Event to commemorate human rights

Kent Paterson

Frontera NorteSur

Migrant advocates in the southern New Mexico borderland plan to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Saturday, Dec. 10.

Organized by the Task Force for Immigrant Advocacy and Services in Southern New Mexico (TIAS-NM), a panel of elected leaders will gather in Las Cruces to explore how education, human trafficking, drivers’ licenses, racial profiling, labor and food tie in with the lives of immigrants in New Mexico and beyond.

Diana Bustamante, executive director of the Las Cruces-based Colonias Development Council and member of TIAS-NM’s executive committee, told Frontera NorteSur that the planned discussion will be of interest to all people in a post-9/11 era when the Patriot Act, proposed national identification cards and beefed-up Border Patrol checkpoints are embedded in the political and geographic landscape.

“As a person of Mexican descent, every time I go by (checkpoints) I am affected by that,” Bustamante said of her experiences passing through the mandatory highway stops where often young agents run some people through an inquisitive gauntlet while allowing others to simply state their citizenship and go off on their merry way.

According to Bustamante, confirmed presenters scheduled for the December 10 commemoration include New Mexico State Rep. Antonio Lujan (D-Doña Ana); New Mexico State Sen.  Mary Jane Garcia (D-Doña Ana); Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett; Las Cruces City Council member Olga Pedroza, who worked as an attorney representing immigrant farmworkers for many years, and  Nathan Cote, a former state lawmaker who sponsored a successful 2009 anti-racial profiling bill.

From a national perspective, the event comes at a time when immigration reform is still stalled by Washington gridlock. Yet a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that nearly half of 10.2 million unauthorized adult immigrants in the US are parents of minor children, some of whom were brought here at a very young age while many others were born in this country.

Asked her reaction to the November suicide of 18-year-old Joaquin Luna, the top-notch Texas high school student who reportedly took his own life over frustration at the failure of national politicians to approve immigration reform, Bustamante was direct:

“We need to remember the human element in all this political maneuvering that is taking place…nobody talks about what the kids are going through in the homes that have mixed status.”

The Luna suicide, Bustamante said, should cast attention on the personal anguish suffered by many immigrant families, as well as the corresponding manifestations of frustration that could play out as alcoholism or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-like symptoms.

But Bustamante said pro-immigrant forces have scored victories in New Mexico, despite an adverse national political climate. She gave as an example the anti-racial profiling law passed by the 2009 New Mexico State Legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Bill Richardson.

“There have been a lot of inroads in the state for the protection of all people, regardless of status,” the longtime Dona Ana County activist said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s a call for people to get what human rights mean on a day-to-day basis,” Bustamante said in reference to the December 10 Human Rights Day event.

Immigration issues, especially the unresolved battle over driver’s licenses for undocumented residents, are likely to on the state’s political agenda in 2012, she said, adding that pro-immigrant groups have scheduled a day of action for January 24 during the upcoming New Mexico State Legislature in Santa Fe.

More than three years old, TIAS-NM defines itself as prioritizing “just and fair immigration reform that furthers American values, enhances our national interest and protects constitutional and human rights for all.”

Open to the public, next Saturday’s Las Cruces event is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at St. Albert the Great Newman Center on the corner of Solano and University, near the New Mexico State University campus. In addition to the presentations and discussion, TIAS-NM is expected to unveil a new booklet on immigrant rights that was prepared with the assistance of New Mexico State students.

 Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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