation program aimed at stemming the
flow of immigrants to this southern European country. But judging by
experience, the return is unlikely to stop thousands of others from risking
their lives in small boats to reach the Canary Islands from the West African
coast, or finding other perilous ways of reaching the European continent.
More than 20,000 African immigrants have been intercepted this year in
Spain's Canary Islands, including 6,000 in August alone. Rough estimates are
that at least 1,000 a year are lost at sea attempting the perilous voyage in
small boats. This flow is paralleled by Africans crossing the Mediterranean
from Libya to Italy, and by other trying to cross from Morocco into Spain's
northern African enclaves.
Although African and European countries have been meeting to seek ways of
managing such migration, there seems little prospect of a durable solution
as long as the deep economic disparities persist, or until the rights of
migrants, legal or "illegal," have systematic protection..
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains an analysis from Sokari Eikine of the
situation of African immigrants in Spain, and a report from Human Rights
Watch on human rights abuses against migrants in Libya and the failures of
European Union policy on protecting migrants' rights.
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains excerpts from new
reports by the Economic Commission on Africa and the United Nations, with
more general reflections on the implications of migration for development.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Spain's borders strengthened after African refugees storm European frontier
*Sokari Ekine produces the blog Black Looks,
Last year, the UK's 'Sunday Herald Online' reported that "... thousands of
strong, young men at the razor-wire frontiers of these half-forgotten
Spanish possessions launched their most spectacular raid yet upon fortress
Europe..." Sokari Ekine explains that what drives most Africans to abandon
their countries of origin is poverty and civil strife. She argues that the
response of most Western European countries to the problem is influenced by
cultural prejudice against those from the so-called "Third World".
It is reported that 20,000 men, women and children have reached the shores
of Spain since the beginning of the year, with over 1300 arriving two
weekends ago. In eight months the numbers are three times bigger compared to
last year. Those that make it to the shore, often swimming the last 100
meters, arrive half dead scattered on beaches amongst the sunbathing
In an article entitled " The Canaries, The Threatened Paradise," Spanish
daily El Pais wrote: "What years ago a was slow and distant dripping of
pateras (wooden boats), disembarking ten, twelve Moroccans, Senegalese,
Guineanos or Gambians on beaches of Fuerteventura, has become an almost
daily arrival of boats with 80, 90, the 100 or most sub-Saharans." Arguments
are breaking out between the various provincial and city governments over
the numbers of migrants each is willing to accept from the two landing
points, the Canaries and Andalusia. So far the number of people who have
been deported to their countries of origin is about 1800.
There are layers of realities around immigration in Spain and Europe. The
country has benefited from cheap Moroccan and West Africa labour on
construction sites and in their agricultural sector, which has resulted in a
2.6% growth in the economy over the past 10 years. It is projected that
without immigrant labour it would have fallen by 0.6% annually. Similar
growth figures apply for the whole of Europe.
As long as Spain continues to reap benefits from cheap labour, the Spanish
government's rhetoric that it will not tolerate the continued arrival of
migrants cannot be taken very seriously. The difference between today and a
year ago can be explained in terms of numbers.
Another reality for the Spanish is that they are just waking up to the fact
that Spain is the geographical space where Europe "almost kisses Africa"
(Caryl Phillips, The European Tribe), or is it the other way around? The
contrast between Spain and Africa is remarkable. The poverty existence of
those who inhabit the latter and the wealthy existence of the Spanish is
what prompts many to cross the Mediterranean in rickety launches. For some
of these people, it is as if Spain is a promised land.
Some leave their own countries because of wars and endless conflicts. And it
must be pointed out that for every migrant, illegal or legal, there are
whole families - and in some cases communities - that survive on the
reparations of those who make the crossing.
Spain and the EU are presently initiating a number of projects and policies
in an attempt to slow down, and eventually stop, the migration of Africans
to their shores. However, the polices being proposed are like using a rag to
stop a dripping tap - cheap, temporary with no substance. This begs the
question: are these policies aimed at reducing the numbers or spreading out
the arrivals rather than stopping immigration altogether?
A Spanish NGO is opening a school in Senegal for 800 students. The aim is to
educate both women (who make up 50% of the school population) and men. The
ultimate goal of the school is to impart skills to theses young people so
that they find employment in their countries of origin, rather than be
compelled to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
There are millions of young people presently trying to migrate to the
North - this new policy would have to be replicated hundreds of times in
countries throughout West, North and East Africa as well as South East Asia,
the Middle East and beyond. The school is a positive step but the reality is
that it is a bag of flour amongst a million hungry people.
In July, in a further sign of desperation, the Spanish government signed an
unprecedented agreement with Senegal to allow the Guardia Civil to patrol
Senegalese waters to prevent migrants from leaving their homeland. The EU is
planning and funding a series of transit camps across the continent and
North Africa (from Ukraine to Libya) as part of a holistic "system of
control" along with the Schengen agreement, the closing of the two Spanish
enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, that will effectively "barbed wire"
The contradiction is that many European countries such as Britain and Spain
are in desperate need of increased migration due to falling birthrates and
emigration of their own indigenous citizens. There are some 4 million
Spanish people working abroad and only 2 million foreigners in Spain. The
way around the need for migrant labour - professional, skilled and
unskilled - is to present "legal" immigration in terms of economics and
meeting temporary needs, whilst using asylum seekers and refugees as a way
of rejecting "illegal" migration on ethnic and nationalistic grounds.
There is no doubt that Spanish and European immigration policies have a
strong racial element. Are these new policies directed towards stopping
African migrants, a response to the availability of cheap labour from
Romania and Bulgaria? It is important to note that these two countries are
soon going to be joining EU.
I do not think Spain has reached saturation point in its need for cheap
labour but now African people are having to compete for jobs with Eastern
European people who are also arriving in large numbers.
Obviously the lure of hard cash made in Spain drives the migrants to risk
their lives (often repeatedly) to reach Europe. One of the worst tragedies
started last Christmas, when about 53 Senegalese, most from the village of
Casamance, left by boat from Cabo Verde to the Canaries. The boat was
relatively large but had no cover or shade. There appears to have been some
chaos around the departure of the boat as apparently the Spaniard in charge
jumped ship at the last minute. It is reported that five of the Senegalese
also left the boat and another got scared after the boat set off and jumped
out and swam back to shore.
The boat is thought to have passed Mauritania but when it reached Nuadibu
(Nuadhibou, Mauritania) there was a storm and the passengers lost control of
the boat. They then started to call friends and family. One of the people
they called was a Spanish pirate. A few hours later they were rescued by
another boat which towed them to the middle of the ocean and then abandoned
them. They only had 40 litres of fuel, which ran out, and, as if this was
not enough, they had to cope with the storms and high seas of the Atlantic.
It is reported that there were a series of storms, with one approximately
every ten days, and high winds pushed the boat towards Barbados over a
four-month period. The people died of hunger and thirst with bodies being
thrown overboard one by one as they died.
There are many West Africans who have been able to create a successful life
in Spain and elsewhere in Europe but also many who remain impoverished and
vulnerable. Interestingly, I was fortunate enough to have a chat recently
with a person who arrived by boat two months ago from Mauritania and had
been sent to Granada from the Canaries by the government. He had it all
worked out that he would be working on a building site and would have his
papers in two years. Needless to say, there is very little chance for this
person to get papers in two years. Most probably, he will be exploited and
got rid of when he no longer serves his purpose.
In Granada, there is a noticeable increase in the numbers of mostly
Senegalese men on the streets compared to a year ago. I mentioned this to my
Senegalese hair braider who has resided in Granada for the past five years.
She replied, "There are too many coming today. Before we were not many. Now
there are too many and there is nothing for them to do, the only source of
income open to them is to sell CDs. That is not a life."
In terms of legal rights and status, migrants can be divided into three
groups: the educated elite and experts, who are subject to very few
restrictions and social disadvantages; the mass of migrants who usually seek
seasonal work, whose rights are severely restricted and whose situation is
characterised by poor working conditions, high unemployment, and poor living
conditions; and "illegal aliens" who are needed on the labour market, but
are politically excluded and have no rights whatsoever.
The irony is that only 30 years ago thousands of seasonal Spanish migrants,
especially from Andalusia, spent their summers working in northern Europe,
Germany and France mainly picking fruit, but also working on building sites
and as casual labourers, just like the Moroccans and West Africans are doing
in Spain today. In those days the borders were open and skin colour was not
an issue. It is interesting how far international relations have
deteriorated, but most importantly, it is remarkable how the state of
affairs seems to be influenced by cultural prejudice against those from the
so-called "Third World".
Libya: Migrants Abused, But Europe Turns Blind Eye
EU Countries Must Press Libya to Protect Migrants, Asylum Seekers, Refugees
Human Rights Watch
(Rome, September 13, 2006) The Libyan government subjects migrants, asylum
seekers and refugees to serious human rights abuses, including beatings,
arbitrary arrests and forced return, Human Rights Watch said in a report
released today. The European Union is currently negotiating joint naval
patrols with Libya to block migration. But EU members, including the
frontline country of Italy, have failed to insist that Libya protect the
rights of the hundreds of thousands of foreigners in the country.
The 135-page report, "Stemming the Flow: Abuses Against Migrants, Asylum
Seekers and Refugees," documents how Libyan authorities have arbitrarily
arrested undocumented foreigners, mistreated them in detention, and forcibly
returned them to countries where they could face persecution or torture,
such as Eritrea and Somalia. From 2003 to 2005, the government repatriated
roughly 145,000 foreigners, according to official Libyan figures.
"Libya is not a safe country for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees,"
said Bill Frelick, director of refugee policy for Human Rights Watch. "The
European Union is working with Libya to bloc
these people from reaching Europe rather than helping them to get the
protection they need."
Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of people have come to Libya,
mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, either to stay in the country or to travel
through it to Europe. Many of the foreigners came for economic reasons, but
some fled their home countries due to persecution or war. Once welcomed as
cheap labor, sub-Saharan Africans in Libya now face tightened immigration
controls, detention and deportation.
A persistent problem is physical abuse at the time of arrest, Human Rights
Watch found. Foreigners who had spent time in Libya also reported abuse in
detention, including beatings, overcrowding, substandard conditions, lack of
access to a lawyer, and limited information about pending deportations.
In three cases, witnesses told Human Rights Watch that physical abuse by
security forces led to a detained foreigner's death. Three interviewees also
said security officials threatened women detainees with sexual violence.
While detention conditions have improved in recent years, the evidence
suggests that many of these abuses persist.
Some interviewees told Human Rights Watch that they saw or experienced
police corruption during arrest or in detention. After a bribe, security
officials let detainees go or allowed them to escape.
The Libyan government maintains that the arrests of undocumented foreigners
are necessary for public order, and that the security forces carry them out
in accordance with the law. Some border guards and police officers have used
excessive force, officials told Human Rights Watch, but those isolated
incidents were punished by the state.
According to government statistics, roughly 600,000 foreigners live and work
legally in Libya, a country of about 5.3 million people. But between 1 and
1.2 million foreigners are in Libya without proper documentation, placing a
strain on resources and infrastructure.
An overarching problem is Libya's refusal to introduce an asylum law or
procedure. Libya has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the
government makes no attempt to identify refugees or others in need of
international protection. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) has a Tripoli office but no formal working arrangement with the
Some Libyan officials told Human Rights Watch that the country does not
offer asylum because none of the foreigners in the country need protection.
Others were more candid, and told Human Rights Watch that they fear offering
asylum when the government is trying to reduce the number of foreigners. If
Libya provided the opportunity for asylum, foreigners "would come like
locusts," one top official bluntly said.
"The Libyan government says it does not deport refugees," Frelick said. "But
without an asylum law or procedure, how can a person who fears persecution
submit a claim? Who would review that claim and on what basis?"
Human Rights Watch interviewed 56 migrants, asylum seekers and refugees,
both in Libya and Italy for the report. Of these people, 17 had received
refugee status at the time of the interview, either from UNHCR or the
Italian government. Thirteen others were waiting for the Italian response to
The report also documents the treatment of foreigners in the Libyan criminal
justice system. Foreigners in Libya reported police violence and violations
of due process, including torture and unfair trials. Sub-Saharan Africans in
particular face hostility from a xenophobic host population, expressed in
blanket accusations of criminality, verbal and physical attacks, harassment
and extortion. Top Libyan officials blame foreigners for rising crime and
health concerns such as HIV/AIDS.
A large section of the report examines the migration and asylum policies of
the European Union, which is cooperating closely with Libya on migration
control, but not taking adequate regard for the rights of migrants or the
need to protect refugees and others at risk of abuse on return to their home
Italy, the country most affected by migration from Libya, egregiously
flouted international law under the recent government of Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi, Human Rights Watch said. In 2004 and 2005, the government
expelled more than 2,800 migrants and quite possibly refugees and others in
need of international protection back to Libya, where the Libyan government
sent them to their countries of origin. At times, the authorities
collectively expelled large groups without a proper screening of possible
The Italian government denied Human Rights Watch access to the main
detention center for people coming from Libya on Lampedusa island, but
eyewitnesses reported unhygienic conditions, overcrowding and physical abuse
In a positive development, the current government of Romano Prodi has said
it will not expel individuals to countries that have not signed the Refugee
Convention, including Libya. International organizations have been allowed
regular access to the Lampedusa facility since this year, and the current
government formed a commission to investigate conditions at immigration
detention centers around the country.
"The Prodi government took a welcome step by halting collective expulsions
and recognizing that Libya is not safe for return," Frelick said. "Now it
should ensure that everyone who arrives in Italy or is intercepted at sea
gets a proper chance to submit an asylum claim."
To read the Human Rights Watch report, "Stemming the Flow: Abuses Against
Migrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees," please see:
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