3 members of a family found murdered today in the Valle de Juarez

Three young men were murdered and their bodies were dumped a few meters from the Juarez-Porvenir highway outside of the village of San Agustin in the Valle de Juarez this morning. It was reported that a “narco-mensaje” was left with the bodies.
A second story says that family members have identified the victims but the identities are not officially confirmed.

One is Élmer García Archuleta, a psychology student at the UACJ who worked for a USAID-funded project: Youth: Work México. The other victims were his brother Édgar Iván and cousin Gabriel Gándara Archuleta. Gabriel was the brother of Érika Gandara, a young woman who worked as a policewoman in Guadalupe before she was kidnapped and murdered in late 2010. Her body was eventually found some weeks later in a sewerage canal near the town. [An article about the disappearance of Erika Gandara from the El Paso Times in early January 2011 is posted below from my archive.] The news this morning means that three more members of the same extended family in the Valle de Juarez have been murdered. For a long piece on what was in 2010-2011 the most violent place in Mexico, see: http://www.texasobserver.org/the-deadliest-place-in-mexico/

It is good to keep reminding ourselves and the international news media that before Ayotzinapa, there was Juarez and the Valle de Juarez… molly

Ejecutan a tres y los tiran en la salida de San Agustín

Identifican a asesinados; uno era estudiante de la UACJ

Armed men terrorize Mexican town across from Tornillo; homes set on fire

Commentary on current Mexican crisis…by John Ackerman

The articles highlighted below by John Ackerman have recently been published in English… Some may have been posted before on the list, but here’s another chance to read great commentary from this scholar. See John’s website for updates: http://www.johnackerman.blogspot.com/

Why America is to Blame for Mexico’s Carnage and Corruption” (Foreign Policy, November 26th, 2014) 

The End of Mexican Democracy” (Al Jazeera America, November 25th, 2014)

(Translation to French: http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=14008)

Television debate on France 24 (in English) with a representative of the Peña Nieto administration: http://www.france24.com/en/20141211-the-debate-outrage-in-mexico-part-one/

Q & A with Andrew Kennis Part 2

How do you feel about the decriminalization of marijuana and how do you think this will affect Mexico?

Decriminalization of just marijuana, according to drug policy experts, peace activists, victims of drug war violence and even most recently the Global Commission on Drug Policy – which is filled by an array of ex heads of state, many of whom hailing from Latin America where drug war violence and victimization has been at its most intense in the world – is simply not sufficient reform. Portugal has quietly been the drug policy reform example over the course of last decade and running, as leading scholarly research has duly shown. Drug consumption has not risen, and in some ways has actually fallen, since the all-out decriminalization policy was instituted. That’s not insignificant news and something from which many countries, the U.S. and Mexico being the most among them, could and should learn a lot.

Nevertheless, the sweeping nature which characterizes rampant marijuana drug policy reform in the U.S. is definitely a step in the right direction and one that has marijuana reform advocates quite content, as I reported before the mid-term election. At that time, already 26 states had adopted some reform measure or another, decriminalizing, outright legalizing or providing medical provisions for the permitted consumption and cultivation of cannabis. By now, 5 more states can be added to the growing list for a total of 31, with Florida almost becoming the 32nd state to adopt a marijuana reform measure.

It is pretty clear that prohibitionist drug laws are as vulnerable as they have ever been before. At the same time, it is unclear when other drug laws going beyond marijuana will be reformed. Much depends upon the extent that the issue can continue to attract grassroots activism and successful voter referendum initiatives, which overwhelmingly has been the lone means with which marijuana drug reform advocates have been able to realize success. In the meantime, the drug war will most certainly continue, with the most pervasive victimization still falling squarely on the backs of the Mexican people.

In one of our previous interviews one author mentioned that the arrest of a drug kingpin (like El Chapo) really doesn’t change anything since there is always a replacement available to keep the drug trade going. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Just last month, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the drug kingpin of the Juarez cartel was arrested. I was interviewed on a local El Paso newscast and wrote-up a report about the arrest. High-profile arrests like these have been going on for years with indeed, little to no impact being made on the drug trade.

In terms of replacements being available, that’s been a known practice for quite some time now.

Years ago, Mayo Zambada, the still at-large Sinloa cartel kingpin and Vicente’s father, gave a very well-known interview to Proceso’s founding editor, Julio Scherer. [Here is the original Spanish version.] Proceso is Mexico’s most investigative and hard-hitting magazine weekly. In the wake of El Chapo’s arrest, Proceso re-printed the Mayo Zambada interview earlier this year. It was clear as to why it did so: at the end of the interview, Mayo confidently proclaims that any and all cartels are always prepared to fill in any void left behind by their captured or killed kingpins and capos with ready-made replacements. The claim was a bit of an exaggeration, however, as it is well-known that capos being killed or detained sometimes results in power struggles and increased violence.

It is true though that most of the time a new capo steps in and business as usual continues to be conducted. After all, there is no larger drug consumer market in the world than that of the U.S., with 2010 having set all-time records for importation and consumption. Interestingly enough, 2010 was also the height of Calderon’s drug war offensive and also of the turf war for control over the most lucrative drug corridor in the world: that of the El Paso / Ciudad Juarez plaza.

Whether or not the high-profile arrests of drug kingpins as a security strategy has actually made a dent into the drug war on behalf of the officials purportedly fighting it is scarcely in doubt though. In fact, the policy was so criticized, that the Pena Nieto administration pledged to either get rid of it entirely or at the very least to move away from it. The only substantive change that has happened, however, was the decision not to parade around captured drug kingpins after they were arrested, as was the custom during the Calderon administration. It was said that such public displays and spectacles added to the allure and appeal of narco culture, providing a basis for many narco corridos and the like.

However, the high-profile arrest strategy is apparently here to stay. Its origins date back to Calderon having drawn inspiration from U.S. military occupation policies in regard to the Hussein regime. Some readers may remember the use of playing cards to identify Iraqi leaders to U.S. soldiers for capture or kill hunts. That’s where this policy first started. During Pena Nieto’s administration, he has arrested not only El Chapo but other prominent cartel leaders too, such as El Viceroy. Curious to many of us drug war journos, however, was the release of Rafael Caro Quintero in August 2013 because of some legal technicality. The legal decision was reversed within a week of his release after some intense DEA pressure, but the kingpin continues to be at-large and may be filling a power vacuum of sorts in the wake of Chapo’s arrest. At the same time, the Sinaloa cartel has long been run by two capos, not just one, and Mayo Zambada continues to also be at-large. Finally, an anti-Sinaloa cartel alliance is also being organized too. That may result in some increased violence and challenges to plazas or it may simply result in different territorial control without increased violence. When cartels can avoid violence, they do, as it is very costly and dents into their profits.

More than anything else though, extreme drug war violence is generated from the instability of government intervention into the illegal drug trade, as was displayed prominently during the start of the Calderon administration, initialized with a huge offensive into Michoacan. Continued impunity also strongly fuels drug war-related violence, as the Iguala massacre has shown us in harrowing ways.

It is probably hard to imagine to most U.S. citizens that a Mayor and his wife would be so embroiled into narco politics and crime, that they would routinely undertake massacres against their political opponents. But this was apparently the case, as mass graves are showing up all around the town in which the student massacre was recently undertaken, for which the Mayor has been accused of masterminding. But that’s the extent to which impunity reigns in Mexico, with strong fuel being drawn from supportive and provocative U.S. policies, including vital arms supplies and training of the same military officials which are often knee-deep involved with narco politics and crime.

As seen by the widespread solidarity actions and political resistance organized and held last week, however, in Mexico and beyond, and even here on the border (in a very rare display of cross-border organizing and simultaneous protests being held on the same issue), there is most definitely a growing opposition and awareness to the impunity and corruption which characterizes the drug war. In Mexico, the issue has been long known and understood, which is why such an explosive increase of activism and resistance happened so quickly and so decisively over the presumed massacre of 43 students in Ayotzinapa. Other places are starting to catch on too, including even here in the States; hence, the global actions in solidarity with the Mexican struggle against the drug war and narco-state repression.

What is a misconception that you find people tend to have regarding the drug war?

I’d say on a few matters. One is about the very deep and extensive involvement which U.S. policy plays in fueling drug war violence in Mexico. In terms of policy, there is a significant lack of familiarity with decriminalization drug reform, such as that of Portugal.

Perhaps there will be a growing awareness of this, however, in light of the sea change that has happened with marijuana reform policies that we just spoke about.

Then again, it could work either way: marijuana reform could be seen as sufficient and thus stultify further efforts to decriminalize other drugs. “This far, but no further,” could be the damaging logic that comes as a result of marijuana reform. The leading marijuana reform organization steers way clear of taking a position on decriminalizing more drugs, or not, for example. Or, if luck will win it, marijuana reform could lead to further decriminalization policies.

While polls are running strong in terms of citizen support for marijuana reform policies, most activists and policy experts I spoke to didn’t credit a shift in the public consciousness as the leading factor for the policy shift. They credited the ongoing recession as one of the strongest motives to decriminalize marijuana and give states a much needed opportunity to balance their budgets, which have long been struggling against decreased tax revenues as a result of the recession. Will additional reform policies also be fueled by a desire for states to gain more public tax revenues? It’s possible. Only time will tell.

What do you propose as a possible solution for the violence in Mexico?

There is a famous saying that pretty much everyone knows in Mexico: “so close to the United States, but so far away from God.” Mexico needs to distance itself from the U.S. in political, economic and diplomatic terms. It needs to stop fighting the U.S.’s “war.” It needs to stop selling its most prized natural asset to multinationals. It needs to scrap the NAFTA agreement, which has had devastating effects on its agriculture sector, resulting in tons of out-of-work campesinos taking on low-paying jobs in the U.S. or dying in attempts to cross the scorching Arizona desert.

Surprising as it may seem, most Mexicans now eat tortillas with corn grown in the U.S. by subsidized agri-business, often sold at less than the cost of production.

All of these policies are nothing short of tragic. So yes, Mexico needs to focus on its own domestic problems in order to carve out a more effective and independent route toward development. Mexico, in spite of half of its territory being taken by force by the U.S., is still a large and resource-plush country. If it began to use and develop its resources for the needs of its own people, it could go far in terms of poverty reduction and could become a leading force in Latin America and beyond. After all, only Brazil has a larger population and a larger territory than Mexico in Latin America. There’s no reason why Mexico can’t be sporting the kind of tremendous growth rates and poverty reduction seen in Brazil during the course of the last decade. Or even the poverty reduction that has been seen in Venezuela.

However, there is something to be said about understanding the significant political and economic pressure which Mexico is subjected to by the U.S. There are consequences to carving out an independent, Latin American route. Cuba knows this all too well. So does Venezuela. So does even Ecuador and Bolivia, to a certain extent. Even Argentina was recently punished by U.S. courts for litigating independent economic policies which protect its own interests.

Because of all of this, under more ideal circumstances, U.S.-based activists and solidarity movements, such as maybe a revitalized Occupy movement, may succeed in pushing for and realizing more Mexico-friendly policies. Decriminalizing all drugs in the U.S. would go far to help Mexico end the drug war once and for all. Drug addiction could finally be treated as a public health issue, as opposed to a militaristic one, which is ironically the very stance that ex-Mexican Presidents Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo now support and favor. More than just that is needed, however, and in general, more independence from the U.S. would likely in turn serve to lessen the imperialistic pressures to which Mexico has long been and continues to be subjected.

In respect to the drug war, the price has been quite high for agreeing to fight the U.S.’s war: up to 120,000 Mexican civilians were estimated to have been killed during the Calderon administration alone. And with the recent student massacre, it is now clearer than ever that the Pena Nieto administration too is as embroiled as Mexico has ever been with narco-state politics and corruption. Sad, but true, is that even a century later the revolutionary saying “so close to the United States, but so far away from God” remains relevant to contemporary U.S.-Mexico politics.

Ya Me Cansé – By: Adam Goodman

Adam Goodman is a Miller Center National Fellow and PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. Find more of his writing at http://adamsigoodman.com, and follow him on Twitter at @adamsigoodman.

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Photo Courtesy: adamsigoodman.com

Ya Me Cansé

Last Friday Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam announced at a press conference that officials believe they have found the remains of the 43 normalistas from Ayotzinapa.

The basic story the government has put forth is that police turned the students over to Guerreros Unidos, a local drug gang with ties to the former mayor of Iguala and his wife (who officials recently apprehended). Members of Guerreros Unidos killed the students, chopped up their bodies, added branches and trash to the pile, and then doused it in gasoline and set it aflame. They kept the fire burning for more than twelve hours, until all that remained was ash, some teeth that “turned to powder” when touched, and some bone fragments. Three of the men who supposedly carried out this heinous, unthinkable crime provided information that helped authorities recover black plastic garbage bags filled with human remains.

It is not yet clear whether or not the remains in those bags are those of the 43 normalistas. The students’ families do not believe the government–with good reason, based on history and how the investigation has gone thus far–and demand proof. (A special lab in Austria is supposed to test the remains in hopes of providing a conclusive answer.)

At Friday’s press conference journalists peppered Murillo Karam with questions about the government’s latest story about what happened to the 43 normalistas. A weary Murillo Karam, hunched over the podium, answered some questions, but was dismissive of many others, and finally, in an attempt to cut the press conference short, said, “Ya me cansé.” (Enough, I’m tired.)

Mexican citizens and others responded immediately, with outrage, on social media and in the streets. People on Twitter used the #YaMeCansé hashtag to share what they are tired of: corrupt government, impunity, indifference, inept politicians, complicit media outlets, violence, poverty, inequality, the failed Mexican state … the list goes on, and on, and on. And last night, outside the Procuraduría General de la República (Murillo Karam’s office), someone painted “#YaMeCanse Del Miedo.” (I’m tired of being afraid.)

Murillo Karam may be tired, but many questions remain, and it is his job as Attorney General to answer them. He, along with Mexican and US officials–including President Peña Nieto and President Obama, need to be held accountable. The families of the 43 normalistas demand and deserve answers. The Mexican people demand and deserve answers. Concerned people around the world demand and deserve answers.

I demand answers to the following questions:

  • What happened to the 43 normalistas is obviously not an isolated incident, nor a lone act committed by a few “monstrous” individuals. There are the 72 migrants killed in the San Fernando Massacre of 2010, the unsolved murders of dozens of journalists, and all of the bodies that have turned up in mass graves while searching for the normalistas–just to name a few examples. On Friday Murrillo Karam denied this was a state crime, but the state — we must not forget the 71 years of continuous PRI rule in the 20th century and the party’s return to power in 2012 — has played an important role in creating the political culture where something like this can happen; in creating a Mexico in which corruption runs deep through all levels of government and impunity reigns. It’s hard to imagine a Mexico free of corruption and impunity, but maybe things can improve. What concrete actions does the Mexican government need to take to make things better to the point where it would make a difference, and to ensure nothing like Ayotzinapa ever happens again?
  • The drug war implemented under former Mexican President Felipe Calderón–with the support of the United States through the Merida Initiative–has unquestionably failed, with disastrous consequences for the Mexican people. More than 100,000 have been killed and, in addition to the 43 normalistas, an estimated 22,000 or more have been disappeared. Up until Ayotzinapa, the current Peña Nieto administration has ignored the drug war and focused on promoting Mexico as an economic success story instead. This, of course, has done nothing to reduce or eliminate the ongoing violence and killings. But ignoring a problem does not make it disappear; even though the drug war failed, pretending it does not still exist is no solution. So what’s the way forward? Given the US’s involvement in creating the situation in the first place — by providing a market for drugs north of the border, sending guns south of the border, and funding the drug war through the Merida Initiative — what role should it and the rest of the international community play, and what responsibility does it have, in forging the way ahead?

I hope you’ll add your questions, in Spanish or English, in the comments section below. We demand answers. We deserve answers.

Q & A with Guillermo Jimenez

Guillermo Jimenez is the owner of Brush Fire Media and tracesofreality.com as well as host of Demanufacturing Consent, an exclusive weekly podcast on Boiling Frogs Post. In 2012 he served as a National Delegate for Ron Paul and is involved in grassroots activism. Follow him @tracesofreality

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Interview by Virginia Isaad

In your bio you state that TOR is an “educational tool to inform others of the dangers of the expanding national security state and threats to our civil liberties.” How do you frame your coverage of the violence in Mexico with this in mind?

Young people in the United States, and to some extent throughout the world, should keep in mind that before there was a “war on terror” there was a war on drugs. The expansion of the national security state, and the subsequent loss of liberty, can be directly attributed to government policies associated with the drug war.

My approach to most issues, including the drug war violence in Mexico, usually begins with two questions in mind: how is my (the US) government involved, and how is this a threat to civil liberties?

US involvement in Mexico’s drug war, both directly and indirectly, is well documented, though perhaps not well understood. TOR Contributing Editor Danny Benavides coined the term “narconoia” — the fear of “narco-terrorism,” or more broadly speaking, the fear of the illicit drug market and those who trade within it. We believe this to be the pretense through which civil liberties have been attacked in the United States for generations.

In one article, you mention the capture of El Chapo as a PR stunt. How much of what is written about the Mexican drug war in U.S. media is, in your opinion, accurately representing what’s happening in Mexico?

It’s important to note that we at TOR were not the only ones to describe El Chapo’s capture as a publicity stunt by the Peña Nieto administration. Former DEA agents Hector Berrellez, Phil Jordan, and Cele Castillo have all expressed similar doubts about the Mexican government’s account of Chapo’s arrest. Berrellez, in fact, told Narco News that the whole thing was “arranged,” according to his sources.

As for the US media’s coverage of the Mexican drug war, I think it varies. Most traditional US media outlets make the mistake of framing the issue in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys.” They do their readers a disservice by not explaining how these “bad guys” came to power, and how a corrupt government and financial system enables them.

 

What do you think is the root of the problems in Mexico? Why? What, if any, are some solutions?

The drug war violence in Mexico results from a combination of state-imposed prohibitions on drugs and migration, government corruption, and US intervention.

Drug prohibition creates the black market. Without it, we would not be having this discussion right now. Wherever there is a black market, there are, of course, huge profits to be made. This is also a breeding ground for violence and corruption. Once the violence reaches a tipping point, as it has in Mexico, limits on migration make it difficult for people to flee and seek refuge elsewhere, namely the United States.

US intervention has also played a role in Mexico’s problems, as it has in so many other places around the world. Whether it’s “above board” cooperation through the Merida Initiative, or a history of covert action by the CIA, FBI, DEA, ICE, etc., the United States has in many ways exacerbated —  and even directly caused — Mexico’s drug war related problems.

In other words, the problems are systemic. It does not matter how many drug lords the authorities catch, or how many drug shipments are taken off the street, the problems will continue for as long as the system remains intact.

While long-lasting solutions will be as complex as the problems themselves, part of that solution must be a shift in drug policy. In short, end the drug war, and end prohibition. Of course, this alone does not fix everything that is wrong in either Mexico or the United States, but it is undeniable  that an end to the war on drugs would have a significant, beneficial effect in the daily lives of millions of people living on either side of the Rio Grande.

What would you like the public to know about the drug war in Mexico that is not often talked about, if at all?

As mentioned previously, the public deserves to know about the relationship between drug cartels, big business, the banking system, and high levels of government. It cannot be reduced to simply “bad guys” trying to control turf to make money.

The public deserves to know how the CIA, for example, had a working relationship with the leaders of the Guadalajara Cartel, including the recently freed Rafael Caro Quintero, during the 1980s. The public needs to know that, according to our own DEA and CIA contractor Tosh Plumlee, the agency used Quintero’s ranch land in Veracruz not only to train Guatemalan guerrilla fighters, but as a point of contact to fly plane loads of Colombian cocaine back into the United States.

They should know that when DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena came close to exposing this scheme, CIA-connected narcos captured, tortured, and killed him. The fallout from Camarena’s murder led to the collapse of the Guadalajara Cartel, which then splintered and gave rise to the modern-day Sinaloa, Juarez, and Gulf cartels.

It was this same US government intervention in the 1980s, training Guatemalan death squads to fight its dirty wars in Latin America, that later led to the rise of Los Zetas. Many of the founding members of Los Zetas have their roots in the US-trained Guatemalan “special forces” unit, the Kaibiles.

This is all largely forgotten history, but necessary to understand the modern-day drug war in Mexico in its proper context. The UN believes the drug trade generates roughly US$400 billion on the international market, which in my opinion is a conservative estimate. With so much money involved, it goes well beyond which cartel controls what part of Mexico. Any significant interruption to this market threatens global economies, and the banks that finance those economies. It would be incredibly naive to think there aren’t powerful forces involved who have a  vested interest in maintaining this status quo.

What do you think has been a pivotal turning point in the drug war in Mexico and how does your opinion of this event differ from the mainstream narrative?

Undoubtedly, the Felipe Calderon administration’s escalation and militarization of the Mexican drug war in 2007 was a crucial turning point in recent history. However, at this point, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who does not recognize this for the absolute disaster that it was.

More recently, the rise of the autodefensa movement in Mexico’s southern states has been a remarkable development. The mainstream narrative is, of course, to depict the autodefensas as “vigilantes,” “rebels,” and potentially dangerous — perhaps even as dangerous as the cartels themselves.

However, if it were not for the Mexican government’s ineptness and complicity in its drug war madness, there would have been no reason for small groups of ordinary citizens to band together in an effort to rid their communities of their criminal element. The autodefensas are not without their problems, no doubt, and recent developments show how the Mexican government has tried (and in many ways succeeded) to infiltrate, co-opt, and delegitimize the movement.

But if nothing else, the autodefensas are a powerful symbol of Mexico’s failed institutions, and the failure of US-Mexico drug policy in general.

Looking forward, there are potentially major shifts on the horizon, especially with regard to marijuana legalization and changes in societal/cultural norms with regard to drugs. When the United States eventually legalizes marijuana nationwide — and all signs indicate that it eventually will — it will be interesting to see how this affects Mexico’s drug policy. The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington has already caused tension with the Mexican government. As more US states follow suit, Mexico’s prohibition on marijuana and its  military campaign against those who traffic in it, will become politically untenable.

My concern is that this momentum likely stops with just marijuana legalization, and this would be a mistake.  As I mentioned earlier, this doesn’t end until we put a stop to prohibition entirely. For as long as we allow the black market to exist, criminals will continue to thrive and the body count will keep rising. An end to prohibition is the only way forward.

Mexico security officials likely conspired in massacre: state government…Reuters

Many articles now in the international press on the killings / disappearances of more than 40 students near Iguala in the state of Guerrero.
This Reuters piece seems to be the clearest statement yet (at least in English) of the obvious involvement of the Mexican state (both Guerrero state and national) officials’ involvement in the killings and in the cover-up. Not a very good cover-up.
Still, I continue to be amazed at the tortuous attempts by international reporters to deal with the fact that Mexican officials constantly lie about who is doing the killing and why. Why does anyone believe the government when they claim “narcos” did this? It seems much more likely (Occam’s razor?) that government created paramilitaries did the killings.
If we ever have accurate homicide data for Mexico (unlikely) we will find that the actual numbers of dead are probably at least twice what the government says. Even the official statistics now are approaching 200,000 since 2007, not the 100,000 mentioned in this article. Though, this is an advance over the more frequently cited “more than 80,000…” or variations on that number… molly

Mexico security officials likely conspired in massacre: state government (Reuters)

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

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.

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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?

Homeland Security Reissues Immigrant Asylum Rules…AP & LA Times

It looks as if the USCIS (US Immigration and Citizenship Services) wants asylum officers who hear initial claims of credible fear to allow people to stay in the US only if they have a significant possibility of winning when they do eventually have a hearing before an immigration judge. It looks as if this could the kind of change that immigration lawyers warned of when the large groups of people organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance began to cross the border en masse and ask for asylum.  But the effect will most likely be to make it even more difficult for genuine asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution in Mexico and Central America to even have a hearing before a judge. The articles mention 36,000 credible fear claims in 2013, but I do not think the articles mention how few are actually granted in court already. Fewer than 5 percent for people from Mexico and Central America.   In many jurisdictions, the asylum caseloads are so heavy that hearings may be scheduled years ahead. This rule change is a way to cut the caseload, thus denying the asylum seekers their chance to have a full hearing on their cases. The LATimes story is below.

Click here for the AP story: Homeland Security Reissues Immigrant Asylum Rules

Click here for the LA Times article: Immigration Officials Raise The Bar On Asylum Interview Process

Reportan Hallazgo De Tres Narcofosas En Acapulco

Reportan Hallazgo De Tres Narcofosas En Acapulco

(El Diario De JUÁREZ)

Acapulco, Guerrero ─ En la zona conurbada del puerto de Acapulco se reportó la ubicación de al menos tres fosas clandestinas con cinco cuerpos, tres de los cuales ya han sido exhumados por personal de la Procuraduría General de Justicia, Protección Civil y de los Servicios Periciales.

“Hemos encontrado tres cuerpos, dos hombres y una mujer, que presentan un avanzado estado de descomposición; y nos encontramos en la colonia Jacarandas parte alta, muy cerca de un arroyo, en la zona conurbada del puerto de Acapulco.

“Las tres fosas se encuentran a una distancia de entre tres y 15 metros cada una, a una profundidad de un metro o metro y medio”, confirmó personal del Ministerio Público de la colonia Emiliano Zapata.

Según los primeros informes los restos humanos tienen aproximadamente diez días y los cuerpos presentan un avanzado estado de descomposición y hasta el momento no se aprecian disparos.

El reporte del hallazgo de las tres fosas clandestinas, ocurrió por la mañana al filo de las nueve horas y se envió a través del Servicio de Emergencia del 066, aunque fue hasta pasado el mediodía en que autoridades de los tres niveles de gobierno localizaron las tumbas.