Thursday, September 23, 2010

Australia: Solidarity actions with the Villawood detainees

This is one reportback about a series of actions that took place in various parts of Sydney today in solidarity with the detainees at Villawood detention center - who were occupying the roof there in an act of defiance at their own incarceration and out of respect for Josefa Rauluni who had committed suicide there yesterday morning.

Today afternoon a group occupied the foyer of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIC) and locked themselves to the front counter. This action was undertaken with the direct purpose that it could affect the outcome of the protest taken by detainees at Villawood who were saying they would be forced to jump from the roof if no-one from DIC would speak to them regarding their cases. By occupying and refusing to leave the DIC office we intended to apply some more force upon these faceless officials to actually respond to the desperation of those occupying the roof.

The action was also taken because it had become clear that the militancy of those incarcerated within these detention centers was far outstripping that of anyone outside. We hoped to raise the level of solidarity with those inside beyond passively pleading to some higher authority to be 'more humane'.

After gaining entry and occupying, the group asserted they would not leave until things were sorted out on the roof at Villawood. Management at DIC refused to accept any responsibility for the situation there, typically trying to pass the buck like the faceless bureaucrats they are. Eventually they expectedly passed the buck right on to the police, who were happy to threaten all with arrest.

Inspite of the intimidation tactics of the police, stalling tactics allowed the protesters to stay in a fair bit longer. All the while, we were in contact with those on the roof at Villawood, expressing our solidarity and finding out how they thought negotiations were going. By the time police rescue arrived to cut free those locked on at DIC it was becoming clear that there was a chance of a resolution out at Villawood that was at least satifactory enough to make the detainees on the roof not jump off.

By this point however, the police were determined to harass, intimidate and make arrests and so 2 of the protesters inside DIC were arrested and held for a number of hours and charged with trespass. A number of people gathered outside the police station where those arrested were being held in an act of defiance and solidarity. Due to further police provocation and harassment a further arrest was made at this stage.

In solidarity with all those incarcerated in prisons, detention centers or whatever name they are given we scream...
"Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons."

The Villawood detainees that had occupied the roof eventually came off not because of any discussions with the pathetic officials from the Immigration Department, but because of some significant, but only intermediary assurances from UNHCR.

It is also worth pointing out there were 2 other equally significant actions undertaken in solidarity with those on the roof today. One involved a few hundred people heading out to Villawood so that they could be visible and heard by detainees in a strong and direct show of support. The other was the taking over of a public square in Newtown by 30 or so people who hung banners and handed out flyers during peak hour.

The following is a text that was being distributed by those who were involved in the occupation at DIC...

Solidarity with Villawood Detainees

“It has come to this because we have seen life lost and we believe we have to do this in order to protect our lives” – detainees in Villawood

Early yesterday morning, Josefa Rauluni committed suicide in Villawood detention center. He was to be deported that day. This death rests in the hands of Australia’s paranoid and racist border policy.

Other detainees immediately responded to show respect for Josefa and express their anger at their own detention. 11 people have occupied the roof of Villawood and many more have been on hunger strike for over 20 hours.

The events of yesterday demonstrate the desperate situation in the detention centres and the brutality that underpins border control. Deportations and invisible queues have claimed more lives than we will ever know. The experience of living under this oppression cannot be measured.

The rooftop protest of several detainees is part of a growing militancy amongst those incarcerated in detention centres. In the past months we’ve seen hunger strikes, breakouts, roof occupations and self harm. The present protest in Villawood is an expression of rage by people whose control over their own lives has been taken away by the Australian Government. It acutely expresses how fortress Australia takes lives.

Yesterday there were protests on both sides of the fences in Villawood. We must continue to take action in solidarity with the struggles occurring from within the detention centres. Our actions must reflect the urgency of the situation as the government amps up its racist, anti-migrant rhetoric and implements harsher policies that cost people’s lives.

We struggle against the policing of peoples movement and micro-control of peoples lives at the borders (and in detention) not because of humanitarian concern, but because their struggle is also ours. We have more in common with these people than with the bosses and the politicians who make the decisions that affect all our lives.

We struggle against all borders because no death as a result of border protection brings us more freedom.

We tear down all cages because peoples’ desire to move will never be caged.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Prison Industry Funnels Donations To State Lawmakers Introducing SB1070-Like Bills Around The Country

In December 2009, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a powerful front group that helps corporate representatives craft template legislation for state lawmakers, funded partially by the private prison industry — hosted Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R) and began debate on legislation that would provide broad powers to local police to arrest anyone who might look like an immigrant. ALEC then distributed the template legislation to its members. The January/February 2010 edition of ALEC’s magazine highlights the draft version of SB1070 — the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” — as model legislation.

In April of this year, Pearce then introduced ALEC’s template as the infamous SB1070 law. Notably, the ALEC task force which helped Pearce devise his racial profiling law included Laurie Shanblum, a lobbyist from the mega-private prison corporation Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) which previously played a role in privatizing many of Texas’ prisons. An investigation from Arizona’s KPHO-TV found more ties between SB1070 and the private prison industry: Paul Senseman, Gov. Janet Brewer’s (R-AZ) deputy chief of staff was a former lobbyist for CCA (his wife is still a lobbyist for CCA) and Chuck Coughlin, Brewer’s campaign chairman, runs the lobbying firm in Arizona that represents CCA. In These Times reporter Beau Hodai, who also reported much of SB1070’s connections to the private prison industry, has a chart to explain the relationship.

CCA is set to receive well over $74 million in tax dollars in FY2010 for running immigration detention centers. In a presentation given earlier this year, Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund with a large financial stake in CCA, suggested that CCA’s profitability depends on increasing numbers of immigrants sent to prison. Many of the legislators helping to earn CCA more profits with radical anti-immigrant bills mirroring SB1070 have been recipients of private prison industry cash or have worked closely with the CCA-funded ALEC organization:

– TENNESSEE: Earlier this year, legislators in Tennessee passed an immigration bill with provisions “similar to, but less harsh than, those of SB 1070, including requiring city and county jails in the state to report any person who may be in violation of immigration laws to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” But that wasn’t enough: right-wing local lawmakers also passed a resolution honoring Arizona’s SB1070, and a delegation of state lawmakers promised to introduce an anti-immigrant bill even “broader” than SB1070 in 2011. Many of the leading local lawmakers who voted for the anti-immigrant bill and resolution received thousands of dollars from CCA’s political action committee in the past two years, including State Reps. Gerald McCormick ($250), Barrett Rich ($500), Eric Watson ($250) and State Sens. Bill Ketron ($1,000), Jim Tracy ($500), Dolores Gresham ($1,000), Bo Watson ($500), and Jack Johnson ($500). Tracy, who sponsored the resolution honoring Arizona’s SB1070, also received $2,000 directly from CCA founder Tom Beasley, reports the Nashville City Paper. CCA retains five lobbyists in the state and spent at least $50,000 this year to lobby on immigration and other issues.

– OKLAHOMA: Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK), who won her party’s nomination to run for governor this year, received the maximum donation permitted by law from CCA. State Rep. Randy Terrill (R-OK), who announced that he was planning an “Arizona-Plus” immigration bill that would be harsher than SB1070, is a proud member of the CCA-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.

– COLORADO: A group of Republican lawmakers in Colorado, after a research trip to Arizona this summer, have stated that they plan on passing a SB1070 law in Colorado next year. CCA’s lobbyists in Colorado have raised funds for many of the lawmakers in the group. CCA lobbyist Margy Christiansen raised $400 State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, one of the leaders of Colorado’s Arizona expedition, and CCA lobbyist Jason Dunn raised $150 for State Sen. Mike Kopp, the Republican minority leader who is promising to promote an SB1070 bill next session.

– FLORIDA: During the gubernatorial primary campaign between disgraced businessman Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum (R-FL), the prospect of importing Arizona’s SB1070 became a prominent issue in the race, with both candidates promising to bring a version of the law to the state. While many Florida Republicans recoiled at the idea, which stands to alienate many Hispanic voters, a cadre of state lawmakers and candidates for the state legislature, most funded by the prison industry, announced their support for an SB1070-type law. State Rep. Bill Snyder, who has received $500 from CCA, pledged to introduce a bill more draconian than SB1070. State House candidate Ben Albritton, another outspoken supporter of SB1070, took $500 from CCA, and State Rep. Joe Negron, who has been working with Snyder to sponsor the bill, received $1,000 from the Geo Group, another major private prison contractor which operates immigrant detention centers. Overall, the Republican Party of Florida has been the biggest recipient of prison industry cash in the past two years: $37,000 from CCA and $145,000 from the Geo Group.

– PENNSYLVANIA: In the Key State, State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA) introduced the ALEC-drafted “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” one month before State Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ) introduced his version of the bill in Arizona. Metcalfe is a highly active member of ALEC. He was paid $1,500 by ALEC just to attend its meetings with CCA lobbyists on how to draft the law.

In Tennessee, the average daily number of immigration detainees sank to 40 in FY2009, down from 95 in FY2008. This may change with CCA’s aggressive lobbying for more laws encouraging aggressive arrests of immigrants or people who look like immigrants. Charles Maldonado, who has reported on CCA’s corrupting influence at the Nashville City Paper, notes that CCA may see new business at its West Tennessee Detention Facility with the passage of more SB1070-related laws.

ALEC, with funds from several private prison companies, helped sponsor “truth-in-sentencing” and “three-strikes-you’re-out” laws all over the country for the past two decades. These laws have greatly increased incarceration rates, and have contributed to America’s distinction of having the largest prison population in the world.

Tucson Group “Polices” the Police on Immigration

TUCSON, Ariz.— A coalition of community groups in Tuscon is using video to show how readily police are cooperating with Border Patrol, despite local law enforcement’s stated opposition to Arizona’s new immigration law before it took effect.

The “Yo Soy Testigo” ("I’m a witness") campaign, launched by Tucson-based Coalición Derechos Humanos, seeks to shine a light on the practice of police cooperation with Border Patrol in the city.

The group, in partnership with PanLeft Productions and Migra Patrol CopWatch, has been using video cameras to document just how often police officers are detaining Latinos—with or without documents—and turning them over to immigration authorities. The group hopes that the videos will increase community awareness of how police are really treating Latinos, despite their supposed opposition to SB1070, and will pressure law enforcement to change its policies.

“We want to expose this reality and for people in the community to take responsibility,” said Isabel Garcia, director of Coalición de Derechos Humanos. She urges people to call the Yo Soy Testigo hotline to report any incidents so they can be videotaped and documented.

Prior to SB 1070, local police departments and other state agencies already had their own policies to detain undocumented immigrants on a discretionary basis. Had a court allowed the new law to take full effect, such detentions would have become mandatory throughout Arizona.

But the mandatory detention provision of SB 1070 provoked a strong outcry from the state's local law officers.

“We are not interested in enforcing federal immigration law,” said Captain Michael Gillooly, the Tucson Police Department's chief of staff. “The problem with SB 1070 is that it mandated we did that.”

In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star in July, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said: “Although illegal immigration has undeniable impacts on Arizona, requiring local police already strapped for resources to act as immigration agents is not the answer.”

The Pima County Sheriff's Department and the South Tucson Police Department also opposed SB 1070.

But despite such widespread opposition, videos captured by Jason Aragon of PanLeft and Migra Patrol Copwatch show a different picture.

A recent video posted online, titled “SB 1070 is in full effect,” shows a woman detained by Tucson police and then shortly after taken away by Border Patrol.

Lynda Cruz, a volunteer with Migra Patrol CopWatch, was present that day, and said the woman was pulled over for a minor infraction. The woman, a legal resident, had forgotten her wallet at home and didn’t have any identification, Cruz says.

Volunteers like Cruz advise people who are detained to refuse to speak with their captors and to request the presence of their attorney.

When New America Media asked about this incident, Gillooly said the Tucson Police Department was confident that the officer acted appropriately and was following department policy.

“Our investigation of that revealed that when the Border Patrol arrived, that female refused to answer any questions,” Gillooly said. He said the federal agent was forced to take her to the station to check whether she was an undocumented immigrant.

When asked why the police detained this woman and called the Border Patrol, Gillooly said he wouldn’t provide any more information.

Cruz said similar incidents have occurred in South Tucson, an area that is predominantly Hispanic.

Gillooly said the department has not seen an increase in complaints from community members about possible racial profiling or police abuse.

“People don’t complain? How are they going to complain if they are the ones retaliated against?” responded Garcia of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos.

The situation in Tucson hasn’t attracted nearly as much media attention as the controversial immigration raids in Latino neighborhoods in Phoenix by Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies. But, in many ways, the dynamics at play in Tucson are creating heightened tensions.

About 40 percent of the city’s half-million residents are Latinos. Tucson, located less than two hours from the Mexican border, is also home to a Border Patrol station, which facilitates more direct cooperation between police and U.S. immigration authorities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has 3,300 Border Patrol agents dedicated to the Tucson sector of the border.

In the past five years, the Border Patrol added 1,000 agents as part of a federal effort to escalate border security.

Unlike Phoenix, it is not uncommon to see Border Patrol cars driving through Tucson. Many of those who work at the Border Patrol station live in the community.

“People are divided over this issue,” said Alex González, a volunteer [or “promotoras”] with Coalición de Derechos Humanos. “Even families are divided on this.”

She said the new “Yo Soy Testigo” hotline has been flooded with calls denouncing police detentions and cooperation with Border Patrol.

One of the calls she took last week came from Gerardo Robles, a heartbroken undocumented immigrant, who sobbed over the phone in desperation. His wife, who was also undocumented, was pulled over by a Tucson police officer in a traffic stop. The officer called the Border Patrol, and now his wife is in a detention center.

Robles and his family have been living in Tucson for six years. He said they considered leaving the state because of SB 1070 but had been hoping for the best— in the past, police had stopped him on several occasions but had never called the Border Patrol. The politics behind SB 1070 might have changed things, he said.

“A criminal that traffics with drugs—those people are in the streets,” he said. “They are the ones that are free. My wife was coming back from work to feed our two children.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

BOAF Art Auction

Join us for an excessively fun time. The Boxing Gym(no, it's not a boxing gym anymore) is located in Barrio Anita near the Southwest corner of I-10 and Speedway Blvd. Check out the Art page to see some of the art that's already come in.

Border Opposition Action Fund: Call to Artists!

BOAF is hosting an Art Auction on Saturday, Oct. 9. Details of the event will be posted soon. Money raised at this event will go to O'odham VOICE Against the Wall, O'odham Solidarity Across Borders and those who locked down at the Border Patrol Headquarters in Tucson, Az in May. The basics of art submissions are as follows.
Any medium is welcome.
Content does not have to be border related.
We are asking for submissions or their photos by Fri., Sept. 24. Photos with artist information will be posted.
We are asking for submissions by Fri., Oct 1.

O'odham Ofelia Rivas to National Guard: 'We do not want you on our lands'

Ofelia Rivas, traditional O'odham living on the border, released a statement to the National Guard, who are to arrive on the US/Mexico border in Arizona on Monday.

To the United States National Guard arriving in O'odham Lands,

We are not compliant people, we are people with great dignity and confidence. We are a people of endurance and have a long survival history. We are people that have lived here for thousands of years. We have our own language, we have our own culture and traditions.

You are coming to my land, you may find me walking on my land, sitting on my land and just going about my daily life. I might be sitting on the mountain top, do not disturb me, I am praying the way my ancestors did for thousands of years. I might be out collecting what may be strange to you but it might be food to me or medicine for me.

Sometimes I am going to the city to get a burger or watch a movie or just to resupply my kitchen and refrigerator. Some of us live very much like you do and some of us live very simple lives. Some of may not have computers or scanners or televisions or a vehicle but some of us do.

The other thing is that some of us are light-skinned O'odham and some of us are darker-skinned O'odham. Some of us spend a lot of time indoors or outdoors. Sometimes my mother might be of a different Nation (refers to different tribal Nation) or sometimes our father is Spanish or we may have some European grandmother or grandfather.

If you want to question who we are, we all have learned to carry our Tohono O'odham Nation Tribal I.D. Card. It is a federally-issued card which is recognized by the federal government which is your boss. This card identifies us and by law this is the only requirement needed to prove who we are. We do not have United States passports because most of us were born at home and do not have documents, but that does not make us "undocumented people." Your boss, the Department of Homeland Security, and the government of the Tohono O'odham Nation have negotiated an agreement which is, our tribal I.D. card is our identification card and no other document is required.

The O'odham, (the People) as we call ourselves, have been here to witness the eruption of volcanoes that formed the lands we live on. We have special places that hold our great-great-great-great-great great grandparents remains, our lands are a special and holy place to us. Some of us still make journeys to these places to pray. Some of these places hold holy objects that maintain specific parts of our beliefs. When you see us out on the land do not assume we are in the drug business or human smuggling business. Sometimes we are out on the land hunting for rabbits or deer or javelina to feed our families. We may be carrying a hunting weapon please do not harm me, my family loves me and depends on me.
When you are out on our land, be mindful that you are visitor on our lands, be respectful, be courteous and do not harm anything.

Sometimes you may see us gather all night long, dancing and sometimes we are crying loudly, do not approach us or disturb us in anyway, we are honoring a dead relative and preparing them for burial. Sometimes we are conducting a healing ceremony out on the land, do not approach us or disturb us. Sometimes we may be singing and dancing all night long, these are our ceremonies that we have conducted for thousands of years. We are not behaving in a suspicious nature, this is our way of life.

As original people of the lands we honor everything on our lands and we regard all as a part of our sacred lives, do not kill any plants and animals or people on our lands. Do not litter our lands with your trash. When we visit other peoples lands and cities and homes we do not litter or leave behind trash.

We might be driving our cars, sometimes old, sometimes very new, do not try to run us off the roads or tailgate me. I value my life and my family, I might have a newborn in my car or my grandmother or my mother and father, my brothers and sister or my aunts and uncles or my friends. These are all important people to me and I do not want to see them hurt or dead.

If I seem like I do not understand what you are saying, please call the Tohono O'odham Police and ask for an O'odham speaking officer to come and assist you. I might be laughing at you if you talk to me in English, I don't know what you are saying and I am laughing out of nervousness and fear because you are armed.

If you are afraid of us and draw your weapons on me, I am more afraid of you because I am unarmed and my family is in the vehicle with me or they are in my house when you come into my house. Sometimes my house might be in poor condition but it is my home, it is my sanctuary, be respectful. Sometime there are elders in my house that are already afraid of armed people in our communities such as the border patrol and other federal agents.

There are some people that do drug business or human smuggling business but we are not all doing that, we are not all criminals. Do not treat us like criminals.

We might call you killers and murderers as you just came from killing people. To the O'odham you are a dangerous person, to walk onto our lands bringing fresh death on your person is very destructive to us as a people. You may have diseases we do not know, illnesses of your mind that you might inflict on us. Please do not approach us if you are afflicted with fresh death.

Remember we do not want you on our lands, we did not invite you to our lands.

Do remember that we have invited allies that will be witnessing your conduct on our lands and how you treat our people.

From the the O'odham Lands
Ofelia Rivas

Originally posted at Censored Blog:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

33 charged with blocking L.A. city streets during immigration protests

Photo: Fourteen people were arrested when demonstrators gathered May 6 on Alameda Street in front of the Federal Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles to protest Arizona's new immigration law. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles prosecutors have charged 33 immigration activists with a variety of misdemeanor crimes related to three protests beginning in May that blocked city streets.

The protesters face charges, such as remaining at an unlawful assembly, resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer and blocking the sidewalk or street.

Those facing resisting-arrest charges face up to year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted. Those charged with unlawful assembly face up to six months in jail if found guilty, a spokesman for the city attorney's office said.

In the first incident May 6, eight women and six men participated in a protest against the new Arizona immigration law by blocking an intersection near the federal courthouse on Alameda Street with their hands locked together inside tube devices.

Prosecutors claim it took officers several hours to remove the protesters, who are to be arraigned Sept. 22.

Later in the month, California Highway Patrol officers arrested nine immigration protesters in front of the West Los Angeles Federal Building. The suspects sat in the street, locking their hands together and causing a massive traffic jam for several blocks.

On July 29, protesters blocked the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Highland Avenue by putting their hands together in a locking device and refusing to move.

Officers had to physically carry the demonstrators and used specialized equipment to remove the elaborate tube and chain locking systems connecting the protesters' arms.

-- Richard Winton