Thursday, July 18, 2013

Protesting border 'militarization': 250 in El Paso march against surge in immigration reform bill

El Paso Times July 18, 2013 by Lorena Figueroa About 250 border residents as well as community and religious leaders rallied Wednesday in El Paso to protest against what they call the "militarization" of the U.S.-Mexico border under the proposed immigration reform bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives. The protest coincided with other similar actions in at least 10 cities around the country, including Washington, D.C., Tucson, San Francisco, Houston, Las Vegas, Austin, Milwaukee and San Diego. Locally, supporters and members of the Border Network for Human Rights and representatives of other civic and religious groups gathered at Cleveland Square Park, located at Franklin and El Paso streets. They marched to the Chihuahuita neighborhood, where they rallied against the increases in border security as part of a "tradeoff" for legalizing fewer than 8 million undocumented people. They said the measure crucifies the poor and border cities by promoting fear of immigrants and responding to that fear with military force. For a while the protest was at risk of being canceled as police arrived to the park and asked protesters do disperse. Lt. Frank Hernández, from the Special Operations Sections of the El Paso Police Department, explained that organizers failed to secure proper city permits to hold the march and conduct picketing. He said organizers waited until Friday afternoon to apply for the permits, instead of doing it at least two weeks prior to the event. "They know the protocols. We have been in three or four events with them," said Hernández, who added that more than 20 officers were on duty to safeguard the protest.Ê Protesters were told to walk on the sidewalk and obey traffic laws to avoid arrests or citations. However, during the march, a dozen protesters chanting "somos frontera, no zona de guerra" (we are the border, not a war zone) blocked the intersection of El Paso and Father Rahm streets for a couple of minutes. Six of them got citations. Bertha Meléndez said she didn't understand why she got fined when she only executed her right of freedom of speech. Protesters reject the border surge proposed in the amendment that recently passed in the Senate and now is pending in the House of Representatives. The amendment proposes adding 20,000 Border Patrol agents to the 21,000 currently deployed and building 700 additional miles of border fence. It also proposes spending $46 billion on surveillance and technology at the border, which members of the border network considered as unnecessary. "Immigration reform does not mean more drones, more walls, more helicopters or checks to the Department of Defense and military contractors," said Christina Parker, of the border network. "We are the only place in the world where we are militarizing the border between two allied countries that are not even in conflict," she added. Monsignor Arturo Bañuelas, of St. Pius X Catholic Church, said that making the border look like a war zone betrays the uniqueness of the border cities. "Over seven million people on this side of the border and over nine million on the other side of the border live in peace and harmony because we are family and we are not afraid of each other," he said. Arturo Carmona, executive director of, said the immigration reform bill has gone "in the wrong direction and has crossed the line.", the largest online Latino advocacy organization in the nation, helped with the protest in El Paso and organized similar actions in other parts of the country. "At the beginning of the debate, the bill was bad, but we were able to swallow the pill because it promised the legalization of 11 million undocumented people. But just in a few weeks, the bill changed in to one of extreme militarization, that is willing to legalize only half of the undocumented. We cannot keep supporting it," Carmona said.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I agree with the protestors, I have family through my husbands side in Chuaua as well, so it makes no sense that the US is trying to make a police state of border cities. I just moved here from Seattle, I was not sure what I was going to find when I did but this town, and this area which to me inclues Juarez because we are closer here than we are to the state border of New Mexico. I wonder too if one of the more hidden and nefarious reasons why this push is to also keep Americans INSIDE the border???