October 21, 2005

Liberty and Justice For All Forum: United States Immigration Policy Reform

By Luis Alonso Pérez

As America’s immigration situation grows more complicated, the need for discussions and reflection about current immigration policies is vital.

In order to address these important topics and search for a viable solution, activists and human rights defenders put together the forum “Liberty and Justice for All: United States immigration Policy Reform”. The third forum of this type, which consisted in conferences, testimonials, discussion panels, workshops and other activities related with migration, from Thursday October 13th to Sunday 16th.

The first event took place in USD’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, with a heartbreaking testimony from Mr. Cesario Dominguez, who came all the way from the state of Zacatecas to talk about the tragic death of his daughter Lucresia in the desert of Arizona, while attempting to cross the border with her 15 year old son Jesus and 7 year old daughter Nora.

During Mr. Dominguez’s search for her daughter’s body, he found the remains of three other people who had not been reported by the Border Patrol, which causes uncertainty over the official number of deaths since the beginning of Operation Gatekeeper. “We believe that more than 3,600 people have died, maybe up to 10 thousand may have died during the last eleven years” said Enrique Morones of the Border Angels, one of the main organizing groups.

After Mr. Dominguez, Mauricio Farah –the fifth commissioner for Mexico’s Human Rights Commission– talked about the constant human rights violations in the border, mostly caused by Operation Gatekeeper, which, according to Mr. Farah, has proven it’s inefficiency in containing immigration, because around 40% of undocumented Mexicans currently living in the United States entered the country during the last 10 years.

During his participation Mauricio Farah mentioned that Senator Kennedy’s Congress proposal could favor migrant’s human right, even if it isn’t exactly what Mexicans would like to see in the American legislation.

“We must realize that a person’s migratory condition doesn’t strip him from his human rights. Human rights are not made of paper” stated Farah.

On Friday the 14th the movie “Dying to live” was screened, followed by a discussion panel about this problem, with the participation of the Border Patrol chief, an immigrant woman, a California agricultural grower, a human rights activist and the leader of the anti-immigrant vigilante group currently patrolling the San Diego area.

On that afternoon there was a talk with Senator Bill Morrow and Congressman Bob Filner, who said that as a Jew, he could see the same racist postures and ethnical attacks his people suffered in the past century, the only thing you have to do is switch the word Jew for Latin.

On Saturday 15th there was a workshop on the spiritual values of the work being done by the immigrant human right defending groups, led by Sister Barbara Queen from the University of San Diego.

After that, a group of students and volunteers accompanied members of the Border Angels to east side of the San Diego county desert, to place water containers in the common immigrant crossing points.

The event concluded on Sunday 16th, with a mass celebrated in Border Field Park and Playas de Tijuana, with the participation of families and activists from both sides of the border.

“Sadly we have to continue with this type of forums” said Enrique Morones “until we make the United States change their immigration policies so people quit dying while crossing the border. We don’t want to see a single person dying anymore.”

Return to the Frontpage