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.

Death.

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.

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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.

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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.

The Economist’s Ignorant Article on “Old” Mexico: “They Didn’t Jump the Border—It Jumped Them.”

Leave it to The Economist to be ever so ignorant. Recently, the UK-based magazine published a piece called “Old Mexico lives on.” It went viral. The piece was trying to make the point that ever since the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, territory that used to be Mexico’s but it now part of the United States is still heavily influenced by history and culture. That makes sense. They even had a graphic to prove it (screen grab from the page):

Nonetheless, the way the online piece explained the point made our heads turn. Here is the end of the piece (emphasis is ours):

But a century and a half later, communities have proved more durable than borders. The counties with the highest concentration of Mexicans (as defined by ethnicity, rather than citizenship) overlap closely with the area that belonged to Mexico before the great gringo land-grab of 1848. Some are recent arrivals; others trace their roots to long before the map was redrawn. They didn’t jump the border—it jumped them.

Was that even necessary? Yes, @nu4jm6, we agree.

 

Yes, even in a piece about the cultural history between Mexico and the Southwest, people have to bring up the stale and ignorant image of the “border jumper.” FYI, guess The Economist doesn’t look at actual historical photos when it writes things. For example, see this image. Who is jumping what here?”

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The Economist’s description in that final sentence is just lazy and insulting. You think that they would have done more work about this topic, but why actually do more work about it? Anyone who follows and lives this topic could have easily told the magazine that if it did want to include the whole notion of borders in this conversation, using the expression “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” might speak more to the issue here. See the subtle difference there? Just saying.

Aeroméxico Responds to Discrimination Allegations While Others Cry Foul

Aeroméxico has released the following statement in response to claims that staff members refused to allow a group of indigenous people to board one of the airline’s flights in Oaxaca due to their clothing and background, as previously reported by Latino Rebels.

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Oaxaca Case

In relation to flight AM544 from Oaxaca to Mexico City this past November 5th, Aeroméxico states the following:

- For operational reasons we conducted a change of aircraft, utilizing an Embraer 170 with 76 seats and not an Embraer 190 with 99 seats as planned. This led to more than 20 customers not being able to board the flight, including a group of seven people whose final destination was Hermosillo.

- The shift supervisor told the Aeroméxico passengers in Oaxaca of the situation and offered them compensation for hotels, food, transportation and a plane ticket on a national route.

It is important to note that one of the groups above went on the flight without any problem, while the rest went on a November 7th flight at the request of the passengers who wished to fly together, with the company covering their lodging and food during those days. Thus the airline staff at the airport acted in accordance with the operating procedures and customer service.

Aeroméxico regrets any inconvenience that was caused from this situation and appreciates the business of all its customers.

Some thanked the airline for clarifying the situation while others continued to criticize them for unfair treatment, discrimination and racism.

Translation: To have an explanation there needs to be investigation. Congratulations on your report. It’s too bad for those who speak without knowing fact

Translation: It is a lie, if they are saying this because they’re being sued, offer your apologies and don’t lie, RACISTS!

Translation: I feel like going to the airport with some traditional clothing and huaraches, let’s see if they let me board for not going in style ‘polanco’

Other airlines even jumped into the conversation.

In the video below tourist agents Neftalí Bautista and Sofía Santa denounce  Aeroméxico for discriminating against the six indigenous men.

Commentators have continued to draw parallels between the current situation and an incident earlier in the year in which Aeroméxico apologized for releasing a casting-call for a commercial that called for light-skinned people only. The ad, depicted below in Spanish, prompts “dark skinned” applicants not to apply, asking instead for those of  ”polanco” style, referencing to the predominantly white affluent neighborhood in Mexico City.

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The United States Deported 13,454 Unaccompanied Mexican Minors in 2012

A July 23 story by Animal Político said the Mexican consulates near the Mexico-US border reported that 13,454 unaccompanied minors were deported by US immigration officials. The article stated that since the passing of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, there has been a marked increased in the number of deported minors who wind up under the custody of Mexico’s Division of Unaccompanied Minors.

The story said the following (in Spanish, translation ours):

…most children are repatriated after arrests at ports of entry by the Border Patrol or Customs and Border Protection agents within a period no longer than 48 or 72 hours of admission to the United States, which are the legal times legal that the United States can transfer custody of a child to a shelter in confirmed cases of the law.

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CREDIT: Appleseed Network

AltNet published a July 29 story, adding more context to the Mexican report:

Last year, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 6,548 accompanied and 24,481 unaccompanied children, a total that includes Mexican minors. The rate of border-crossing minors tripled since 2008 to the point that in 2012, unaccompanied minors comprised  79 percent of all juvenile border crossers.

Once apprehended, minors are placed with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an U.S. Health and Human Services agency that takes custody of minors while their cases are being adjudicated. While the majority of minors from Mexico are returned without being detained, some children are  kept in adult detention centers. In 2012, those children spent anywhere between three days to more than an year. Indeed, over 1,300 children spent a  combined one hundred years in adult detention centers last year.

Whereas the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a policy of detaining children in the least restrictive setting appropriate to their age and needs, they have not always followed through on those orders.  One four-year old child was subjected to freezing conditions.

When they do make it to immigration court, the odds are stacked against immigrant children wanting to stay in the U.S. Although immigrants with legal representation are  nine times more likely to win their case, less than fifty percent of children have legal representation. In fact, immigrants are not entitled to public defenders in immigration court. It is not unusual for a  toddler or a  six-year-old to appear in front of the judge without a lawyer.

A 2011 report from the Appleseed Network has previously explored the issue:

According to the “Children at the Border: The Screening, Protection & Repatriation of Unaccompanied Mexican Minors”, Mexico does not have uniform laws or policies governing the rights of migrating minors or the responsibilities of the various agencies who assume custody of them after their repatriation from the U.S. – Mexico border. Instead, there is a patchwork of laws and regulations that govern the shelter, treatment, and protection of unaccompanied minors.

The report also notes that there are a number of factors that lead Mexican children to embark on the hazardous journey to the United States. However, according to many reports and the Appleseed investigation, the most pervasive motive for children to leave home and attempt to enter the United States appears to be the search for better economic opportunity. Put simply, the prospect of a job or an education can lead to better employment, and thus a better life for these children and their families. The second-most commonly cited reason is family reunification.

CREDIT: Appleseed Network

CREDIT: Appleseed Network

Reaction to Mexico-Canada WBC Brawl Just as Sad as Actual Fight

Let’s get this straight: last night’s bench-clearing brawl between Mexico and Canada at the World Baseball Classic in Phoenix’s Chase Field was ugly.

However, we don’t know what is sadder—the actual fight or the reactions and consequences after the fact. Here are a few things you should know:

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No one will get disciplined. Yes, you read that correctly. There will be no suspensions, according to reports:

The ugly brawl led to seven ejections, but WBC officials said in a statement that no fines or suspensions would be issued.

“Because at least one club —and potentially both— will not advance to the second round, WBCI has determined that disciplinary measures would not have a meaningful corrective impact,” the statement read. “Thus, discipline will not be imposed beyond today’s seven game ejections.”

Blame the WBC format for all this. Canada entered the 9th inning with a 9-3 lead against Mexico, but because one of the tiebreakers to advance to the second round involves run differential, there was still incentive for Canada to run up the score. So this is what happened:

Former University of Illinois catcher Chris Robinson inadvertently triggered a benches-clearing brawl in the ninth inning of Canada’s 10-3 victory that eliminated Mexico from the World Baseball Classic.

With the possibility of Canada, the United States and Italy potentially all ending up 1-2 in the Pool D round-robin, Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt’s team was mindful that run differential breaks tie. Even though it had a 9-3 lead in the ninth inning, Robinson led off with a bunt single. The Mexican pitcher, Arnold Leon, plunked the next hitter, Rene Tosoni, and things turned wild after he started walking toward the mound.

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It got even uglier before it got better. The report continues:

Whitt almost pulled the Canadian team off the field after fans started throwing objects. He said coach Denis Boucher was hit in the head with a bottle and that another object just missed coach Larry Walker.

“We want to play the game hard,” Robinson said. “We play it properly.  You get an opportunity to help a team, help your teammates (in any way), that’s something to do. That’s the way that we play as a whole.  That’s the way I’ve always played.”

Like Whitt, Mexico manager Rick Renteria blamed the situation on the unusual format, which could penalize a team for following normal baseball etiquette.

Said Renteria: “The tournament, it has different rules … In a normal setting, a normal professional setting, I should say, a 9-3 bunt in that particular situation would be kind of out of the ordinary.  But based on the rules that have been established in this tournament, the run differentials and things of that nature … those things may occur. It was just a misunderstanding.”

Larry Walker needs to chill. The Canadian coach and former MLB star had this to say about Mexican pitcher (and Boston Red Sox) Alfredo Aceves: ““I had a hold of him, and I think I saw Satan in his eyes.” Satan? Really?

This isn’t the first time that Canada and Mexico had issues on the baseball field. Here is a story from 1991, when the countries played in the Panamerican Games in Cuba:

According to the Mexicans’ account of the fight, catcher Alex Andreopoulos of Canada set off the incident when he called catcher Alberto Vargas of Mexico, the first to bat in the top of the sixth inning, a “third-world chili eater, a tortilla eater.”

Vargas reportedly replied that Mexico could still beat Canada at baseball anytime and the fighting ensued.

A statement by Harvey Bailey, a Canadian team official, gave a different account.

“The trouble began when Canadian catcher Alex Andreopoulos was called out on a controversial play at second base to end the fifth inning,” Bailey said in the statement.

“When the Canadian team took to the field to begin the sixth inning Andreopoulos and a player in the Mexican dugout began talking to one another before the benches cleared.,” the statement said. “I was in the stands and I saw the Mexican player run onto the field first.”

Players, coaches and officials rushed onto the field from the dugouts as the shocked crowd booed.

Cuban police officers ran on to the field and pulled players apart. One Mexican player went back to his dugout to grab a bat, but witnesses said he was restrained by Mexican team officials.

Social media needs to chill as well. These are actual tweets:

Dear Nativist @rsmccain: #NoMames to Your “Mexican Weather Girls” Immigration Tweet

Maybe, just maybe, deep deep down inside, hard-line immigration nativists just want to be loved by Mexican weather girls.

That could be the case of Robert Stacy McCain, a conservative correspondent for the American Spectator, whose Twitter profile @rsmccain posted the following “joke” on Friday:

The tweet took people to a blog post from Reagan Republican Resistance that talks about how “HAWT” Mexican weather girls are. The blog post included pictures such as these (BTW, we don’t think this woman is from Mexico, but you know you all Latinas are the same):

Mexican weather girl 02

The tweet and the link were also retweeted by the Twitter account of Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of Center for Immigration Studies. You know Krikorian and CIS, right? They are pretty much against any immigration and definitely against a pathway to citizenship to the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. Guess that doesn’t apply to Mexican weather girls, because sexism goes well with nativism.

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Yesterday the HuffPost’s Roque Planas, who wrote the initial piece about the original tweet, tweeted to McCain for a response:

McCain responded with this:

Ah, yes, the old “get over it” response. Earlier today McCain’s Twitter account felt he needed to rub it in a bit more when the following was posted:

This time Krikorian’s Twitter responded to McCain with the following:

Maybe Krikorian saw what McCain initially tweeted out, and finally realized it was in poor taste, offensive and quite amateurish. And hey, if you are going to be consistent in your nativism, you gotta be careful. As for McCain, yeah, we know what you really like. But sorry, #NoMames.

UPDATE: Guess Krikorian thought McCain’s tweet WAS funny since they both tweeted it us to make sure it was clear what they meant:

#TodosSomosPresos Video Lists Illegally Detained #1DMx Protesters

Tonight the international arm of the #YoSoy132 movement tweeted us a YouTube video that allegedly lists all those who were illegally detained by Mexican authorities this past Saturday at the #1DMx demonstration against Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.

The hashtag #TodosSomosPresos (We Are All Prisoners) has become the official hashtag for finding more about the status of the detainees and what people are doing to try and free them.

#1DMx UPDATE: Anarchist Protesters Say They Were Paid Off & Video Captures Brutal Police Acts

As more and more content is being shared online about #1DMx, a demonstration against Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, reports from Reforma, Proceso, and La Jornada are beginning to present a fuller account of what is rapidly becoming a tragic weekend in Mexico.

The #YoSoy132 movement had claimed that the protesters who committed acts of vandalism and violence were not representing the student movement, which had been promoting peaceful demonstrations. Apparently their claims were confirmed, as reports from Mexico say that members of the Youth Union of the Mexican Revolution told police that that were give 300 pesos each to show up at 7 am at San Lázaro subway station the morning of December 1. The Reforma report described the members as part of an anarchist organization. The members did not say who had contracted them or paid them.

La Jornada also reported about the following video, which shows police use rubber bullets and tear gas grenades against the protesters. It also shows civilians walking with police behind a fence, raising more speculation that police had sent infiltrators into the demonstrations. Here is the 6-minute video, which according to La Jornada, was uploaded by canalseisdejulio. All this is significant since, according to La Jornada, a police spokesperson said on Saturday that rubber bullets were not used against protesters.

Alternative Media Collective “Emergencia MX” Releases 18-Minute YouTube Video of #1DMx

Today, the YouTube channel of EmergenciaMx.org released an 18-minute video of the #1DMx protests, which occurred this Saturday. According to its site and Facebook page, EmergenciaMx is an alternative non-profit media collective of filmmakers, artists, and communicators that offers different points of view that you won't in in mainstream Mexican outlets that "form part of the status quo of a media system that is neither competitive not democratic."

Here is an 18-minute video that the collective uploaded today. It is a disturbing and sobering video, and it makes little distinction from peaceful demonstrators and alleged anarchist protesters who turned parts of the demonstrations violent. This video is pretty raw.

What Happened in Mexico Yesterday: #1DMx

As with any story that is covered online and fed quickly through social media, there is always a desire to get as much accurate information as possible. Stories that organically grow and spread through online circles will always be that way. It is the new journalism, an uneasy balance between on-the-ground tweets, pics, videos, and posts, and official news outlets. In this day and age, where news can happen with a smart phone, we find that immediacy of news is a reality that will not go way, but at the same time a combination of different sources will always give as full of a picture as possible.

Such is the case of #1DMx, the hashtag that was used for the marches against allegations that Mexico's newest President, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was fraudulently elected. Much has been written about that, and as with any story, you will have those who believe that the PRI's return to power after 12 years is just an example of democracy in action (the PRI ruled Mexico for 71 consecutive years) and those who believe that the PRI's will revive the party's ugly history of political repression and control. Both of those opinions and the gray areas between those opinions are being published and played out online, not only through social media, but through media outlets. It is a battle of opinions, and those opinions have been quite strong, no matter where you look.

We will try here to share what a few of those organizations outlets are reporting and let readers decide about the information that is being shared. As with any story that is constantly moving online, there will be always be quick reactions and more information. Social media plays a role in that, and the speed of information is just the new normal. Consider this post a pause from the barrage of information that is getting shared right now. 

  • The #YoSoy132 movement, which has been protesting against Peña Nieto since early this spring, has been quick to condemn and distance itself from many of the violent acts that were reported yesterday. The movement's focus has been to share the news about claims that the Mexican government has repressed many protesters, how some protesters are missing, and how many have been injured. Sources like YoSoy132Media.org continue to provide constant updates about recent events, and they continue to move rather quickly. For example, it was originally reported that a protester had died last night, when in fact he is still alive but in grave condition. That is what happens when news is shared so quickly.
  • A lot of photos are being uploaded and it can feel overwhelming. This #1DMx source provides many of the more popular ones being shared. Some photos show peaceful demonstrations, while other photos are more troubling. Images are indeed powerful, and they are open for interpretation, both good and bad. Another fact of social media reporting.
  • As with any movement or event that is now being covered online, there are many sources that report the information. As with any story or movement, bias is everywhere. All media is biased, no matter how independent it claims to be. For us, besides checking out the YoSoy132 pages, we also tend to check out Proceso, which presents a full picture in Spanish about yesterday's events here (15 civilians wounded, 20 uniformed police wounded and 65 arrested), as well as La Jornada and Milenio to see how else the news is being reported. We tend to look at these outlets with a critical eye, as we do with anything we read and share. 
  • American news outlets appear to be showing just a small slice of the story, as the Associated Press lumps all the protesters as "vandals," also  reporting that "at least 76 people were treated for injuries, including 29 who hospitalized, as the result of clashes between protesters and tear-gas firing police, the Red Cross said. City officials said 103 people were detained, including 11 minors." The New York Times this morning barely made mention of the protests, focusing instead of Peña Nieto's speech, but it did report the following: "Later, outside the national palace, scores of mostly young masked people, shouting anti-PRI slogans, clashed with the police, set fires, threw rocks and vandalized hotels and stores along several blocks. More than 90 were arrested and several were injured, and Mayor Marcelo Ebrard later blamed anarchist groups for the trouble."
  • The Occupy movement is also covering the news from Mexico and it reported the following: "the protesters marched on Congress in Mexico City and were met with large squadrons of riot police, enormous barricades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and gas bombs. Reports claim approximately 30 people have been injured, several critically." The Occupy page also shared several links on social media that are sharing the story.

There is saying that there are two sides to every story, and that the truth is somewhere in between. So, while the AP posts this video without any context, other videos, like the ones that follow, are being shared on YouTube.

AP's video

Other Videos from YouTube. There are so many, we have lost count.

We would expect that anyone who is interested in what is happening in Mexico continue to check different reports and sources. Our page does not claim to be the definitive source (and it never will). Anyone who expects that will be disappointed. What we can promise is that we will try to curate content that seems interesting and newsworthy so that our readers can decide and determine for themselves what they think about these recent developments.

As for us? We do think that the current political system in Mexico is a quasi-oligarchy and that true democracy is still a pipe dream there (many would say that this is the case of the United States as well). Events like #1DMx bring out the worst and best in people, but at least people are talking and sharing opinions. Will such dialogue lead to change, and if so, what will that change look like? Those questions continued to be asked, but have yet to be answered.