Al Jazeera America’s “Borderland” Is a MUST WATCH

EDITOR’S NOTE: Latino Rebels asked noted immigration rights activist and HuffPost contributor Juan Escalante to submit a review about “Borderland,” a new series premiering Sunday April 13 on Al Jazeera America. Yeah, we know that our founder works for AJAM, but we kindly remind people that LR is a collective of many voices here. Juan’s voice is one of many here. Now, on to Juan’s review.

In a world where self-serving media is becoming the norm, there are few programs available for consumption that actually challenge our political positions. Those of us who passionately follow an issue on a regular basis are subject to the single story coverage that news networks decide to present to us, presented with its own tone and agenda built in—designed for viewers to consume and reinforce their political beliefs on a regular basis.

But what happens when you throw this model out, and instead present a program that is grounded in reality? One that mixes opinions, provides arguments for both sides of the issue and upholds objectivity above all?

Enter “Borderland” from Al Jazeera America.

The short series, scheduled for release this Sunday April 13, follows six individuals who have strong opinions on the hot button issues of immigration reform in the United States. The group, composed of three supporters and three opponents, is a very interesting mix of individuals – as all of them represent a different dimension within the complex issue of immigration.

You have your immigrant supporters: A gentleman from Washington State, who being a card-carrying Republican, recognizes the need for immigrant labor. An artist from New York, who does not believe that there should be any borders in the world, as well as a recently naturalized immigration Activist from Florida.

However, there are also those who disagree. Within the group there is a 9/11 survivor from Las Vegas who would “call the INS in a heartbeat” should she find out that an undocumented immigrant was living in her community. There is a veteran from Illinois, who through his radio show tries to inform the country about the “invasion” occurring in our country. Lastly, there is the President of a Young Republican club from Arkansas, a young woman who also works in Arkansas’ state senate.

If by now you are thinking that this will be your average debate show where participants duke it out with their views and prepared talking points, then let me tell you one thing—it’s not.

“Borderland” sends these six individuals to the epicenter of the immigration debate: Arizona and the neighboring border region. Having not been to the border, and yet having strong opinions about illegal immigration, all participants begin the show at a morgue near the Arizona/Mexico border where they are exposed to an undeniable reality that is often taken for granted when talking about the United States southwestern border.


After the initial shock, all six participants are then introduced to families who live alongside the border. A community of ranchers depicts how illegal immigration is impacting their business and way of life, reinforcing the beliefs of half of the participants, but also challenging some of the preconceived notions of the immigrant supporters.


The episode progresses in this manner, putting all six participants out of their elements in situations that are often uncomfortable: participating in water drops for to aid border crossers, touring the border and seeing how violence was brought upon tragedy to local communities. All is wrapped up by a narrator who provides facts, figures and history relating back to how the border got to where it is today. At one point, the narrator even reminds us about U.S. policy in Central America 30 years ago. Every action has a consequence.

There are plenty of eyebrow-raising instances in Borderland, as participants often voice their disagreements and complaints to one another. Sparks flew as I heard some of the arguments from both sides – highlighting the importance that while a lot of us have polarized opinions on the subject, many haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the immigration issue. And if this is coming from an online immigration activist, what could be said about those who just take their “facts and figures” at face value from certain immigrant groups.

Bottom line, Al Jazeera America’s “Borderland” is a show unlike no other. It is presented in a format familiar to today’s audience, but backed with real information and grounded in real life experiences from those who are directly affected by what goes on at the border.

I encourage both sides of the immigration debate to take a look at this show. The series is set to premiere on Sunday, April 13 on Al Jazeera America. For more, visit the show’s official site.


Juan Escalante is an undocumented immigrant, studying for his Masters in Public Administration Candidate at Florida State University. You can follow Juan on Twitter @JuanSaaa.

#LatinoLit Review: State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream

During the past few years, it’s been easy for some to ask: What is the deal with Arizona?

Or, more specifically, what is the deal with that sheriff? With banning books — Shakespeare, really? With the racist SB 1070, which requires anyone who might not look right to carry proof of citizenship or legal residency? With the governor wagging her finger in the President’s face?

From the outside, Arizona can appear to be a place speaking with one fanatical voice. But it’s not, Jeff Biggers says in State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream. Recently named a Southwest Book of 2012 and a Top Ten 2012 Social Science Title by Publisher’s Weekly, State Out of the Union not only investigates Arizona’s past decade of political turmoil, but also reveals a struggle to reclaim the state from carpetbaggers and political opportunists.


Biggers starts with an image of Attorney General Eric Holder, former Arizona governor and current director of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, and President Barack Obama all gathered in the McKale Memorial Center in Tucson days after a tragic shooting Jan. 8, 2011, in which six were killed and 13, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, injured.

Almost immediately, Biggers orients the reader into the surreal world of Arizona politics. As Obama beseeched the McKale and national viewing audience to “come together” and “reflect,” Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, the so-called architect of SB 1070, was busy ramrodding bills through his Tea Party legislature, obliviously declaring the Colt Single-Action Army Revolver as the state gun and providing state financing for the official “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate.

To provide context, State Out of the Union examines the state’s tumultuous road to statehood. Biggers describes the route from the creation of a state constitution once so progressive it stood in the way of ratification to the eventual manipulation of the fledgling state legislature by out-of-state interests and interlopers.

He then places politicians like Jan Brewer (from California), Joe Arpaio (from Massachusetts) and Tome Horne (from Canada) in the tradition of political outcasts and opportunists looking to remake themselves in the Arizona desert.

The book is written in a strident, but not alarmist, tone. Biggers does his best work when documenting the struggles and victories of everyday Arizonans. He tells of community organizer Randy Parraz, who led the successful recall of Russell Pearce, the state senator who was the primary sponsor of SB 1070. He details the ongoing community struggle to allow the topic of Mexican-American Studies back in Tucson public schools.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in State Out of the Union is that what happens in Arizona (and in the Southwest, for that matter) has a ripple effect on the rest of the country. Other states have adopted anti-immigrant legislation and empowered a culture of fear, ignorance and racism at the local level. But as in Arizona, community members and activists are fighting back.

As the country struggles to deal with immigration, civil rights and what it means to be an American, State Out of the Union serves as a guide to the cultural showdown that now seems inevitable.


Matt Mendez’s stories have appeared in Cutthroat, Huizache, The Literary Review, and other journals. His first book, Twitching Heart, is available from Floricanto Press. Contact him at

#ICEFail VIDEO: Stop the Deportation of Edi Arma

Just another example of what is happening every day in America. The time to stop the separation of families is now.


Here is what the YouTube channel of Puente Arizona has shared about what happened to Edi Arma and his family:

On Monday, January 14th, the home of a local Phoenix family was raided by ICE agents. Edi Arma, was taken in the morning just as he prepared to take his three children to school. Edi’s oldest son, 11-year old, witnessed the entire raid: “We opened the door and all of a sudden these men jumped on my dad and arrested him. I was so scared. I tried to hug my dad goodbye but they pushed me away.” Edi is currently being held at the Eloy Immigration Prison and is being threatened with immediate deportation.

Sign the petition and demand ICE immediately release Edi Arma from the Eloy immigration prison!

1. Sign the petition

2. Call Phoenix ICE and demand Edi’s release (602) 766-7030

“Hi, I was calling to ask for the immediate release of Edi Arma, (A#089-815-011) from the Eloy immigration prison. Based on the memo from your own ICE director, John Morton, Edi is not a priority for deportation. Why was Edi’s family home raided this morning? Let Edi go!”

Immigration Activists to Mexican National Team: Don’t Play Next Soccer Game in Arizona

On January 30, the Mexican national soccer team (known as “El Tri”) is scheduled to play Denmark in an international friendly at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. According to Milenio, there is a push by immigration rights supporters to have the team not play in Glendale and choose another U.S. venue outside of Arizona.

The reason? It would send a powerful message to the state known for its harsh anti-immigration laws and culture.


This is what Salvador Reza, director of Tonatierra, told Milenio in Spanish (translation is ours):

We ask the Mexican Soccer Federation to reconsider and not bring the national team to a place where there have been raids, separation of families, deportations, and harsh policies that have led to widespread discrimination against Mexicans.

Sendy Vargas, of the Barrio Defense Committee, added, “This is everyone’s team. And they are going to leave money, through taxes, with a government that has repressed us for three years, the government of [governor] Jan Brewer.”

Another activist, Mario Chihuahua, said that “at least 10%” of the revenue that the Mexican team makes at the match will go to Arizona taxes.

According to Vargas, she has sent several emails to the Mexican Soccer Federation, reminding them of the situation in Arizona, which she said has seen more than 92,000 deportations last year. As of right now, Vargas has not received a reply.

Reza also told Milenio that Glendale is notorious for its racial profiling of Mexican drivers. He added, “There, if you are Latino, there is a greater possibility that you will get stopped. Mexicans run a risk if they come to Glendale. If you are coming from other parts of Arizona or if you are coming from any other state, like California or Nevada, you run the risk of getting stopped. It is a city where racial profiling against Mexicans is conducted rather harshly.”

The article makes mention that Phoenix Police also have jurisdiction in Glendale and that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio coordinates security around Glendale and the university.

Reza concluded by saying the following:

I understand that a lot of people are coming to see the team. But it is important that the Mexican Soccer Federation understand what is happening to us in Arizona and what they are exposing people to.

VIDEO: “By The Time I Get to Arizona 2010″

In 1991, Public Enemy released "By the Time I Get to Arizona," a raw PE track the protested Arizona's refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Day.

In 2010, Minneapolis rapper Toki Wright wrote new rhymes for the PE classic. Here is the video, directed by Chris Cloud. The PE track still resonates. This week, the United States Supreme Court will be rulling on Arizona v United States.

By The Time I Get To Arizona 2010 from Chris Cloud on Vimeo.

Here is what Wright had to say about his song two years ago, which, sadly, is still relevant:

Dear Friends, Family, and Allies,

On Friday, April 23rd 2010 at approximately 1:30 pm Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed into law the most aggressive bill against undocumented residents in the United States. Under Senate Bill 1070 (SB 1070) local police departments have been given the authority to identify, detain, and deport anyone they deem to be illegally in the US based solely on their suspicion. Yet we ask, "what does illegal look like?"

We the people believe that this is not only a decision deeply rooted in racism, but also a political plot to cause disruption between the State and Federal government at the expense of hard working families. The same stigma that has plagued people of color in unfair hiring and housing practices, education, police profiling and more has now been passed into so-called "law." Law is nothing but an opinion reinforced by intimidation. Also, how can you call someone else illegal when you live on stolen land?

We won't take this sitting down. Resist. Fight.

In Solidarity,

Toki Wright


COMPLETE AUDIO: Supreme Court April 25 Oral Arguments for ARIZONA V UNITED STATES

As a complement to the full transcript of ARIZONA V. UNITED SATES  that the US Supreme Court released this Wednesday, SCOTUS also released the full audio of the proceedings today. The case is exploring the constitutionality of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 immigration bill. A ruling on the case will be made in June.

Here is the full 80 minutes of the oral arguments. We are kind of big fans of Justice Sonia Sotomayor's Bronx accent.

Two Undocumented Immigrants Killed in Arizona By Armed People in Camouflage

UPDATE, April 11, 2012:  5:17 PM EST The Pima County Sheriff's Department has identified one of the homocide victims.

Self-appointed "border justice" turned tragic near Eloy, Arizona Sunday night as two undocumented immigrants were "ambushed" and killed by a group of armed people in camouflage.

Credit: Google Maps

Here is the official release from the Pima Country Sheriff's Office:

On April 8, 2012, at approximately 10:35 p.m., agents from the Casa Grande Border Patrol Station, Eloy Police Department, and Coolidge Police Department responded to the Eagle Ranch located at the south end of South Night Sky Street, south of West Antares Drive, in Eloy, Arizona. The response was in reference to shots being fired at an illegal alien smuggling load. The GPS coordinates of the Eagle Ranch are N32 27.750, W-111 44.646. 

Upon arrival, the law enforcement agencies determined that there was one deceased person in the bed of a pickup truck and a second deceased subject in a wash northeast of the pickup truck. Several border crossers were located hiding in the brush nearby. It was determined that the incident had occurred in Pima County.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department received information and a request to respond to the scene. Pima County Sheriff’s Homicide Unit detectives also responded. It was determined that the border crossers were traveling in a pickup truck in a wash that is commonly used for human smuggling. They were ambushed by an unknown number of subjects in camouflage clothing armed with rifles. Shots were fired at the pickup truck at which time two subjects were fatally struck.

Names of the victim’s are not being released at this time pending next of kin notification.

Today in Congress, @RepGutierrez Blasts Mitt Romney’s Views on SB 1070

Thanks to our friends at The News Taco for posting the following this morning.

Give it up to El Galiito Rebelde.

Guest Post by @Raul_Ramos: Arpaio will bust the “Illegal-Alien-in-Chief” on March 1

Guest Post by Raul Ramos y Sanchez, Award-Winning Author,

Just when you thought the cartoonish spectacles at the Maricopa County Sheriffs' Office could not get any more absurd, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made another grandstand media play that could put him in the political Looney Tunes Hall of Fame.

After launching a “Cold Case Posse” last September to investigate the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate, Sheriff Arpaio has now set March 1 as D-Day for the release of the Posse’s findings. Arpaio's supporters are anxiously awaiting what the sheriff promises will be some “shocking” revelations. (Maybe the posse will ride in on horseback toting six guns. You never know with the self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff”.)

Unless you are one of those who breathe the vapors that produce visions of “illegal alien reconquistas” and believe our president is a communist-fascist-atheist and a closet Muslim terrorist, you might ask why a county sheriff would get involved in a federal investigation. But if you’re asking that question, you probably don’t know much about Joe Arpaio.

Sheriff Arpaio has somehow found time for this vital investigation of our president despite a number of pressing local issues. These include:

  • At least 32 reported child molestations — with victims as young as 2 years old — where Sheriff Arpaio’s office failed to follow through after the crimes were reported. This negligence brought widespread criticism for the sheriff including a rebuke by Republican Arizona Senator John McCain who was “outraged” over the sheriff’s alleged mishandling of these sex crimes.
  • On December 15, 2011 the United States Department of Justice released a report stating Sheriff Arpaio's department engaged in “ a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing” and “engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Latinos.”
  • Based on the Justice Department report on discriminatory policing practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the United States Department of Homeland Security revoked the MCSO's federal authority to identify and detain illegal immigrants.
  • A federal grand jury has been investigating Arpaio's office on criminal abuse-of-power allegations since at least December 2009 and is specifically examining the investigative work of the sheriff's anti-public corruption squad.

With all this, you’d think Sheriff Joe might have more important local law enforcement matters to attend than staging a hokey media bust of the “Illegal-Alien-in-Chief.” But thinking will only get you in trouble if you support Joe Arpaio.

Sheriff Arpaio’s cartoon-like, Elmer Fudd pursuit of the president along with those “wascal illegal alien invaders” would be amusing — if real human lives weren’t involved. Unfortunately, we will have to endure the next episode of his political looney tunes on March 1. Stay tuned.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez is the award-winning author of AMERICA LIBRE and HOUSE DIVIDED. You can connect with him at

The Return Of Russell Pearce: Arizona’s GOP Says He Will Help With the Latino Vote

You think what is happening in Arizona is just an overreaction? Watch the video at the bottom of this post, and then ask yourself if this is really America. If it is, then we are in trouble.

Here is what the YouTube channel said:

If I told you that the Arizona Republican Party thinks Russell Pearce and his crazy side-kick Art Olivas will attract the votes of the Latino community you would think I was crazy. Anyone who has even attempted any conversation with Art Olivas can clearly see the man is not quite right upstairs. But because he is Mexican and seems to hate Mexicans and loves Sheriff Arpaio and Russell Pearce, they made him a PC and then a State Committeeman in the Party. The Az. Republican Party is as anti-immigrant, anti-gay and anti anything that would have to do with any minorities human rights. The whole notion that if they get Mexicans to support Pearce, it will somehow attract others is Bizarro. But thats not what they seem to think. Watch as I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.