Faith and Phoenix: Convening in Arizona after SB1070, Part 1

This is the first part of Faith and Phoenix: Convening in Arizona after SB1070, a series about how faith based groups with national conventions scheduled in Phoenix responded to Arizona’s image crises during and after the passage of SB 1070; check out Part 2 here. Several years ago when the largest Anabaptist organization in the U.S. picked Phoenix for the location of its biannual conference in 2013, they didn’t anticipate that the state would be a hotspot for national debates on immigration and border issues – or that they’d be attempting to produce a denominational statement about immigration there. Yet, Arizona’s attractions as a tourist and convention destination seemed smashed when the 2010 passage of a controversial immigration bill, SB 1070, sparked intense national debates including issues border violence and racism in the state. Local community advocate James Garcia, who works with Promise Arizona, said that the news coverage affected everybody’s perceptions, whether they supported the SB 1070 bill or not. “Suddenly 24-hour news channels for six months straight, all they hear about is the words coming out of the mouth of the governor and Russell Pearce which claimed that the state is being overrun by words of immigrants and everybody is somehow physically endangered,” Garcia said.”So that negative representation was stamped into the brains of America and brains of America include all the people who are part of these conventions.”

Planning for the unexpected: community advocates urge immigrants to prepare for raids

(a post discussing sourcing with examples from backgrounding work I did on The New York Times 19 August 2013 piece Carwash Managers Held in Immigration Raids)

“We’re asking all the families to please prepare in case of these emergencies to know that they have the right to see an attorney, they have a right to a call and of course at every moment it’s so important to have an emergency plan for when things like this happen,” ACLU Arizona Immigrants Rights Project Coordinator Dulce Juarez told reporters at a rally in front of Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Phoenix field office Monday afternoon. I’d heard the message before at a school assembly for parents last fall when community organizers gathered parents, pastors, and politicians to discuss how to protect children of undocumented immigrants, sometimes U.S. citizens and sometimes undocumented themselves, in a situation where anything from a workplace raid to a traffic stop for a broken tail light or speeding can throw the family into every kind of limbo with no warning: undocumented immigrants should have emergency plans in place to protect their children and their assets because it may be too late to make arrangements once they’re apprehended. “We’re asking all the families to please prepare in case of these emergencies to know that they have the right to see an attorney, they have a right to a call and of course at every moment it’s so important to have an emergency plan for when things like this happen,” said Juarez. This isn’t the story I was assigned to cover – but it’s another side of living here. Organizers from Puente Arizona and National Day Laborer Organizing Network had gathered protestors to support 30 workers still in detention after federal agents raided 16 Danny’s Family Car Wash locations in Phoenix on Saturday morning to make arrests in a criminal identity theft investigation and also detained 223 people, most of whom were quickly released, on immigration status checks.

Family through a fence

A bittersweet reunion lets three young immigrants see – and reach for – their deported mothers through a fence. Read more here in the June 11 The New York Times piece: Immigrants Reach Beyond a Legal Barrier for a Reunion

As a young man and two young women approached the border from the Arizona side, a cry rang out through the bars of the border fence. Waiting for their children in matching turquoise t-shirts on the Mexican side were their mothers, separated for years since their deportations for being illegally present in the U.S.

The six came together, reaching through the spaces between the thick metal poles, with sobs and laughter under the watchful (and not always dry) eyes of organizers, reporters, Border Patrol, and Mexican Federales last Tuesday – the culmination of days of travel and two months of planning. All three children are in President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which gives qualified applicants the ability to go to school, work and in some states get drivers licenses while they wait for a more permanent resolution to their legal status limbo. It’s a way for participants to start coming out of the shadows.

Searching for Andy at PCOME: Database debut leads to Tucson travels

A publicly accessible website went online one week ago that provides maps and data based on the location where bodies presumed to be migrants have been recovered in southern Arizona. The Arizona OpenGIS for Deceased Migrants is “the result of ongoing partnership” between the humanitarian group Humane Borders, Inc. and the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner (PCOME). And so I ended up in a southbound car with New York Times reporter Fernanda Santos and freelance photographer Joshua Lott to learn about how the database works. In the years since the first time I visited PCOME, many things have changed. Dr. Bruce Parks, whom I interviewed for Unidentified dead common on the border, retired in the summer of 2011 and Dr. Gregory Hess is now the medical examiner.

MFM blog update: summing up the first year of the search for Andy

When Eddie contacted me in August 2011 neither of us knew how long the search for his brother-in-law Andy might last. After working with law enforcement, humanitarian volunteers, activists and the medical examiner, Andy’s family is still waiting for answers. Some have consulted psychics known as brujas. Some have driven the highways of Arizona stopping at local hospitals, police stations and prisons. Others have retraced Cota’s route from Tijuana to Cananea, posting flyers with his name and photographs along the way.

Upcoming Post Teaser: updates & traces

I have to admit there’s been some unanticipated delays (somehow summer flu is always more surprising than the winter version) but as well as working on the news page project, I’ve been prepping background content and starting new reporting projects. So bear with me – there’s a lot in the works. Look for more short updates about interviews, records requests and other process work as stories get off the ground in the next weeks. Of course, this wouldn’t be a teaser post without a taste of what’s coming:

Not as planned

Well. Last Thursday, things did not go as planned

Well, unless the plan was to spend 3 hours in the desert trying to reach my source and hoping he was just running late (he wasn’t), things did not go as planned. The appointment had been to find out about an active search for a 21-year-old man who disappeared approximately 7 weeks ago. I’d spoken to the man leading that day’s trip and tracked down the phone number of the missing man’s father, who’d come to Tucson from Tennessee in hopes of finding answers, the original tip coming from a mass email:

“Could you please run on the [humanitarian organization] site a notice that there is a father here from [a southern state] who has been looking for his 21 yo son left by his group 5 weeks ago and please call and take him out if people have time?…He has been here in Tucson for five weeks, living on the street and searching daily…He’s been sent a map of where to look but it’s a very bad map from the person who was with his son and was apprehended and deported. The map maker would like to be paid for a better map……..BTW, he’s already checked the morgue (negative) and I will check hospitals today.”