Borderlines

Opening Words[i]:

The Torah tells us: “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19: 33-34).

In the Christian New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger for “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do unto me” (Mathew 25:40).

The Qur’an tells us that we should “serve God…and do good to…orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet, and those who have nothing.” (4:36)

The Hindu scripture Taitiriya Upanishad tells us: “The guest is a representative of God.”

And in the Unitarian Universalist tradition that teaches that sacred text can be written and spoken by people of all times and places; Martin Luther King Jr tells us: “Love is the only cement that can hold this broken community together. When I am commanded to love, I am commanded to restore community, to resist injustice, and to meet the needs of my siblings.

Borderlines

What does borderline mean?  Merriam-Webster Dictionary online offers several definitions of the word. There are two definitions that I want to lift up today.

  1. 1.      c : characterized by psychological instability in several areas (as interpersonal relations, behavior, and identity) but only with brief or no psychotic episodes <a borderline personality disorder>
  2. 2.      : situated at or near a border <a borderline town>

There are other forms of borders or boundaries that help to establish the identity of an object.  Our skin is a border of sorts.  It functions to keep that which is us, our internal organs safe from dirt and invading organisms.  It also aids in providing distinguishing markers that help identify us from someone else.  A mole below the eye or a tattoo on the shoulder or calf can aid in identifying who we are.  We sometimes come to conclusions, sometimes accurate, sometimes not accurate by looking at the person.  For example, we can tell if they are healthy or ill. Or sometimes we gather something of their personality by the way they adorn their skin.  Multiple body piercings or tattoos may suggest something about their character; again it may be an accurate or inaccurate read of the person.  The kind of clothes a person wears may also establish a boundary.

So what identifies us as a nation through the tangible and non-tangible aspects of our national borders? What message are we sending to our global neighbors?  When I went to the Mexican border I was struck by the ease in crossing the US border into Mexico.  I went twice into Mexico, once by van and once on foot.  Both times we simply entered into Mexican space.  There was no guard to check our papers. No surveillance cameras videoing our passage across.  We simply drove or walked as freely as we drive or walk along the streets and sidewalks outside of our homes to work or church.  There was no question to our right to be there.

Upon return we had to prove our right to enter into the United States.  Driving back across, the guard merely collected our passports, verified them and handed them back.  He did not look to see if we were hiding someone in the van.  He simply waived us on after returning the passports.  On walking back into the States we were asked more questions. Not all of us, only some of us were asked questions.  Most of the questions were about purchases.  However, one member of our party, a citizen of the USA for over 20 years was detained.  He was questioned about our activities.  Why were we only in Mexico for a few hours.  We were volunteering at the Comedore, the soup kitchen and at the Women’s shelter both run by Kino Border Initiative.  He was then taken inside the building to a room where the same questions were asked repeatedly, first by the same person, then by another person.  He sat there.  And sat there. Waiting to be released. They told him this was just a random check but his nationality suggests otherwise.  He was born in Iran.  His passport shows that he has traveled extensively to other countries.  We waited for him to be released.  We were not allowed to find out what was happening to him.  We were not allowed to wait at the border we were told we must leave the area.  Eventually, he was told he could go but was not told how to exit the building.  So he asked, the agent dismissively asked another to take him.  This agent speaks to him in Spanish and he responds that he does not speak Spanish.  The agent says, “Oh, you speak English!” and then says nothing more to him, not even translating what was originally said to him.   In telling this most recent episode, our friend shares he is frequently stopped when re-entering the country.  Random checks that become the expected experience are no longer random.

One of our guides for the week was Tito, a Presbyterian minister who lives in Mexico and works for No More Death’ s sister organization, HEPAC  abbreviated for the translation House of Peace and Hope in Nogales, Sonora.  His work takes him across the border almost daily.  So he has a frequent crosser card that has biometric data on him. It is to speed up the process for crossing.  However, that card does not always help him cross.   Recently he tried to cross so he could attend a church meeting in Nogales, AZ.  The guard looks at him, checks out his card and asks him multiple questions.  He is told by the guard that he looks like a bad man.  Tito, tells him he is clergy and shows him his clergy identification card—a card by the way that I have never been required to show or need to have, even when I am not wearing clerical collar people believe me when I say I am clergy—the guard however does not believe him. His belongings are searched. The guard tells him he is not allowed to cross today.  Reason?  The guard says he has a hunch he is a bad man and says to him come back tomorrow, today you cannot cross.  Tito had to cancel his meeting because of an arbitrary whim of the guard at the border. Tito reports this sort of harassment at the border happens regularly to him.    The point of a specialized border crossing card is to prevent the need for such scrutinizing behavior by USA agents.

What does this say about the character of the USA that freely can walk into another country without so much as a bat of an eye but then scrutinizes its own citizens and guests?

This experience contrasted with my entering into Canada a year before where I was questioned as to my business in the Province of Quebec and receiving the same questioning when I was re-entering the USA.  There is a level of respect for Canada that does not seem to exist for Mexico.  There exists a putrid air of USA privilege in our ease of walking into Mexico.

The border wall is about 30 feet high. At the base of the USA side is slanted concrete with jagged rocks so if the people should jump the fence they will break their ankles or legs upon landing.  It is deliberately built to cause harm to those who cross. The wall comes in from the east and from the west and both ends stop at the beginnings of the Sonora Desert.  The desert was thought to be a deterrent all onto itself and the federal government did not expect people to actually attempt to cross there.  Since the walls have been built more than 6,000 human remains have been recovered from the desert.  There are believed to be thousands more that will probably never be recovered because the bodies disintegrate within weeks after death and because of the untold number who cross into the  Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation northwest of Sasabe, Sonora, Mexico.

Some history of the wall is needed.  Militarization of the US/Mexican border began shortly after the passage of the NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The wall was first built in 1994 dividing the city of Nogales, a city divided circa 1850 when the USA annexed a part of Mexico so that a railroad would not have to cross into Mexico.  Prior to 1994, the city enjoyed the free movement of people back and forth the border.  They visited family and friends; they enjoyed their common cultural heritage together as any city on a border should.

For example here in Alabama, Phenix City is on the border of Columbus, GA.   Because so many people living in Phenix City work in Columbus and at Fort Benning, Phenix City chooses to be in the Eastern Time Zone, even though officially all of Alabama is within the Central Time Zone.  This is what border cities do. They share common interests.  They engage in healthy dialog. They have a shared identity.

Now imagine the message sent if Georgia suddenly decided to place a wall between Phenix City and Columbus, Georgia.  Imagine if, the people of Phenix City were told they had to apply for guest worker visas to now work in Columbus, GA because they were not citizens of GA.  That now they would have to seek permission from Georgia before they could enter Columbus, GA. If they had family in Georgia and they were caught being with their family without proper papers in hand, they would be deported and denied further access.  But Georgians could freely enter Phenix City without question.

That is what happened in the city of Nogales.  People from the USA have the privilege of entering Nogales, Sonora, Mexico with not a care in the world. Why? Because they are Americans… true blue.  But entering the USA, even being a true blue American is not enough, we have to question you and detain you.

This is paranoid behavior.  This is fearful behavior.  This may even qualify for the borderline personality definition given earlier—“characterized by psychological instability in several areas.”

But before we jump to this conclusion let’s look deeper into the border.  Since 1994, the USA has increased the militarization of the border with sophisticated military tactical and highly skilled marksmen, marksmen that are only bested by the Secret Service and Navy Seal.  They recruit soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, two wars that have resulted in the highest number of military suicides[ii] and post-traumatic stress disorder of any military campaign ever undertaken by the USA, including the Civil War.

During my visit to the Women’s shelter run by the Kino Border Initiative, I heard stories of women who were carried out of the desert because they could no longer walk only to have the Border patrol agents dump them off their stretchers onto the ground and handcuff and shackle them.  Women who were shoved and corralled into cages on trucks[iii] like they were cattle sent to the slaughter.  Derogatory language used by the border patrol to address the women.  These stories of abuse towards immigrants at the border not to mention the increasing number of Mexican civilians on the Mexican side of the wall being killed by border patrol agents lead me to wonder if there are links to undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)[iv] from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where many border patrol personnel are recruited.  A study of the mental health screening for PTSD at twelve law enforcement agencies including border patrol revealed only two do a minimal screening specific to PTSD.   The border patrol application process does not indicate any psychological testing or specific screening[v] for PTSD but with 10-20% of returning veterans having some level of PTSD and up to 65% returning veterans stating it would be considered a sign of weakness to seek treatment for PTSD, it is likely that a small percentage of Border Patrol Agents are indeed suffering from this disorder before they are hired.

The border is lined with surveillance cameras that are not currently in use.  They were built at a cost of millions but were deemed unnecessary by the border patrol.  Their mere presence however gives an intimidating feel of a George Orwell novel of Big Brother watching.   The use of surveillance drones flying overhead has increased, adding to the Orwellian milieu. The fact that our government is using drones in the 100 mile zone of the border should cause us much alarm.

The recent leaks revealing that the NSA has been collecting data on American Citizens phone and internet contacts makes the use of drones on the border suspect of other activities.  President Obama’s admission that civil liberties must be compromised for the sake of 100% security is not a reassuring statement into defining the character of who we are as a nation.  This behavior of spying on our own strengthens the borderline paranoia diagnosis.

My visit to the border of Nogales, AZ and Mexico has reaffirmed one thing for me.  What we do in the United States of America is not done in a vacuum.  Yes, we need Immigration law reform but it would be extremely naïve to think that this legislation, regardless of the content of this bill, will fix our immigration system. We cannot fix our immigration laws in a vacuum and assume everything else is working fine.  The reasons why 11 million immigrants chose to enter the USA without inspection, the civil offense they committed are multi-faceted and based in the policies we created—NAFTA destroyed the Mexican farmer and coerced the sale of their lands to US corporations.  School of the Americas trained the military that staged wars and coups, most recently the Honduras coup cascading thousands of refugees from that country seeking safety for their lives.  The Mexican cartel that now controls the Mexican side of the border was trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning.  We, the taxpayer are accomplices to the violence that is occurring along the border as desperate people seek to reunite with their families in the USA.  According to a legal dictionary, “In Criminal Law[vi], [an accomplice is] contributing to or aiding in the commission of a crime. One who, without being present at the commission of an offense, becomes guilty of such offense, not as a chief actor, but as a participant, as by command, advice, instigation, or concealment; either before or after the fact or commission.”  

While we the taxpayer could claim no knowledge of this, much like the citizens of Germany claimed no knowledge of the atrocities their government committed against the Jews, yet just as the Germans before us, by our electing and authorizing leaders who do have full knowledge and assent to these actions makes us participants in the continual slaughter and inhumane treatment of innocent people.

The ultimate question becomes who are we as a nation—are we a nation that arrogantly does whatever it wants to people in other nations?  Or are we a nation that with humility is in relationship with its neighbors? Will we recognize that what we portend as being in our best interests may have a profound debilitating negative impact on other nations and therefore  is ultimately not in our best interest.  The School of the Americas, NAFTA, and CAFTA are not ultimately in the best interests of our nation because they have caused and continue to cause untold suffering in the nations implemented.  As one refugee from the recent coup by SOA trained militia in Honduras stated, “If I am going to die in Honduras of hunger then I would rather die struggling to live.”

West Cosgrove of Kino Border Initiative put it more eloquently when he said, “[vii]I believe profoundly that the conversation, the debate about immigrants and immigration law is NOT ultimately about the immigrants, IT IS ABOUT US. It is about what kind of people we will be, will we be a welcoming, kind, accepting culture, people, country or will we continue to leave out the poor, the needy, the ones that walk with God.  Will we continue to harden our hearts and exclude anyone that we believe is not one of us, or will we live up to the best of our faith and national traditions and ‘welcome the stranger’?”

The policies we have enacted over the last 100 years as a nation have led to our national desire to place a wall between us and all we have created.  We do not want to be reminded of what we have done to our neighbors to the south.  These policies have created a severe personality of paranoia and fear.   The immigration reform bill in the Senate will reinforce this paranoia by increasing the militarization of the border threefold against an enemy that is only in our collective mind.

Is this an accurate portrayal of who we are as a nation?  And if it is, is this who we want to continue to be?  I believe in our potential to be better than what fear and paranoia tells us.  It is time to tell our elected government and our unelected government (the corporations):  ¡Basta! Enough!

We do not want to be accomplices to the human rights violations of separating families, any longer.  We do not want to be accomplices to the violence and deaths by the SOA trained Mexican Cartel, any longer. We do not want to be accomplices to the human rights violations occurring in the for-profit Prison industry, any longer. Nor held accountable to their maintaining a 90% capacity rate by rounding up in the name of national security, soccer moms whose only crime is that they refused to wait 20 years for permission to enter this country and begin a better and safer life for them and their family.   We do not want to be accomplices the devastating impacts of US farm subsidies on Mexican farmers, any longer.  We do not want to be accomplices to military coups, any longer.

How about being accomplices to creating a nation that lives up to its highest creed:  Where equality, liberty and justice for all people is the borderline that defines who we are.  Justo Gonzales[viii] once said, “A true border, a true place of encounter, is by nature, permeable.  It is not like medieval armor, but rather like skin.  While our skin does set a limit to where our bodies begin and where it ends, if we ever close up our skin, we die.”

 Borderlines sermon delivered by Rev. Fred L Hammond   9 June 2013 ©  to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa


[ii] The current rate of military suicides is 2 to 3 times higher than the rate of suicides by military personnel in the Civil War.  http://nation.time.com/2012/08/06/new-study-u-s-military-suicide-rate-now-likely-double-or-triple-civil-wars/

[iii] I thought I heard this during my visit but thought I surely misunderstood.  I heard recently (June 7 2013) testimony at a meeting with Congress representatives Sewell and Gutierrez; a former veteran who was deployed to the border who stated that people were rounded up like cattle and placed in cages on a truck confirming what I heard was indeed true.

[iv] It is unknown if Border Patrol agents are screened for PTSD before hiring for duty. It is not a requirement in their application criteria to be free from any mental disability that may result in erratic or irrational behavior. http://www.pdhealth.mil/clinicians/downloads/PTSD_COCS.pdf

[vii] West Cosgrove email to the SOA Watch Delegation Monday June 3 2013

[viii] From a power point presentation by West Cosgrove, Education Director at Kino Border Initiative, Nogales, Arizona.  Contact:  wcosgrove@kinoborderinitiative.org

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Lies My Government Told Me About Immigration

Last week I was part of a delegation with the School of the America’s Watch, the non-profit group that is seeking to close down the School of the Americas Military training camp at Fort Benning, GA.  SOAWatch has added to their mission to understand the effects of militarization within Latin American countries and along the border of the USA.  Their hope is this additional understanding will aid in their goal of shutting down the camp at Fort Benning and aid in the goal for humane immigration reform.

So among the many delegations SOAWatch planned this year, one of them was to visit the Arizona/ Mexico border at Nogales.  Nogales is a city divided by the annexation of land in the 1850’s to enable a railroad to not cross the border into Mexico.  Prior to 1994, this was a city where its people crossed the border daily to be with family, to work, to enjoy the mingling of two cultures.

The United States of America has had a schizophrenic approach to immigrants from Mexico and Latin America.  In 1910 we encouraged Mexicans to cross the US border to aid in harvesting crops.  The nation had a distain for Chinese immigrants so the nation passed a head tax on immigrant workers.  However, employers who hired Mexican immigrants were given a waiver on this tax to encourage the hiring of more people from south of our borders. Many of these workers came up seasonally, would follow the harvest north and then when the harvest was done, return to Mexico.  Then when the depression hit, we deported many immigrants back to Mexico but ten years later we were at war and the need for labor to harvest our crops and to build railroads was once again in demand.  Many came across only to be deported at the end of the war with the promise that their final pay would be soon forthcoming. There are still survivors of the Bracero Program living in Mexico still waiting for the USA to make good on their promise of payment.

In the 1950’s we passed two pieces of federal legislation, federal codes 1325 and 1326.  When we talk about the undocumented having illegal presence here, we are referring to code 1325. This code referred specifically to entry without inspection.  It refers to entering our country without going through a specific port of entry.  It is a civil offense, not a criminal offense. Part of the argument that the US Supreme court has with Legislation such as Alabama’s HB 56 is that the State sought to change this civil offense to a criminal offense.

Federal Code 1326 refers to re-entry without inspection after deportation. For those who have no violent criminal records this includes up to a two year sentence, if the person while here in this country also has committed violent crimes, the sentence can be up to ten years.

Along the border six of the 9 sectors are prosecuting individuals who are guilty of 1326, meaning they have been deported at least once before. It is considered a felony.  Operation Streamline, a misnomer because none of the courts are doing this in the same manner, will sentence and convict en mass a number of people charged with violating 1325 and 1326.  In Tucson, up to 70 people are sentenced per day in a court hearing that can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two and a half hours depending on the thoroughness of the judge.  The defendants are encouraged to plead guilty to the civil offense of entry without inspection to waive the felony charge of re-entry. We have heard reports of being coerced or simply not having the charges explained and told to simply sign to waive their rights. Prior to Operation Streamline, a person would simply be deported, but now they are given an arbitrary sentence between 30 and 180 days in prison.

The federal court in Tucson since the advent of Operation Streamline in July of 2008, now devotes 60% of their time on deportation cases and no longer focus on violent criminals such as murderers and drug dealers. Of the 31 public defenders hired by the Tucson based Federal court, three are made available per day for these individuals. But to assist in processing such a large number, the federal government contracts attorneys at $125 an hour.  Each person is seen for about ten minutes before the mass hearing in the afternoon.  There is nothing the lawyers can do for their clients other than move them through the system.  Justice is not being served here, only a crass form of cattle ranching the accused.

Congress has told us that the federal government has no money and must sequester costs.  Beginning July 1st instead of rotating in three public defenders once a week to see defendants, the 31 public Defenders in Tucson will be rotating twice a year to see defendants. Because these defendants have the constitutional right to legal representation albeit brief and perfunctory, the contract attorneys will be given additional hours.  All at taxpayers cost.  The immigration bill before congress seeks to increase Operation Streamline to all nine sectors along the border and increase the number sentenced and deported in Tucson from 70 per day to 210 per day.  The court case we witnessed in Tucson carried a price tag just shy of one million dollars, this includes the cost of their prison sentence.  This amount of money is spent every day the court is in session in Tucson.   We are told this is a necessary move to secure our borders. It seems doubtful that removing gardeners and maids is insuring national security. The truth is this is a necessary move to ensure the 90% capacity contractual obligations to Corrections Corporation of America.    Our government is lying to us about the need for sequester when cost is of no concern when of utmost importance is the deportation of non-violent offenders for crossing the border.

In 1994 two events took place.  One was the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, aka NAFTA and the other was the building of the wall between the two cities of Nogales. One can only speculate if these two events were connected to each other.  It seems twenty years later the answer to that question is yes.

President Clinton in signing NAFTA into law, said:  “… we have made a decision now that will permit us to create an economic order in the world that will promote more growth, more equality, better preservation of the environment, and a greater possibility of world peace. … through robust commerce …that protects our middle class and gives other nations a chance to grow one, that lifts workers and the environment up without dragging people down, that seeks to ensure that our policies reflect our values.[i] ” None of these outcomes are true.

NAFTA may have created an economic order but it did not promote more growth, more equality, better preservation of the environment or even promote the slightest possibility of world peace. Where ever NAFTA has been implemented there have been massive job loss, displaced people, an increase in criminal networks and cartels, and a growing disparity between the rich and the poor. Also in its wake has been violence and civil unrest as people struggle to maintain what little they have and with fear of losing it all.

NAFTA has several components that were detrimental to the people of Mexico and it is one of the factors that led to a great migration towards the north.  The passage of NAFTA required that the Mexican government repeal Article 27 of their constitution.  Article 27 was the heart and soul of the Mexican Revolution in 1917.  This was the article that promised land to the people in perpetuity. The land was held in communal trust; it could not be sold or traded.  It could be farmed and harvested to feed the people and offer an income.  NAFTA required this be removed, the farmers became owners of the land but the real intention was so US Corporations could purchase the land out from under them.  This was to have devastating results on the Mexican economy which was already fragile after its 1994 financial crisis.

The other piece that NAFTA required was the removal of Mexican farm subsidies to their farmers.  The US farmers however would continue to receive US subsidies and they still do today.  The amount of corn flooding the Mexican market went from 2 million tons in 1992 to 10.3 million tons in 2008. The small farmer could not even grow the corn for the price the US was selling it. Without being able to sell their crops, the Mexicans were unable to pay their taxes and they were forced to sell their land to the US corporations who were eager to purchase it.  The poverty rate in Mexico grew from 35% in 1992 to 55% in 2008.  Over 6 million Mexicans lost employment to the implementation of NAFTA.  President Clinton promised NAFTA would create 200K jobs, a mere drop in the bucket to the number of jobs lost here in the USA and in Mexico.  The wall between our two countries began to take on a new meaning and purpose.

Along the borders of the USA on the Mexican side sprung up Maquiladoras, factories.  Nogales in Sonora Mexico has dozens of factories that are USA owned and ship their products through the Nogales border port of Mariposa.  One would think with all these factories that the people of Mexico are experiencing the development of a middle class in Mexico just as Clinton predicted.  Sadly, this is not the case.  The average days wage for a factory worker is $8 a day.  A pair of shoes made in Mexico and sold in the USA for $100 only yields 4 cents of that $100 to pay the wages of the Mexican worker. The retailer makes $50 the shoe company makes $33 on that pair of shoes.  If that worker was paid a living wage of $15 an hour, and all other costs remained the same, the cost of that pair of shoes would only go up by 60 cents.  It is a lie that cheap labor elsewhere makes for less expensive goods in the USA.   The truth is cheap labor elsewhere increases profits for the retailor and the manufacturer.

NAFTA has not uplifted the people of the Latin American countries.  The only people NAFTA has uplifted are the rich.

After 9/11 there was a rapid increase in the militarization of the border.  The goal stated was to keep the border safe from terrorists entering the nation.  Since militarization of the border with highly skilled marksmen, the number of terrorists that have been apprehended at the border is zero.  We have built surveillance towers that are not used, drones that fly 12 feet off the ground, biometric technology on our own citizens who cross the border daily and not one terrorist has been apprehended, however lots of gardeners and maids have been captured, deported, and sometimes randomly shot and killed. The wall is not protecting the USA from terrorists it is instead an intentional attempt to keep the oppressed from finding freedom and fulfilling their dreams. The ground on the USA side of the wall is deliberately angled and jagged to cause the breaking of ankles and legs of those jumping the wall.

Humanity is a migratory species.  We have always migrated to find new hunting grounds, to find new places to raise crops, and to find new opportunities.  This is part of our evolutionary make up that makes the human beast very adaptable to its environment. How many here today have lived in this town since birth?  Very few.  The human species is a migratory animal and when situations become intolerable in one location, humans will migrate to another location with the hopes that that new land will offer new opportunities to thrive.  Life in Mexico and in other Latin American countries continues to be intolerable with the exception of Venezuela.

That socialist government demonized by the USA has provided during Hugo Chavez’s life improved housing and education for its people. Those living in one room shacks with no running water now are in three bedroom condos with 1.5 baths.  The buildings include a community center where educational programs are provided. Their standard of living has risen where the standard of living in every other country of Latin America and in the United States has declined.  People are not seeking to leave Venezuela because life is livable, dreams are being fulfilled. Our Government has lied about Chavez in part because he fulfilled what he promised to do and the people of Venezuela are uplifted from the extreme poverty that plagued that country.  There are no mass numbers of migrants coming out of Venezuela because there is no need to flee a country that treats its citizens humanely.

Just as the USA border has become more militarized, the Mexican border has become increasingly dangerous with the Mexican Mafia and cartels.  A person can no longer cross the border on their own, to do so is to risk being tortured and possibly killed by the mafia. When I was in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, I heard a heart wrenching tale of two young men who had not heard that they must pay the cartel in order to cross the border. In their attempt to cross over the wall they were approached by a person who appeared to be someone willing to help them.  The person calls on his radio and soon a truck arrives.  The Men in the truck question the two migrants.  They are told they are not allowed to cross without paying the cartel. Who did they pay?  They are the ones that control this territory and they were not paid, so who did they pay? No one they replied. The men over powered them, taped their eyes and mouth shut, taped their wrists and ankles and threw them in the truck.  They drove some distance to a house.  The two men do not know where they are but they can hear chickens and sheep in the back ground. The men interrogate them asking them who they paid to cross the border.  Then the men beat them, place a pistol to their heads and pull the trigger but the gun is empty. This was just for psychological terror.  After a few days of this, a car comes with the head person, who also interrogates them.  He also beats them.  The man wanted to know if they were carrying drugs for another cartel. He eventually states that the men must be lying and that they escaped from a coyote.  So the coyotes who work for this man are brought in and asked if they know these men. If they did, the men were told they would be killed.  But none of the coyotes did so the men were released and told again they must pay to cross.  They wander and see police, they try to get help but the police ignore them.  Then a stranger takes pity on them and convinces the police to help them and they are taken to Nogales hospital.  They learn that the police are sometimes in league with the mafia cartel.

It is important to note who are the mafia leadership. All of the captains of the mafia are members of a Mexican Special Force that defected from the Army called Los Zetas.  “ About 200 of these former Mexican Special Forces … were trained by U.S. Army Special Forces at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., in the early 1990s.[ii]”  We, the taxpayer, are the accomplices in this violence on the border.

While the Mexican and USA government make public statements that decry the atrocities committed on both sides of the border, neither government has made any move to address the situation.  There are US border patrol agents and Mexican government officials who are allies with the Mafia. The Mexican government does not interfere in part because it supports the doctrine of deterrence that the United States has taken towards immigration from Latin America. This doctrine has been implemented in Arizona and in Alabama; the notion of enforcement through attrition making the environment so horrendous that undocumented individuals will choose to self-deport. Their logic follows that if the process to cross the border becomes easier, then more people would cross but if it becomes increasingly a dance with death, then less people will attempt the passage.

But as one Honduran refugee stated after fleeing the recent coup conducted by School of the Americas’ graduates, “If I am going to die in Honduras of hunger, then I would rather die struggling to live.”   Such is the determination of a people who are desperate.

One woman I met told her story.  She and her family had lived in NYC for about 13 years.  Her husband’s mother and brother had become ill so they returned to Mexico to take care of them. Their children, one of whom born in NYC and the other only having lived less than a year in Mexico before crossing did not know Mexico, they do not speak Spanish.  They missed their friends in New York and they did not understand Mexican Culture. So after a year they decided to cross back into the US.  The son who was born in the USA purchased airfare and was flown back.  The father was able to cross the desert with no problems.  She and her other son attempted to cross the desert and were caught by the border patrol agents.  They were treated horribly by the agents, pushed and shoved.  They were deported to Nogales.  The mother was able to secure for her son car transportation across the border to New York.  She paid $3800 to do this. While we were there speaking with her, she received a phone call stating her son was now in transit towards NYC, he made it through the desert.  She is relieved. She stated she is determined to join them in the near future.  There is no question in her mind that she will be reunited with her family.  She will not stop until it is so or she is shot and killed.

A friend of mine wrote a song with lyrics of being like a mother bear that will do anything to defend her cubs.   This is the determination of the families who are being deported, separated from their families.  There is no law, no 30 foot high wall, no desert terrain no matter how dangerous can or will deter families from being with their loved ones.

The US government and the media call these people criminals.  How can something as inherent in our evolutionary development as love be criminal?  This is the ultimate lie that my government tells me about people who are immigrants.  May we continue to choose to stand on the side love.


[ii] http://www.tedpoe.com/newsarticle.php?article=128

 

This was presented under the title of “The Cost of Privilege: Lies My Government Told Me About Immigration” to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Huntsville in Alabama on 2 June 2013 (c)