portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

environment | human & civil rights

Sonoran Desert Storm - Homeland Security Ramps Up the War at Home

In June, unmanned spyplanes began to fly over the Tohono O'odham
reservation in southern Arizona. Two thousand US Border Patrol agents have
been deployed in the Tucson sector of the US-Mexico border, driving
off-road vehicles through wilderness corridors, wildlife refuges and other
public lands. A five-foot-high metal fence is going up in Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument. Federal agents are breaking into O'odham houses
and detaining people without cause.
In June, unmanned spyplanes began to fly over the Tohono O'odham
reservation in southern Arizona. Two thousand US Border Patrol agents have
been deployed in the Tucson sector of the US-Mexico border, driving
off-road vehicles through wilderness corridors, wildlife refuges and other
public lands. A five-foot-high metal fence is going up in Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument. Federal agents are breaking into O'odham houses
and detaining people without cause.

For the people and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert, the war has always been
at home.

Arizona Border Control

On March 16, Asa Hutchinson—Undersecretary for Border and Transportation
Security of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—announced the
Arizona Border Control Initiative, a $10 million plan to seal the
Arizona-Mexico border against drug traffickers and immigrants. The
initiative provides funding for extra Border Patrol agents and high-tech
military weaponry and surveillance. In addition, it allows the Border
Patrol to drive all-terrain vehicles on federally protected land.

Militarized crackdowns in urban areas of California and Texas have pushed
40 percent of undocumented Mexican immigrants into the Arizona desert,
often into the most remote wilderness. Immigrants continue to die in the
Summer heat—more than 2,000 people have died since 1998—and the US
government has responded with efforts to make this crossing even more
deadly, all the while expanding their military control over border
communities and natural areas.

Militarizing Public Land

At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which spans 31 miles of the
Mexican border, park officials have allocated part of their limited budget
to hiring law enforcement officers and building a five-foot high,
vehicle-resistant fence to aid DHS's efforts. The fence is constructed out
of railroad ties and is expected to span the entire length of the
monument's southern border.

The barrier's effects on wildlife will be severe. The Sonoran bioregion is
home to a number of unique species that have historically ranged across
the political border. A wall would fracture the populations of these
animals, placing them at greater risk of extinction on both sides of the
border. For example, although the range of the jaguar is now limited to
Mexico, it once extended into Arizona. In recent years, jaguars have been
spotted in the US, but a wall would prevent their return. All in all, the
Arizona border region is home to 107 threatened, endangered or other
specially managed species.

Nonetheless, Organ Pipe Cactus officials have chosen to embrace the
militarization of public lands rather than defend the bioregion's
wildlife. Entire areas of the monument are currently occupied by DHS
agents and are closed to the public. Once militarized, these lands are
removed from public control and the realm of "the commons" where they
belong. Does anyone believe that they will ever be returned for the
people's use once taken?

The military seizure of our public lands continues. In the bordering
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, refuge officials are struggling to
prevent the destruction of the desert by off-roading federal agents.
Off-roading is devastating to the precarious existence of desert plants
and to the habitat of highly endangered animals such as the Sonoran
pronghorn. But with the government demanding that refuge managers focus on
"fighting crime" rather than protecting wildlife, refuge managers have
become subservient to the Border Patrol and DHS.

Roger DiRosa, manager of Cabeza Prieta, is trying to persuade the Border
Patrol to use horses instead of motorized vehicles and to rely more on
high-tech monitoring than on physical manhunts. But as the wall around
Organ Pipe Cactus pushes more immigrants toward Cabeza Prieta, DHS is not
likely to accept even this more limited militarization.

The Indian Wars Continue

Recently, DHS announced that military surveillance of the border
region—including the Tohono O'odham reservation—will increase under the
Arizona Border Control Initiative. Extra helicopters and airplanes are
being deployed above the reservation, as are two unmanned aerial
spyplanes. Electronic ground sensors and remote video cameras are being
placed throughout the region. DHS appears unconcerned about the effects of
low-level helicopter flights on wildlife and local residents. DHS also
ignored the risks posed by the spyplanes, which have a crash rate 100
times greater than piloted aircraft. Tohono O'odham tribal members already
live in danger from frequent aircraft crashes due to military maneuvers
and patrols on their land. On May 20, an F-16 fighter jet crashed on the
reservation during training exercises.

Because the Tohono O'odham Nation stretches across the US-Mexico border,
US Border Patrol agents regularly stop residents at gunpoint and demand
that they produce papers proving their citizenship with one of the
occupying powers. Sacred bundles are regularly inspected when traditional
O'odham travel between villages for their ceremonies. Border Patrol
vehicles race recklessly down reservation streets, and in April 2002, a
young O'odham man was struck and killed.

As if this weren't enough, the government is moving forward with plans to
bisect O'odham territory with a 225-mile-long wall that will run nearly
the entire length of the Arizona-Mexico border. The fence will be lit 24
hours a day, disrupting the natural cycle of bats and other nocturnal
creatures. O'odham families already separated by the border will be
entirely cut off, and sacred ceremonies will be made nearly impossible.

Plans to build the wall were stalled due to a flawed environmental impact
statement, but a new statement on the same plan is expected in September.
DHS is telling the O'odham that the wall is meant to protect them from Al
Qaeda.

But many of the region's residents believe that "homeland security" is
only a pretext to continue the repression of the Southwest's indigenous
people. Tohono O'odham people in Arizona and Mexico allege that DHS is
using the same tactics that the Mexican government employs to monitor and
control indigenous people struggling for sovereignty in places like
Chiapas.

In fact, the border activities of DHS fall neatly into the pattern of "low
intensity conflict," a model utilized by US-supported regimes throughout
Latin America to remove the support bases of groups seeking social change.
In this type of military offensive, civilian populations are deliberately
targeted with tactics that destroy their quality of life and create a
climate of fear and intimidation. Low-level helicopter flights, random
searches and detentions, home invasions and abuse by law enforcement are
all crucial parts of low intensity conflict strategy. More sinisterly, the
strategy often relies on armed paramilitary groups that operate with
impunity—chillingly similar to the vigilantes in southern Arizona that
terrorize immigrants and border communities, and who the authorities
refuse to prosecute.

Law enforcement activities on the border are coordinated by Joint Task
Force-6, a military operation composed of Army and Marine forces who aid
local police in the "war on drugs." The task force is the largest domestic
use of military force since the Civil War. It engages in construction of
border roads and walls, as well as the training of local law enforcement
in surveillance, intelligence and military tactics—another frightening
parallel to the Latin American paramilitary model. Rather than just
hunting for immigrants or smugglers, DHS is making a concerted effort to
intimidate the O'odham and other border residents out of challenging
government policies. Perhaps the government hopes to drive the O'odham
from the border region altogether, destroying their indigenous identity
once and for all.

Resisting the War at Home

Resistance to US border policy is growing. Humane Borders, a nonprofit
organization based in Tucson, Arizona, maintains water stations in the
desert and organizes "Samaritan patrols" to provide food and water to
desperate migrants. On May 28, the No More Deaths Coalition kicked off a
Freedom Summer to stop the deaths in the desert by bringing in volunteers
from across the country, raising awareness, and taking direct action
against checkpoints and other human rights abuses. The O'odham Voice
Against the Wall, a coalition of traditional O'odham communities in the US
and Mexico, is working to mobilize youth against the border wall. They are
also looking for legal observers to travel to the reservation and document
abuse by Border Patrol agents.

More action is desperately needed on all fronts. Whether against the walls
or the vehicles, the checkpoints or the land invasions, the people and
wildlife of southern Arizona need your help today.

For more information, contact The O'odham Voice Against the Wall, POB
1835, Sells, AZ 85634;  uyarivas@hotmail.com. To learn more about Freedom
Summer, visit www.nomoredeaths.org.

Email links
 uyarivas@hotmail.com

* www.nomoredeaths.org



Bring the Ruckus!
 http://www.illegalvoices.org/ruckus
Stop Chasing Migrants to Death 08.Aug.2004 22:02

kirsten anderberg kirstena@resist.ca

US-Mexico Borders: Stop Chasing Migrants to Death
By Kirsten Anderberg (August 1, 2004)

There is a serious problem going on in the Sonoran Desert, at the Mexican-American border. Due to extra reinforcements at traditional urban (illegal) entry points, such as San Diego and El Paso, people are being forced into the deserts now to make the crossings. One human rights volunteer said, "The Border Patrol, as planned, went on to push them into the deserts, where the risk increased exponentially." And we are seeing record numbers of dead from this. For the last 5 years, we have seen a 261-mile-long stretch of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona become the most deadly immigrant entry point. The ground in the Sonoran Desert can reach 130 degrees before June. August, the most deadly month to cross, is coming up next month. Although most people start this trek across the desert with only two gallons of water, they actually need a gallon of water just to survive walking five miles in 100 degree heat. One of the illegal entry paths entails a 50 mile walk on ancient trails in the desert. Many people walk for days in 100+ degree heat to try to enter the US illegally. This year, before the start of the worst season, 4 undocumented immigrants have died in New Mexico of heat exposure, and more than 72 have died in Arizona. More undocumented immigrants have died this year in the border crossing than ever before. Last year's numbers also broke records.

Several groups are actively trying to help save lives by setting up water stations for the undocumented immigrants in the desert. A group called Border Angels ( http://communities.signonsandiego.com/borderangels), was founded by Enrique Morones in 2001. It is a non-profit group that has installed and maintained more than 500 water/aid stations throughout the Imperial Valley Desert and surrounding areas, and has now expanded into Mexico. Volunteers keep the water stations supplied with water through spring and summer. In winter and fall, the group has established stations in the San Diego Mountains, with winter clothing, food and water in winter storage bins. I asked Mr. Morones why these migrant deaths were now occurring in record numbers and he said that "the U.S. policies make it more difficult to pass, except in the most dangerous areas." When I asked what could be done to help stop these migrant deaths, he replied, "DEFEAT BUSH, ELECT KERRY." Mr. Morones says that every year the stations are used more and more, and their organization is growing every day. Border Angels is a 501c-3 non-profit, and needs donations for water, flag material, gasoline, winter clothing, and more. Can you help them save lives today?

Paisanos al Rescate, or "countrymen to the rescue," is another organization involved in getting water to undocumented immigrants crossing the Mexican-American border. Created by Armando Alarcon, with missions beginning in June 2004, this group drops bottled water from Cessna planes. The bottles are dropped in bubble wrap, topped with a small parachute, from a brightly colored plane. There is no law against dropping things from planes, such as water bottles, as long as it does not cause property damage or bodily injury. The bottles have a message telling the immigrants to wave their hands above their heads if they needed to be rescued, and below their waist if they do not. Unfortunately, Paisanos al Rescate do not rescue the immigrants, they call the border patrol, which I find to be problematic. Alarcon said he thought of using the planes to drop water during one of his first flight lessons. He said he looked down, and realized what could be done. Alarcon was born in Mexico and raised in Texas.

Another group called Humane Borders, dispensed approximately 9,300 gallons of water in their approximately 111 survival stations between Mar 2001 and August 2002. It is not clear if this group is still functioning, but their site offers some interesting goals. One of their stated goals is to provide hospitality to those crossing the border. They say that providing water in the desert will not increase undocumented migration, or more clearly, "People do not cross the border to obtain water." They state that their deployment of water to the desert is in response to "the immoral policies and strategies that put people at risk." They ask for the following policy changes: 1) legalization of the undocumented worker as was done in 1986, 2) incorporate a responsible guest worker program with visas so workers are not tied to one industry or boss, and 3) demilitarize the borders, among other things.

Most people who die crossing the border, die from heatstroke and dehydration. Last year, 409 immigrants died trying to make it across, which is 7 times the death toll in 1995, according to the Mexican Foreign Ministry. In response to the rise in deaths from the desert entry, Mexico has agreed to participate in a repatriation plan, announced by the Department of Homeland Security in July 2004. Mexico says it will provide free flights back to Mexico for illegal Mexican immigrants arrested in Arizona, beginning July 12, 2004 and ending no later than Sept 30, 2004. The planes take the immigrants to either Mexico City or Guadalajara, where they are supposedly bused back to their home towns. Those who live in Northern Mexico were supposedly going to be given "other options" yet those have not been detailed. The US and Mexican governments purposely chose the deep interior of Mexico for the flight destinations to discourage quick turnarounds at illegal attempts to reenter the states. And indeed, many do refuse the plane rides, asking instead to be taken to the closest border town, to try to reenter again. The cost of the plane trips, approximately $13 million, will be paid by the United States. Last year's repatriation program transferred 6,000 Mexicans from Arizona and Texas border towns, but mayors of cities on the Mexican side, said migrants were dumped with no money for food or bus tickets home in their towns.

*******************************

¡Qué paren de perseguir a los inmigrantes hasta la muerte!
por Kirsten Anderberg (von lupita fitzcarraldo)
www.kirstenanderberg.com

Existe un problema muy grave en el desierto de Sonora, cerca de la frontera de EE.UU con México. Debido al doble refuerzo de los tradicionales puntos ilegales de entrada, como San Diego o El Paso, los inmigrantes se están viendo forzados a adentrase en el desierto para hacer el cruce. Un voluntario perteneciente a una organización de derechos humanos comentó que, "La Patrulla Fronteriza, tal y como estaba planeado, les obligó a adentrase en los desiertos, donde el creciente riesgo es exponencial." El número de muertes está creciendo a ritmo vertiginoso como consecuencia de esto. En los últimos 5 años, el tramo de 261 millas a lo largo del desierto de Sonora en Arizona, se ha convertido en un punto de entrada letal para los inmigrantes. Las temperaturas en el desierto de Sonora alcanzan los 130 grados Fahrenheit (54 grados centígrados) a principios de junio, y ya estamos llegando a agosto, que es el peor mes para hacer el cruce. Aunque se necesita beber 1 galón (3.7 l) de agua por cada 5 millas (8 Km.) en temperaturas de 100 grados Fahrenheit (38 grados centígrados), la mayoría de la gente que cruza el desierto no lleva más de 2 galones de agua (7.5 l). Uno de los caminos ilegales de entrada implica una caminata de 50 millas (80 Km.) a lo largo de un antiguo camino del desierto. Muchos caminan durante días bajo temperaturas de más de 100 grados Fahrenheit para intentar entrar ilegalmente en EE.UU. En lo que va de año, y sin haber empezado la peor temporada, ya han muerto 4 inmigrantes indocumentados en Nuevo México por exposición a las altas temperaturas, y al menos otras 72 personas en Arizona. Este año han muerto más indocumentados que nunca en el cruce de la frontera, y todo esto teniendo en cuenta que el año pasado ya se superaron los récords de años anteriores.

Varios grupos están montando estaciones de agua para intentar salvar las vidas de los inmigrantes indocumentados que cruzan el desierto. Enrique Morones fundó los Ángeles de la Frontera ( http://communities.signonsandiego.com/borderangels) en 2001. Es un grupo de carácter no lucrativo que ha instalado y se encarga de mantener 340 estaciones de agua a lo largo del desierto del Valle Imperial y sus zonas circundantes. Los voluntarios de los Ángeles de la Frontera mantienen el suministro de agua en las estaciones a lo largo de la primavera y el verano. Para los meses de otoño e invierno el grupo ha establecido estaciones en las montañas de San Diego, proveídas con ropa de invierno, comida y agua metida en bolsas de almacenamiento de invierno. Los Ángeles de la Frontera necesitan donaciones para agua, tela para hacer señas, gasolina, ropa de invierno y demás. ¿Puedes ayudarles a salvar vidas hoy?

Paisanos al Rescate es otra de las organizaciones que se encargan de conseguir agua para los inmigrantes indocumentados que cruzan la frontera de México hacia los EE.UU. Paisanos al Rescate fue fundada por Armando Alarcón, y sus misiones empezaron en junio del 2004. Este grupo lanza agua embotellada, que ha sido previamente embalada en envoltorio plástico con burbujas y proveída con un paracaídas pequeño, de aviones Cessna pintados de colores chillones. No hay ninguna ley que impida tirar cosas de aviones, como por ejemplo agua embotellada, siempre y cuando no cause daño a la propiedad o daños físicos. Las botellas llevan mensajes que instan a los inmigrantes a que agiten las manos por encima de la cabeza si necesitan ayuda y por debajo de la cintura si no necesitan ayuda. Por desgracia, Paisanos al Rescate no se ocupan del rescate de los inmigrantes sino que avisan a la Patrulla Fronteriza, lo cual es un problema desde mi punto de vista. A Alarcon se le ocurrió la idea de utilizar aviones para tirar agua durante una de sus primeras lecciones de vuelo al mirar hacia abajo y darse cuenta de las posibilidades. Alarcón nació en México y creció en Texas.

Otro grupo llamado Fronteras Humanas repartió aproximadamente 9,300 galones (casi 5.000 l) de agua en sus casi 111 estaciones de supervivencia entre marzo del 2001 y agosto del 2002. No está claro que este grupo siga en funcionamiento pero su sitio de Internet ofrece algunos objetivos interesantes. Uno de estos objetivos consiste en proveer hospitalidad a aquellos que cruzan la frontera. Fronteras Humanas no cree que la provisión de agua en el desierto aumentará la inmigración de los indocumentados, o en otras palabras, "la gente no cruza el desierto para obtener agua". Por el contrario, Fronteras Humanas ofrecen agua en el desierto en respuesta a "políticas y estrategias inmorales que ponen a gente en peligro" , y piden los siguientes cambios: 1) la legalización de los trabajadores indocumentados, tal y como ya se hizo en 1986, 2) la inclusión de un programa responsable de visas para trabajadores invitados que no les obligue a trabajar para una compañía o a un jefe en concreto, y 3) la desmilitarización de la frontera, entre otras cosas.

La mayoría de las muertes al cruzar la frontera se producen por insolación y deshidratación. El año pasado, 409 inmigrantes murieron haciendo el cruce, lo cual representa un incremento de 7 veces el número de muertes de 1995, de acuerdo con el Ministerio de Exteriores Mexicano. México, en respuesta al aumento del número de muertes de inmigrantes en el paso de la frontera por el desierto, ha decidido participar en el plan de repatriación que anunció el Departamento para la seguridad de la Patria (DHS) en julio del 2004. El gobierno mexicano asegura que proveerá vuelos gratuitos de vuelta a México a todos aquellos inmigrantes que sean arrestados en Arizona desde la fechas del 12 de julio hasta el 30 de septiembre del 2004. Los aviones volarán con destino a México y a Guadalajara, y se supone que se pondrán autobuses al servicio de los inmigrantes que vivan en otras zonas del país. No obstante, para ser que para aquellos que vivan al Norte de México va a haber "otras opciones", que todavía no han sido estipuladas. Las autoridades mexicanas y estadounidenses han elegido vuelos hacia el sur de México con el claro propósito de desanimar a los inmigrantes a intentar entrar ilegalmente en los EE.UU de nuevo, y es cierto que muchos se niegan a coger los aviones y piden que les lleven a la ciudad más cercana a la frontera, desde donde intentan cruzar a los EE.UU otra vez. Los EE.UU se ocuparán de pagar los vuelos, a un coste de casi 13 millones de dólares. El programa de repatriación del 2003 repatrió a 6.000 mexicanos desde Arizona y las ciudades fronterizas de Texas de vuelta a México, pero los alcaldes de las ciudades fronterizas mexicanas se quejaron de que los inmigrantes llegaban a las ciudades sin dinero para comer o comprar un billete de vuelta a sus pueblos. (Dentro de pocas semanas en www.kirstenanderberg.com se va a colgar un artículo sobre los Angeles de la Frontera, el cual incluirá una entrevista con su fundador, Enrique Morones).

A special thanks to the <a href=" http://translations.indymedia.org">Indy Media Translations Group</A>!