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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/2/19

Death and Resistance on the U.S.-Mexico Border: A Democracy Now! Special

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AMY GOODMAN: The government was forced to drop conspiracy charges against you for helping migrants, but the felony charges of helping them remain. It shocked many, because it was a hung jury. Eight of the jurors said they would have acquitted you. But the government decided to move forward with this case. So why do you persist? This is the first time you've come out on the range since your trial, the first trial, and yet you're here with your group delivering water.

SCOTT WARREN: It's part of just regular work that we do out here, to check on these water drops and just to be a presence and to witness what's happening out in the desert. It's very remote out here. And one of the things that we do is just being a presence out here in case we do run into people. And to be a witnessing presence, as well, is really important. So, being out here is a good thing, and it's just something that those of us who live in Ajo and do this work really feel compelled to be out here, this time of year especially.

AMY GOODMAN: As we drove here, and we're right next to the Border Patrol forward operating base, I mean, it sounds like a war, but so do the casualties, No More Deaths having encountered the disintegrating bodies of migrants, the bones of migrants who had died much earlier, not far from where we're standing right now, your group.

SCOTT WARREN: Yeah, that's right. You mentioned the casualties here, both the people who have died, migrants that really have been sort of forced out into these remote and rugged areas, for decades now, as a result of prevention through deterrence, the way that the border is enforced. So, there's the direct impact on people who have died, people who have suffered out here, people who have been disappeared, and then the ripple effects of their families, the trauma that that creates. The traumatic experience of this is another way that it can feel like a conflict or like a war zone. I don't like the war zone rhetoric that you typically hear politicians use, because it's deployed to increase militarization and building of walls. But it's appropriate when you think about the trauma that people have faced as they cross through these areas, and the trauma that their families experience and the pain.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about this forward operating base of the Border Patrol, who come out here, stay for days, in rotation. Actually, this wasn't built during the Trump years, but under President Obama.

SCOTT WARREN: Yeah. There have been different versions of a forward operating base on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for probably at least a decade or so. But this one that you see here, it's very established, is fairly recent, probably within the last five to seven years. It's built on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It's

AMY GOODMAN: So, this is a military base built in a national park.

SCOTT WARREN: A military base built in a national park on Hia-Ced O'odham land and territory.

AMY GOODMAN: On Native American territory.

SCOTT WARREN: On Native American territory. So, the levels of dispossession are many here of the indigenous people that have always lived here, and this has always been their territory. So, it's layers upon layers, really, of dispossession and pushing people off the land.

AMY GOODMAN: Just as we got out of our car here, just as we you know, here we are at Organ Pipe, but we're not going on to Cabeza Prieta, because that's not safe for you a helicopter flew overhead. Talk about the significance of these helicopters. Who controls that plane?

SCOTT WARREN: Those are CBP helicopters, U.S. Customs and Border [Protection]. And they are out here looking for people. And they fly really all up and down this valley and through these mountains and in different areas. And on the one hand, they can come across people, you know, who want to get rescued. They want to get apprehended. People might set like a signal fire or something or be desperately trying to signal because they've run out of water and they want to be, at that point you know, they've come to the end, and they are doing everything they can to get themselves rescued. Those helicopters are also, though, part of prevention through deterrence. So, they will also end up scattering groups of people. They can chase groups of people, further sort of disorient folks. And that's really the brutality of it, you know, is that...

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that, the scattering. I mean, there is the famous book, The Devil's Highway. And if you can talk, back then, what happened and how that continues to today?

SCOTT WARREN: It's part of a larger sort of enforcement strategy of the border, which is prevention through deterrence, so to really increase hardships on people, with the hopes that people will basically give themselves up. So, on the sort of biggest scale of the border, that looks like building walls and fences in urban areas and pushing people out into the Growler Valley and rugged and remote places like this, where it's very difficult to cross. On more micro levels, that can be, like we were talking about, with a helicopter, that might cause a group to scatter.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does that mean?

SCOTT WARREN: That means seeing a group of people and flying close to them, flying low to them.

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Democracy Now!  is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on (more...)
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