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From SOA Watch:
Dear SOA Watch,
We recently shared SOA Watch’s difficult decision to indefinitely postpone the 2020 Training Day and Action Convergence in Tucson to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect our communities. Given the magnitude of the current health and humanitarian crises, it is our responsibility to find alternative forms of solidarity with those most disproportionately affected. We must remain vigilant to state violence and authoritarianism as governments protect corporate interests at the expense of peoples’ wellbeing and health.
With this in mind, we invite you to join us for the Confronting Forced Migration and Violence in the Americas Webinar Series on Saturday and Sunday, April 4th and 5th, 2020. Together with Stop US Arms to Mexico, Alliance for Global Justice, No More Deaths, Veterans for Peace, and other compas, we are facilitating a series of five, one-hour webinar workshops. The series will examine the impacts of US-backed state violence in the Hemisphere, the root causes of forced migration, militarization, and using effective narratives, mutual aid, research, and lobbying to nourish our collective work as we face the current humanitarian crisis.
Please note that interpretation from English to Spanish or Spanish to English will be provided throughout the entire Webinar Series. The webinar schedule, panel descriptions, and SEPARATE registration links for each webinar are found below.
Saturday, April 4, 2020
9:00 am – 10:00 am Pacific Time / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Eastern Time
Voices from Abya Yala (the Americas): Realities and Resistance
Panel held in Spanish with English interpretation.Panelists:
Lucia Ixchiu, Somos Abya Yala – Somos una América, GuatemalaJorge Andrés Forero-González, Somos Abya Yala – Somos una América, Colombia
Abilio Peña, Servicio Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad con los Pueblos de América Latina «Óscar Romero» (SICSAL)
In the Kuna people’s language, Abya Yala means “mature land,” “living land,” or “blossoming land” and refers to America. In the first panel, organizers from Guatemala and Colombia reflect on the impacts of neoliberalisms, extractivism, state violence, forced migration, and the pandemic within their communities and throughout the Americas. We will also discuss how communities and social movements are resisting and organizing to safeguard their rights, dignity, and territories in this context.
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries1
10:30 am – 11:30 am Pacific Time / 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Eastern Time
Countering Anti-Migrant Narratives and Media Work
Panel held in English with Spanish interpretation.Panelists:
Maha Hilal, Justice for Muslims Collective
Laura Carlsen, Americas Program
Panelists will discuss how narratives are used to both highlight and conceal the nuances of forced migration and US interventionism. We will also discuss the role of the media in creating narratives that criminalize and dehumanize communities of color and the emergence of new narratives developed by migrants and asylum seekers.
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries2
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm PT / 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm ET
Impact of COVID-19 Crisis on Migrants at US-Mexico Border
Panel held in English with Spanish interpretation.Panelists:
Jennifer Harbury, Angry Tías y Abuelas, Rio Grande Valley
Nicol Bowles, Community organizer in Texas Borderlands
Casa Carmelita, Asylum Seeker and Migrant Community Support Center
The coronavirus has grabbed headlines in local and international media. However, we have heard little about the disproportionate impact of this pandemic on the most vulnerable communities. In this webinar, we will discuss the situation facing asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border and how local communities are responding to these challenges.
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries3
Sunday, April 5, 2020
9:00 am – 10:00 am PT / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET
Researching U.S. Militarization of Borderlands and Mesoamérica
Panel held in English with Spanish interpretation.Panelists:
Natalia Báez, Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights
John Lindsay-Poland, Stop US Arms to Mexico Project of Global Exchange
How do we access information on the US gun trade, Mexican military forces, and how they impact human rights violations? How can we translate hard data on militarism for social media use and to change policy? In this webinar, veteran researchers guide us through how to access information on US-sourced weapons in Mexico and Central America.
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries4
10:30 am – 11:30 am PT / 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm ET
Policy advocacy on U.S. militarism and guns in Mexico and Central America
Panel held in English with Spanish interpretation.Panelists:
Dana Frank, Professor of History emerita at the University of California at Santa Cruz
Eugenio Weigend, Center for American Progress
This webinar draws on the extensive experience of two effective policy advocates regarding gun policy and US policy in Honduras to respond to the following questions: What policies impact violence and arms trafficking in Mexico and Central America? Are the gun industry and militarists using the current crisis to promote harmful policies? How can we engage legislators in Washington to change those policies?
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries5
SOA Watch is committed to challenging US-backed state violence that protects capitalism and profits at the expense of the wellbeing and dignity of our communities and territories. We stand strong with, and in, our communities and build our capacity to organize, resist, and engage in mutual aid. We hope you will join us for this webinar series and continue supporting our collective work for justice and structural change!
In continued solidarity,
Brigitte, Candice, Dévora, Pablo, and Roy
FACEBOOK LIVE AVAILABLE: @SCHOOLOFTHEAMERICASWATCH
GREG KUYKENDALL: Well, we are enormously grateful to the entire community for all the support that we’ve had for this fantastic result wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the fantastic and enormous support we’ve gotten from the community. Which is a poor way of saying thank you very very much to the community for everything thats happened.
Today the government took the position that people of conscience should not be prosecuted for acts of humanitarian aid. In other words humanitarian aid, by definition, is not a crime. [clapping]
REPORTER: Did he say that specifically or are you inferring this or do you have this written somewhere?
GK: It’s the only thing logical to infer. On the eve of Scott’s sentencing the government filed a motion in good faith to dismiss in the interest of justice justice demands that person of Scott’s background, faith, and activities not be prosecuted. And that’s what happened today. The government filed a motion and the motion said we are filing this in good faith in the interest of justice. And that’s why Scott’s not being prosecuted.
REPORTER: You were sort of raising the question in court of why they dropped the charges?
GK: I think it’s a reasonable question to ask.
REPORTER: So why do you think they changed their mind now?
GK: I think you guys should ask them why they changed their minds now. But I think it’s clear they changed their mind because the law is humanitarian aid is not a crime. Scott’s not guilty and they recognized that that was going to be writ large by the 9th circuit if they continued their prosecution of Scott.
REPORTER: They felt they would fail on appeal?
GK: I think it was pretty clear that they would fail on appeal and that there would be 9th circuit law explaining in even larger terms than Judge Marquez recently explained that humanitarian is not a crime.
REPORTER: In reference to No More Deaths different federal agencies over the past 15 years… do you think they’ve learned their lesson and are no longer going to target No Mor
GK: I hope that No More Deaths is no longer going to be targeted anymore. There’s certainly no reason for people of conscience trying to save lives in an environment where the government has intentionally weaoponized the desert and people are losing their lives in droves there’s certainly no reason why the government would target people like no more deaths.
From Paige Corich-Kleim, No More Deaths Media Coordinator:
“I’m just going to say it … Humanitarian aid is never a crime!
As people of conscience, we will continue to provide care and solidarity to people in the borderlands. Our organization has extended our streak of legal wins—now over 40 different victories in court over the last 18 years.
However, despite our organization’s victory today, we must also acknowledge the escalating violence toward directly affected communities—many people who seek justice in this country never find it.
As we speak, thousands are stuck along the border due to the disastrous Remain in Mexico Policy, or MPP (Migrant Protection Protocol). In the interior, the Trump administration has also promised to use SWAT-like teams aided by Border Patrol, to enforce immigration.
Last week a federal judge finally agreed that conditions in Border Patrol detention under Obama violated people’s rights. It took five years to get that decision, and over those years people continued to die in ICE and Border Patrol custody as a direct result of inhumane conditions, and medical neglect. Later today dozens more will be convicted in Operation Streamline and sent to these same centers.
Just a few days ago in DC, the family of teenager Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guerea got word from that the Supreme Court there would be no consequences for the Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa, the man who shot and killed their son in 2010. The ruling will impact the civil charge the family of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez in Nogales, who filed suit against BP agent Lonnie Swartz for his murder.
Arguments for this case were heard the same day Scott began his retrial, the same day arguments on DACA were heard. With no ruling on DACA, the program remains in limbo, with recipients unsure if the program will continue.
Finally, yesterday on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, just south of where volunteers received their charges, Border Patrol hosted a media spectacle on Monument Hill, an attempt to show that wall construction and controlled detonations are “not a big deal” We know that this process is not just causing irreparable environmental degradation, it is destroying sacred sites of the Hia C’ed O’odham and Tohono O’odham and a massive violation of their sovereignty.
These are dark times.
We are glad—for Scott, his family, and the broader community of those providing and receiving humanitarian aid along the US–Mexico border—this final charge was dropped, but let us take a moment for Sergio, Jose, and the more than 100 others who have been killed by Border Patrol directly, as well as the countless more who have died or disappeared due to US Border Enforcement strategy.
We celebrate another victory today, and we celebrate the overwhelming support of our Southern Arizona community, but this is not over. We will continue to find ways to intervene and reduce harm in the borderlands. Thank you all for your continued support.”
February 4rd, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (520) 240-1641
NO MORE DEATHS VOLUNTEERS WIN APPEAL:
#CABEZA9 CONVICTIONS REVERSED:
TUCSON, AZ – On January 31st, United States District Judge Rosemary Márquez reversed the convictions of four No More Deaths volunteers. The volunteers were convicted in January 2019 of multiple misdemeanor charges stemming from their humanitarian aid work on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge (CPNWR) during the summer of 2017 in an area known as the “trail of death.”
The Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge covers over 803,000 acres of remote desert with no natural water sources and very few publicly accessible roads, making it one of the deadliest migration corridors along the border. In 2017, the year the volunteers were charged, 32 sets of human remains were found on the refuge.
The four volunteers were convicted after a bench trial in January, 2019, issued fines and placed on probation. The decision was appealed shortly after. The reversal was based on an examination of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), one of many defenses the volunteers’ lawyers presented. In the order, Judge Marquez wrote: “Accordingly, the Court finds that application of the regulations against Defendants violates RFRA, and the Court will reverse Defendants’ convictions.”
One key component of applying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is to determine whether or not the government has a compelling interest to enforce the law in question. In her order Judge Márquez noted that “…the Government claims a compelling interest in preventing Defendants from interfering with a border enforcement strategy of deterrence by death. This gruesome logic is profoundly disturbing. It is also speculative and unsupported by evidence.”
“This ruling reaffirms what No More Deaths has always maintained: providing life-saving humanitarian aid is never a crime. The reversal of the convictions is a victory for all people of conscience and righteousness who seek to end the death and suffering in the borderlands.” said volunteer Alicia Dinsmore “People continue to die every day on Cabeza Prieta and we will continue to act on our moral imperative to do this vital work.”
In a separate case, No More Deaths volunteer Dr. Scott Warren faced two misdemeanor charges for similar work, in addition to his high profile felony charges. His lawyers argued a successful RFRA claim for one of the charges, but he was found guilty of another. The conviction was announced by Judge Raner Collins minutes after a jury returned a not guilty verdict for his felony charges in November. He will be sentenced on February 27th. Dr. Warren and his attorneys will decide if they will appeal his conviction after sentencing.
No More Deaths remains committed to protecting the human rights of and advocating for the liberation of all people, regardless of race, religious belief, gender expression, sexual orientation, nationality and documentation status.
Tickets are sold out for our 2/13 Luis Urrea event!
Thank you for your support.
This event is made possible by our generous sponsors:
Desert Diamond Casino & Entertainment – An Enterprise of the Tohono O’odham Nation
Rancho Gordo – Specialty heirloom bean supplier based in Northern California
Tumerico – Vegetarian, scratch kitchen based in Tucson providing food for the event reception
Antigone Books – Voted Tucson’s best independent book store by readers of Tucson Weekly
Earlham College Border Studies Program – Program focusing on migration, identity, and social justice
EXO Roast Co. – Small batch, specialty coffee roaster in Tucson
People’s Defense Initiative – Grassroots community organizing fighting for human rights in Tucson
Rincon Market – Local family-owned deli, grocery, and restaurant in the Sam Hughes neighborhood
Rubin & Bernstein PLLC – Law firm based in Tucson, Arizona
Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson – The fiscal sponsor of No More Deaths / No Mas Muertes Mr. Urrea is the author of The Devil’s Highway and 16 other books, which reflect his cross-cultural experiences as a Mexican-American. Born in Tijuana, Mexico to an American mother and a Mexican father, Urrea is best known as a “border writer”. He has won many awards for his writing and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005 for The Devil’s Highway, which tells the story of a group of men who in 2001 attempted to cross the border into southern Arizona’s deadliest corridor – the very area where our volunteers leave lifesaving food and water. He was recently named a Guggenheim
Since January, No More Deaths’ Missing Migrant Crisis hotline has logged 6,640 calls in their mission to help migrants lost, injured, and dying in the desert borderlands.
“When we established the hotline in 2017,” an operator remembers, “there were very few of us.
Often it’s a mother calling, consumed with unimaginable pain and worry, searching for her son or daughter. Cases include detention searches and migrants missing in the desert of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California.”
If you Google “Searching for Someone Lost at the Border” or “Persona Desaparecida Arizona,” No More Death’s hotline comes up. When a call comes in, volunteers ask the caller’s relationship to the missing person and where the individual crossed, urging callers to contact their home country consulate. When the person is detained, No More Deaths helps them navigate the detention system, explaining their rights while in detention and how to open a phone account and commissary.
For those seeking asylum, No More Deaths offers legal resources. If the person is not detained, the volunteer ascertains who had the last communication and when, where the person departed from, and any other source of information, such as someone who crossed with them or knew their route. The window for potential rescue is two to five days.
“Our response depends on time frame, whether the missing person has a phone, and their physical condition,” a volunteer explains. “It’s a tremendous emotional strain for the same few people on call, so it’s healthy to build up the team. Soon, there will be eight trained operators. We’ve established protocols for interacting with Border Patrol. We are expanding our relationships with several consulates, the Colibri Center (who works with the Pima County Medical Examiner), the Tohono O’odham Nation, and allied search groups.”
Many families don’t want to talk directly with authorities who work within the system that has deliberately disappeared their loved one. Detention center employees don’t always speak Spanish. Often relatives are put through to an answering machine. The ICE locator is the only public database for detainees, and it can be difficult to navigate or inaccurate because authorities enter the name wrong, and there can be long delays.
“We act as a humane cushion between the family and authorities,” an operator observes. “We give emotional support during recoveries, disappearance, and death. We meet with the family, have
dinner with them, light a candle for their loved one, offer what comfort we can.”
If families can help with a search, No More Deaths teammates take their lead from the family. “We accompany them on searches, assist with logistics and navigating maps, and give moral support,” a volunteer says. “But we have to be clear about our capacity and not give false hope. We try to stay realistic.”
When medical examiners confirm the identity of remains, No More Deaths team members travel to be with the families, if in Arizona or Sonora, Mexico. Struck by the families’ strength and resilience, volunteers strive to uphold their stories, to prevent them from being defined only by a dot on a map, lost in the flood of statistics.
— Katherine Pew, No More Deaths volunteer