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The Arivaca Connection & Homeland Security
On May 15 an overflow crowd pressed into the community center of Arivaca, an isolated Sonoran desert town 13 miles north of the Mexico-Arizona border. Over 100 peoplemost of the towns citizensturned out to tell the border patrol and other Homeland Security representatives they dont want a 96-foot-high Boeing surveillance tower snooping on them from the edge of town. There were people who were concerned about protecting the yearly influx of Mexican bats from the radars and with the impact on humans and other species of the 130 decibel alert horn; a citizen from Tubac, 25 miles away, wanted proof that radio frequency waves would not interfere with the three space observatories on surrounding mountain tops. But the unanimous concern was about the 24-hour video cameras pointed directly at their town.
In recent months, it has become clearer that the placement of the Boeing Corp tower as part of a network to hunt migrants crossing the border would allow federal agents to watch peoples everyday activities around the clock. Resistance to this government intrusion in the towns life turned to rage when local people learned in April that Boeings site selection for the government-sponsored project was irreversible and not subject to public review. The tower was going up whether they liked it or not.
As one might imagine, life on the Sonoran desert is difficult. There is little water, thorny brush vegetation, and temperatures can climb to over 100 degrees most days. At least 80 undocumented immigrants died in the first five months of 2007 (eight of them right before this meeting). Local people take their independence and their freedoms seriously. As one middle-aged woman told the uniformed government agents, We have been losing our rights in this country back at least since the time of the Reagan presidency and you are telling us to trust you when you declare we have no say over your spying on us in our own town? I am outraged.
Tensions increased when a Border Patrol-Immigration-Homeland Security representative responded that the entire SBInet 28 (Secure Borders Initiative) project is aimed at defending the town and the nation from dangerous intruders. Since 9/11, we have to worry about terrorists, he declared, provoking an audience-wide groan of disbelief.
Among other routes through the desert, migrants pass through the two drainages near town. They get help from some and are treated less favorably by others, but none of the 30 or more citizens who spoke out think the growing web of surveillance is going to stop migration, none voiced fear of the desperate thousands trying to make their way north into or back into sustainable lives in the U.S., and all viewed the tower as government intrusion into their own lives.
Later in the discussion, after Boeing and federal reps had insisted the surveillance radar and cameras would be looking south to the border and away from town, an apparently knowledgeable man stood to tell them that the line of sight of the radar and cameras could not see south or into the dry washes because of land elevations south of site 29. The feds were non-plussed. Speakers pointed out that the radars would be constantly sending back false alarms because the 29 site is frequented by hunters, cattle, walkers, bikers, joggers, campers, and children playing. The government representatives remained undaunted, saying theyd work out the bugs. When challenged by a woman as to how each of them would feel if cameras were being set up outside their homes, all six responded that they had no problem with the idea because the benefits of protection from the bad guys outweighed the negatives of intrusion.
Driving back to Tucson, Steve Johnston, an activist with No More Deaths (an immigrant rights group which runs a summer training camp southeast of town) summed up the gathering. It was a great meeting, but there was an unspoken elephant in the room, he said. Both the Federales and the Arivacans know the purpose of the tower is to watch them day and night. Other towers are the new high-tech approach to trying to stop people from coming across the border, but this one is different. A lot of marijuana comes through Arivaca and thats what the feds are targeting here.
These are good people, Johnston asserted. They have a hard, tough life. When they found some folks running a meth lab here a few years ago they literally ran them out of town. But the intermittent marijuana trade helps people to survive out here. The feds talk about bad guys. They talk terrorism and homeland security, about closing the borders to protect us. But the whole Homeland Security thing is a ruse to watch the town.
Then he chuckled. These people are tough, though. They have other plans for this tower.
Marc Sapir is the executive director of Retro Poll.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.