B o r d e r l a n d s    D i g e s t
Reading and Writing about Justice Issues
an independent monthly journal with a focus on
 the environment, immigration and criminal justice

October/November 2019  

 Vancouver, British Columbia, with commuter train on bridge.  Photo Craig Rock

Editor Craig Rock, duniterock@gmail.com
Send in your stories, poems and photos by the 24th of each month.
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Greta Thunberg at the United Nations

 "How dare you! You have stolen my dreams,
 and my childhood, with your empty words..."

YouTube Video

See the United Nations press release on the Eco Links page

Fighting for Real Justice
a report by Earth Justice

"This report, “Fighting for Real Justice,” examines actions of the Trump administration and Congress that threaten people’s ability to have their day in court. These dangerous policies, being pursued at the behest of powerful corporate and ideological interests, seek to diminish the role of the courts in securing important public protections for individuals, workers, families, communities, and the environment, with particularly profound implications for already marginalized groups."  Click here to read the full report

A view from the edge - Chris Hedges = via truthdig

The Age of Radical Evil

".....Who are those who would sacrifice us on the altar of global capitalism? How did they amass the power to deny us a voice, to insist that the earth is an inert commodity they have a right to exploit until the ecosystem that sustains life collapses and the human species, along with most other species, becomes extinct?..."

New Report from U.S. Policy Immigration Center - October 29

Seeking Asylum - Part 2
(This new report by the USIPC validates many of the previous reports by human rights organizations on the dangers of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their initial asylum hearings. Here is a part of the report's introduction along with some of its findings. The complete report can be read by clicking here.)

From July 2019 to October 2019, the U.S. Immigration Policy Center (USIPC) at UC San Diego partnered with migrant shelters in Tijuana, Mexico and in Mexicali, Mexico to survey asylum seekers who have been returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. A total of 607 asylum seekersa were interviewed, which makes this the most comprehensive analysis to date of the impact of the Remain in Mexico policy. No person was interviewed unless we could verify their MPP status. Verification of the MPP status of our respondents was done by examining their Department of Homeland Security (DHS) paperwork, focusing on their Notice to Appear (NTA) forms.b

Fear of Returning to Mexico

● Nearly 9 out of every 10 of our respondents (89.5%) who were asked by U.S. immigration officials about fear of being returned to Mexico 
responded by expressing fear of being returned to Mexico

 ● Of these individuals, 40.4% were given a secondary interview by an asylum officer and 59.6% were not. In other words, U.S. immigration officials further investigated the fears of approximately 4 out of every 10 who expressed fear about being returned to Mexico. However, approximately 6 out of every 10 were placed into the Remain in Mexico policy without any further investigation into the fears that they expressed about being returned to Mexico

 ● Of those who were asked by U.S. immigration officials about fear of being returned to Mexico, responded by expressing fear of being returned to Mexico, and were then given a secondary interview by an asylum officer, 63.9% reported that their persecutor(s) can find and have access to them in Mexico but were returned to Mexico anyway

 ● Of those who were not asked by U.S. immigration officials about fear of being returned to Mexico, but nevertheless expressed a fear of being returned to Mexico, just 3.9% were given a secondary interview by an asylum officer to further investigate these fears and 96.1% were not

 ● Asylum seekers who attempted to enter the U.S. along the California portion of the U.S.-Mexico border were 14.7% less likely to be asked by U.S. immigration officials about fear of being returned to Mexico when compared to asylum seekers who attempted to enter the U.S. along the Arizona portion of the U.S.-Mexico border

 ● Just 17.1% of our respondents reported that they were given information by U.S. immigration officials about how to access legal services while in Mexico

 ● Just 19.7% of our respondents reported that they were given information by U.S. immigration officials about how to access social services, such as housing and food, while in Mexico 

Conditions in Immigration Detention

● 85.7% of our respondents reported issues related to food, including not being fed, not being given enough to eat, or being fed spoiled food

 ● 85.2% reported issues related to water, including not being given water, not being given enough to drink, or having to drink dirty or foul-tasting water

 ● 85.1% reported issues related to sleep, including not being able to sleep, not getting enough sleep, having to sleep on the floor, or having to sleep with the lights on ● Only 20.3% reported being able to shower, get clean, or brush their teeth

 ● Less than half (41.9%) reported having access to a clean and sanitary toilet

 ● Nearly 9 out of every 10 (89.5%) reported that the detention facilities they were held in were overcrowded

 ● 85.2% reported that it was too cold in “la hielera” (the “icebox”) Treatment in Immigration Detention

● Just over half of our respondents (51.1%) reported experiencing verbal abuse in immigration detention

 ● 6.7% reported experiencing physical abuse in immigration detention

 ● Asylum seekers who attempted to enter the U.S. along the California portion of the U.S.-Mexico border were 4.7% more likely to report experiencing physical abuse in immigration detention when compared to asylum seekers who attempted to enter the U.S. along the Arizona portion of the U.S.-Mexico border 

● Approximately 1 out of every 4 (25.1%) reported having their property taken away from them and not returned after they were released from immigration detention. Money being taken was most commonly reported by our respondents

 ● Just over 1 out of every 3 (36.7%) who had medical issues reported that their medical issues were adequately addressed. However, this means that nearly 2 out of every 3 (63.3%) who had medical issues reported that their medical issues were not adequately addressed


One-man crime wave invades El Paso
Commentary by Denise Holley
(To view Holley's blog, click here - see bio below)

That young man who massacred 22 shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 3 reportedly posted comments online that he was angry about the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” He must have slept through history class, when kids learn that Texas was part of northern Mexico until 1848, when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War.

The shooter was the invader. He traveled to a largely Latino border city with one of the lowest murder rates in the country, lower than Portland or Seattle. He created a one-man crime wave in a place where residents live in relative peace with each other.

I don’t know El Paso, but I am familiar with Nogales, Arizona, a much smaller border town where I lived for three years. When I arrived in November 2007, the sheriff told me there hadn’t been a murder in Santa Cruz County for years. More recent reports cite one murder in 2011 and one in 2018.

Border cities are bi-national communities where thousands of Americans and Mexicans cross the border daily for business, shopping, or visiting family. By and large, U.S. citizens of those cities do not view Mexico as a threat, but as a neighbor and a vital partner in commerce.

President Trump tries to paint Mexico as a source of dangerous criminals just waiting to sneak across the border to sell drugs and commit crimes of violence. Yes, people try to smuggle drugs from Mexico into the U.S., where most of their customers live, and that is why we have well-trained customs agents to intercept those shipments.

Trump touts walls and fences as the solution to protect U.S. border towns and the interior. But those fences lining our southern border could not protect those Americans and Mexicans who went to shop at Walmart that morning because the danger came from the north. A U.S. citizen brought his weapon, ammo and mind full of hate to El Paso and shattered the lives of dozens of people he had never met.

(Denise Holley wrote for newspapers and nonprofit organizations for 24 years, including three years on the US-Mexico border. Her work has won 10 local and statewide awards for reporting. She helped edit a newsletter for No More Deaths, a migrant aid organization in Tucson, Arizona, and carried water out to the desert for border crossers. In 2017, she published the book "Why the Undocumented Belong to America." Currently, she works as a communications assistant for the Latino Community Association in Central Oregon.)

Earth Justice Report - September 13

D.C. Circuit Rules EPA's Failure to protect people from 
cross-state pollution is illegal

Washington, D.C. —

In a major victory for public health, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is illegally failing to control ozone pollution — smog — that travels across state lines and contributes to unhealthy air in downwind states. Today’s ruling requires EPA to secure clean air by reducing the pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants and other polluting industries in upwind states — pollution reductions that will save hundreds of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks every year. The court also rejected arguments by polluting industries and red states that the pollution reductions EPA has already required are too costly.

The case was briefed and argued by Earthjustice attorneys representing Sierra Club and Appalachian Mountain Club.

Because the Court rejected a legal argument that EPA has now made over and over — that EPA doesn’t have to follow the Clean Air Act’s deadlines for achieving clean air — today’s ruling also has major implications for other pending lawsuits, including a case scheduled for oral argument on September 20, 2019, in which environmental groups and downwind states jointly challenge the Trump administration’s refusal to reduce cross-state air pollution (New York v. EPA, No. 19-1019). It also means that EPA must promptly implement pollution controls that are needed to achieve the updated clean air standard that EPA adopted in 2015. That updated standard was upheld against a challenge by polluting industries in a D.C. Circuit decision issued August 23, 2019 (Murray Energy v. EPA, No. 15-1385). The court required EPA to consider strengthening the standard to better protect ecosystems and agriculture.

49 counties with more than 36 million people in the eastern United States and Texas suffer from ozone levels that exceed the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Ozone exposure at this level and below can result in chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, scarring of the lungs, and premature death, and is particularly harmful to children. The areas of the country that suffer from unhealthy air due to cross-state pollution are disproportionately home to communities of color.

“This is a big win for millions of people who will get to breathe cleaner air,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Neil Gormley, the lead attorney on the case. “We already have the technology we need to end this dangerous pollution and save lives; today’s decision means no more excuses.”

“We welcome today’s court decision that ruled in favor of protecting public health,” said Georgia Murray, Staff Scientist for the Appalachian Mountain Club. “Now, EPA must not delay in cleaning up outdoor air so people and their families can be outdoors and enjoy healthy recreation.”

“The Court’s decision was a clear step in the right direction to protect states from their neighbors’ pollution and putting public health ahead of the profits of a handful of wealthy business executives,” said Zachary Fabish, Senior Attorney for the Sierra Club. “We look forward to the EPA taking action through this court ruling to protect public health and for state governments to reign in their polluters.”

This Issue: Human Rights and the Environment
A Common Ground in Critical Times
by Craig Rock, Editor

Welcome to the October/November issue of Borderlands Digest. This issue focuses on the environment, especially climate change and its effects on people and the planet.  I hope this news journal helps capture the continued injustice fostered by the Trump administration, especially in the areas of human rights and the environment. Personally, I feel it is counterproductive to lay the responsibility for reforms in these areas to any one age group, any one non-profit, or any one political party. The financial and political power of fascist-like forces is global and goes far beyond people like the President. Goals of organizations interested in true reform in these critical times should point to a primary strategy of working together for the health and welfare of the planet and its people around the world.

Links to major news stories and press releases from environmental and human rights groups will be posted every few days. Feature stories, poetry, and photos will be added as they come in from participants. As I mentioned before, the success of this project depends on your help in submitting stories relevant to the quality of life in your community. In order to be considered, stories should focus on the environment, immigration, or criminal justice.  

On Saturday, October 26, I attended a presentation by Naomi Klein at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Fourteen hundred people heard her hopeful plea that many of our environmental challenges can effectively be addressed if we work together methodically on the reforms presented in the Green New Deal. Her newest book,  On Fire, the (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, covers her findings. At her presentation, Klein pointed out that the many challenges we faced in the Depression of the 1930s were successfully addressed by Franklin Roosevelt's administration, but it wasn't just Roosevelt who made it happen; it was hundreds of thousands of people in communities across the country. It was writers' groups, union workers, women's groups, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and many others. They all had separate interests but shared a common ground of getting us out of the Depression. Here is some more information about the book from Klein's website, naomiklein.com:

The climate crisis has moved from a future threat to a burning emergency. The Green New Deal is a vision for transforming our economies to battle climate breakdown and rampant inequality at the same time. Klein argues that only this kind of bold, roots-up action will rouse us to fight for our lives while there is still time.


Published in the US, UK and Canada on September 17, 2019, On Fire was an instant New York Times bestseller and was serialized in The Guardian UK and in the Covering Climate Now news syndicate worldwide.

The Impact

Twenty years after No Logo, and five years after This Changes Everything, On Fire explains how the bold ideas and action within the Green New Deal could avert climate catastrophe and be a blueprint for a just and thriving society.

Naomi Klein’s seventh book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal gathers for the first time Naomi’s impassioned reporting from the frontlines of climate breakdown, and pairs it with new material on the high stakes of what we choose to do next.

On Fire’s long-form essays, based on her extensive research and reporting, show Klein at her most prophetic and philosophical, investigating the climate crisis not only as a profound political challenge but as a spiritual and imaginative one as well. Delving into the clash between ecological time and our culture of “perpetual now”; the soaring history of rapid human change in the face of grave threats; rising white supremacy and fortressed borders as a form of “climate barbarism” and more, this is a rousing call to transformation – and a dire warning about what awaits if we fail to act.

With dispatches from the ghostly Great Barrier Reef to the smoke-choked skies of the Pacific Northwest, to post-hurricane Puerto Rico, to a Vatican waking up to the case for radical change, recognizing that we will rise to the existential challenge of climate change only if we are willing to transform the systems that produced this crisis — On Fire captures the burning urgency of the climate crisis, as well as the fiery energy of a global movement demanding a catalytic Green New Deal.

Watch the viral video about the Green New Deal, narrated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Journal Contents 
(Pages are accessible from links at the top and bottom of each page.)

Page 1 - Recent news links; updated stories.

Page 2 -  Art and its connections to justice issues through non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography, history, exhibits and other formats.

Page 3 - Older News Links and press releases including Keeping an Eye on Big Brother;  Some Ways to Help Migrant Children; Dangers of Keeping Asylum Seekers in Mexico; Amnesty International's report on Humanitarian Aid; More Food for thought.

 Page 4 Eco Links (Environment - Links and Reports) -
More Press Releases from Environmental Groups and related news links;  Links to Interesting Websites.
Breaking News

Americans have questions about Medicare-f0r-all.
Canadians have answers, Washington Post,
November 18, click here

State Judge Is Accused of Helping Man Evade ICE.
 Federal Charges Followed. NY Times, Nov 16, click here

Prosecution rests, defense begins in 3rd day of re-trial
of Scott Warren (No More Death Volunteer)
Tucson Sentinel, November 14, click here

They’ve managed the forest forever. It’s why they’re key
to the climate change fight,
LA Times, Nov 5, click here

Supreme Court Case of Dreamers may come down
to Chief Justice Roberts, LA Times, Nov 11, click here

Briton who helped found Syria's White Helmets dies
in Turkey, AP, Canadian Press, November 11, click here

Mexico Mormons: Nine US citizens, including children,
killed in ambush, BBC, November 5, click here

Trump team has plan for national parks,
Amazon, food trucks and no senior discounts
Los Angeles Times, November 4, click here

3 More Arrests After 39 Bodies Are Found
in Truck in U.K
. NY Times, October 25, click here

Trump’s D.C. hotel abruptly cancels Christian aid
group’s Kurdish solidarity event
Washington Post, October 22, click here

A photographer's account from the front
lines of Turkey's incursion in Syria
Washington Post, October 18, click here

More than 4,000 people have been lynched in the 
U.S. Trump isn’t one of them.
Washington Post, October 22, click here

We defend press freedom around the world.
Trump is making our job harder.
Opinion, Washington Post, October 21, click here

31 arrested, 300 charges in multi-provincial sex-
trafficking operation based in Ontario (Canada)
CBC, October 16, click here

EPA Proposes New Regulations For Lead In
Drinking Water,
NPR, October 11, click here

Fighting Climate Change globally takes political courage
at home, Mayor Garcetti, Los Angeles Times, October 10,

Guns from the United States are stoking a
homicide epidemic in Mexico, LA Times, Oct 6, click here

Trump Will Deny Immigrant Visas to Those
Who Can’t Pay for Health Care
New York Times, October 4, click here

Radical warming in Siberia leaves millions
on unstable ground,
Washington Post, October 3
click here

By his count, Washington attorney general hasn’t lost
a case against Trump yet,
Los Angeles Times, Oct 2, click here

Mining the Future: Climate Change, Migration
and Militarization in Arizona Borderlands

The Intercept, October 3, click here

The biggest likely source of microplastics in California
coastal waters? Our car tires
Los Angeles Times, October 2, click here

Shoot Them in the Legs, Trump Suggested:
Inside His Border War,
NY Times, October 1, click here

Human Rights Watch Report - September 17

Brazil: Criminal Networks Target Rainforest Defenders

Violence and Impunity Endanger Climate Change Commitment

(São Paulo) – Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is driven largely by criminal networks that use violence and intimidation against those who try to stop them, and the government is failing to protect both the defenders and the rainforest itself, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. 

The 165-page report, “Rainforest Mafias: How Violence and Impunity Fuel Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon,” documents how illegal logging by criminal networks and resulting forest fires are connected to acts of violence and intimidation against forest defenders and the state’s failure to investigate and prosecute these crimes. 

“Brazilians who defend the Amazon are facing threats and attacks from criminal networks engaged in illegal logging,” said Daniel Wilkinson, acting environment and human rights director at Human Right Watch. “The situation is only getting worse under President Bolsonaro, whose assault on the country’s environmental agencies is putting the rainforest and the people who live there at much greater risk.”  

Cláudio José da Silva is the coordinator of the “Forest Guardians” of Caru Indigenous Territory, in the Brazilian Amazon. The Guardians patrol indigenous land to detect illegal logging and report it to the authorities.

 The criminal networks have the logistical capacity to coordinate large-scale extraction, processing, and sale of timber, while deploying armed men to intimidate and, in some cases, kill those who seek to defend the forest, Human Rights Watch found.

On September 23, 2019 the United Nations will hold a summit meeting to discuss global efforts to mitigate climate change. As its contribution to those efforts, Brazil committed in 2016 to eliminate illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2030.

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 170 people, including 60 members of Indigenous communities, and other local residents in the states of Maranhão, Pará, and Rondônia. Researchers also interviewed dozens of government officials in Brasília and throughout the Amazon region, including many who provided inside accounts of how President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies are undermining enforcement efforts. 

During his first year in office, Bolsonaro has scaled back enforcement of environmental laws, weakened federal environmental agencies, and harshly criticized organizations and individuals working to preserve the rainforest.

More than 300 people have been killed during the last decade in the context of conflicts over the use of land and resources in the Amazon – many of them by people involved in illegal logging – according to figures compiled by the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT, in Portuguese), a nonprofit organization, and cited by the Attorney General’s Office.

Human Rights Watch documented 28 killings – plus 4 attempted killings and over 40 cases of death threats – in which there was credible evidence that those responsible were engaged in illegal deforestation and saw their victims as obstacles to their criminal enterprise. Most of the cases are from the past five years. Some victims were environmental enforcement agents. Most were members of Indigenous communities or other forest residents who denounced illegal logging to authorities. 

In the Terra Nossa settlement in Pará state, a resident was killed and another disappeared after they announced plans to report illegal logging to authorities in 2018. The brother of one of the victims, who was investigating the crime, was also killed, as was the leader of a small farmers’ trade union after he too announced plans to report the illegal logging. Residents of the settlement reported that all four men were killed by an armed militia working for a criminal network of landowners who were, according to an internal government report, engaged in illegal logging.

Those responsible for the violence are rarely brought to justice. Of the more than 300 killings registered by CPT, only 14 ultimately went to trial; of the 28 killings Human Rights Watch documented, only two went to trial; and of the more than 40 cases or threats, none did. 

This lack of accountability is largely due to the failure by police to conduct proper investigations. Local police, who acknowledged the failure, say it is because the killings take place in remote areas. Yet, Human Rights Watch documented egregious omissions in investigations of killings that occurred in towns, not far from police stations, including the failure to conduct autopsies. 

Investigations of death threats fare no better, with officials in some locations refusing to even register complaints of threats. In at least 19 of the 28 documented killings, threats against the victims or their communities preceded the attacks. Had authorities investigated, the killings might have been averted.

Indigenous communities and other local residents have long played an important role in Brazil’s efforts to curb deforestation by alerting authorities to illegal logging activities that might otherwise go undetected. Scaling back environmental enforcement encourages illegal logging and results in greater pressure on local people to take a more active role in defending their forests. In so doing, they put themselves at risk of reprisals. 

Since 2004, Brazil has had a program to protect human rights and environmental defenders, but government officials interviewed agreed that the program provides little meaningful protection.

During Bolsonaro’s first eight months in office, deforestation almost doubled compared to the same period in 2018, according to preliminary official data. By August 2019, forest fires linked to deforestation were raging throughout the Amazon on a scale that had not been seen since 2010.

Such fires do not occur naturally in the wet ecosystem of the Amazon basin. Rather, they are started by people completing the process of deforestation where the trees of value have already been removed; they spread through the small clearings and discrete roads that have been carved by loggers, leaving veins of dryer, flammable vegetation that serve as kindling to ignite the rainforest. 

As the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon plays a vital role in mitigating climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. When cut or burned down, the forest not only ceases to fulfill this function, but also releases back into the atmosphere the carbon dioxide it had previously stored.“The impact of the attacks on Brazil’s forest defenders extends far beyond the Amazon,” Wilkinson said. “Until the country addresses the violence and lawlessness that facilitate illegal logging, the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest will continue unchecked.”

Cases documented in the report include:

  • Gilson Temponi, president of a farmers’ association in Placas, Pará state, reported to prosecutors in 2018 illegal logging and death threats from loggers. In December of that year, two men knocked on his door and shot him to death.
  • Eusebio Ka’apor – a leader of the Ka’apor people who helped organize forest patrols to prevent loggers from entering Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Territory in Maranhão state – was killed in 2015. Shortly after his death, six of the seven members of the Ka´apor Governing Council, which coordinates the patrols, received death threats from loggers.
  • Osvalinda Pereira and her husband, Daniel Pereira, both small-scale farmers, have received death threats for nearly a decade since they began reporting illegal logging by a criminal network in Pará state. In 2018, they found two shallow graves dug in their yard, with wooden crosses affixed on top.
  • Dilma Ferreira Silva, an environmental activist in Pará state, and five other people were killed in 2019 under orders – according to police – of a landowner involved in illegal logging who feared that Silva and the others would report his criminal activities.PDF iconDownload the full report in English