Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

McCain's Sunday Morning Rude Awakening

The end of McCain's campaign is near and his hopes for the U.S. Presidency have all but ended.

On November 4th, McCain stands to lose the election to Barack Obama.  The GOP has imploded. Once the general election is over and the GOP regroups, McCain will find a new role and important role in saving the GOP from itself.

Look for McCain to become a voice of reason within the GOP and see him work steadfastly to finally champion through Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Immigration reform that will end the failed Bush era, a period that saw our country lose on all fronts, on the economy, national security, foreign affairs, one of the saddest and tragic chapters, a total loss of leadership in American history.

McCain will quietly raise the GOP from it's ashes and in the process redeem himself in the eyes of Latinos when he champions immigration reforms.

In the end, McCain will look back on all of this and determine with much sadness that his own party and their embrace of divisive tactics along with an unwillingness to see a new and fast changing America, cost him and them the Presidency of the United States of America.

On Sunday, October 19th, 2008, that end became more evident, as McCain's longtime friend and supporter former Sect. of State, Gen. Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama.  Powell was considered by many as the best choice as McCain's choice for VP, in response to Obama's pick of Joe Biden.

With two and a half weeks to go, McCain received the following rude awakening.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Braceros, most well over 80, wait to collect back wages...and wait and wait..

The New York Times reports that a Settlement Will Allow Thousands of Mexican Laborers in the U.S. to Collect Back Pay.

The settlement allows for the return of the 10% of wages that were withheld from Braceros while they worked as farmhands throughout the United States under the Bracero Program. The money was withheld as an incentive for immigrant workers to return to Mexico, but once they returned few if any received the money.  The settlement affects qualified Braceros who currently reside in the United States.  A separate settlement was reached between the Braceros living in Mexico and the Mexican government which paid those claimants similar amounts in settlements.

According to Wells Fargo documents the funds withheld from braceros paychecks were deposited into Banco Nacional de Credito Agricola, which in 1976 became Banrural.  However, in 1999 a spokesperson for Banrural, Hermes Castro Ojeda later claimed that no records existed that such deposits were received.  Castro Ojeda stated, "I don't know what happened with the funds.  They could have been cashed out or could have had another destiny." 

In November of 1999, Banrural bagan accepting claims but the documentation demands were onerous and many braceros lack the documentation which dates back to the early and late 1940's.

Banrural was liquidated in 2003 at a cost of $4.40 billion dollars or 48 billion Mexican pesos to Mexican taxpayers.  It's failure and subsequent liquidation continues to create trouble in the lives of thousands of Mexican citizens who rely on retirement pensions adminsistered by the bank (article is in Spanish).

To this date Mexican government officials deny any wrongdoing, but have not indicated what actually happened to the money. 

Still many baceros are hopeful that they will have their money returned, but more die each year just waiting for their governments action.

Under the settlement, scheduled for a hearing on final approval in a few months, Mexico would give each bracero, or a surviving heir, $3,500
When it comes to managing labor rights and the welfare of migrant workers in the United States, Mexico could be considered a Pimp.   The United States in turn would be considered, the John.  Historically,
it's been a rather convenient relationship for both sides, Mexico's government has been more than happy to feed the United States' insatiable lust for cheap immigrant labor.  Mexico in turn is more than willing to put out millions of Mexican migrant workers onto the streets of America to perform the most dirtiest and dangerous jobs available.

Today Mexico has become dependent on the remittances that millions of migrant workers send home.  Remittances to Mexico now contributes more than $20 billion dollars to the Mexican economy.  The amount is second to oil exports, tourism is the third largest source of revenue to Mexico.

Mexican officials have also quietly lobbied Mexican Hometown Associations (HTA) to increase their participation in the governments Tres-Por-Uno program.  The HTA's are groups of individuals who maintain active ties to the local towns from which they emigrated to the United States.  The HTA members are routinely encouraged by local and state elected officials to contribute money to build roads and other improvements to their towns via the Tres-Por-Uno progam.  The program has become an efficient way for Mexican officials to tap into additional building roads, churches and public plazas, but has done little in the way of promoting job creation.

The fact that neither the remittances or funds from the Tres-Por-Uno create jobs, ensures that Mexican migrant workers will continue to seek employment in the United States and for the forseable future there will always be a willing employer to provide a welcoming embrace to that migrant worker, even if it's only accompanied by a low wage and poor working conditions.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Some Don't Care and Won't Vote! Some Care and Can't Vote!

If you don't care about the economy, education, the War in Iraq, or any of the multitude of issues affecting Americans, then don't Vote!

Many Americans, including myself will be voting on Nov 4th.  I for one, am f*#%ing totally excited that my guy is ahead, way ahead, just take a look at the polls.  Yet, despite the fact that my candidate is ahead, I'm still nervous about the next three weeks.  Mostly, I worry about how Whites in the Mid-West and Southern parts of our Nation will vote.  Can many of those Whites, get themselves to for a Black man as the next President of The United States of America?  The question is valid and it remains to be answered on Nov 4th. 

The historic moment is almost here and I'm grateful to be alive and able to participate.

Whenever, I'm in public I talk about the elections and ask how people plan to vote.  It's surprising how many people I run into who don't plan to vote.  Some are apathetic and believe their vote won't count.  Some are not not registered and I'll try to point them in the right direction and ask that they register and vote.

Granted some people just can't vote, they can't vote because they are legal residents and not yet Citizens.  Undocumented immigrants, the 12 Million or so no living in the U.S. can't vote, their fate hangs in the balance.  Their fate is yet to be decided by Congress and us who can vote which will ultimately sway public opinion about their fate.  So, those undocumented immigrants silently and hope that someone will speak (vote) in their favor and allow them to remain in this country. 

If you are a Citizens and are registered to Vote, then it's both a right and your duty to participate in these historic elections.

See you at the Voting Booths!  I'm voting for Obama.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

42 Days!...and counting...

Image Credit: Chris Piascik 
Most everyone I know has already registered to Vote and have strong feelings as to who they will support in this Presidential election. 

I consider this Presidential election the most important election of my lifetime. I was first eligible to vote in 1980, so I've voted in quite a few elections and I can admit to a few mistakes. I can and will readily admit that I sometimes did not fully research the candidates, their platforms or event the important issues of the day.  On occasion here and there, I later determined that I voted for the wrong candidate and committed myself to closer scrutiny of the candidates, their platforms and the issues.

Granted, people will always favor different candidates and will look at issues from different perspectives, but that is what makes this country great.  So, whether your a McCain or Obama supporter, get out and Vote!, it's never been easier to register to Vote . 

This Presidential election is winding down with only 42 days remaining until Election Day. If you have not registered please do so, if you moved or changed your name register and get out and vote on November 4th.

Your Choice.

If you have not already taken a moment and sat down to quietly contemplate your choice for this Presidential election, now is about as good as time as any.  The issues are aplenty, the economy, the war in Iraq, immigration reform, energy/oil, the environment, womens rights, civil rights, the list is endless.

My Choice.

Personally, I'm a huge Obama supporter. 

I like Senator Obama's platform and strongly feel that his policies and perspectives on a number of issues will lead this country down the right path.  The United States is an important participant in what is increasingly become a global society and some very complex and intertwined economies.

This country needs to be guided by a leader who has the capacity to engender a willingness from foreign leaders to sit down and engage in honest talk and negotiations with us.  Obama's personality and temperament will serve him well as he navigates the complexity of our foreign affairs.

The challenges faced by this country have never been greater and we must consider what path this country should take in order for it to regain its standing as a world leader.

Check Your Status Today!

Again, whether you support McCain or Obama, please get out and Vote this election.  You can check your registration status, register to vote, look up early-vote information for your state, apply to vote absentee, or even find your polling place.  Do it here!

It's the easiest and most important thing you can do to make your voice heard.

Gracias -- we'll see each other at the polls.

UPDATE:  I neglected to mention that the debates begin this Friday, so tune in to get a better understanding on the differences between the candidates.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Obama Ad: Dos Caras

Update @ 2:39pm:  Here is McCain's Ad.

Update @ 2:42pm:  A piece from the NY Times on McCain's Spanish Ad

Short Film by Hilman Curtis: Soldiers

Yesterday, was Constitution Day day in which American commemorate the U.S. Constitution which on September 17, 1787 was signed by thirty-nine visionary men.
Constitution Day is supposed to be a time when "continue the legacy and develop habits of citizenship in the new generation of Americans".  But, what will the face of the "new generation of American's" look like?

A Short Story

In 1980 as a 19 year old I joined the U.S. Marine Corps.  I joined because, I did not want to go directly to college, I wanted to get away from home and wanted to serve his country, all in that order.  I joined much to my parents initial dismay which would later turn into pride albeit with reasonable fears for my safety.
A few months later, after being processed at some building in Los Angeles, I boarded a bus bound for Union Station and boarded an Amtrak train which left Los Angeles and headed to San Diego for 13-weeks of basic training.
I was accompanied on the train a few other recruits, we had been delayed while being processed and missed the chartered bus, so special transportation arrangements where made for our group of what I remember being five Marine recruits.
Anyway, while heading to the Marine Corp Recruit Depot (MCRD) for what would turn out to be some very  long, mentally and physically challenging training, I had time to contemplate what lay ahead.  However, while on the train I had no idea of what actually awaited me, no idea of what to expect while in basic training.  I was just thinking, wishfully thinking about the possibilities as I embarked on this new path.  I was thinking about how best I could serve my country.

Remember, when I joined the military, I was still just a Permanent U.S. Resident and had not yet decided to become a U.S. Citizen, as a 19 year old I had not really given that much thought on what it meant to be a U.S. Citizen, much less pondered it's value and significance.

What's in a title?

When you join the Marines you don't automatically become a "Marine".  You don't earn the privilege of being called Marine until you actually graduate from basic training.  While in basic training Drill Instructors may refer to you as "private", if they are feeling generous, most likely they will less desirable names, such a maggot, scum bucket, shit-for-brains, etc., all meant to remind you that you have not yet earned the title of Marine, you've yet to earn the title of Private, so dig deep and train hard.
At about the 11th week, the Drill Instructors will begin to call you "Private" and one begins to see them more as mentors rather than, well hard-asses hell bent on destroying you.  The fact that a Drill Instructor would address with the title of "Private" is enough to fill up any recruit who has just left behind him or her some 10 weeks of intense physical training of what is the most demanding basic military training program in the U.S. Armed Forces will fill them with immense pride.  The title of Private tell you that the forthcoming title is that of United States Marine.  The light becomes visible at the end of the tunnel.
What does it mean to be a Citizen?

So, once again yesterday was Constitution Day, which made me ponder what it means to be a Citizen.  It made me think about the sacrifices that citizens and our US Military makes on our behalf everyday.  It reminded me of the sacrifices that thousands of soldiers what are foreign born immigrants, the sacrifices that those immigrants who have yet to become U.S. citizens also make for their adopted country.
I could not help but think what those thirty-nine courages and visionary men, those who wrote the U.S. Constitution could possible think about how our current legislative leaders and our commander in chief have interpreted the articles of the constitution?
Is it possible that new immigrants have a different concept of what Citizenship means, one that is different from what our founding fathers envisioned?  Certainly our founding fathers would never have envisioned a nation with a racial make up such is our nation is today.
It goes without saying that the founding fathers could never have envisioned a United States of America in 2008.  But our current leaders know what to expected our nation to look like in 2050.   The US Census has widely reported on how Asian, Black and Latino/Hispanics will become the majority in the United States by 2050.
So once again, what does it mean to be a Citizen of the United States today?  Is there broad consensus amongst us on what that means?
The Pew Hispanic Center just released study cites that:
Half (50%) of all Latinos say that the situation of Latinos in this country is worse now than it was a year ago, according to a new nationwide survey of 2,015 Hispanic adults conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center.

How can this country and it's citizens become more unified if most factors point to a continued fragmentation. The failure of our government to fix our immigration crisis has only added to the fragmentation, something that a souring economy only makes worse.
We can vigorously debate the issue of illegal immigration and whether or not such immigrants contribute positively or negatively to the United States, both in an economic and social sense, but the fact remains that they are here, some have been here for over 20 years and despite Draconian efforts most will remain in this country.
The immigration crisis as an issue has been largely absent from the Presidential Elections of 2008, perhaps the upcoming debates will be reason for it to resurface and allow the candidates to spell out their plans for a solution.

The current issue is that of the economy, but immigration, even illegal immigration has become an integral part of such economy.  The fixing of our immigration crisis is like the elephant in the room which nobody wants to acknowledge.  Both presidential candidates fears what that fix will look like and they fear alienating their base with the hard and difficult choices that will accompany such "fix".
The McCain and Obama camps seem to be comfortable in the notion that it's best to address the immigration crisis once they are elected into office.  It's strategically a better place from which to deal with the messy clean-up, since in office their election is not longer at stake, but it's a cop out.
Citizens vs. Immigrants

How will our legislature deal with the Millions of undocumented workers currently in the United States and will they be provided with an eventual path to Citizenship?
How will the next Presidential administration deal with the billions of dollars that undocumented immigrants have paid into the social security system?  A dirty little secret is that those funds have been paid by immigrants to fund the benefits that U.S. Citizens receive from the Social Security Administration.  It's simply how the SSA operates, current generation of workers pay the Social Security benefits of past working generations.  

Will an immigration reform measure allow the SSA to credit the account of millions of undocumented immigrants with the money they have contributed via payroll deductions?  More importantly will they be allowed to receive Social Security benefits when they become eligible and how will those benefits be funded?

McCain and Obama have very hard work ahead.  The next President will be required to lead our legilators and have them decide whether millions of undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the United States will be provided with a path towards U.S. Citizenship.
The stakes are immensely high and even our founding fathers would be hard pressed for an easy decision.  The choices made by the next administration on comprehensive immigration reform will greatly impact the future of the United States in profound ways that are yet to be determined.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is it Racist to Market Obama Waffles?

So, these two enterprising business guys and since this post is about race, I'll mention that it's two Caucasian guys from Franklin, Tennessee.  The guys, Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss decide to sell boxes of waffle mix which featured caricatures of Obama.  The caricature is reminiscent of stereotypical racist cartoons.  

The men claim that their product was merely intended as political satire and that it should not be viewed as promoting racism in any.  The box also has caricatures of Michele Obama, the Pastor Jeremiah Wright and Senator John Kerry.  

On the back of the box, Obama is depicted in stereotypical Mexican dress, including a sombrero, the box contains a recipe for "Open Border Fiesta Waffles" which can serve "4 or more illegal aliens".

Last weekend they sold their "Obama Waffles" at a booth at the Values Voter Summit in D.C. for $10.00 per box.  They also operate a website to sell their product.   The story on the "Obama Waffles" blew up over the weekend and once again brought the issue of race front and center in these Presidential Elections.  Once again the issue of race keeps rearing it's ugly head.

So, are the "Obama Waffles" racist or are they political satire?  

Let's say they don't rise to the level of racist caricatures and that they are indeed political satire.  Does this type of political satire help or hinder McCain supporters?  The creators of this product are clearly McCain/Palin supporters, so, does a product that injects or stirs up accusations of racism from the opponent or it's supporters something the McCain camp should publicly defend or reject?  

Unfortunately, both sides of the aisle will be busy trading barbs at each other and not much meaningful discourse will result from such an important discussion on race and it's impact on this Presidential Election.  

It's sad realization about how much race will factor into this Presidential Election.  If in 2004 we were divided, essentially split into what pundits deemed a "haves and have-nots" divide.  

The "Obama Waffles" incident is a sad commentary on how much further our nation may be split during this election.  It goes deeper than agreeing on whether or not a caricature of Obama rises to the level of stereotypical characterizations.  We've yet to arrive at a place where we can find common ground on what constitutes or rises to the level of racism and this Presidential Election threatens to deepen that divide rather than close it.  

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fat Cat Slim Gets a 6% Bite of NY Times

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu has acquired ownership stake in The New York Times Company, publisher of one of the most prestigious US newspaper dailies.  Slim Helu's investment stake of 6.4% will make him the largest holder of Class A shares, which are in a separate category from those held by members of the controlling family of the company.  The total investment by Slim Helu in the New York Times comes to $127m (£73m), which amounts to $1,352,869,087.38 Mexican Pesos at the current rate of exchange. 

Carlos Slim is ranked by Forbes magazine as the second wealthiest person in he world, behind Warren Buffett.  I posted on Slim Helu in 2006 when his wealth was then an estimated 30 billion dollars.  Today, Slim Helu's estimated wealth has grown to 60 billion dollars, he has essentially doubled his wealth in just two short years and surpassed Bill Gates on the list of the worlds richest people. 

I previously posted about Slim Helu here, when Forbes magazine declared him the third wealthiest person in the world.  I posted:
So how much of what Carlos Slim Helu does can actually be viewed as working towards closing the gap between rich and poor in Mexico?  Not much.  Despite all of Mr. Slim Helu's generous civic actions they pale in comparison to the millions he and his business partners have contributed to the ruling party the PRI and their political campaigns.
The near monopoly power that TelMex enjoys in Mexico has resulted in what consumer advocates cite as price gouging of the poor while the ratio of telephones per 1000 inhabitants is lower than Brazil and Argentina both of which have smaller economies than Mexico.
A post previous to that is here, which is about Slim Helu's purchase of a 3% stake in Apple Computers in 1997.  That 1997 investment in Apple by Slim Helu cost him a total of 25 million dollars.  Apple stock was at $17.00 when Slim Helu purchased the stock and during the next 12 months with the return of Steve Jobs to the helm the stock rose to $100.00.

What can Slim Helu possibly see in the future of The NY Times that other investors have missed?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Harvest of Shame

Former Speaker of the California State Assembly Fabian Núñez has released a short documentary film titled "Harvest of Shame".  The film is narrated by Núñez and it documents the unsafe and sometimes fatal conditions that farm workers face on a daily basis while harvesting our fruits and vegetables. 

The film comes at the heals of a bill authored by Speaker Emeritus Núñez, Assembly Bill 2386.  The bill was written in response to the unsafe working conditions faced by farm workers.  For a brief outline on the bill see the Farm Workers page Assemblyman Núñez has on his website.  The provisions of AB 2386 are currently not supported by The California Farm Bureau Federation, which is a broad coalition of California agricultural organizations, it issued a statement urging a veto of the measure by California Gov. Schwarzenegger.

AB 2386 would authorize secret ballot elections for farm workers and help ensure that the laws on the books match the realities in the farm fields.  The bill passed the Senate and currently awaits a response from the California Governor, who is expected to veto the measure.

Deaths Related to Heat Stroke  

Since 2004 a total of 15 farm workers have died in the farm fields of California.  Some 34 farm workers have died of heat stroke in the United States between 2003-2008.   No other occupation, besides firefighters sees more deaths from heat stroke on a per-capita basis, than farm workers.  The occupational hazards of firefighters encompass heat stroke, but how can we allow farm workers to pick our crops while risking their lives in the hot sun?

Cal-OSHA, the agency entrusted to inspect agricultral operations for safety can certainly do a better job of enforcing already existing rules, fines and penalties on farms.  Criticism can also be leveled at the United Farm Workers who have largely failed to raise awareness of the issue and identify troublesome, repeat offending farms.

It should ne noted that most death cases resulting from heat stroke are not deliberate, which means that the farmer, farm staff and/or supervisors only needed to be better prepared.  The need for better training to treat heat-related illnesses is evident.


The questions beg:  Why is it that farmers are not required to suspend operations once temperature levels are deemed dangerous by the National Weather Service?   It's ironic, that such practice is common and widely used in Mexico.  I witnessed this as a 17-year-old, when on a whim I decided to pick cotton for a summer, while staying with my Grandmother in Mexicali.

While I was enthusiastically picking cotton, in what later amounted to the equivalent of slave-wages, and shoving it into a large canvas bag, which was tied at my waist and trailed behind as I straddled it between my legs, I heard a shout that came from the foreman.  He interrupted my enthusiastic harvest and he politely told me to stop, indicating the weather was too hot.  The foreman added that if I wanted, I could return once the sun started to set and continue my harvesting, it was only then that I noticed that besides me only he and another worker sitting under the shade while he manned the weight scale, remained.

That was in Mexico and some 25+ years ago, surely we can do better, if not do just the same.  Can't we?

Tough Economic Conditions

Firefighters know the risks that come with the job.  They know that they may be vulnerable to heat-related death when they sign up for the job, but should we expect the same from farm workers?  

There are simple things we can do to help ensure the safety of farm workers.  We can mandate that farmers provide their workers with water, shade, and rest periods.  We can demand that Cal-OSHA not be bullied by the large scale lobbying of California's Agri-Business and enforce already existing penalties and fines, that would be a start.

If we want to think outside the box, perhaps the cheapest solutions is simply for agri-business to institute "flex-time" which would allow farm workers a varied work schedule that does not require them to work under the hot sun.  It's a thought and one that could go far in stemming the loss of life farm workers potentially face while doing nothing more than bringing food to our tables.

The Inconsistencies of the English Language


I totally dig how 102-year-old Ed Rondhaller spells out the inconsistencies of the English language.  The video reminded me of Gallagher's comedy routine, "Messing with Your Mind".  English and the inconsistent rules that accompany its pronunciation make it one of the most difficult second languages to learn.  The inconsistencies of the language is one of the most common complaints faced by ESL teachers from students in their first attempt to learn the language. 

UPDATE: Gallagher's "English Language" skit.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mexico Under Siege

Yesterday, Deborah Bonello of MexicoReporter posted a video along with photos of the "Peace March In Mexico". The post is about the thousands of protesters who have taken to streets across Mexico to express their anger and indignation about the increase in kidnappings and murders in their country. The protests are also a means to call upon the government to take further action to quell the violence despite the fact that many protesters fear little will change.

Mexico currently has a kidnapping rate that rivals conflict zones such as Iraq and Colombia . Mexican official statistics report a 40%increase in kidnappings between 2004 and 2007, it's believed that figure is much higher because kidnapping victims often don't report their crime to the police authorities.

Today, President Felipe Calderon submitted a report to Mexico's Congress claiming progress from his war against organized crime that began some 21 months ago. Calderon's crime initiative deployed some 40,000 of Mexico's soldiers and 5,000 federal police to border states and large areas of the country infiltrated by drug cartels. Since Calderon launched his crackdown against drug cartels, an estimated 4,100 people have died. Marc Lacey's report "Mexico: Gains Against Drugs Claimed" for the New York Times he wrote:

He said that, in 21 months in office, his administration had rounded up
many drug kingpins and seized more than 11,000 weapons, from pistols to
missile launchers.

Drug cartels routinely unleash urban battles in their never ending power stuggles. They fight over lucrative trade routes to increase their market share and employ weapons, such machine guns and grenades. Mexican officials describe such battles between drug cartels as the "equivalent to military small-unit combat". The harsh reality is that for some time now criminals in Mexico are better equipped than the local police and military units they combat. The LA Times published an article on August 10, 2008 on how weapons and ammunition flow unchecked into Mexico from U.S. Border states.
More than 6,700 licensed gun dealers have set up shop within a short
drive of the 2,000-mile border, from the Gulf Coast of Texas to San
Diego -- which amounts to more than three dealers for every mile of
border territory. Law enforcement has come to call the region an "iron
river of guns."
American made weapons flow into via the use of "straw buyers" which drug cartels employ along U.S. Border States to purchase and smuggle automatic weapons into Mexico. The constant flow of weapons into Mexico is made possible in part due to the large amounts of cash that illegal drug sales produce for drug cartels in the United States. The cost of such weapons if of little concern to drug cartels whose business had grown into a $65 Billion Dollar business as early as 1998. Thus a vicious cycle ensues; Mexico sends the U.S. illegal drugs and America sends Mexico illegal weapons, routinely caught in the middle are the victims of drug violence on both sides of the border.

A High Profile Kidnapping

The governments difficulty to combat drug cartels and crime was brought sharper into focus when Fernando Marti, 14 years old, was kidnapped. Marti who appears in the image below with his parents was the son of a
wealthy businessman. He was kidnapped at a bogus checkpoint set up by criminals dressed in police uniforms.

(Agencia Reforma)
The kidnapping and death of Fernando Marti, shown last year with his
parents, Alejandro and Matilde Marti, sparked national outrage. His
family reportedly paid the abductors millions of dollars to try to
bring the 14-year-old home.
What troubles so many is the fact that Marti was kidnapped despite efforts by his family to take necessary precautions. Marti was kidnapped from the families bullet proof sedan along with his bodyguard and his driver. The Marti family waited in agony for their son to be released after paying a reported $6 Million
Dollars in ransom money. Marti's decomposed and bullet riddled body would later be found in the trunk of a stolen and abandoned car. Calderon would attend Fernando Marti's funeral while and investigation would later reveal that Federal Police officers were involved in the kidnapping.

Police involvement in criminal activities makes President Felipe Calderon's efforts that much more complicated. The government has the arduous task of combating what many see as pervasive corruption within local and federal police authorities. The corruption amongst police, even if limited, has instilled fear among Mexican citizens, who often fear local and federal police, as much as they fear criminals.

Taking to the Streets

Mexican citizens have taken to the streets to publicly express their outrage and to demand their government take further action, but sadly many admit that combating rampant crime and violence from drug cartels is a problem that will require considerable resources that Mexico can ill afford.

The rash of kidnappings has not only affected citizens throughout Mexico, but has also impacted tourists who are often kidnapped in what is considered as "Express Kidnappings". In such crime tourists are kidnapped and forced to draw money from their bank accounts via Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) and often released unharmed. Mexicans are increasingly not only calling on their government to step up enforcements, but also to raise the penalty on those who commit such crimes, especially when it involves children.

Economic Crisis Coupled with Future Uncertainty

The Mexican government is under pressure to demonstrate results from their offensive against organized crime and calm the uncertainty felt by a large segment of it's citizens. How effective Calderon's administration will be at combating drug cartels and crime has yet to be determined. Pres. Calderon has a full plate before him, aside from combating crime and drug cartels, an economic crisis, he is also wrapped up in a battle to reform Pemex, the state-run oil company which provides the lions share of revenue to his government.

Mexico's growing economic crisis is further impacted as its second largest source of revenue, remittances from Mexicans living and working in the U.S. continues to decline, mostly as a result of the United States declining economy. Prior to 2008, the level of remittances had steadily grown year-after-year and as of 2006 had surpassed tourism to become the second largest source of revenue for Mexico behind oil exports.

Calderon's term as President of Mexico end in 2012 so he has a years ahead to work on fixing many of Mexico's troubles. However, the unfolding presidential campaign in the United States could spell further trouble for Calderon, as an Obama or McCain administration responds to public pressure to fix the illegal immigration problem. Mexico's civic unrest may increase once the U.S. Congress reforms our immigration policy and sharply curtails the number of Mexican migrant workers who are allowed enter and legally work into the United States. As it currently stands Mexico's inability to create jobs results in many of it's citizens voting with their feet, leaving Mexico and seek a better life across the border. How Mexico will be impacted when a greater number of it's citizens can no longer easily, albeit illegally, migrate to the United States is a problem, given Mexico's current problems, that has not popped up on President Calderon's radar.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

SnagFilms + Valley of Tears

A few days ago I received a much welcomed email from Richard Matson of SnagFilms.  In his email Richard  brought my attention to the documentary film "Valley of Tears".  The film is about the lives of Mexican-American migrant farm workers in Raymondville, Texas.  In 1979, an onion strike broke out in Raymondville in which workers sought higher pay, but equal rights and representation.

The film uses footage of how farm labor organizers where deemed "agitators" by the farm owners and how local authorities colluded with famers to bring crimnal charges and incarcerate both striking farm workers and their organizers, effectively engaged in union busting.   

The film is a complex story spanning over 20 years in the continued struggle by Mexican-Americans in their fight for what is right.  It's a bitter tale of the constant fight for equal access to education, just labor rights and bears witness to many of the struggles that many Mexican-Americans and all migrants still face today. 

Raymondville today remains a separate and unequal society where mostly White farm owners live in prim houses while the Mexican-American community continues their economic struggles and experiences one of the highest drop out rates amongst the Hispanic and Latino students.  A reminder of the constant stuggle faced by a large segment of the Mexican-American and Latino immigrant communities to attain both an education and fair wages. 

In what some would term as "adding-insult-to-injury" Raymondville has become home to one of the largest  "immigrant detention centers", a $65 million jail which was built by the Management Training Corporation.  The jail will house some 2000 detainees at a cost of $78.00 a night per bed.

The town itself has not grown much.  As of the 2000 census, it had less than 10,000 people, including 86.63% of the population being Hispanic or Latino, with 36.2% of the total population living below the poverty line.

SnagFilms 300+ Film Collection

SnagFilms' has a 300+ collection the independent films on a multitude of topics.  The site is a must for any would be "Filmanthropist".  If as a "Philantropist" one donates money money, goods, time or effort to to support a charitable cause, then by supporting any of the many independent films hosted at SnagFilms would make you a Fimanthropist! 

The range of topics is quite broad and includes; international, health, history, womens issues, as well as life & culture.  Spend a bit of time browsing the collection of films on the site, you are sure to find an independent film that is sure to catch your attention.

A film that captured my attention was "Sentenced Home" a story about obscure provisions of a 1996 Immigration Law that has been responsible for the deportation of thousands of illegal immigrants.  Although the law was aimed at mostly illegal immigrants the law has also snared many Permananet Legal Residents who comitted low level drug related and theft crimes which led to them being stripped of their legal status and eligible for deportation. 

The film documents how many immigrants convicted of certain crimes, including shoplifting found themselves being deported to countries that they were often unfamiliar with and often did not even speak the language.

My next blog post

I've started to write my next a blog post and it will be on Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the documentary film "Sentenced Home". 

It's a post about how the largely obscure provisions of the Act would lead to deportation of thousands of non-violent illegal immigrants and legal permanent residents.

A blog post about how the Act would come to be called a "cruel and harsh" law by U.S. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA).  The cruelty and harshness of the law would later be featured in a episode of "This American Life".  The host of This American Life, Ira Glass narrates the "Away from Home" episode in which Jose William Huezo Soriano is deported to El Salvador. 

In fact the author of the legislation, the now former Congressman Bill McCollum (R-FL) would actually go as far and introduce an amendment to the law in an effor to repeal some of the harshest provisions of the law  he worked so hard to pass, yet those same provisions largely exist today.    

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

LPGA to Golfers: Learn English...or Else!

(Via International Herald Tribune)

English is the de-facto official language of the United States. It's also the preferred language that business has emraced accross the world. The fact is that few could argue with the opportunities and benefits that are confered upon those individuals who effectively converse and attain proficiency with the English language.

Todays sports figures and celebreties are quick to attempt to converse in English when interviewed. They would gladly pursue their attempts if our media representatives were not too eager to have interpreters step in and facilitate (speed up) the interview, most interpreters fail to convey the true message or words they interpret because they mistakenly resort to "consecutive" which requires that the interpreter render the source-language message after the source-language speaker has paused, instead of using "simultaneous" interpretation in which the interpreter immediately speaks the message in the target language while listening to it in the source language.

So why is the LPGA so concerned about it's golfers ability to "converse" in English. Well it appears that the sucess of the LPGA, a golf organization is preidcated on it's ability to convince corporations to underwrite a tournament. The LPGA is betting that corporations would prefer to speak with professional golfers in English and has taken measures to increase the ability of its players to converse in English by 2009. (From IHT)

Concerned about its appeal to sponsors, the U.S. women's professional golf tour, which in recent years has been dominated by players born outside the United States, has warned its members that they must become conversant in English by 2009 or face suspension.

Perhaps the LPGA's efforts would get better reception from it's players and create less controversy with their proposed suspensions, if they just encouraged their players to speak more English.

It's a lesson that English Only proponents in the United States could also adopt. To their credit in the United States proponents of "English Only" have quietly adopted the more politically correct tern if "Pro-English". It's unfortunate that the group was founded by John Tanton who also founded CIS, and FAIR, as well as co-founding NumbersUSA. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes NumbersUSA as part of a network of "anti-immigration" organizations, which also includes the afformentioned organizations founded by Tanton.

The Pro-English movement goes as far as providing a personal message from Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In his message he explains the subtle differences between "Official English" and "English Only". You can hear the message here.

Algun Dia! (Someday!)

Someday, I would hope that Newt Gingrich and other fellow Americans fixated on an English Only/Pro-English message, would ponder how much greater this country, a country built by immigrants, could become if we spent more of our time and resources promoting that our citizens learn other languages, any language.

Fact is the vast majority of immigrants that come to America fully embrace democracy and the ideals this country represents.  They do their able best to adopt English, some more successfully than others, but that does not make those who speak a bit of "broken English" any less American.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PowerPac: "Lo Que Importa"

Beginning tomorrow a nonprofit advocacy and political organization based out of California will launched two Pro-Obama TV Ads in the key battleground state of New Mexico.  The "What Matters" TV Ads are targeted at Latino voters in New Mexico.  The spots will air in both English and Spanish and will run through the Democratic National Convention.  You can view high resolution versions of the videos at the following links; Spanish video here and English video here. From
The English-language ad is called “What Matters.” The ads carry cultural cues that resonate with the Hispanic community, and will help fill a current void in pro-Obama television media targeting this population.
The strategy that PowerPac is taking by airing the TV Ads in New Mexico rather than in California is mapped in a post written by Jenifer Fernandez Ancona and you can read her post here.
PowerPAC’s Southwest strategy includes running ads and identifying and training rising Hispanic leaders not only in New Mexico but in Colorado and Nevada as well. Those three states, which Kerry lost in 2004 by a combined 127,000 votes, have more than 1 million eligible Hispanic voters. Had Kerry won New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada, he would have captured the Presidency even without carrying Ohio and Florida.
PowerPac began in 2004, after helping run the successful field operation against Proposition 54 during California's 2003 recall election.

Monday, August 18, 2008

100 Years in the Back Door, Out the Front

The New York Times ran an article on May 21, 2006 titled; "100 Years in the Back Door, Out the Front".  The story brings to mind the love/hate relationship that the United States has had with migrant workers from Mexico.  The article highlights how in 1919, Texas brought in tens of thousands of Mexican migrants to pick its cotton each year. Then it invited them all to leave.

The perverse history that the United States has had with Mexico when it comes to cheap immigrant labor, but especially with immigration from Mexico has been an issue of particular interest to me.  It's an issue that binds my family to this country and connects me to a small town in Mexico that until today continues to export it's young men, and now young women into the United States. 

In 1986, when the Reagan Administration signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). I questioned whether Reagan's Administration would follow through with the enforcement provisions of the law that granted amnesty to approximately 3 million undocumented immigrants who had entered the country prior to January 1, 1982.  The law turned out to, as critics of the act claimed, provided no sanctions against employers and failed to stem illegal immigration.  The fact that the 1986 Amnesty failed to stem illegal immigration is undisputed, what is disputed is who should be blamed?  The anti-immigrant groups will have us blame the undocumented immigrants and point to the fact that illegal immigrants continue to come in droves.  Anti-immigrant groups would be right, if we did not consider the magnets (jobs and willing employers) that draw migrant workers accross our borders.  These same  anti-immigrant groups (NumbersUSA, FAIR, CIS) are quick to cite that what this country needs is to do is secure its southern border and then go after unscruplous employers.   They are half right.  The border, despite its pourous nature is not the problem.  The border has always been pourous, but despite beliefs to the contrary the vast majority of illegal immigrants arrive via legal means, with entry visas and then simply overstay them and join the ranks of millions of other undocumented workers. 

If we return for a bit to the 1986 Amnesty, it's not difficult to see how actual employer sanctions coupled with an effective workplace verification system would have deterred continued illegal immigration.  How many undocumented workers would have continued to journey to the United States in search of unattainable jobs? 

A lack of employer sanctions and lax workplace verification resulted in an open invitation for both workers and employers that fueled, instead of detering undocumented immigration. 

So, 25 years later we now have an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.  The true number of illegal immigrants living in this country could well exceed that amount by 2-3 millions once an actual solution is drafted by an Obama/McCain administration.

Immigration Reform - Act II

In 2008-2009, some type of immigration reform will be passed and a new course will be set for the millions of undocumented immigrants.  Whether those newly minted immigrants will be provided a clear path to American citizenship remains to be seen.  What we can be sure of is that this round of immigration reform will contain employer sanctions and workplace enforcement. 

Those sanctions and workplace enforcement will contribute to uneasy tensions between the races, especially when the economy stumbles.  Nevertheless, immigration reform will come and the vast majority of illegal immigrants currently in the United States will be allowed to remain, whether it be as temporary guest workers, permanent residents or eventual Citizens remains unclear. 

Immigration from Mexico will always be an important issue for the United States.  The U.S. will have to contend with immigration from Mexico as long as it continues to rely on it as a cheap labor source and maintain certain segments of manufacturing and agriculture.  A continued lack of decent hourly wages and a rise in delinquency, crime and economic uncertainty in Mexico will continue to drive immigrants North. 

Our government needs focus on one of it's major tenets of it's immigration policy, which has been family reunification before it implements comprehensive immigration reform otherwise our next wave of illegal immigration will not be from those seeking work, but rather from those seeking to reunite with their families.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Laberinto de Miradas

Deborah Bonello (aka MexicoReporter) posts on an "Laberinto De Miradas" exhibition currently taking place in Mexico City.  (Read Full Post)

The exhibit is being held at the Cultural Center of Spain and explores migration and immigration as a concept, broadening the common notions about human migration as well as the contributing factors of immigration.

Reed Johnson a Staff Writer for the LA Times posted about the exhibition here.  He writes:
Rather than rehashing familiar imagery and old, circular debates, "Laberinto de Miradas" explores some of the factors that are driving global immigration from Tijuana to Morocco. It also looks at how the condition of being an immigrant, more than just a description of someone's citizenship status, is an existential condition shared by millions of people of wildly varying backgrounds.
The exhibit showcases images from the Americas and Spain and aims to call more attention to the need for further economic and cultural development Latin America.
"What better way than to help the countries where the people are to improve [their lives], so that the people don't have to leave?" San Vicente Charles says. "It's a strategy that's more intelligent and more proactive."

Laberinto De Miradas is attempting to utilize the full interactivity afforded by the Internet.  The exhibition elicits participation via their channel on YouTube, their photostream on Flickr commentary via their Blog.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lawrence G. Hrebiniak: The Mismanagement of America, Inc.

Do you believe that we as American people have become politically lazy? Do you believe that most people are too busy with our daily lives and don't pay nearly as much attention to the actions of those who govern them? If you answered "Yes" to any of those two questions then Wharton Prof. Lawrence G. Hrebiniak has a message for you on how this nation needs to change the error of its ways.
I agree with most of what Prof. Hrebiniak states in his 27 minute interview and it's well worth watching it. Unfortunately, his message is unlikely to be carried far and wide, as most of us are too busy to digest the commentary of Prof. Hrebiniak. As an American society we like our news and punditry in easily diced and served dishes just like the MSM feeds us on a nightly basis. Sure, we can argue that Prof. Hrebiniak's message can be carried, "far and wide" on the Internet but sadly even there readers get lazy and if they can't skim through the info, few of us venture to wade deeper, into the thick of the it.
In the process our government officials are on a path that will bankrupt this nation. Our government has been incapable of leaving their grubby little paws out of the Social Security Trust Fund and MediCare. The situation has worsened since September 11th which led up to the War on Iraq on which we now spend Billions without any clear end in sight. In the meantime our economy and financial systems become a disgrace. To add insult to injury our National Security is not any better off than before the terrorist attacks of September 11th and in fact may actually be worse off than before.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez

On May 20, 1997, 18-year old Esequiel Hernández Jr., was shot and killed in Redford, Texas by a Marine squad which had been assigned to perform anti-narcotics patrols on the US-Mexico border.

Few of the facts surrounding the death of Hernández' are in dispute. US Military officials claimed that Corporal Clemente Bañuelos, the squad leader fired a single shot from his M-16 rifle only after Hernandez had raised his rifle and prepared to fire the Marines for a third time. Marine Cpl. Bañuelos specifically claimed that Hernandez had pointed his rifle at Lance Corporal James Blood.

If in fact Hernandez did fire upon the Marines, it is difficult to determine if he knew what he was shooting at, because the four Marines were conducting survelliance utilizing full camouflage gear and thereby blelnding completely with the brush, scrub and thicket of the surrounding area.

Hernandez reportedly fired twice from a .22 caliber rifle and the Marine squad then trailed him for 20 minutes. Hernandez' family claimed the .22 caliber rifle was regularly used to fend off wild
dogs, coyotes and other predators that would pose a danger to the family's goats.

The Scene

The Marine squad who were assigned to perform secret survelliance in Redford were based out of Camp Pendelton, California. After the shooting incident it was revealed that the Marines assigned to Redford had been briefed by the US Military and were told that Redford was, "an unfriendly area where 70 to 75% of the local population was involved in drug trafficking" and "of the 100 people, 70-75 of them were drug traffickers according to the Border Patrol and Joint Task Force Six".

Esequiel Hernández was shot while herding goats in the remote and sparsely populated region of Redford, Texas. Redford, according to the 2000 US census data is a town of some 132 people. The town has one of the lowest population densities with an average 2.9 people per square miles.

By law, military personnel involved in domestic law enforcement are not allowed to search, seize, arrest or confront a suspect. Military involvement is strictly limited to activities such as surveillance and intelligence (10 USCA Sec. 375). Soldiers are allowed to return fire in self-defense.

The central theme of this documentary film is to question the misguided policies which allowed for the use of US Military forces on our Border. It raises serious questions on whether US Military forces, forces which are highly trained to use deadly force should be used in anti-narcotic efforts on domestic soil. The Marines who patroled Redford were working under specific Rules of Engagement (ROE) that required them not to engage suspects.

The fact that Marines trailed Hernandez from "bush to bush" for 20 minutes raised questions on whether the Marines took appropriate action. Captain Barry Caver, spokesman for the Texas Rangers said the Marines may have violated military policy when they followed Hernandez. "My understanding is that this is totally against the rules of engagement," said Caver, adding, "I'm
not sure what their intent was" (Thaddeus Harrick, "More questions in border shooting," Houston Chronicle, June 21, 1997

At a news conference two days after the incident, Marine Corps Col. Thomas Kelly, deputy commander of Joint Task Force-6, said only that the Marines "took immediate defensive posture" and tried to "maintain visual observation." NDSN July 1997 Story

Hernandez was shot in the upper chest, but did not die instantly, rather he bled to death while awaiting medical assistance to arrive. Reports differ as to whether Esequiel Hernández was actually shot in upper chest as claimed by the Marines. The autopsy report countered the Marines report that he was shot in the upper chest and concluded he was shot in the back as he walked away from the Marines.

A Documentary Film

A documentary film has been released by Heyoka Pictures about the tragedy. The film recently aired on on July 8, 2008 on PBS' P.O.V. The documentary film was directed by Kieran Fitzgerald and was narrated by Tommy Lee Jones. Film Trailer

The documentary explores the two-sided tragedy and the dramatic details of the killing. It sheds light on the use of the US Military to support civilian law enforcement in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA), which prohibited the use of the military “as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws” unless expressly authorized by the Constitution or by Congress.

The killing of Hernandez was the first time an American had been killed by US military forces on native soil since the Kent State Shootings in 1970.

After the incident the border patrol activities by the US military were subsequently suspended, but in 2006 the National Guard was ordered by President George W. Bush to assist the Border Patrol to combat illegal immigration. NPR Story

...the Guard will be used in areas where they already have training:
building infrastructure, for example, or conducting helicopter
Striking a balance

The documentary film attempts to strike a delicate balance as it interviews the Hernandez family, the Marines and authorities involved. It also explores the guilt and remorse suffered by the Marines involved, some of it clearly evident 11 years after the shooting incident.

From a viewer standpoint, I initially tried to quickly place blame squarely on the Marines for the tragic killing of Hernandez, but that would have been too easy, instead the film posed uneasy questions about how we allowed politics to lead and set-up the tragic scenario. How our abject acceptance of our government's War on Drugs have fueled a number of unintended and deadly consequences. The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez requires the viewer to dig deeper, to focus much more attention to the dangers of militarizing our southern border.

The film has rare interviews with the Marines involved in the shooting, as the Marines involved in the shooting were not allowed to speak to the media by their superiors after the shooting incident. The interviews do show that some of the Marines were devastated by the killing, but they insist it was an accident.

"If there was any way to fix it, I would," said former Marine, Lance Corporal Blood.
The films makes use of audio recordings from radio communications between the Marines and their commanders, as well as military investigative video.

Posse Comitatus Act

The use of military forces on the border for anti-narcotics operations is prohibited under the Posse Comitatus Act.

Traditionally, U.S. military forces have been forbidden to take part in domestic law enforcement, the result of a post-Civil War law, the Posse Comitatus Act. But in the 1980s, in response to a growing drug problem on the border, the law was loosened to allow military units to help the U.S. Border Patrol catch drug smugglers. A Department of Defense entity called Joint Task Force Six, based in El Paso, Texas, has since 1989 coordinated 3,300 missions on the border; 746 of them involved
listening or observation posts like the one Banuelos and three other Marines established several days before Hernandez was shot. Time Magazine Article

How domestic use of military forces in support of local law enforcement agencies was begun anew is a product of the Ronald Regan Administration. In the 1980's the Regan Administration was under pressure to do something about the War on Drugs. In the 1984 Presidential re-election campaign the Regan/Bush Administration the War on Drugs featured heavily within their campaign. Once they won re-election the anti-narcotics efforts were lead by then Vice President George Bush and military personnel was again deployed in anti-narcotic efforts throughout the 1980's and into the Bill Clinton Administration.

The Shooting

The Marines maintain that Hernandez spotted them in the brush and fired at them twice. According to initial reports, as Hernandez raised his rifle to shoot a third time, Banuelos shot him once in the chest. The team reportedly did not call out to identify themselves until after the fatal shot had been fired. Hernandez bled to death while waiting for medical assistance to arrive.

Autopsy results concluded that ,since the bullet entered the right side of his chest and traveled to the left side of his body, Hernandez could not have been facing the Marines when he was shot. Hernandez did fire two shots with his .22 rifle before he was killed, but critics claim that he probably never saw the heavily camouflaged Marines. His family maintains that he would never have knowingly shot at any person.Family and neighbors say Hernandez was law-abiding and respectful and would never have knowingly shot at people, much less soldiers. Officials
found no evidence that the teenager was involved in illegal activities, and an autopsy showed that he did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system. Before he was killed, Hernandez was studying for his drivers license, and dreamed of going to college, working as a wildlife ranger, or possibly joining the Marines.

Investigators say they asked the Marines involved in the incident to remain in Texas so
they could reenact the shooting at the site, but they were sent back to Camp Pendleton after four days. Tests on Hernandez's rifle are incomplete, and investigators have not been able to corroborate that the teenager fired two shots in the incident. Neighbors report only hearing one shot (Thaddeus Herrick, "Doubts raised in border case," Houston Chronicle,
June 11, 1997, p. 1A).

The Aftermath

The incident devasted the Hernandez family, shocked the small community of Redford and severely questioned the actions of the four Marines, particularly those of Corporal Clemente Banuelos. It raised public awarness and called into question the effectiveness of the domestic use of US Military personnel on the War-on-Drugs. The incident also brought furhter scrutiny on the militarization of our southern border.

"Personally, I don't think this kid ever saw them, by the indication my Rangers are telling me," said Captain Barry Caver, spokesman for the Texas Rangers, the state law enforcement agency that is investigating the killing.
The Marines were heavily camouflaged, and were trained to conceal themselves so as not to be detected. The shooting appears to have taken place from a distance of 375 to 600 feet (James
Pinkerton, "Ranger says Marines' account doesn't `exactly jibe,'"
Houston Chronicle, May 24, 1997

"No-Bill" for Cp. Banuelos

A total of four grand juries were convened seeking to indict Cpl. Banuelos on murder charges. The Texas District Attorney in Marfa decided not to indict the Mrine on First Degree Murder charges.

That was not the end for Cp. Banuelos legal troubles as authorities sought to prosecute him under Federal Criminal Civil Rights laws. The US Justice Department eventually issued a "No-Bill" for Corporal Banuelos. A "No-Bill" is a grand jury's determination that there is not adequate evidence to indict someone. The U.S. Dept. of Justice issued a Press Release indicating Cpl. Clemente Banuelos would not be indicted on February 27, 1998, a full 284 days after Hernandez was killed.

From the Cpl. Banuelos press release of the U.S. Dept. of Justice:

The Justice Department found insufficient evidence to prosecute Corporal Banuelos
under federal criminal civil rights law. To successfully prosecute Corporal Banuelos
under federal law, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he willfully
interfered with Hernandez' constitutionally protected rights. To prove willfulness,
prosecutors must show that Corporal Banuelos knew that shooting Mr. Hernandez was a
violation of law, and deliberately did so anyway. The Department concluded that there
was insufficient evidence to rebut Corporal Banuelos' claim that he shot Mr. Hernandez
because he thought that Mr. Hernandez, who was armed, was about to shoot another Marine.


Although both the Military and Civilian authorities determined that none of the Marines involved would face criminal charges in the death of Hernandez, the incident contributed to the military's closer evaluation and assessment on the Rules of Engagement versus a Rules for Use of Force.

From the Marine Corps Gazette

In an influential memorandum drafted in response to a military investigator’s request for an expert legal opinion on the JTF–6 shooting incident, Col W.H. Parks, a retired Marine Corps judge advocate and respected ROE and law of war scholar, succinctly captured the essence and importance of these critical distinctions between ROE and RUF:

In the case of military assistance to domestic law enforcement, the term ‘rules of engagement’ is inappropriate. The outcome of the 20 May incident, while legally correct, may have occurred in part because (a) the Marines were sent on a combat-training mission, (b) received all briefings in combat terms, and (c) trained on rules of engagement rather than domestic law use-of-force standards. This may have established a mindset in [the Marine team] that caused Corporal Banuelos to choose certain courses of action over others that might not have resulted in the death of Mr. Hernandez.

Recommend that ‘rules of engagement’ not be used with regard to military support for domestic law enforcement, or other military aid to civil authorities.

Due to the Hernandez incident on May 31, 2000 the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued: "Rules on the Use of Force by DoD Personnel Providing Support to Law Enforcement Agencies Conducting Counterdrug Operations in the United States"

The rules provide that in any military mission it is imperative that military forces understand, and are trained to understand the difference between the Rules of Engagment commonly used in combat on foreign soil and Rules for the Use of Force used by military personnel supporting domestic law enforcement.

A Quiet Settlement

In the end whether justified or not, a single bullet, fired from Cpl. Banuelos' M-16 killed Esequiel Hernandez. An autopsy contradicted statements that the Marines had acted in self-defense.
The report suggested tht the angle of Hernandez's bullet wound was consistent with walking away from the Marines.

He would have been shooting away," said James Jepson, first assistant district attorney in Fort Stockton.
The Justice Department and Department of Defense, without admitting any wrongdoing,settled with the Hernandez family for $1.9 million. A total of 14 government employees including the four man squad lead by Cpl. Banuelos were deemed not to be at fault for death of Hernandez.

On August 12, 1998, just over a year after Esequiel Hernandez' death Justice Department Spokeswoman Chris Watney said, ''The settlement came under the Federal act that allows
the military to settle claims caused by its activities without admitting fault as long as the injured person was not at fault.''

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Crime and Punishment

Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican national was executed by Texas authorities in defiance the World Court. Medellin was executed by lethal injection Tuesday evening over the objections of the international judicial body and official requests from neighboring Mexico to stay the execution.

The World Court last month had ordered the U.S. government to "take all measures necessary" towards halting the upcoming executions of five Mexicans on death row, including Medellin on the grounds that they, as Mexican Nationals had been deprived of their right to consular services after their arrests.

Jose Medellin, 33, was pronounced dead at 9:57 p.m. CDT (0257 GMT) in the state's death chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

Reuters Article
The execution of Medellin is likely to affect Mexico/US relations. Mexico does not have capital punishment and it views the execution of any of it's nationals as a violation of human rights. A concerned echoed by relatives of Medellin. Reyna Armendariz, an aunt of Medellin said:

"He was a normal, happy kid ... They don't have the right to take his life away, we acknowledged that he committed a crime but make him pay with a life sentence," she said

The crime for which Medellin was condemned to dies was horrific. According to the Texas Attorney Generals office, 16-year-old, Elizabeth Pena and her 14-year-old companion, Jennifer Ertman were walking home from a friend's house, taking a shortcut along some railroad tracks when they stumbled upon the group. Evidence showed the girls were gang raped for more than an hour, then were kicked and beaten before being strangled.

A red nylon belt was pulled so tight around Jennifer Ertman's neck that the belt snapped. The belt was later recovered from co-defendant Sean O'Brien's home. O’Brien told police that he gave his belt to Joe Medellin, who used it to strangle one of the girls. At Medellin’s instruction, O’Brien grabbed one end of the belt and helped strangle the victim.

Sean Derrick O'Brien was executed via lethal injection on July 11, 2006. A total of 6 boys were convicted in the girls deaths. Two boys, Efrain Perez and Raul Villareal, who were 17 at the time of the crimes, eventually had their sentences commuted to life in prison when the Supreme Court barred execution of juveniles.

Another, Peter Cantu, described as the ringleader of the group, is on death row. He does not have a death date.

The sixth person convicted, Vernancio Medellin, brother of Jose was 14 at the time and is serving a 40-year prison term. NPR Story

International Law

The defiance of Texas authorities to the World Court's jurisdiction should not come as surprise. Texans generally don't like outsiders telling them what to do and in this instance Texas, Gov. Perry not only defied the international law, but also President George W. Bush who had directed his native Texas to comply with the World Court ruling in 2004 which mandated a review of the cases of Medellin and other Mexicans in U.S. prisons awaiting executions.

Nonetheless, this issue is likely to arise once again, since Texas houses some 27 death row inmates who happen to be foreign nationals, 13 of those inmates are Mexican. The political fall-out over the execution of Mexican nationals will eventually resurface in between Texas (US) and Mexico.

In the meantime Tuesdays execution of Medellin will be viewed in the eyes of the world as cruel and unusual punishment and further erode the stature of the United States as a fully developed nation. Medellin could have been fully punished for his crime via a life sentence without the possibility of parole.