A Citizen Co-Sponsor of the REMOTE Act by Karie Luidens

Martin Heinrich.jpg

What a timely email I got from my U.S. Senator this morning. Sign me up, sir.

From: Martin Heinrich <info@martinheinrich.com>
Date: Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 9:29 AM
Subject: Will you become a citizen co-sponsor?
To: Karie Luidens <kluidens@gmail.com>

Unlike President Trump, I’m focusing on the real emergency at our Southern border: the tragic and preventable deaths of migrant children.

I want to tell you more about how the legislation I recently introduced will tackle this issue, but if you’re ready for progress on this issue, then please click here to become a citizen co-sponsor of the REMOTE Act: http://nm.martinheinrich.com/REMOTE-Act

The Trump administration’s immigration policies are forcing asylum seekers to attempt a dangerous journey of crossing between major ports of entry.

In recent months, the number of migrants attempting to cross our border in these remote areas has increased, but the amount of emergency personnel and medical equipment in these areas has largely remained stagnant.

The lack of resources has already led to the tragic deaths of minors. We cannot allow this public health crisis to continue.

That’s why I joined with fellow border state Senators to introduce the Remote, Emergency, Medical, Online Training, Telehealth, and EMT (REMOTE) Act. Please, join us by becoming a citizen co-sponsor today →


The REMOTE Act will ensure that DHS agents at the border have the resources to adequately care for migrants entering the United States in desolate, and often understaffed, areas.

Families seeking asylum from persecution and violence should not risk severe health problems, and even death, because of a lack of resources near our border. My legislation is a pragmatic and responsible way to address these unspeakable tragedies.

Please, help me spread the word about this legislation by adding your name as a citizen co-sponsor: http://nm.martinheinrich.com/REMOTE-Act

Thank you,


Please Send Emergency Medical Services by Karie Luidens


Southern New Mexico medical facilities strained to meet the needs of migrants

Lauren Villagran, Searchlight New Mexico
Published 11:58 a.m. MT Feb. 7, 2019

ANTELOPE WELLS - Half a dozen children gazed up at the camera, their eyes wide beneath hats and hoodies, hands buried in their pockets or nuzzled in the necks of their mothers. Floodlights illuminated some faces and left others in darkness.

It was after midnight in New Mexico’s remote Bootheel region, and with the temperature hovering near freezing, a Border Patrol agent snapped the photo. Nearly 150 miles away, the tiny emergency room of the Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City — the nearest 24-hour hospital — was on notice. Some of the children would need medical care for illness, others for injury. […]

Hospitals and clinics from Silver City to Deming, Lordsburg, and Alamogordo have treated [migrant] children for flu, dehydration, rashes, scabies, sprains and other ailments. Border Patrol reported that one of the adults in the group of 306 that arrived last week was suffering from a “flesh-eating bacteria,” or necrotizing fasciitis — an infection that rarely spreads person to person.

Dehydration, poor nutrition and harsh weather leave migrants susceptible to stomach viruses and the flu, and then there is the emotional trauma of leaving behind family and country. For the kids, “the risks are enormous,” said Marlene Baska, a physician assistant who runs a clinic in Animas — a Bootheel ranching town with a population of 267 — that sees children in Border Patrol custody. […]

On Dec. 26, Hidalgo County Manager Tisha Green fired off “an urgent request” to then governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state’s congressional delegation pleading for assistance.

“Our Hidalgo County Emergency Medical Services team consists of seven full-time employees and five volunteers” who cover 5,000 square miles, she wrote. “At the very least we can say they are stretched very thin. Please send emergency medical services to assist us with the overwhelming number of immigrants coming in daily.”

The 28th Large Group by Karie Luidens

Antelope Wells Migrants (2019-01-16).jpg

Large Groups of Aliens Continue to Illegally Enter at Antelope Wells

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Media Release
Release Date: February 11, 2019

ANTELOPE WELLS, N.M. – One minute past midnight on Monday, February 11, 2019, another large group of 330 illegal aliens were taken into custody by Border Patrol Agents working at Camp Bounds Forward Operating Base at the Antelope Wells Port of Entry.

This group, like others before, is comprised primarily of Central American families and unaccompanied juveniles. Border Patrol EMT’s provided initial medical screenings and determined that none of the subjects required immediate medical attention. This is an ongoing situation that Border Patrol Agents face in southern New Mexico: hundreds of parents and children being encountered by agents after having faced a dangerous journey in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers. This the 28th large group of over 100 people since the beginning of the fiscal year in this area alone in the El Paso Sector. Similar large groups are being encountered at other border locations as well.

Criminal organizations continue to exploit innocent human lives in order to enhance their illicit activities without due regard to the risks of human life. In most cases these smugglers never cross the border themselves in order to avoid apprehension.

Population: Please Line Up by Karie Luidens

Hamid Khaleghi Unsplash.jpg

What if I had stayed the night down at New Mexico’s southern border? Suppose I’d pitched my tent among the bunchgrass and tumbleweeds off the side of NM-81, at the edge of someone’s ranch just north of the Antelope Wells port of entry.

I’d probably have had a frosty, wind-tossed night alone under the Milky Way.

Unless, by chance, I was there on one of the nights when a large group of migrants crossed.

They’d come by bus on Carretera Federal 2, the Mexican highway that runs parallel to the border a couple miles to the south. Dozens of families, parents shushing their children, teens who’d traveled a thousand miles or more alone through Mexico. They’d be wearing sweatshirts and jackets, hats, but nothing heavy enough to guard against the dangerously cold desert air.

At first I wouldn’t realize they were out there, walking toward me through the sand. Then I’d hear not just the wind against my tent—not just coyotes rustling in the brush—but human voices in the distance. Some Spanish, some Q’eqchi’ or other Mayan languages. Whispers; a shout or two to call for help.

Antelope Wells, hardly a place, unincorporated land, forty-five miles south of the last populated place on the highway. Antelope Wells, population: 2—the two Customs and Border officers on duty. 

If I camped out there in the freezing night, on the edge of federal land or state highway or private ranch, my presence would increase the population by 50%. Antelope Wells, population: 3.

With each migrant slipping through the barbed wire fence from Mexico into New Mexico, the population would grow and grow. In a matter of minutes it would increase a hundredfold. Antelope Wells, population: please line up so we can count as we take you into custody.

Looking Out Across Expanses of Nothing by Karie Luidens


I spent just one long afternoon exploring New Mexico’s Bootheel; by the time I drove the hundreds of miles north toward home, the sun had set and the stars were out.

Even if I’d wanted to stay the night, where would I have slept? As far as I can tell, the only hotels there are way out on the Arizona border in an unincorporated community called Rodeo (pop. 101: Rusty’s RV Ranch, the Painted Pony Resort), or 92 miles north of Antelope Wells in Lordsburg, the county seat.

That’s Hidalgo County, which has a population of 4,894 over 3,446 square miles—1.2 people per square mile. Lordsburg is by far the largest city around: with 2,797 residents, it’s home to over half the county’s population.

I think the Hidalgo County official visitors page is so delightful, I’ll let it speak for itself:

Hidalgo County, also known as New Mexico’s Bootheel

Hidalgo County would classify as being "stuck in the past" in many ways. If you meet someone driving the opposite direction, we still do the "pass salute," the tip of the hand straightened up from the steering wheel to acknowledge friendliness. One visitor asked why people were giving him a signal when he met, thinking that there was some secret language he didn't know. The salute is just a greeting, like others around here-a nod, fingertips to the hat brim, a smile. Folks are friendly around these parts.

A lot of people work the land--either by raising animals or by growing crops. They are usually a bit dirty and dusty, but they won't apologize for it. The land here is cherished and kept for generations in a family, and having a bit of it on your boots or jeans is no shame.

Visitors often ask, "What do you DO around here for fun?" Catch a country dance, bird-watch, read, sing, ride a horse, shoot the bull. Many folks around here are very content with watching the sky or looking out across expanses of nothing surrounded by mountains for entertainment.

Antelope Wells is Hardly a Place by Karie Luidens

Antelope Wells Port of Entry.JPG

It didn’t make any sense for me to drive the last forty-five miles to Antelope Wells. There was nothing there for me to see—really, nothing. Antelope Wells is not a town, it’s unincorporated land. The only structure there is the Customs and Border facility. Its only inhabitants are a few rotating Customs and Border employees. It’s only open to non-commercial crossings from 10am to 4pm daily, and it’s the least trafficked of all forty-three ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Deming Headlight article already said it: Hachita was “the last populated place on the highway to the Antelope Wells port of entry.”

If you thought that description sounds extreme, another article in the same paper goes further: “Antelope Wells is hardly a place, other than for port infrastructure at the terminus of State Road 81.”

But I’d come this far in my journey along the U.S.-Mexico border. I wanted to go all the way and see that now-famous non-place with my own eyes. Breathe its sky, watch its dust blow, hear its grasses brushing. So I kept driving, and driving, and driving through all that empty ranch land. And finally, at the end of the forty-five mile road, there it was—the Antelope Wells port of entry.

As the speck of buildings grew on the horizon, I began to play a conversation in my mind. “Good afternoon, officer. No, I’m not planning to cross the border today. I actually forgot my passport, ha! Yes, I knew I didn’t have it before I came all this way. I knew I couldn’t cross. Why did I come? Oh, just to check out your facilities. See what it’s like here. Smell the cows and feel the wind blowing up from Mexico.”

I wondered how the Customs officer would react. Would he laugh? He—I pictured a he, for sure, in a uniform with a gun on his hip. Did Customs officers carry handguns, or just Border Patrol agents out on patrol? Regardless. Would he laugh, or would he be suspicious? I’ve been through enough Border Patrol checkpoints driving around Texas to know they don’t need reasonable suspicion or probable cause to glare and interrogate you like you’re a criminal suspect. But what would they suspect me of? Smuggling drugs, migrating illegally? This is where my whiteness, my blondness, my femaleness would all serve me well. Which is bullshit, since no matter my race or sex, I had every right to drive down New Mexico’s Bootheel. I was an American citizen on American soil, driving my own vehicle on a public road.

Still, the closer I got, the tenser I felt.

A quarter mile from the border, I pulled over. I turned off the engine. The sounds of the desert swirled through the car as I sat, paralyzed in thought.

Suddenly my phone vibrated. For the first time in hours, I had cell service: TELCEL 3G, one bar. The text message on my lock screen read “Welcome to Mexico.”

I laughed.

I took a photo of the Antelope Wells port of entry a thousand feet up the road.

Then I started the engine, glanced back at the absolute emptiness of the road behind me, and pulled a U-turn. Heading north again, I passed a sign as blue as the sky all around: “NEW MEXICO true WELCOMES YOU.” Only forty-five miles to the first populated place on the highway.

The Last Populated Place on the Highway by Karie Luidens

Columbus, NM.JPG

After just over a hundred miles speeding west on NM-9, I planned to turn south onto NM-81.

I couldn’t have missed it if I tried. Scrub, ranch, scrub, ranch—then suddenly, right at the junction, there were signs of human life.

Relatively speaking. It was so eerily empty and quiet, I couldn’t tell if anyone still lived in the handful of broken-down structures labeled Hachita. I looked it up later, when I had cell service again. Here’s what I found:

Bootheel residents in southwestern NM deal with surge of migrants

Blake Gumprecht, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 11:16 a.m. MT Jan. 29, 2019

HACHITA - If you live in this tiny town at the entrance to New Mexico’s Bootheel region, population 34 (or 70, depending on the source), it’s easy to have a siege mentality. You have dogs. You erect a fence around your property.

You call the Border Patrol when you hear people rustling around in the abandoned double-wide next door.

This unincorporated community is the last populated place on the highway to the Antelope Wells port of entry, which has seen a surge in migrants apprehended after they cross the border illegally in recent months. Hachita is 45 miles north of the border.

So, as planned—I turned south at Hachita and drove the last forty-five miles to Antelope Wells.

New Mexico State Road 9 by Karie Luidens


It took me about two hours and forty-five minutes to drive from El Paso to the Antelope Wells port of entry.

As soon as I left the city limits, it was clear that the next hundred and fifty miles were going to be empty, empty, empty.

I lost cell service almost immediately.

In all my time on New Mexico State Road 9, which runs parallel to the U.S.-Mexico border, I think I saw a dozen or so other cars. Most were pickups. A few of the drivers, all men wearing cowboy hats, waved to me through their windshields as we passed each other. Twice I passed white Border Patrol SUVs, glowing white in the afternoon sun with solid green stripes on each side, far greener than anything in the terrain.

Otherwise it was just me and the pavement whipping along beneath my tires. I opened the windows to welcome the roar of mild February air, until a dust storm blew through, briefly swallowing everything in a swirl of opaque brown.

A couple times, where there was enough shoulder, I rolled to a slow stop, pulled off, and killed the engine.

The desert was so quiet, the hum of it seemed to grow louder the longer I stood listening.

Sand hissed as it rubbed and swirled through scrub and danced across the asphalt in pale ribbons.

The wind whistled. Dry bunchgrass flapped and shushed.

The odd piece of loose metal creaked in the distance, paused, creaked again, clanked softly: some strip of loose fencing from the barbed wire strung around endless ranches.

Tumbleweeds bounced and skittered across the road, the liveliest things in sight. The only creatures I saw in those hours were a few scatterings of black cattle, grazing and lounging indifferently.

As I drove, I knew the horizon on my left was Mexico. The border was never very far, often just a mile or two south of the road, but as the flatness began to undulate into larger and larger foothills, I only rarely caught sight of the low Normandy-style vehicle barriers that march along that otherwise imaginary boundary out here. They looked like a line of tiny black cross-stitches in the distance, or steel surgical staples. They were installed there to divide two countries, but whenever I glimpsed them I couldn’t help but feel they were suturing the land together.

West of El Paso by Karie Luidens

The city of El Paso, Texas, divides the U.S.-Mexico border neatly in two. It’s not just that it’s situated about halfway along the border’s length, although it is. It’s that it marks a turning point in the nature of the border.

Travel east of El Paso and you can follow the Rio Grande as it flows to the Gulf of Mexico, tracing the ripples of Texas’s southern outline as it goes. The land just past the city is wide open grassland, dry but not too dry—riparian. Its banks are lined with pecan orchards, cotton fields, cattle ranches, and fishermen. Eventually the current carves into the sheer rock walls of Big Bend National Park’s gorgeous canyons.

Travel west of El Paso, and the border is practically a straight shot to the Pacific Ocean. It doesn’t follow any sinuous natural feature; it’s all straight lines and angles set by governments and treaties in the mid to late 1800s. They were drawn by politicians in offices over a thousand miles away, and on a map they look tidy. On the ground, though, those lines cut through rolling deserts and rugged mountains. They divide the land arbitrarily. Or at least they claim to—the land doesn’t know or care that we think there are lines across it.

That’s the stretch of remote land where large groups of asylum seekers from Central America have been crossing lately.

That’s the stretch of border that interests me right now.

That’s the stretch where I traveled next this past weekend: west of El Paso.

East of El Paso: the Rio Grande divides Mexico on the far side from the U.S. in the foreground.

West of El Paso: the view as I set out on New Mexico State Road 9.

West of El Paso: the view as I set out on New Mexico State Road 9.

Reclaiming the Border Patrol Museum by Karie Luidens

BP Museum (3).JPG

After my morning in downtown El Paso, I drove 12 miles north of the city into the ever-more-rugged foothills of the Franklin Mountains to visit the National Border Patrol Museum. It’s the only one in the country dedicated to the history and culture of the U.S. Border Patrol, and it’s funded entirely by donation—meaning, I assume, by enthusiastic supporters of the Border Patrol. How could I pass up the opportunity to see how B.P. agents and their fans depict themselves?

During my visit, the museum was practically empty and perfectly quiet. At the time, I had no idea that the activist group Tornillo: The Occupation was preparing a demonstration at the museum that afternoon. I knew they were planning some kind of protest in El Paso as part of their Weekend of Revolutionary Love, but they didn’t publicize their specific agenda in advance.

Imagine my shock later when I saw the group post on Facebook that, just an hour or two after I’d left, they peacefully stormed the museum’s entrance, sang songs of love in the lobby, waved banners in support of migrant children, made speeches, and pinned their own text and photos to the permanent exhibits.

Remember when I said Albuquerque was a small world? I had just run into my friend’s brother Nicolas at an event in town. Now I almost ran into him a second time, as he was one of the leaders of the protest at the Border Patrol Museum. How strange it would have been to cross paths once again—once again partly because of our shared interest in border issues, but still mostly by chance. And not in Albuquerque this time, but hundreds of miles away in Texas at a quirky little museum on the outskirts of El Paso.

Tornillo: The Occupation was live.

Saturday, February 16, 2019 at 2:19 PM

BREAKING! Direct Action: Reclaiming the border patrol museum and exposing the true violence of borders and border patrol.

Protesters Take Over U.S. Border Patrol Museum in El Paso

Staff Report, El Paso Herald-Post
February 16, 2019

The group sang and placed pictures of migrant children on several exhibits, until staff asked the group to leave. On one exhibit, featuring the photos of fallen agents, several photos of migrant children were placed on the display case.

By the time I read the group’s posts and watched their videos, the museum staff had demanded that they leave and called the cops. Military police from nearby Fort Bliss had blockaded the parking lot and temporarily detained all the activists while they collected everyone’s personal information and investigated the museum for potential damage. No one was arrested, but for a while there in the wake of the protest, tensions ran high.

I wonder—if I have known about the planned demonstration, would I have timed my museum visit accordingly and chosen to join the protesters?

If I had been a silent solo visitor in the exhibit at the moment they marched in singing, would I have stepped up and offered to help hold banners aloft, or would I have slunk away to watch from a safe distance?

If my car were blockaded into the lot with the others’ and the military police asked me whether I was with the protesters, how would I have answered?

I honestly don’t know. Having watched footage from the protest, I absolutely support the speakers’ message that this land was stolen from indigenous peoples and has, for ages, been a site of peaceful migrations in all directions; it’s a bloody shame for the latest nation-states on the scene to fence it off and prosecute the people trying to travel here. I agree that the messaging in the museum’s exhibits felt like sticky propaganda that glorified Border Patrol agents as heroes without providing any historical context, discussing the role of race and racism in border politics, examining agents’ use of violence in their work, or acknowledging the humanity of border crossers. After touring the museum, yes, I’d have been happy to jump into a pop-up protest against the museum’s biased messaging.

But my personal instincts are too reserved and nuanced to yell that border enforcement is genocide and agents are murderers. I’ve talked with and read books by multiple diverse Border Patrol agents; I know that their work involves rescues and first aid as often as it does chases and captures. That’s especially true these days as large groups of asylum seekers deliberately turn themselves in to the Border Patrol after crossing, at which point agents trained to perform law enforcement duties must suddenly try to provide shelter, water, food, medical attention, and transportation for dozens of families and children in remote, underequipped facilities. What good does it do to demonize every individual agent? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved if we instead advocated for more training and resources to immediately alleviate the humanitarian crisis on the ground, and pushed for changes in immigration policy in the long term so people could arrive safely and legally rather than desperately seek to cross in the desert and await the Border Patrol’s rescue?

I’d be a terrible speech-maker at a protest. No matter how strongly I feel about the issues—and I do feel strongly—I always end up sounding like a milquetoast moderate wringing her white hands rather than taking a stand.

If I’d been at the museum a couple hours later, or the protesters had arrived a couple hours earlier? I don’t know what I’d have done. I really don’t.

To Voyagers, Passers Through and Troubadors by Karie Luidens


After a cup of coffee and some time browsing the newspaper, I spent yesterday morning exploring the city of El Paso.

The journey began with a drive from my motel along Texas State Highway Loop 375, a length of freeway that traces the city’s curving boundary of steel fencing, concrete river channel, and—mostly obscured beyond that—Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

I parked at Chamizal National Memorial, a smallish park at El Paso’s southern edge that overlooks that fencing as well as the Puente Internacional Córdova De Las Americas, one of the city’s three bridges serving as official ports of entry to and from Mexico. At a glance, the bridge that arches over TX-375 and the Rio Grande looks like any other freeway ramp. Look closer and you’ll notice the tollbooth-style structures processing vehicles and passengers at its base. At the top of the bridge’s shallow parabola, U.S. and Mexican flags fly tall, framing the point where drivers and pedestrians cross from one nation to the next. Seen from the park, the port looked orderly and ordinary. I can’t believe I forgot to pack my passport—I bet I could’ve crossed over and back before lunch.

From the park, I drove a couple miles further west to El Paso’s downtown. I kept turning along back roads to get a feel for the rather rundown neighborhood closest to the border fence, and at one point briefly panicked when I almost turned onto the Puente Internacional Paso Del Norte by mistake. I’m sure if I did drive up to that port of entry without my passport, the officials there would just roll their eyes and direct me how to turn around on the U.S. side of the bridge before I hit Mexico. Still, I’d rather save everyone the trouble of dealing with me as an undocumented migrant attempting to cross the border.

When I made it downtown I parked on a side street and spent an hour walking among gleaming government buildings, office high rises, landscaped plazas, and the arts district. The day was bright, windy, and quiet—perfect for taking in the sights of what I found to be a beautiful city center. The handful of times I did cross paths with a fellow pedestrian, we each smiled in greeting—I said “good morning,” they said “buenos días.”

A few transcriptions to caption the photos I took:

  • Mayor Dee Margo’s letter in the “Visit El Paso” official visitors guide that I picked up in the motel lobby: “I would like to welcome you to El Paso—the Sun City. We are the 19th largest city in the United States, the sixth largest city in Texas and the largest city on the US-Mexico border—we are three states, two countries and one region of 2.7 million people. I sincerely hope you enjoy the rich culture that makes our border town a unique staple in our nation. Amongst many recognitions, we are proud to say El Paso has the lowest crime rate in the US for cities with populations over 500,000 for the fifth year in a row.”

  • Inscription beneath a downtown sculpture of Fray García de San Francisco, Founder of the Pass of the North, 1659: “TO VOYAGERS, PASSERS THROUGH AND TROUBADORS, FORAGERS CRAFTING A WORLD FROM SAND, GRANITE AND LIMITED WATERS”

  • Description painted on a mural in the El Paso Arts District: “This mural depicts five endangered species found in the US/Mexico borderlands: the Chiricahua Leopard Frog, Ocelot, Mexican Gray World, Northern Aplomado Falcon, and Steed’s Pincushion cactus. These species deserve freedom of movement and our protection.”

El Pasoans and Fronterizos by Karie Luidens


First thing I did this morning, upon waking up in a motel room on the east side of El Paso: go buy a copy of the El Paso Times. I don’t normally spring for daily newspapers, but I was in a border city the day after Trump declared the border a national emergency. I had to see what the locals were saying.

The top headline came in question form: “Where will Trump find $8 billion?” Below that, still above the fold: “El Paso leaders blast Trump.”

El Paso leaders blast Trump

Emergency declaration called ‘dangerous’
Madlin Mekelburg and María Cortés González
El Paso Times
Saturday, February 16, 2019

El Paso leaders and immigrant rights groups Friday [2/15/19] criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to pay for the border wall, saying no such crisis exists and vowing to fight the order in court.

Here’s a sampling of what those leaders said in the body of the article, which spilled onto 4A and took up three quarters of that page, too:

  • U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D, District 16): “El Pasoans and fronterizos across the country know that there is no national emergency. Instead, this administration has manufactured a crisis that has used their communities as ground zero to implement President Trump’s cruel policies towards immigrants and asylum-seeking children and families.”

  • U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R, District 23): “What we should be talking about is the strategy on how we defend our border, not one specific tool, which is the wall. And I’ve been very clear. Building a 30-foot-high concrete structure from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security.”

  • State Rep. César Blanco (D, District 76): “Trump’s national emergency declaration for his border wall is dangerous and radical. There is no national security crisis on the border. The only crisis we have is a humanitarian crisis.”

  • State Sen. José Rodríguez (D, District 29): “El Pasoans know the reality of the border firsthand. While I, and, frankly, the government's own security agencies categorically reject the notion that the border poses an unmet national security threat, we also all recognize the very real issue of smuggling of people and contraband that must be met with smart, focused law enforcement and adequate judiciary. El Paso meets this challenge every day without demonizing immigrants or border communities.”

  • U.S. Catholic bishops, including El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz and leaders from other dioceses such as Laredo, TX, Las Cruces, NM, and Tucson, AZ: “As Catholic bishops of dioceses along the US-Mexico border, joined by some of our brother bishops across the nation, we oppose further construction of a border wall.” Their statement went on to say that the wall would only further subject asylum seekers to “harm by drug cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers,” and force them into remote regions that would put them at greater risk of death. The bishops said that “we oppose the declaration of a national emergency and the transfer of funds to construct a border wall” and instead urge more humanitarian ways of dealing with immigration.

El Paso by Karie Luidens


I’m not sure what’s next. No one ever is. (If they act like they are, exercise skepticism.)

For tonight, I just know that I made it to El Paso. And personally—maybe it’s just me—but I cherish seeing Mexico there on the horizon. Seeing how indistinguishable our two nations are, people intermingling at the border, the distinction reduced to a single bridge or two cities melded into one cityscape from the height of a mountainside. Knowing in my bones that the land is all one mass and always has been. Reminding myself that the border isn’t really an existential delineation, it’s just a row of little black popsicle sticks stuck in the dirt, for now, but not forever.

National Emergency, Personal Trip by Karie Luidens


This morning, while President Trump stood in the Rose Garden announcing that there was a national emergency on the border, I was loading an overnight bag into my car. My plan: drive four hours south from Albuquerque through southern New Mexico to El Paso, Texas. To the border. To the heart of the so-called emergency.

I’ve been to El Paso once before. In fact, in the last two years I’ve visited the U.S.-Mexican border more times than Trump, who’s only come four times. Me, I’ve touched the steel slats that divide San Diego from Tijuana, driven east through the desert of southern California and Arizona, walked up to the fence separating Nogales, Arizona, from Nogales, Mexico. (Border cities tend to rise in symbiotic pairs.) 

I haven’t crossed into Mexico by foot or car—yet—but I’ve come close. I’ve peered across ports of entry from El Paso into Juárez, Del Rio into Ciudad Acuña, Laredo into Nuevo Laredo, and Brownsville into Matamoros. I’ve heard Pacific waves crash through the bollards that extend out into the ocean, sat cross-legged on the dirt banks of the Rio Grande eating a picnic lunch in Big Bend National Park across the way from a friendly fisherman (he waved and called “¡Hola!”), and walked the glistening sand of the Gulf of Mexico at Texas’s southeasterly tip where it slips into the sea. 

Sea to shining sea. All in the span of a few weeks last winter.

And today, in spite of the so-called crisis at the border, I packed my bag and followed the Rio Grande’s flow from Albuquerque south to El Paso, where it transforms from a silty wash of river into a moat channeled through a man-made concrete chute.

In Albuquerque, where the Rio Grande’s flow merely slides through a single city, I like to walk dirt trails through the cottonwood forests that line its banks and watch for migrating birds gliding on its surface.

In El Paso, where the Rio Grande suddenly becomes an international boundary, I won’t be able to approach it: ever since 2008, the river there is lined with more steel bollard wall. 

Still, I’m going. National emergency or no, I knew I’d be back eventually. Later maybe I’ll read and watch what the president had to say in the Rose Garden. For now, I’m going to go see what I can see for myself. 

Amor y Amistad by Karie Luidens


Valentine’s Day—a day we celebrate love. I recently learned that in some Latin American countries it’s also called Día del Amor y la Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship) or Día del Cariño (Day of Affection).

I’m writing late in the afternoon. What’s happened so far today?

Immigrant rights activists gathered in Tornillo, Texas, to kick off their Weekend of Revolutionary Love. Per the press advisory the group posted on Facebook an hour ago:

Activists with Tornillo: The Occupation launch of their weekend of Revolutionary Love, from February 14th-18th, to disrupt migrant detention, deportation, and murder.

"The El Paso region is ground zero for a corrupt and broke immigration system, there are many detention centers that are operating with impunity and are largely unnoticed. This weekend aims to continue the spread of a culture of resistance in El Paso, and across the nation." Elizabeth Vega, organizer Tornillo: The Occupation.

The group will be doing art-based creative Direct actions over the course of the weekend bringing attention to other detention centers in the area that largely operate unnoticed.

Meanwhile, back in Washington:

Trump Plans National Emergency to Build Border Wall as Senate Passes Spending Bill

By Peter Baker and Emily Cochrane
Feb. 14, 2019

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to declare a national emergency so he can bypass Congress and build his long-promised wall along the border even as he signs a spending bill that does not fund it, the White House said Thursday.

The announcement of his decision came just minutes before the Senate voted 82-16 to advance the spending package in anticipation of final passage on Thursday night by the House. […]

The border security compromise, tucked into the $49 billion portion of the bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security, is perhaps the most stinging legislative defeat of Mr. Trump’s presidency. It provides $1.375 billion for 55 miles of steel-post fencing, essentially the same that Mr. Trump rejected in December, triggering the shutdown and far from the $5.7 billion he demanded for more than 200 miles of steel or concrete wall.

In opting to declare a national emergency, Mr. Trump would seek to access funds for the wall that Congress had not explicitly authorized for the purpose, a provocative move that would test the bounds of presidential authority in a time of divided government.

So. It appears the federal government won’t partially shut down (again) at midnight tomorrow night, as would have happened if Congress failed to pass budget legislation.

The legislation that the Senate just passed, and that’s set to pass the House tonight, is riddled with compromises on immigration and border security—funding for more Border Patrol agents and I.C.E. detention facilities, but nowhere near the amount of money Trump demanded to construct his long-promised wall.

What a strange mix of art-making and deal-cutting, inclusiveness and provocation, rallying together and dividing the country. Acts of love and acts of fearmongering. Offering some hope and declaring a crisis.

This is just the beginning. What comes next?

Don’t Just Imagine, Demand by Karie Luidens


Weekend of Resistance for Migrant Justice

Public · Hosted by Tornillo: The Occupation
Feb 14 at 12 PM – Feb 18 at 12 AM CST
Tornillo, TX & Everywhere

Activists in Tornillo, Texas are calling for a national weekend of Revolutionary Love February 14th-18th, 2019 to disrupt migrant detention, deportation, and murder. After holding an encampment outside the Tornillo youth detention camp since December 23rd, we are calling for all people of conscience to join us in a national weekend of action guided by love for our people. And that love turned to action means freeing all those detained in migrant detention facilities.


Tornillo: The Occupation demands the freedom and liberation of all people. We understand the current crisis at the US-Mexico border and throughout the US immigration system as part of a longer history of racialized violence, environmental injustice, queer and trans-phobia, and mass incarceration. This is why we believe it is important to connect the fight against migrant detention with indigenous peoples’ struggles to protect land and water, with access to clean water in Flint, with the criminalization of those who resist and provide humanitarian aid for migrants crossing the desert, and with the ongoing feminicides of cisgender and trans women of Juárez.

While we are at this moment directly placing the focus of our protests on those suffering inside immigration detention facilities and in solidarity with those immigrants in detention currently on a hunger strike protesting their treatment, we also understand the interlocking nature of ALL our struggles. We truly know that none are free until all are free. For this reason, we demand that the systems which oppress us, criminalize us, dehumanize us and continue to inflict genocide upon us END. While the work is ongoing, our goal of this weekend of resistance is to offer hope to people suffering inside immigration detention facilities and send a strong message to politicians and people of conscience around the country that we are fighting together through EL PODER DE NUESTRA GENTE!

While we believe that the abolishment of ICE, Customs and Border Patrol and Homeland Security is essential to the liberation of all people, we also recognize that thousands of human beings are currently being directly impacted by these systems. For this reason, with regard to the kidnapping and detention of our people WE DEMAND:

That all forms of incarceration as "solutions" to processing migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees end immediately.

That families who present for asylum at the border not be held in Border Patrol jails ever and be released to their sponsors immediately. If they do have to await processing, that it is not in a jail but rather in alternatives that provide adequate nutrition, water, medical care and compassionate support provided by the US government, which is responsible for the destabilization of their countries.

The immediate return of ALL of the 10,000+ children still separated from their parents because of Trump’s zero tolerance policy and that all unification expenses INCLUDING travel be funded by the US government who separated these families.

The humane release of all migrants currently in detention and a stop to the cruel practices of mass releases of refugees on the street without proper support or resources to find their way to their sponsors or tend to their families. We believe that it is the US government’s responsibility to give them basic humane support upon release.

That the demands of the refugees who are currently on a hunger strike protesting the cruel treatment of asylum seekers in processing centers be met, an immediate end to the retaliatory and violent force feeding they are currently being subjected to and that their acts of courage not be used as an excuse for their deportation.

That charges are immediately dropped on the nine No More Death volunteers and we call for an end to the criminalization and destruction of humanitarian aid across the country.

Imagine True Greatness by Karie Luidens

Statue of Liberty.jpg

It doesn’t have to be this way. I mean—the U.S.-Mexico border doesn’t have to be militarized; ports of entry don’t have to meter asylum seekers; whether they’re coming in search of work or safe haven, people don’t have to risk their lives crossing remote deserts just to reach American soil.

If there is a border crisis, it’s one exacerbated if not created by U.S. policies. And U.S. policies can be changed.

Imagine if, instead of demanding we pour our tax money into constructing a border wall, the federal government poured money into expanding staff and resources at ports of entry.

Imagine if, instead of restricting people’s access to those ports of entry, federal agents proactively greeted would-be immigrants with the paperwork and translators they needed to efficiently submit their application for asylum.

Imagine if, now that asylum seekers were proceeding smoothly through ports of entry, the Border Patrol was no longer expected to handle a huge influx of humanitarian cases at remote desert facilities, and was free to pursue its actual mission of monitoring the terrain for criminal activity and performing basic law enforcement.

Imagine if, instead of paying millions of dollars to hold people in detention for days, weeks, or indefinitely, I.C.E. encouraged them to proceed to their sponsor’s homes to await their hearings or directed them how to seek humanitarian aid in the U.S.

Imagine if, instead of dumping busloads of newly-released, traumatized, penniless immigrants on the doorsteps of charities staffed by volunteers and funded by donations, the government redirected I.C.E.’s funding into coordinating each person’s travel plans and providing them with a few days’ worth of basic supplies to ensure they don’t end up suddenly homeless on our cities’ wintry streets.

Imagine if, instead of claiming that the wealthiest country on earth doesn’t have the resources to take in more than a handful of asylum seekers a day, the government reallocated millions of taxpayer dollars from showy military deployments on the border to hiring squadrons of lawyers who can help process their asylum applications as quickly as possible.

Do we Americans really believe that we’re simultaneously the greatest nation in the world, and yet incapable of absorbing a few thousand desperately poor newcomers who just want the opportunity to live safely and work hard and pay taxes like everyone else?

Imagine if, instead of insisting that Congress fund a towering barrier from the Pacific Coast to the Gulf of Mexico, our president honored the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty and actually welcomed immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees to our land.

Is it so hard to imagine?

We Have Exacerbated Underlying Problems by Karie Luidens


On Friday, the same day that New Mexico’s southern border received its 27th large group of asylum seekers since October 2018, Congressman Beto O’Rourke published a new essay. As the former U.S. Representative of Texas District 16, which includes the city of El Paso and its stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, he apparently felt the need to speak up at this moment to address our immigration situation’s—well—symptoms and causes:

Beto O'Rourke
Feb 8

The President is coming to El Paso Monday [2/11/19]. He will promise a wall and will repeat his lies about the dangers that immigrants pose. With El Paso as the backdrop, he will claim that this city of immigrants was dangerous before a border fence was built here in 2008.

Beyond refuting his comments about border communities like ours […] it’s worth thinking about how we got to this place. How it came to be that 11 million undocumented immigrants call America home, how we came to militarize our border, how we arrived at such a disconnect between our ideals, our values, the reality of our lives — and the policies and political rhetoric that govern immigration and border security.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the challenges we face are largely of our own design — a function of the unintended consequences of immigration policy and the rhetoric we’ve used to describe immigrants and the border. At almost every step of modern immigration policy and immigration politics, we have exacerbated underlying problems and made things worse. Sometimes with the best of intentions, sometimes with the most cynical exploitation of nativism and fear.

He goes on to summarize the last century or so of the United States’ policies toward people’s migration from (and back to) Mexico. To summarize his summary:

  • In 1942, the U.S. and Mexico jointly instituted the “bracero program,” which encouraged Mexican workers to come to the U.S. as manual laborers and guaranteed decent living and working conditions for them while they were here.

  • In 1965, the U.S. ended this program. Legally, most Mexican workers were no longer permitted to enter the country or work here; in reality, none of the economic conditions changed overnight. A O’Rourke puts it, “after decades of employing this labor, with our economy dependent on the laborers and the laborers dependent on access to the U.S. job market, the system of low-cost Mexican labor didn’t go away.” Mexican workers continued to migrate here, but suddenly they went from documented to undocumented.

  • Politicians began using frightening language to “gin up anxiety and paranoia” and push “every more repressive policies to deter their entry.”

  • Ironically, these harsher and harsher policies actually “caused the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States to grow.” Militarizing the border meant it was no longer safe for laborers to cross back and forth seasonally. Instead, once they were in the U.S. they stayed put and gradually sent for their family members to join them here.

  • “In addition, walls and fences authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 pushed migration flows to ever more treacherous stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 4,500 human beings died crossing the border from 2006 to 2017.

Which brings us to the present situation:

In recent years, as Mexican migration slowed and then reversed (more Mexican nationals going south to Mexico than coming north to the United States), and as total undocumented immigration reached its lowest levels in modern history, the country was met with the challenge of tens of thousands of Central American families fleeing violence and brutality to petition for asylum in our country.

This too is an unintended consequence. Our involvement in the civil wars and domestic politics of Central American countries, in addition to our ability to consume more illegal drugs than any other country on the planet while leading a military- and law enforcement-first drug control policy, has helped to destroy the institutions of civil society necessary for those countries to function. They can no longer protect their citizens, and their citizens are coming to us.

Symptoms and Causes by Karie Luidens


How does anyone convince himself that a border wall would stop all activity on the U.S.-Mexico border?

How does he not see that it’s the bluntest, dumbest band-aid smacked atop a massively complex and organic situation?

If illegal border crossings are the problem, then I guess a “powerful barrier” is the solution.

But they’re not. They’re a symptom.

The root causes of illegal border crossings: Decades of European colonialism and U.S. interventionism in Latin America setting up banana republics and impoverished undemocratic states. Years of economic exploitation wreaking havoc on local economic self-sufficiency, driving Latin Americans to seek work in the U.S. and U.S. employers to hire them with or without documentation. The War on Drugs fueling an increasingly ruthless ecosystem of cartels and trafficking to meet the demands of American black markets. Rising poverty and violence driving people to leave their homes in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua—even while the U.S.’s immigration policies restrict who can come legally and where they can cross safely.

Trump doesn’t even acknowledge any of these root causes, let alone address them. He talks as if steel fencing and militarized enforcement will simply stop people from trying to immigrate. We know that’s not the case; we know that desperate people take desperate measures. The U.S. has helped create desperate situations in these people’s home countries. They will continue to come.

The question isn’t whether a wall or fence will “fix” this symptom. It’s whether we’ll acknowledge the root causes that drive people to approach our southern border—and whether, when they arrive, we’ll greet asylum seekers and other would-be immigrants with a humane and efficient immigration system, or continue to inflame the region’s troubles and endanger people’s lives with bottlenecks and backlogs.

The 27th Large Group of Migrants by Karie Luidens


Two weeks later, to the day, it’s happened again:

Border Patrol takes nearly 300 migrants into custody near Antelope Wells

Friday, February 8th, 2019 at 6:35pm

U.S. Border Patrol agents took another large group of migrants into custody Friday morning [2/8/19] near the remote Antelope Wells border crossing in southwest New Mexico.

“Border Patrol agents working at the Camp Bounds (Forward Operating Base) early (Friday) morning observed a large group illegally crossing the border and making their way into the United States,” according to a news release from Border Patrol.

The 290 migrants included people from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras.

A child from Guatemalan who showed “signs of an illness” during the screening process was transported to an area hospital with his father for treatment. […]

The Friday group is the 27th large group of migrants taken into custody in Antelope Wells since October. Most are parents with children and unaccompanied minors from Central America seeking asylum.