Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Border of US / Mexico - Part 1

Recently I was in Tucson, AZ for a retreat with my housemates, my director, and Tucson dwellers who live there. For the 4 days, I have learned about the problem in the border, the migrants, ICE agents, operation streamline, shelter for migrants, NAFTA free trade, and visa issues. I have my thoughts about the border issues before I came. During the 4 days stay, I developed mix feelings about all these issues that I learned. 

I was at a US court with the group to witness 60 migrants get sentenced for illegal entry into U.S.   This system is called Operation Streamline.  
Operation Streamline - is a Bush Administration program implemented in 2005 ordering federal criminal charges for every person who crosses the border illegally. In other words, it is a “zero tolerance” border enforcement program that targets even first time undocumented border-crossers. Instead of routing non-violent individuals caught crossing the border into civil deportation proceedings, Operation Streamline forces undocumented migrants through the federal criminal justice system and into U.S. prisons. Those who are caught making a first entry are prosecuted for misdemeanors punishable by up to 6 months in prison, and those who reenter after deportation may be prosecuted for felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Under this fast-track program, a federal criminal case with prison and deportation consequences is resolved in 2 days or less.   
I was sitting in the front row on the right side of the court. When the migrants get their sentences, they walked around the lawyer desk then toward us. I saw their faces before they walked out to the door 4 feet away from us.  You could heard their hand cuffs and ankle cuffs jingling. As I listened over and over of the judge reading their rights, public defender or public lawyers telling suggestions to their clients, and seeing the federal marshall making smirks at the immigrant's confession to the court.   2 to 7 immigrants at a time come up to face the judge as their lawyers stand behind them.    Here is one example of 6 men. One Guatemalan and 5 mexicans standing while being read of their rights by the judge. One man said  "I am guilty, i have been away from home for 15 days and my family doesn’t know where I am." They got sentenced for illegal entry in U.S.  Each 59 immigrant got mix number of days in prison then deportation back to Mexico. One was a minor so he was sent to detention and be deported later. Every now and then the prosecutor would stand up and say "The US Government submit." as the judge read migrant's present crimes and sometime past crimes. I felt that these people have the right to be sentenced and send back to Mexico for illgeal entry. I just don't agree with harsh behavior that border police treating them with.  I did not feel good as the immigrants walked up to my direction and I just couldn't just stare at them long enough for them to make their exit as I looked in a difference direction. I just wonder what they were thinking at the moment? Maybe these examples?

Why there are a group of white kids watching us getting sentenced?
What did I get myself into?
What my family going to do without me?
I don't understand what going on here, I wish someone will tell me.
 We got to listened to several guests who worked with in the border areas. A man named Mike who put out water stations 9 years ago out on his tribal lands reservation to help immigrants. "Humane Borders publishes a death map at the end of every year.  It has red dots on each place where a dead human was found.  I started to see a cluster of red dots on my reservation.  I thought that it is my moral obligattion to do something.  I put water on the migrant trails.  in recent years. 42% of all migrant deaths in the Arizona lands are on tribal lands.  My battle is how do I compel my tribal govt to accept its moral responsibility to fight these deaths.  Its justification is that if we let these people come to put out water, then it will encourage migrants to come through the tribal lands.  Now over the years it has transitioned.  it follows the homeland security scenario.  we dont know who is crossing. “ they may be terrorists”  we dont want to give any aid that may be assissting terrorists in our tribal nation.  we share 75 miles of land with the border.  when I was the pastor out there, there was no humanitarian effort.  Nobody was or is doing anything about migrant deaths.  Migrant deaths have become common, and they have become accepted.  that is my tribal governments position.  there is no discussion about migrant deaths.  they just want to talk about the criminality of the issues coming across.  A lot of drugs are coming through.  that is my tribal govts position.  My issue is how to compel them to see that is our moral obligation to care about the migrant deaths." Mike said.  I can travel back and forth between the countries, because my tribal land is on both sides.  So i have a water station 10 meters inside the Mexican border.  People may be walking back and forth for days before they can find my water station. I have some big tanks of water and lots of little 1 gallon jugs that i take on my truck.  I saw that my tribe had bought a 2000 gallon water tanker.  I saw it drive past and water was sloshing out the top because the cap was not on.  He said that it was actually a 4000 gallon water tanker.  Guess who there water is for.    Cows.  they were filling up these water tankers to fill up to take to the cattle so that cows wouldn’t suffer and die, and yet they do nothing about humans, men, women, children, pregnant women, and infants dying in the desert.  so they spent half a million dollars to buy a truck to water cows but dont care about humans dying.  they have a moral responsibility, and yet we have a tradition of hospitality among the tribes.  are tradition is that we should always offer hospitality.  I continue to put out water as a humanitarian." He said.  There is race-based issues in arizona legislatiion.  there is a new law that has made high schools and colleges in Arizona stop studying Ethnic studies.  Ethnic cleansing has been a part of American history.  And this is trying to make people forget about this.  The focus is on progams in high schools, like native american studies, mexican american studies,  black american studies.  the legislature has banned the teaching of these studies.  they say that these classes teach people  to overthrow the government and they are race-based.  but what they really fear is the liberal education taking place.    After Mike finished his Q/A with us, we found out from a text message that said Bin Laden is dead.  We started to reflect on what Mike told us about immigrant's death in the desert and Bin Laden's death. We watched the news for little bit on Bin Laden. I was not happy with seeing so many people almost like praising that Bin Laden is dead.  Maybe that is patriotic for them.  We shared our thoughts about our Country killing Osama Bin Laden and what are our feelings about the situation.   Here is few people's thoughts 

"I felt a sense of hopelessness.  Its been like we have been after this man for so long.  we have now proven that one person has been killed.  our govt will shift to, now we got one lets get the next person.  Our govt will not know when to stop.  there will be another one to kill."

 "Why do we believe that American lives are more sacred than any other of another nationality? There is a bumper sticker that says:  Why do we kill people that kill people, to prove to other people that killing people is wrong? The tv was interviewing people who had relatives in 911 and soldiers. and it was like they were saying that killing Osama has made it all ok."    
"Why do we believe that some lives are more valuable? We believe that Jesus’s death made our deaths not so bad. It feels like the media is saying that Osamas death is making these other peoples death not so bad."  

Proverbs 24:17
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls.  Do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.
We went to Mexico for 2 days and 1 night.  We got to learned about a farmer making a garden so they will have food to eat. The farmer have said "There are some people think that I am crazy doing this." "I feel the need to do this to help and show other in my community that there is a solution to survive on." They hardly have any rain so they use water from a tank to water the garden. He also told us other ways he do to get water like making a ditch and he create large square bricks to sell. He also shared his thoughts on the borders.  

We learned about a coffee place where the coffee is being made from beans of farmers in Mexico. All the money to buy their coffee product goes to the farmers, not to the company.  When they first started it, they sold over 300 lbs of the first year, last year they sold over 50,000 lbs of coffee.  Their coffee is amazing!  I support this message. 

We learned about free trade and did a skit with our group out in the plaza area.  I had to acted 
as a CEO of a bank for the US. 

To Be continue for US/Mexico Border-Part 2 soon. 

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