BNHR Statement for International Human Rights Day

December 10, 2013

A Vision of Human Rights for the Borderlands and the Promise for a Better America

El Paso, TX – Sixty five years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was made public. Its impacts have been global. Today, on December 10th, we commemorate Amnesty International USA Human Rights Day.

Here, in the Borderlands, we see both reasons to celebrate its impact and reasons to be challenged by the promise yet un-kept.

Border Network for Human Rights celebrates International Human Rights Day because we value the worldview that it provides the hundreds of member families in our community. This world view helps us visualize America’s potential.

Our communities imagine the Borderland giving the rest of our country an example of our rights being respected as universal and indivisible and where no community, ethnicity, or belief is sacrificed for the benefit of the other.

We imagine the Borderland being the example that poverty is avoidable and morally unacceptable. In this region, where many of us are immigrants, the society we aspire to belong togives all of us have the opportunity and responsibility of contributing to the common good and that, in return, our human needs are met.

We imagine the Borderland being an example of an American society where the mechanisms built to satisfy basic and substantial human rights are public and function for the benefit of everyone, not for the purpose of creating wealth for just a few. We see a society where access to healthcare, education and housing, for example, are not part of a commercial transaction that denies those rights to the majority of communities.

We imagine the Borderland being the example to the rest of America where communities, especially those that have been marginalized and negatively affected, have a strong voice and presence in the political and economic decision making processes in the country. We see a system of participation where political isolation and dysfunctional relations are replaced by a dynamic of active dialogue and mutual commitment of and between all stakeholders.

In this way, we imagine a Borderland being the example toAmerica that the government and institutions that maintain public order and promote public participation are responsible and accountable to all communities and sectors of society. We believe in a society that establishes regulatory and supervisory mechanisms for the public and the private sector to guarantee that no one, absolutely no one, violates or denies human rights.

The vision that Human Rights provides, however, is a challenge to Borderland residents and to the rest of America.

We, border communities, have traditionally been sacrificed with harsh and punitive enforcement in every round of immigration reform discussions. And our communities have not been recognized or consulted meaningfully in the political decisions that impact us most profoundly.

One challenge we face is in the manner in which border enforcement has been conceived.Our immigration enforcement system is unaccountable to the communities most impacted. Border agencies and agents operate with attitude of impunity. Their training does not grow their capacity to meet the cultural conditions in which it operates. The stakeholders with the most invested in the border do not have a meaningful way to recommend to the Federal Government ways to mitigate the problems with harsh and punitive border enforcement.

Border Network for Human Rights has accepted the challenge of realizing our vision for America right here at home, in our Borderlands. Today, on the 65th anniversary of the of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we further challenge our youth, our elders, our laborers, our business owners, our governments and sectors of civil society to join in celebration of what a Human Rights vision has to offer and to join the struggle to fulfill its promise here in our beloved America.

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