Category Archives: RagBlog
Based on case stories by Jennifer Harbury…
“The hielera was freezing cold. It was so cold that my son’s lips began to chap. His lips were so chapped that they burst and his lips were bleeding.”
“I was held with a woman who had an 8-day-old baby. The baby was screaming and crying because it was so cold. The little baby was forced to lie on the cement floor because there were no beds. The women all begged CBP to do something to help this baby—to give it a blanket, give the nursing mother extra food, or let the baby’s mother be processed first so that the baby could leave, but CBP refused.”
— Special Report, American Immigration Council, December 2015
A class action case filed in June 2015 alleges “freezing, overcrowded, and filthy cells in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the agencies’ own policies.” Photographs unsealed in 2016 remain some of the few pieces of visual documentation.
This short video contains descriptions of conditions from Jennifer Harbury. We see refugees on the bridge in Matamoros, Mexico. They wear warm clothing in 90 degree heat, knowing that they are close to the head of the line and will be taken directly to hieleras. A refugee notices the sun and shares her umbrella with an aide.
Is the United States becoming a rogue nation?
Unless you live under a rock, you saw the photo — the same one I saw, the one that set my stomach churning even worse than those of the filthy conditions in our kiddie jails, yours and mine. We also own that picture: Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his almost two year old daughter, Valeria, face down where their bodies washed up. In death, the baby’s arm was still around her father.
I would show you the photo if the copyright laws allowed it. It’s all over Fake News: CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times. You can bet it’s all over Europe as well, and the countries that mean us ill will keep it around to illustrate our president’s crazed tweets on immigration. Remember the “caravans” that required a military response the day before the election and evaporated as the votes were being counted?
Those who accept the task of apologizing for the photo will claim the fault lies with the dead man who fled El Salvador with his family and chose to die in the river between Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and Brownsville, Texas. He died trying to break U.S. law.
Jonah reviews Chellis Glendinning’s memoir about her friends, lovers, and comrades.
At the very start of her new heartfelt book — In the Company of Rebels: A Generational Memoir of Bohemians, Deep Heads, and History Makers ($24.95, New Village Press) — about her friends, lovers, and comrades, Chellis Glendinning asks why one should bother to learn about “other generations’ attempts to bring justice, peace and beauty into this tattered world.”
Her answer a few paragraphs later is expressed in two words, “History rocks,” which might satisfy the needs of rock ‘n’ rollers and their ilk but probably won’t appeal to historians and scholars.
Imbued with the idea that her contemporaries — the rebels of the last 50 or so years — “have been sturdy, creative, courageous catalysts” Glendinning recounts some of the key movements of contemporary history and offers compact and compelling biographies of 46 individuals, some of them household names in lefty homes and others hardly known at all, or mostly forgotten.
Only by helping create the change that makes liberty and equality possible can I feel patriotic.
“A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle, and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.” — George William Curtis, 19th Century writer and editor of Harper‘s
“Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong.” — James Bryce, British Member of Parliament and Ambassador to the U.S
I’m not sure when I began to feel patriotic about this country. From the age of 10, when I began learning about the history of mistreatment of “Negroes,” it was impossible for me to feel pride and love for a country whose government allowed and encouraged the enslavement of some people followed by massive discrimination against those same people.
Later, I learned about the destruction and subjugation of “Indians” in numbers rightly called genocide. Later, I found out about discrimination against others due to their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, and their birth into the poor and working classes that pushes them into multiple forms of impoverishment.
Based on case stories of Jennifer Harbury…
“Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution… I would cite the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.” — Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“Creating psychosis isn’t the cure.” — Pope Francis
It’s hard to imagine young children being taken away from their parents. It brings with it flashes of scenes from the Holocaust or, closer to home, slave auctions and American Indian Residential Schools.
“Zero tolerance” was inherited from the Bush administration, continued through Obama with families housed together in private prisons. It was at least partially discontinued at T. Don Hutto under strong social protest led by Grassroots Leadership, but the idea of punishing parents through separation and hardship directed towards children remained part of immigration policy. In April 2018, the Trump Administration specifically implemented separation of children from their parents at the border.
Publisher of Austin community newspaper, ‘NOKOA: The Observer,’ is dead at 70.
Also see “METRO EVENT: Akwasi Evans: Speaking Truth to Power: A Tribute,” on The Rag Blog for more details.
Akwasi Evans, an Austin activist and community publisher for half of his 70 years, passed away from complications of prostate cancer on April 18, 2019, at his Austin home. An online obituary covers the basics of early life, family, and his life and work in Austin.
Other obits and news of Evans’ death appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, Austin Chronicle, KUT-FM, and a piece by his longtime friend, golf partner, fellow publisher, and radio co-host Tommy Wyatt in The Villager.
Each report brings to light new perspectives on Evans’ service to his chosen community. At his funeral, over 200 family, friends, and political associates, people from all walks of life, heard him eulogized by Dr. Nelson Linder, president of Austin’s NAACP, and eight ministers. Yet it’s not enough. Akwasi’s passing leaves a huge hole in Austin’s progressive community, and filling it seems highly unlikely, as he was a uniquely dedicated man who called himself a born rebel.
Based on case stories of Jennifer Harbury…
Saturday morning at the greyhound bus station in Harlingen — yard sale a block down the street — a homeless woman paces back and forth in front of the station; bird calls and Bank of America building in the background. We are told that we cannot film inside.
This is one of the places where families are left after detention in hieleras — if they have relatives who will sponsor them. Volunteers pick them up at the bus stations along the border, assess their medical needs, take care of them in shelters, provide them with information about help along the way, and return them to the station for their trip north and east and west.
Trump is playing a short game, and China is (as always) playing a long game.
A trade war is when a country raises tariffs (taxes) on a product coming into the country. The business selling that cheaper foreign product then has to pass that tariff (tax) onto the consumer, and this can make the product cost the same as an American-made product.
Big retailers like Walmart and Target have been lured to China to produce their goods. They’ve invested billions in creating a manufacturing infrastructure. The Chinese provided Special Economic Zones where U.S. capitalists could build factories, hire workers at low wages, and the workers even agreed to a no strike pledge. The only hitch in all this was that the Chinese government owned 52% of the factory.
Based on case stories of Jennifer Harbury…
- Read this article in Spanish.
- Read and watch the videos of the stories in this series here.
The problem, of course, lies with the realities concealed from us. This has always been the case… In the end, however, this is our government, and torture is being utilized in our names and supported by our tax dollars. We are responsible.
AUSTIN — Last February I was at a party to celebrate a return visit to Austin of radical labor attorney Larry Daves. Jennifer Harbury from Weslaco began to talk about what was going on at the U.S./Mexico border. I had a camera there to perhaps film Larry, but the camera stayed in its case. Afterwards, I kicked myself for not filming Jennifer. Her ability to express a wailing narrative of human misery with total lack of sentimentality was devastating. I was overwhelmed.
Jennifer’s husband, Efrain Barnaca Velasquez, a Mayan resistance fighter, “disappeared” in March 1992. He was tortured for two and a half years and murdered by CIA-paid, School of the Americas-trained members of the Guatemalan army. Jennifer exposed her husband’s torturers to the world and then wrote about it.