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.

Customs and Border Protection Considered Weaponizing Drones at Border

A July 3 article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed that the Customs & Border Protection (CPB) “has sharply increased the number of missions its 10 Predator drones have flown on behalf of state, local and non-CPB federal agencies” and also “considered equipping its predators with ‘non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize‘ targets of interest.”



The EFF obtained government documents through the Freedom of Information Act that describe the drone plan, including the following information of page 69, where it states that “Additional payload upgrades could include expendables or non-lethal weapons designed to immobilize TOis [Targets of Interest].”


The EFF also reported the following:

CBP also released to EFF a 2010 “Concept of Operations” report for its drone program. This document provides significant detail about CBP’s program, including the three major operational locations in which the agency flies its drones, the Predators’ on-board surveillance technologies, and CBP’s “far-term” goals for the program.

The report notes that CBP’s Predators have highly sophisticated, high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), color video, and electron optical (EO) and infrared (IR) cameras, and are capable of performing Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Targeting and Acquisition (“RSTA”) on and tracking of multiple moving and stationary targets of interest in both clear and adverse weather. CBP hopes to improve its surveillance capabilities in the future so that its sensor “point target resolution” increases to “well below one foot.”

The report also notes that CBP plans to make its drones and the data gathered through its drone surveillance even more widely available to outside agencies. For example, CBP plans to share data on a near real-time basis, possibly “via DOD’s Global Information Grid (GIG)/Defense Information Systems Network.” CBP also plans that “joint DHS and OGA [other government agency] combined operations will become the norm at successively lower organizational hierarchical levels[,]” which will, presumably, reduce the already limited oversight for CBP’s drone-loan program.

Jennifer Lynch, the EFF attorney who wrote the story, spoke with The Atlantic Wire this week:

The FOIA request stems from a lawsuit filed by Lynch after a 2011 Los Angeles Times article that indicated the agency was sharing its aircraft with other agencies at all level of government. Among the ones she identified off the top of her head: the Coast Guard, the FBI, the U.S. Marshalls, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Texas Department of Public Safety. The drone’s surveillance capability “is what we’re actually focused on,” Lynch said, but the possibility of using weapons stood out. “This is the first I’ve seen any mention of any plans to weaponize any drones that fly domestically,” she said. “I haven’t seen this anywhere else.”

In addition, the CBP issued the following statement yesterday:

CBP has no plans to arm its unmanned aircraft systems with non-lethal weapons or weapons of any kind. CBP’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) support CBP’s border security mission and provide an important surveillance and reconnaissance capability for interdiction agents on the ground and on the waterways. Current UAS were designed with the ability to add new surveillance capabilities, accommodate technological developments, and ensure that our systems are equipped with the most advanced resources available.

You can read the entire CBP report here:

Customs and Border Patrol’s Plan to Weaponize Unmanned Drones Used at Border by Latino Rebels

Autopsy of Mexican Teenager: Border Patrol Shot Him from Behind… 11 Times

Last October, we wrote about the tragic death of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez of Nogales, Mexico. Initial reports at the time had said that border agents from the US side shot 14 times, hitting the teenager with seven bullets. The reason Elena Rodríguez was killed? For throwing rocks over the border fence between Arizona and Mexico.


This week, Elena Rodríguez’s autopsy was made public, and the information reported by USA Today suggested the he was struck by 11 bullets and that “all but one of as many as 11 bullets that struck the boy entered from behind.”

Here is what the article reported:

“The only way I can fathom that report is that he was lying on his face when he was hit,” said Luis Parra, an attorney representing the Elena Rodriguez family.

Border Patrol spokesman Vic Brabble declined to comment on the autopsy report, citing an ongoing FBI investigation. The FBI also declined to comment.

Gregory Hess, the Pima County medical examiner, said after reviewing the report that the trajectories it describes could be consistent with someone being shot and falling, with subsequent shots hitting the prone body. But he said that there could be other interpretations, and that without seeing photographs, and without knowing the examiners or the quality of their work, he couldn’t draw any conclusions.

Absalon Madrigal Godinez, the lead examiner, hadn’t replied by deadline to email requests for an interview.

Parra, reached by phone in Hermosillo, Sonora, where he was seeking ballistics reports, said that Elena Rodriguez’s family feels frustrated “because it seems like there hasn’t been any collaboration at all between U.S. and Mexican authorities on this.”

The story continues:

In this incident, agents were chasing two men they believed had carried bundles of drugs over the fence and were trying to escape back into Mexico. As the men climbed the fence, rocks were hurled at police and Border Patrol agents, according to police reports. That’s when an agent standing near the fence opened fire, the reports said.

At the spot where Elena Rodriguez’s body was found, the border fence runs along a bluff. The bottom of the fence is about 25 feet above street level, where the boy would have been standing. The top of the fence is another 18 feet above that.

According to Nogales police, whoever was throwing rocks was flinging them over the fence, not through the 3.5 inch gaps between the metal poles. Given the arc that a rock would have to travel to pass over the fence from the street below, it would be nearly impossible for the projectile to hit someone right next to the fence, where the agent would have had to have stood to fire down at the youth through the fence’s metal bars.

TheRealNews.Com’s Extensive 13-Minute Report: “Is the Arizona-Mexico Border a War Zone?”

The following report by The Real News Network asks: "Is the Arizona Mexico Border a War Zone?"

From its website: "Local politicians say that spill over violence is a major threat but do the facts bear this out?" Check this out and let us know what you think.

The Boy Scouts of America Respond to “Border Patrol” and “Fleeing Immigrants” Patch from Milwaukee Troop

This afternoon, we received the following statement from David Burke, Communications Specialist for the Boy Scouts of America, regarding the use of the "fleeing immigrants" image on a patch created by a local Milwaukee troop, who named themselves the "Border Patrol."

Here is what Mr. Burke sent to us:


I have been asked to respond to your request regarding the Troop 11 patrol patch. We have looked into the situation that you brought to our attention have an explanation for how it was developed. I know that you have heard from other parties on this issue but I would  first like to provide some background that might help with the explanation.

A Boy Scout troop consist of approximately 20 – 60 young men between the ages of 11 and 18 years of age. In most troops most of the boys are between the ages of 11-16. Each troop divides itself into patrols of 5-9 boys to make it easier to manage and also to create opportunities for leadership development. Each patrol has a patrol leader who is elected by the patrol from the boys in that patrol. Each patrol gets to select its own patrol name. Patrol names can be just about anything the boys decide. It might be the owl patrol, the dinosaur patrol, or something along the pop culture lines such as the Batman patrol. The adults usually try not to interfere unless the name is obviously inappropriate. Patrols come and go based on the membership of the troop.

In this case a patrol in troop 11 decided they wanted their patrol name to be the "Border Patrol" and did so without any intent of offending anyone.  Neither the United States Border Patrol or the Boy Scouts of America were involved in the naming of the patrol, or the production or distribution of the patch.

Leadership at the local council has discussed this issue with the Scoutmaster. The Scoutmaster has worked with the patrol and they now understand that there were unintended consequences with their patrol name and have agreed to rename their patrol and remove the patch from their uniform. When the local council was alerted to this situation they reacted immediately to work with the troop and will continue to provide guidance as needed.

I hope this clarifies the situation.  Thanks again for your note and interest in Scouting.