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Trip to Texas for NNIRR board meeting

2 September 2015 No Comment
September 2, 2015

MIRA is an active part of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) and Bill Chandler serves on the NNIRR board. In July, NNIRR hosted its national board meeting in South Texas, organized by Eduardo Canales, Board Chair.

The board members met and conducted business in a different city each day. On the first day, Bill and Patricia (MIRA Legal Project Director), along with the other NNIRR board members, visited a shelter for unaccompanied minor children in San Antonio, where they held the first part of the board meeting.

On the second day, they saw the notorious Falfurrias border patrol checkpoint, and visited the South Texas Human Rights Center in Falfurrias. They were able to see the work that Eduardo Canales does in the remote ranches of Brooks County.

Eduardo, who co-founded the South Texas Human Rights Center with Maria Jimenez (a former MIRA board member) and others, have an arrangement with several of the ranchers in Brooks County, which is located about 70 miles north of the US / Mexican border. Migrants cross into the wild, rough, sandy country on foot to avoid the Falfurrias border checkpoint. The sand makes walking difficult and dangerous. While attempting the approximately 40-mile trek around the checkpoint, many suffer severe dehydration and heatstroke in 100+ degree temperatures. Hundreds die every year while attempting  border crossings. In order to prevent some of the deaths, ranchers and local law enforcement agreed to allow Eduardo to install water stations throughout the area, and keep the stations stocked with gallon water jugs.

Bill and Patricia, along with the other NNIRR leaders, took a tour through the land to see the water stations. The van they traveled in got stuck in the sand and they had to get towed out!

The third day, they met with allies at the South Texas Civil Rights Project near McAllen, TX, and then concluded their board meeting.

The Texas Observer tells the visceral story of migrant deaths and mass graves in Brooks County in “Graves of Shame.” Another major issue in South Texas is the detention centers for unaccompanied minor children who are caught during border crossings. The New Yorker Magazine featured a powerful article in its April 27, 2015 issue titled “Where Are the Children?” It’s a heartbreaking look at how tougher border enforcement policies are turning children into major targets for kidnapping and extortion.

Arrangements were made to allow Patricia and several other board members to visit a few of the mothers and children locked up in the Karnes City facility. These visits were heartbreaking experiences. Stories of separation, regimentation, food of questionable quality and other stories were shared.

There are two other huge facilities of this kind –one in Pennsylvania and the other in Dilly, also in South Texas. The Karnes City facility has been the scene of protests over conditions both by inmates and by the families’ Verbündeten. All of these facilities are privatized, which contributes to the problems. GEO, which runs Karnes City, makes a profit off the inmates as do CCA and other corporations, including all of the US Bureau of Prisons immigrations detention centers. (The infamous facility in Jena, Louisiana, where most of the victims of the 2008 Laurel raid were locked up is run by GEO). These are real cash cows for these predators.

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