Monday, April 14, 2008


APRIL 13, 2008 (Media release upon receipt)


In early December, a Mexican
family is pulled over by a Tucson policeofficer who promptly calls immigration
officers to the scene.In themeantime, a passenger, Miriam Aviles-Reyes, goes
into early labor onthe street. While her husband is deported, she is taken to a
hospital.There, an immigration agent prods her to "push." Outraged, she
demandsthat he leave the hospital room.After he leaves, she gives birth, andis
subsequently ordered to leave the country by the end of the month.Appeals to
allow her and her newborn to keep their doctor appointments are denied.Not
coincidentally, her departure was set to coincide one day before anew draconian
anti-immigrant law (HB 2779) in Arizona went into effect. As abhorrent as this
traumatically induced birth was, she is actually one of the "lucky" ones.

This is a part of the country in which since the mid-1990s, some 5,000 migrants from
Mexico, Central and SouthAmerica have died attempting to cross inhospitable
deserts andmountains for a chance to work in this country.Many others die
in horrific crashes as smugglers increasingly attempt to evade "themigra." Some
are killed by rogue agents, whereas many women are sexually assaulted.

Few perpetrators are ever convicted.

This is alsominutemen vigilante country.It is
where migrants get blamed for the failure of politicians to pass humane
immigration agreements.As aresult, migrants continue to die and millions of
dollars continue to be wasted to erect walls of fear and hate along the southern
border.Similar to the more than 1,000 laws that have recently passednationwide,
the Arizona law panders to those that scapegoat Mexicansfor the nation's
problems.They also conflate immigration enforcementwith the "war on terror" and
the need to "protect the homeland." Thisstate law severely punishes employers
for hiring undocumentedimmigrants.Not unexpectedly, along with hate crimes,
reports ofemployment harassment and discrimination are on the rise.

Down the
highway, under the guise of crime suppression, MaricopaCounty Sheriff Joe
Arpaio has gone wild, initiating massive dragnetraids that target Mexicans,
resembling a modern version of "Indian Removal." Similar raids are taking place
around the country, thoughnot against Canadians or Europeans, etc (nor should
they).Nowadays,there are special holding facilities for immigrant children
andfamilies (T.D. Hutto Res.Ctr, Taylor, TX) ˆ run by the for-profit Correction
Corporation of America (CCA).There are also expeditedimmigration courts on
military bases (Davis Monthan Air Force Base)with the objective of
criminalizing en masse as many migrants aspossible. Also profiting from such
kangaroo courts is CCA.The entire country is going through a convulsion, fueled
by fears overwho belongs and who doesn't.

Mexicans have gone from being "others" to enemies.Extremists want them all deported
—regardless of their legal status. Yet even some "progressives" see them as but part of asubservient
class. Yet, there is hope.At the recent annual banquet in Tucson held by the
Coalicion deDerechos Humanos organization, I approach a woman with a
cane.Sometimes I see her walking with the aid of two canes.I ask RaquelRubio
Goldsmith, an immigration rights veteran and the director of theUniversity of
Arizona's Binational Migration Institute, how she maintains her sanity in this
environment.She says few words. It's her eyes that tell the story.Her eyes do
notwell up nor is there a sign of anger.Instead they reflect exasperation, not
with right-wingers, but with the complacent middle.

Thousands of migrants die
and people just go on with their lives,unmoved to action.At this banquet,
Gerald Lenoir, head of the Black Alliance for JustImmigration, delivers the
keynote address and along with it hope as he links the historic struggle of the
African American community with thestruggle for the dignity of migrants ˆ
peoples who are nowadaysviewed as less than human.By his very presence, both he
and DerechosHumanos show a different way.

After a subsequent conference (No Vale
Nada la Vida? ˆ Is life notworth anything?) in which death on the border is the
focus, I again ask Rubio-Goldsmith how she maintains her sanity amid
the indifference.The exasperation she feels also extends to the media,she
confides: "me dan tanta rabia" (the media infuriate me), she says.What I really
want to ask her is: What indeed is the price of aMexican? A few years back, a
Texas court determined it was $6,000. In today's climate, I think we all know the

Column of the Americas 2008

"Life is not measured by the breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away."

No comments: