SOA Watch Convergence at the Border

Solidarity with Refugees from Deadly US Policies

From the July/August 2016 PNL #851

by Beth Harris

In collaboration with the arms industry, private security companies and paramilitaries throughout the world, the US government has created an unprecedented, expansive notion of sovereignty that erases borders to pave the way for corporate interests. At the same time, the US government militarizes and enforces borders to restrict the movement and resistance by those displaced by corporate economic interventions and the fear of being killed.


Policing the Globe for Multinational Corporate Expansion
The US government asserts its authority to police the world without any system of accountability within the US or internationally. There over 700 US military bases with 2.5 million personnel stationed throughout the world. David Vine argues, “The United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation or empire in history.” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) strikes commanded by the US have been reported in six Middle Eastern countries. The US is responsible for one-third of arms exports throughout the world. Ninety percent of the weapons used by the drug cartels in Mexico come from the United States.

This hyper-militarization protects a predatory economic policy. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement expanded corporate rights in the US, Mexico and Canada, putting small farmers and businesses in competition with multinational corporations. As a result many local farmers and owners of small businesses lost their means of survival and were left with few choices but northward migration. In 2006, this same oppressive logic was implemented in the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and again in 2012 in a free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia. The poor and working class, especially farmers, are those most negatively impacted by the so-called free trade policies. In the case of the US-Colombia FTA, a pre-condition for signing for signing of the agreement was a Colombian law that would restrict the ability of Colombian farmers to save seeds. According to the documentary 9.70, the commercialization of patented seeds is one of the most profitable businesses in the world, with ten companies dominating 77% of the global seed market. Of these ten, three control 47% of the market: Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta.


Hunting and Criminalizing Refugees
The militarization of the Border cuts through indigenous territory, dividing families and tearing apart communities. Fifteen security towers are being built by the Israeli security company Elbit through Tohono O’odham land, which is crossed by the US-Mexico border. The increased surveillance, check points and aggressive arrests have forced migrants to take more dangerous, remote paths, where they are vulnerable to attacks and extortion by the cartels, running out of provisions, and getting lost. Some are abandoned in the desert because they are too sick or weak to keep up with the others. These dangers happen both in Mexico and across the Border.

After the refugees are arrested, “Operation Streamline” uses fast-track criminal prosecution in Tucson federal courts to turn desperate refugees into convicted criminals en masse. About 70 refugees are brought together into the court in chains for deportation hearings. Their feet are shackled, and their hands are handcuffed, then shackled to chains around their waists. In 15-30 minute meetings with a lawyer on the day of their court hearing, they are told that they could plead guilty to illegal entry or illegal reentry and receive a sentence of 30-180 days in prison. If they plead not guilty and go to trial, they are told that the charge would become a felony and that they are unlikely to win. They receive no information about applying for refugee status. They are processed in groups of seven to ten and say “yes” or “no” to a series of questions posed by the judge. Dehumanized, chained and shackled, the refugees are treated like slaves, deprived of fundamental rights. The End Streamline Coalition is monitoring and fighting these assembly line proceedings and the criminalization of migrants.

The convicted refugees are transported to private prisons which profit from their incarceration. At the prison, their clothes and remaining belongings are stored. When the migrants are released from prison, they are deported without their belongings, which they are required to pick up later, though they are not allowed to reenter the US.

After the migrants are released at the Border in Mexico, they gather penniless, often sick and weak, at shelters to figure out their next steps. These are the lucky ones who survived the perilous journey.

The border region is littered with dead bodies and body parts, which are stored in refrigerated units at the medical examiner’s office in Tucson. The Colibri Center for Human Rights, located in this office, tries to match the remains to the reports of missing family members. Between 1999-2012, 2269 migrant bodies were found nearby the Mexican-US border and stored.


SOA Watch Convergence on US/Mexico Border, October 7-10, 2016
Despite the global spectre of US imperialism, resistance to militarism and neoliberalism continues within societies and across borders. You are invited to join this resistance at the October 2016 bi-national School of the Americas (SOA) Watch Convergence at the border between Nogales, Sonora Mexico and Nogales, Arizona.

In Columbus, Georgia, the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation-WHINSEC) trains human rights abusers throughout Latin America. From 1990-2015 SOA Watch organized annual protests to close SOA/WHINSEC. After consulting with communities and organizers along the US/Mexico border, SOA Watch decided to move its annual protest to the border, explaining, “We will shine a light on the many human rights violations caused by destructive US foreign policy that the School of the Americas represents.”

The Border Convergence will draw attention to the US-sponsored violence, militarization of the border and trade policies that cause refugees to migrate to the United States and counter the anti-refugee rhetoric that is so rampant in the media and political discourse.

Can you join the bi-national Convergence between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico from October 7-10? October 10 is Indigenous People’s Day, and will also be the fourth anniversary of the killing of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Rodriguez in Nogales, Mexico by a US Border Control Agent. To help organize or join the CNY contingent, contact Beth Harris, 607-266-7587 or Ann Tiffany 315-472-5478. Can’t make it? Make a donation to support local activists who are traveling to the Border Convergence. Visit in the fall for information about a regional action in solidarity with the Border Convergence.


"October 7-10, 2016"



For More Information

Want to support CNY organizing for migrant workers rights? The Workers’ Center of Central NY is membership organization in Syracuse that works with migrant farmworkers in organizing for their labor rights on Upstate New York Farmers. Learn more about their local campaigns, such as the for justice for dairy workers and the Green Light drivers’ license campaign, by visiting

Beth Harris is an organizer living in Ithaca, NY. She participated in the SOA Watch delegation to the Ambos Nogales border in April 2016. Beth is also active with the Central New York Sister Community with Movimiento Campesino de Cajibio, Colombia, Jewish Voice for Peace (member of national board and Ithaca chapter) and the Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine.