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  • 15. Alvaro Enciso's Desert Monument to the Dead

    It starts with a dream that becomes a dot. A red dot, representing a GPS coordinate on a map transformed into a hole, not too deep, cut into the earth with a pickaxe and shovel, then filled with moistened gravel and quick-dry cement into which Tucson, Arizona-based artist, Alvaro Enciso, plants a simple cross of rough 2x3inch pine strips painted a vibrant color and secured at the midpoint with a red dot made from metal trash he’s harvested from the floor of the vast Sonoran.Since the October 1, 1994 launch of Operation Gatekeeper, the Sonoran desert, one of the hottest places on Earth in the summertime, has destroyed the lives and stolen the dreams of an estimated 10,000 souls. Forcing upon them a death most cruel, the US government remains steadfast in its nearly 30-year bet that the agony of some will deter others from coming. It hasn't. So what started as a dream “to reveal to the world the US government’s responsibility for turning the Sonoran Desert into a graveyard” has resulted in Alvaro transforming the desert into a cemetery, an art installation, and a memorial to the needless suffering of the unknown.To date, he has marked the red dots of 1,200 (and counting) of the 10,000 (and counting) fallen. It's a work of monumental art, exposing government-sanctioned inhumanity. Art without sentimentality. Art without end. Art intended to lift up the lost while informing the living. It's a symbolic expression of who we should not be as a country. Alvaro's Desert Monument to the Dead screams quietly at us to rethink the policy of “Prevention Through Deterrence,” our First, Second, and possibly Third Solution.Find Alvaro's tale alongside other stories of how art keeps good alive in the worst of times in the now available collection from She Writes Press: Art in the Time of Unbearable Crisis, in which women writers reveal that in tumultuous times such as these, we need poets more than we need politicians.

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  • 14. Dora Rodriguez Lives to Tell the Tale: How Deterrence Emboldens Organized Crime

    On Monday, May 23, 2022, as the world awaited the long-fought for lifting of Title 42, the United Nations dropped the bomb that there are now more than 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide. That means 1 in every 100 people on the planet right now has been driven from their birthplace by war, conflict, crippling poverty, weather-related disasters, etc. Eighty percent of these people are in the Global South. Title 42, an obscure public health provision under the US Centers for Disease Control, was invoked by the Trump administration in March 2020 in the guise of controlling COVID-19. But what it really did was put an immediate end to the right to seek asylum from persecution at US southern ports of entry. Title 42 cut off one route to lawful migration, trapping Brown, Black, and poor people on the other side of the US line. The abuse of Title 42 has persisted under Biden. It is to blame for expelling roughly 2 million people, to date, back to the harms they fled without any due process under the law. It has turned untold numbers of the world’s most vulnerable people into sitting ducks for cartel violence and organized crime. Under constant threat in Mexican border towns, waiting their turn to request protection for now years on end, many legitimate asylum seekers have been pushed to try their luck in the unpredictable Rio Grande, or by scaling the now 30-ft border wall, or by hiking through the Sonoran desert – one of the hottest places on earth. Many won’t make it. In Episode 14 of Witness Radio, I speak to one person who did survive the desert trek – but only just. Her name is Dora Rodriguez, and her tragic tale, which sparked a movement in the 1980s, stands as a profound example of the failure of the now decades-long US borderlands strategy of deterring migration by taking measures most cruel has created a market for organized crime. The political abuse of Title 42 is just the latest manifestation of that strategy, which has cost the lives of so many already. Because it was not rescinded on May 23rd, as it should have been, others will be forced to follow in Dora’s footsteps this summer. And many more will die. When will the US government be held accountable for these crimes? Additional Information:UN: More than 100 million people forcibly displaced in the worldAs Biden Prepares to Take Office, a New Rush at the Border“THERE IS NO MERCY”Cited Organizations:SalvavisionCasa de la EsperanzaTucson SamaritansNo More DeathsHumane BordersGreen Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans
  • 13. Who Gets Welcomed? Who Gets to Move?

    We begin the second season of Witness Radio with a mind-blowing treat. Witness Radio Executive Producer Camilo Perez-Bustillo and I join Nandita Sharma and Reece Jones to explore the question: From the war in Ukraine to the U.S.-Mexico border and beyond: Who gets welcome? Who gets to move?We conclude with ideas about how to create a more inclusive world, one better able to confront such challenges as climate change, global pandemics, capitalist greed run amok, and the hardened, racialized borders throughout the world that have given rise to violent exclusionary tactics.Our conversation first aired as a webinar hosted by Witness at the Border on March 31, 2022. So, some of the numbers cited have since changed. But we felt the discussion was too important not to republish in audio format. We hope you agree. Meet the speakers:Activist scholar Dr. Nandita Sharma is a professor of sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her research addresses human migration, migrant labor, nation-state power, ideologies of racism, sexism, and nationalism, processes of identification and self-understanding, and social movements for justice. Nandita is the author of Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada and Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants.Dr. Reece Jones is a professor of geography and environment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow and the author of White Borders, Violent Borders, and Border Walls. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Geopolitics and co-editor of the Routledge Geopolitics Book Series. His next book, Nobody is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States, is available for preorder from Counterpoint Press.Camilo Perez Bustillo is the current chair professor of human rights at National Taiwan University's College of Law. He is also a fellow at both the Institute for the Geography of Peace, Ciudad Juarez in Mexico and El Paso, Texas, and Norway's University of Bergen Global Research Program on Inequality; co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas; co-founder of the International Tribunal of Conscience of Peoples in Movement; and lead author of Human Rights, Hegemony and Utopia in Latin America.Sarah Towle is a London-based author, educator, and human rights defender, sharing her journey from outrage to activism one Witness Radio episode and story at a time in her forthcoming book, The First Solution: Tales of Humanity from the Borderlands.
  • 12. Title 42 ReCast: It's Biden's Legacy Now

    How hard is it to welcome immigrants with dignity in the US? To bring order, fairness, and humanity to an immigration system built on foundations of white supremacy and racial exclusion?Very hard. Especially when immigration is a voting issue for only one party. The use of Title 42 is the perfect example. An obscure public health order, it was brought out of obscurity two years ago this month by Trump & Co, ostensibly to stop Covid-19 at the US Southern border but really to stop people, most egregiously those seeking protection. Now the reason for the expulsion of more than 1 million people fleeing climate devastation, endemic violence, political repression, and crippling poverty, Title 42 was Trump’s crime against humanity.Until it became Biden’s. Despite the two-year outcry from progressives and immigration advocates, the Biden administration has yet to rescind the policy that is responsible for expelling more Haitian asylum seekers in one year than during the previous three presidencies combined. But Title 42 was never meant to be permanent, and with the virus now under control, it’s time for the policy that has cost so much money and so much suffering to go!In this one-year anniversary podcast, Witness Radio Host Sarah Towle recasts Ep 1, Title 42: The Invisible Wall, with the 2021 winner of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, Guerline Jozef, and RFKHR President, Kerry Kennedy, to expose the anti-Blackness baked into US immigration system, soup to nuts, but epitomized by an oddball public health provision that was misappropriated by one administration to end the right of asylum in the US; and tolerated by the next administration for no other reason than political optics.Join us as we unpack the evils lurking behind Title 42 -- for the second time --to explain why everyone should demand President Biden and DHS Secretary Mayorkas to rescind it...Now!For more information:The Invisible Wall: Title 42 and its Impact on Haitian MigrantsHaitian Bridge Alliance, UndocuBlack Network, Quixote CenterBlack Immigrants MatterJack Herrera with Guerline Jozef, The NationThe Time for a Paradigmatic Shift in How Americans View Immigrants and Immigration is NowSarah Towle, Southern Border Communities CoalitionSeven Myths We Must Unlearn To Reclaim Our HumanitySarah Towle, Medium, The Daily KosTHIS IS WHY WE WITNESS!
  • 11. A Tale of Two Presidencies: Proof that #ImmigrationISaBlackIssue

    The past two years have brought the world changes never imagined: a global pandemic; the lockdowns and the losses; the border closures and the politics of avoiding illness, even death.But throughout it all, there is one thing that hasn’t skipped a beat: the US Deportation Machine. This episode's featured guest is Thomas Cartwright, a member of the leadership team of Witness at the Border. Tom dedicated his time during the past 24 months of the global pandemic to collecting, compiling, and communicating data that the US government would prefer you did not know.When Trump strong-armed the US Centers for Disease Control into hacking Title 42 of the US public health code to close the southern border to migration, thereby ending Witness's long-term vigil to end Trump & Co's Migrant "Protection" Protocols, aka Remain in Mexico policy, Tom's witness did not stop.Rather, he took it digital. Sadly and inexplicably, he discovered that little changed under Biden.On this US Black History Month 2022 installment of Witness Radio, Tom gives us a Tale of Two Presidencies in numbers that reveal the scope of the expulsions of Haitians under Biden as well as the scale of the deportation flights to Africa under his predecessor, proving that, indeed, immigration is a Black issue.Additional reading:ICE Air Monthly Flight-Report, Thomas Cartwright, Witness at the BorderHow Can You Throw Us Back? Asylum Seekers Abused in the US and Deported to Harm in Cameroon, Human Rights WatchAmazon Co-owns Deportation Airline Implicated in Alleged Torture of Immigrants, Sam Biddle, The InterceptBiden has deported nearly as many Haitians in his first year as the last three presidents – combined, Tom Ricker, Quixote Center
  • 10. Is Family Separation What We Voted For?

    Witness Radio's Sarah Towle and Camilo Perez-Bustillo kick off a second season with reflection on the Biden administration's one-year record on border and immigration, framed through the civil rights legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.They start with the question, What would Dr. King have said about one of the greatest human rights crimes in recent US history: family separation?A civil rights lawyer and human rights scholar, Camilo was at ground-zero in El Paso, Texas when the practice of separating migrating families was piloted by the Trump administration before being rolled out across the borderlands, as policy, in April 2018. The burden of responsibility for the crimes then committed now falls to the Biden administration, which faces a Sophie’s choice:Acknowledge the irreparable damage done to these families by the US government and negotiate a legal remedy -- at the risk of sparking the further ire of Trump World and the GOP prior to US mid-term elections?Or shield the US government from a settlement and, in effect, defend government-sanctioned torture in the form of separating families.On January 5th, the Biden Administration staked its claim to a position. Tap that play button to find out where it landed.Click Here for Episode TranscriptBut before you go, we have a huge favor to ask... Help us to get more listeners: Please rate and review Witness Radio wherever you get your podcasts.Thank you in advance!Sarah & CamiloAdditional Reading:Biden Administration Makes Cruel Decision to Fight California Families Separated at the Border in CourtJustice Department Halts Settlement Talks With Migrant FamiliesSeparation of Families on the U.S.-Mexican Border as a Form of Torture“You Will Never See Your Child Again”: The Persistent Psychological Effects of Family SeparationSEALING THE BORDER: The Criminalization of Asylum Seekers in the Trump Era, Hope Border Institute Annual Report, December 2018Ms. L. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs EnforcementAmicus Brief by Stanford University psychologists and others documenting all the evidence that proves family separation is experienced by its victims as torture
  • 9. Remain in Mexico or MPP 2.0: Can Inhumane be Less Inhumane?

    The Grand Finale of Witness Radio's Inaugural SeasonA cruel, anti-asylum Trump-era policy is back under a president who promised a more humane border: the Migrant "Protection" Protocols, which never protected anyone at all.Biden maintains that his Remain in Mexico program, or MPP 2.0, will be a gentler, “lite” version of his predecessor’s policy.But can Inhumane be less Inhumane?That is the question Sarah Towle, Host and Director of Witness Radio, asks  Charlene D’Cruz, Lawyers for Good GovernmentAaron Reichlin-Melnick, American Immigration Council, and Yael Schacher, Refugees Internationalin this Grand Finale episode of Witness Radio's inaugural season. Together, they unpack the Remain in Mexico program, its impact on human lives, and the convoluted litigation President Biden claims is forcing him to stand it back up again, even as his administration expands it. We hope it sends you into 2022 with a bit of hope and just enough outrage.Additional Information:On Externalization: Why the Belarus Migrant Crisis is Different, VoxRemain in Mexico 2.0: Civil Society Left Holding the Bag, by Joy OlsonBiden Reinstates the ‘Remain in Mexico’ Program: What You Need to Know, by Aaron Reichlin-MelnickThe Secretive Prisons That Keep Migrants Out of Europe, by Ian UrbinaMigrant "Protection" Protocols Survivor Stories: Gabriel, Perla, Natasha, Enrique, Series by Sarah TowleBuilding Better, Not Backward: Learning from the Past to Design Sound Border Asylum Policy, by Yael Schacher