Things That Matter

‘Fiesta Protesta’ Is A Massive Cross-Border Party That Gives A Whole New Outlook On The Border Crisis

Hundreds of people gathered recently along the banks of the Rio Grande for the seventh annual Voices From Both Sides festival held along the edge of Lajitas, Texas, and Paso Lajitas, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. 

On the American side, three Border Patrol vehicles watched from an overpass as festivalgoers waded back and forth through the thigh-deep water, crossing an international border.

What’s going on there may technically be illegal but police and Border Patrol are looking the other way – for now.

The 7th Annual Voices From Both Sides festival, or Fiesta Protesta, recently took place along the US-Mexico border and festival goers want more people to know about their unique community.

Credit: @ozzyfan1962 / Twitter

Since 2013, there has been an annual Voices From Both Sides festival along the US-Mexico border. The daylong event commemorates the 2002 closure of the border crossing between Lajitas and its Mexican sister city, Paso Lajitas, as well as serving as a kind of binational family reunion. More than 1,000 people cooled off in the Rio Grande, gathered for a picnic lunch and took in music and ballet folklórico performances.

For decades the American and Mexican towns enjoyed an easy interdependence. That changed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when the American government tightened border security. Over Mother’s Day weekend in May of 2002, Border Patrol agents detained about 20 people in Lajitas on immigration charges, signaling that unauthorized passage across the river would no longer be allowed. Families with members on both sides of the river were effectively separated; before long, businesses in Paso Lajitas catering to Americans closed.

When the crossing closed in 2002, Paso Lajitas struggled; only a couple of families still live there and the restaurants all closed.

Two decades ago, Paso Lajitas was home to about 20 families and several tourist-supported eateries, a store and a few informal guide outfitters. Visitors from the United States would cross to eat tacos at a riverside restaurant. Residents of the Mexican towns would buy laundry soap in American stores or visit American doctors. Throughout the 1990s, some Paso Lajitas children even attended school in

Now, according to two women who live on the Mexican side, they only see their cousins in the US – who only live 16 miles away – once a year because the journey now involves a long 150-mile -long route.

This year’s Fiesta Protesta was even visited by Mike Rubens, correspondent for “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.”

One of the attendees described the relationship between the two border towns as “a neighborhood with a river in the middle of it.” Rubens also spoke with two Mexican women who said they grew up attending school in America, and that Americans shopped at their family’s store in Mexico.

Before the Lajitas border crossing was closed in 2002, the Mexicans and Americans thought of themselves as a single community. Co-organizer Jeff Haislip said, “If you’ve never seen the togetherness, you wouldn’t notice the separation. We used to play softball against each other. We were integrated as a community.”

The current administration’s focus on border security has added a new level of concern to people on both sides of the river. One American woman said, “I’m not necessarily pro ‘let everybody come over here,’ but I think that we have gone completely beyond the limits that are necessary for what’s going on. These people just want to see their families.”

Since so few people know about the annual event, many were shocked and excited to hear about it.

Credit: @ilektracm / Twitter

In 2013, after more than a decade of strict border enforcement, Jeff Haislip and Collie Ryan, residents of Terlingua, another small Texas town 10 miles farther east along the Rio Grande, wanted to host a Mother’s Day protest. But then they decided that a party would be more fitting. 

“We didn’t just want to protest the border being closed, we wanted to show all the wonderful things that were lost when it was,” Mr. Haislip said. And so they began planning Voices From Both Sides as an international “fiesta protesta.”

Most people don’t know about the event because few people are reporting on it.

Many viewers and residents alike point out that the whole ‘border crisis’ is entirely made up by the US government and the media. Instead of dealing with humanitarian needs in a humane way, the US has manufactured a crisis in order to respond with brute force and to demonize entire communities.

Some took to social media to share just how special the event really is.

This Instagram user pointed out just how traditionally Texas the celebration really is. Her family goes back generations in Texas and points out that people have been crossing the US-Mexico border for just as long.

During the inaugural event, attendees were initially shy about wading 40 feet across the river. According to one attendee, “the dogs were the ones that broke the ice.”

U.S Border Patrol observes the festivities and allows both sides to travel back and forth across the natural border as long as everyone returns to their respective sides of the river when all is said and done.

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As Trump Rushes To Build More Border Wall Before The Election, Here’s A Timeline Of His Border Wall Failures

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As Trump Rushes To Build More Border Wall Before The Election, Here’s A Timeline Of His Border Wall Failures

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

With just 34 days to go until the election, Trump is in an all out mission to build as much border wall as he can. Throughout his 2016 campaign and his time in the White House, he has made his vanity project a key component in his identity as president.

He’s used it to ratchet up xenophobia and to implement his draconian immigration policies while also using it to build support among his die hard MAGA-loving supporters. But there’s just one problem: Trump has completely failed in his mission to deliver a border wall to his supporters.

Since the 2016 election, according to the LA Times, the Trump Administration has only built 5 new miles of border wall – yes, just five miles of border wall along a 1,954 mile long border.

However, the larger point is that we are still wasting billions of dollars to built an apartheid wall twice as tall as the Berlin Wall. It’s a complete waste of money and it’s wreaking havoc on our environment, politics, and security.

Trump is racing to complete more border wall in time for the November election.

The election is just over a month away and the Trump administration is quickly realizing that one of Trump’s biggest promises to his supporters, remains unfulfilled. This has led to an all out push to construct additional border wall, with construction crews now adding nearly two miles per day. It is an unprecedented pace toward meeting one of Trump’s signature 2016 campaign promises.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) say that the rate of construction has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year, accelerated by the government’s ability to cut through national forests, wildlife preserves and other public lands already under federal control.

The rapid pace of construction has had the biggest impact in Arizona. There, crews have literally blasted through protected areas and federal lands — areas where the administration is able to bypass environmental laws, archaeological reviews and other safeguards.

In fact, crews have been using dynamite to level the steep sides of Guadalupe Canyon, a rugged span where the cost of the barrier exceeds $41 million per mile. Across the state at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, border agents have forcefully broken up protests by members of the O’odham Nation attempting to block the bulldozers near ancestral burial sites and a fragile desert oasis.

Officials hope to hold a ceremony celebrating 400-miles of new border wall before the election.

Trump is hoping to celebrate the 400-mile mark with a major celebration touting his great success on the border wall. But as earlier figures show, it’s all a sham. Most of the border wall that’s being built is not new.

However, Mark Morgan, the acting CBP commissioner, told reporters that the president has proved his doubters and critics wrong.

“Even as the nonbelievers, the folks who have been out there for a very long time who said we were never going to get this done, what I refer to as the judicial activism of lower courts that have tried to stop our construction of the wall, the false narratives and, quite frankly, the lies out there about the effectiveness and need of the wall — despite all that — this president has remained steadfast in his commitment, his commitment to the American people and to the men and women of CBP,” said Morgan, erroneously claiming the government was building 10 miles per day.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden says he will shut down border wall construction if elected president.

As with so much else, the future of the wall project is contingent on the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Biden has been very open about his plan to immediately end construction of the border wall if elected. This could be a big shock to the giant industry that has sprouted up to build the wall. Crews have been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on at least five locations on the border, according to officials overseeing the project who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Washington Post.

“There will not be another foot of wall construction in my administration,” Biden said in August during an interview with reporters from the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Biden said he favors “high tech” systems that rely on surveillance technology and would direct resources to the legal border crossings where most illegal narcotics are seized.

Despite the lack of new construction, CBP officials are already calling the wall a success.

Officials say that the increase in apprehensions of migrants caught hiding in tractor trailers or coming ashore on California beaches is proof that the border wall is working. But that just simply isn’t the case when you’ve only built 5-miles of border wall.

Meanwhile, even though it’s patently false, Trump continues to deceive the public with claims that Mexico is footing the bill. Mexico is not paying for the wall.

The president has obtained $15 billion in federal funds for the project, but just one-third of that money has been authorized by Congress. The rest, nearly $10 billion, has been diverted from the U.S. military budget, giving Trump enough to build 738 miles of new barriers, or enough to cover more than a third of the 2,000-mile boundary with Mexico.

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

Saul Loeb / Getty Images

It’s no secret that President Trump envisions his far-from-completed border wall as essential in his plan to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Given previous reports of arming the border with snakes or alligators, it’s obvious that Trump envisions the wall as a punitive source of physical harm as much as a deterrent.

So it should come as little surprise that the president has wanted to deploy military-grade weapons to the border to actually ‘torture’ and ‘maim’ those who try and cross the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization. However, a recent New York Times report goes into further detail on Trump’s ideas and they are, in fact, quite shocking.

The Trump Administration allegedly wanted to deploy a military-style weapon at the border to deter migrants.

Last week, it was reported by the New York Times that in 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had proposed using non-lethal weapon developed by the military to induce agonizing pain in migrants attempting to cross the border, with the intent to force them to turn back.

Described in overly simplistic terms by the Department of Defense as a “non-lethal, directed-energy, counter-personnel system,” the ADS is essentially a pain projector (the Times used the term “heat ray”) that subjects targets to the sensation of “heat felt from opening the door to a hot oven” all over their body. If deployed, the device would essentially make even approaching the U.S.-Mexico border a painful experience. 

So what exactly is the device that Trump and other CBP officials wanted to deploy?

Credit: Paul Richards / Getty Images

Although these ‘heat rays’ may sound like weapons for a made-for-TV villain, they’re actually very real. The U.S. Air Force began developing a weapon decades ago to give soldiers a non-lethal option for dealing with civilian mobs or or riots at overseas military bases.

The truck- or Humvee-mounted Active Denial System can affect multiple persons at range of up to one mile away. It silently emits a very high frequency microwave-like beam that can penetrate clothing and heats water molecules on the surface of the skin to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 C).

The resulting sensation, described as being akin to pressing a hot fluorescent light bulb to the skin, is so intense that within seconds affected persons are reflexively compelled to jump aside or run away. Supposedly the pain dissipates within seconds, though some accounts describe a lingering tingling that can last hours.

Although Trump floated the idea, according to DHS officials it was never considered as part of a border enforcement strategy.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Although Trump and CBP officials mentioned the possibility of deploying ADS, per the Times, the idea was flatly rejected by Kirsten Nielsen, then the secretary of Homeland Security. She allegedly told an aide after the meeting that she would not authorize the use of such a device, and it should never be brought up again in her presence.

However, the idea of using a ‘heat ray’ to torture migrants was at least entertained by some within the agency, likely emboldened by Trump’s increasingly harsh rhetoric against immigrants.

A former DHS officials is the one sounding the alarm on Trump’s alleged plan.

Speaking with The Daily Beast, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor claimed he’d sat in meetings with the president in which “[Trump] says, ‘We got to do this, this, this, and this,’ all of which are probably impossible, illegal, unethical.” 

Among the things Taylor claims the president suggested are efforts to gas, “maim,” and “pierce the flesh” of migrants attempting to cross into the United States without documentation. At one point, Taylor said, “[Trump] looks over me and he goes, ‘You fucking taking notes?”

Other ideas Trump reportedly floated — such as building a trench around the border and filling it with alligators or snakes — was also shot down, according to the Times.

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