Sunday, October 31, 2010

U.S. Immigrant Groups Converge in Mexico, Join Global Call for End to Criminalization and Exploitation of Migrants

Colin Rajah (415) 203-8763
Catherine Tactaquin (510) 459-4557

(Mexico City, Mexico) Dozens of U.S. immigrant groups are heading to the 5th People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA) being held in Mexico City Nov. 2-5. The PGA is a community-based gathering to develop and advocate alternatives to the 4th intergovernmental Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), meeting a week later in Puerto Vallarta on Nov. 10-11.

Led by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), close to 80 groups from around the U.S. will join an estimated one thousand other civil society delegates from around the world at the PGA. This will be one of the largest international civil society gatherings focused on one of the most contentious issues worldwide, migration. NNIRR is a co-founder of the PGA.

“There is an unprecedented increase in hostility towards migrants around the world, including in the U.S.,” declared Colin Rajah, Director of NNIRR’s program International Migrant Rights & Global Justice and a member of the PGA international coordinating committee. “As governments discuss ways and means to maximize the development benefits of migration, migrants themselves are being traded as cheap and disposable labor commodities.”

Raising Migrant Voices for Justice & Human Rights

During the PGA, community- based, human rights, women’s, faith-based, labor, migrant workers and other organizations from Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe will share their experiences, strategize and develop action plans to counter the growing government attacks undermining the rights and safety of migrants. Key PGA representatives will also attend the Civil Society Days Nov. 8-9 at the GFMD, and will be delivering one of four international civil society presentations during the government forum.

The PGA serves as a broad-based civil society forum exposing governments’ repressive and inhumane criminalization of migrants around the world and the increasing exploitation of migrant workers in vulnerable and precarious conditions. The PGA also advocates for better global governance and adherence to human rights protections of migrants.

U.S. Will Attend GFMD for First Time

For the first time, the U.S. State Department will be leading an inter-agency delegation of a dozen government representatives to the GFMD. Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz, heading the delegation, is expected to deliver a speech in New York on Nov. 8, in conjunction with the opening of the GFMD.

Rajah commented, “While we applaud the Obama Administration’s reversal of the previous U.S. government policy of non-participation in international fora such as the GFMD, we are concerned that there is little if any indication that the U.S. will modify it trade and migration policies, which drive the forced displacement of communities and violate the rights of migrants. We will be pushing the U.S. to turn around these policies and end the repressive and inhumane treatment of migrant communities. The U.S. must comply with the international human rights protections of all migrants around the world, including in our own country.”

The GFMD was created in 2006 by the United Nations General Assembly, upon the recommendation of then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. While its mandate seeks to overcome the limitations of strictly national approaches to key migration issues, the GFMD has become a key site for developing migration and development policy at the expense of the rights of migrants and countries in the Global South.

The inaugural GFMD was held in Brussels in 2007, followed by Manila in 2008 and Athens in 2009. The Swiss government is expected to host the GFMD next year.

The PGA: Creating a Global Vision & Action Plan for Migrant Rights

The PGA was jointly created by regional migrant and migrant rights networks from around the world. Recognizing the limitation of the GFMD’s framework approach, it sought to raise the level of broad civil society engagement as key stakeholders in the debate, and more importantly, to promote the central role of human rights as a framework for migration and development.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Nov 1 in San Francisco: Vigil & Action for Liberty and Justice, Against SB1070


Appeals Court Hearing on SB 1070 sparks major community protest
Faith, immigrant Leaders stage procession and rally to honor immigrant families;
Speak out against police-ICE collusion in Arizona and at home

Andrea Mercado, MUA: (510) 205 3684
Rev. Debbie Lee, ICIR: (415) 297-8222
Charlene Tschirhart, ICIR: (510) 205-4434

What: Religious leaders, community residents and organizations will hold a large procession and protest rally against Arizona’s discriminatory SB 1070 as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco conducts a hearing on the controversial law. Advocates will also draw connections between the law and the Federal “S-Comm” program that creates a new collusion between police and ICE.

When/Where: Monday, November 1, 2010:

  • 8:00am Blessing at St Patrick’s Church, 756 Mission St, San Francisco
  • 8:30am Procession to Federal Courthouse, 95 7th St, San Francisco
  • 9:00am Program and Rally at Courthouse as hearing begins, 95 7th St, San Francisco
  • 5:00pm SB1070 Arizona Artists Against 1070 Opening, The Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission Street, San Francisco
Who: Bishop Otis Charles, Episcopal; Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Presbyterian; Fr. Louis Vitale, Catholic (Franciscan); Rev. Jeff Johnson, Lutheran. Bianca Rojo, US Citizen whose parents were unjustly deported when she was a teenager, has helped register Latino voters in Arizona, as well as members of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Causa Justa::Just Cause, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Filipino Advocates for Justice, Day Labor Program of La Raza Centro Legal, Chinese Progressive Association and more.

Visuals: Procession led by clergy leaders in formal garb, featuring images by Arizona artists, skeletons and flowers and other day of the dead imagery to symbolize the separation of families and deaths of migrants on the border.

Why: Arizona’s harsh SB1070 has created a human rights crisis in the state and illustrates the dangers of Police- ICE collusion, as it undermines community safety and hurts immigrant families. Advocates also see worrisome parallels between SB 1070 and the so-called “Secure” Communities or S-Comm program, which coerces collaboration between police and immigration officials across the country, effectively referring to immigration officials for deportation immigrants whose fingerprints are taken by law enforcement personnel, even for minor infractions, and even if the person is innocent. Cities like San Francisco have demanded the right to opt-out of S-Comm. Monday’s vigil calls for an end to the humanitarian crisis in immigrant communities and a stop to cruel enforcement policies which are separating families and creating a climate of fear.

Today as people of faith we stand with immigrant families and communities across this country who are suffering from unjust laws like Arizona's harsh SB 1070. Immigrants are part of our congregations and contribute greatly to the economy and to the community," said Rev. Deborah Lee. "We pray for families who live each day in fear of being torn apart by deportations. We pray for our elected officials and call on them work together to find effective solutions. Our country urgently needs immigration policies that honor our best American values and respect the dignity of all people.”

We need real and humane solutions to our broken immigration system, like legalization for all, not harsh enforcement policies which drive the immigrant community further into the shadows,” said Juana Flores of Mujeres Unidas y Activas.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

U.S. Border Security Causes Record Migrant Deaths in Arizona

Arizona Fiscal Year Deaths: 253

For Immediate Release
October 21, 2010
Derechos Humanos: 520.770.1373

After a Decade of Denouncing Border Militarization,
Arizona Communities See Record Deaths Continue on the Arizona-Sonora Border

While Migrants Continue to Die, DHS Secretary Napolitano Brags About Militarization and Border Policies

Arizona-The final number of bodies recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2009 and ended September 30, 2010 is 253, the second highest on record for the Arizona -Sonora border, reports Coalición de Derechos Humanos. The data, which are compiled from medical examiner reports from Pima, Yuma, and Cochise counties, are an attempt to give a more accurate reflection of the human cost of expensive and lethal U.S. border and immigration policies.

Derechos Humanos has denounced the militarization of our border, even before we began to see the deadly effects. In 1994, there were 14 known migrant deaths in Arizona, and our communities were outraged, protesting the loss of human life. Only sixteen years later, we are recovering eighteen times that number in one year. That is a 1,707% increase. We cannot permit this to continue.

death graphic percentages 10-21-10

The final count includes 170 males, 32 females, 4 minors, and approximately 156, or 61.7% of unknown identity. Countries represented in the final count include México, Guatemala, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

This figure is higher than last year's total of 206 remains recovered, and while the true total number of deaths on the border is impossible to calculate, Derechos Humanos has documented at least 2,104 deaths on the Arizona- Sonora border since 2000. The number of remains recovered in neighboring states and south of the border is not currently available.

deaths graphic ten years 10-21-10

In reviewing the data from this year, an alarming piece that jumps out immediately is the staggering increase in the number of remains of unknown gender. Three years ago, that number was 5, 19 the following year, 31 last year, and this year we are at 51, an incredible 20% of the total recovered. It is unconscionable that our government not only continues with these policies, but openly brags about increasing militarization efforts on the border.

Unknown gender indicates that not enough of the remains were recovered to determine gender, and without DNA, 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 is 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.

There is information to suggest that the migration flow patterns are shifting due to the Funnel Effect, which has been documented by the Binational Migration Institute.* The high number of skeletal remains recovered this year, 59 (23.3% of total) support this likely shift in migration flow, and it is possible that the long periods of time before being recovered indicates that people are crossing in more isolated and desolate areas, with less chance of rescue or discovery. It is unknown how many remains are currently near the border but have not yet been discovered, and it is probable that some of these remains will never be recovered.

For more than a decade, border communities have cried out for justice, demanding change to the policies that funnel hundreds of men, women and children to their deaths every year. Not only have the human cost of these policies been acknowledged, but efforts have been increased every year. The Department of Homeland Security has been given a blank check every year-granted power, equipment, and resources that could further real security in our communities, such as education, health care and economic development-instead, they have become instruments of death.

A war has been waged not only on immigrants, but on the families that live in border communities-the Indigenous who find their lands red with the blood of native brethren, the desert animals and environment who see their homes destroyed by border infrastructure, and people of conscience who see death becoming horrifyingly normalized every day by our leaders and politicians. We stand united in grief and resolution over these unnecessary deaths, as we witness the fatal policies of division and xenophobia that continue to invade our sacred borderlands.


The complete list of recovered bodies is available on the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website: This information is available to anyone who requests it from us and is used by our organization to further raise awareness of the human rights crisis we are facing on our borders.

* The complete BMI study, The "Funnel Effect" & Recovered Bodies of Unauthorized Migrants Processed by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, 1990-2005, is available on the Derechos Humanos website.


Editors note: embedded links were added.

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Fragile thoughts on the 16th anniversary of the implementation of Operation Gatekeeper

By Pedro Ríos

He has a name. That man who could not take it anymore has a name but I don’t recall it. He left his home because he could not understand how his dignity no longer had meaning in an irrational world. Irrational because in order for his family to survive, he had to leave them behind, taking with him the mementos that would convince him in the barren desert that once he felt human. A tattered picture of his young family, maybe her handkerchief with the sweet smell of home, the one that held his last meal, or that lasting memory – the moment under that October harvest moon when they prayed their final goodbyes.

In the desert, while the heat scorched, blackening his skin, shrinking and shriveling it, and in spite of this, the memory of his child holding back the tears because his mother told him to do so, “sonríe, pa’ que tu apá te vea que eres valiente.” This memory, I imagine, until his last breath, but I really don’t know because our history makes him nameless so that we too become less human.

His final breath a scratchy gasp of desert sand. In the desert the fading sounds of his life in pure agony, alone. Nameless in history, just some John Doe on a brick tablet in a paupers grave, but a legacy of systemic displacement and death that blot our backyard deserts and mountains.

He was the first one.

At the coroners office we were not permitted to identify the body. We didn’t know if Areli was there. Don Concepción, who traveled from that rural pueblito of Mazatlán in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, would not know this October evening if his daughter, Areli, was the scorched unidentifiable body inside the plastic body bag, a victim of the inferno in 2007 that blazed San Diego County for two weeks. This gave him hope. Hope that Areli was not with the three groups of migrants who were trapped in the merciless firestorms that first ravaged the backcountry and eventually reached cookie cutter homes outlining San Diego communities. Hope that somehow she made it out safely, was hiding somewhere for fear that she would be detected and sent back to the desperation that pushed her to leave. Hope that Areli would one day marry, have children, grandchildren that he could hold, caress, feel their soft breath on his chest, be content.

Three days later, the local paper read: “Identifican a 4 mexicanos que murieron en incendio forestal.” Two months later, DNA results would confirm Areli perished as a result of injuries sustained trying to escape the firestorms.

Sobre una pared de metal un día me agarre pintando las imágenes del Operativo Guardián, guiándome con un pincel viejo, de madera enmohecido por sangre que escurría por sus pelos de alambre.

Sobre esa pared de acero, una vuelca de carro; los cadáveres sin nombre; la golpiza al migrante; el desangrado; el olvidado; la violada; los deportados; las balas expansivas que mutilan los cuerpos; más cadáveres; muro, tras muro, tras muro; los cucusclans disfrazados de neonazis cazamigrantes; los naufragios; sueños frustrados convertidos en pesadillas; la razón sin razón; la violencia normalizada; la sociedad acostumbrada e apaciguada…

Sobre esa pared escalofriante, las imágenes del Operativo Guardián duelen, arden, y detrás del suspiro, apenas sin ocultar la necesidad de un semblante de justicia, se escucha esta petición desesperada…

¿Cómo carajos hemos permitido esto?


Pedro Ríos is the director of the American Friends Service Committee's U.S.-Mexico Border Program in San Diego, California.

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