LOS ANGELES, February 3, 2006--Mother Cabrini, the patron saint of
immigrants, was in the house tonight when 120 people gathered in front of La
Placita Church on Olvera Street to commemorate the death of Guillermo Martínez
Rodríguez and the 4000, or perhaps as many as 10,000, people who have died
trying to circumvent the U.S. border wall since its construction in 1994.
Prior to 1994, only a dozen or so people were killed annually by the heat or
cold of the desert, or by the U.S. Border Patrol.
The Caravan for Migrants was organized by Enrique Morones of Border Angels
and San Diego's gente unida to bring national focus to the deaths and to stop
anti-immigrant legislation. The caravanners were escorted to the church
through the foggy twilight chill by Danza Cuauhtémoc. Speakers lined up at a
small lectern next to the candles for the souls of the dead outside the
church. After a greeting by local hosts La Placita Justicia para
Immigrantes and a song and prayer by the parish priest, Dolores Huerta,
legendary co-founder and vice-president emeritus of the United Farm Workers, set
the tone with an impassioned plea insisting that immigrants not be blamed for
U.S. social ills and international economic policy.
She was followed by Morones, who proclaimed, "It's wonderful the way the
community has welcomed us, from Dolores Huerta to the jornaleros.
The community has received us with open arms. We will defeat 4437 and the
racism in this country." HR 4437 is the onerous anti-immigrant bill
soon to be considered by the U.S. Senate that would punish anyone, including as
many as 1.5 million children, entering or staying in the U.S. without proper
documentation and anyone who assists them with lodging, food, transportation, or
employment with up to five years in prison. HR 4437 would add 700 more
miles of lethal wall along the 2000 mile border.
Speakers from other groups, including the Southern California Human Rights
Commission and Mexica Movement followed. Following their comments, one
observer remarked, "Mexica Movement is harsh, but they keep us grounded in
our history." The next speaker commented that the community was
coming together to stop HR 4437. He added, "Do it for the
Supporters on both sides of
the border met the caravan yesterday in Calexico. At a cemetery outside San Ysidro, which is the final resting
place for 400 unknown border crossers, the group was joined by Agustin Martínez,
brother of the deceased Tijuana resident, who planted the first of 4000 crosses
the group will place across the country as it travels to Washington, D.C.
Earlier today, in Riverside, 350 students rallied in their support.
On the night of December 30, Martínez became the last known border victim of
2005. Martínez was shot twice in the back by hollow point bullets at a
distance of less than twenty feet, near the San Ysidro port of entry. The
Border Patrol has claimed that Martínez threw a rock at an agent when the agent
fired, but Martínez' brother, who was with him, asserts that no rocks were
thrown. Martínez, twenty, was the father of two young children. The
Border Patrol, the San Diego Police, the U.S. State Department and the
Department of Homeland Security, and the federal Attorney General’s office in
Mexico are investigating. Martínez' family had announced their intent to
file a civil suit for $20M against the U.S. government. The Coalición de
Derechos Humanos/Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras reports
that the U.S. Border Patrol has shot alleged rock-throwing migrants at least six
prior times since 1996.
One caravanner commented,
"No human being deserves to die try to ensure his economic
survival." Another put it in broader terms: "We have, since
Operation Gatekeeper, over 10,000 people dead. We don't want more deaths,
no Wall of Shame. We don't want any vigilantes anywhere."
Saturday morning, the caravan will depart for Fresno. From there it will head
to San Francisco, and on Monday the travelers plan a day of lobbying in
Sacramento. From there, they will head to Tucson, Arizona, and then
caravanners to memorialize border deaths in El Paso and in San Antonio, with a
special ceremony at the Alamo. The next stops will be Victoria, where 19
migrants died in a semi-trailer truck, Houston, and the JFK Memorial in Dallas.
Other scheduled stops include Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Atlanta with
a special message for CNN'S Lou Dobbs. After passing through North Carolina, the
March for Migrants will end its journey in Washington, DC demanding legislators
vote "No" to HR4437 and the recent wave of right-wing anti-migrant
legislation. Meetings are planned with Senators McCain and Kennedy, as
well as other key legislators, including members of the Hispanic caucus.
Following a planning meeting after the public event, Huerta was asked what
message she wanted to send to Los Angeles Indymedia readers. She answered,
"The personal stories of immigrants have to be told--taking care of the
elderly, the sick, and children, working in the kitchens and the field.
The antagonism from corporate media is terrible. Tell them it's important
to have a legalization program for the people who are here."
Mother Cabrini would have been pleased.