I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Letters Supporting No More Deaths Needed

Please read and share with other groups/friends/organizations:
On February 20, 2008, while leaving water and picking up trash along the border, NMD volunteer, Dan Millis, found the body of a fourteen year old girl from El Salvador.  Two days later, with that image fresh in his mind, federal officers issued him a 'littering' ticket.  Fighting this absurd charge was an ordeal for him, and has recently seen his colleague Walt Staton fight an even harsher battle.  Thirteen of our fellow 'litterers' had their first federal hearing today.

No More Deaths-Phoenix has signed on to the letter circulated by No More Deaths requesting that U.S. officials meet with humanitarian groups to find a way to provide water for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.  Thanks to your overwhelming support, No More Deaths, Samaritans, and Humane Borders have initiated a series of negotiations with the highest levels of federal government.

To ensure that these negotiations continue in a productive and successful manner, we need your help.

We are asking you to submit an op-ed, editorial, or guest opinion piece in a local, state, or national newspaper according to the background information and talking points below.

For examples of op-eds that have been written on this issue, see:,0,4654306.story

f you write an op-ed, please e-mail me and let me know.  We are hoping to have over 100 people to write letters to editors.  We encourage you to mail your letters to BANWR manager, Michael Hawkes, and Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar.
Michael M. Hawkes
Refuge Manager - Buenos Aires NWR
PO Box 109  Sasabe, AZ  85633
520-823-4251 x102  -  Fax: 520-823-4247

Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Phone: 202-208-3100

Refuge Manager, Michael Hawkes, initially responded to NMD requests for placing water on BANWR by sending us an e-mail. Here are excerpts of what he said:

"Buenos Aires NWR has over 30 existing water sites available for migrants, with 14 of those consisting of sources directly tied to drinking water systems. There is more water per acre on the Refuge than on any other comparable land mass on the southern Arizona border…Based on this, additional water on the Refuge for migrants in not necessary."

NMD volunteers visited more than half of these “existing water sites” mentioned by Mr. Hawkes.  We found that over 86% of these sites were polluted or dry.  “Polluted” because there it was muddy, contaminated, covered with algae, etc.  Most disturbing is the “water site” which is no more than a water tank with green water and a dead squirrel.  Apparently, this is adequate water for migrants to consume.  Pictures attached.

We need to tell BANWR and Secretary of Interior to take the situation seriously and begin a real dialogue.  Anyone who thinks that there is adequate water in the desert is not taking a real look at the crisis.  Write an op-ed!


No More Deaths-Phoenix and Tucson
On August 11, 2009 Walt Staton, a volunteer with the humanitarian group No More Deaths, was sentenced in federal Court to 300 hours of community service and 1 year unsupervised probation, for leaving 1-gallon jugs of clean drinking water along known migrant trails in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR), several miles north of the U.S./Mexico border.  Mr. Staton was the second humanitarian convicted on “littering” charges for providing water to migrants in need.

On July 9, 2009, 13 additional humanitarians from a coalition of organizations were cited by U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers for the same act.  These groups had attempted for weeks, without success, to arrange a meeting with BANWR officials to develop a cooperative way of addressing the human rights crisis on federal lands; for years, representatives of BANWR have refused to grant permission to humanitarian efforts on the refuge. 

On July 10th, the day after the 13 citations, No More Deaths received an invitation to meet with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in Washington, D.C.  Since meeting with the Secretary, No More Deaths and Samaritans have held a series of meetings with BANWR manager Mike Hawkes and regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife director Chris Pease.  At a meeting on August 5 No More Deaths proposed a Memorandum of Understanding between humanitarian groups and the Department of the Interior. 

Officials have so far failed to respond to this proposal or to offer an alternative.  The “Tucson 13” will be arraigned in federal Court on September 2, 2009 and all indications show that the United States intends to pursue prosecution.
Talking Points:
 The situation on the border is critical and deteriorating.  2009 is set to be one of the deadliest years on record along the U.S. / Mexico border.  Already more than 183 bodies have been recovered in southern Arizona during this fiscal year[1] - despite a drop in Border Patrol apprehensions in its Tucson Sector.

The militarization of the border is directly responsible for these deaths.  America’s immigration system is broken, and death is an inevitable outcome of an enforcement-only approach that drives unauthorized migrants into more remote and treacherous desert terrain.  More than 5,000 have perished trying to cross the border since the United States began pursuing its “strategy of deterrence” in the mid-1990s.  In response, both the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights[2] and the Organization of American States[3] have ruled that the United States has failed to uphold its obligations to protect the human rights of migrants. The era of immigration enforcement that uses death as a deterrent must come to an end.

Humanitarian aid is never a crime; violating the law with disregard for the integrity of public lands is.  While it is cynical to declare that 1-gallon jugs of clean drinking water constitute “litter”, the impact of litter on the environmental integrity of America’s borderlands is marginal compared to the border wall and related enforcement infrastructure.  By invoking section 102 of the Real ID Act, much of this infrastructure was rammed through construction by the Department of Homeland Security, despite violating more than 29 federal laws[4].

Federal officials and land managers need to support humanitarian efforts to prevent needless death and suffering on our public lands.   Many who die along the border succumb to heat-related illness and dehydration.  Clean drinking water is one of the most effective means of preventing this death.  The ticketing and prosecution of humanitarians for providing water to migrants is a grossly negligent misapplication of federal priorities.  Federal officials need to acknowledge that the number of deaths on federal lands constitute a human rights emergency, and live up to their mandate to protect human life. [5]

Policy reform is urgent. 
The most effective way of addressing the crisis on the border is comprehensive immigration reform that provides for safe, legal, orderly and humane ways for workers and their families to enter, live and work in the United States; respects the human and civil rights of those living in border communities and those in immigration custody, including short-term detention; and restores the rule of law to the borderlands by repealing Section 102 of the Real ID act.

Laura Ilardo
No More Deaths-Phoenix

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