_SBCC steering committee member Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee admonishes ICE to release immigrant detainees, “Otherwise we're facing more people who are risking not only getting sick but possibly also losing their lives."
_Our own analysis of ICE data on COVID-19 positive people in detention revealed that 57% of these cases (as of May 28) have appeared in ICE detention facilities located in the Southwest border states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.
_The ACLU Border Rights Center launched the Border Community Watchline, a voice and text message service for El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas communities to report Border Patrol activity or abuses, especially if the presence of agents is deterring access to essential services, such as health care facilities and food pantries.
_Here is CBP predator drone flying at 20K feet over Minneapolis acting as the national police we have feared it would become, and reminding us that the fight for humane border policies is not just a fight for border communities, it's a fight for all of us.
_ And this just in from the Daily Beast featuring a quote from Jenn Budd, a former Border Patrol agent and SBCC ambassador: Internal Documents Reveal Border Patrol Infections Doubled in a Month (hmmm. . .remember this piece on border patrol agents refusing to wear masks at checkpoints?)
_¡Presente! We stand in solidarity with the family and friends of George Floyd (¡presente!) while observing the 10th anniversary of another tragic death at the hands of careless law enforcement officials. Master muralist and activist Victor Ochoa and a team of community artists will resume work on a new mega mural in Chicano Park (in San Diego, Calif.) memorializing Anastasio Hernández Rojas — a long-time San Diego resident who was brutally beaten, tased and murdered by border agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The painting of the two-sided mural — which is almost 50 feet tall — was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Work is now resuming and expected to be completed sometime in August. Please consider making a donation to help cover the costs of painting the mural, which memorializes Anastasio as well as families who have lost loved ones, including children, at the hands of border agents. To learn more about the mural and the symbolisms behind it, click here. Anastasio, ¡presente! George, ¡presente!
_Tiny violins. Gotta admit we busted out our tiny violins when we heard DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf voice his distress (listen at around 5 minutes) about budgetary shortfalls as the agency has generated less fee income in the times of COVID-19. We get the problem with USCIS, the agency that takes care of processing immigration visas, like green cards and DACA applications. Even before the pandemic, the Trump administration had implemented policies that resulted in a sharp decrease in applications by shutting down almost all forms of immigration relief — and then the Administration shuttered USCIS’s doors to in-person processing in April (but didn’t suspend filing deadlines) and exploited the public health crisis to carry out its agenda to close the border to asylum seekers. Since the USCIS budget comes mostly from fees charged to process immigration visas_no dinero is coming into the agency to keep it going. This is the agency, btw, we think needs to do its job. We’re also wondering if it’s not deliberate since this administration has been crystal clear about its anti-immigrant agenda. But a super annoying, tiny-violin triggering part of Wolf’s comments were when he whined about CBP’s budget, saying DHS would have to transfer money around to make ends meet and suggesting the need for a congressional bailout. Seriously? The agency building a multi-billion dollar campaign prop (aka the border wall) is crying poverty? We looked at the FY21 CBP budget justifications and calculated that less than 20% of CBP’s FY20 total budget comes from fees. Also, with historic lows in cross-border traffic, Border Patrol apprehensions, and ICE detention, it seems to us there should be a budget surplus. Part of his arguments were perhaps a weak plea to maintain the administration’s ability to transfer funds at will and contrary to how Congress enacted appropriations into law. But, case in point, whether it’s a push for more funding in a supplemental COVID-19 package or in FY21 approps, gifting more money to CBP or ICE to engage in more detention/deportation in the middle of a pandemic is tots unacceptable. Here are some suggestions for what should be done with funding: (1) spend it on communities to recover from the pandemic, not build the deadly and harmful wall; (2) halt deportations _including those who are COVID-19 positive; (3) stop tearing families apart; and (4) release people in immigration detention_as a reminder, this is a civil violation, not a criminal one. Bet there are some real cost-savings there. Just saying.
_Totally off the wall. Here are some off-the-wall factoids about Trump’s latest presidential campaign props/wall construction binge that might blow your mind.
- From Wall Street Journal, “Since March, the government has filed 24 federal cases against South Texas landowners for the border wall, more than the previous eight months combined.” In the middle of a pandemic.
- SBCC steering committee member Ricky Garza of the Texas Civil Rights Project notes in this New York Times story that the administration is taking advantage of a global pandemic to speed up wall construction. Others grimly observe that Trump cares more about his reelection bid than about wreaking havoc on people’s lives.
- The threat of border wall construction through Laredo, Texas, has brought interesting bedfellows together in opposition to the wall.
- While we are on the topic of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas, CBP is working completely at cross-purposes with Congressional appropriations acts that ban the construction of walls at precious refuges and cultural sites by suggesting building virtual walls in these locations instead. The Sierra Club explains here why a virtual wall is just as harmful as a physical one. We’d call this a hare-brain idea, but that would be an insult to hares.
- In Arizona, border wall contractors have engaged in a potential crime by allegedly selling the saguaros knocked down illegally for border wall construction. Shameful grifters.
- We got confirmation that the Pentagon withdrew funding for a seven-mile section of Trump’s border wall through the Cocopah Nation, near Yuma, Arizona, because of the challenging terrain. Was this the same section of wall that was going to cost taxpayers more than $100 million per mile to build? Sure sounds like it.
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.