Things That Matter

It Hasn’t Always Been A Crime To Cross The US-Mexico Border, So When Did Things Change?

Let’s start from the beginning. While immigration has been an issue on everyone’s lips over the past while after the Trump administration started enforcing a zero tolerance policy against border crossings, a new way of thinking about the issue was introduced during the Democratic debates.

Presidential hopeful Julián Castro suggested that border crossings should be decriminalized. Because if border crossings aren’t a criminal offense, then people can’t be charged for crossing the border illegally, right? Well, in short, yes. But the issue concerning what’s officially known as “Section 1325” is more complicated than what it initially seems, on the surface.

Decriminalization does not mean a free-for-all across the border.

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As much as the Trump administration would likely characterize the proposed policy as a stab at open borders, that’s not the case. The reality is that crossing the border at the moment is treated as a criminal offense, meaning that those without the appropriate documentation are automatically detained indefinitely: they are treated as a criminal.

However, decriminalizing border crossings would instead ensure that those who do attempt to cross the border are not slapped with charges of a criminal offense.

Instead, border crossings without appropriate documentation would be treated as a civil offense. In the same way that people aren’t considered a criminal for accruing a speeding fine, people crossing the border also wouldn’t be automatically treated as a criminal. This proposed approach is also more consistent with the US’ role as a signatory for the United Nation’s 1951 Refugee Convention. That is, that it’s not illegal for people to cross international borders and request asylum from another country.

Decriminalization would mean considering a new model for regulating the traffic of people across the border.

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Granted, the US still has to consider its security interests when processing requests for asylum. However, the current state of things has seen exponential overcrowding and related issues in detention centers near the border, with no indication as to whether people are seeing their requests for asylum considered at all.

Beyond the human rights problems this presents, there is also a legal quandary that must be considered in the US judicial system. Currently, the appropriate punishments for migrating across the border include both detainment and deportation – which, let’s face it, cannot be fulfilled at the same time. 

This turns into an argument around semantics: should someone be deported if they haven’t served their time in a detention center? And should someone stay in a detention center when they really should have been deported long beforehand, to prevent them from accessing the US at all? Castro’s proposal is not just about alleviating the stress being placed on US resources by detaining considerable numbers of immigrants, nor is it only about correcting human rights atrocities. It’s also about considering how immigrants are treated by the legal system.

It’s actually possible that decriminalization could reduce the number of illegal immigrants who stay indefinitely in the US.

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And yes, that’s including those who have been detained. Instead, if an immigrant was caught crossing the border without papers, they would be detained only for a brief amount of time. Once it is determined by authorities that the immigrant doesn’t raise any red flags, they would be released into the US, complete with a case management system to check in on them. The immigrant would then have to attend an immigration hearing, which would determine their status. Should it be found that the immigrant did not qualify for asylum, they then would accordingly be deported.

The positive of such a proposal is that family separation would be a thing of the past. Because border crossings wouldn’t involve criminal prosecution, there would be no reason to detain, and thus separate, families. Children would not be psychologically scarred for life simply because their parents sought a better future for them.

In fact, the US has had a longer history of decriminalized borders than criminalized ones.

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It’s worth noting that this idea of decriminalized borders isn’t really a new one. It wasn’t until 1929 that the US passed a bill that considered border crossings as a criminal misdemeanor, which meant that people could be prosecuted for entering the US without the proper authorization.

Most immigration laws before this point were focused on keeping out alcohol, gun traffickers and Asian immigrants. But, it was a white supremacist senator, Coleman Livingston Blease, who suggested fees and testing at the US-Mexico border – or, Section 1325 of Title 8 in the US Code. Are we surprised? In retrospect, no, no we are not. 

To be honest, even with this relatively short history of the criminalized border crossings, most presidents paid immigration little attention, as doing so would result in forever prosecuting misdemeanor illegal entry cases. Generally speaking, those caught crossing the border were simply informally returned.

Granted, there were some exceptions to this attitude. For example, The Great Depression saw Mexicans demonized for taking much-needed work, and deportations spiked around that time. However, it wasn’t really until the Bush administration that more decisive, ongoing action was taken on immigration. This gradual escalation in enforcing immigration policies led us to the catastrophe we’re seeing today at the borders, under the Trump administration.

So, how can you look forward to a future of decriminalized border crossings?

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Voting for 2020 presidential candidates who favor decriminalized border crossings are your best bet, if you’re keen on seeing the law changed. It’s worth listening to each candidate’s stance on immigration. For instance, aside from Castro, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren has also endorsed repealing Section 1325. On the other hand, Beto O’Rourke rejected the idea from the outset, proposing his own set of aggressive immigration plans. The key is to listen to the policy proposals – not just smooth platitudes.

While voting strategically is probably one of the most effective ways to see decriminalized border crossings, you do have other ways of continuing the conversation. Sharing articles on social media, like this one, can educate people and start worthwhile discussions around the issue. Writing, and even meeting with, your local political representatives can increase their own awareness of constituent interests. After all, it’s their job to represent you! Getting involved with activist groups that promote immigrant rights is another way that you can promote and work towards the decriminalization of border crossings.

Anyway, we’ll leave you with this: the wildest fact is that, from 1980 to 2010, the Border Patrol budget was increased 16 times. This was despite the reality that the number of attempted undocumented entries did not rise during this time. Considering the mounting numbers of detainees at the border, it stands to reason that immigration is yet another issue reduced to sound bites and narrative twisting from those politicians seeking to Make America Great Again – despite human welfare being at stake. While we can discuss all we like about when and how border crossings have been treated by the criminal system, the important thing to focus on is how we value human lives.

READ: Fear And Anxiety Grip Undocumented Community Nationwide As Walmart Arrests Escalate

An Ancient Mayan Book That Was Discovered By Archeologist Is Being Called The Oldest Book In The Americas

Culture

An Ancient Mayan Book That Was Discovered By Archeologist Is Being Called The Oldest Book In The Americas

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Something pretty exciting is happening in Mexico. Yes, the Popocatépetl is erupting again. All of that volcanic activity is ejecting new life into the old world of Aztec and Mayan civilization. As you may recall, archeologists recently discovered a thousand-year-old Mayan palace located 63 miles west Cancún in Yucatán, Mexico. Before that, the  National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) also found hundreds of archaeological artifacts nearby the Yucatán that, as experts put it, contain “invaluable information related to the formation and fall of the ancient City of Water Sorcerers, and who were the founders of this iconic site.” This year a new study confirmed that a gold bar found in 1981 in a Mexico City park was part of the Aztec treasure that was stolen by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors 500 years ago. It feels like our ancestors are trying to tell us something. 

After decades of research, experts concluded in 2016 that a book they found years ago, in fact, is a 900-year-old authentic astronomy guide from the Mayan period. The book is called the Grolier Codex, and archaeologists say this is the oldest book found in the Americas.

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One of the reasons the authenticity was always questioned is due to the backstory of how the book was found in the first place. According to ArsTechnica, the Grolier Codex was found by a Mexican collector named Josué Sáenz in 1966. Sáenz said that “a group of unknown men offered to sell the book to him, along with a few other items found “in a dry cave” near the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas.” 

What made this book even more fascinating, yet troubling, was that Sáenz said the men told him if he took the book, he wouldn’t be able to show it to anyone. Others then told Sáenz that the book was a fake, but did allow archaeologist Michael Coe to show the book in New York. He later would give the book to the Mexican government.

The 10-page book is said to be an insightful guide into astronomy and how the Mayans kept track of the sun and the planets. It was their early forms of calendar-keeping.

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ArsTechnica said the book was written during trying times — the late Mayan period. Brown University social scientist Stephen Houston described how each picture in the book offered critical information that Mayans needed for day-to-day duties. 

The images are of “workaday gods, deities who must be invoked for the simplest of life’s needs: sun, death, K’awiil—a lordly patron and personified lightning—even as they carry out the demands of the ‘star’ we call Venus. [The Dresden and Madrid Codices] both elucidate a wide range of Maya gods, but in Grolier, all is stripped down to fundamentals,” Houston said. 

What’s also fascinating about the timing of the book’s confirmation is that Michael Coe, the Yale anthropologist, who decoded the text, died last year at the age of 90.

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The New York Times wrote in his obit that Coe was instrumental at deciphering Mayan code and giving the Mayans credit for their work when many wrote off the images as just that. 

In “Breaking the Maya Code” (1992), he theorized that anthropologists had never given the Maya adequate credit for their linguistic advances because of what he called ‘quasi-racism,’ or an ‘unwillingness to grant the brown-skinned Maya a culture as complex as that of Europe, China or the Near East.'”

As we previously noted, a more recent discovery was made just this week. A gold bar that was found in a park in Mexico City in 1981 was finally determined to be an authentic Aztec treasure.

Credit: National Institute of Anthropology and History

It’s quite fascinating to see that just because artifacts are found, doesn’t necessarily mean they can be authenticated by archeologists with a snap of a finger. Their research takes years, sometimes decades. 

The National Institute of Anthropology and History said they used special equipment to research the gold bar including an X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) which is “a proven multi-elemental technique of high sensitivity, non-destructive, non-invasive and extremely fast.” 

With so many recent discoveries, we can only imagine what other types of treasures are still buried underneath the ancient lands of Mexico.

READ: Mexico’s Popocatépetl Volcano Erupted And Now People Think The World Is Coming To An End

For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

Fierce

For Martin Luther King Day, Let’s Not Forget His Right Arm And Civil Rights Pioneer Coretta Scott King

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This year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. To honor the many fearless and historical women who made strides for the rights of women and minorities, People magazine is looking back on them through a new series called #SeeHer Story. The new digital video series airs on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles and is headed up by Katie Couric Media. 

This week, the new series has put a spotlight on the life and times of civil rights activist Coretta Scott King in honor of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In the new video, the series highlights her work and contribution to the Civil Rights Movement and lifelong activist as a leader in her own right.

In the new series, King is hailed as a fearless leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

King, who had been born in 1927 in Marion, Alabama, has long been celebrated for her work as an author, activist and civil rights leader in the movement to advocate for African-American equality. Later in her life, years after her husband’s assassination, she broadened her fight for quality to include the advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and the opposition of apartheid. 

Throughout her life, King faced racism but her eyes were opened to it at a young age as girl growing up in the south in the town of Marion, Alabama. As People reports, King was subjected to the physical threat of racism when her family home was destroyed by arsonists.

Education became a defining aspect of Coretta’s life. 

Having been born into a family whose paternal great-matriarch had been a former slave, education proved to be an essential requirement in her family home in her early ears. During a speech at Antioch College, Coretta once quoted her mother as having said, “My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on.” She went onto study political activism at Antioch University and later music at  New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It was during her time as a student that Coretta met Martin Luther King, Jr., then a theology student. There, the two students bonded over their interest in Ghandi and his practice of nonviolent protests and the two later married in 1953. 

Soon after they wed, they moved to Montgomery and found themselves thrust into the Civil Rights Movement. 

By 1955, King and her husband had taken on leadership positions in the protests that came about after Rosa Parks protest. 

After giving up her dreams to become a classical singer so that she could support her husband, Coretta watched her husband become a full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954.

“We found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself,” Coretta said in the video created by People. During their fight for equality, King and her husband faced extreme acts of racism and violence. In 1955, just months after the birth of their child, Yolanda, the Kings were targeted when a gunshot went through the front door of their home. In 1956, the family’s  front porch was destroyed by a homemade bomb. At the time  Coretta had been home with her  daughter and a family friend. Two years later, in 1958 King’s husband, Martin, had been stabbed while he’d been signing copies of his book.

Still, the couple would not be deterred. The two stood side by side as her husband continued to lead peaceful protests and give  speeches. King herself led a series of her own demonstrations by conducting concerts.

Then, in 1968, Coretta’s husband was shot and killed. 

After her husband’s death,  King had been left a widow and the single mother of four children. In the years after her husband’s death, King gave speeches advocating for civil rights speaking about her husband’s ideals. Eventually King took up her husband’s torch and broadened her fight to include women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, economic issues, world peace and apartheid.

“The world is in dire need of a spiritual awakening which will make those eternal values of love, justice, mercy and peace meaningful in our time,” Coretta said of her work in the clip by People.

Later in her life, King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and continued to extend her activism and worked to fight for nuclear disarmament. 

During her life and after it, Coretta has been celebrated for her work in keeping her husband’s legacy alive. She fought for the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which thanks to King is observed today in all fifty states.