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COLIBRÍ STANDS AGAINST XENOPHOBIC EXECUTIVE ORDERS

Released January 30, 2017

The past week has left us all shaken but holding stronger than ever to our commitment to fight for the protection of human rights and the preservation of human life in the face of disturbingly zealous xenophobia.

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump survived by playing to his supporters’ fear of immigrants, refugees, and anyone they considered “other.” He repeatedly perpetuated false claims about undocumented immigrants and promised merciless action against such “threats” upon taking office. On Wednesday, the Administration put the first of its anti-immigrant promises into action by signing an executive order calling for the immediate construction of a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border among other directives that will further militarize border communities. Then came another xenophobic executive order indefinitely barring all Syrian refugees from entering the country, suspending all other refugee admission for 120 days, and banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and Yemen for at least 90 days.

It is clear that the Administration is intentionally targeting refugees, immigrants, and migrants. The Colibrí Center for Human Rights stands in unequivocal opposition to these actions, which violate human and civil rights, disregard Indigenous sovereignty, endanger precious border ecosystems, and threaten human life.

The current Administration’s focus on the U.S.-Mexico border is not only dangerous, but also misguided and misinformed. There already exists approximately 650 miles of a border barrier: 352 miles of primary fencing and 299 miles of vehicle barrier fencing. The remaining border terrain is heavily surveilled and enforced by stadium lighting, ground sensors, state-of-the-art cameras, checkpoints, drag roads that disrupt the local flora and fauna, and a record number of border agents. For the migrants who are apprehended, a complex and lucrative court process awaits to prosecute them, filling the coffers of the private prison industry at the expense of the American taxpayer.  Meanwhile, data show that overall immigration from Mexico has declined since its peak in 2007 and that apprehensions have decreased at the border, making the multi-billion dollar proposal not based in fact but in an interest in instilling fear.

For those of us who actually live and work on the border, we know exactly what the effects of these executive actions will be; we have seen them for more than 20 years. We bear witness to the continued death and disappearance of migrants on the border, the separation and devastation of families, and the devastation brought upon border communities.

Since the mid-1990s, at least 7,000 men, women and children have died crossing the border. More than 2,500 people are still missing. The Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner currently has approximately 900 cases of individuals recovered on the border who remain unidentified. These deaths are a direct result of border militarization policies just like those proposed by the Administration. We need not wait and see — further militarization will lead to more deaths.

If the Administration carries through on its injudicious orders and continues to ignore the checks placed on them by federal judges and the judicial branch, then it won’t only be migrants and refugees who are in danger, but the very fabric of our government.

The Colibrí Center for Human Rights remains steadfastly committed to the families we serve, to those whose lives have come undone after losing a loved one on the border, to those who know all too intimately the painful effects of anti-immigrant policies and border militarization. We pledge to stand together with all communities whose very humanity is being called into question and who find themselves targeted by bigotry. We will not be silent as the lives of migrants, their families, or any other community are being devalued and attacked.

Now Hiring: Intake Specialist (Contractor Position)

The Colibrí Center for Human Rights is a respected leader in the fields of human rights, forensic science, and immigration advocacy. Founded in 2013 with roots that trace back to 2006, Colibrí has served thousands of migrants and their families and currently manages the largest and most comprehensive database of missing and deceased individuals believed to be migrants for the entire U.S.-Mexico border.

Colibrí is seeking a highly motivated individual to join our small, hardworking team as our Intake Specialist.

How to Apply: Please send a cover letter and resume (CV if applicable) to chelsea@colibricenter.org by January 20th, 2017

INTAKE SPECIALIST 

  • Part-Time Position
  • Hourly Salary Commensurate with Experience

The Intake Specialist’s work will be focused within our flagship program, the Missing Migrant Project. The primary role of the Intake Specialist will be to assist the Missing Migrant Project Manager with handling incoming missing person cases.

The responsibilities of the Intake Specialist are categorized into three parts:

  1. Data management: This will involve assisting the Missing Migrant Project Manager with the organization of incoming cases from email, voicemail, Facebook, and other sources.
  2. Intakes: The most vital part of this role: this will involve taking detailed, forensically-relevant missing persons reports for people last seen crossing the U.S.-Mexico Border. You will be thoroughly trained by Colibrí staff prior to taking any reports.
  3. Follow ups: This will involve reaching out to families who have already filed a case with Colibrí in order to update them on the status of their case.

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, English, Spanish, Communications or related field
  • Fully bilingual in Spanish and English (native speakers preferred)
  • Strong work ethic
  • Strong organizational skills: this position will require extensive organization of highly sensitive data
  • Ability to speak to traumatized people in Spanish with compassion, sensitivity, and professionalism
  • Ability to handle emotionally heavy subject matter, disturbing images and difficult experiences associated with death, grief, loss, and human remains
  • Receptive to feedback and able to take direction

Colibrí is an equal opportunity employer that values diversity as central to our work serving underrepresented communities, and we encourage candidates from a wide range of backgrounds to apply.

How to Apply: Please send a cover letter and resume (CV if applicable) to chelsea@colibricenter.org by January 20th, 2017

#GivingTuesday: Colibrí Standing Strong with our Community

11-29-2016

Dear Friends,

If you are receiving this email it is because you are a part of Colibrí’s inner circle: our close friends, family, and community members. You sustain us and empower us to continue our fight to end migrant death and suffering, and to recognize, respect, and honor the lives of migrants and immigrants. We are grateful for each and every one of you.

As many of you know, today is Giving Tuesday, a day when we are encouraged to donate to causes we care about. I hope you will consider giving to Colibrí to show your continued support for our work.

At Colibrí we are still trying to make sense of the election results from earlier this month. It is a deeply troubling time for us, as it is for our country, for people of color, for women, for Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and especially for the families we work with, many of whom are undocumented. The racist, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant rhetoric that helped elect Donald Trump is nothing new, but the legitimacy this sort of hate speech has gained as a result of his election is unprecedented. Now more than ever it is important that Colibrí can count on your support as we continue our fight to end migrant death and suffering.

In the words of Audre Lorde, “Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing.” Although we did not feel ready to face a Trump presidency, the reality is that we as a community are well prepared to battle his racism and anti-immigrant policies. Everything he has proposed is deeply unoriginal, building off of a racist history of immigrant exclusion that goes back generations. Border militarization in particular has been robbing people of their lives, tearing communities apart, and disappearing mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and daughters and sons for over two decades. Border communities know better than most the true impacts of such policies, and more importantly, how to contest them.

Although we are deeply concerned about what this new administration will mean for migrant communities, we are also feeling profoundly grateful for our continued ability to do our work to combat injustice. In the spirit of hope and continued resistance we would like to share a few exciting updates with you. In the past six months Colibrí has:

  • Launched our DNA Program! We have worked hard to raise funds over the past three and a half years, and are finally at the point where we are able to launch our DNA program. Over the next three years we will be traveling across the US, sampling hundreds of people who have missing loved ones that may be among the unidentified dead on the border. Nothing like this has ever been done in the US. This is an incredible step towards bringing healing and justice to the families of the missing and dead, and Colibrí is deeply honored to be trusted with such an important task.
  • Successfully Expanded our Database! We recently hosted a meeting of our closest partners in order to strategize around common issues and train them how to integrate their data into our database. It was a huge success and one more important step towards centralizing the information on the missing and dead on the US Mexico border.
  • Grown Our Team! Colibrí is now a team of 5 fulltime employees! We are pleased to announce the hiring of our new DNA Coordinator, Mirza Monterr Mirza is a Forensic Anthropologist from Guatemala with experience in identifying the victims of the country’s 36 year-long civil war. She is a fantastic addition to our team and we are so grateful to have her!

We hope these updates will remind you that despite the devastating news from November 9th, there is still so much to be hopeful for. Audre Lorde also wrote, “Without community, there is no liberation.”  We are so thankful for you, our community. We are standing, we are ready, and we are right here with you in the struggle for a better world. Colibrí is not going anywhere.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sincerely,

Chelsea Halstead

Deputy Director

Colibrí Center for Human Rights

 

 

 

 

Remembrance on International Day of the Disappeared

Written by Reyna Araibi

AUGUST 30, 2016 — Sitting at Colibri’s desk inside the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, I often see hummingbirds, colibríes, fly outside our window looking to taste sweet nectar before continuing on their journey. Each little bird makes me pause. As I watch the rapid beating of their wings and the way their color shimmers in the sunlight, I think of the powerful symbolism this small creature carries. Legends say the hummingbird is a symbol of divinity, an embodiment of strength and resilience, and a messenger between the heavens and the Earth. With every colibrí that hovers nearby, I think of the missing. I think of the courage and tenacity demonstrated by all those who embarked on a perilous journey across borders. I think of those who were lost along the way and how, like the hummingbird, they became messengers for a powerful truth: migration is an expression of love, an act as old as humanity that should never be criminalized or fatally punished.

This small meditation feels especially relevant to share today on International Day of the Disappeared — a time of remembrance and recognition for the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are missing and for their families who navigate daily life with the incomparable pain and ambiguity that comes with having a missing loved one. For those of us at the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, each day is dedicated to this remembrance and recognition.

Over the past two decades, at least 2,700 people have disappeared crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Two-thousand-seven-hundred irreplaceable lives.

Mothers and fathers.
Sons and daughters.
Sisters and brothers.
Cousins.
Spouses.
Best friends.

The missing are never forgotten.

The unique pain of ambiguous loss experienced by the families of the missing cannot be alleviated by the passage of time or social pressure to move on. It invades every aspect of life and lingers with the uncertainty of not knowing whether your loved one is alive or dead. The right to know is fundamental. It is documented in international humanitarian law and lies at the heart of international human rights. Yet even beyond our responsibility to honor international legal protections, we have a human responsibility to the families of the missing. This duty — like all other questions of humanity — transcends borders.

Unequivocally and without question, families deserve to know what happened to their missing loved one. While the pain of losing that person will never go away, the ambiguity of the loss may perhaps be alleviated by providing answers. This is the very least — the very least we can do to honor the families and the lives that have been lost. At its core, this is what our work strives towards each day at Colibrí. We stand with the families in their search for answers — truly, a search for justice around this deeply unjust loss of precious human life.

As I witness another colibrí take flight outside our window, I wonder what message this small yet powerful creature has for me — for us. I know it’s telling us something and I believe it is this:  remembering and honoring the missing is not for one special day or one organization; it is a universal and continuous duty we have as human beings. People do not simply disappear. We never give up on those we love. To seek justice for this loss of life is not a task to be shouldered by the families of the missing alone; it is a demand we all make together. To stand up against the ongoing death and disappearance of thousands of migrants, immigrants, and refugees is the work of an entire community, country, and world.

_______________

CONMEMORACIÓN EL DÍA INTERNACIONAL DE LOS DESAPARECIDOS

30 DE AGOSTO DE 2016 — Sentado en el escritorio de Colibrí dentro de la Oficina del Médico Forense del Condado de Pima, veo colibríes volando fuera de nuestra ventana con ganas de probar dulce néctar antes de continuar su viaje. Cada pequeño pájaro me hace parar. Mientras observo el rápido latido de sus alas y la forma en que su color brilla en la luz del sol, pienso en el simbolismo que esta pequeña criatura lleva. Las leyendas dicen que el colibrí es un símbolo de la divinidad, una encarnación de la fuerza y la resistencia, y un mensajero entre el cielo y la tierra. Con cada colibrí que vuela cerca, pienso en los desaparecidos. Pienso en el coraje y la tenacidad demostrada por todos los que se embarcó en un peligroso viaje cruzando fronteras. Pienso en los que se perdieron en el camino y cómo, al igual que el colibrí, se convirtieron en mensajeros de una poderosa verdad: la migración es una expresión de amor, un acto tan antiguo como la humanidad, que nunca debe ser criminalizado o fatalmente castigada.

Esta pequeña meditación me parece especialmente relevante para compartir hoy el Día Internacional de los Desaparecidos — un momento de recuerdo y reconocimiento para los cientos de miles de personas a través del mundo que están desaparecidos y cuyas familias tienen que navegar la vida diaria con el dolor incomparable y la ambigüedad que viene con tener un ser querido desaparecido. Para nosotras en el Centro Colibrí de Derechos Humanos, todos los días se dedica a este recuerdo y reconocimiento.

Durante las últimas dos décadas, al menos 2.700 personas han desaparecido al cruzar la frontera entre los Estados Unidos y México. Dos-mil-setecientos vidas irremplazables.

Padres y madres.
Hijos e hijas.
Hermanas y hermanos.
Prim@s.
Espos@s.
Mejores amig@s.

Los desaparecidos nunca se olvidan.

El dolor insoportable y única de la pérdida ambigua sufrido por las familias de los desaparecidos no puede ser aliviado por el paso de tiempo o la presión social de seguir adelante. Este dolor invade todos los aspectos de la vida y se prolonga con la incertidumbre de no saber si su ser querido está vivo o muerto.  El derecho a saber es fundamental. Está documentado en el derecho internacional humanitario y se encuentra en el corazón de los derechos humanos internacionales. Con todo, más allá de nuestra responsabilidad de honrar a la protección legal, tenemos una responsabilidad humana a las familias de los desaparecidos.  Este deber — al igual que todas las cuestiones de la humanidad — trasciende las fronteras.

De manera inequívoca y sin duda alguna, las familias tienen derecho a saber lo que sucedió a su ser querido desaparecido. Aunque el dolor de perder a esta persona nunca se irá, la ambigüedad de la pérdida quizá puede ser aliviado con respuestas.  Esto es lo mínimo — lo mínimo — que podemos hacer para honrar a las familias y a las vidas que han sido perdidos. En su esencia, esto es lo que nuestro trabajo se esfuerza por conseguir cada día en Colibrí. Estamos con las familias en su búsqueda de respuestas – verdaderamente, una búsqueda de la justicia alrededor de esta pérdida profundamente injusta de la preciosa vida humana.

Mientras veo a otro colibrí volando fuera de la ventana, me pregunto cuál es el mensaje que esta criatura pequeña pero poderosa tiene para mí – para nosotros. Sé que nos está diciendo algo y creo que es la siguiente: recordar y honrar los desaparecidos no es para un día especial o una organización; es un deber universal y continuo que todos tenemos como seres humanos. La gente no simplemente desaparecen. Nunca rendimos cuando tiene que ver con nuestros seres queridos. Buscar justicia para esta pérdida de vida no es una cosa para las familias de los desaparecidos solo; es una exigencia que todos hacemos juntos. Luchar en contra de la muerte y desaparición de miles de migrantes, inmigrantes y refugiados es el trabajo de toda una comunidad, el país y el mundo.

We’re Hiring! Announcing a Job Opening at Colibri

The Colibrí Center for Human Rights is a respected nonprofit organization working at the intersections of human rights, forensic science, and immigration advocacy. Founded in 2013 with roots tracing back to 2006, Colibrí has served thousands of migrants and their families and currently manages the largest and most comprehensive database of missing and deceased individuals believed to be migrants for the US-Mexico border.

Colibrí is seeking a highly motivated individual to join our small, hardworking team as our Forensic Specialist.

Please refer to the following for a detailed description and information on applying:

Forensic Specialist

Full Time Position
Salary Commensurate with Experience
Full Benefits (health, dental and vision insurance, 401k)
Located in Tucson, Arizona
2 weeks paid vacation per year
10 sick days per year

The Forensic Specialist will lead the implementation, facilitation, and development of a multi-year DNA Program aimed at identifying the remains of hundreds of unidentified people who died in Arizona while crossing the border. This project will require extensive travel, highly developed organizational skills, and collaboration with multiple actors.

Requirements

Master’s degree or higher in Forensic Anthropology or comparable field
Fully bilingual in Spanish and English (native speakers preferred)
Ability to relocate, if necessary, to Tucson, Arizona
Ability to travel extensively
Strong organizational skills
Ability to speak in Spanish with compassion, sensitivity, and professionalism
Ability to handle emotionally heavy subject matter related to death, grief, and human remains
Ability to collaboratively implement a massive, multi-year project
Ability to delegate tasks, manage interns and other staff, and provide critical feedback and performance reviews
Experience with DNA testing and genetics a plus but not required
Experience in maintaining chain-of-custody relevant to biological samples

Job Description

Utilize Colibrí’s database of over 2,500 missing person reports to contact families of the missing, track their relationships to the missing person, and map their locations
Create a plan for DNA collection using the maps produced by family calls in order to strategically carry out sampling trips
Coordinate with local NGOs and consular officials once collection sites are determined in order to set up sampling meetings
Publicize the event and get RSVP’s from families who plan to attend
Collect Family Reference Samples (FRS) and ensure chain of custody
Facilitate DNA collection, shipping, and tracking
Track DNA reports and matches in Colibrí database
Communicate with forensic scientists and families about DNA results
Notify families of positive identifications

Colibrí is an equal opportunity employer that values diversity as central to our work serving underrepresented communities, and we encourage candidates from a wide range of backgrounds to apply.

How to Apply

Please send a cover letter and resume (CV if applicable) to robin@colibricenter.org by August 31st, 2016.

El mensaje del Papa Francisco a nuestras comunidades

pope

Escrito por Kat Rodriguez, Centro Colibri de Derechos Humanos

19 de febrero de 2016 – El miércoles, 17 de febrero de 2016, el Papa Francisco terminó su visita a la frontera México-Estados Unidos con una misa en Ciudad Juárez, donde hubo 200.000 personas. Su visita de cinco días incluyó, entre otras cosas, visitar un centro de detención en México y bendiciendo un santuario dedicado a los migrantes que han perdido la vida en la frontera México-Estados Unidos.

Como es invariable en un año electoral, especialmente uno tan lleno del extremismo político ya que este año, la discusión en torno a la inmigración se ha centrado en las consecuencias electorales de la visita en lugar del mensaje que pretende transmitir. Por desgracia, la visita del Papa, y su llamado a la compasión y la piedad acera de la pobreza extrema, la violencia y la división está siendo utilizado por los compitiendo por el poder político para ver quién puede mostrar el compromiso más fuerte para hacer justo lo contrario.

Como alguien que trabaja cada día no sólo con los hombres, mujeres y niños no identificados que han perdido sus vidas, pero también con los miembros de la familia que están esperando desesperadamente en busca de respuestas, no puedo dejar de preguntarme cómo esas palabras deben sonar a los que sufren la agonía de no saber qué ha sido de sus seres queridos. Qué dolor deben traer a aquellos que han pasado por el dolor de un funeral con el ataúd cerrado o la recepción de una pequeña urna de cenizas para simbolizar todo lo que queda de alguien muy valioso para ellos. En Colibrí, nos hemos comprometido a todos los que son víctimas de la frontera, y esperar más de nuestros líderes. Las familias de los muertos y desaparecidos merecen mucho mejor que alcahuetería política.

Antes de que el momento se pierde con más postura política, quiero levantar algunas de las piezas de la visita del Pontífice que sobre todo sonaba a verdad para mí como me acerco a dieciséis años viviendo en la frontera entre Arizona y Sonora, y casi quince años luchando por la justicia fronteriza. Como practicante católico a veces ausente, me encontré con mi corazón movido por las palabras del Papa. Reconocí la frontera que he llegado a querer, que también rompe el corazón cada día que otra hermana o hermano migrante pierde su vida. Esa angustia es realmente todos los días: el número medio de restos encontrados en la frontera cada año desde 1998 es 365.

Como dijo el Papa Francisco,

“Ir y ayudarles a entender que por la forma en que se tratan entre sí, ordenar y organizar ellos mismos, que sólo están creando la muerte y la destrucción, sufrimiento y opresión.”

Quizás uno de los mitos más comunes acerca de la frontera es que todo lo que sucede es el resultado de alguna casualidad desafortunada, una consecuencia imprevista e involuntaria de la militarización de la frontera EE.UU.-México. Esto simplemente no es el caso. En el Plan Estratégico 1994 de la patrulla fronteriza, los funcionarios predijeron un aumento de la violencia, y señalaron que sus políticas empujarían a los migrantes en “territorio hostil” que les pondría “en peligro de muerte.” Ellos también predijeron que una “fuerte postura de la aplicación interior funciona bien para el control de fronteras.” Estos fueron no sólo los resultados aceptables, pero en realidad fueron parte de la estrategia de “control” de la frontera, mientras que al mismo tiempo reconoce que el 100% de tasa de aprehensión fue un “objetivo poco realista”. Estas predicciones eran correctas. El número de vidas perdidas en la frontera aumentó de manera exponencial. Miles de personas murieron, y como sabemos demasiado bien en el Centro Colibrí de Derechos Humanos, miles de personas han desaparecido. A pesar de la disminución de la aprehensión, la tasa global de muerte para los inmigrantes que arriesgan sus vidas en la frontera ha aumentado, haciendo la frontera aún más letal.

Después de más de dos décadas de esta estrategia, las comunidades fronterizas han visto una explosión en esta crisis humanitaria de derechos humanos que se ha cobrado la vida de alrededor de más de 6.000 hombres, mujeres y niños. Y estas mismas estrategias, a pesar del costo humano, siguen siendo expuesta en las políticas de inmigración y de la frontera año tras año.

“Al estar frente a tantos vacíos legales, [los migrantes de Centroamérica] quedan atrapados en una red que atrapa y destruye siempre los más pobres.”

La aplicación interior ha alimentado a la criminalización de los migrantes, obligando a las personas que han pasado, en algunos casos, más de una década en los Estados Unidos enfrentar el terreno fronterizo duro en su intento de volver a casa. Los centroamericanos son las víctimas más recientemente visible de estos “vacíos legales”, en particular con la difícil situación de miles de menores solicitantes de asilo en los últimos años, pero ellos no son las únicas víctimas. Control de la inmigración se ha convertido en una enorme bestia, la alimentación de las corporaciones que se han vuelto dependientes del presupuesto ilimitado para penalizar la migración y los migrantes. Hay autobuses que transporten a los migrantes desde y hacia los centros de detención, los tribunales, o la frontera. Hay los centros de detención que se han convertido en algunos de los mayores grupos de presión cabildeando por más tiempo, penas más severas para los migrantes, cuyas estancias se pagan por el dinero de los contribuyentes. Y hay el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS), donde los empleos para las personas en el proceso de criminalización han crecido drásticamente: guardias, abogados, agentes y magistrados que pasan día tras día en palacios de justicia que gastan, en algunos casos, la totalidad de sus días poniendo un sello escarlata de “criminal” en cada migrante que pasa por sus puertas. Esta red es una vista realmente fea, y es una iniquidad espantosa a algunas de las personas más pobres y menos favorecidos en nuestras comunidades.

“Juntos pedimos a nuestro Dios por el don de la conversión, el don de las lágrimas, pidámosle que nos dé un corazón abierto como los ninivitas [referencia a la historia de Jonás en la Biblia], abierto a su llamado escucharse en los rostros sufrientes de innumerables hombres y mujeres. No más muerte! No más explotación! “

Estas palabras realmente me conmovió hasta las lágrimas. A pesar de trabajar durante años sobre temas fronterizos de la violencia, el abuso, la explotación y la muerte, todavía creo que las cosas pueden cambiar. Me nutro en mi corazón una pequeña incipiente luz de esperanza que podemos levantar la humanidad de nuestros hermanos y hermanas migrantes e inmigrantes vulnerables y será suficiente para cambiar los corazones y las mentes, lo suficiente para detener las políticas mortales y cerrar los centros de detención para siempre. Dependo en esta creencia para levantarme de la cama cada día y unirme a muchos otros en las fronteras de todo el mundo que saben que la justicia está fuera de su alcance, pero no imposible. Pero en primer lugar, hay que reconocer el dolor y el sufrimiento que nuestras políticas han causado. Debemos trazar los hilos que conducen de esta miseria para ver que conducen a nosotros. Nos beneficiamos de la explotación todos los días que comemos alimentos o usamos la ropa hecha por alguien que trabajaba demasiado por demasiado poco dinero. Debemos aceptar nuestra complicidad en esta injusticia, y luego debemos intensificar y unirnos a la lucha para acabar con ella.

“A veces me sentí como llorando al ver tanta esperanza en un pueblo que está sufriendo tanto.”

No sé si la visita del Papa hará que cualquier cambio importante en la situación de los migrantes en todo el mundo que están sufriendo y muriendo. Yo, también, sin embargo, siento increíblemente honrado por el hecho de que la mayoría de la esperanza que he visto, el más dedicación y amor por el cambio, ha sido en los ojos de los que más han perdido. Me siento verdaderamente honrado de estar con ellos y añadir mi corazón, y mi voz, a la de ellos.

 

Pope Francis’ Message to Our Communities

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Written by Kathryn Rodriguez

FEBRUARY 19, 2016 – On Wednesday, February 17, 2016, Pope Francis ended his visit to the U.S.-México border by celebrating Mass in Ciudad Juárez, with an estimated 200,000 people in attendance. His five-day visit included, among other things, visiting a detention center in México and blessing a shrine dedicated to migrants who have lost their lives on the U.S.-México border.

As is invariable in an election year, particularly one as fraught with political extremism as this year, the discussion around immigration has centered on election implications of the visit instead of the message he intended to convey. Sadly, the Pope’s visit, and his call for compassion and mercy in the face of extreme poverty, violence, and division is being used by those jockeying for political power to see who can show the stronger commitment to do just the opposite.

As someone who works on a daily basis with not only the unidentified men, women and children who have lost their lives, but the family members who are desperately waiting for answers, I cannot help but wonder how those words must sound to those suffering the agony of not knowing what has become of their loved one. What pain they must bring to those who have gone through the pain of a closed-casket funeral or the receipt of a tiny urn of ashes to symbolize all that is left of someone very precious to them. At Colibrí, we have pledged ourselves to all who are casualties of the border, and expect more from our leaders. The families of the dead and missing deserve much better than political pandering.

Before the moment is lost to more political posturing, I want to lift up some of the pieces of the Pontiff’s visit that especially rang true to me as I approach sixteen years living on the Arizona-Sonora border, and nearly fifteen years fighting for border justice. As a sometimes-absent practicing Catholic, I found my heart moved by the Pope’s words. I recognized the border that I have come to love, that also breaks my heart each day another migrant sister or brother loses their life. That heartbreak truly is every day: the average number of remains found on the border each year since 1998 is 365.

As Pope Francis said,

“Go and help them to understand that by the way they treat each other, ordering and organizing themselves, they are only creating death and destruction, suffering and oppression.”

Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about the border is that everything taking place is the result of some unfortunate happenstance, an unforeseen and unintended consequence of the militarization of the U.S.-México border. This just isn’t the case. In Border Patrol’s 1994 Strategic Plan, officials predicted an increase in violence, and noted that their policies would force migrants into “hostile terrain” that would put them “in mortal danger.” They also predicted that a “strong interior enforcement posture works well for border control.” These were not only acceptable outcomes, but actually factored into the strategy to “control” the border, while at the same time acknowledging that 100% apprehension rate was an “unrealistic” goal. These predictions were correct. The number of lives lost on the border increased exponentially. Thousands died, and as we know all to well at the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, thousands have disappeared. Despite the decrease in apprehension, the overall rate of death for migrants risking their lives on the border has risen, making the border even deadlier.

After more than two decades of this strategy, border communities have seen an explosion in this human rights and humanitarian crisis that has claimed the lives of an estimated 6,000+ men, women and children. And these same strategies, despite the human cost, continue to be put forth in border and immigration policies year after year.

“Being faced with so many legal vacuums, [Central American migrants] get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest.”

Interior enforcement has fed into the criminalization of migrants, forcing people who have spent, in some cases, more than a decade in the United States to face the harsh border terrain in their attempt to return home. Central Americans are the more recently visible victims of these “legal vacuums” Pope Francis spoke of, particularly with the plight of thousands of minors seeking asylum over the past few years, but they are not the only victims. Immigration enforcement has become a huge beast, feeding corporations that have become dependent on the unlimited budget for criminalizing migration and migrants. There are the buses that transport migrants to and from detention centers, courts, or the border. There are the detention centers that have become some of the biggest lobbyists for longer, harsher sentences for migrants and whose stay is paid by taxpayer dollars. And there is DHS itself, where jobs for people in the criminalization process have grown drastically: guards, lawyers, agents and magistrates are paid to spend day after day in beautiful multi-million dollar courthouses that spend, in some cases, all of their days placing a scarlet “criminal” stamp on each and every migrant who passes through. This web is a truly ugly sight to behold, and is a shameful abuse to some of the poorest and least advantaged people in our communities.

“Let us together ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts like the Ninevites [referencing the story of Jonah in the Bible], open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. No more death! No more exploitation!”

These words actually moved me to tears. Despite working for years on border issues of violence, abuse, exploitation and death, I still believe that things can change. I nurture in my heart a tiny, fledgling little light of hope that we can lift up the humanity of our vulnerable migrant and immigrant sisters and brothers and it will be enough to change hearts and minds, enough to halt deadly policies and close detention centers for good. I count on this belief to urge me out of bed each day to join many others on borders around the world that know that justice is out of reach, but not unattainable. But first, we must recognize the pain and the suffering that our policies have caused. We must trace the threads leading from this misery to see that they lead to us. We benefit from exploitation every day that we eat food or wear clothing made by someone who worked too hard for too little pay. We must accept our complicity in this injustice, and then we must step up and join the fight to end it.

“At times I felt like weeping to see so much hope in a people who are suffering so much.”

I do not know whether the Pope’s visit will make any major change in the plight of migrants all over the world who are suffering and often dying. I, too, however, feel incredibly humbled by the fact that the most hope I have seen, the most dedication and love for change, has been in the eyes of those who have lost the most. I am truly humbled to stand with them and add my heart, and my voice, to theirs.

At the Intersection of Human Rights and Migration

Written by Reyna Araibi and Kathryn Rodriguez

DECEMBER 10, 2015 – Today marks International Human Rights Day, commemorated throughout the world as a statement of our inviolable commitment to protect the life and dignity of all people, regardless of race, religion, nationality, legal status, or any other human-made classifications. International Human Rights Day comes only a week before International Migrants Day, celebrated on December 18th honoring the world’s 232+ million migrants and the tenacity with which they seek out safety and opportunity, as humans have always done. Both days continue a long-standing legacy of the international community coming together to gain consensus on global issues and the needs they represent.

Between now and International Migrants Day, the Colibrí Center for Human Rights will be winding down our social media awareness and remembrance campaign #EndMigrantDeaths. The #EndMigrantDeaths campaign has been one of the most beautiful and inspiring successes Colibrí has had. We saw hundreds of people share their personal Facebook profiles with someone who lost their life on U.S.-Mexico border. This act of solidarity lets the families of these individuals, and the thousands of others who have been lost in this terrain, know that our communities stand with them. It also inspired us at Colibrí to continue our commitment to fight for human rights on the border and bear witness to the tragedy of migrant deaths. In the midst of hate rhetoric, misinformation, and the continued dehumanization of migrants and their families, these small acts of solidarity continually show the world what we believe: migrant rights are human rights.

Marco Antonio

We chose for the last phase of this campaign to be between International Human Rights Day and International Migrants Day because of the symbolism of this intersection. Migration is the new face of human rights in the 21st century, and our country is in desperate need of a meaningful discourse about how we fulfill our obligations outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, 1 in every 122 people is displaced from their home, migrating for reasons of family unity, safety or economics; they seek a future that all human beings deserve: one of safety and peace. The layers of violence and discrimination migrants face along their journey – whether it is across the Mediterranean or across the deserts of the American Southwest —leave them devastatingly vulnerable to human rights abuses. Even more devastating is the fact that human rights abuses against migrants are often underreported, silenced and ignored. The level of dehumanization and distancing of migrants that has taken place, and continues to grow, is a violation of our own commitment to the ideals of human rights, one we must collectively and immediately rail against.Areli

The concept of human rights is not an abstract one, and the need to defend and protect them is not something that just happens elsewhere. We are witnessing, on a daily basis, how the most vulnerable in our communities are being harassed, abused, and suffer violations of their basic human rights. We must stand firm in denouncing these injustices and demand accountability to the basic rights that were agreed upon in 1948 as an international community. This is the time to break our silence and use our privileges to demand policies that reflect our commitment to human rights. We invite you to join us in committing to work for border policies that protect human life, defend its dignity, and seek solutions to the global needs that international migration are making us more aware of on a daily basis.

From December 10-18, we at Colibrí invite you once again to share your Facebook profile with one of the thousands irreplaceable lives that have been lost on our border. Help us take over social media with this message. Photos are available on our Facebook Page. Let us reach people who may hold misinformed views about the border, migrants, or the realities of the families who continue to seek answers or justice. Let us honor the people who are gone and their families who will never be the same without them. Let us honor their lives and remember their beauty. Let us not forget.

The numbers on the border are an accurate prediction for the future if we do not immediately act to change our enforcement policies, but we at Colibrí believe—as we hope you do as well—that another world, another future, is possible.