Juarez continues its descent

Posted in Ben on December 17th, 2008 by ben

Armando Rodrìguez, a veteran reporter working for El Diario, was assassinated for his investigations.  His killing takes the number of journalists murdered in Mexico since 2000 to 21.  Nothing seems able to calm the chaos wreaking havoc on the US Mexico border.  Mexico is becoming one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist.  Ciudad Juarez has seen 1600 murders this year.  As the drug violence continues to escalate, investigators are beginning to make some sobering observations.

“They are getting very good at their jobs,” said Hector Hawley Morelos, coordinator of the state forensics and crime laboratory here, where criminologists and coroners have been overwhelmed by more than 1,600 homicides in Juarez this year. “The assassins show a high level of sophistication. They have had training — somewhere. They appear to have knowledge of police investigative procedures. For instance, they don’t leave fingerprints. That is very disturbing.” link

good news from Paris

Posted in Ben on December 7th, 2008 by ben

Border Stories has won the public prize at the Internews Every Human Has a Right Media Awards.  This is an incredible honor and opportunity for our little organization, and we are thrilled beyond belief.  This last week marks one year since the idea for this website was first conceived, and what a way to celebrate that anniversary.  It has been one of the most amazing and memorable years of our lives.

One of the best parts of the awards ceremony was being able to deliver an acceptance speech in front of President Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel, Mariane Pearl, and Mary Robinson.  It’s not every day that a former president gives you a thumbs up.

We are intensely grateful to our devoted network that went and voted for us, you put us over the top.  Your mouse clicks have opened an enormous door for Border Stories, and we have relied on your involvement and support at every step of this ongoing journey.

With this acknowledgement we will be able to propel what we’ve already done toward an even larger audience, and to develop new material and projects.  Thank you all so much.

Border Stories at Koç University, Istanbul

Posted in Ben, Clara on December 1st, 2008 by Border Stories

The Blue Mosque - Istanbul, Turkey

We’ve just wrapped up a visit to Turkey where we attended a conference sponsored by Koç (pronounced “coach”) University.  It went under the title “Irregular Migration at Two Borders: The Turkish-EU and Mexican-USA Cases”.  If that seems like an ambitiously broad scope for a one and a half day conference, that’s because it is.  The goal of the university is to eventually compile the research of the conference’s participants as well as the round table discussion into some sort of publication, so we’ll keep you updated.

But for now, we wanted to highlight a report Human Rights Watch presented at the conference which brought the differences between the U.S.-Mexico and E.U.-Turkey borders into focus.

A person seeking asylum is a rare thing on the U.S.-Mexico border.   In the 1980s, refugees from Central American conflict were common, and in the past few months the flow of refugees fleeing drug violence has increased.  But the number of Iraqis, Afghans and others flowing into  Turkey and to the limits of the E.U. is in the thousands.  The Human Rights Watch report notes that instances of migrants apprehended in Greece seeking asylum have risen substantially over the past few years: 5 times more 2007 than in 2003.  During that time, the majority of these potential refugees came from Iraq.

The report focuses on the treatment of those apprehended in both Greece and Turkey.  Through numerous interviews, it uncovers a pattern of systematic abuses in both countries.  The report’s author, Bill Frelick, said he saw Greek police loading up boats with migrants and shoving the oar-less craft across the Evros river onto Turkish shores.  It is likely that some in those boats had legitimate claims to political asylum in the EU.   The human rights guarantee of asylum is that a person not be sent back to a country where they will face persecution, degrading treatment, or worse.  The report notes that in Greece a whopping %0.04 of asylum claims are approved.  Sadly, Greece is handling a large amount of EU asylum seekers.

Geographically, Turkey is the perfect funnel for migrant traffic from the middle east to the EU via land or sea, and the European asylum system forces refugees to apply for asylum in the first place they arrive. So, between the difficulties of making their way into Europe and those associated with actually being approved for asylum in Greece, refugees are stuck as the Spanish expression goes entre la espada y la pared, between the sword and the wall.

McCain says Obama and Dems blocked immigration reform

Posted in Ben on September 22nd, 2008 by ben

The blog for the New York Times Editorial Board comes down pretty hard on one of McCain’s new campaign advertisements.  The ad states that Obama, along with his buds on the left side of the isle, are the ones responsible for killing the last attempt at immigration reform.  Pretty slippery stuff.  The Times’ translation is below the video.

Announcer: Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But are they?

The press reports that their efforts were “poison pills” that made immigration reform fail.

The result:

No guest worker program.

No path to citizenship.

No secure borders.

No reform.

Is that being on our side?

Obama and his Congressional allies ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.

John McCain: I’m John McCain and I approve this message.

Tickets to the gun show

Posted in Ben on August 18th, 2008 by ben

A recent article in the SF Chronicle goes into a disturbing statistic. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has concluded that over 90 percent of weapons confiscated by Mexican authorities originated from dealers in the United States.

Last year, 2,455 weapons traces requested by Mexico showed that guns had been purchased in the United States, according to ATF. Texas, Arizona and California accounted for 1,803 of the traces submitted by Mexican authorities.

The U.S. hosts 5000 gun shows every year in 32 states, in some, customers can skip the background check and still walk out the door with an AK-47, a .50 caliber sniper rifle, and a case of hand grenades. Along the border, the demand for weapons can be measured by the 6,700 licensed U.S. gun dealers in business near Mexico. It has become common practice for the cartels to hire buyers in the U.S. to attend gun shows or to procure from the multitude of legitimate dealers the weapons needed to take the fight to the Mexican police, and now, the Mexican military.

Some have wondered if the current level of violence in the border region could cause the failure of the Mexican state, and that soon after the same level of violence will be felt in nearby communities in the U.S. Felipe Calderon’s soldiers are 18 months into a nationwide offensive on the cartels, who have responded with unprecedented violence.

We are debating sending $1.5 billion aid package to the Mexican military, a third of that amount has already been appropriated. The Merida Initiative, as it is known, has been compared to Plan Colombia. Critics argue, that like in Colombia, the aid is too focused on military solutions and dosen’t do enough to curb the consumption of drugs in the U.S. which could be considered the primary cause of strife in both Colombia and Mexico.

As our government is arming the Mexican military, our gun laws are maintaining the arsenals of the cartels. The U.S. appetite for intoxication is a virtually endless source of revenue. Unless we are willing to look at realistic solutions, we are merely allowing a dangerous stalemate to shoot itself out on our southern border.

Cross your fingers for Border Stories!

Posted in BorderStories on August 4th, 2008 by clara

We’re finalists for the Online Video Presentation award given by the Online News Association – ONA. We’ll find out the final results in mid September.

come for the blog, stay for the videos

Posted in Ben on July 16th, 2008 by ben

Welcome Crooks and Liars readers.  Though we blog, we are primarily a video site.  Please reserve a few minutes to watch some of the stories.

humans manifesting globalization: will obama or mccain talk about this?

Posted in John on July 11th, 2008 by john

One of the reasons why Border Stories chose the web as its primary content distribution vehicle is the internet’s capacity to bring people and ideas closer together. The border itself is a division among two very different nations but when you travel along it and listen to people on either side of the boundary, you often hear a common tune: that the people that transit across the line do not do so without good reason. Now, when we shared this perspective with Brit or Glenn, and Tom and Dena Kay, their response was one of empathy and understanding. In Tom and Dena’s case, they deal with the consequences of having up to 1000 migrants cross through their cattle ranch a night, and yet, they don’t wag their fingers at these strangers. Instead, they blame the government and the country’s failure to address a more systemic problem. Glenn and Britt do too, and in both their cases, they have become so frustrated by the country’s systemic immigration failures that they have taken matters into their own hands.

When I saw who the latest person to register with our website is, I felt compelled to share this information with other members of the Border Stories community precisely because of the internet’s capacity to bring us closer together. Until this morning, I did not know who Federico Baradello is but after googling his name (as I do with every person that joins our website), I suddenly found myself reading about immigration in a way I wish Barack Obama or John McCain would talk about it.

As Baradello puts it:

“…the ‘migration problem’ facing American and European governments is more accurately labeled a ‘migration paradox’. Migration presents a paradox to governments forced to balance an economic logic of open borders with a sociopolitical logic of closed borders. In other words, migrants are both needed by domestic economies and unwanted by those same societies. Migrants are needed because of a declining domestic labor force unable to meet the increased demand for workers. Migrants are unwanted because of xenophobia, heightened by a mass media that characterizes migration as a threat and a drain on public resources, with no mention or explanation of the causes behind their presence.”

Migration is the most human manifestation of globalization and until we, as a society, find a way to elect and hold accountable a government that will actually take genuine leadership on this issue (i.e.: what is it about the world economy that makes these people come here in the first place?), “the metaphorical border between the South and North: between unemployment and employment, between a life of poverty and a life of economic and educational opportunity” will remain, and the migration, mired in tragedy, will persist.

Jim Gilchrist has regrets

Posted in Ben on June 26th, 2008 by ben

An interesting article at the OCRegister shows Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist in a more reflective mode than one might usually find him. His views on the first 4 years of his civilian border defense project, and those that have come to assist him with his mission seem to have soured:

After seeing online videos that encouraged border violence amid calls to crack down on illegal immigration, the 59-year-old Aliso Viejo resident said he feels responsible for what started out as a publicity campaign and has since fallen prey to internal divisions and to influence by people he believed had “Saddam Hussein mentalities.”

“In retrospect, had I seen this, had I had a crystal ball to see what is going to happen… Am I happy? No,” Gilchrist said in a phone conversation late last week. “Am I happy at the outcome of this whole movement? I am very, very sad, very disappointed.”

Some will probably not take these words seriously, and perhaps Gilchrist earned that lack of trust himself. One wonders how he would take stock of his own missteps in leading the organization, i.e. hiring members of the National Alliance, a white nationalist organization, to run phone banks and computer networks. Or making “not so” subtly veiled threats, such as this one in 2006:

“I’m not going to promote insurrection, but if it happens, it will be on the conscience of the members of Congress who are doing this,” he said. “I will not promote violence in resolving this, but I will not stop others who might pursue that.” Link

I won’t say that Gilchrist is calling for an armed insurrection on the border, but if people want to make that assessment based on what he says (or nearly says), I’m not going to stop them. This and many many more statements and actions call into question the reasoning for his more recent ruminations.

“I have found, after four years in this movement (…) I very well may have been fighting for people with less character and less integrity than the ‘open border fanatics’ I have been fighting against,” he said. “And that is a phenomenal indictment of something I have created.”

For an organization such as the Minuteman Project to put the blame on its adherents not for how they are led, but how they are, says much of why the group has grown increasingly fractional and decreasingly functional over its short history. It is a crisis of leadership when those at the top cannot answer to their own failures.

The tone of the debate…

Posted in Ben on June 26th, 2008 by ben

As a fan of George Carlin and inappropriate language it pains me to say that if you can’t keep your fingers from befouling our comments section, your contributions will be deleted.  If you must find a way to express your outrage and are at a loss to find a word longer than 4 letters, please consult a thesaurus, or just take a few short breaths, calm down and keep writing.  We will never delete a comment simply because we don’t agree with it, ever.  We would like to display the variety of opinions on the issues that the border engenders, but if you can’t keep it clean, you can’t play, it’s that simple.