Down by the River…Rhapsody for Charles Bowden, September 28 in Las Cruces

The Bowden family & Molly Molloy invite you to a memorial celebration…

Down by the River…Rhapsody for Charles Bowden

Sunday afternoon, September 28,
at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park
5000 Calle del Norte, Mesilla, NM 88046 575-523-4398

Park website — Google map

The park will be open for the event from noon until five. Come early to walk park trails along the Rio Grande.

Service to start at two o’clock.

Words, music & memories for our dear friend Chuck. Wine, lemonade & light refreshments.

If you wish, bring a photo or memento to place on an altar for Chuck. Dress casual, wear comfortable shoes. Bring binoculars for birdwatching. If you have a light-weight camp chair, bring it along. Plastic water bottles recommended. No glass bottles permitted in the park.

For more information, contact Molly Molloy mollymolloy@gmail.com 575-680-6463

Remembering Charles Bowden

 To recognize Chuck’s contributions to the literary world one simply has to takeaway all his works and realize the void that remains. He shared his vast knowledge of and passion for the Southwest specifically the violence in Mexico through his works notably Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family, Murder City, and El Sicario, edited with our own, Molly Molloy. He once said*, ““I’m a reporter. I go out and report. I don’t keep a [expletive] journal” and report he did. Much has been written about him as a reporter, friend and all-around unique and sometimes eccentric figure, in the following weeks we will feature pieces commemorating Chuck from Listeros and, of course, Molly.  In the meantime, Molly wanted to share information regarding his memorial along with a private photo of Chuck.
“My great pleasure is to go into the wilderness, get myself lost under the big sky out there, and I’ve written books full of words trying to capture that feeling and describe that landscape.” **

If you are interested in contributing a post about Chuck, please email us at fronteralist@gmail.com

DOWN BY THE RIVER…Rhapsody for Chuck Bowden

Sunday afternoon, September 28, 1-5 at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, near Mesilla, NM
Chuck out in nature, his favorite place to be. Photo courtesy of Molly Molloy

Chuck out in nature, his favorite place to be. Photo courtesy of Molly Molloy

* Quote from the LA Times

**Quote from The Guardian

Q & A With Courthouse News Service Editor, Robert Kahn

Robert Kahn’s book, “Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade” (Westview Press/HarperCollins) 1996, was the first attempt at a history of U.S. immigration prisons. He is news editor for Courthouse News Service, a national legal news service.

*******************************************************************************************************************

Interviewed By: Belen Chacon

Your book, Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade, covers the abusive treatment of Central American refugees in U.S. detention centers in the 1980s. We seem to be back here again, especially with the Artesia detention center in New Mexico. Why is this happening again?

It’s not happening again, it’s been happening all the time. It’s happening because very few people in the U.S. Congress, or the people who buy them their offices, or you or I, ever give a thought or give a good goddamn about the people who clean our bathrooms and cook and serve our food and harvest the food we eat. Why should we? Immigrants can’t give us money. They can’t even vote.

Last week the ACLU in Los Angeles announced a big settlement with the Border Patrol, which now calls itself ICE, and involves both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. The Border Patrol agreed not to trick people into agreeing to be “repatriated,” by handing them a list of “rights” with the right “voluntary repatriation” already checked off. Well, we settled that lawsuit 30 years ago, in Laredo, thanks to Patrick Hughes, an attorney who saw that women and children would need legal representation, so he moved there and set up a law office with nothing, except a little help from the Catholic Church. I went to work for him as a paralegal and we documented a nightmare of abuses inflicted by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the first private U.S. prison company to be paid for locking up immigrant women and children. CCA strip-searched mothers and babies at Laredo for asking to see a lawyer. They strip-searched them each time before and after they saw a lawyer, but they didn’t strip-search them unless they asked to see a lawyer. Well, all that stuff was “enjoined” 30 years ago by a federal judge, right? But it was never enforced. How can you enforce it, when you’re “privatizing” the immigration detention system in the United States to God knows who — to whoever says, “Sure, I’ll put those women and kids up in my house.”

In the case of the abuse of Central American refugees in immigration prisons in the 1980s, attorneys and other advocates were not able to stop the abuse until 10 years later. Do you see justice taking that long for current Central American refugees in abusive detention centers?

 

Refugees will never get justice in the United States; only their children will, because our policies and wars have driven them here, and the Congress will never admit that, nor will the people who vote, or the people who want to replace whoever’s in Congress now. It’s not until the refugees’ kids can vote, and do, that anything can change. The North American Free Trade Agreement destroyed small business and peasant farming in Mexico, and blessed the Mexican government’s war against independent unions. We’ve sent billions of dollars to the Mexican army and police forces, which slaughter their own people, in part because the cartels pay more than the government, because what cartels have to offer is more valuable, and the cartel leaders probably don’t steal as much as the government does. But we won’t admit Mexicans as refugees — even Mexican reporters, though dozens of them have been murdered by government police forces and the cartels — because Uncle Sam won’t admit our role in the slaughter. And even if, let’s assume, the United States government has absolutely no role in it, still, we don’t want to admit it — that the Mexican army and police forces are just as dirty as the cartels. So if your own government’s soldiers want to kill you, to steal what little you have, because the government is stealing so fast with both hands that it can’t match the cartels’ offers, well, what do you expect? People will flee a situation like that.

For those that haven’t read your book, Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade, what do you feel is the biggest takeaway? Why should Americans play close attention to the treatment of individuals in immigration prisons?

 

The tortures and abuses in U.S. immigration prisons have continued for more than 30 years, despite federal court orders, and U.S. Supreme Court orders, because very few of us give a damn about these people. Congress certainly does not. Nor, so far as I can tell, has any president of the United States, since Jimmy Carter. As a paralegal working for nothing in U.S. immigration prisons, I’ve represented people whose U.S. prison guards walked over them with high heels while other guards held them down. I’ve seen a U.S. immigration judge tell a Guatemalan refugee whose back was covered with scars, driven into him with whips and salt water: “I don’t think you were ever in the Guatemalan army at all,” though the judge held in his hand photos of the man, in uniform, holding an automatic weapon, in front of his army barracks in Guatemala. The U.S. government would have deported him to be tortured and killed had Canada not accepted him as a political refugee.

In the 1980s, what details did the mainstream media fail to cover when it came to the treatment of Central American refugees? What is mainstream media failing to cover now when it comes to this issue?

 

I won’t say anything about “the mainstream media.” That’s a lash that can be used to whip anyone. I spent my life’s savings to work for nothing for 3 years as a paralegal in U.S. immigration prisons. I got a lot of information doing that. You can’t expect anyone, including “mainstream media,” to do that. So far as I can tell, the situation is the same today as it was 30 years ago. There’s no money to be made from representing refugees. Everything you hear in the media is about an immigration “crisis.” There is no crisis. Undocumented immigration has been on the decline for decades. Border Patrol figures show that. All that’s changed recently is the shape of the amoeba. Now we’re seeing more mothers and children fleeing from Honduras, whose government is as brutal and corrupt, and always has been, as the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador. But what do you or your neighbor know about Honduras? Nothing. Why should you? Now that the Republicans are making a big deal out of it, Obama is doing the same thing Reagan did: Set up a deportation factory as far away as possible from legal help, to deport refugees as fast as we can. Today they call it the Artesia Family Residential Center in New Mexico. Back then, in 1986, it was the new prison in Oakdale, La., run by the Bureau of Prisons. They tortured people there. The Marielitos tore the place down the next year, and I can see why. These people are not burdens to the United States. They are sources of information.

The immigration reform debate has had high and low moments, but for the most part has remained stagnant. What can/shouldAmericans do to help push the debate?

 

Immigration reform has never had a high moment. The late, great Charles Bowden told me: “Americans are willing to do anything about immigration except read about it.” I’m a half-critic half-fan of Sigmund Freud, who warned us about stirring up our primal impulses. I don’t know if we want to push the immigration debate — whatever that is — right now. Right now it’s all based on hate, fear and ignorance. When kids get educated, and grow up and vote, things will change, but it will take a generation. That’s why Republicans are pressing so hard to keep young people from registering to vote. When it happens, it’ll look like a sudden change, like the nation’s acceptance of gay people. But that struggle took a generation of open conflict, and gay people had money, and could vote. Not that I want to compare gay people and immigrants, but I think that pretty soon we’re going to see an acceptance of immigrants. It’ll look like it happens fast, but it’s already happening. It will be the result of a generation of struggle.

The debate over illegal immigration is being carried on with little awareness of the government policies that contributed to this country’s immigration problems. How can more Americans educate themselves? Where can they start?

 

Well, like Chuck Bowden said, nobody wants to read about immigration. The best summary of U.S. immigration policy was written by Kitty Calavita, decades ago. She’s a criminology professor at the University of California at Irvine.

Calavita wrote, correctly, that the United States has no immigration policy — that we change our policy according to the mood of the times, and that our policy is always out of synch with the times.

Calavita’s three basic conclusions will be true forever:

- The United States invites poor Mexicans when we need labor, then deports them when the next recession hits;

- Because of this, U.S. immigration policy will always be “out of phase” — because it takes years to pass legislation in Congress, when an immigration law does pass, it will be a response to what happened years before, at a different point in the economic cycle;

- And that “securing the border” and respecting the Constitution, both, may not be possible; in fact, it’s probably not — but no one wants to talk about this because, well, isn’t that why these people are fleeing here, to be protected by our Constitution?

Charles Bowden…”I have spent my life trying to learn…”

To all of our friends on the frontera list… Jose Luis Benavides sent me this great note, including Chuck’s own words about his life and work… It says things far better now than I can…Thanks to everyone who has written to me.  I hope I can respond personally in time… molly

From Jose Luis:
Yesterday, I checked Chuck’s bio he sent me back when we invited you and him to CSUN for the first time. I liked it because it captures his mood at the time, so I couldn’t resist the temptation of sharing it with you:

I have spent my life trying to learn. I once taught American history at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle Campus but my real education has come from working on newspapers and magazines and from writing books. I started out interested in nature (Killing the Hidden Waters, University of Texas Press, 1977) but got sidetracked by the endless wars of the border–wars against drugs, wars against the migration of the Mexican poor and wars against decent wages (see Juarez: the laboratory of our future, Down by the River, Murder City, El Sicario, Exodus). I have also co-produced a documentary film, “El Sicario/room 164.” I have not controlled my life or work but been controlled by events. I could not stand by in silence as the war on drugs killed tens of thousands, imprisoned millions and squandered over a trillion US dollars. Nor could I ignore the massive flight of the poor unleashed by NAFTA, especially since the Mexicans who come north to survive are often demonized by politicians and portrayed as a national security risk. I constantly try to abandon my work. Recently, I bought a backpack, threw forty pounds into it and returned to walking the hills. I’ll see if this effort at a cure works. It never has before but I am a creature of hope.

Los Muertos De EPN…Pena Nieto Has Not Decreased Homicides…ZETA De Tijuana

Seminario Zeta of Tijuana recently published a piece comparing homicide statistics from the Calderon and Pena Nieto administrations and has appeared in several newspapers and magazines in Mexico including Proceso, http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=380354 

The original piece is posted below.

The gist of the article is that even though EPN and his government secretaries say that homicides have been reduced significantly (30% or more), the truth is much more murky and that compared to the first 20 months of Calderon’s term, there have actually been more homicides, not less.

The discussion has to do with the fact that official homicide statistics come from two main sources: the SESNSP and INEGI. [I posted a brief explanation of these two sources here, http://fronteralist.org/2014/08/22/q-a-with-frontera-lists-molly-molloy/ ] written before this new Zeta piece was published.

Zeta also uses media reports and civic organization counts in different states and cities and comes up with tallies that are somewhat higher than the recent INEGI report: http://www.inegi.org.mx/inegi/contenidos/espanol/prensa/Boletines/Boletin/Comunicados/Especiales/2014/julio/comunica3.pdf

The INEGI report itself is not a final report for 2013, but a preliminary one.  More recent statistics are available only from the SESNSP and from media. There is also an issue of which homicides are counted?  Homicidios dolosos are those usually considered murder or intentional/aggravated homicide.  There is a whole other category of homicidios culposos, usually translated as accidental or negligent homicides.  Zeta points out that as the numbers of homicidios DOLOSOS is slightly lower than in previous years, the number of CULPOSOS (accidental or negligent homicides) are going up. This makes us wonder if the government is “adjusting” its classifications of causes of deaths to make it appear that many of the killings are the kinds of “ordinary” accidental homicides that do not indicate an organized crime problem, but just people behaving badly.

One comes away thinking several things: 1) It is becoming even more difficult to know how many people are murdered in Mexico.   2)The EPN administration is determined to pursue an aggressive media strategy to make things appear less violent.  3) Presenting the homicide numbers for arbitrary periods like the “first 20 months” of different administrations is not that useful for comparison.  4)The levels of homicide, forced disappearances and kidnapping are still extremely high in Mexico.

Even using the more conservative figures reported by INEGI and the lower homicidios dolosos numbers reported by the SESNSP, “more than 153,000 people–an average of more than 1,600 per month–56 people PER DAY–have been murdered in Mexico since 2007.”

An English translation of the article published in El Diario de Coahuila is provided from Borderland Beat. Also posted below… -Molly Molloy

Los muertos de EPN: 36 mil 718 (Zeta)

Pena Nieto has been unable to decrease homicides (Borderland Beat)

 

Artesia Situation On PBS Newshour…Field Reports From Pro Bono Attorneys

The articles below are sent by Taylor Levy, Certified Representative for Immigration Cases with Las Americas in El Paso. Please consider a donation to Las Americas to provide legal representation for asylum seekers detained in Artesia… (information provided below).  THANKS Taylor and keep up the great work!  -molly

Federal Prosecutors Visit Nogales, Sonora To Investigate The Fatal Shooting Of Jose Antonio

Federal prosecutors visit Nogales, Sonora along with investigators from the PGR, to investigate the fatal shooting of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez… After searching it looks like the Nogales International had the only onsite coverage of this important advance in the investigation of the cross-border shooting that happened in October 2012–nearly 2 years ago.  It’s interesting to note that there was no US Attorney involvement in the investigation until the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the teenager’s mother.  Stories below…  -m.

U.S. investigators reconstruct scene of fatal BP shooting (Nogales International)

22 Months On, Feds Arrive At Shooting Scene (Nogales International)

Report From Courthouse News

Courthouse News reports on the Artesia lawsuit filed [August 22nd].  The editor at Courthouse News, Robert Kahn, worked with asylum seekers at the Oakdale Detention Center in the 1980s.  His book, Other People’s Blood: U.S. Immigration Prisons in the Reagan Decade (Westview, 1996) is required reading on the shameful history of that period.

Also: Lawsuit Filed Over Immigrants’ Access To Lawyers At Artesia Detention Center (El Paso Times)

Immigrant Rights Groups Sue U.S. Over Fast-Tracked Deportations (LA Times)

Q & A with Frontera List’s Molly Molloy

What are the current stats and how do they compare to previous years?

There are two main sources of official Mexican government statistics on homicides. INEGI, Mexico’s National Statistics Institute, tallies numbers of murder victims based on data from medical examiners in morgues across the country. A death is counted as a homicide when a legal medical specialist determines that homicide was the cause of death. These statistics are cumulated and generally reported in July or August for the previous year. The INEGI report for 2013 came out in late July and provided the figure of 22,732 intentional homicides—an average of 1,894 homicides each month. This figure is down from the figure of 25,967 in 2013 and from the highest number of 27,213 in 2012—an average of more than 2,200 murders per month.

The national murder rate in Mexico in 2013 was 19 per 100,000, down from the highest point of about 24 in 2012.  When evaluating murder rates, we also have to consider that many cities, states or regions in Mexico have much higher rates than the national average. The state of Guerrero has a murder rate of 63—the highest in the country—and the city of Acapulco is at the top of the list of violent cities. Chihuahua state had a murder rate in 2013 of 59, about the same as the murder rate in Ciudad Juarez. This is a dramatic decrease from the highest murder rate in the world in 2010 (approaching 300 per 100,000) but still the second highest state murder rate in the country.

The other major source of crime statistics is the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP), part of the Secretariat of Government (SEGOB). SESNSP provides data on homicides from crime scenes as reported on a monthly basis by the Fiscalias (the Attorneys General) in each state. These numbers are generally lower than the cumulative figures reported by INEGI and can probably be explained by the fact that those injured in violent crimes may die later and eventually be categorized as homicides. Also, SESNSP data reports a separate category of homicidios culposos (negligent or unintentional homicides) in an initial crime scene investigation, but some of these may also be determined to be intentional at a later stage of investigation.  A total of 9,303 homicidios dolosos (intentional homicides) are reported for January-July 2014, an average of about 1,300 homicides each month.  In comparison, there were a total of 18,388 intentional homicides in 2013—an average of about 1,500 per month—somewhat lower than the cumulative INEGI total. For more on the SESNSP data, see: http://www.secretariadoejecutivosnsp.gob.mx/es/SecretariadoEjecutivo/Incidencia_Delictiva_Nacional_fuero_comun

Adding the INEGI numbers for 2007-2013, and the SESNSP numbers for January-July 2014, there were a total of 153,648 murder victims in Mexico during the past 7.5 years. That averages to 1,688 homicides per month since the hyper-violence began in Mexico.

And, these numbers do not include the estimated 30,000 people who have been officially reported missing or disappeared.  Mexican government spokespeople have addressed the issue of the disappeared, most recently in a press conference yesterday resulting in a flurry of media coverage trying to explain the “disappearing disappeared.” See: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2014/08/22/politica/005n1pol

http://www.animalpolitico.com/2014/08/existen-22-mil-322-personas-localizadas-en-mexico-9-mil-790-fueron-reportadas-este-sexenio/#axzz3B8q3D4LM

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/08/21/world/americas/ap-lt-mexico-missing-people.html?ref=americas&_r=1

http://www.thepanamericanpost.com/2014/08/mexico-revises-number-of-disappeared.html

The reality is that there are no accurate or reliable numbers on people who have disappeared. The government never says how many were found alive and how many are confirmed dead. And it is certain than many of the dead are never found. One recent report by Michelle Garcia and Ignacio Alvarado Alvarez for Al Jazeera America concludes:

“People began to disappear in Mexico in large numbers after President Felipe Calderón launched his war against drug traffickers in 2006. By 2013, the Mexican government, under a new administration, pegged the number of disappeared at 26,121, adding that not all were criminally related.

Experts and several human rights groups, however, estimate that reported cases represent roughly 10 percent of the total, as most people are reluctant to appeal to authorities who were either involved in or suspected of having ties to organized crime groups. Based on their calculations, the actual number could be closer to 200,000 people.”

What is the most informative literary work to come out in the last year regarding the violence in Mexico? Why?

 The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail, by Salvadoran journalist Oscar Martinez.

Amnesty International estimates that as many as 70,000 Central American migrants have disappeared in Mexico in the past 10 years. Published in Spanish as Los migrantes que no importan…The Migrants who Don’t Matter, The Beast is by far the best account I have read of how criminal/government networks actually work and how and why the massive death toll in Mexico and in Central America keeps rising. The book not only helps us to understand Mexico, but it also is the skeleton key to understanding the recent crisis in child migration from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. At least 60,000 unaccompanied minors have made it to the United States border in the past year and we do not begin to know how many have been lost on the journey—not to mention the numbers of adult men and women who die in the migration. Here is one paragraph from Oscar Martinez’ interview below with the Texas Observer:

 “TO: What do you hope Americans will learn from your book?

OM: I believe the worst tragedies along the path—the rapes, the mass kidnappings, the torturing done by Los Zetas, the fee to cross the border—are things that the migrants who have suffered them, in my experience, dont even tell their own families. Im convinced that its something they dont tell their employers or their friends if they have any friends in the United States. I think people in the U.S. know that migrants have a long and hard journey. But Im convinced that the country in which they work—where they cut tomatoes and clean houses—has no idea at all that what the migrants are going through is actually a humanitarian crisis. In other words, its a humanitarian crisis where organized crime takes care of extracting the very last drop it can from people who are already leaving their country with practically nothing.”

What has been one of the most surprising news story you’ve read this year? why?

The rise of ISIS, or the Islamic State terrorist military force and its lightning take-over of much of Iraq and Syria. I know, it has nothing to do with Latin America. Or does it?  I think of the several trillion dollars and thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives lost since our invasion of that country in 2003 and even more deaths caused by massive destabilization in the region, in part sparked by our interventions. And for what? The result seems to be the creation of one of the most violent and dangerous threats the U.S. has faced, ever.

Then I look at the media storm in response to the massive numbers of children fleeing from intolerable violence in the small Central American countries. And I think about the illegal U.S. proxy wars against “the Communist threat” in those countries resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans in the 1970s and 1980s. Our policies and actions 30+ years ago sowed the seeds for the destruction of these societies and now we are reaping the crops.

What do you see happening with immigration in the U.S. and how will it affect Latin America?

I am appalled by the inhumane reaction of our government to the recent Central American migration. Instead of seeing the migration as a human rights crisis, our government is determined to detain and deport people as quickly as possible with not even lip-service to human rights, international law, or due process in our own courts.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/08/22/70696.htm

http://www.legalactioncenter.org/litigation/artesia-resource-page

The American immigration gulag is expanding and becoming more repressive at every turn. And the loudest protests call for more repression, not less.

While the administration and activists continue to talk about the president bypassing the stonewalled Congress to mandate immigration reform through executive action, I fear such action will result in more draconian border security measures and provide little if any benefit to the immigrants most in need of relief.

I hope my sad predictions are all wrong.