Genocide, the Border, and Water

Water station operated and maintained in the Sonoran Desert by Human Borders.
Pima County, Arizona.

Genocide and water.

Thinking about aspects of genocide and efforts to eliminate groups of people who get in the way of governments and their ambitions. 

An important but hidden issue behind NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] was that displacing indigenous groups in Mexico would open up access to aquifers under their lands. 

One of the ways of controlling those then displaced people attempting to go North, by design, was and remains funneling those people into the Sonoran Desert, an area notably devoid of water. 

Attempting to aid the displaced people by putting out water for them is a crime in some areas but not in others.

The Sonoran Desert has become a vast cemetery for those displaced persons who had no access to water. 

On the last and most important day of Passover, Jesus stood up in the Temple and shouted, “Come over to me and I will give you living water!” Even the Temple police began to desert, joining Jesus.

The Pharisees, who were collaborating with Rome, began to quake.

Angela Davis, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the Problem of Monetizing Our Past


Follow the money.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute rescinded its decision to honor activist Angela Davis with its highest award, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth Award, and canceled the annual gala at which she would have received it. This following complaints from high-rolling sponsors ($50,000) for the most esteemed spot and from Jewish community leaders because of Davis’ association with the BDS movement. BDS is the acronym for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. Its mission is to “work to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”

The cancellation of the award and gala raises fundamental problems with the monetization and commodification of Birminghan’s troubled past. Or of any area’s past.

Birmingham was once so heinous, so notorious it was dubbed “Bombingham.” Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth’s home in what came to be known as Dynamite Hill was one of those infamously bombed by foaming at the mouth segregationists. Shuttlesworth was a firebrand blue collar preacher, completely unlike Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He made the elites of the Civil Rights Movement nervous.

Dynamite Hill is the neighborhood in which Dr. Angela Davis grew up.

Then came the Children’s March, Sheriff Bull Connor, his police dogs, the fire department’s water hoses, the cameras, and the assassination of JFK. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Birmingham began to rebuild its image. The Civil Rights Movement was monetized. It became an attraction, a must-see for any visitor. The City built the BCRI, strategically situating it between the 16th Street Baptist Church, site of the bombing where the Four Little Girls were killed, and Kelly Ingram Park, site of the Children’s March.

Birmingham became a required site to see on any and all “Civil Rights Tours” with the BCRI becoming its premier stop. For a mere $55, Red Clay Tours provides hotel pickup, the luxury of a small group experience, and air conditioned comfort.

It’s a good museum, especially for those who didn’t grow up in Birmingham or any part of the segregated South as I did.

The problems with these kinds of museums is that they stop the present. They suspend the past like a fly in amber. They are symbols of what once was, not signs pointing to the future.

Unless, of course, there is some intention at forward movement for which the BCRI has announced with clarity it has not with its recision of the award to and gala for Angela Davis.

Enter Israel, the BDS, and Palestine. The monetization and suspension in amber of the Civil Rights Movement meets the horrendous on-going slaughter of Palestinians, a human rights violation of unimaginable magnitude.

The inability of the BCRI to act as a sign vis-à-vis Israel, its lie of omission which at the moment it was crafted became an act of commission in genocide is precisely the same problem I observed at the National Holocaust Museum.

It is a problem fundamentally related to a problem with Bryan Stevenson’s National Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, formally known as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. I have not yet been to it but sooner or later I will. I expect it to be as moving and powerful as everyone says it is. But we have to acknowledge that lynching is, for the most part, part of our past.

In one of my earliest published pieces on immigration, I referred to the deaths of migrants in the southwest as “the new noose”, a phrase which was eliminated from the published article, whether by me or the editor I don’t recall.

Why not a museum to the ongoing, horrific problem of an official policy of the US government to push migrants to their deaths as part of its policy of “deterrence” of illegal immigration? Will there develop at the NLM a wing dedicated to that?

How do we memorialize the past without monetizing it, without suspending it in amber, and without it becoming complicit in future efforts to guarantee civil and human rights?

Is that even possible?

A Problematic Protest Against Family Separation at the Border

People participate in a protest against a recent U.S. immigration policy of separating children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, outside the Tornillo Tranist Center, in Tornillo
Last night I attended an event which had as its purpose protesting the separation of families at the border by President Trump.

I grew angrier and angrier and then felt I could do nothing but cry.

Not because of the situation at the border which has kept me angry for a good 12 years.
But because the event was an opportunity wasted.

Poems read about Europe in the 1930s.

But no mention of ICE.

Talk of the need for a Democrat blue wave with no apparent knowledge that Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Jeh Johnson, Cecilia Muñoz, were among the architects of the horror we are witnessing.

But no mention of separating Madison County, Alabama from ICE.

No mention of the notorious Etowah Immigrant Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama at the very moment when there are demonstrations against ICE going on around the country at ICE facilities.

Talk of the moral high ground we think we occupy.

Vapid, pointless signs. (I pulled the one above from the internet.)

No mention of the 400,000 per year quota on deportations.

Which Obama carried out.

No mention of the Federal contract to keep 34,000 beds filled with immigrant detainees each and every day.

Which Obama carried out.

No mention of the separation of 1,000 families by ICE that very day.

And every other day in America.

The bad guys are bad guys out of malice.
The good guys are bad guys out of arrogance.
Warren Harding once said, “Its not my enemies that keeping me walking the floor at night. Its my friends. Its my goddam friends.”

Inflated Language and the Death Penalty



When Felix Ortega crashed into Tad and Leigh Anna’s car and killed them, he and the police officer who was pursuing him in a high speed chase took my life, too.

I never believed Ortega committed murder, though. There was no intention to kill them. He didn’t go after them. He killed them. That was enough. That was bad enough. Yet, the prosecutors charged him with two counts of murder. I thought vehicular homicide would have been an accurate charge. Or manslaughter.

Because he was undocumented and, I suppose, because it was a high profile case involving appealing teenage sweethearts, there were those in Huntsville who wanted to drag him from the jail and murder him in return.

I don’t know much about the law in Alabama, but I do know this is a death penalty state. We have the highest per capital death penalty rate in the US, outranking even Texas. And, until this year, a judge could impose a death penalty when a jury suggested life imprisonment in its verdict.

As it happened, in a plea bargain Ortega exchanged a jury trial for a bench decision. He received 15 years which I thought was sufficient.

What I would have liked to see was less emphasis on inflating the language, the charges, and the responses and more emphasis on the high-speed police chase which contributed in no small way to Tad’s and Leigh Anna’s deaths and the interruption of Ortega’s life.

But few were interested in that. An in-house investigation, during which the officer said the magic words, “I backed off”, culminated in his receiving not so much as a reprimand if what I’ve been told is accurate.

It doesn’t matter to me that at the last second he “backed off” when he had spent many minutes pursuing Ortega who had been headed out of town. Being pursued, Ortega made the fateful decision to try to elude the officer and, instead of heading out of town, made a left turn onto one of the busiest arteries in Huntsville and toward the highly congested intersection where the light had just turned red.

During sentencing, the District Attorney, as has become customary walked us and Tad’s family into the courtroom as a unit in a visual announcement to the judge that what we had undergone was a worthy of the maximum sentence. Ortega was there in shackles. But the officer was nowhere to be seen.

After sentencing Ortega apologized to the families. Privately, he apologized to Leigh Anna’s father and me. He expressed profound remorse.

We never heard a word from the police officer or the police department. Not the night of the accident, not any time since.

Inflated language, inflated charges, inflated responses. There seems to be a sense that inflation somehow says what happened was horrific. Or somehow that we care.

But they seem to carry with them their inverse—no language, no charge, no response at all.

Dear President Obama, Turn The Grief-Bearing Ship Around

The Wall, Sasabe, fence and barrier


In a different form, this article originally appeared in the Mobile Press Register, 2011. Altered, it appeared in, August 29, 2014.

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

I am a Baptist Minister to the Community. My ministry focuses on the production of a migrant justice documentary, narrated by Martin Sheen, called The Second Cooler. I first felt called to make the documentary because I was heartbroken for the families, especially the mothers, whose children died under the blazing Arizona sun as they were trying to cross the heavily militarized border into the United States.

Through a terrible twist of fate, I joined them in grief.

On the night of April 17, 2009, my sixteen year old daughter, Leigh Anna, and her precious boyfriend were killed by a drunk driver in Huntsville. The car exploded on impact and Leigh Anna’s tiny body was consumed by flames. The driver was an undocumented migrant from Mexico.

My family and I lost a lot that night. A daughter, an only sister, a granddaughter, the son-in-law we might have had, grandchildren, an aunt, cousins. And on that fiery night we became one of the broken families with broken hearts and broken dreams.

One of my favorite memories of Leigh Anna was the day, about two years before her death, when she went with me to Athens. The Ku Klux Klan was holding an anti-immigrant protest. We went to participate in a counter-protest. I remember her holding a neon-yellow sign, as big as she was, that had one word written on it in big, black letters: LOVE.

I have my memories, but I grieve and I grieve and I grieve.

There is nothing special about my grief. It is no different from that of the young mother in Huntsville whose infant was suffocated by an anxious coyote in that treacherous southwestern desert. Or the grandparents of other children who have died of the brutal cold there, alone and scared. Or of the children whose fathers have been snatched from them and put into deportation. Or the mothers now making plans for someone else to take their children if they should be deported.

And I am reminded of Mary, prostrate with grief at the foot of her crucified son.

I am reminded that recklessness does not belong only to drunk drivers. Or to police officers engaged in high-speed chases.

Recklessness also belongs to the powers, princes, and potentates who wash their hands of the grieving people they accept as the collateral damage of their policies and programs. Who wash their hands of the broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams.

And as I think long thoughts about Leigh Anna and that reckless night, I recall that I worship the God who said, “No!” to Pharaoh and his recklessness. The God who said, “No!” to Nebuchadnezzar and his recklessness. The God who said “No!” to Caesar and his recklessness.

I worship the God of the Exodus, the God of protection for those in fiery furnaces, the God of Resurrection. The God who takes sides with the broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams. The God who defies expectations and delights in dramatic reversals.

I remember Saul on the road to Damascus who heard a voice saying, Saul, “Why do you persecute me?” And he encountered himself in that profound moment and Saul became Paul, announcing the reality of the God who had effected the dramatic reversal, the dramatic “No!” to Caesar, the dramatic Resurrection.

And I recall John Newton, steering his deadly ship filled with desperate, grieving human beings bound for slavery. And that in an unexpected moment John Newton encountered himself on that alien sea, encountered his own recklessness, turned around his ship with its cargo of broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams unsold, and wrote those endlessly beautiful words, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

President Obama and members of the United States Congress, in the days and weeks ahead, the political talk and strategizing about “comprehensive immigration reform” will resume. In its guise as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, “reform” is a deadly ship, a ship filled with nothing but more broken families, more broken hearts, and more broken dreams.

But I believe you already know this. In your efforts to further militarize our southwestern border with this package, carelessly disregarding the more migrants who are sure to lose their lives there, you already know you are being reckless with other people’s lives. In your effort to extend the system of indentured servitude duplicitously called the Guest Worker Program, you already know you are being reckless with other people’s lives. In your effort to push all undocumented people into the deportation system under the guise of a “path to citizenship”, you already know you are being reckless with other people’s lives.

I am asking you to encounter yourselves as did Paul and John Newton and turn this deadly grief-bearing ship around. I am asking you to reject political calculating with other people’s lives and begin working for justice.


To Those Who Were Ever Oppressed: Time to Pay it Forward



The time has come to pay it forward.

Those of us who were ever poor white, African American, Asian American, Middle Eastern American, German American, Irish American, indigenous from anywhere, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Pentecostal, atheist, LGBTQ, or a woman

and someone who was not poor white, African American, Asian American, Middle Eastern American, German American, Irish American, indigenous from anywhere, LGBTQ, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Pentecostal, atheist, a day laborer, or a woman actively worked to change the system which was oppressing us:

it is time for us to try to change the system which is oppressing undocumented people and others today.

#Resist #JusticeNotDeals #Not1More

A Christian Border Patrol Agent’s Reflection on The Border Wall

Now that Donald Trump has been elected president, immigration as a topic of Christian concern has re-surfaced—or, in some cases, simply surfaced.

My mind often wanders to this encounter I had with a deeply reflective Border Patrol agent on an airplane between Tucson, Arizona and Guanajuato, Mexico in 2011. I had gone to the area on the US/Mexico border to shoot footage for my migrant justice documentary, The Second Cooler, narrated by Martin Sheen.

My cinematographer, Adam Valencia, and I had been in the Sonoran Desert with Mike Wilson, a tribal member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Mike, a former Special Operations military officer in El Salvador and Presbyterian lay minister in Sells, Arizona, had long defied tribal elders’ prohibition on putting water in the desert for migrants attempting to cross through it into the United States. This despite the fact that the brutal desert had already taken the lives of at least 5,000 migrants.

Photo by Alejandra Platt. Used by permission.

Photo by Alejandra Platt. Used by permission.

Mike has four stations among the rattlesnakes and cacti where he sets out water: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. He arranges them in the shape of a cross so any passing migrant will feel confident the water has not been poisoned.

As we were heading back to Tucson after shooting, while still on the reservation, we encountered a young, indigenous migrant from Oaxaca in southern Mexico. He name, oddly enough in this deathtrap, was Eulogio—eulogy. He was eighteen years old and had been wandering with his party in the desert for ten days. The previous three days he had neither food nor water. He was weak and asked us to call Border Patrol so he could turn himself in. Eulogio did not want to die in a foreign desert. He wanted to return home to his wife and seven month old son.

After Adam and I boarded the plane to journey on to Guanajuato, I called my husband to tell him about our encounter with Eulogio. When the call was finished, the young man sitting next to me on the plane asked me, “What kind of work do you do?” “I’m a filmmaker,” I said. “What kind of film?” “Immigration.” “What kind of work do you do?” “Border Patrol.”  We were delighted at the coincidence and laughed.

The agent told me his name was Steve. We chatted a long time.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Steve and his three brothers had been abandoned as young children by their parents in an orphanage where they languished for years. They had become so mentally disturbed that they used to urinate and defecate on one another. Eventually they were rescued by an American Mennonite couple. Over time, all recovered from the traumas of abandonment and abuse.

The brothers grew up on the principles of peace and non-involvement with the military. When Steve told his mother he was going to join the Border Patrol, holding to her faith principles, she objected to his decision.

Adam Valencia and Eulogio

Adam Valencia and Eulogio

When we met on the plane, Steve had been with Border Patrol for only about a year, but had turned in his resignation. He said he had decided to become a BP agent because he wanted to work outdoors and because he wanted to help stop drug trafficking. Steve learned, though, as he said, that being a Border Patrol agent really was about destroying people’s dreams. The dreams of people who were just like he had been earlier in his life. When he would find migrants wandering in the desert, they would beg him for their lives. He said they were as dependent on his mercy as he and his brothers had been on the mercy of strangers in that miserable orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

I asked Steve, “What is the youngest migrant you have ever captured in the desert?” He pointed to the baby daughter in his lap, dressed in pink frills and just beginning to stand. “About her age,” he said.

Painting by Guadalupe Serrano, used by permission.

Painting by Guadalupe Serrano, used by permission.

“I can’t do this any more”, Steve said. He reflected on the long, heavily militarized border wall called El Muro by many Latinos. “When we build border walls,” he said, “we act like we don’t believe in God at all. Our security is not in walls and Border Patrol agents. Our security is in God. We say we believe in God, but we act like we don’t believe in Him at all.”

Steve would not let me interview him on camera, although I asked him several times. I have no idea where he is now or what he is doing. His reflection on what it means to believe in God, however, will remain with me forever.

Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes

La orientación de la plataforma del Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes está dirigida hacia la justicia en lugar de cualquier conveniencia política.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Esta es la creencia de aquellos que planteamos en esta plataforma que la justicia puede hacerse únicamente cuando la injusticia del sistema actual es completamente y cuidadosamente expuesta. Nosotros enfatizamos que debemos trabajar en conjunto con metas claramente definidas. Estas metas están a continuación detalladas en un plan de rectificación.

La Declaración de Independencia de los Estados Unidos, la Constitución de los Estados Unidos, la Suprema Corte de los Estados Unidos y la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas nos guían en nuestra forma de pensar sobre los sistemas que van en contra de la marginación, separación y opresión de los pueblos.

La Declaración de Independencia de los Estados Unidos dice que parte de lo que significa ser libre es la capacidad de buscar “vida, libertad y felicidad.” La Declaración de Independencia pone en claro que los gobiernos solo existen para proteger los derechos inherentes otorgados por Dios a las personas. Esto además dice que la autoridad de los gobiernos únicamente deriva del consentimiento de aquellos que están siendo gobernados.

La 14ª Enmienda a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos establece “la igualdad de protección bajo la ley.” En la interpretación de este principio, la Suprema Corte de los Estados Unidos ha dicho que “la enmienda incapacita al Estado de privar inmerecidamente a un ciudadano de los Estados Unidos, a cualquier persona sin importar quien sea, de vida, libertad o propiedad sin un debido proceso legal, o de negarle a esta persona la igualdad de protección por las leyes del Estado… [Esto incumbe a] todas aquellas personas quienes pudieran estar dentro de esta jurisdicción.”

En 1948, la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas, en su Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, clarificó que esto significa hablar de libertad y derechos inherentes en el mundo moderno. En particular, las Naciones Unidas señalan que esto pudiera no pasar si nosotros viviéramos juntos “en un espíritu de hermandad.” Nadie, esto dice, “deberá ser sometido en esclavitud o servidumbre.” Nadie deberá ser “sometido a tratamiento de crueldad, inhumanidad, degradación o castigo.” Nadie deberá ser “sometido a arresto arbitrario, detención o exilio.” Nadie deberá ser “arbitrariamente privado de su propiedad.”


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

La Declaración de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas además enfatizó en qué consiste la libertad. Esta consiste en el derecho de una persona a “dejar cualquier país, incluido el propio y regresar a su país,” el “derecho a la nacionalidad,” “el derecho de no ser arbitrariamente privado de su nacionalidad o de negarle el derecho de cambiar su nacionalidad,” el derecho “a poseer su propiedad solo o en asociación con otras personas,” el “derecho de tomar parte en el gobierno de su país,” “el derecho a los derechos económicos, sociales y culturales indispensables para su dignidad y el libre desarrollo de su personalidad.”



Cada uno, las Naciones Unidas prosigue, tiene el derecho a “trabajar, a libre opción de empleo, a justas y favorables condiciones de trabajo y a protección contra desempleo,” el derecho a “pago equitativo por trabajo equitativo” y a una “justa y favorable remuneración para él y su familia.” Cada uno, tiene “el derecho a formar y unirse a sindicatos para la protección de sus intereses.”

En 2006, reconociendo “la urgente necesidad a respetar y promover los derechos inherentes de las personas indígenas los cuales derivan de… sus tierras, territorios y recursos,” las Naciones Unidas adoptaron una Declaración Especial de los Derechos de las Personas Indígenas. Esta estipuló que las personas indígenas tienen derechos “colectivos” como también individuales para el pleno disfrute de “la ley internacional de los derechos humanos” incluyendo el “derecho a la autodeterminación,” el individual “derecho a la nacionalidad,” y el derecho a “vivir en libertad, paz y seguridad como personas distintivas.”

Para que eso finalice, los miembros del Estado “proveerán de mecanismos efectivos para su prevención, y de arreglos para “cualquier acción la cual tenga el efecto de privarlos de su integridad como personas distintivas” o “despojarlos de sus tierras, territorios o recursos.” Más adelante, esta dice que “ninguna relocación tomará lugar sin el libre, previo e informado consentimiento de las personas indígenas involucradas y después de acordar en una justa y equitativa compensación y, donde sea posible con la opción de regresar.”

Esto además dice “que las personas indígenas tienen el derecho a participar en la toma de decisiones en cuestiones que pudieran afectar sus derechos” y que cuando ellos hayan sido “privados de sus conceptos de subsistencia y desarrollo [ellos] están titulados a un justo y equitativo arreglo.”

Ellos tienen el “derecho a mantener y a fortalecer su propia relación espiritual con sus propias costumbres y con las tierras, territorios, aguas, costas marinas y otros recursos que han usado y poseído y de defender sus responsabilidades para futuras generaciones en este ámbito.” Finalmente, esta Declaración establece que todas estas especificaciones no son más que los “estándares mínimos”.

Cuando nosotros consideramos migración no autorizada a través de las especificaciones de estas prescripciones para “vivir en hermandad,” nosotros vemos que los derechos humanos básicos están siendo totalmente negados en cada ocasión. Nosotros enfatizamos en que las negaciones de estos derechos son además contrarias a la acordada ley internacional.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Existe una conclusión entre historiadores quienes analizan las políticas económicas desde la perspectiva de la gente pobre que el Tratado Norteamericano de Libre Comercio (TLNC) ha sido el principal factor de empuje detrás de la migración no autorizada de gente pobre e indígenas de Latinoamérica a los Estados Unidos. Este acuerdo por sí mismo admite que pequeños y tradicionales agricultores en México, por ejemplo, tuvieron que ser sujetos a competencia por corporaciones de granjas fuertemente subsidiadas en los Estados Unidos. Este admite que alzando las tarifas que las corporaciones de Estados Unidos previamente habían pagado en orden de transportar sus productos a México por ejemplo, y quitando los apoyos que el gobierno mexicano había ofrecido por largo tiempo a los agricultores tradicionales cuando estos rechazaron el artículo 27 de la Constitución Mexicana, que un gran número de estos agricultores serían forzados a abandonar sus tierras para emigrar.

Posteriores tratados de libre comercio, incluyendo el Tratado de Libre Comercio de Centro América (CAFTA), el Libre Tratado de China, y otros han tenido efectos similares. En octubre del 2011, el Presidente Barack Obama firmó adicionales tratados de libre comercio con Perú, Colombia y Corea del Sur. Debemos anticipar que nuevos tratados de libre comercio tendrán las mismas consecuencias de los anteriores principalmente creando más desplazamientos de gente y empujandolos a emigrar. Además notamos que los desplazamientos causados por tratados de libre comercio en una escala más pequeña tomarán lugar dentro de los Estados Unidos. La devastación de la industria textil de Alabama es un ejemplo de esta situación.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Una consecuencia a la firma del Tratado Norteamericano de Libre Comercio (TNLC) en 1992 fue la militarización de la frontera Estados Unidos – México. A la fecha, aproximadamente 5000 hombres, mujeres, niños y bebés han muerto como resultado de intentar cruzar esta frontera.

La militarización dió lugar a la prioridad de bloquear las áreas urbanas a lo largo de la frontera las cuales eran los caminos más seguros por los cuales los migrantes tradicionalmente habían entrado a los Estados Unidos desde Latinoamérica. La teoría llevada a cabo en la frontera suroeste de los Estados Unidos fue que los migrantes evitarían áreas urbanas militarizadas, serían empujados a cruzar a través de aislados y peligrosos lugares de la frontera, especialmente a través del desierto de Sonora, algunos morirían y se pasaría la voz hasta llegar a las comunidades de Latinoamérica, y los migrantes pararían de intentar cruzar. Esto fue implementado como una parte de la política de “impedimento.” En adición, muchos migrantes reportaron rutinariamente ser sujetos a tratamiento cruel y humillante a manos de oficiales fronterizos. Notamos que más allá de la militarización de la frontera Estados Unidos – México ha sido parte de cada plan para las “reformas integrales de migración” que ha traído antes el Congreso de los Estados Unidos en años recientes.

La razón por la cual los migrantes cruzan ilegalmente arriesgando su dignidad, su propiedad y sus vidas es porque los Estados Unidos no les permite cruzar legalmente. Estados Unidos tiene dos sistemas de entrada legales. Uno para Canadienses y Europeos del Oeste quienes pudieran cruzar la frontera de Estados Unidos únicamente con un pasaporte, otro es para latinoamericanos, africanos y asiáticos quienes deben tener una visa adherida a su pasaporte. Esta gente debe calificar demostrando que ellos tienen ambos dinero y un título de propiedad para poder cruzar nuestra frontera legalmente.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

La excepción a la prohibición de los Estados Unidos a personas pobres e indígenas es la H2A o H2B visa para trabajadores temporales. Sin embargo el Centro Sureño de Leyes para la Pobreza (SPLC) ha aclarado que el Programa de los Trabajadores Temporales esta “cerca de la esclavitud” como su reporte en la visa fue titulado. La visa legalmente somete al trabajador al empleador que lo importa. El trabajador no puede legalmente dejar al empleador aún cuando el trabajador es abusado. El SPLC describe con precisión que el programa es como “servidumbre por contrato” y “trata de personas.”

Hemos notado que la mayor extensión de visas para trabajadores temporales ha sido parte de cada plan para la “reforma integral de migración” que ha traído antes el Congreso de los Estados Unidos en años recientes.

Los números desproporcionados de aquellos que son forzados a abandonar sus tierras a consecuencia de los tratados de libre comercio y sus políticas pertenecen a la gente indígena.

Muchos observadores señalan que pueblos enteros en las zonas indígenas son ahora ciudades fantasmas o ciudades pobladas solamente por mujeres jóvenes, niños y ancianos.
Los estudios indican que un número desproporcionado de los cuerpos de migrantes recuperados en el desierto de Sonora provienen de las zonas indígenas del sur de México y Guatemala, por ejemplo.

También notamos que el requisito de tener un título de propiedad no es válido para los indígenas que viven en tierras comunitarias siendo esto es un impedimento para venir a los Estados Unidos legalmente.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Millones de personas han sido desplazadas en América Latina, en particular debido a las políticas económicas de los Estados Unidos, especialmente el TLCAN. Los Estados Unidos y demás signatarios, Canadá y México, claramente sabían de esto cuando se firmó el tratado. Este conocimiento previo se indica tanto en el tratado como en la Estrategia Fronteriza del Suroeste. Ahora millones de estas personas desplazadas se encuentran en los Estados Unidos.

Ellos viven bajo la constante amenaza de deportación. Notamos que aproximadamente 1.5 millones de personas fueron deportadas durante la primera administración del Presidente Obama. El Congreso de los Estados Unidos ha autorizado un fondo monetario para deportar 400,000 personas al año, y para hacer esto ha incrementado el fondo monetario para el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional.

Los Estados Unidos también tienen un creciente interés de lucro en su sistema penitenciario con lo que está haciendo enormes sumas de dinero de las deportaciones. El fuertemente financiado sistema de deportación causa un gran sufrimiento a aquellos que son deportados. Además se están desintegrando familias Estadounidenses al ser deportados los cónyuges y los niños son separados de sus familiares que muchas veces son ciudadanos estadounidenses. Esto además ha forzado que miles de ciudadanos vayan al exilio, cónyuges e hijos que siguen a sus deportados o de otra forma esperar el regreso de sus seres queridos repatriados. Muchos de estos ciudadanos americanos en el exilio se convirtieron en aquellos que viven sin ningún estatus legal en el país natal de sus seres queridos. Las barreras legales que enfrentan cónyuges e hijos de aquellos que han sido deportados dejan a muchos sin ninguna esperanza de vivir en algún lugar legalmente como familias.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

En suma, a muchos les es negado el debido proceso garantizado por la 14ª Enmienda a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos y son sometidos a discriminación racial y étnica, detención por meses sin cargos, audiencias secretas y “racionalizados” procesos judiciales, de los cuales la Operación Streamline de Arizona es un ejemplo de ello.

Trabajadores en los Estados Unidos, México y otros lugares cada vez más están siendo sometidos a un nivel de presión que van desde el “derecho a trabajar” y leyes para criminales, lo cual hace más difícil para ellos negociar colectivamente afectando así otros medios para conseguir salarios justos, buenas condiciones de trabajo y beneficios.
Trabajadores no autorizados son victimizados por prácticas abusivas que incluyen redadas en los lugares de trabajo y sistemas electrónicos legales de verificación de empleo [e-verify].

Una importante amenaza a la vida de migrantes e inmigrantes incluyendo niños en los Estados Unidos es la aprobación de la Responsabilidad Personal y Oportunidad de Trabajo y Ley de Reconciliación (PRWORA) en 1996. Señalando que había “un urgente interés del gobierno para eliminar el incentivo para la migración ilegal proveído por la disponibilidad de beneficios públicos”, por primera vez, la ley de 1996 vinculó la elegibilidad de los inmigrantes legales para recibir Medicaid de acuerdo al tiempo de residencia en los Estados Unidos. Estas restricciones, además aplicaban los Programas Estatales de Aseguranza para Salud de los Niños (SCHIP), el cual fue establecido en 1997. PRWORA y SCHIP abarcaron la mayoría de los inmigrantes, incluyendo residentes permanentes legales y a otros migrantes los restringieron a cinco años para su elegibilidad.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Lo que nosotros vemos en esencia es el crecimiento del número de personas prácticamente sin nacionalidad, quienes no tienen el significado de ciudadanía en ningún lugar, los esfuerzos para protegerse ellos mismos, sus familias y sus maneras de vivir les están siendo arrancados sistemáticamente. Derechos humanos fundamentales incluyendo el derecho a vivir, libertad y la búsqueda de la felicidad, les son prácticamente arrebatados. Derechos humanos fundamentales incluyendo el más específico derecho al significado de nacionalidad, a cambiar de nacionalidad, a mantener una identidad étnica, a cruzar fronteras legalmente, a no ser tomados como esclavos, a no ser sujetos a tratos crueles, inhumanos o degradantes, a no ser sujetos a arrestos arbitrarios, detención o exilio, de no ser privado de propiedad, de tener una propiedad colectivamente o individualmente, de tener la libertad a tener un empleo y favorables condiciones de trabajo, el derecho a pago equitativo por trabajo equitativo, el derecho de formar y de unirse a sindicatos, y el derecho a procesos justos que están siendo negados por el sistema. Hemos notado también, que cuando esos derechos son rechazados por acuerdo internacional a personas que estaban tituladas a esos derechos, les fueron negados sus derechos a compensación.

Plan de Enmienda:
Nosotros proponemos el siguiente Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes.
En particular, pedimos que las muertes de migrantes a lo largo de la frontera Estados Unidos –México paren inmediatamente.

1.- Crear una económica y rápida obtención de visas que permita a la gente, incluyendo a las personas de bajos recursos, personas indígenas que vivan y posean tierras comunitarias sin importar sus conocimientos o perspectivas de salario, venir los Estados Unidos de Latinoamérica, África y Asia.

2.- Desmilitarizar la frontera de Estados Unidos-México.

3.- Detener las deportaciones hasta que estas puedan ser desligadas del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, de la industria de prisiones con fines de lucro y de cuotas.

4.- Abolir el H2A/H2B Programa de Trabajadores Temporales.

5.- Detener la firma y aplicación de los tratados de libre comercio y retroceder en aquellas partes que están en vigor actualmente.

6.- Restaurar procesos justos.

7.- Crear un estatus legal para personas sin estatus legal en la actualidad en los Estados Unidos, incluyendo pero no limitando a su vez un camino a la ciudadanía.

8.- Ayudar a los indígenas a recuperar las tierras que tradicionalmente les han pertenecido en Latinoamérica y la repatriación a esas tierras a aquellos que lo deseen.

9.- Fortalecer el derecho al trabajador local, extranjero y transnacional para organizarse y negociar colectivamente (sindicalización).

10.- Levantar las barreras legales que han sido impuestas a los deportados y habilitar el regreso de repatriados a los Estados Unidos, barreras que seguido obstaculizan a cónyuges e hijos de ciudadanos americanos su derecho a regresar.

11.- Proveer de una remuneración a las familias con ciudadanía americana de deportados para cubrir los gastos relacionados al dejar los países a los cuales ellos hayan sido exiliados.

12.- Desbloquear las barreras para los migrantes e inmigrantes para la elegibilidad a Medicaid y SCHIP.

Elaborado por:
Ellin Jimmerson, Huntsville, AL, EE. UU. , 12 de Enero del 2013.
Traducico por Adryana Luna, Winnipeg, CAN

Firmado por:
Ellin Jimmerson, The Huntsville Immigration Initiative, Huntsville, Alabama.

Platform for Comprehensive Migrant Justice

The orientation of this platform for Comprehensive Migrant Justice is towards justice rather than political expediency.

It is my belief that justice can be done only when the injustice of the current system is exposed carefully and completely. The emphasis in this platform, which I wrote after numerous conversations with other advocates, is on working in concert towards clearly articulated goals.

The preamble sets out the rationale for the platform. The particular goals are listed below in a “plan for redress.”


Alfred Quíroz, Artist


The United States’ Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, US Supreme Court, and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights guide can guide us in our thinking about systems which tend toward the marginalization, dislocation, and oppression of peoples. The United States’ Declaration of Independence says that part of what it means to be free is to have the ability to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness.” The Declaration of Independence makes it clear that governments only exist in order to protect these God-given “unalienable” rights.


The US Declaration of Independence also says that governments derive their authority only from the consent of the ones being governed.

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for “equal protection under the law.” In interpreting this principle, the US Supreme Court has said that “the amendment disable[s] a State from depriving not merely a citizen of the United States, but any person, whoever he may be, of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or from denying to him the equal protection of the laws of the State. . . . [This pertains to] all persons who may happen to be within their jurisdiction.”

In 1948, the United Nations’ General Assembly, in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, clarified what it means to speak of freedom and inalienable rights in the modern world. In particular, the UN addressed what may not happen if we are to live together “in a spirit of brotherhood.” No one, it says, “shall be held in slavery or servitude.” No one shall be “subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” No one shall be “subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” No one shall be “arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

The UN Declaration of Human Rights also articulated of what freedom consists. It consists of the right of a person to “leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country,” the “right to a nationality,” the right not to be “arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality,” the right “to own property alone as well as in association with others,” the “right to take part in the government of his country,” the right to “the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

Everyone, the UN goes on to say, has the right to “work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment,” the right to “equal pay for equal work” and to “just and favorable remuneration for himself and his family.” Everyone has “the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

In 2006, recognizing “the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from . . . their lands, territories and resources,” the United Nations adopted a special Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It stipulated that indigenous peoples have “collective” as well as individual rights to the full enjoyment of “international human rights law” including the “right to self-determination,” the individual “right to a nationality,” and the right to “live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples.”

To that end, the member States “shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for “any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples” or “dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources.” Further, it says that “no relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.” It also says that “indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights” and that when they have been “deprived of their means of subsistence and development [they] are entitled to just and fair redress.”


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

They have the “right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.” Finally, this Declaration states that all these specifications are but “minimum standards.”

When I consider unauthorized migration through the lenses of these prescriptions for “living in brotherhood,” I see that basic human rights are willfully being denied at every turn. The denials of these rights also are contrary to agreed-upon tenets of international law.


There is consensus among historians who analyze economic policies from the perspective of poor people that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been the primary “push” factor behind the unauthorized migration of poor and indigenous peoples from Latin America to the United States. The Agreement itself acknowledged that small, traditional farmers in Mexico, for example, were to be subjected to competition from heavily subsidized corporate farms in the United States. It acknowledged that by lifting the tariffs that US corporations previously had paid in order to export their products to Mexico, for example, and by removing the supports the Mexican government long had offered traditional farmers when it repealed Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, that large numbers of those farmers would be forced off their lands and into migration.

Subsequent Free Trade Agreements, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the China Trade Agreement, and others have had similar effects. In October, 2011, President Barack Obama signed additional Free Trade Agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. We must anticipate that new Free Trade Agreements will have the same consequences as previous ones, primarily creating more displacements of people and pushing them into migration.

Displacements caused by Free Trade Agreements on a smaller scale have take place within the United States. The devastation of Alabama’s textile industry is a case in point.

A corollary to the signing of NAFTA in 1992 was the militarization of the United States / Mexico border. To date, approximately 6,000 men, women, children, and babies have died as a result of attempting to cross this border. Militarization placed a priority on the sealing off of the urban areas along the border which were the safest paths by which migrants traditionally had entered the US from Latin America.

The theory, articulated in the US Southwest Border Strategy, was that migrants would avoid the militarized urban areas, be pushed into crossing through isolated and dangerous stretches of the border, especially through the Sonora Desert, some would die, word would get back to Latin American communities, and migrants would stop trying to cross. This was articulated as part of its policy of “deterrence.”

In addition, many migrants routinely report being subjected to cruel and humiliating treatment at the hands of border enforcement officials.

Further militarization of the US / MX border has been part of every plan for “comprehensive immigration reform” that has come before the United States Congress in recent years.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

The reason migrants cross illegally, risking their dignity, their property, and their lives is because the United States does not allow them to cross legally.

The United States has two legal entry systems.

One is for Canadians and Western Europeans who may cross US borders with only a passport. Another is for Latin Americans, Africans, and most Asians who must have a visa affixed to their passport. These people must qualify by demonstrating that they have both money and title to property in order to cross our borders legally.

The exception to the United States’ ban on poor and indigenous is the H2A or H2B Guest Worker Visa. However, as the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] has made clear, the Guest Worker Program is “Close to Slavery” as its report on the visa was titled. The visa legally binds the worker to the employer who imports the worker. The worker may not legally leave a employer even when the worker is abused. The SPLC accurately describes the program as “indentured servitude” and “human trafficking.”

Major extensions of the Guest Worker Visa have been part of every plan for “comprehensive immigration reform” that has come before the United States Congress in recent years.

Disproportionate numbers of those forced off their lands by Free Trade Agreements and corollary policies and decisions have been indigenous peoples. Many observers note that entire towns in indigenous areas are now ghost towns or towns populated only by young women, children, and elderly people. Studies indicate that a disproportionate number of migrant bodies recovered from the Sonora Desert can be traced back to indigenous areas in southern Mexico and Guatemala, for example.

The requirement that people hold title to land automatically bars indigenous people who live on communally-held lands from coming to the United States legally. Millions of peoples have been displaced in Latin America in particular because of the United States’ own economic policies, especially NAFTA. That the United States and the other signatories, Canada and Mexico, knew this when they signed the Agreement is clear.

This prior knowledge is evident in both the Agreement and in the Southwest Border Strategy.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Now millions of these displaced people are in the United States. They live under the constant threat of deportation. Approximately 2.8 million people have been deported during President Obama’s administration.

The United States Congress has authorized funding to deport 400,000 people a year and to carry this out, has increased funding to the Department of Homeland Security.

The US also has a burgeoning for-profit prison system which is making enormous sums of money from deportations. The heavily-funded deportation system causes great hardship to the ones being deported. In addition, it is tearing apart US citizen families as deported spouses and children are taken from their US citizen family members.

Deportation also has created thousands of citizens in exile–spouses and children who follow their deported or otherwise repatriated loved ones to wait out the bars to returning. Many of these US citizens in exile then become the ones living without lawful status in their loved one’s home country. Bars on the lawful entry of their deported spouses and children, leave many without any hope of being able to live anywhere lawfully as families.
In addition, many are denied the due process guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and are subjected to racial and ethnic profiling, detention for months without charges, secret hearings, and “streamlined” court trials of which Arizona’s Operation Streamline is a case in point.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Laborers in the United States, Mexico and elsewhere increasingly are being subjected to a range of pressure ranging from “right to work” laws to murder which make it hard for them to bargain collectively and in other ways act in concert for good wages, working conditions, and benefits.Unauthorized laborers in the US also are victimized by abusive practices including workplace raids and electronic legal employment verification systems [e-verify].

An important threat to life for immigrants and migrants, including immigrant and migrant children, in the US was passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in 1996. Stating that there was “a compelling government interest to remove the incentive for illegal immigration provided by the availability of public benefits,” for the first time, the 1996 law tied legal immigrants’ eligibility for Medicaid to their length of residency in the US. These restrictions also applied to State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), which was established in 1997. PRWORA and SCHIP subject most immigrants, including legal permanent residents, and migrants to five year bars on eligibility.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist


What I see in essence is the burgeoning of people who essentially are stateless.

They have no meaningful citizenship anywhere. Their every effort to protect themselves, their families, and their ways of life are being systematically taken from them. Fundamental human rights including the general rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are being systematically taken away. Fundamental human rights including the more specific right to a meaningful nationality, to change nationality, the right to maintain nationality, to maintain ethnic identity, to cross borders legally, not to be held in slavery, not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, not to be deprived of property, to hold property collectively as well as individually, to free choice of employment and favorable conditions of work, the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to form and join trade unions, and the right to due process are being systematically denied.

I believe that when these rights are denied, according to international agreement, people whose rights have been denied are entitled to redress.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Plan for redress

I propose the following plan for Comprehensive Migrant Justice. In particular, I ask that the deaths of migrants along the United States / Mexico border be stopped immediately.

1. Create an inexpensive, quickly obtained visa that allows people, including poor people and indigenous people who live on communally-held lands, and without respect to their skill or wage earning prospects, to come to the United States from Latin America, Africa, and Asia

2. De-militarize the US / Mexico border

3. Halt deportations until they can be detached from the Department of Homeland Security, the for-profit prison industry, and quotas

4. Abolish the H2A / H2B Guest Worker Program

5. Stop the signing and implementation of Free Trade Agreements and roll back on those parts which now are in effect

6. Restore due process in removal proceedings

7. Create a lawful status for people without lawful status currently in the United States including, but not limited to, a path to citizenship

8. Aid indigenous people’s recovery of what traditionally have been communally-held lands in Latin America and the repatriation to those lands of those who wish it

9. Strengthen the right to organize and bargain collectively (unionize) by domestic, foreign, and transnational labor

10. Lift the legal bars that have been imposed on deportees’ and otherwise repatriated people’s ability to return to the US, bars which often act as practical bars to their US citizen spouses’ and children’s ability to return

11. Provide redress to the US citizen families of deportees by providing for expenses involved in leaving the countries to which they have entered into exile

12. Lift Medicaid and SCHIP bars to eligibility for immigrants and migrants
Finalized by Ellin Jimmerson, January 12, 2013; amended August 5, 2016

All photographs are of aluminum cutouts by artist, Alfred Quíroz, used by permission. ©Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC

Why I Do Not Call Out Trump


In case it matters, several people have asked me why I do not publicly call out Trump for his language about Mexicans and deportation. The reason is simple: it seems self evident that Trump is an obnoxious, foul-mouthed, racist, sexist, homophobic, crude, ignorant, dishonest, narcissistic, dangerous creep.

In addition, it has never been my habit or my interest to call out people with whom I have little or no association. By that I mean that I am a Democrat so I tend to be critical of other Democrats — especially those in power.


So, yes, I call out Obama rather than Trump at this moment in time. Obama has deported 2.8 million people. Few Democrats (those I hear from) seem to care. Trump has deported none. One has a record on deportation; the other does not. Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans is over the top crude. Yet, Obama has had his abusive rhetoric, too — “they don’t play by the rules” — when he knows full well there are no rules to play by.

Whether this is right or wrong on my part, I am not in a position to say.

To draw a parallel, I was never the parent who continually pointed out or obsessed over the wrong-doings of other people’s kids. I was always more interested in whether my own kids were doing right. I felt that was my duty and where I could have the most impact. It was also out of love for them. I wanted the best for them.

However, if anyone needs me to say it (and I’m always surprised anybody really cares what I think or say): I dislike Trump and his rhetoric immensely. And I am distressed that America produced him and has allowed him to get this close to the Presidency.