Sunday, May 1, 2016

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez, a Salvadoran journalist, has published two books on Central America. One follows the migrants going north (The Beast). The other, recently published, lays out the quality of violence in Central America (A History of Violence)

From the Beast:
Another half an hour passes, and we’ve left the dust path for the scrubland of a private ranch. We approach the front door of a small ranch house where a man, the first person we’ve encountered on our walk, is listening to a boom box at full volume. We wave to get his attention, and ask if we’re on the right path to the river. “Yeah,” he answers. “Straight ahead. But be careful. Last week some bandits murdered a migrant and his coyote right around here.” This is a crossing point for those in the know, the path for coyotes and migrants with patience, but it’s also far out of the city and a perfect location for assaults. In 2005, walking this same path, Julio César and his coyote were attacked by two masked men who acted as if they were back in La Arrocera: they stripped them both naked, looking for money even in the folds of their underwear. Further down the path we enter onto another ranch. We’re all very thirsty. But instead of finding a rest and some water, we see eight soldiers, all of them holding AR-15 assault rifles, watching us suspiciously from the ranch house. They approach and order us to identify ourselves. They ask for papers and search our bags. They know Julio César is undocumented, but in Mexico a soldier doesn’t have the right to detain a migrant. They also know we’re journalists. “Excuse us,” one of them says meekly. “We’re out looking for drugs. A lot pass through here.” As they let us go, the same soldier warns us: “Don’t go down by the river. That’s where people are getting mugged.”

Martinez, Oscar (2013-10-08). The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail (pp. 265-266). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

We jump in. The water is cold. In the middle of the river there’s a small island, so we can take a short break. In the deepest part the water reaches up to our necks, making it difficult to move forward. It’s incredible that this is the famous Rio Grande, which has taken so many lives, and yet in crossing it we never lose our footing and, in the end, it only takes a few minutes.

Martinez, Oscar (2013-10-08). The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail (pp. 266-267). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security Mayorkas

Feb. 20, 2014
Tom Hargis, Director of Communications, ACLU of Texas, 832.291.4776; Ricardo Favela, Communications Director, SBCC, 760.659.3620;

DHS Deputy Secretary Meets with Civil and Human Rights Advocates in Rio Grande Valley

Advocates Portray Effects of Militarization on Border Communities, Promote Greater Oversight, Accountability for Border Agents

McAllen Nearly 20 civil and human rights advocates in the Lower Rio Grande Valley met in an off-the- record meeting with the Deputy Secretary of the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) yesterday and pushed for greater oversight and accountability for federal agents operating along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, along with another representative from DHS and two from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), heard first-hand accounts of the detrimental and harmful effects on border communities of increased militarization and excessive use of force by federal agents in the name of border security. The CBP is an arm of DHS.

“Border policy must improve accountability and oversight out of respect for the 15 million border residents who call this region home,” said Astrid Dominguez, advocacy coordinator with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, which recently filed two, separate suits against border agents for excessive use of force against a Brownsville resident and invasive cavity searches of a New Mexico resident. We are delighted that Deputy Secretary Mayorkas listened to our concerns and expressed interest in a constructive dialogue moving forward.

“The border is more than a line, it is a region that is home to families and businesses, it is a cornerstone of our economy, and it is a vibrant, sacred, and unique space that must be valued as a whole,said Michael Seifert with the Equal Voice Network. “Border communities want revitalization, not militarization.”
The federal government spends $18 billion a year on border security, more than on the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals, DEA, and secret service combined.

The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) helped coordinate and broker the meeting with DHS, which included representatives from the ACLU of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, and others. SBCC brings together more than 60 organizations from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to ensure that border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, respect human dignity and human rights, and prevent the loss of life in the region.