Posts Tagged ‘Chertoff’

February 11- Brownsville City Commissioner’s Public Hearing

February 11, 2009

Letter to Brownsville City Commissioners a few hours before February 11’s Public Hearing concerning construction of a “temporary fence” through Brownsville.

Esteemed Commissioners,

I am writing because tonight’s public hearing of the City of Brownsville poses a vital opportunity for you and the “City on the Border by the Sea” to make a statement that walls are no way to secure our nation or remedy a broken immigration system.

I am writing because Obama has only been in office for a few months, and the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is currently evaluating Chertoff’s past efforts and making new plans.

I am writing because la frontera is not just a place but a symbol to the rest of the nation and the world that community exists, that people can cooperate and live peacefully on both sides of the border.

I am writing because in a time of economic crisis it would be criminal to pour more government, state, and local money into a wall that will only exacerbate a situation that needs concerted, bipartisan reform.  I am writing because, should Brownsville cave, El Paso’s appeal to the Supreme Court could be seriously undermined

I am writing because our neighbor Hidalgo County has spent $10-12 million per mile on their levee-border wall compromise, and we all know that such a drain on financial resources at this time would seriously compromise our community.

I am writing because walls divide, walls preclude cooperation, walls are antiquated in a time of globalization, walls have never worked historically, and walls send a message of contention and isolation rather than cooperation and community.

I am writing because tonight, each and every one of you will have a part to play in history.  I am writing because Esther 4:14 was written for today – “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Respectfully,
Matthew Webster

[http://borderwallinthenews.blogspot.com/2009/02/new-brownsville-dhs-contract-no.html]

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Civil Rights Opportunity of the Century

April 5, 2008

When Martin Luther King wrote his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he had in mind several prominent preachers, including Episcopal Bishop C.C. Jones Carpenter. When King wrote, “The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people,” he was envisioning these men of faith who had their hands on the levers of hundreds of thousands of consciences. While C.C. Jones Carpenter legalistically disagreed with King’s direct action strategies, he was in effect weighing in with support for the segregationists. One of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr‘s best friends, Bishop Will Scarlett, had attempted earlier to rouse Carpenter’s conscience for integration. Scarlett wrote that integration was “…in line with my suggestion years ago that the sight of the great Bishop of Alabama ridden out of his State on a rail because of courageous and enlightened speech, would be one of the greatest events of many years…I still think so: I think you have an opportunity of a hundred years.” (Parting the Waters, 742)

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 and the shockingly un-Constitutional waivers of 30 laws this past week in order to hasten the wall’s construction provide American citizens and residents the civil rights opportunity of the century. The Secretary of Homeland Security’s waiving of border citizens’ rights and due process is shocking in its blatant disregard for morality and basic human rights; however, we must not let this, the largest waiver so far in the construction of what would eventually be a 2,000-mile border wall, enervate us and cause us to falter.

No, this mass waiver and the thoughtlessness of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 must serve as a rallying cry to unite Americans and to call for real immigration reform with solidarity. I must admit that when I first heard of the waiver on Tuesday, I trembled with shock and disbelief. Having walked 126 miles with 300 people but a few weeks before in the No Border Wall Walk here in the Rio Grande Valley, I had felt we had made a difference. UTB Professor Eloisa Tamez’s case had been a partial victory, and the UTB decision on Wednesday, March 19, had made all activists and citizens begin to believe that perhaps the lines of dialogue were open and our leaders were willing to listen to reason and conscience. My hopes were jarred this April Fool’s Day 2008, but I have now come to understand that this is merely a call to action.

And so to oppose the foolhardiness of this Fool’s Day decision, people of faith must say to the fool there is a God and he is on the side of the stranger and the migrant. People of faith, from Baptists and Methodists to Mennonites and Lutherans and Quakers, from Catholics and Unitarians to Jews and Muslims and Buddhists – all these people of faith are united around the idea of protecting the sanctity of human life and defending the rights of immigrants. All people of faith must therefore unite in solidarity against a border wall which threatens the way of life and the basic human rights of the millions who live on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. People of faith must join in opposition against a double-layered, 18-foot wall which would be economically destructive, environmentally unconscionable, politically backward, socially devastating, and morally reprehensible. If we do not step up in this moment of opportunity, then Dr. King’s words from prison will ring true.

So often [the church] is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent – and often even vocal – sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century (Why We Can’t Wait, 92)

People of faith, and in fact all citizens, must come together today. The REAL ID ACT holds the potential to waive any number of laws in constructing a border wall. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 stands as a deterrent from positive immigration reform and a detriment to the border region, Mexico, and our entire nation of immigrants, both legal and extralegal. Please speak with your faith leader and urge them to adopt a strong resolution against the border wall. The Church is strongest when it is a check of the State, and our nation’s power imbalance must be righted by people of faith today. It is no longer our place to discuss whether or not this is a church issue or a moral dilemma – the time is ripe to do right right now.

No Border Wall Walk- Day 7 or A Day of Thanksgiving

March 14, 2008

   No Border Wall Walk- Day 7 with the Heedless Horseman from Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ

    Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Progreso, like so many other churches along our walk, absolutely saw the sojourner in us and welcomed us like a Good Samaritan. We came asking only shelter, and Yolanda and Father Thomas fed us snacks. We were looking for a place to lay our head, and they provided us much-needed showers and our only laundry services of the whole 9-day walk. As tired and beleaguered wanderers, we were welcomed wholeheartedly by this faith community, and one gets the feeling that an extralegal immigrant and his family might find the same welcome at the doors of Holy Spirit. Surely they are living the call of Leviticus 19:33-34 which calls peoples of faith to embrace immigrants, stating, “The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

    Day 7 was at least 99 degrees, and by some accounts as hot as 102. Many of us got burnt, I suffered heat hives, and all of us slowed our 2-3 mph pace considerably in the sweltering sun. It was hotter than a human heart, the organ this entire walk has targeted. Believing that people are innately good, we feel that they simply must not know the wonderful people and beautiful places which a wall would destroy and immigration legislation could enhance. As members of the walk give interviews with local news stations or national newspapers, we are laying out the facts of the immigration debate and the logic as to why the United States should not build a wall. The real story, the story we pray is reaching the hearts of the world, is on display behind us, in the gorgeous palm groves and birding preserves and in the single-story homes and land grant ranches which will be devastated by the building of any wall.

One of the most historically fascinating parts of the trip came at the Rio Rico historic landmark. Sipping some much-needed Gatorade (donated by yet another church), we learned that when the international boundaries were moved from the Nueces River to the Rio Grande and everyone to the north was given citizenship status, some people took their rights into their own hands. The people of Rio Rico dug a canal in the 1800s, changing the course of the river so it would flow south of them and give them certain “inalienable rights.” Though this met with some opposition, all 200 of them were finally given full citizenship status and are now proud to be called Americans. People have been subverting unjust immigration laws for a long, long time…

This Friday’s march was another great opportunity to dialogue with the amazing people who have pledged 9 days of their lives and 120 miles of their feet to speak out against the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Some new recruits to the group were discussing political figures who have let down the American public, either through faulty promises or mismanagement or the profit motive. Hearing this rhetoric, though, I could see many of the through-walkers bristle at its negativity. We are not waging a campaign against people, because people are never beyond redemption. In his speech “Loving your Enemies,” our hero and mentor Martin Luther King said,

…This simply means that there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. When we look beneath the surface, beneath. the impulsive evil deed, we see within our enemy-neighbor a measure of goodness and know that the viciousness and evilness of his acts are not quite representative of all that he is. We see him in a new light. We recognize that his hate grows out of fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding…

We are working to change oppressive and unjust systems in our nation and in the world, but our struggles can never be directed at a single person because it becomes hate and cyclical violence. So, I spoke up to him as he was bashing a man who has waived 19 different environmental laws in order to build the wall in Arizona. I said that it is fruitless and ultimately violent to direct anger at people. If we have a problem with someone, we should not even say their name. Our conflict is not with them but with their actions. On the other side, however, when someone deserves praise, we should use their names in the most intimate way. Praise should always be extremely personal and direct; critiques should always be directed at fixed systems or established actions rather than people, because people possess the power to change.

With that in mind, I would love to praise Laura and Jonathan Loveless for their generous providence of another homemade lunch today in the tiny town of Santa Maria – your surname is clearly a misnomer. I wish to praise the heedless horseman Vince for riding his horse Tocallo and enlivening us with his sage vaquero wisdom and his cowboy guitar-playing. I would like to thank Gene for riding his bike from Brownsville to join us for most of the day’s walk. Jose, your calm discussion about the border region and your work with UTPA students kept me walking when I was most affected by the heat. To all the ladies at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Las Rusias, God bless you for your tambourines and noisemakers as we hobbled home to your fish dinner and your old-time Spanish praise songs. God bless you Nenna for sharing the lives of your eight children, your land along the levee and the site of the proposed border wall, and the encouraging shower at your house. Father Albert – we are so grateful for our kind reception at your church. You and Father Thomas from Progreso, both immigrants from the Congo, illustrate the beauty and the love and the potential immigrants can and do offer if only given the opportunity through our immigration system. Thanks to all 250 of you who have walked even a step of this march thus far; your footsteps give us the faith that we are not alone.

Continuing in the same vein of praise, I would also like to thank the individual members of this walk. These people have dedicated nine days of their lives, 126 miles of their feet, and 24 hours of every single day to the purpose of protesting the injustice of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, supporting the sanctity of all border regions, and respecting the divine spark of humanity in every single immigrant. I am eternally grateful to Mike and Cindy Johnson, both educators from the Brownsville school system who devoted their entire spring break to an issue in which they believe. Mike’s endless energy has uplifted our spirits on many a long day, and Cindy’s heart for each house we pass reminds me of why we are walking. Thank you Cindy for talking with each of these landowners, informing them of their legal rights, and encouraging them with the faith that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Matt Smith

Thank you Matt Smith for your love of the communities on both sides of the river. Your work in the maquiladora factories in Mexico prove that you are willing to work at righting injustice, and you bring that same moral indignation to this No Border Wall Walk. Your guitar-playing and IPOD-blasting have kept us dancing and singing and positive all 100 miles so far, and they are sure to see us all the way to Brownsville. Thank you also Domingo Gonzalez; your offer of transportation has been invaluable, and your happy car honks always seem to lift our spirits. Cesar Chavez, your fellow UFW mate, would be proud.

Crystal Canales

I have to thank Crystal Canales for her limitless energy, her youthful idealism, and her passion for people. Crystal is the only UTB student who sacrificed an entire spring break to protest a border wall in the Valley she has always called home. Her words of support and positivity, both in Spanish and in English, have been truly profound and have made the most cynical of us act in love.

Elizabeth Stephens

Elizabeth Stephens, we owe you so much thanks for your organizing skills in Progreso and your understated leadership on the march. Bearing blisters since Day 2, you have found a quiet reserve of strength and managed to “mount up on wings of eagles” when others would be plummeting like sparrows. Perhaps it has something to do with your button which states, “I am loved.” We all pray you will continue your activism here in Brownsville and the greater Rio Grande Valley for many years to come.

Nat Stone

Nat Stone, every single member of this walk is grateful for your constant encouragement and your affirmation of our work. Your daily documentary film-making reminds us that our protest is not here in the Valley but in the hearts of our nation. We all pray that your talented filmography manages to prick our country’s conscience. Seeing you leap-frogging us again and again has kept us walking when we would just as soon take yet another water break. We also thank you because no other documentary makers would be calling the Obama campaign office everyday, nor would they be handing out legal information to local residents, nor would they stop and be a first responder at a car accident. You make us all proud to live on la frontera.

Jay Johnson-Castro – your 600 miles of walks before March 8 made our march possible. Your guidance from walks past, as well as your teeming knowledge about this issue, have guided our thinking and our planning on this walk. You have brought media attention to the Valley and to the issues we confront, and we pray you will continue to nonviolently campaign for justice on the border.

Kiel Harell

Kiel Harell, how can we ever thank you for the days and days of accumulated time you spent on the phone rallying support for this March Against the Wall. Your quiet strength, your welcoming persona in your down-home overalls that harken back to the SNCC days of the civil rights movement, your conversational tone with reporters and recalcitrant locals, your well-read understanding of nonviolence and your recent exploration of faith – we are thankful that you canceled your plane ticket home and are campaigning for the homes of thousands along our nation’s southern border.

John Moore

Brother John Moore, this walk was your dream some two months ago. You have lived in San Diego, El Paso, and now Brownsville, and your triangulated perspective on the border gives purpose and far-reaching unity to our efforts here. We are not alone, nor are we simply campaigning for the rights of these people within a 120-mile stretch of this snaking Rio Grande. Our efforts are for the 5,000 mile Canadian border, the largest international border in the world, just as much as they are for the Mexican border. Thank you for directing our anger into purposeful, nonviolent ways; thank you for reminding us of the power of redemption and the promises of our God. Thank you for turning me on to nonviolence and its application to every part of my life.

The thanks could go on indefinitely. We have been brimming with gratitude for the opportunity to hear the stories of this Valley and the opportunity to participate in a story of redemption here on the border. Contrary to the opinions of many, this border wall has not been built yet, and although it is a law right now, so was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the 1924 Immigration Quota based on nation of origin. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 is not inevitable; it has only as much mandate as we give it. Please write your Congressman and convince them to vote for the Grijalva Bill which begins to bring the border wall discussion into environmental accountability, and also urge them to vote against the other bill which would set a certain date for the beginning of construction on this destructive symbol of division. Any prayers and support you can offer this march in its final days would be precious.

Native Americans Take a Stand on the Border Wall

March 5, 2008

    What is an American? What constitutes a native of this nation of united states? This question has been raised for centuries, with a myriad of answers. Harry Truman stated that, “being an American is more than a matter of where your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal and that everyone deserves an even break.” Alexander Tocqueville, in predicting the faith-based nonviolence of the 1960’s, wrote, “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” America has been described as a melting pot, a salad, a patchwork quilt, a list of hyphenated names – all these different metaphors only emphasize the fact that the United States is a working amalgamation of like-minded immigrants from a plethora of countries, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs.

    Native Americans surely define Americans differently.  Indigenous people must look at this country as a nation of upstart immigrants. Their immigration over the Atlantic or the Bering Land Bridge happened so long ago that “Native” has become a part of their name. Recent immigration of the past 300-400 years has irrevocably changed their lands, their rituals, their ceremonies, and their daily lives. Immigration brought disease which wiped out thousands, hunters which slaughtered hundreds of thousands of buffalo, lumberjacks who felled the virgin forests, railroads and highways which shrunk the vast continent before their disbelieving eyes. Immigration, and the resulting dishonest treaties, robbed them of ancestral land and resigned them to criminally minuscule plots like the Choctaw in Mississippi or the Lipan Apache of Texas.

    Native Americans have experienced terrorism on a grand scale and immigration beyond their imagination. So it is from a place of well-grounded knowledge and unique perspective that Native American tribes band together to oppose the Secure Fence Act of 2006, an action which supposedly wold eliminate both of these issues.

    Perhaps Native American tribes oppose a border wall because they recognize no terrorists have thus far been apprehended crossing the Mexican border. As Chertoff stated, “I don’t see any imminent threat of terrorists infiltrating from Mexico.” Maybe Native American tribes feel that a wall is more terrorizing than what it would allegedly protect. Perhaps Indigenous Peoples see enough terror in racial profiling, unwarranted xenophobic television shows, and nativistic rhetoric from “new natives.”

    Native Americans most assuredly recognize that the cost of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 will dwarf any of its intended benefits. Native Americans, with their long history of interconnectedness with Nature, can clearly see the destructive environmental effects this wall will surely have on their reservations, endangered animals like ocelots, thick-billed parrots, and Sonoran Pronghorns, last stands of Sabal Palms, wildlife preserves and birding refuges we’ve spend decades and billions of dollars preserving. Native American tribes like the Lakota, Mohawk, Oneida, Navajo, Acoma Pueblo, Hopi, and O’odham understand, and have understood for centuries, that immigration must be reformed and legislated so that immigrants have a net positive impact on their receiving society and culture and so that their rights are intact. From lessons throughout history, Native Americans would be first to second Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement, “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (Martin Luther King Autobiography 189).

    Here is a segment of the declaration set forth by the Participants in the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit of the Americas II on Nov. 10, 2007, San Xavier, Tohono O’odham Nation:

 

Segment from the final declaration adopted by the Participants in the Indigenous Peoples Border Summit of the Americas II on Nov. 10, 2007, San Xavier, Tohono O’odham Nation

We express our collective outrage for the extreme levels of suffering and inhumanity, including many deaths and massive disruption of way of life, that have been presented to this Summit as well as what we have witnessed in our visit to the border areas during the Summit as a result of brutal and racist U.S. policies being enforced on the Tohono O’odham traditional homelands and elsewhere along the U.S./Mexico border.

We also recognize that many of our inherent, sacred, and fundamental human rights, including our cultural rights and freedom of religion, self-determination and sovereignty, environmental integrity, land and water rights, bio-diversity of our homelands, equal protection under the law, Treaty Rights, Free Prior Informed Consent, Right to Mobility, Right to Food and Food Sovereignty, Right to Health, Right to Life, Rights of the Child, and Right to Development among others, are being violated by current border and “immigration” policies of various settler governments.

We also strongly affirm the message expressed by many of the Indigenous delegates at this gathering: to be sovereign, and to be recognized as sovereign, we must act sovereign and assert our sovereignty in this and all other matters.

We therefore present this report with the intention of proposing, developing, and strengthening real and effective solutions to this critical issue:

We call upon the United Nations and the International community:

  • To end international policies which support economic globalization, “free-trade agreements,” destruction of traditional food systems and traditional land-based economies, and land and natural resource appropriation which result in the forced relocation, forced migration, and forced removal of Indigenous Peoples in Mexico, Guatemala, and other countries, and cause Indigenous Peoples to leave their homelands and seek economic support for their families in other countries.
  • To ensure that the UN human rights system pressures States to provide protection and take action to prevent the violence, abuse, and imprisonment of Indigenous woman and children along the borders who often bear the worse effects of current policies; to also implement immediate and urgent measures and provide oversight to end the physical, physiological, and sexual violence that is currently being perpetrated against them with impunity as a result of their migrant status, whether it is being carried out by employers, human traffickers, private contractors, and/or government agents.
  • To implement International Laws and mechanisms to prohibit the practice by the United States and other States of the production, storage, export, and use of banned and toxic pesticides and other chemicals on the lands of Indigenous Peoples.
  • To provide protection under its mechanism addressing Human Rights Defenders to review and monitor all laws and policies which criminalize humanitarian aid to immigrating persons and provide protection for those carrying out these humanitarian acts.
  • To call upon the United Nations Permanent Forum 7th Session to recognize and take into consideration this Report and its recommendations and to transmit them to the United Nations system to ensure their implementation.
  • To establish as a priority by the Human Rights Council, its committees, subsidiary bodies, Special Rapporteurs; the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, and other Treaty monitoring bodies; the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and all other appropriate UN bodies and mechanisms to monitor the compliance to international Human Rights obligation of the United States, Mexico, Canada, and all other States in the creation and implementation of Border and immigration policies, in particular those affecting Indigenous Peoples.
  • To call upon the CERD to specifically examine U.S. immigration laws, policies, and practices as a form of racially based persecution and racial discrimination.

We call upon State/Country Governments and Federal Agencies:

  • To fully honor, implement, and uphold the Treaties, Agreements, and Constructive Arrangements which were freely concluded with Indigenous Peoples and First Nations, in accordance with their original spirit and intent as understood by the respective Indigenous Peoples.
  • To fully implement, honor, and respect the rights to land, natural resources, and Self- determination, which includes the right to freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, for Indigenous Peoples in their traditional home lands.
  • To immediately initiate effective consultations with impacted indigenous peoples who are divided by borders for the development of respectful guidelines relating to border crossings by those indigenous peoples which ensure the recognition of each indigenous nation as culturally distinct and politically unique autonomous peoples and uphold their rights to move freely and maintain relationships within their homelands.
  • To respect and facilitate the use of Indigenous Nations/tribal passports, identifications, and immigration documents for travel across imposed borders, specifically tribes along settler borders between Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
  • To end to the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border along all Tribal and Indian Nation lands, and an end to military and law-enforcement activity and occupation in Indigenous Peoples’ lands everywhere, without their free, prior informed consent.
  • To end forced assimilation perpetuated by immigration policies which categorize of Indigenous Peoples as “white” or “Hispanic/Latino” while they are in the process immigrating, acquiring residency and/or naturalization in the United States or other countries.
  • To end the production and export of pesticides which have been banned for use in the United States and other countries, and to accept full legal accountability for the health and environmental impacts of such chemicals that have contaminated Indigenous peoples, their health, lands, waters, traditional subsistence, food systems, and sacred sites.
  • To end to the continual violation of the Native American Freedom of Religion Act and the destruction, desecration, and denial of access for Indigenous Peoples to their sacred sites and cultural objects along the border areas, and to enforce all cultural, religious freedom, and environmental protection laws and polices for federal agencies operating in these regions.
  • To provide protection for and end the intimidation of Indigenous and other peoples providing humanitarian aid along and within tribal lands to Indigenous and other displaced migrant peoples crossing the borders and to call for an immediate end to the criminalization of such expressions of basic human caring and assistance.
  • To end to the ongoing environmental contamination, ecosystem destruction, and waste dumping on Indigenous and tribal lands along the border by the military, border patrols, and private contractors doing business with federal agencies.
  • To ensure that the U.S. Border Patrol and other federal agencies operating on or near Indigenous Peoples’ lands are held fully and legally accountable for restoration, reparations, and/or remediation of any damages or harm they have caused to peoples, ecosystems, and places, in full consultation with the affected persons and Peoples.
  • To reinstate the Sovereign rights of Indigenous Peoples whose rights and status have been terminated through colonialist rule of law and daily practices of forced assimilation in all countries.
  • To ensure respect for Indigenous Peoples’ land and resource rights in their own homelands in all countries as the most effective way to address immigration issues and Indigenous Peoples’ human rights concerns overall.
  • To implement humane immigration policies that fully respect the inherent human rights of all Peoples and persons and fully comply with States’ obligations under International Human Rights Law.

It is with great pleasure that the Border Ambassadors partner with members of the Lipan Apache Band of Texas. We also hope that our invitations to Wallace Coffey of the Comanche Nation, and Billy Evans Horse of the Kiowa Tribe will be appreciated, and that they and they will unite with us in solidarity against the border wall this March 8-16 with the No Border Wall Walk.