U.S.-Mexico Border Fact-Finding Panel
Sponsored by El Tribuno del Pueblo / People’s Tribune, Sept 17
Third of a series engaging People-to-People Fact-Finding
These presentations are designed to allow community members, workers, legal advocates, migrants and others to share information about how immigration and border policies affect the rights and way of life of the people involved. The series of panel discussions continues through late October. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to sign up for the next panel on Oct. 1. They are intended to contribute to the ongoing work of building connections with communities along the U.S.-Mexico Border. We are moved to action by current immigration policies that separate thousands of children from their parents, that allow Border Patrol agents to injure and kill people with impunity, and that allow border walls to desecrate pristine ancestral lands of indigenous people.
This third 90-minute Zooming to the Border panel focused on the how border wall construction impacts local communities and how it contributes to border deaths. MC’ed by AFCS’s Pedro Rios it included organizers from California/Tijuana, Southern Arizona, and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
- Norma Herrera, Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, representing 10,000 families on both sides of the border, talked about the Texas area of where 15 miles of the wall is being built. It includes a national wildlife refuge and a Yalui village and cemetery. They were blind-sided when the clearing and building began. Customs and Border Patrol ignores all that they have asked but they haven’t given up their resistance.
- Laiken Jordahl, Center for BioDiversity, formerly with National Park Service but quit when they wouldn’t let him talk about the border wall. Live in Tucson and talked mostly about the Oregon Pipe National Monument area. Pictures he showed from last year were beautiful. Now there is a solid 30-fit wall of concrete and steel. Hundreds/maybe thousands of saguaro cacti have been demolished, some more than 300 years old. It is in the middle of O’odham land. He also showed devastating pictures of birds and deer who are confused and dieing. The entire ecosystem is destroyed. He talked about how the REAL ID Act passed after 9/11 allowed the federal laws to be waived in order to do harms like this.
- Ana Martha Rodriguez, a Kumeyaay person from 60 miles east of San Diego, talked about the new wall recently built there, about the separation of families plants, and animals. Border Patrol lied to them about the explosives and other invasive actions that were to happen to the communities there. She also said all sorts of federal laws had been waived including the Endangered Species act & Native Heritage act.
- Daniel Watman, friend to UUJMCA, spoke next. Dan coordinates the Friendship Park binational garden right at the Tijuana/San Diego border. On UU Borders trips, he has talked with us and sometimes we have gotten to volunteer with him at the garden, pulling weeds or picking plants and herbs for the weekly meal that is served after Border Church each Sunday. He has been a Spanish teacher for many years in San Diego, now teaches Spanish for Via International, which has a cross-border approach. I was fortunate to take a class with him recently, nothing like making friends across the border to learn the language and a little about the culture at the same time. Learn more about his cross-border cafe work at http://viacafe.org.
Dan gave the history of the current wall at Friendship Park, built primarily in 2008-2009. He was part of a coalition back then to try and stop it from being built. Now he is part of a coalition to build a truly binational park at that location. Sign the online petition for the park: https://www.buildthatpark.org.
He believes that the border areas get better when people get to know each other across cultural barriers. Border Patrol is planning to build a second 30-foot wall that will extend into the ocean and he documents all that Border Patrol is doing. There and also east of Tijuana into Otay Mesa region. He often posts his reports on Facebook page as Daniel Watman. Email him at email@example.com.
- Alejandro Ortigoza, born in Puebla, Mexico, now works/volunteers with a group to search and find bodies of people who have crossed/tried to cross in the Arizona desert. He told several heart wrenching stories. The new wall makes it even harder to cross than before; many more people die. They will not stop coming if they have lost hope where they are.
Additional Resources for Further Learning:
Intercept article about the arrests of the O’odham land defenders
Southern Border Communities Coalition:
Videos/Facts About the Militarization of the Border