Good, bad (and ugly?)

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_SBCC steering committee member Andrea Guerrero of Alliance San Diego comments on the tragic death of Angel Zapata Hernandez (¡presente!), who died at the hands of San Diego Metropolitan Transit Service officers who held him down with a knee on his neck in a way that was similar to the way George Floyd (¡presente!) was killed.

_We submitted this written statement to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Government Operations and Border Management Subcommittee, for their hearing titled “Non-governmental Organization Perspective on the Southwest Border.”

_SBCC colleague Joanna Williams of Kino Border Initiative describes the harms and severe challenges migrants face while stranded in Mexico, waiting for Biden to lift Title 42_a legacy from the previous administration that has de facto closed the border to many, if not most, asylum seekers_and create a more welcoming system for people seeking safety from violence and climate change.

_Kudos to Detention Watch Network for calling on the Biden Administration to shut down ICE immigrant detention centers, starting with these first ten facilites_three of which are used to jail families, including children_and to the ACLU for asking that these 39 immigrant detention centers be shut down.

_Tune in to this House Homeland Security Hearing held this week to hear the solutions proposed by border stakeholders_including our colleagues Jen Podkul from Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and Aaron Reichlin-Melnick from the American Immigration Council_on how to deal with the challenge of migrants coming to our southern border who are seeking safety or to make a dignified living for their families.

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_Good, bad (and ugly?)President Biden’s address to a joint-session Congress this week reiterated both good and bad policy points when it comes to immigration and the border. Biden shared his stance on the need for immigration reform and how the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is a bold, inclusive, and humane framework to rethink immigration policy. This initiative is an important first step to bring us together as a country and move us forward to enact much needed immigration reform, however, Biden’s provisions on “high-tech border security” are definitely not a step in the right direction. Border agencies have a troubled history of using costly, ineffective, and invasive surveillance systems with little to no oversight. A “virtual” or “smart” wall is not a humane or benign alternative to a physical wall — and must be adamantly opposed (link goes to a great resource on border technologies, developed by our colleagues at Mijente and Just Futures Law). Biden’s proposed “high-tech border security” surveillance technology is a continuation of the former administration’s archaic and cruel “prevention through deterrence” policies and treatment of the border region as a war zone, not a break from it. We applaud Biden’s efforts to enact bold immigration reform to provide relief to immigrant communities, but protection from deportation and access to due process should not come at the cost of border militarization and invasive surveillance. Communities along the U.S.-Mexico border have already been subjected to extreme militarization and mass surveillance including interior checkpoints, drones, blimps, mobile and fixed surveillance towers, and other cameras and sensors placed in communities. Unfortunately, a far too common, misguided belief among elected officials is that there is a need to spend taxpayer dollars on agents, wall or technology_and if one thing is taken away (e.g. no more border wall funding), it needs to be replaced with more of the other. This is simply not true. Instead of pouring billions more into invasive surveillance and military technology that only harms immigrants and border communities_and enriches private corporations_the Biden Administration should listen instead to the needs of border communities, and instead move towards good border governance that expands public safety, protects human rights and life, and welcomes all people who live, work or travel to the region. #NewBorderVision

_Bipartisan Non-Solution. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced a bill last week that would undermine access to fair asylum processes at the southern border. Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Tony Gonzalez (R-TX) introduced the House-side companion of this bill. The “Bipartisan Border Solutions Act”  would open more migrant detention centers, euphemistically called “processing centers,” that will still be under the operation of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. Throughout their history, CBP has fostered a culture of impunity and a lack of accountability, emblematic of their inability to care for people and children in their custody. In addition, the bill perpetuates the flawed and deadly “prevention through deterrence” approach toward vulnerable individuals seeking safety at our border, which only increases suffering and risks sending vulnerable individuals back into harm's way. But what the media and too many policymakers fail to understand is that fluctuations in the number of people arriving at our borders are part of a regular — and predictable — seasonal pattern, further influenced by natural disasters, socio-economic instability and security conditions in countries of origin. We have seen similar changes to the number of people seeking protection at our borders several times before. Our current situation at the southern border reflects that fact combined with the additional stress of backlogs created by the previous administration, the pandemic, and severe climate change effects in the Northern Triangle of Central America after experiencing two massive hurricanes, Eta and Iota. Any approach that relies on Border Patrol, or the harmful practices of the past to address the humanitarian needs at the border is not a step forward, it’s a continuation of the abuse and harm. We again insist on moving towards a system of good border governance that breaks away from the enforcement-only approach of ‘prevention through deterrence’ border policies, and to one that welcomes people to our region with dignity and respect. We need border governance that doesn’t rely on detention, and without tradeoffs for immigration reform that would use vulnerable people or border communities as bargaining chips. Once we ground our border policies in data and human rights, and not harmful rhetoric, then we can address the needs along the southern border region in a way that upholds our values. Amen.

_North and South. To understand how border policies in the last three decades have deeply affected border communities north and south, we point you to two incredible reports: this absolutely breathtaking video, “We Are the Water Missing,” which highlights the Hia C-ed O’odham struggle against the border wall at Quitobaquito that is is the first in-depth interview with Amber Ortega, who was arrested while defending the sacred spring from bulldozers last fall. This also the first real account of Hia C-ed O’odham history we’ve ever seen in mainstream media.  We also just came across this riveting report produced by our northern border colleagues at the ACLU of Michigan that shows how the Border Patrol on the Canadian border has "complexion charts" for the people they arrest, which include categories like Ruddy, Sallow, Olive, and Yellow (as well as many shades of Brown). What the heck-hay are Ruddy and Sallow? Systemic racism rampantly exists at our borders, anyone? We need to #RevitalizeNotMilitarize and tots need a #NewBorderVision.


border_lines is published every Friday for your reading pleasure. If you’d like to submit an item for inclusion, please email Vicki B. Gaubeca at [email protected], by Wednesday COB. The Southern Border Communities Coalition is a program of Alliance San Diego.


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