_So while we are wishing for a speedy recovery for President Trump and First Lady Melania, we can’t help but think of all the people who have suffered and died due to his administration’s colossal mishandling of the pandemic, including more than 6,000 people who tested positive for COVID and were cruelly and unnecessarily held in immigration detention, border community members and workers exposed to border wall construction contractors who brought the virus into their communities as wall construction continued unabated despite the national lockdown, and nationals of other countries that received individuals who were deported despite having tested positive for COVID-19, to name a few.
_It was outrageous on so many levels that U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested a teenage girl_who has lived in the U.S. since she was an infant_when she went to an Edinburg, Texas, hospital for an emergency gall bladder operation.
_We were encouraged by the news that Border Patrol is purchasing sorely needed body-worn cameras that we hope will shed light on_publicly and transparently_their daily interactions with immigrants and border community members and_hopefully_identify patterns and practices that can be improved to protect the human rights and quality of life of border communities and serve as a tool to hold abusive agents accountable.
_U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) failed to protect the privacy of biometric data_like the capture of facial recognition images_from falling into the wrong hands.
__Veil of insanity. This week was chock-full of doozies about U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials that really made us think, “what the hecky-hey?” It really seems like CBP and DHS leadership is insanely leaning into becoming a not-so-secret, secret agency that is completely off-the-rails, in complete and unabashed support of white supremacists, and at the complete behest of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant and anti-Blackness agenda. Take for example the revelation by the ACLU of Texas Border Rights Center that a public records request showed that Border Patrol snipers were authorized to use deadly force at George Floyd’s (¡presente!) burial ceremony in Pearland, Texas. We also learned that Trump awarded_in a way that possibly violates procurement regulations_a multi-million dollar border wall contract to a private building contractor who not only has questionable experience in building walls, but who has a history of fraud and whose privately built wall in Mission, Texas, is on the verge of crumbling into the Rio Grande river. Meanwhile, in Arizona, wall contractors and scrap dealers are selling border wall steel_paid by U.S. taxpayer dollars_to customers in both the U.S. and Mexico. The cherry on this insanity sundae was learning that CBP wanted to destroy recent records of misconduct, so that historians, reporters or even private citizens would not have access to them. This prompted us to join more than 100 groups to urge the National Archives and Records Administration to preserve these records. To get why this is so important, please read this excellent blog from our colleague Shaw Drake at the ACLU of Texas Border Rights Center. Stop the insanity, already.
_A measure of restorative justice. Work has now been completed on a new mega mural in Chicano Park, San Diego, memorializing Anastasio Hernández Rojas_a long-time San Diego resident who was brutally beaten and Tasered by border agents at the San Ysidro port of entry 10 years ago. He died days later. The mural was painted by master muralist and activist Victor Ochoa and a team of community artists, and was sponsored by Alliance San Diego and the American Friends Service Committee.To learn more about the mural and the symbolism behind it, click here. Please consider making a donation that goes directly to the artists to help cover the costs of painting the mural, which memorializes Anastasio as well as families who have lost loved ones at the hands of border agents, including children.
_Setting the record straight. A constant frustration among advocates standing against Trump’s lethal vanity border wall has been the misleading narrative_often propagated as a “win” by some progressives_that Trump has built “replacement walls” and only a “mere” 9 miles of new walls where a wall had not existed before. That narrative is not only harmful, it is flat out wrong. To be clear, what Trump’s administration is doing is replacing shorter barriers that don’t block the migration of most wildlife or cause flooding problems with 30-feet tall bollard walls that completely block the natural migration patterns of endangered species, suck up and drain the few water resources we have in the Southwest Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts to make cement, demolish our prized canyons and mountain ranges, and destroy sacred, tribal lands. These are, frankly, the awful and profound effects of Trump’s version of a wall_which do not deserve to be minimized. See our colleagues Laiken Jordahl and Randy Serraglio, both from the Center for Biological Diversity, set the record straight here.
_Steamrolling ahead. The Trump administration is steamrolling ahead with the construction of his costly and lethal campaign prop (aka, vanity border wall), even though Mexico is not paying for it (you, U.S. taxpayer, are) and border communities are suffering deeply from the loss of their lands, environment, and wildlife (story quotes SBCC steering committee member Dan Millis of Sierra Club). And, speaking about a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars, see this story about how Trump’s famous border wall prototypes are now nothing but a pile of rubble_and how none of these prototypes were ever selected. What did these prototypes cost taxpayers? A cool $20 million down the proverbial drain. SBCC’s steering committee member Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee sums it up best when he said, “At the end of the day, this was all vanity about his vanity project.” An investment in public schools, health care services, and road infrastructure might have served us better. And, while we’re on the subject of border walls, we are grateful for the WaPo’s Editorial Board coming out in support of the House’s lawsuit against the Trump administration’s transfer of military funds to bankroll more border wall construction. Congress is constitutionally appointed the control of federal appropriations (i.e., the federal “purse strings”) because they better represent the needs of the nation as a whole (story quotes Yours Truly). Balance of powers anyone?
_Preserve resources, really? By chance, do you know what the mission of the National Park Service is? Well, we decided to look it up and according to their website, their mission is to preserve “...unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System (NPS) for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” Umm, okay. Why then, have NPS officials worked with the Border Patrol to suppress and arrest people_especially members of the indigenous communities_at recent border wall protests in Arizona? They don’t get that the wall is harming our “natural and cultural resources?” Their website further adds, “But our work doesn't stop there. We are proud that tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individual citizens ask for our help in revitalizing their communities, preserving local history, celebrating local heritage, and creating close-to-home opportunities for kids and families to get outside, be active, and have fun.” Hmmn. How does that explain NPS closing the roads to Quitobaquito Springs, an oasis considered sacred by the local O’odham land and water protectors that is on the verge of extinction thanks to border wall construction? And do they understand what is at stake? Verlon Jose, former vice chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, talked about the the border wall’s destruction of Quitobaquito Springs and O’odham ancestral lands, “Let me get an iron blade and drag it across your heart, and maybe then you will understand what we feel and what we see here today.” Clearly NPS is confused; they should be instead joining the land and water protectors against Trump’s destructive and lethal wall. It might not be a bad idea to send them a quick email to remind them of their mission. #RevitalizeNotMilitarize
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.