No-Border-Wall’s Scott Nicol Expects More Challenges in 2011

By Nick Braune

Between 2006 and early 2009 particularly, wide ferment in the Valley rose up against the Border Wall. There were bi-partisan rallies and forums all along the Tex-Mex border, with liberals and the left and libertarians, and environmentalists, and ranchers and citrus growers, many mayors, chambers of commerce, all involved. Although apparently the only people who wanted it were some misguided “conservatives” up North and the Homeland Security monolith, the wall kept lengthening, a huge governmental sea monster pushing people aside.

One person I have interviewed several times on this matter is Scott Nicol, a Valley art instructor, environmentalist and cofounder of the No Border Wall effort. Since the wall has been off my radar recently and I have felt guilty about it, I chitchatted with him two weeks ago and asked for some comments.

Braune: Scott, could you tell us what you have been working on recently? I remember you are on a Sierra Club taskforce nationally.

Nicol: I co-chair the Sierra Club’s national Borderlands Team, which is primarily focused on the impacts of walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. Just as the walls built in South Texas did tremendous damage to the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, as well as refuges owned by Audubon and the Nature Conservancy, walls in California, Arizona, and New Mexico have severely impacted refuges and wilderness areas there.

And the Real ID Act allowed the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive all federal, state, and local laws that might slow wall construction; consequently, the Department of Homeland Security has swept aside not only the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but also the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Farmland Protection Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The Sierra Club has mounted legal challenges to the constitutionality of giving one unelected official the power to waive all of our nation’s laws.

Our Borderlands Team also works to educate people around the country about the damage caused by building walls, and how ineffective walls are. (Even the Border Patrol referred to them as “speed bumps” that at best slow crossers down by a couple of minutes.)

I’m still active with No Border Wall as well, which has a new website describing issues and impacts related to border walls, from the environment to property rights to the deaths of immigrants, as well as the basic fact that walls have had no impact on the rate of immigration. [The new website: http://www.no-border-wall.com]

Braune: Although too lax on the issue of the wall recently, I did report on a wonderful protest, spearheaded by local artists, at Brownsville’s Hope Park some months back. Are there still things activists should be watching?

Nicol: Definitely. The biggest concern is that the new Congress will pass legislation calling for more border walls. In 2009 Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina introduced an amendment that would have added another 350 miles of “pedestrian fence” to that which already exists. Although passing the Senate, it was blocked in the House/Senate conference committee by Representative Ciro Rodriguez, whose district (unlike DeMint’s) already includes border walls. DeMint tried to reintroduce his amendment two more times.

Following the midterm elections Senator DeMint, a big Tea Party backer, is even more powerful, and the Senate is more conservative. Even though their districts are far from the border, a number of new House members campaigned on promises to build more walls, and Ciro Rodriguez lost his bid for reelection. It is a sure bet that DeMint will bring up his bill again, and with the new Congress it stands a very good chance of passing.

Braune: I understand California, Arizona, and New Mexico are largely walled off already, so if hundreds of miles of border wall are built, will they be built mostly in Texas?

Nicol: Yes. It will mean hundreds of condemnations against landowners (more than 400 were sued the last time around) and billions of dollars more wasted (beyond the $3 billion already spent). One would think that would awaken opposition from avowed conservatives like Senators Hutchison and Cornyn, but despite talking about property rights and fiscal responsibility, these two have voted for every Senate pro-wall bill, including DeMint’s 2009 amendment.

Braune: Where is Obama on all this?

Nicol: My guess is that the Obama administration feels like it has so much on its plate that they would rather not think about border walls. Secretary Napolitano could have stopped border wall construction when she took over at DHS. At that time lawsuits against landowners, including some south Texas farmers and citrus growers as well as the Nature Conservancy, were still being fought. Instead walls kept going up, and there are documents that indicate that walls are still on the drawing board for Roma, Rio Grande City, and Los Ebanos, despite the flood risk that they would pose. If legislation calling for more border walls makes it to his desk, whether or not President Obama signs it probably has more to do with whether the bill had strong Democratic backing than anything else. If Democrats support walls, we will get walls. If they stand up for the border, the way that Ciro Rodriguez did when he blocked Senator DeMint’s amendment, we have a chance. But they will need to feel serious grass-roots pressure for that to happen.

[This article is a slightly expanded version of one run in Nick Braune’s weekly column in the Mid-Valley Town Crier, Dec. 22, 2010]

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Saad Nabeel's No. 1 New Year's Resolution: Come Home to America

A 19-year-old engineering student from Texas who was deported to Bangladesh during his freshman year vows that he will return to America in 2011. Saad Nabeel has posted his New Year’s resolutions online, and number one one his list is, “To come home this year.”

Nabeel has been working on his return to America since he was deported in early 2010. Using a patched up Sony Vaio he reached out over the internet via Facebook and attracted the attention of Dallas-area reporters. The news reports attracted the attention of immigration advocate Ralph Isenberg.

When Isenberg helped to navigate a Christmas Eve reunion for deported college student Hector Lopez, Nabeel took heart that a way back home might be found. Isenberg says he has asked Nabeel to “pack his bags” for a return to Texas.

Here are the complete New Year’s resolutions posted by Nabeel at meltice.net:

My New Year’s Resolutions:

1. To come home this year.

2. Pay attention to others that are in need. There is always someone worse off than me.

3. Perhaps study law. This situation is a once in-a-lifetime eye opener as to what I should dedicate my life to: fighting injustice.

4. Never forget what others have done for me. Be loyal to them as they’ve been loyal to me. Remember: No one ever told them to help, they did it out of the kindness of their hearts.

Ramsey Muniz: Christmas in Solitary

Dear Friends:

Ramsey and all others in the Beaumont medium institution are still in solitary confinement and there is no way of knowing when this status will change. Please keep them in your prayers. We extend our gratitude to all who have demonstrated continuous love and support for Ramsey and we thank God for their loving hearts.

************

“From within this oppressive and cruel imprisonment, our culture, spirituality and history represent the love that has kept me alive with the power of the continuous struggle for my freedom.”

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I must share that I attempted to play the role of sadness on the night before the coming of my birthday, but our loving spirits, especially our mother, Hilda, grandmother, Rosa, and at the end our father, Dr. Salvador Alvarez, made me feel as if I was truly reborn. We were all laughing, sharing the power and force that God has bestowed upon our lives. They gave me life and love like never before! It is the same love I give to you and we share with mom. Do not be saddened. Just know that your heart and love are within me and nothing nor anyone can ever destroy that because it came from God! Personally, I think that we will be in lockdown for some time, but don’t worry for I only become stronger and most powerful spiritually!

************

“We cannot use the Holy Spirit. The spirits is to use us. Through the spirit, God works in His people (Phil. 2:13) But many will not admit to this. They desire to manage themselves. This is why they do not receive the heavenly gift. Only to those who wait humbly upon God – who watch for His guidance and grace is the spirit given. The power of God awaits their demand and reception.

Tezcatlipoca

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La Virgen de Guadalupe stated to me one cold night, when I felt lonely and sad, “Hijo mio, are you not in the fold of my garment? Right next to my heart you can feel the cosmic pulse of my spiritual creative power.” Later with such calmness and peace I woke up and stared at the fold of her garment and could feel the peace and love in my heart.”

************

“Cuida a tus suenos, Ramiro, porque no son tuyos. Dios te los presta cada noche para que puedas sonar lo que tu necesites, pero no son tuyos. El dia que te mueras los tienes que regresar tal y come te los prestaron.”

December 19, 2010

Since the birth of Jesus Christ, He became a member of our earthly families. He is the son of man, and a brother to every son and daughter on this earth. His spiritual followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them. The fallen, the erring, and the sunful Christ’s love embraces, and every deed of kindness done to uplift a fallen soul, every act of mercy is accepted as done to him.

Even though I’m confined in this cell by myself physically, in reality I’m not alone. The spiritual world is all around me and they make sure that I continue to live with powerful and profound spiritual force that God and His son, Jesus, have bestowed upon my life.

In one of our conversations with the spirits, I kept asking how I was able to survive three years in the dungeons of Leavenworth all by myself. They all responded, “No, Ramsey, you were never by yourself. God the almighty was determined to prove to you that even in the dark, cold hour of pain, agony, hunger, and suffering, you had and have the spiritual power to overcome.”

Con amor,

Ramsey – Tezcatlipoca

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Because we have not finished the beginning of our historical lives and the lives of the oppressed, we refuse to close the chapter on our own story, no matter how intently the borders of finality and certainty may close in around us. Unfinished. Even in the confined darkness we are remembered as making a contribution of freedom, love, and spirituality to the present and to our future.

Tezcatlipoca & Citlalmina
www.freeramsey.com

Source: Email from Irma Muniz received Dec. 26, 2010

Isenberg: 'Blessed are the Peace Makers,' Saad is Coming Home

Hector, Ralph, Saad

by Ralph Isenberg
Christmas Day, 2010

The work to free Hector began months ago when he was first deported. Everything about his case made me think of Saad Nabeel. The challenge for me was to figure out a way to merge what was happening to each of these outstanding young men so that in the end both Hector and Saad are home.

The project is now half complete and I want to give special thanks to the Texas Civil Rights Review, Reverend Peter Johnson, the Office of the Chief Council of Homeland Security in Phoenix and the District Office of ICE in Phoenix for going the extra mile.

As I always say in life, “there is right and wrong and then there is the right thing to do”. On this special day I am reminded of the saying “blessed are the peace makers.”

In a faraway land on the other side of the world sits another young man named Saad Nabeel. Saad Nabeel, like Hector Lopez, is as American as you and me. Saad has his own story to tell. In the next few weeks I will begin to tell his story in that it is time for Saad to come home.

Today, I am telling Saad to pack his bags. Saad Nabeel, like Hector Lopez, is coming home. Saad turns twenty on January 21, 2011. It is my intention that he will celebrate his birthday on US soil. The question is whether the system will elect to work with Saad and understand what he has been through and the fear that he lives in.

Saad currently is without a home and has sought temporary safe harbor in yet another country while I work on his case. He is at odds with his parents over religious reasons. Stay tuned for the second chapter of this adventure as it will be as exciting as the first chapter has been. Both chapters will end with “blessed are the peace makers”.

Archive of Hector Lopez Chirstmas Eve Coverage

PORTLAND, Ore. — A former Milwaukie high school student body president who was deported to Mexico was welcomed home Christmas Eve by his family after arriving from a detention facility in Arizona.

The Oregonian reports that Hector Lopez, 20, was embraced by his mother, Sara Flores, and 15-year-old brother, Luis Lopez, as he stepped off a plane at Portland International Airport.

His brother gave him an American flag, and his mother told the newspaper that the turkey she bought for Thanksgiving will be roasted for Christmas dinner. . . .

Hector Lopez Homecoming

View Oregonian story by Anne Saker

Texas Represents! Associated Press dispatch posted at:
Victoria Advocate, Houston Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman,
Forth Worth Star Telegram, Beaumont Enterprise.

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Petition to thank ICE for the pre-Christmas release of Hector Lopez

Hector Lopez is Free!

Updated 8pm CST

Hector Lopez has been released from a migrant detention center in Florence, AZ and is scheduled to fly home to Portland on Christmas Eve via Southwest Airlines. That’s the latest word from his mother this evening.

Rev. Peter Johnson of Dallas was able to visit with officials at the offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Phoenix today and make a holiday appeal for the release of Hector Lopez. The release was authorized this morning.

“We owe a tremendous thank you to all the people at ICE who made this release possible,” said Isenberg via telephone from Dallas. “I think we have to recognize that this release would not have happened without their willingness to expedite and give it extra effort, from the hearing officer, to the parole officer, to the checkout officer, to the secretary who processed the release forms.”

Isenberg said he will begin working on the return of Saad Nabeel, a Texas college student who was deported to Asia earlier this year.

“I have not heard Saad so upbeat and happy in months,” said Isenberg.