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 SaldaƱa, 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 –