The message below went out on Friday, March 30, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
A year ago this March, Carlos Reynaldo Lamadrid Guerrero was shot and killed by the U.S. Border Patrol. We honored his memory by marching from the home of Carlos’ mother to the place where the Border Patrol murdered this young U.S. citizen. We continue to mourn the loss of our brother and stand with his family, which has received no answers for his senseless death. Sadly, stories like Carlos’ are all too common; our organization, No More Deaths, continues to document these human rights violations every day.
Thankfully, the movement for Border Patrol accountability continues to grow. Thousands of you have signed petitions to the Obama Administration and Department of Homeland Security urging an end to the ongoing abuse of migrants in Border Patrol. I’m glad to say that together, we are making progress.
A few weeks ago Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher testified before Congress, and stated that complaints of misconduct are turned over to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for investigation. During this hearing, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) suggested that the documentation groups like No More Deaths perform might reflect “series of deeply troubling abuses.” While OIG investigation is a positive step, true accountability for the Border Patrol demands independent oversight of the agency from outside the Department of Homeland Security, where Border Patrol is housed. The first step? Letting human rights organizations in to the Border Patrol’s detention centers.
Please contact Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano today and tell her how important it is to give human rights advocates access to Border Patrol facilities. It is the only way to begin to change the Border Patrol’s culture of cruelty.
Earlier this week, I testified with a colleague from No More Deaths before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a respected international human rights body. We presented the thousands of abuses documented in our report, “A Culture of Cruelty,” showing the Commissioners how rogue an agency the Border Patrol is. We made the case for human rights advocates to monitor detention conditions, and urged the IACHR to conduct its own independent investigation into the situation for migrants detained and deported at the U.S. Southwest border.
Together, we can create the public and political will necessary to protect the basic human rights and dignity of all migrants, beginning with advocate access into Border Patrol detention centers.
No More Deaths and our allies along the border are going to keep documenting the abuses we see every day: the separation of families, mistreatment in detention, and the Border Patrol’s continued impunity. Together, we must work to ensure that none of these abuses get swept under the rug. Families like Carlos’ are depending on us.
Thanks for everything you do to help bring justice home,
No More Deaths Volunteer
Co-Author, “A Culture of Cruelty”
This post was written by Jesse Jaeger, the Executive Director of UU Mass Action.
Where’s the love? Where’s the redemption?
I am not Trayvon Martin. I did, as a teenager however, have an interaction with a local neighborhood watch that ended very differently because I am white and middle class.
When I was 14 years old, a friend and I snuck out of his parents house in the middle of the night with a 12-pack of stolen beer and a desire to be up to no good. That 12-pack got us good and drunk and we ended up in the parking lot of a local grocery store at about 3 in the morning. It was at that point that I thought it would be a good idea to light a stack of newspapers on fire.
Some local neighborhood watch types saw us, chased us down, and held us until the police showed up. Our parents were called, we ended up in juvenile court, and were sentenced to 8 weekends worth of cleaning up garbage in the parking lot of the grocery store where we lit the papers on fire.
When I look back on this experience all I can think is how lucky I was:
…Lucky because that fire only left a scorch-mark on the side of the building and did not cause any real harm to anyone.
…Lucky because that arrest (my third that year) galvanized my parents to take me and my brother to a Unitarian Universalist church, forever changing my path.
…Lucky because I happened to have been born white and middle class and the act of lighting that fire was seen by the police and neighborhood watch as knucklehead teenage behavior and not something more sinister.
As more details come out of Sanford, Florida, I have repeatedly asked myself, if I were Trayvon Martin, would I even be alive right now? The truth is that if any one of those pieces of luck had gone the other way my life could have been a whole lot different.
Where would I be right now if instead of a scorch mark the building had caught fire and someone was hurt or killed?
Where would I be right now if instead of having parents who cared and started me going to church I was left to my own devices to continue down my path of escalating criminal activity?
Where would I be right now if instead of being white and middle class I was black and/or poor and out in the middle of the night being up to some knucklehead no good? What would have happened to me that night?
The truth is that our graveyards and our prisons are full of mostly young black men who can answer those questions. Our graveyards are full of young black men who have run afoul of the police while either minding their own business–like Trayvon–or being engaged in some knucklehead teenage behavior. They have been shot and killed because they are seen as somehow more sinister or threatening than a white boy. Our prisons are full of people whose luck fell the wrong way or who have made a couple bad decisions and are now serving exceedingly long prison sentences because of mandatory sentencing laws.
When I compare my experience with what happened to Trayvon Martin, I can see more clearly why mandatory sentencing and “3 Strikes” laws are so dangerous. With Trayvon, you have a young man who has committed no crime but who ends up paying the ultimate penalty purely because he is a young black man. I, on the other hand, was offered the chance of redemption because I carry the privileges that go along with being white and middle class. As a young white boy, I was given the benefit of doubt. Young black men are not given that same chance and that is why they are so disproportionally represented in our prison system.
Our Christian Universalist heritage teaches us that all are held in god’s love and everyone gets a chance at redemption. But when young black men are shot and killed for no other reason than for being black; where is the love? When people are sentenced to ever-lengthening prison sentences, sometimes with no chance for parole, where is the redemption?
In Massachusetts, we are fighting against at “3 Strikes” Bill that will dramatically increase the number of crimes that will qualify for life in prison with no chance of parole. UU Mass Action and Unitarian Universalists across the state are lifting up our voices and saying that everyone is held in god’s love and everyone deserves the chance for redemption.
If you live in Massachusetts, join us in stopping this bill by taking the redemption pledge. Find out more at http://uumassaction.org/redemptionpledge. If you live outside of Massachusetts learn more about prisons and prison ministries at the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s Prison Ministry, black and pink, Partakers, and the Prison Activist Resource Center.More >
Dear Unitarian Universalists of the Greater Washington Region,
We write to you today as the parents of African American sons, to invite you to join us for a “Rally for Justice for Trayvon Martin.” The rally takes place this Saturday March 31st at noon at Judiciary Square in Washington, DC. (See below for more details.)
Trayvon Martin’s death awakened in us a nightmare that many parents of children of color face: the fear that our children’s lives will be imperiled simply because the color of their skin renders them “suspicious” in the eyes of the world.
Even if you’re not the parent of a child of color, we all love a child who looks like Trayvon Martin—whether they’re our students, neighbors, friends….or fellow Unitarian Universalists.
Many of us have observed that the children in our Unitarian Universalist religious education programs are more racially diverse than the adults in our pews. At All Souls Church in Washington, for example, over 40% of our children identify as non-white, while 23% of our adults do. More and more, the children of Unitarian Universalism look like Trayvon Martin. And to seek justice for Trayvon is to seek justice for all of our children.
So please join us this Saturday in Washington…and don’t forget to wear your hoodie!
Standing with you on the side of love,
The Rev. John Crestwell and the Rev. Robert Hardies
Details about the Rally for Justice for Trayvon Martin:
What: Rally for Justice for Trayvon Martin
When: Saturday March 31st at 12 noon
Where: Judiciary Square, at the corner of 5th and F Streets, Northwest, Washington, DC (Look for UU Church Banners)
Who: All who seek justice for Trayvon Martin and for all our children
Attire: Wear a hoodie, or dress in black. Bring your church banner.
Transport: Judiciary Square is located on the Red Line, one stop from Union Station.
Twenty-one years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted, people with disabilities could once again see their rights rolled back. A landmark provision of the ADA is slated to go into effect requiring all public accommodations with swimming pools, spas and wading pools to have permanent disability access, either via a lift or a ramp.
This week, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) urged the Senate to exclude pools from the ADA’s requirement for accessible public accommodations. Opponents of this provision of the ADA, such as Senator DeMint, argue that lifts cost too much for businesses and are are an eye sore.
But swimming pools are not a luxury, they are an integral part of American life. Every family deserves a chance to enjoy vacations together without leaving a child, spouse, or parent behind just because they are differently abled. People with disabilities must have the same rights as everyone else and backtracking on the ADA, or the civil rights of any group, is never acceptable.
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is urging everyone to communicate with their members of Congress about this issue. Swimming pools must be included in the ADA. Please send a note urging your legislators to speak out for fully accessible accommodations. If you don’t know who your members of Congress are, you can find out here.
The ADA was signed into law in 1990. This means business owners with swimming pools have had 22 years to comply with the law. The final regulation language and accessibility standards for swimming pools have been out since September 2010, so pool owners have had 18 months to comply with the specific requirements. Additionally, the regulations are subject to an “undue burden” defense, so any hotel or pool owner that cannot afford to come into compliance will not be required to do so immediately.
While it appears that members of Congress have dropped the issue for now, it is still vital that we speak out for disability rights. The business community continues to push back on these important regulations. In addition to contacting your members of Congress, please call or email the hotel or resort that you visit for business or pleasure—or one that you wish you could visit. Let them know that people with disabilities are here and are customers or potential customers. In the words of AAPD President Mark Perriello, “It’s time for the hospitality industry to show hospitality to everyone.”More >
Rights Groups Demand Accountability & Transparency from Border Patrol Following Release of Report Detailing Mistreatment
March 26, 2012
CONTACT: Adam Aguirre, (520) 240-1641
Jennifer Podkul, (202) 415-5666
Rights Groups Demand Accountability and Transparency from the U.S. Border Patrol Following Release of Report Detailing Widespread Mistreatment
Three Groups to Testify before Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Human rights groups No More Deaths, the ACLU of New Mexico – Regional Center for Border Rights, the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, the Women’s Refugee Commission, Rights Working Group and the National Immigration Forum have been granted a hearing by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) about human rights violations against migrants detained and repatriated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Three of these groups will present testimony tomorrow before the IACHR. Established by the United States and all countries in the Western hemisphere in 1959, the IACHR is authorized to examine allegations of human rights violations by any member country. The hearing will take place at 9:00 a.m. in the offices of the IACHR at 1889 F Street, NW, Washington, D.C. on Tuesday March 27th. The U.S. government will send representatives to respond to the allegations.
The hearing follows six years of interviews and documentation work by No More Deaths, a humanitarian and advocacy organization based on the Arizona-Mexico border. This work has included nearly 15,000 interviews with recent deportees who had experienced abusive conditions while in custody. No More Deaths’ most recent report, A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody, published in September 2011, included the following findings, consistent with those of other civil society organizations working in the region:
• 11,384 reports of inadequate access to food;
• Children were more likely to be denied water than adults;
• 374 cases of individuals being repatriated without needed emergency medical care or
• Coercion into signing legal documents;
• Practices that put vulnerable migrants in harm’s way: dividing families and repatriating vulnerable populations, including children or pregnant women, in the middle of the night;
• Unsanitary and inhumane processing center conditions;
• Reports of verbal, physical and psychological abuse.
In addition to these cases of abuse and mistreatment, the report documents serious structural shortcomings in U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) internal oversight mechanisms, resulting in a widespread culture of impunity in which abusive behavior goes unpunished and uncorrected. Petitioners have identified violations of repatriation agreements between the U.S. and Mexico that put vulnerable migrants at risk.
“Not only is the U.S. government failing to adequately screen for asylum seekers and trafficked children, it is failing to meaningfully engage with civil society to work on addressing these violations of U.S. and international law,” said Jennifer Podkul, program officer, Women’s Refugee Commission.
The U.S. Border Patrol has refused to release complete versions of existing detention policies or to allow civil society organizations access to the facilities to monitor conditions. Efforts to use existing oversight mechanisms have been similarly unproductive, in part due to the fact that all are internal to DHS.
“Current complaint processes are difficult to navigate and lack transparency, providing little to no information regarding allegations of abuse,” said Danielle Alvarado of No More Deaths and co-author of A Culture of Cruelty. “This reflects DHS’ limited ability to meaningfully address systemic, abusive Border Patrol practices.”
Some of the dangerous and abusive U.S. Border Patrol practices documented by these groups violate existing repatriation agreements between the governments of the United States and Mexico; other practices fail to comply with asylum and trafficking screening requirements set forth in domestic and international law, including the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization of 2008, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Stated Alvarado, “The Border Patrol blatantly disregards its own policies regarding the treatment of those in their custody, and existing oversight mechanisms have proven unable to prevent abuse. It is clear that the Department of Homeland Security cannot be trusted to police itself. We need independent oversight with the participation of civil society human rights observers if we want to actualMore >