Central American immigrants endangered in Mexico

One of the most significant developments in immigration rights in several countries is that immigrants themselves are fed up to their eyeballs with racist injustice & have begun to fight on their own behalf. They are among the toughest people on the planet, given what they have to go through–& their entry into political action is one of the most promising things to come down the pike in a long time.

This 46-year-old Honduran man named Norman Saul Varela is here holding his prosthetic leg. He lost his own limb in 2005 while riding the train called “La bestia de muerta” (“the train of death) through Mexico north toward the US border. Hundreds of Central American immigrants lose limbs, are injured, murdered, assaulted, kidnapped, disappeared, raped, & robbed riding those trains. Many end up in mass graves.

If you want to know why 50,000 Mexican soldiers deployed in the militarization of the country can’t put a stop to this violence, the answer is they are likely involved through paramilitary squads serving as the southern flank of US immigration policy. They’ve certainly proven no use in stopping drug trafficking, which has increased substantially since the massive military deployments.

Senor Varela is in Mexico City to ask the Mexican Senate to stop government persecution of Central Americans & protect them from “criminal gangs”. The Senate legislated a few years ago that it is legal for Central American immigrants to transit Mexico. The problem is they haven’t made it safe. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that people forced to hop on & off moving trains & ride on top of moving trains are in grave danger. And it doesn’t take a genius or big bucks to provide safe transit–like passenger trains. But the Senate has to call off the military, reign in the paramilitary squads, & stop federal cops from searching buses & trucks traveling north for immigrants. And it has to expel all US military, civilian, & covert operatives from Mexico because the violence against immigrants has the distinct whiff of “la migra” (US border patrol) written all over it.

Our fullest solidarity with Senor Varela & his fellow immigrants. Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

(Photo by Marco Ugarte/AP)

Forcible evictions of Roma in Madrid to commemorate International Roma Day

City officials of Madrid, Spain must have taken sensitivity training since they waited till the day after UN-designated International Roma Day on April 8th to evict & raze the homes of Roma residents in the shanty settlement of El Gallinero on the outskirts of Madrid. Madrid’s urban planners have designs on the property & apparently got an obliging judiciary to issue a court order for eviction.

This isn’t the first time city bulldozers had a go at the settlement. Last June, cops surrounded the area & moved demolition crews in; several homes were destroyed & 34 people were left homeless. Soon after the cops & bulldozers left, residents started building new shanties since they have no place else to go. The government claims it offered one-way tickets to residents to return to their own countries. What these bureaucrats need to get through their thick skulls is that Spain is their country–even though discrimination means the poverty rate in El Gallinero is 93%.

El Gallinero is a settlement of cardboard & tin huts without running water or sewage in an area prone to flooding. Residents survive, just barely, by selling scrap metal & begging.

Since April 8th was International Roma Day, we ought to remind Madrid officials that an estimated two million Roma were killed by Germany’s Third Reich; that up until 1980 Roma women were force sterilized in Czechoslovakia to stop Roma from “breeding”; that Norway only stopped sterilization of Roma in 1977; that Roma are persecuted, segregated, thrown out of settlements in several European countries, & forcibly deported–most notoriously & ruthlessly in France by the so-called socialist government.

But Madrid officials know all that. They not only want Roma settlements for gentrification schemes but they want to use Roma, as they use undocumented immigrants, to scapegoat for the neoliberal policies reducing the rest of the populations in those countries to penurious austerity.

Here Mariana Marin, her daughter, Rebeca, & daughter-in-law Alina Holban sit among Marin’s belongings after their home was demolished in belated commemoration of International Roma Day.

(Photo by Susana Vera/Reuters)