December 15, 2000

Activists urge border solutions

By Tim Steller
and Ignacio Ibarra
The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)

December 11 - More than 600 activists from around the United States and Mexico found broad agreement during a weekend conference in Tucson that the border region must be de-militarized, immigration laws reformed and economic globalization humanized.

The upshot, organizers said, is that broad sentiment for these reforms has coalesced.

"It looks like a whole movement coming up," said Gerry Condon of San Diego's Committee for Solidarity in the Americas.

Among the ideas emerging from the two-day conference is that the movement consummate in a "binational day of action."

"We're talking about closing down the border for one day," said Isabel Garcia of Tucson's Coalición de Derechos Humanos, or Arizona Border Rights Project, the primary conference sponsor.

While the attendance surpassed expectations, two of those who missed the conference were the scheduled keynote speakers. Labor organizer Dolores Huerta was ill and unable to attend, while U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., bowed out due to commitments in Washington, D.C., Garcia said.

Those attending focused on three interrelated issues that have become evident in Arizona as Mexican migration reached record levels over the last two years: militarization, immigration laws and economic globalization.

Globalization of the world economy has uprooted people worldwide to seek work in other countries, and the Mexican-U.S. experience is just one example of that phenomenon, said Sasha Khokha of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Oakland, Calif. In the United States, the response has been to militarize the border by adding Border Patrol agents and to pass stricter immigration laws.

"Any solution to the immigration problem must take globalization into account," Khokha said.

Mexico, too, is militarizing its border region, said Victor Clark Alfaro of the Binational Human Rights Center in Tijuana. While Americans have celebrated President Vicente Fox's assumption of power, he has shown signs of continuing the militarization, Clark said.

Among his recent Cabinet appointments was Army Gen. Rafael Macedo as the top civilian law-enforcement official, the attorney general.

"The enthusiasm for Fox surprises me," Clark said.

The presence of Mexican soldiers and Border Patrol agents has been especially hard on the Tohono O'odham people, said Henry Ramon, the nation's vice chairman. They have seen their own people become officially "undocumented" on their own ancestral lands.

"My dream for the border is to end the military occupation of our land, both in the United States and Mexico," he said.

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