Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tell Senator Schumer that Border Walls are NOT Immigration Reform!

Senator Charles Schumer will be crafting Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation over the August recess, and has announced that he will introduce it around Labor Day. While it should be good news that immigration reform may finally be addressed, it looks like Schumer plans to include more border walls in the bill. If walls are part of the bill that he introduces it will be extremely difficult to strip them out. We may even see a repeat of 2006, in which border walls were part of competing immigration reform bills in the House and Senate. Those reform efforts died, and their border wall provisions were turned into the Secure Fence Act.

In a June press release, Schumer listed 7 principles that will form the basis of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Principles 1 & 2 are:

1. Illegal immigration is wrong, and a primary goal of comprehensive immigration reform must be to dramatically curtail future illegal immigration.

2. Operational control of our borders--through significant additional increases in infrastructure, technology, and border personnel--must be achieved within a year of enactment of legislation.

Senator Schumer recently voted for Senator DeMint's amendment, which calls for hundreds of miles of border wall.

It is critical that we pressure Senator Schumer to keep border walls out of his immigration reform bill. A good start would be to flood his office with phone calls, faxes, and emails. Below is a sample letter that anyone can copy and send along, but it is important to remember that phone calls and personal letters will have more impact. The important thing is to stress that border walls must NOT be part of immigration reform.

There is a form on Schumer's website that you can use to write to him here:
But again, phone calls and personalized letters will be the most effective.

Senator Charles Schumer

313 Hart Senate Building

Washington , DC 20510


Dear Senator Schumer,

I was extremely disappointed by your vote for Senator DeMint’s amendment calling for more border walls, and I am worried that you plan to include border walls in Comprehensive Immigration Reform. While immigration reform is needed, border walls should not be part of it.

The walls that already scar the borderlands have not stopped desperate immigrants from entering the United States . Border Patrol spokespersons refer to them as “speed bumps,” and say that they only slow crossers by 5 minutes. The Congressional Research Service determined that border walls have “no discernible impact” on the number of undocumented immigrants who successfully cross our borders.

While they fail at their intended purpose, border walls have serious negative impacts, including:

· Pushing thousands of border crossers into the desert, where hundreds die each year. The GAO found that after walls were built near San Diego the number of annual deaths in the desert doubled, and in the past decade over 5,000 bodies have been recovered.

· Inflicting tremendous environmental damage, including the severing of wildlife migration corridors, the destruction of endangered species habitat, the sedimentation of rivers, and unprecedented harm to designated Wilderness Areas, National Monuments, Wildlife Refuges, and preserves owned by Audubon and the Nature Conservancy.

· Condemning the property of hundreds of landowners who live along the border. Farmers, ranchers, and homeowners, some of whose property has been passed down for generations, have been hauled into court and had their lands taken to make way for border walls.

· $3.1 billion has already been spent on border walls, and the DeMint amendment will cost another $2.7 billion. Our nation cannot afford to waste billions more on “speed bumps.”

Including more border walls in Comprehensive Immigration Reform would sacrifice more landowners, ecosystems, and the lives of hundreds of immigrants just to attract a few votes.

As Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said this past February, “you cannot build a fence from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, and call that an immigration policy.”

Border walls have no place in immigration reform. Don’t sacrifice the border to pass the bill.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Wall documentary screens in McAllen July 17 and San Antonio July 18

A new documentary about the border wall will screen in McAllen, Texas at the Cine el Rey theater on July 17, and in San Antonio at the Guadalupe Theater on July 18. With the recent Senate vote to build more walls, it is important to understand the history and human impacts of the border walls that have already been built. Below is the press release for the film. Spread the word!


A controversial new film about the border fence is coming to South Texas. The Wall, a documentary about the construction of a fence along the US/Mexico border will play two dates in Texas, July 17th at McAllen's El Cine De Rey and July 18th at San Antonio's Guadalupe Theatre. The film, which takes place in Arizona, California, and Texas, took 3 years to complete.

the wall documentary

Director Ricardo Martinez captures many perspectives impacted by the fence. The Wall follows several law enforcement officials, border town residents, and the Minutemen as they each faced the reality of having a 25 foot Wall being built in their backyard. Border residents like Gloria Garza of Granjeno watch as the fence is erected and new problems start to arrive.

the wall documentary,gloria garza
the wall documentary,secure fence act

Ricardo and his crew even managed to follow and track several undocumented immigrants in Mexico as they prepared to cross the border, and ultimately climb The Wall. Using never before seen surveillance footage and night vision cameras, a mysterious and sometimes dangerous world emerges.

the wall documentary

On the other side of the spectrum, the film features many border town residents and local officials. Small towns like Arivaca, McAllen, Granjeno, and Brownsville all make appearances in the film. Capturing a moment in time, the film tracks the No Border Wall Coalition's grassroots efforts to organize Rio Grande Valley residents against the fence. Showing the power of community, watch as Valley residents protest and unite to change the fence plan.

the wall documentary,gloria garza
the wall documentary,McAllen

The filming was not always sunny and nice. Ricardo's film crew often had to scale back equipment and camp out deep in the desert to catch traffickers, immigrants, Border Patrol, and vigilante groups on camera. Vigilante groups like the Minutemen make a particularly unsettling appearance in The Wall as Martinez captured a few of them making some 'controversial' statements about the US and Hispanics.

the wall documentary,minutemen
the wall documentary,minutemen

At one point, the film crew traveled to Altar, Mexico to interview immigrants preparing to cross the border illegally. Made up of 'huespedes' or safehouses, the town was essentially run by the Carteles in the area, which didn't reassure the film crew of their safety.

"Thinking back, that probably was against my better judgment, but I felt like it made a helluva story on camera," says Ricardo grinning. "The local priest and church basically told us as long as we stuck with him, we'd be fine. We did and in the end, it was actually kind of a nice town."

The film plays on Friday, July 17th at 8:00 PM at El Cine De Rey in McAllen and Saturday July 18th at 8:00pm at the Guadalupe Theatre in San Antonio. Tickets are $5. Q&A and reception follow. Screening Details and information can be found at or
For any questions regarding this press release, to review the film for your publication, or to contact the filmmaker email To watch clips of the film visit,,, or friend our Facebook page!

Official Synopsis

In 2006, Congress passed The Secure Fence Act calling for the construction of over 700 miles of fence along the US/Mexico border. Fueled by the War on Drugs and the debate on Immigration Reform, politicians jumped at the chance to "secure our borders". They were not prepared for what followed.
Filmed over two years, The Wall, a feature documentary, chronicles the impact of constructing a border fence along the Southwest. From policy makers to citizens of border towns in Texas, Arizona, and California, the debate elevates as residents respond to having a fence built in their backyard.
Gloria Garza sat on her porch, in Granjeno, Texas. She was enjoying her stretch of land by the Rio Grande River, when a man from the Department of Homeland Security arrived with a piece of paper. He asked her to sign a letter granting permission to build a 25 foot wall on her property. She thought it was a joke.
In Nogales, Arizona, Sheriff Tony Estrada, completed his routine check of the border wall. Since the border fence had been built, violence and immigrant deaths are steadily rising. This is not a policy he could believe in, but few were listening.
Determined to stop immigrant crossing, the Minutemen had taken matters into their own hands. They patrolled the area intercepting immigrants and notifying border patrol. Armed with ammunition and an ideology, they openly advocated more fencing to help their objectives.
At the epicenter of this controversy, Wilfredo and Adan are undocumented immigrants with a lot at stake. Wilfredo is trying to get across the border and will have to pass several layers of fencing and security. Adan waits for his father who must make the same dangerous trip he himself took several years earlier. How will their lives be changed by The Wall?
Director, Ricardo Martinez brings The Wall to life; intertwining rare surveillance footage and controversial interviews. He and his crew often risked their own safety while filming.
At the forefront of the debate, the film includes commentary by The Texas Border Coalition, The Southwest Border Sheriff's Coalition, No Border Wall Coalition, the Minutemen, Border Patrol officers, congressional hearings, and more.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Friends of Friendship Park press conference in San Diego July 8

What: release of open letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano

When: Wednesday, July 8, 10 a.m.

Where: U.S. District Court, 940 Front Street, San Diego, CA

Who: Friends of Friendship Park;

Contacts: John Fanestil (619-823-6223; john@; Jill Holslin (619-804-8030;; Rosemary Johnston (619-384-6852;; Enrique Morones (619-977-9467;; Pedro Rios (619-370-5908;; Dan Watman (619-954-9710; dan.watman@

California State Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr., together with local, state and federal elected officials, has joined some 70 community-based organizations and over 130 community leaders in a joint letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, calling for the restoration of routine public access to Friendship Park, the historic location overlooking the Pacific Ocean where for generations people have gathered with friends and family at the U.S.-Mexico border fence.

Elected leaders signing on to the joint letter include Lt. Governor John Garamendi, Members of Congress Susan Davis and Bob Filner, State Senators Denise Ducheny and Christine Kehoe, State Assemblymembers Mary Salas and Lori Saldaña, and San Diego City Councilmembers Marti Emerald, Donna Frye, Todd Gloria, Ben Hueso and Tony Young.

The text of the joint letter will be released at a press conference on Wednesday, July 8 at 10 a.m. in front of the U.S. District Court, 940 Front Street, San Diego, CA 92101.

Speakers will include Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties; Rudy Murillo, past Acting Director of the San Diego Immigration and Naturalization Service; Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee; and Daniel Watman of the community-based organization Border Encuentro. Mr. Watman faces Federal trespassing charges in the U.S. District Court at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, after standing in front of a bull dozer and temporarily stopping the construction of the new wall that currently restricts all access to the U.S. side of Friendship Park.

The text of the letter will also be posted at 12 noon on Wednesday to the Friends of Friendship Park website:

Civic leaders endorsing the letter include former Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Schenk, and former State Senators Lucy Killea and Steve Peace. Also endorsing are Irwin Jacobs, Murray Galinson, Deborah Szekely, Christine Forrester, Marcy Krinsk and dozens more.

Wayne Cornelius (Distinguished Professor of Political Science Emeritus, UC San Diego), David Shirk (Director of the Trans-Border Institute, University of San Diego) and Richard Griswold del Castillo (Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, San Diego State University) are just a few of the over 30 educators who signed the letter.

Religious leaders supporting the letter come from almost every tradition and include Bishop Mary Ann Swenson of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, Dr. Jamie Gates, Director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation at Point Loma Nazarene University and Rev. Ann Seisen Saunders of National City’s Sweetwater Zen Center.

San Diego’s legal community is represented on the letter by Administrative Law Judge Deborah Smaller, California Western Law Professor William J. Aceves, and Eric Alan Isaacson of Coughlin Stoia Gellar Rudman & Robbins LLP, among many others.

Dozens of San Diego-based organizations are signatories to the letter, including human rights organizations like the National Lawyers Guild and the San Diego Human Relations Commission, religious organizations like Office for Social Ministry, Diocese of San Diego, and environmental organizations like the Environmental Health Coalition and WiLDCOAST.

Dozens more organizations from beyond San Diego have adopted the cause of Friendship Park. Just a few of these to endorse the letter are: Border Ambassadors (Del Rio, TX), Frontera de Cristo (Douglas, AZ/Agua Prieta, Sonora), Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (San Francisco, CA), Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ (Washington, DC), Mexican Community Center of New York, CECOMEX (New York, NY), Sojourners (Washington, DC) and Western Lands Project (Seattle, WA).

“The entire border should not be reduced to a ‘no-man’s land,” said John Fanestil, Executive Director of the San Diego-based Foundation for Change and a leader in the Friends of Friendship Park coalition. “Friendship Park reminds us all that a brighter future lies ahead for the borderlands and border people.”

“We are encouraged by recent overtures from [“Border Czar”] Alan Bersin and [San Diego Border Patrol Chief] Mike Fisher,” said Enrique Morones, President of Border Angels and another leader in the Friends of Friendship Park coalition. “We are confident the Park will re-open soon.”

Friends of Friendship Park –

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tell Congress to Support the Border Security and Responsibility Act

Last week, Representative Grijalva (D-Arizona) introduced the Border Security and Responsibility Act of 2009 (HR 2076). This legislation would restore the rule of law to the borderlands by repealing the Real ID waiver provision and help protect our communities, private property, and national parks and wildlife refuges from damaged caused by the border wall.

This week, dozens of concerned citizens from across the nation are traveling to Washington, D.C. on their own dime to walk through the halls of Congress and build support for Rep. Grijalva’s bill.

But you don’t have to be in DC to make a difference. Please take action today. Call your member of Congress and urge him or her to support the Border Security and Responsibility Act of 2009. The congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121, or find your representative’s contact information at

With enough phone calls, we can elevate this critical issue for Congress and ensure that the damage caused by the border wall is no longer ignored.

Thanks for making a difference, and please pass on this alert and post links to it.

Suggested Talking Points for Phone Calls:

· Please cosponsor the Border Security and Responsibility Act of 2009, a bill recently introduced by Rep. Grijalva.

· The border wall has caused significant damage to communities, water quality, and wildlife habitat. I think that Congress needs to act to address these problems that the wall has created.

· I am concerned by the fact that three dozen laws were waived for border wall construction. Landmark laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act were put in place for a reason: to protect the public’s interest. These laws shouldn’t be ignored. An unelected official should not have the power to waive these laws.

· Land managers, local officials, and local communities have been shut out of the decision making process. This bill would allow them to have a say in border security decisions by requiring full public notice and participation.

· To address the damage that border walls have caused, there need to be robust mitigation efforts. This bill would develop initiatives to help mitigate negative impacts to communities and natural resources, including the network of congressionally protected federal lands along the border.

· Please cosponsor the Border Security and Responsibility Act of 2009 and help restore and protect the communities and natural areas of the borderlands.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 15 Friends of Friendship Park Vigil at Chula Vista Border Patrol Headquarters

What: Silent vigil in front of Border Patrol headquarters, protesting the destruction of Friendship Park and the exclusion of community voices from the decision-making process which has led to the elimination of public access to the park.
When: Wednesday, April 15, 12:00 p.m.
Where: Border Patrol Headquarters: 2411 Boswell Rd, Chula Vista, CA 91914.
Who: Friends of Friendship Park is a coalition of community organizations including (partial list): American Friends Service Committee - San Diego, Border Ambassadors (Del Rio, TX), Border Angels, Border Meetup Group, CASA (Coalition of Amigos in Solidarity and Action), Center for Justice and Reconciliation, PLNU, Center for Social Advocacy, Environmental Health Coalition, Foundation for Change, Los Caminos del Rio, MACC (Mexican American Catholic College), Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, Network of Spiritual Progressives, San Diego, Pax Christi Brownsville, Peace Resource Center of San Diego, Plan of Action in a Changing Era, Rio Grande International Study Center (Laredo, TX), San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, San Diego Coastkeeper, Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO), Sí Se Puede Immigrants’ Rights Organization, Sierra Club, San Diego Chapter, St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, Surfrider Foundation, San Diego chapter, The Employee Rights Center in San Diego,Wildcoast – Costasalvaje.
Contacts: John Fanestil / / 619-823-6223
Enrique Morones / / (619) 977-9467
Why: This week President Obama will sit down to visit with President Felipe Calderon in Mexico. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security is shutting down Friendship Park, where people from San Diego and Tijuana have visited with friends for generations.
In solidarity with those being denied access to this historic venue, and in protest of DHS decision-making, which has excluded all community voices, Friends of Friendship Park invite you to join a Silent Vigil on the day before the presidential meeting.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Border Wall Vigil in Washington DC March 17

Sponsored by CASA
Vigil Against the
Mexico/US Border Wall
Tuesday March 17th, 2009
10am – 12pm
Meet us in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool
at the East end of National Mall.
President Obama, help us tear down this wall!
Vigil Sponsored by CASA (Coalition of Amigos in Solidarity & Action)
A Coalition from the Rio Grande Valley, along the US/Mexico Border
For More Info,
Please contact:
Ryan 956-203-6801
Elizabeth 956-459-3205

Friday, February 27, 2009

Communion through the Border Wall at San Diego's Friendship Park March 1

The Friends of Friendship Park coalition will return to the park this Sunday afternoon and once again seek to celebrate communion with friends in Tijuana.

We will meet at 2:30 p.m. at the entrance to Border Field State Park. Take Hwy 5 South, exit Dairy Mart Road, turn right and follow the winding road west to the park entrance. Wear boots for hiking and bring documents verifying residence in the United States. I hope you can join us.

Thank you all for your nonviolent response to the extreme conditions of our event last Saturday, February 21. To read an account of my experience last Saturday, see this blog post at Sojourners on-line.

There are several things you can do to support the effort, even if you are unable to participate on Sunday:

1) You can send a letter on-line to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano – be sure to mention “Friendship Park” when you personalize your letter.

2) You can donate now to support the costs of our events at the Park – be sure to indicate “Friendship Park” in the “dedication” line.


John Fanestil

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Save Friendship Park from the Border Wall Feb. 21

Thursday, Feb. 19

6 p.m. Community Forum
Location: San Diego City College, A-103
Contact:Pedro Rios

We call for a halt to all construction on the U.S.-Mexico border, pending public review, and for a re-design of Friendship Park to ensure continuing public access.

Saturday, Feb. 21
Save Friendship Park

11 a.m. Gathering

at entrance to Border Field State Park (directions below)

11:30 Hike to Friendship Park

12:15 Program (contact)
Bi-National Choir

Bi-National Communion

Bi-National Garden

Carpooling encouraged. Documents may
be required.

DIRECTIONS: Take Hwy 5 South, exit Dairy Mart Road, turn right (West) and follow winding road to park entrance.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Stop the Wall Event in El Paso 21 Feb

  • Meet at Sunland Park and Anapra
  • Sunday February 21, 2009
  • 12:00 – 2:00 PM

Two purposes:

One is to show solidarity with the Compañeras and Compañeros from San Diego's Friendship Park. Just like Rio Bosque was crudely appropriated by the DHS, San Diego's Friendship Park has been under attack by the construction of the Border Wall. The Friendship Park has been a historical site for gatherings among residents of both countries. Family and friends have used this "public" area to exchange kisses, tamales and news through small gaps in the tattered chain-link fence. Now the Border Patrol and the DHS will slice trough the park, limiting access. U.S Customs and Border Patrol have begun demolishing the Pak and intend to eliminate all public access.

The second purpose is to continue with the ¡YA BASTA! --- TOD@S CONTRA EL MURO campaign. The campaign is still focused to stop and bring down the wall. During the Peace and Unity Walk from Ft. Hancock to Sunland Park we committed to go back to the communities that received us and report back as to what has been done and listen to their proposals. The idea is to strengthen our border communities under a same cause.

This is what we propose to do:

  • Meet at Sunland Park and Anapra
  • Sunday February 21, 2009
  • 12:00 – 2:00 PM

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Celebrate Communion through the Border Wall at Friendship Park in San Diego Every Sunday

Ever since I became a fan of Friendship Park, I’d heard stories about its official dedication as a California State Park in August, 1971, at which then-First Lady Pat Nixon presided. Some stories had her asking that the fence be cut so she could greet the Mexican children on the other side; others had her speaking openly about her wishes that someday there would be no fence at all.I’ve refrained from spreading this story too widely, because I didn’t have good corroboration of it … until now. Visit the link below to read the remarkable story and SEE PHOTOS OF PATRICIA NIXON REACHING THROUGH WHAT WAS THEN A SIMPLE, BARBED-WIRE FENCE.

I never thought I’d say it, but I find myself following in Pat Nixon’s footsteps. I’m not planning on cutting the fence, mind you, but at 3 p.m. this Sunday – and at 3 p.m. on every Sunday until further notice – I plan to serve communion through the fence to anyone who wants to receive it. You are always welcome to join me. Just remember to bring papers documenting your citizenship or residency.

Here’s the link to the Pat Nixon story:

Starting in San Diego, CA
From I-5 Exit West on Dairy Mart Road
Dairy Mart Road turns into Monument Road
Follow Monument Road to Park Entrance.
Valid U.S. identification may be required.Expired car registration may be subject to fine.

John Fanestil
Executive DirectorFoundation for Change
(619) 692-0527

To watch Steev Hise’s ten-minute video about communion at Friendship Park, visit:

To join the new “Friends of Friendship Park” cause on facebook, visit:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chertoff Retirement Parties in Brownsville, Texas and Tucson, Arizona January 10


BROWNSVILLE, TX — On January 10th communities along the Texas border will be throwing Retirement Parties to celebrate the end of Michael Chertoff’s tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security. During his illustrious career, Secretary Chertoff has driven a wall through the borderlands, condemned the property of hundreds of Texas landowners, waived the laws that protect us, imprisoned immigrant families, and set a new low in the response to Hurricane Katrina. Border residents will gather in Brownsville, where Chertoff’s concrete and steel legacy is being erected along the Rio Grande, to remember the man who has done so much to our communities.

“This is not a protest disguised as a party - this is a party. Chertoff has only been Secretary for three years but he has managed to do a tremendous amount of damage. Texas will be glad to see him gone, and it can’t come soon enough,” said Scott Nicol of the No Border Wall Coalition.

In Brownsville Chertoff’s Retirement Party will be held at Galeria 409 starting at 6pm, within spitting distance of the coming border wall. Chertoff’s retirement is like Christmas morning and the day after you get over the flu all wrapped up together. So the party will blend a corporate retirement party and Carnival. Poets and artists will contribute their thoughts on the man who has so profoundly impacted the border; Ensamble la Mision (and possibly other bands) will play; a retirement cake and piñata will bear his likeness; Chertoff’s Wheel of Fortune; a raffle; and still-President Bush may even stop by to give Chertie a send-off.

“We’re having a party for Michael, but he’s not invited,” said Bill Guerra Addington from No Wall – Big Bend.

Galeria 409 is located at 409 E. 13th Street in Brownsville, between Levee and Elizabeth, a block from the Gateway Bridge. Call gallery owner Mark Clark at (956) 455-3599, or Scott Nicol at (956) 532-5983, for information, or email No Border Wall at

Chertoff's long awaited departure will be celebrated in Tucson, Arizona, in a region that has suffered from more than its fair share of border wall. Raise a toast to the ex-Secretary, and rest assured that he will be watching on the virtual wall's spy cameras.
Celebrate the end of Chertoff's reign of ineptitude Tucson-style with a pinata, dart board, and cold beer at:
The Hut
305 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ
The El Paso Retirement Party has been postponed.
Check back later to for details on its rescheduling.