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04.28.10

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The 800 mile wall

By Dani Burlison


Just one year after construction of the U.S.-Mexico border fence began, the death toll for immigrants crossing the border of the southern United States rose 75 percent, with over 5,000 immigrants dead in U.S. deserts. An attempt to deter undocumented immigrants from illegally traveling to the United States, the wall brings a new level of controversy, particularly to Arizona, where the death toll is highest and where Gov. Jan Brewer last week signed a stringent and controversial anti-immigration law. The new law allows nonborder law enforcement such as city police and county sheriff officers to stop and detain any person if there is reason to believe that they are here illegally. A state with a 40 percent Latino population, Arizona paints the picture of a dangerous future for immigrants and their families in America.

Filmmaker John Carlos Frey answers questions and addresses the human rights abuses that have resulted because of the fence in his film The 800 Mile Wall, set to be screened in Santa Rosa April 29. "The current border-patrol policy is a policy of deterrence. They want to make the journey for immigrants as dangerous and difficult as possible so they won't come," he says. "But people are so desperate, and when faced with the choice between starving to death in their home country or dying by crossing the border to make a new life, they choose the latter."

The fence, which cost $176 million to construct and is notorio us for failed camera and sensor systems vulnerable to the high winds and sand of the area, is not a solid barrier, but rather a series of fences that remain gapped and open along rugged mountains, a 76-mile reservation border and privately owned land along the Texas-Mexico border. Modeled after Israel's controversial Apartheid Wall, the fence's construction caused the Department of Homeland Security to waive at least 40 environmental and cultural preservation laws, bringing opposition from environmentalists, religious organizations, human rights activists and private landowners throughout the Southwestern states.

However, the construction is avidly supported by Arizona senator Russell Pearce (best known for his "accidental" emailing of Neo-Nazi propaganda) and Sen. John McCain, who once advocated for immigration rights until receiving a backlash of criticism from conservative republicans. A hot topic with no easy answers, Frey's 800 Mile Wall brings together statistical information about body counts, environmental issues and sky-rocketing costs, along with issues of morality, racism and the heartbreaking struggle of today's immigrants.

The 800 Mile Wall shows on Thursday, April 29, at the Rialto Lakeside Cinemas, 551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, at 6:30pm and is followed by a discussion with filmmaker John Carlos Frey. Free. 707.525.4840.


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