I will be posting my experiences of the School of America’s Delegation this week along the Militarized border of Arizona and Nogales.
A brief introduction: School of America’s Watch is a non-profit organization whose goal is to close the School of Americas located at Fort Benning, GA. The School of Americas trains military and police from Latin American countries which then have used the training against their own people. You may remember the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1980’s under Reagan where in exchange of weapons sold to Iran, hostages held in Iran would be freed and the money would allow US Intelligence Agencies to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. The Contras were trained by the School of Americas.
This trip by SOA Watch is to learn about the militarization that is happening at unprecedented rates at the border. The first few days will be with Borderlinks, an organization that grew up out of the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980’s. The Sanctuary Movement provided shelter within congregations to refugees from Nicaragua and El Salvador where violence caused by the trained personell of the school of Americas. To provide asylum to these refugees would have implicated the US in their participation in the violence in these countries. In the years since,the passage of NAFTA displaced another 6 million people who lost their source of income. Many of these individuals came north to seek employment.
Today’s schedule inccludes a discussion with Isabel Garcia, co-chair of the Coalicion de Derechos Humanas, a grassroots organization that promotes respect for human and civil rights and fights the militarization of the border region in the American Southwest. She is also the legal defender of Pima County, Arizona. After Lunch we will meet with John Fife at Southside Presyterian Church. He was convicted in 1986, along with others, of a felony for aiding the illegal entrance of migrants into the US. We will also meet with Stephanie Quintana of the Southside Day Labor Center.
Tomorrow we will meet with Matt Lowen and Murphy Woodhouse about the criminalization of migration. And in the afternoon, attend a hearing of Operation Streamline which began in 2008. This is a zero tolerance program targeting illegal entrants apprehended along the Arizona border with Mexico. They currrently process 70 -100 immigrants a day and with the passage of the current Immigration bill proposed in Congress will have their funding increased to process over 200 immigrants a day. On Wednesday, our last day in Tucson we will go on a hike with No More Deaths. A deverse coalition of individuals, faith communities, human rights advocates who provide humanitarian aid along the desert.
More to come…