Recently in Guatemala Category



I was thinking on what music I should use to resurrect the musical monday feature and it hit me almost instantly that I should begin with a song from a paisano of mine, Ricardo Arjona, that was popular at the time I took my trip.


Without Corn There Is No Country
Peasant Produced Food For Mexico
Hunger Doesn't Wait!

I've got to admit that these stories snuck up on me. Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), are pushing to end ethanol subsides and House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), are trying to hold the Obama administration accountable for getting involved in yet another war. Is this opposite day or just a continuation of the Republican strategy of opposite Obama? Add all of this to Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich's rebuke of LeBron James, and for some reason I feel like I woke up this morning in an alternate reality where I'm a Republican.

Normally, I wouldn't find time to write about all of this, especially as I'm trying to hold Mass. State Rep. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) accountable for stating undocumented rape victims "should be afraid" to the police. However, I can't help but try to bring some perspective to what has up until this point been muddled and, in effect if not in intent, violent media coverage of a globally important issue.
One of the hardest truths I learned when I tried to retrace the route of a Guatemalan migrant into the U.S. was that the vast majority of people who try to migrate to the U.S. don't make it.  A National Geographic film "Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary" puts out the following statistic

Of the more than 3,000 Latin Americans who embark upon this journey every day, less than 300 make it to their destination. 

Much of the anecdotal evidence I have collected confirms this and it makes sense systemically, too. You only hear from the migrants that make into into the U.S.  You rarely hear from those that died, ended their journey somewhere else, or turned back.

I bring this up, now, because Renata Avila, a human rights lawyer and one of my favorite Guatemalan activists, tweeted me this link a few days ago:

I don't have much to write, today.  I'm up early preparing for a trip to see the family of Selvin ArĂ©valo, today.  For those of you that haven't been following, I put everything I had into getting Selvin out of detention in Maine.  Right after we got him out, we learned that his appeal for asylum was denied, and while we were able to file another appeal, he is still very much at risk of detention and deportation every day. 

I don't plan on letting him get deported any time soon, though, so I thought it would be good for me to visit his family while I was here in Guatemala.  I'm bringing a video of him for his family to watch and will try to bring a video back to Selvin.  If you're all lucky, and Selvin says it's okay, I'll be able to edit out something of the whole experience for all of you to see. 

Wish me luck in the meantime.  I'll be back in Boston on Friday and back to pushing full force to empower migrants. 


In The Shadow of the Raid

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It's difficult for me to blog about anything else when I feel so accountable to unauthorized migrant youth, but this trailer for the documentary "In The Shadow of the Raid" takes me back to the reason I got involved in U.S. migration policy in the first place.

In the Shadow of the Raid - trailer from Streetdog Media on Vimeo.

Picture: Associated Press

The Associated Press has an article about a town in Guatemala that is getting inundated with deportees after the New Bedford raid.  It's good to see journalism that focuses on the root of the problem. 

Nativists are probably cheering the return of all these migrants.  To do so is short-sighted.  If the U.S. is suffering during this economic downturn, Guatemala is suffering worse.  We no longer live in a world where problems fit conveniently into national borders.  It is the inability of Guatemala to provide for its people that has forced people to migrate to the U.S. in the first place.  U.S. support for many of the brutal policies that have ravaged Guatemala makes the U.S. partly responsible.

Deporting tens of thousands to Guatemala when jobs are being lost makes absolutely no sense.  It's forcing the country backwards.  It was the absence of jobs in the first place that forced people to migrate.  I dream of the day when we approach this issue from a global perspective.  It's the only way. 

Below are some of my favorite passages from the article:

(Peter Pereira / New Bedford Standard Times)

When Ricardo Gomez Garcia was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New Bedford, it served as his death sentence.  For one of the factory managers charged in the raid, Gloria Melo, it ended in a $500 fine. 

Garcia's story is one of the most heartbreaking stories I know.  He was picked up in the now infamous New Bedford raid, resulting in his separation from his wife and his U.S. citizen autistic son.  He fought desperately to stay in the U.S. and be reunited with them.  When he was finally deported after six months of detention, he had his mother in Guatemala sell her house for $5000 so he could pay a coyote to return to the U.S. 

Garcia's family in Guatemala reported he wasn't feeling well and they urged him to stay but he left anyways.  He arrived in New Bedford on Oct. 28. He was able to spend 12 hours with his wife and his son before he died.  His throat closed up.  Today is the anniversary of his death.  Garcia fought for seventh months and 26 days to be reunited with his family.  12 hours is more than most unauthorized migrant families get.  Garcia's story is an epic tale of love and suffering.

Garcia died for the "crime" of casting off the chains he was born into and pursuing his happiness in another country.  Almost exactly one year later, the Associated Press is reported that two of the factory managers charged in the New Bedford raid won't even see the inside of a prison cell.
My mother took this photo last weekend in Guatemala.  I thought it was pretty wild so I wanted to share it.

Guatemalan Motorcycle

Christopher Sherman of the Associated Press reports:

A former Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty Tuesday to hitting an illegal Guatemalan immigrant in the face with his pistol and to putting the barrel of his pistol against the head of another illegal immigrant while interrogating him.

Santiago Perez, of Edinburg, admitted Tuesday in federal court in Houston to both cases of violating the civil rights of the two immigrants while working as a South Texas Border Patrol agent in 2006 and 2007.
Chistopher Sherman - Associated Press (19 August 2008)
Sombrero Tip to Mexico Trucker.

Julia Preston's article in the New York Times speaks for itself. (sombrero tip to the ImmigrationProf Blog)

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