Category Archives: Borders, Inside and Out

Bring Them Home: Lulu Martinez Checking in from Mexico City

Lulu Martinez is one of the 9 undocumented activists who crossed the border to visit their families in Mexico. Now they are fighting to come back home.

The Obama administration has created a deportation machine resulting in the destruction of over 1.7 million lives, and the devastating separation of those families by the border. Those 1.7 million people are not lost and forgotten; rather, they are people who deserve to have the choice to return to their home in this country. While we fight to dismantle the system of continued deportations, we must also fight to bring our community home.

For more “check in” videos from the activists, visit the National Immigrant Youth Alliance channel:



Undocumented Activists Take a Giant Risk to Return Home

Submitted by Aura Bogado on Tuesday, July 23 2013, on ColorLines

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A historic border crossing took place Monday, not under the cover of darkness or through a desert wilderness but in broad daylight near the Nogales border patrol station with thousands of supporters on the United States and Mexico sides cheering.

Nine people, all transnational activists working with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), are now being held at the Florence Detention Center in Arizona after petitioning to enter the U.S. on humanitarian grounds. This is the first time a group of longtime U.S. residents who are technically Mexican nationals have attempted to return to the states by petitioning for humanitarian parole. Monday’s action attracted more than 10,000 viewers from around the world who tuned into a Ustream live feed to see what would become of the so-called Dream 9.

At around 1:30 p.m. EDT, the nine crossers gathered for a final press opportunity in Nogales, Mexico, before taking a short walk to dividing line between the United States and Mexico. Eight people had originally planned to participate but Rosie Rojas, who said she traveled for three days to meet them, joined the action at the last minute.

Among the nine activists was 22-year-old Adriana Diaz who was brought to Phoenix, Ariz., from Mexico when she was just four months old. Diaz graduated high school with honors in 2010 but decided to go to Mexico last year because of the fear she felt living under Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  She attempted to attend college there but the country doesn’t recognize her U.S. diploma. Had she waited just three months, she could have been eligible to stay in the U.S. under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Diaz was one of six members of the Dream 9 who were either deported or left the U.S. on their own accord. The other three seeking humanitarian parole landed in Mexico in the last two weeks. Humanitarian parole would mean that the nine would been released on grounds that they don’t pose a threat to society. But authorities have apparently denied their petitions so the activists are now seeking asylum.

While the Dream 9 crossers are now facing the perils of detention, the uncertainty was perhaps more elevated for the three activists who went to Mexico more recently to take part in the action. Although undocumented people in the U.S. live under the constant threat of detention and deportation, there is a relative safety in staying here. Those three who willingly crossed into Mexico are facing the new uncertainty of not being able to return to their respective homes, after having just left them.

Marco Saavedra, 23, who hails from Washington Heights in New York City and hasn’t been to Mexico since he was 3, is one such activist. He has already infiltrated a detention center and is currently in deportation proceedings. But last Thursday morning as he waited for his flight to Mexico Saavedra reluctantly admitted that this border action is riskier than others he’s worked on in the past. The risk of crossing into Mexico, of course, was that he could be denied humanitarian parole and be permanently barred from the U.S. “I’m trying not to focus on that too much,” Saavedra said. “If I did, I might shut down and not be able to go through with it.”

The Dream 9 are not alone in their action. The NIYA is now maintaining a waiting list of people who want to use the strategy; they’re drawn to the idea that there is a humanitarian option. Just hours after the Dream 9 crossed, a group of 30 people who had already been deported to Mexico attempted to cross as well. It’s unclear what became of their effort. Pima County public defender Margo Cowan, who is providing legal services for the Dream 9, said she will support the effort of the 30 additional crossers, should they need it.

As the Dream 9 approached the border, supporters on the U.S. side—including citizens, green card holders, and undocumented activists—could be heard screaming, “Bring them home!” The NIYA informed supporters that the border patrol had sent an email threatening immediate arrest and deportation as soon as the Dream 9 crossed into the U.S. Those moments of uncertainty are traces, in some ways, of the anxiety that some family members feel; the loved ones of those more than 1.5 million people who have been detained and deported by the Obama administration. Yet the nine were not deported immediately, and are now in detention hoping to attain some form of relief in order to return home.

That desire relies heavily on lawmakers whose influence on Capitol Hill could sway the outcome. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Il.) took to social media to say that he hopes “the Obama administration will do the right thing.” But for many, that’s not nearly enough.

“We don’t care if he comes out on Facebook because that accomplishes nothing for us,” said Mohammad Abdollahi, who works with the NIYA. “If the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says they fight for families, they shouldn’t be posting on social media,” he added. “It’s about taking proper action and using the proper channels to make sure the Dream 9 can come home.”

Immigration officials would not comment on the crossing or subsequent detention citing privacy concerns. In order to attain asylum, the Dream 9 will have to convince authorities that they will face certain persecution in Mexico. But Obama and other lawmakers can take swift action to otherwise secure their release. To that end, the NIYA is asking supporters to sign a petition and call lawmakers to keep the pressure on as the Dream 9 are kept at the Florence Detention Center—a facility that is privately owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America.

Before the initial eight crossers took their action at the border, they spent several days mapping out how to organize other detainees once they were taken into custody. Their goal now is to not only demonstrate that a humanitarian return home is possible, but to also halt deportations from detention.

Backpacks from the Border

Backpacks from the Border

In January 2009, an anthropologist named Jason De León began spending a lot of time near the United States border south of Tucson. On the Mexican side, he interviews would-be migrants about to try an illegal crossing. On the American side, he collects what is discarded by those who make it — among other things, clothing soiled by the passage and the backpacks in which they carried clean clothes. Many of these items have been exhibited at the University of Michigan, where De León is the director of the Undocumented Migration Project; one of his collaborators, the photographer Richard Barnes, helped select the backpacks for the following pages. Says De León: “I realized that you have this highly politicized social process that’s incredibly clandestine and misunderstood. I just want the public to have a better understanding of what it actually looks like.”

MAG-Net May 2013 Digital Dialogue: “The Immigrant Rights Movement: Advancing Media and Cultural Strategies”

Submitted by bettyyu on Tue, 2013-06-11 15:09 on

May 1st marks May Day, also known as International Workers Day. On May 1st, 1886, nearly a half a million immigrants went on a general strike to fight for a 8-hour workday. Over a hundred years later, starting in 2006, again millions of immigrant workers and supporters participated in May Day protests against H.R. 4437, a draconian anti-immigrant bill. Even today, the majority of May Day protests are led by immigrants.

Currently, the immigrant rights movement is continuing its fight for comprehensive immigration reform–working to create a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented individuals in this country. At the same time, the corporate media depicts undocumented immigrants as job stealers, lazy welfare cheats, and possible “terrorist” all at the same time. This false narrative not only hurts immigrant communities, it also impacts our ability to move any transformative policy. How can the media justice and immigrant rights movements work together more effectively to uplift the stories of those families most directly impacted by bad legislation, border security and deportations? How are the online and office privacy and rights of immigrants being violated by the U.S. Government?

This Digital Dialogue will bring together organizers, media justice activists, journalists, cultural workers and policy experts who are working to advance a immigrant rights agenda that upholds the dignity, labor and human rights of immigrant communities. On the call we will hear about the various storytelling, media making and cultural strategies to advance this fight.

Featured Speakers:
Laura Muraida, Southwest Workers Union
Aura Bogado, The Nation & Colorlines
Chris Calabrese, American Civil Liberties Union
B. Loewe, National Day Laborers Organizing Network
Celso Mireles, United We Dream

Moderated by: Pedro Joel Espinosa, IDEPSCA & Betty Yu, Center for Media Justice

70,000 people urge New York Times to stop using the dehumanizing and inaccurate term, “illegal”, from news coverage

On Tuesday, April 23, 2013 The Applied Research Center (APC) and The Drop the I-Word Campaign joined with activists, including Fernando Chavez, attorney and eldest son of Cesar Chavez, and Jose Antonio Vargas, award-winning journalist and founder of Define American, to deliver petitions signed by 70,000 people to the New York Times urging them to stop using the term, “illegal” from their news stories when referring to individuals.   Mr. Chavez, Jose Antonio Vargas, the ARC and a coalition of supporters and activists delivered the petitions to Jill Abramson’s office, the executive editor of the NY Times.  The petition was started by Helen Chavez, Fernando Chavez’ mother and widow of Cesar Chavez.

The petitions were delivered only a few weeks after the Associated Press announced their decision to drop the dehumanizing and inaccurate term from describing individuals and would instead only use the word “to refer to an action.”

We feel the term is provocative, dehumanizing, and racially charged.  It is also imprecise and inaccurate.  The term does not take into account the variety of reasons a person is undocumented; many came here legally and have overstayed visas, were brought here as children, or overstayed fleeing persecution.  It creates the stereotyping of a group of individuals, mostly people of color, and centers the immigration debate around border control, when borders are not the issue.  In an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Rinku Sen, the ARC’s Executive Director and President, said it best.  It is an “imprecise term that is applied in a blanket way,” and we feel it needs to change.

A few hours after the petitions were delivered, Philip B. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards, who oversees The Times’ style manual, made an announcement that the Times updated its policies.  Unfortunately, it would continue to use the word “illegal” to describe “someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization.” It encourages reporters and editors to “consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions.”

The AP announcement earlier this month was a victory, and we can only hope that more major news sources, like the New York Times and the LA Times “get with the times” and drop the i-word.

For more information, please visit

Challenging the Roots of Norway’s Tragedy

The horrific murder of 76 people in Norway on July 22nd underscores the fact that, much like in the United States, migration is a giant issue facing Europe. The 1,500 page political manifesto released by Anders Behring Breivik, the confessed killer, blends together racist, anti-feminist and anti-marxist rhetoric with islamophobia and anti-immigrant vitriol. Yet Breivik’s diatribes are not such a far cry from the political tide gaining strength in many countries of Europe. New laws in France and Belgium banning the veil and the burqa and the rise of anti-immigrant political parties have served to strengthen an extreme right wing agenda on the European continent.

One of the goals of Uprooted is to draw connections between migration and other social / economic phenomena. What are the forces in the contemporary world that push people to leave home, family, neighbors, the familiar to cross barriers of mountains, oceans, deserts and language to go to other, often hostile countries?

Why does the extreme right focus on immigration? How does xenophobia reinforce the imperialist, white, male hegemony, so blatantly promoted by politicians and much of the media? And most chillingly of all: are attacks, like those perpetrated in Norway, the logical next step to arise from the political ideologies espoused by the far right – little examined,  frequently underplayed or even at times rationalized in the corporate media.

Deep Dish TV and the Uprooted team are working with European filmmakers and activists to develop a series of short documentaries that focus on the dimensions of the migration conflicts in Europe, including No Borders a group that challenge the very concept of nation-states and borders.

The following video is from a 2007  No Borders camp on the California/ Mexico border:

Uprooted will help to create an alternative to the mainstream medias discourse on immigration, which finds expression in and  fuels the rise of hate groups and the extreme right.

In their search for a narrative through which to filter the tragic attacks in Norway, many media outlets framed the bombing and shootings in an all too familiar way. Many outlets first pointed fingers at “Islamic terrorists” before anything was even known about the cause for the attacks. The Sun and the Washington Post, not only assumed the tragedies were the result of Muslim militant groups, but that they were attacks on “Western values,” tactical strikes in the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” between “the West” and Islam. In reality however, it was those very theories that state that Europe or “the West” is at “war” with Islam that drove Breivik to his actions. Those actions that he claims were a preemptive strike against the “Islamization” of Europe.

As Glen Greenwald points out in an article for, the news media immediately stopped calling the attacks “terrorism” when they learned that the perpetrator was a white European nationalist. This is because, as Greenwald puts it, “Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes.” With attitudes like this perpetuated by the so-called “liberal news media” is it any wonder that members of the ultra-right have stated that they ideologically agree with Breivik, even if they don’t condone his violence?

The mainstream media has labeled Breivik a “madman,” an “extremist,” and even a “psychopath”. By dismissing him as a crazy individual they neglect to place his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in its rightful context: within the rise of right-wing extremism and white supremacy in Europe. The “lone madman” interpretation of events ignores the fact that in the past few years the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hatred of the so-called “extremists also finds congruence within mainstream “reasoned” political discourse . Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented that multiculturalism had “utterly failed.” Shortly before these comments, a German politician released a book criticizing Germany’s immigration policy for engendering the same “Islamization” of Germany and Europe that Breivik feared. Both British PM David Cameron and French President Sarkozy have cast multiculturalism as a threat to their societies.

In his manifesto, Breivik listed Dutch anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders as one of his greatest influences.  Wilders has compared the Quran to Mein Kampf. While Wilders has hastily denied any connection to Breivik, his influence, and that of others like him cannot be denied. As author, journalist and professor Jeff Sharlet stated in an interview on Democracy Now!, the right wing politicians and pundits “are engaging in a rhetoric that sort of walks right up to that step of violence, and Breivik took the step. And it’s a little disingenuous for them to say, ‘Well, we never imagined anyone would do that.’ Painting Islam and immigrants as a threat to ‘western society’ that cannot be reasoned with and must be stopped at all cost paves the way for violence.”

In a well reasoned argument on Democracy Now!, renowned Norweigian peace activist and scholar Johan Galtung, compared Breivik’s philosophy to Nazism in no uncertain terms. He also stated however, that, ” This is exactly the ideology of the Washington-led attack on Muslim countries.” Citing the bombing of Libya and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as policies that take the same philosophy used by Breivik to its logical conclusion. These are scary realities to confront.

Nevertheless, Galtung did offer some words of hope for a solution. He stated that what is needed is a renewed call for dialogue; with the extreme right as well as with those groups which they so fear. “What a fantastic symbol this would be” he said, “leaving these rightists behind, saying, “You are not a part of our history. You belong to the past. Come and join us in this endeavor. Talk with the Islamic people you are so afraid of.” And you will find them 99.99 percent very, very reasonable.”

Fighting dehumanization in this way is the best strategy for challenging the largely white, straight, male political and cultural establishment that so fears the power of a more culturally integrated generation. That is why Uprooted is devoted to reclaiming the humanity of migrants both documented and undocumented. By telling their stories and giving them a place to have their voices heard Uprooted hopes to contribute to this dialogue for peace. By examining how migration relates to labor, imperialism, patriarchy and globalization Uprooted will contribute to the arguments that stand against xenophobia and racism. We hope that this project will be a tool that can be used to help stem the flow of hatred and challenge the pathological path advocated by those like Anders Breivik.

To learn more about Uprooted and how you can get involved just click here!

NEW WORLD BORDER Exhibit in Arizona, New Jersey, and Missouri!

Uprooted is looking for submissions of all kinds of work.  From videos and audio to photos and paintings, Uprooted aims to bring together artists and media makers producing unique content about migration.  Check out this traveling art show to see the powerful pieces of some truly amazing artists doing exactly that!

In this show artists from NEW WORLD BORDER use art to express their opinions on the border wall constructed between the US and Mexico.

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