Tag Archives: mayorkas

NSF Grant to TXST Will Count Border Bodies

Since I’m an SWT alum, what happens at my alma mater interests me. Having a sibling who graduated with a degree from their Anthropology department adds to the interest. So, when I saw that the National Science Foundation gave a $1 Million to TXST Anthro and other departments it was good news to hear.

A large, but unknown number of migrants die every year trying to enter the United States along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is no accurate count because there are no central databases documenting migrant deaths. As a result, national authorities, policymakers, and public health officials don’t know how many migrants are dying or how policies can curb migrant mortality.

Texas State University recently received a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help document and share this important data and fill the gap.

Dr. Alberto Giordano and Dr. Nick Herrmann are co-leading the project entitled Migrant Mortality Mapping Portal Project (M3P2). Giordano is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies whose prior work on historical geographic information systems (GIS) includes studies on the Holocaust and other genocides. Herrmann is a professor in the Department of Anthropology whose prior work in forensic anthropology and geospatial studied eastern Mediterranean bioarcheology.

The three-year NSF project has two parts. First, the team will collect and organize big data on migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border from various sources—from law enforcement reports to newspaper articles. Then, the team will develop a publicly accessible website where the data can be downloaded and explored with tools that the team will develop for exploring the data. Students will have opportunities to participate as research assistants in both areas. A post-doctoral researcher and doctoral and graduate research assistants will help the team with collecting and standardizing the data and designing and maintaining the database and tool.

No doubt, SWT’s work in body ID and the growth of their body farm research put them on the map to earn this grant and recognition. I have no doubt that it will be good work and a great contribution to society.

When the database is complete, more lives lost at the border will be counted, more stories recovered, more families reunited and more humanity regained.

That said, it is sad that the Feds would need to fund such a program. The fact of the matter is that if a Democratic President, House, and Senate had prioritized immigration reform and reformed its border enforcement policies instead of bolstering them, perhaps we wouldn’t need to match dead bodies to broken families. According to law enforcement on the border, bodies are found almost every day.

Some of the deaths are also due to migrants taking more and more risks to evade detection by federal authorities, he says. People are crossing the tumultuous Rio Grande, walking through dangerous ranchlands in the record Texas heat and paying the ultimate price, the sheriff adds.

It’s something immigration rights advocates have warned about as the latest tragic trend: people being forced to take increasingly risky paths due to mix of border policies that have made it more difficult for migrants to seek refuge in the US.

So many migrants, including children, who have attempted to cross the US southern border have died in this region that the forensic pathologist serving the area says 2022 is on pace to become the deadliest year on record in recent memory.   

Whether it’s the Border Patrol, Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden, or Greg Abbott, nothing has been done to actually save people from imminent death as their policies force migrants to change paths to get to this side. Paths which are more dangerous, treacherous, and deadly. Paths that walls, armed enforcement, and federalized local cops make more dangerous, thus, causing death.

Yes, kudos to NSF for funding this important work. But it further exhibits how broken our government is when it comes to people escaping violence and poverty. At least people who are south of us.

Inaction Claims Migrants Escaping Violence and Poverty

The media reports that at least 46 human beings were found dead and another 16 barely alive in a semi trailer in San Antonio. All were migrants escaping poverty and violence in their home countries, exploited by traffickers who continually exploit the US political weaknesses of Republican hate and Democratic indifference.

Gustavo García-Siller, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Antonio, wrote on Twitter: “Once again, the lack of courage to deal with immigration reform is killing and destroying lives. We do not learn. God teach us to change.”

Scenes with stacked bodies will provide fundraising opportunities for Democrats and masturbation material for Republicans (because they get off on the suffering of others). Greg Abbott, in all of his racist glory, chooses to make a political statement blaming others, instead of taking responsibility for his bigoted border policies which force migrants to choose alternate, more dangerous routes to get to this side of the river. Failed policies that hand out money to local law enforcement agencies who love participating in migrant chases, rather than saving children in classrooms threatened by active shooters. No Greg Abbott, this is on the entire political system. Especially on bigots like you.

Yes, there is a lot of blame to go around. And when Democrats have a President and a majority which has done nothing on most issues, instead supporting the re-election of anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and religious zealot Democrats (Cuellar), the message is clear and the same old platitudes are ineffective.

As much as Democrats used Trump’s racist policies to get this majority, they have failed miserably to make change regarding migrant policies, choosing to continue draconian human rights-violating enforcement, detention, and deportation practices, all while expanding legitimate and illegitimate profiteering opportunities for equally bad people.

But most Democrats will remain willfully ignorant of all of this and continue to support the incumbent leadership which continues to fail, well, everyone. Those who will definitely not like my comments probably get a paycheck from political leadership that has failed. Go figure. Anyway…

Locally, we heard that Sheriff Ed Gonzalez finally told the Biden Administration he was withdrawing his name from consideration to be the ICE Director after Senate inaction on a confirmation vote. Way to go, Ed! You don’t need to be tainted by inaction and bigoted policies that our own Party fails to change or even challenge.

I thought I’d sleep off my lack of hope, but I still remain lacking in hope this morning.

Durbin Doubts Biden Immigration Plan Can Pass

I was surprised to see an article in which the US Senate’s top immigration reform pusher, Senator Dick Durbin, has deemed President Biden’s immigration reform bill as unlikely to be passed. Durbin does suggest that a peacemeal approach be taken, and various bills regarding undocumented farm worker citizenship and the usual DREAM Act have been discussed.

“I think Speaker Pelosi has discovered she doesn’t have the support for a comprehensive bill in the House,” Durbin said. “And I think that indicates where it is in the Senate as well.”

Biden has proposed a plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living illegally in the U.S., would bolster assistance to Central American countries and would ease immigration for people fleeing violence. Republicans declared the proposal, which did not include any added resources to secure the border, dead on arrival.

Bloomberg, 3/15/2021

Blaming the current surge on the border by children fleeing violence and poverty for not supporting immigration reform is the weakest excuse I have ever heard; however, the Republicans are doing a job of blaming Democrats for something that isn’t a new thing. And Democrats are doing their usual best to avoid a debate–the fight that is needed to educate the public. In this case, blaming children (victims) is pretty sick.

Congressional Republicans and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have seized the moment to place blame on “the other” while the Biden administration and a Democratic Senate and House have been left with the job of addressing COVID-19 and all the crises that go with that, the day to day governance of the nation, and the issues brought on by crappy US policies on Latin America.

After the wreckage that was left at Homeland Security by Trump, which includes the uncontrolled bad behavior of the Border Patrol and their union, a purposely broken asylum system, and an inhumane immigration and detention system, the Biden administration has been left with quite a job that must be done as crises continue. And without Republican cooperation.

Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas has stated that much is being done with “great speed” to address the issues that were worsened by Trump. However, these issues have been around for a long time and have been worsened by both sides of the aisle for decades. Unless root causes of migration (right-wing regime corruption, poverty and violence) are addressed, there is not much that can be done that will not include some semblance of inhumanity on our side of Trump’s border wall, be it kiddie jails in the middle of nowhere or the treatment of migrants at the border and elsewhere, or continued buttressing of right-wing zealots in Central and South America.

The Biden administration is attempting some more humane ideas, including ending the Trump administration detention trap of family members who would pick up (or claim) an unaccompanied minor. They have also called in FEMA to address the processing of the unaccompanied minors, which I hope means professional administrators and paper pushers and not your usual two-finger, law enforcement-type typists. Whatever gets these kids out of the freezer-like environment of immigration warehouses faster and efficiently.

As I’ve always said about immigration reform, it’s all about the fight. Republicans thrive on hate and there are a few Democrats who do so, as well. Democrats must go it alone, and that means putting the screws to “moderates” who will render a majority useless if left unchecked.