'Los Angeles is Burning': Lives on the Murder Wind

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"Los Angeles is Burning" - Bad Religion

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning

Palm trees are candles in the murder wind
 
So many lives are on the breeze

Even the stars are ill at ease
 
And Los Angeles is burning

(Picture from NASA)
(Rest of the Lyrics)

It's strange.  Of all the recent happenings in Southern California and around the U.S., wildfire probably make the most sense.

While seven fires continue to tear through thousands of homes on the West Coast, Boston Red Sox fans are doing the "Papelbon Jig" on the helmets of riot police on the East Coast.  That's O.K. though, because a columnist in this morning's Boston Metro writes "let it burn" of the California wildfires.  Meanwhile, Governor Spitzer is back-pedaling on his heroic drivers' license stance and Tom Tancredo is retiring (tip JTD).  Compared to all of this, wildfire is sanity.

(Picture taken by Lisa Hornack / Boston Herald)

There's three things I want to convey about the California wildfires: Fire knows no borders and neither do Mexican firefighters, forgotten migrants are the real victims of the wildfires, and anti-migrant hate has reared its head, yet again, in the form of a hurtful fake news article.  I will, of course, finish the post with the best way to help out.

Bomberos Sin Fronteras

As some of the largest fires in California history began to blaze, 60 heroic Mexican firefighters crossed the border from Tijuana and Tecate to help out.  Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports:

"Firefighters are firefighters; it doesn't matter if they're Mexican or American," said Marco Antonio Sanchez Navarro, Director of Tijuana Fire and Civil Protection.

"The fires are taking a lot of homes of not only Americans but Mexicans who live in the US," added Sanchez Navarro...

"The bomberos rock!" said Fire Engineer Wendi Miller of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

"They're hard workers and they're part of our family," said Cal Fire captain Lori Windsor. "You can count on them."

This while anti-migrant advocates regularly insult Mexico and clamor for a border wall. 

I found this story through Nezua at The Unapologetic Mexican, who has been providing some of the best coverage and analysis of the California wildfires.  It's a story that highlights the sort of cooperation and unity that we should be fostering across the globe, and it stands in stark contrast to the division and hate of anti-migrant advocates.  Even more important the AFP story highlights the inequities associated with the collaboration between these firefighters (unlike the AP story).

"It's a new experience," said Luis Jimenez, 29, who 15 years ago began fighting fires in Tijuana as a 14-year-old trainee.

"They (the US firefighters) have a lot of equipment they can use -- water tanks and helicopters -- so they don't put their people on the hot spots.

Mexican firefighters must do more with less equipment and often must do it faster than their US colleagues.

Since virtually all US homes and buildings must have insurance coverage and also fire sprinklers, US firefighters can let structures burn completely to keep a fire from spreading.

But it is less common in Mexico to have insured homes with fire sprinklers, especially wooden houses in poor city districts.

"We have to risk more because if a house in Mexico is burning, that may be the only thing the family has," said Jimenez, explaining that Mexican firefighters must attack a blaze quickly to protect a building.

With no extra pay for their California firefighting work this past week, Tijuana's bomberos earn an annual salary of 13,200 dollars, less than one-third of many US firefighters' entry-level pay.

The difference is seen in their lodging here: American firefighters arriving from outside San Diego County have been staying in hotels while the Mexicans have been in tents near the inmate firefighter area.

The bomberos rest in sleeping bags, not on cots but tent floors. One of the Mexican fire trucks now in San Diego actually was bought used from a US fire department -- a warning at the truck's rear still states, in English, "Keep Back 300 Feet."

Firefighter Adolfo Ibaceta came to Tijuana many years ago from his native Chile, hoping to enter the US. But that dream did not happen so he joined the Tijuana department. Now on American soil, Ibaceta said he volunteered, "for the experience and the technology."

These firefighters represent the inequity that is the root of all the problems associated with migration.  It is lack of opportunity, not lack of security that everyone should be focusing on.  Give migrants the opportunity to stay in their own countries and they will do it gladly.

The Dead,  the Unseen, and the Unheard


Seven people have died as a result of the wildfires.  Four of the dead, of course, were migrants.  Kirk Johnson and Jesse McKinley of the New York Times report that the reason for this out of control disaster is U.S. fire policy:

Mexico has smaller fires that burn out naturally...California has giant ones because its longtime policies of fire suppression.
In essence, four migrants died from out of control fires that resulted because of the U.S. government's policy of protecting wealthy California homes that are increasingly built in the danger zones.  And I haven't even gotten to the unseen.

New America Media has an excellent piece on a whole subset of migrants that are completely ignored in the context of the American Mirage.   No one knows what is happening to them during these fires.  These migrants live in "Majority World U.S.A." and are suffering from poverty that even the poorest in the U.S. have trouble relating to.

It has been estimated that there are more than 1,600 agricultural workers and day laborers living in the area in makeshift settlements, according to the Regional Task Force on the Homeless in San Diego. This is probably a low estimate of those affected by the fires because it is impossible to know exactly how many workers live this way. Described as “rural homeless,” they scrape by without electricity, a water supply, or sanitation systems in order to be close to the farms where they work.
Even worse is that some farmers didn't allow some of these laborers to leave.  This from the New York Times "Glare of the Fires Pulls Migrants from the Shadows":

“There were Mercedeses and Jaguars pulling out, people evacuating, and the migrants were still working,” said Enrique Morones, who takes food and blankets to the immigrants’ camps. “It’s outrageous.”
Though seven have been counted dead, I wouldn't be surprised if more dead migrants are added to that count.  Most of the suffering and death, however, will probably never be counted.  I don't think most people even want to look.

The unheard are the migrants that contribute to U.S. society but don't have a say.  They are the voiceless.  In this environment migrants are susceptible to a lot of harassment.  According to reports from on the ground, there will be checkpoints for those returning from the fires.  From, the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium:

Since Monday, October 22nd, SDIRC members and allies have witnessed and received reports that immigrant evacuees have been forced to work through the evacuations, been ejected from and denied entrance to evacuation centers, been intimidated by law enforcement and minutemen while attempting to access much needed relief supplies and services, been threatened with immigration enforcement, and in at least one instance been apprehended and deported.
In an incident that was reminiscent of Katrina, where black people were "looting" and white people were "finding" supplies, six migrants were arrested for "stealing relief supplies", along with numerous other questionable actions.

Some agents were working alongside local police when six undocumented immigrants were arrested Wednesday outside of Qualcomm Stadium, one of the main fire relief sites.

Those arrested were reportedly seen stealing relief supplies consisting of fold-up cots and bottles of water from Qualcomm. Police Sgt. Jesse Cesena told the San Diego Union-Tribune that "they were stealing from the people in need." The police turned the immigrants over to Border Patrol agents.
The most ironic thing about all of this is that it is migrants that will be rebuilding San Diego.  It's happened time and time again in a cycle of disaster capitalismNew America Media reports:

Ironically, Dr. Leo Estrada, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, believes the undocumented workers shouldn’t worry. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) won’t be conducting raids anytime soon, he says.

In fact, he predicts, immigrant workers will be needed in reconstruction efforts after the fire. More than 410,000 acres of land have burned, and clean-up efforts will be critical. “With more than 1000 homes being demolished,” he notes, “contractors will be looking to immigrant labor forces to demolish, cart away, and rebuild houses.”

“We saw it New Orleans,” says Estrada. Undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America were among the largest groups employed in rebuilding the city after Hurricane Katrina.

“At the time of reconstruction, nobody bothered them. It will be interesting to see,” says Estrada. “They will be bringing back a labor force they have been trying to get rid of.”
All of this and I haven't gotten to the even dastardly anti-migrant incident that I'd like to advertise:

MECHA Misinformation

Last weekend, people started to get a CNN news article in their inboxes bearing the title, "Separatists claim responsibility for California Wildfires".  The news article states that MEChA (Student Chicano Movement of Aztlan) claimed responsibility for starting the fires.  One sentence of the news article that stood out to me was "no suspects have been identified, though they were probably brown."  It wasn't until I came across this blog post that I noticed the URL was spelled cnnheadLIEnews.  I will post the entire article below so as to record it.

The article is down now after heavy opposition I imagine but people were able to pick up that the URL was registered to.

Bleachboy Heavy Manufacturing
701 Arbor Creek Way
Nashville, TN 37217-5053
US
615-260-4931

Administrative Contact
Boy, Bleach bboy@bboy.net
Nashville, TN 37217-5053
US
(615) 260-4931

All of that information is bogus, of course, except for the email address and the phone number.  The phone number goes straight to the voice mail box of Don Moore, and a quick google search of "Don Moore bboy" reveals some of what this character has been up to, although I couldn't find anything to suggest it was anything more than a prank.

Still, it is important to emphasize just how harmful this incident was.  I can't imagine how many people read the article and assumed it was real.  MEChA is not a separatist organization, it is an "organization that seeks to promote Chicano unity and empowerment through education and political action".  Worst of all, it just taps into this climate of fear that keeps getting ratcheted up in the U.S.  I continue to be surprised by anti-migrant hate.

I encourage people to use these forms to urge CNN to act swiftly and harshly against the person who set up this website using these forms:

CNN Headline News
CNN Feedback Form
CNN I-Report News Tips
 
Border Angels Unawares

There are a lot of worthy organizations in Southern California in need of assistance, but I recommend assisting one,  Border Angels, which has been doing good work since 1986 keeping countless migrants from dying (unfortunately not enough).  I've contacted the founder of the organization Enrique Morones and he sent me this quick note:

Thanks we desperately need funds, we are an all volunteer human rights organization...fires have devastated many and the migrant community has been greatly neglected...please send checks to BORDER ANGELS and write fire victims in memo thanks
 
Enrique Morones

Border Angels
P.O. Box 86598
San Diego, CA 92138
www.borderangels.org
(619) 269-7865
I will past the hoax article below:

Separatists claim responsibility for California Wildfires

ORANGE COUNTY, California (CNN) -- Radical Hispanic separatist organization MEChA ("Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan") is taking responsibility for setting the wildfires in California, confimed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
 
Firefighter Luke Perisin sets a backfire Wednesday against the Santiago Fire in Live Oak Canyon, California.
 
California officials received a letter earlier today containing photographs of individuals holding Molotov cocktails, then throwing them into dry brush. The faces of the individuals appeared to have been digitally distorted.
Also included was a rambling manifesto, stating that the reason for the act of arson was that "Aztlán belongs to indigenous people, the Chicanas and Chicanos of Aztlán. We are sovereign and not subject to a foreign culture."
Orange County Fire Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion told CNN that the pattern of wildfires definitely indicates arson.
 
"The reason we think it is [arson] is because we found multiple points of origin," Concepcion said. "... Our investigators have confirmed that this is, in fact, arson."
 
Concepcion said evidence indicated the arsonists wanted the fire to grow rapidly.
 
A $70,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible for setting the fire. No suspects have been identified, though they are probably brown.
 
The state established a toll-free arson tip line at 800-540-7085. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said anyone convicted of arson would be dealt with harshly.


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19 Comments

kyledeb said:

I had a lot of problems with the HTML but I cross-post these on Daily Kos and Blue Mass. Group

Liquidmicro said:

Whats the difference between the MeCHA article (10/25/2004 @7:41 AM) and this article from Craigslist (10/24/2007 @6:17 PM) calling Rund a MM and WS?

http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv/pol/458817778.html

Also, if later removed, the text can be found at this site as well.

http://immigrationmexicanamerican.blogspot.com/2007/10/minutemen-start-california-fir


Where is the outcry about the Craigslist Ad? Why doesn't that one get any attention?

kyledeb said:

I identified the above misinformation because it wasn't on craiglist. It was an actual look-alike CNN article. The two links above don't work and the craigslist post was taken down, but if people fall for the craigslist post that's their own fault.

The problem with the article above is that it looked exactly like it was from CNN, and I even fell for it.

Either way I'm interested to know what your interest in this is.

Man Eegee said:

That's my beef with the HeadLIEnews hooey - they designed it to look just like CNN and even link up to it in many of the links at the top menu.

I've been digging on Don Moore, there's a thread emerging but I need to confirm some more details before I write about it. I'd like to know the point of creating such an inflammatory article.

kyledeb said:

I can't wait to see it Manee. I knew there was digging to be done but I couldn't make heads or tails of lots of the stuff I found on him.

Still, waiting on a response from the first commenter

Liquidmicro said:

BREAKING NEWS: FBI arrests Minuteman White Supremacist for arson (article from Craigs List)


2007-10-24, 6:17PM PDT

FBI just announced they arrested John Alfred Rund, 48, for arson in just one of the fires in Los Angeles. Rund is a known member of the National Socialist Movement and the Minutemen, both known terrorist organizations. The FBI also announced they are looking for multiple arsonist suspects in what is being called the largest terrorist plot to hit California to date. The fires have caused the destruction of at least 1400 homes and so far 3 billion dollars in damages.


This is the Craigslist Ad that was stated. As you can see from the above link (hope it works), the blogger latched on to it and has claimed it as Rund is a MM and WS. She still proclaims it as truth.

As for my take, I think that both of the misleading ads are bogus and do nothing at all for either side. I do think it odd that the CNN one has gotten all the attention while the Craigslist ad got virtually none.

Liquidmicro said:

I'll email you the link so you can post it, doesn't seem to be working for me on your site.

kyledeb said:

I see what you're saying. You're talking about this blog post. I think you have it wrong. The minuteman post has 106 comments on it. Seems to me that's getting a lot of attention there. I appreciate you mentioning it here but I still think a craigslist article does not compare with a site set up to look EXACTLY like CNN, complete with email function and everything.

Liquidmicro said:

Like you stated above, if people fell for the CNN post, it was their own fault. Although it looked like an actual CNN site, and I agree with you, though there were to many discrepancies to it, no author, the 20 minutes ago in the upper left corner never changed, going to any of the sites links took you somewhere else other than a CNN site, the URL was the biggest giveaway, etc.

What ever happened to fact checking a story before someone claims it as FACT? Many bloggers fell for it (on both sides) and claimed it as fact before others commented and explained that it was a false story. I think the post achieved what it was supposed to do, and that is create more controversy over the debate.

It seems now that both sites are gone and no longer able to be viewed. I believe if the perps are ever caught, both should be reprimanded severely.


The bloggers 106 posts are from mainly 3 persons plus the blogger, the 3 were arguing the fact that she has no facts at all, while the blogger kept insisting Rund is a MM and WS, over half of the posts can be contributed to the blogger reiterating her insane comments and linking to news stories about Rund on the fires, where NONE of them make any claims of him being a member of any organization, only that he is being held as a suspected arsonist.

Liquidmicro said:

In regards to the 1600 farm workers and laborers living in poverty who were living in the canyons, why is it that the farmers are allowed to get away with hiring people as slave labor, instead of using the H-2A Visas that are alloted? How come the farmers are not held accountable for these people as they should have them on the H-2A visas and supplying housing, medical, and transportation to and from the hospital as mandated by federal law? There is no maximum number of these visas, yet they are not being used? If the farmers were held accountable, these people would not be living in this type of environment. We need to hold the farmers responsible, not allow them to pass the AGJobs bill, which actually makes for less responsibility for the farmer, but have the H-2A visas used and enforced, make the farmers accountable for the lively hood of these people.

kyledeb said:

Liquidmicro,

I think you're getting into a much more complicated area than just the CNN article now. Farmers aren't the only one responsible for what you're speaking of above.

You and I are responsible, as well, for buying the vegetables that are cents cheaper in the grocery store. So much that we consume in the United States comes from migrant labor, or potential migrants to the U.S. that it's difficult to lay the blame on any one person.

Instead of using these grand problems that are migration for negative ends, to penalize the farmers that employ them, I think we should use it for positive ends and use it to drum up support for creating opportunities in the countries that these people come from.

Liquidmicro said:

By stating that, "You and I are responsible, as well, for buying the vegetables that are cents cheaper in the grocery store. So much that we consume in the United States comes from migrant labor, or potential migrants to the U.S. that it's difficult to lay the blame on any one person."

You are implying we all are guilty by association, when in reality it is the farmers fault solely. This problem would not exist, if in fact, the farmers used the H-2A visas they way they should, instead they opt to hire "illegal Immigrants" for their own prosperity, look to the $50M dollar farmer recently who said if he can't hire 'undocumented' then he will move his farm to Mexico. Subsidies are the other problem, farmers being paid by tax payers for their crops.

Liquidmicro said:

"I think we should drum up support for creating opportunities in the countries that these people come from."

I think everybody agrees with this, the problem is going to be the Governments of the foreign countries, getting them to somehow adopt programs that are good for their people vs. programs they have now that are only good for the Oligarchs.

kyledeb said:

Liquidmicro,

You must have a lot of time on your hands, it's difficult for me to respond to all of these. Especially as this argument gets broader and more systemic.

Blaming this problem simply on farmers is to be a historical amnesiac and globally illiterate. The problems associated with migration are the result of global phenomena much larger than the simple choice of a farmer to hire a migrant.

I do not lay all the blame on the U.S. but certainly the U.S. government and by association it's citizens, bear some responsibility for failed policies in Latin America. The country I was born and raised in, Guatemala, had its democratically elected leader, Jacobo Arbenz, overthrown by the Central Intelligence Agency and then the U.S. supported brutal dictatorships from 1954 all the way up until the year I was born that ravaged the country. To blame the fact that Guatemalans are getting hired in droves simply on the people that hire them, is again, to be a historical amnesiac and to be globally illiterate.

Furthermore, to say that it is the fault of the governments of foreign countries after you read the story above, is also completely incorrect, especially with respect to Latin America. There is no region on the planet that has more closely followed the U.S. free market model for growth and paid for it so dearly. See Mexico's currency crisis, Argentina's currency crisis, I could go on and on. On the contrary, the U.S. continues to make things worse for these countries in the form of unequal trade agreements rammed down these countries throats, and other things as well such as the tens of thousands of deportees that are being dumped on small countries without any sort of way to mitigate their impact.

I could go on and on, but I've read your comments hear and elsewhere and it is clear that you are not going to change your mind. Citizen Orange is an open forum, and I will not deny any comments except for spam, so you are free to continue commenting. But this forum might not be the most enjoyable for you, and I have better things to do than argue with people that are stubborn in their ways of thinking.

Liquidmicro said:

I appreciate the conversation, and I understand your points. However you or I think, we may be on opposite sides, I feel we all could benefit by hearing and understanding each other.

I am not blaming all the problem'(s) on farmers (I was referencing the article in which you posted above about New America Media and the New York Times and th migrant farmworkers), as they are only one visa type, there are many others. Our government has placed not just us, but possibly many of the S. American countries into a crisis. However that does not dismiss the fact that a country does have the choice, just as any person does, to make a decision. The S. American countries choices, even though as you state, "they were rammed down their throats", could have said NO.

As for the deportees being dumped back into those countries, to this point has there really been a lot of deportees to these countries? as there has only been approximately 200,000 persons deported over the past year. Most have been back to Mexico. What of the dumping of these people across our border? How are we to absorb their impacts here?

I appreciate you allowing me to post my opinions without, unlike most blogs where the people start getting called names, resorting to those tactics.

As far as time on my hands, I run a family businesses, so at times I do have the opportunity to be online, sometimes to much (haha). Please don't think someone is "Globally Illiterate" just because they were born in the USA, just an FYI for you, I have lived in Honduras, Germany, Portugal and the USA (I own homes in Portugal, Germany, and the USA.) I have traveled through Japan and China as well as most of Europe, granted I may not have seen some of the impacts to the natives of a country for my time having lived there, but I have seen quite a bit of it, and to place all of the blame on the USA is ignorant.

I agree, this forum may not be the best place for me to be, however, again, thanks for the opportunity. By the way, beautiful design work on the site, very appealing.

kyledeb said:

Liquidmicro,

I apologize. I deal with a lot of nuts online and I assumed you weren't willing to engage in dialog even though I shouldn't have. It's clear to me after this last post that you are willing to engage in dialog though, and everyone benefits from dialog. I've gained a lot from my interactions with people that disagree with my online, so this is just a long way of saying your welcome here. You have The Unapologetic Mexican to thank for the design of this blog though.

I didn't say you were globally illiterate because you were from the U.S., I said that because you assume countries have a choice when it's really not true. There is a choice sometimes but it's frequently between bad and worse, and the U.S. should be doing it's best to give these countries good choices, because the health of the hemisphere is in the interests of everyone.

Regarding deportees. Guatemala had a good economic year this year. 10,000 jobs were created. Unfortuantely 20,000 deportees were sent back. Mexico admittedly does a better job of absorbing these people but if you research this problem, all across the hemisphere small countries are suffering from U.S. deportation policies. Caribbean countries, Central American countries, are just to small and have too limited resources to be able to deal with this mass displacement of people, and it's only going to get worse at this rate.

I'm not saying that that U.S. should stop deporting people, I'm just saying that the U.S. should try to help mitigate the damages. Jointly work with Guatemala to advertise who they are deporting (frequently criminals are deported on immigration violations and that's not communicating to countries) and to work on programs to assimilate these people so that they don't become the sort of criminals that are have brought Guatemala's violence levels to beyond civil war levels. (I use Guatemala as a metaphor for the many other countries that are living throught this same problem). This would be in the U.S.'s interest because it would prevent more people from leaving in the first place.

This is just one issue. There are so many others. Like trade agreements, like agricultural subsidies, like enforcement policy, that need so much more nuance and thought to solve and are the roots of the problems associated with migration. These are the things the U.S. should be focusing on, not something as simple as enforcement. That's not the solution, and it's not the problem.

Liquidmicro said:

I think you and I are arguing the same points, just from different perspective.

I stated above about the H-2A visas and farmers lack of participation in it. What I am saying is that some of the 'migrants' should be placed by the farmers as visa holders. I think all employees of farmers that are 'undocumented' should be documented through the H-2A visa and that the farmer should be held liable and responsible, thus making a portion of these people here 'legal' and on the right paths, also getting them out from under the trees. Again this is but one way and one place to start.

This is what is meant by enforcing current immigration laws to me. Hold these farmers and other employers responsible for obtaining the correct visa and pay the fees for doing it. However, money corrupts them and they prefer to take the chance until they are caught, leaving the burden on the undocumented and the tax payers.

I believe we agree on many things, the problems lye in nobody listening to what is being presented, or for some, the lack of stating ones view understandably for others to comprehend.

Make peace, not war!

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

I hear that!

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on October 29, 2007 9:59 AM.

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