For some time now I have been developing my thesis that El Paso is unfriendly towards immigrants, contrary to the general notion that many believe. As a border city, El Paso is assumed to be friendly towards immigrants, especially those from México. But my personal experience exposed me to the exact opposite. El Paso is not friendly towards immigrants.

Through posts I have shared with you examples of this unknown reality. I have discussed the duplicity of the municipal identification cards. I have also demonstrated how El Paso’s public policy proves El Paso’s unfriendliness towards immigrants, although the public policy rhetoric from the politicos creates a different illusion.

Generally most people, when asked if El Paso is a sanctuary city, would argue that it is. Most of them will point to El Paso as being 80% or more Hispanic, or that it is on the border, or that it is a Democrat stronghold. But when compared to cities like Austin, who is a sanctuary city, the El Paso duplicity is exposed.

The underlining issue is money. Specifically, it is about federal tax dollars.

As I have written numerous times before, El Paso’s economy is an illusion based on federal tax dollars. There is little to no private economy and thus El Paso’s future is wholly dependent on tax dollars for its economy. This has created the necessity for illusions.

Take the issue of the jail that Vince Perez recently exposed. El Paso’s economy depends on getting paid by the federal government to keep undocumented immigrants in jail. At the same time, Veronica Escobar publicly argues against the Texas SB4 legislation and the County files suit against it. It creates for a great illusion.

But that is what it is – an illusion.

The Border Network for Human Rights is publicly known as the defender of immigrant rights. In some ways, it has succeeded in correcting some abuses, but along the way it had to make a pact with the devil, if you will.

Let me explain.

The Border Network has been leading the drive to implementing a municipal identification card in El Paso. The idea is to benefit the undocumented in the city, or so many believe. But there is another agenda at play.

First, I have expressed before that if the goal is to provide identification to the undocumented immigrants in the community, a simple and tax neutral first step would be to convince the local government entities to accept the Mexican matricula consular as identification for City and County entities. The federal government already does. But the Border Network has been resistant to do so, instead, continuing to push the municipal identification agenda forth.

The question is why?

On Sunday, June 25, 2017, the El Paso Times published It is but a river and so much more by Bill Knight. The article profiled, Fernando Garcia, the founding director of the Border Network for Human Rights. Garcia founded the BNHR in 1998. The newspaper article gives us a glimpse as to an underlining reason for the immigration duplicity.

As per the newspaper article quoting Garcia, “In 1998 I [Garcia] was invited to come to El Paso for a project…I’ve worked with Veronica Escobar and Susie Byrd on the Border Rights Coalition and that is the precursor” of the BNHR.

Susie Byrd is also quoted by the paper as follows:

“Fernando has a large number of skills as an organizer. He is very sophisticated and very strategic. He has been able to reach people by councils of immigrants and they will have meetings with as many as 500 people. You see very few advocacy organizations that are so tied to their group.”

Those of you who follow El Paso politics closely and those of you who regularly read my blog see the nexus.

For those uninitiated in El Paso politics let me give you a quick recap. Veronica Escobar is the current offshoot of the public policy agenda initiated by Ray Caballero, Eliot Shapleigh and Jose Rodriguez in 2001. I have demonstrated on my blog how they have built a voting bloc over time by using nonprofits, such as the Community Scholars, to incubate future legislators. It is my belief that they pad the City and County and other government offices to keep the public policy agenda going. The public policy agenda is the illusion of taxpayer funded economic prosperity in the city. I write illusion because I believe it is an unsustainable economic policy that is likely to crash in the future.

But stacking the political offices needs a voting block to ensure they get elected into office.

As you read the rest of the newspaper article you get to see how a voting block is created.

From the paper:

“We trained human rights promoters…from 1999 to 2001 we underwent very intense training and educational process. We taught the first amendment, the fourth amendment, the sixth amendment, the 14th amendment. Each person had to have a diploma from the Border Network before they went out to the neighborhoods…they went out with those tools and they would teach in houses, in community centers, in parks, in churches…so far we have trained nearly 700.”

Focus on the words “intense training and educational process.” I would argue that indoctrination would be a better word.

However you want to look at it, the 700 plus trained army of people ready to go to the community cannot be ignored.

Note Garcia’s comment about groups of “human rights committees.” He is quoted, “We’ve had committees meeting 10 to 15 years already.”

The time span is important. Ray Caballero was elected in 2001 and defeated in 2003. Caballero’s public policy agenda seemed defeated. Or, was it? Shortly after Ray Caballero was defeated, Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar appeared on the elected official scene. Both worked for Caballero’s administration. They understood that Caballero’s loss was because they couldn’t control the narrative nor the voters. As a result, they embarked on incubating like-minded politicos until they could be placed into office.

But they needed a voting bloc. They began building the voting bloc through grassroots organizations. One of the strongest, I believe, is the Border Network for Human Rights and that is why the window between their launch date 10 to 15 years ago is important. It closely follows the rise of Veronica Escobar and her public policy agenda in El Paso politics.

Does that make BNHR a stooge for Veronica Escobar? Not really but it is a symbiotic relationship that allows both to exist even if they have opposing agendas. It comes down to money.

BNHR needs public funds and the largess of the city’s benefactors to operate. They need friendly politicos. Escobar and cohorts needs a grassroots army to keep her elected and her minions in elected office. Thus, both rely on each other for their own agendas.

The Border Network for Human Rights has taken up the mantle against SB4, the controversial Texas legislation targeting undocumented immigrants.

This is where the deal with the devil is amply demonstrated.

It is likely not surprising to any of you that BNHR opposes SB4 and is public about it. But would you be surprised to know that the BNHR supports the jailing of the undocumented in El Paso?

In a June 9, 2017 press release about the local jail issue, the Border Network for Human Rights clearly exposes its duplicity. The press release was posted by Jaime Abeytia. I tried to verify its authenticity by contacting the BNHR but by post time I have not received a response from them. By looking at the meta data of the Word document posted by Abeytia, it seems to be a document produced by the BNHR. I have no reason, at this time, to doubt its authenticity.

The release starts out; “Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) believes the criminalization and incarceration immigrant workers and families is wrong.” Clearly it is following its stated mandate.

But the release goes on to state, “Not keeping federal detainees in the County Jail will make the logistics of prosecuting immigration violations more expensive and time consuming for the Federal Government.”

The contradicting statements reveals the dichotomy that the BNHR finds itself in. On one hand, its mandate is to oppose the incarceration of undocumented immigrants whose only violation is lack of papers. But, on the other hand, the BNHR must support the Veronica Escobar illusion of a prosperous El Paso economy via an influx of federal tax dollars.

And thus, the organization found itself having to defend two contradictions.

The El Paso County jail federal contract is essential to keeping federal funds flowing into El Paso to keep the illusion of a prosperous economy intact. Escobar cannot afford to end the contract and thus the BNHR must support two contradicting agendas.

It all comes down to money and unfortunately the immigrants are the currency both sides trade on. More importantly it clearly demonstrates that immigrants are useful tools for the El Paso public policy agenda but are disposable as soon as they endanger the Escobar agenda.

An author’s note on BNHR: I believe that the BNHR is needed as a vehicle for the debate on immigration in the United States and I also believe that their focus on the protection of immigrants is proper and, thus, I support it. However, I also have an issue with an organization having to serve two masters, i.e. protecting immigrants while allowing them to be used for the purposes of one or two political agendas that are damaging, directly, or indirectly towards immigrants. In other words, you cannot advocate against the Texas SB4 legislation while at the same time supporting keeping the El Paso County jail as the premier detention center for immigrants awaiting deportation, especially when the clear majority are the ones the BNHR purports to protect. It is like arguing for the repeal of ObamaCare while using it for your own health needs. As such I remain ambivalent to the BNHR.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

2 replies on “Grassroots Efforts Expose El Paso Duplicity Against Immigrants”

  1. Martin
    Using Obamacare as an analogy is just messed up. Many have Obamacare not that they can afford to use it but they do not want to lose their taxes at the end of the year or be fined. For any one to be saying El Paso, of all places, isn’t immigrant friendly are delusional or are trying to promote their own personal agenda based on a false narrative with poor anecdotal evidence to support what is being claimed at best . This would be like some one claiming all of Mexico isn’t friendly to Mexicans. Just plain non-sense!

  2. The Democrat sugar tit years of Obama are over and an acsendent GOP including a majority of statehouses is now in power, i.e., there’s a new sheriff in town. These agencies that rely on a continued flow of tax dollars could find themselves cut off in the not distant future. My favorite example is HACEP, except it has been a sugar tit for Republican developers as long as I’ve been here.

    We are all duplicitous in this.

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