August 30, 2011

Border Justice Delegation Prt. 3

The final days of the delegation consisted of us traveling across the border and visiting a Comedor, which aids migrants crossing, by providing a hot meal, a phone and a roof. We crossed the enormous wall that continues to be built “dividing” Mexico and Arizona. We were searched trying to ENTER Mexico, not the US, as well as several miles away from the border, in the middle of the desert. I felt like I could be in a post-apocalyptic movie or the Occupied Territories.

By far, the most moving experience was listening to the Promotoras speak. The Promotoras, a group of organizer with Derechos Humanos were kind enough to wait for us despite out late arrival, due to a tire blow out. We heard from a woman whose husband and children were detained, while she was forced to give birth in the presence of ICE agents. After delivering she was given 10 days to recover and was deported with her new born, but she returned for her children. With a new born, this brave woman crossed the desert in seven days, to be reunited with her family. It made me ask myself, what parent would not do that? My parents would.

On the last day of the delegation, we visited the Tohono O’odham nation. There I saw how indigenous and desert customs are being destroyed. As mentioned in an earlier blog, the land of the Tohono O’odham spans across Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, and because of this the area is full of border patrol both on the border and further into Arizona. Indigenous people, by participating in traditional and everyday activities are subject to harassment and detention. What would you do if saw an elder and a child walking in an isolated desert? Would you offer them a ride? It is traditional for people living in isolated, harsh environment, especially desert to show hospitality to visitors. This hospitality can save lives, and is very important.

Now in Arizona, if you offer someone a ride out of the cold, rain or desert, you are subject to arrest. We learned of a woman who picked up two gentlemen in the middle of the night, in winter. She drove them to the nearest gas station and got them coffee. Unfortunately, a Border Patrol agent saw her and her vehicle was taken.

When are we going to make human life a priority? Why do we excuse abuse, discrimination, exploitation? We need to wake up and realize that what has, and is happening to us, is happening to others. Once we remember our history and join with immigrants, Mexican, Muslim, Nigerian, Haitian, then we will achieve community and freedom.

The same people, ideas, corporations, and justification that have been and continue to oppress African Americans and immigrants of color alike. I challenge African Americans to remember what they were taught, or do some research, or contact BAJI and learn about how you can connect with immigrants of color coming to the United States, and immigrants crossing the Border.

Border Justice Delegation Prt. 2

The second day opened with presentation by Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith from the University of Arizona, Binational Migration Institute, explained further how border has become land of impunity. She spoke of the Tohono O’odham nation and the migration history of the people who live on this land. The Tohono O’odham nation spans across the Arizona and Mexico Border, and indigenous people find themselves subject to harassment, arrest and detention. For generations, the harvest has driven people to migrate across the border. For the harvest, people have always migrated across this “border”.

We saw first-hand, the impact of border policy when we visited the Office of the Medical Examiner for Pima County, where the remains of nearly roughly 200 migrants are processed each year. People commonly die from exposure, heat stroke, drowning, and injury. Nothing hit you more once you see these bodies. What happened and ends up of people’s mother, father, brother, sister, child. I commend Pima County for being the only county on the broader willing to process the remains of migrants and work with relevant consulate to identify them and notify family members.

The day continued with a visit to the Federal Courthouse to see Operation Streamline in action:

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 executed 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 Operation Streamline is a Buys or less. “OPERATION STREAMLINE FACT SHEET July 21, 2009” ACLU and National Immigration Forum.

As fellow delegates mentioned, it is easy to look in this courtroom and think of slave auctions. 48 men and 2 women were shackled from wrist, to waist, to ankle. They were called by name and number and asked a series of arbitrary questions to look like justice was being served.

Beside the process being more theatrical than judicial, I was heartbroken to know that these
ople endured desert heat, starvation, dehydration and border patrol, to then be put in chains, jailed and deported.

Border Justice Delegation Prt. 1

Global events and economic policies have lead to increased migration globally. And the United States government has responded with militarization and low intensity warfare, in the guise of safety, security and management. And as a result, too many people are subject to punishment, exploitation and death. People crossing the Mexico/Arizona border encounter fences, hate crime, and the harsh desert because of lies perpetuated by the Department of Homeland Security, ICE and Border Patrol.

Working with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, I can connect the suffering of African Americans to immigrants of color in the United States. But on August 11, 2011 I attended a Border I attended a Border Solidarity Delegation with DRUM and Vamos Unidos, with the aim of making concrete connections between the experiences of migrants crossing the US/Mexico Border to runaway slaves in the Underground Railroad. These crimes against humanity have similarities:

  • aid was given to runaway slaves by abolitionists, free slaves and slaves alike
  • aid if given to migrant by concerned individuals, organizations, and former migrants and their family.
  • runaway slaves had to cross of number of natural barriers, travelling in winter, mountains, rivers, suicide and avoiding slave catchers
  • migrants crossing the US/Mexico Border face similar struggles like, and many die due to exposure to the elements, suicide, border patrol agents, and injury.
  • Slaves and immigrants were and are the result of a global economy, and a global economic policy
  • Runaway developed networks and codes to navigate their journey and identify allies, migrants crossing the border have to do this today.

I was excited to join this delegation and see firsthand how these connections can be made, and who would help me make them.

After a long day of travel, I arrived at our delegation orientation. I met an amazing group of activists from New York, Phoenix, with DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving, Vamos Unidos (, and Alliance for Educational Justice (, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (, ACLU) and Derechos Humanos ( We introduced ourselves and shared our knowledge of the Border issues, what we hoped to learn and bring back from this experience. A theme emerged that was restated throughout the trip was education and solidarity. WE want to share issues on the Border with South Asian, Muslim, African American and student communities, in an effort to build solidarity in this movement. I believe everyone on this delegation believes that militarization and criminalization will not stop at the Border, but will and has moved into our respective communities.
Isabel Garcia, with Derechos Humanos then gave a brief presentation on the history of the Arizona/Mexico Border. She reiterated that these crimes against humanity have always taken place. She gave a historical, economic, political analysis of immigration in the country, focusing on Arizona. One can see, S-Comm., AB 1070, and E-Verify are not isolated policies. There are people, politicians and corporations tied to these decisions.

After our orientation I spoke briefly with Mary-Hope... African American ACLU is a part of the BAJI Advisory Committee in Phoenix. She shared with me, that she walked the migrant trail on the US/Mexico Border. And one night camping under the stars, she noticed the Big Dipper, and immediately she thought of the Underground Railroad. We share the same planet; we are the same species, being subject to the same Draconian laws. These connections have to be made. African Americans must see them and come to the conclusion that our liberty is bound in the liberty of others.

August 8, 2011

Black Foreign-Born Workers Have Highest Jobless Rate

Original post by James Parks for AFL-CIO Blog

A new study dispels the myth that immigrant workers are taking good-paying jobs away from American-born workers. According to “The Low Wages of Black Immigrants,” released last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), black workers, whether they were born in the United States or in a foreign country, have the highest unemployment rate, period.

In the United States, the black unemployment rate in July was 15.9 percent, compared with an overall rate of 9.1 percent. The 12.4 percent jobless rate among black immigrant workers last year was slightly higher than for Hispanic immigrants (11.3 percent) and significantly higher than for white (7.4 percent) and Asian immigrants (7.3 percent).

At the same time, black workers, whether native-born or immigrant, earn significantly less than white workers, the report shows. This is especially true for men. U.S.-born black men earn 19.1 percent less than white men while black immigrant men from English-speaking Caribbean countries earn 20.7 percent less. Haitian men (33.8 percent less) and African men (34.7 percent less) do substantially worse than any other group.

All groups of black women have lower weekly wages than similar U.S.-born white women, but the size of the wage gaps is smaller for women than it is for men.

The report’s co-authors, Patrick Mason, economics professor at Florida State University, and Algernon Austin, director of EPI’s Race, Ethnicity and the Economy program, point out that it’s not a matter of education that cretaes the job and wage gap for blacks. In 2008, more than one-third of African immigrants (36.6 percent) had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 29.5 percent of whites. A higher percentage of native-born blacks (32 percent) had high school education than whites (30 percent), according to the study.

The EPI study follows a U.S. Labor Department report released last month that shows African Americans lag behind the rest of the nation in the slow economic recovery. Other studies show that blacks are disproportionately hurt by cuts in public employment and attacks on public workers.

Mason and Austin said their study makes it clear that:

because this disadvantage in the labor market affects both U.S.- and foreign-born blacks, it points to a problem that stems from race and not cultural background.

Read the full report, “The Low Wages of Black Immigrants,” here.