Saturday, August 10, 2019

Tucson, AZ: Samaritans Introduction

Border Patrol on watch in desert near El Paso, Texas. December 2016.

"[Our mission is to] hold our government accountable for policies that kill people."

Samaritans training

Every month, the Samaritans present training related to human migration from south to north.

The training occurs at the lovely Southside Presbyterian Church, which was the locale for the Melanie DeMore event sponsored by the Tucson Threshold Choir.

At the Samaritan training, a series of people speak about the Samaritans' work and its context within the history of borderland and migration issues.

Speakers included

1.     Margo Cowan, JD

2.    Guadalupe Castillo, Founding faculty emeritus, Pima County Community College

3.   Dorothy Chao, RN

4.   Ed McCullough, professor emeritus, University of Arizona

Near Antelope Wells, New Mexico. US-MX border. March 2013.

Some notes I took

Note: Any errors that may exist below are mine and not the mistakes of the presenters

Clamping down
  • In the late 1990s is when the border clamped down. 
  • The government started to prosecute people who gave rides across the border, when in the past, that had been a common practice, especially on and near the Tohono O'odham Nation: A Mexican national along the border might need a ride into Arizona, and when they finished conducting their business, they'd get a ride back home in Mexico. 
  • It was during this time that people began to die because they had to walk through the desert.

Near Antelope Wells, New Mexico. US-MX border. March 2013.

In response to the rising death toll, humanitarian groups came to life along the border

The dynamic of ensured group compliance

One of the speakers said (and I'm paraphrasing): "You might wonder why a group of people, when they outnumber the Border Patrol agents who've detained them, don't resist or run away. This is because the Border Patrol employs techniques to ensure group compliance."

From the document, Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody, published in 2011 by No More Deaths, based on hundreds of interviews with formerly detained migrants: 
Verbal abuse was particularly common with 1,699 incidents being reported. It demeans and intimidates detainees and may compound  feelings  of  confusion,  helplessness  and  terror  for those in custody. Verbal abuse includes racial and sexist epithets, in addition to threats of sexual violence, used to subjugate and degrade detainees. Furthermore, verbal abuse may include violent threats made credible by public examples of physical abuse and assault. Verbal abuse appears to aid in creating an environment of intimidation, fear and compliance among detainees. Typical forms of verbal abuse included:
• Derogatory racial, ethnic, and sexual epithets
• Profanity
• Yelling  and  screaming  for  no  apparent  reason,  both  in  the field and in processing centers
[I added the highlighted emphasis.]

An example of a public assault by a BP agent in front of a group: Throwing someone into cactus.

When encountering people on the move
  1. No, we cannot "aid and abet" with transport "in furtherance of illegal presence." 
  2. No, we don't let someone use our phone, but we can get the number of the person's family so we can call the family when we return home, assuring them that we saw their family member alive
  3. Yes, we can share water and food with people on the move. 

But what if we encounter someone who is very sick or injured?
  • Let the person know where they are
  • Give them the best information we have re: likelihood of making it to their destination in their condition so they can make an informed decision about our calling for medical rescue

Border Patrol has a permanent presence in every ER in Arizona. 

Some historical context that affect the borderlands

"American exceptionalism has replaced 'manifest destiny'"
Guadalupe Castillo

American exceptionalism is one or a combination of three ideas:
  1. American history is substantively different from other countries' histories;
  2. America's mission is to transform the world; and
  3. America's history and mission makes it superior over other nations. 
Based on my limited research into this, it appears that our so-called exceptionalism presumes a starter yeast of White Protestant Christian and White Western European culture.

Ms. Castillo proposed that the strictures against migration are not just about color, but about class. "The borders are open if you are the 1% or the middle class." offers a succinct definition of manifest destiny: "... the United States was destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent."

Despite the bleakness of some of Ms. Castillo's history narrative, she ended with a powerful thought:

"These people who are in movement are the ones who are going to change the world."

Notice the absence of the word "the" before "movement." In other words, she refers to the people who are part of today's migration, not to an organized activist movement.

Counting deaths

The Border Patrol only counts the remains of those it finds, which is only about half the number that Pima County has had in its morgue.

The Border Patrol's accounting method reminds me of the controversy over the Vietnam War body counts.

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