Borderlands

BORDERLANDS DELEGATION: “Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason”

CPTnet
March 19, 2016
BORDERLANDS DELEGATION: â€śDoing the Right Thing for the Right Reason”

The USA-Mexican Border wall cuts a brown line through the vast desert terrain. It is visible for miles as it snakes to the horizon. This is the wall that Mexican and Central American migrants climb and jump over, sometimes four or five times, to return to an established life in the US or to start a new one they hope will be better than the life they left behind. In the eyes of the Border Patrol and US immigration policy, they are doing the wrong thing. Without the proper "documentos," they are breaking the law. Period.

But in their own eyes and those of their families, migrants from the south are doing the right thing for the right reason. Victor, a 30-year-old man we met in the Comedor, a migrant resource center operated by Kino Border in Nogales, Sonora, had just been deported from the US—dropped off by a bus at the border after serving 90 days in a private detention center for illegally crossing the border. Victor had lived in New York since he was 9 years old, worked in a restaurant, and had a wife and three children. He had returned to Mexico only briefly—for three hour—to see his mother before she died. After leaving his mother, he returned to the border to cross back into the country that he called home. He was caught by Border Patrol and convicted through Operation Streamline, a fast track means of processing illegal entry cases in groups of up to 70 migrants. He was sent to detention. He had tried to cross the border two previous times and had received shorter sentences—15 days and 30 days. He would try again, he said, though he would likely get a two year sentence next time. In his heart, he was doing the right thing for the right reason. It was really the only thing he could imagine doing.

CPT-EUROPE: "Sinking in the Sea and Walking for a Better World"

CPTnet
March 17, 2016
CPT-Europe: "Sinking in the Sea and Walking for a Better World"
By Ronbir Mohammad

(This article is the first in a new series of reflections: "The Border is Everywhere.")

 

In the summer of 2013, I walked with a group of refugees and allies from Malmö in the South of Sweden to Stockholm, the Swedish capital, as part of what we called “Aylstafetten.” We wished to transform Sweden to a country where refugees would be treated as human beings. Many of the refugees walking with us had no legal status and were “without papers.” For many of them, it was the first time experiencing solidarity from so many white Europeans.

As we moved in the capital amidst its power dynamics, some of those same dynamics were reproduced among the walkers, whether we wanted it or not. Some of us were white Swedes, others non-white Swedes born in Sweden, some non-white Swedes born outside Sweden who had acquired citizenship, others refugees with residence permits, and some refugees lacking residence permits but present in the country legally. The most vulnerable were refugees without papers who could be captured at any time and deported to “their countries”.

But during the walk we were equals. Whether we were swimming in the blue lakes of Sweden, walking past the small red houses in the countryside, or handing out leaflets and shouting slogans, we were equals. We were equals when we enjoyed the tasty Afghan food our fellow comrades made, or when we were singing, reciting poetry, and giving each other massages. We were comrades. During the month we walked, conflicts broke out and were solved. Stories of love, jealousy, tears, and laughter. The solidarity between the walkers was so strong that sometimes, as I was simply walking along and smoking, my heart was so filled with joy I wanted to shed tears.

CPT INTERNATIONAL: Join the work of the CPT U.S./Mexico Borderlands Delegation 10-20 February 2016

In the last months the world’s attention has focused on refugees desperate to reach Europe, because the violence in their own countries has reached such cataclysmic proportions.  But people are fleeing almost horrific violence from Latin American countries, too, and risking their lives in the Sonoran Desert to escape it: 182 bodies were recovered in the Tucson Sector of the border alone this last fiscal year.

Witness the impact of immigration enforcement in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands where foreign policy masquerades as domestic, where the U.S. government foists life and death decisions upon our neighbors, relatives and friends, placing them in vulnerable and volatile situations. Journey with us through this zone of conflict, the gauntlet of the Sonoran desert, part of the lethal continuum that our neighbors from Latin America travel to reach the fields, factories and detention centers of the U.S. Come to observe, query, discern, contribute, learn and then take home the story of human struggle and hope.

Photo: Nadine Hiemstra

BORDERLANDS: Unidentified, but known to God; reflections of a transgender CPT delegate

 

 
 

Memorial composed of items discarded by migrants
 in desert (from 2007 delegation)

Every year, the Pima County, Arizona Medical Examiner's office receives hundreds migrants’ bodies who lost their lives in the Sonoran Desert after crossing the border from Mexico to the United States. From physical features, clothing, and other personal effects, the Medical Examiner can identify some of the migrants and return their bodies to their families. In other cases, the migrants' names remain officially unknown. The bodies of those whose identities cannot be determined are labelled with dates and names: "John Doe" or "Jane Doe," depending on the gender they are assumed to have based on the evidence of their body—or even, in some cases, a single body part.

Early in our trip, I and other members of the Christian Peacemaker Team's Borderlands delegation—twelve people who traveled from around the United States and from Atikameksheng Territory to learn about the human rights situation at the U.S/Mexico border—visited a cemetery in Douglas, Arizona. We prayed together, and left candles, paper cranes, and other tokens at the graves of a handful of unidentified migrants. Their small markers read "Unknown Woman" or "Unknown Man," gave the date their bodies were found, and sometimes listed a Medical Examiner's office reference number.

As a transgender person whose gender is often perceived incorrectly, I live every day with the reality that we can't tell a person's identity by looking at them—and it often really hurts people when we assume we can. The deeply ingrained beliefs that the characteristics of our bodies mark each of us clearly as a man or a woman, and that those are the only options, underlie much of the discrimination that trans and other gender-nonconforming people face in our lives. So I have cringed, on this trip, every time I've heard a tally of the number of male versus female migrants who have received services from an organization, or watched the gender labeling of a body by a Medical Examiner who never met the person when they were alive, never had a chance to ask them about their identity and hear them describe it for themselves. I think about the people who might be hidden or misrepresented in these numbers and labels. I imagine my body laid to rest under a headstone that reads "Unknown Woman," at the end of a lifetime spent claiming the dignity and integrity of my male, genderqueer, and trans identities.

BORDERLANDS REFLECTION: “What did you go out to the desert to see? Luke 7:26

“Our work is done for today,” Joel yelled across the wash as he waved his arms emphatically.  I was puzzled.  We were still a good four miles from our destination, Red Tail water tank.  Joel shouted again.  â€śWe're done!  Come over here!”  As I approached, no further words were needed.  A few feet in front of him lay a sun-bleached human skull, eyeless sockets looking south, resting starkly among the coal black volcanic rocks strewn across this ancient plain.

Yes, our work was done for the day in that mid-afternoon moment of Thanksgiving eve.  I took off my hat and sat in silent prayer.  Joel called 911.

Joel, Director of Operations for Humane Borders, a Tucson-based humanitarian aid organization, and I were conducting the annual assessment of water tanks in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and replacing the weathered blue flags that prominently identify each tank.  The person whose skull we came upon had missed the nearest tank by a few miles.  S/he was the eleventh set of human remains recovered in the Tucson sector of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands since 1 October 2014.

GREECE: The priest and the fisherman—a report from the CPT-Europe's Borderlands delegation

On Thursday morning our boat arrived on the island of Lesbos, where one can see can Turkey on the other side of the straits.




Papa Stratis

We drove up to the village of Kalloni (central Lesbos) to meet with Father Stratis, a Greek Orthodox priest who has been helping refugees for ten years and his assistant, George.  They arrive in the village soaking wet and exhausted, often having walked many hours.  Greek citizens face jail time if they pick up the migrants (similar to U.S. citizens at the border with Mexico).  If they know their way, it is a ten-hour walk from the beach to Kalloni.  If they do not know the way, it may take days.  George told us the water and the walking usually destroys their shoes.  The balcony of Father Stratis’s church is filled with donations of clothes that he and three volunteers sort and process for handing out.

While they have sufficient resources right now for their ministry, their biggest struggle is with morale.  The townspeople often complain that people involved with their ministry are helping refugees when they should be focused on helping Greeks who have been hurt by the economic crisis.  The fascist Golden Dawn movement, while not strong on Lesbos generally, is toxically eating away at the minds of young people, making racism appear acceptable.  George told us some of the young people see the Golden Dawn violence against refugees as cool, like the violence of Hollywood movies.

We were deeply touched by the witness of Father Stratis and George.

Friday afternoon, we visited the memorial place in Thermi with some members of the “Welcome to Europe” Network.  Several migrants lost their lives on the sea just trying to reach the nearest European border they could see from Turkey.  Twenty-one Afghan migrants sank close by just a few days before Christmas of 2013.

BORDERLANDS: Disturbing the Peace in Arivaca, Arizona

CPTnet
28 February 2014
BORDERLANDS: Disturbing the Peace in Arivaca, Arizona

 The tiny town of Arivaca, population 600, is nestled in the rugged hills of southern Arizona about eleven miles north of the international border between Mexico and the USA.  This cattle-ranching area is “rich in history and natural beauty” and claims to be “the oldest continually inhabited townsite in Arizona” according to the visitor’s guide.

But someone is disturbing the peace in Arivaca.  Border Patrol agents carrying guns and wearing olive green uniforms stop all vehicles, including school buses loaded with children, at checkpoints blocking both ends of the community.  Giant surveillance towers with cameras, radar, and motion detectors protrude from the desert floor in the distance.  Drones hum and helicopters hover in the clear blue sky overhead.

“It’s like living in a war zone,” said Arivaca resident Eva Lewis.  “We can’t leave our community without being asked a bunch of questions,” chimed in Carlota Wray who’s lived in Arivaca for 33 years.



 
  

CPT INTERNATIONAL: Sacred power infuses CPT Americas Convergence, Giving Tuesday

During the well-attended CPT workshop at the School of the Americas vigil 22-24 November 2013, we mingled sharing from teams and undoing oppressions with moments of song and silence.  We sought to make the workshop more than just informational.  We wanted to embody in the workshop the presence and power of the sacred, because acknowledging that sacred power is what makes this life-work sustainable for us. 

Sarah Thompson facilitated invitationally, and Chris Knestrick wrote the following prayer, interspersing sections with stories CPTers shared (Sandra Milena RincĂłn Vidal about Colombia and Iraqi Kurdistan, Peter Haresnape about Aboriginal Justice, Tim Nafziger about Undoing Oppressions, and Jonathan Brenneman about Palestine):

 
 CPTers at conclusion of 24 November SOA Watch vigil

PRAYER

We must commit:

               We can only move out as far as we have moved in.

May we commit to the work of undoing oppression in ourselves, organizations, and communities.

                Only in doing so can we build right relationships.

…

The workshop was a part of the larger CPT Americas Convergence, a gathering that brought together new and seasoned CPTers and our supporters, to join the mass mobilization for de-militarization 22-24 November.  We accompanied events happening at the gates of Ft. Benning US military training base, and witnessed to the conditions and stories of the immigrants detained at Stewart Detention Center.  Former Steering Committee member Anton Flores and the Alterna Community organization he leads hosted us with much love and integrity.

Soon after everyone returned home CPT participated for the first time in #Givingtuesday.  CPT organizers set a one-day goal of raising $1,100 (1% of the Plowing and Planting Major Donor Campaign goal) and we accomplished it!  Both the spirit of togetherness present at the CPT Americas Convergence, and working collectively to raise the funds needed are deep encouragements for the long haul of building partnerships to transform violence and oppression.

BORDERLANDS: CPT announces delegation 18-28 February 2014

 Witness the impact of immigration enforcement in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands where foreign policy masquerades as domestic and foists life and death decisions upon our neighbors, relatives, and friends, placing them in vulnerable and volatile situations.  One hundred-eighty-two bodies were recovered in the Tucson Sector of the border alone this last fiscal year.

Journey with us through this zone of conflict, the gauntlet of the Sonoran desert, part of the lethal continuum that our neighbors from Latin America travel to reach the fields, factories and detention centers of the U.S.  Come to observe, query, discern, contribute, learn, and then take home the story of human struggle and hope.

Through the borderlands lens, we will examine how immigration reform does and does not affect our neighbors and ourselves wherever we live in the U.S.  We will meet some of those directly affected by public policy—migrants, local residents, activists, and law enforcement personnel.  We will walk desert trails, visit sites that include detention centers, human resource centers, and cooperatives, traveling back and forth across the border.  We will see first hand the impact of militarism on our neighbors and the border communities.

 February is reasonably mild in the region—cool nights and warm, dry days.  Prepare for moderate level trail walking.  A passport or border card is essential for this delegation.  Spanish is helpful but not required.

FUNDRAISING EXPECTATION: $625 US, which does NOT include the cost of travel to Tucson, Arizona.

Prayers for Peacemakers, November 28, 2012

In a world of many causes for migration – war, debt bondage, corporate subversion of democracy, climate change and their root, the love of money – guide the humble to welcome the stranger, give drink to the thirsty and usher in Your reign on earth.