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.