UPDATE 12/22/2009: Walt Staton will not be serving a jail term. According to today's Green Valley News & Sun, Staton backed away from his vow not to comply with a sentence for leaving water jugs on a wildlife preserve last year, and told a judge he would complete 300 hours of community service. The theology student has one year to complete the hours and must submit a plan to the court next month.
Mexico's National Commission for Human Rights issued the following statement to commemorate International Migrants Day to be celebrated on December 18th (English translation by Rebel Girl).
Ironically the communique comes only days after an article in the San Diego Union Tribune reported that a young theology student, Walt Staton, may be facing a 25-day jail term for a littering conviction in Arizona after leaving water jugs along trails in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for border crossers.
The National Commission for Human Rights believes, on the occasion of International Migrants Day commemorated tomorrow -- December 18th, that the rights and dignity of migrants is a commitment for all. The rights of individuals should not be violated inside or outside the country; any type of abuse is inexcusable.
The framework of this commemoration should serve not only to remember and mourn the shame, it is imperative that the Mexican government promote development and sustained economic growth so that fellow nationals are not forced to search in another country for the opportunities that their land should offer.
For the NHRC it is also necessary for countries to reach a genuine understanding about the phenomenon of migration and promote mechanisms to prevent deaths and abuse at borders.
The National Commission believes that it is the responsibility of governments to play a decisive role in seeking changes to ensure respect for migrants' human rights, without prejudice to the sovereignty of any nation in the world.
It is known that in the Mexican situation, migrants leave their country as a result of not having the conditions that make their quality of life secure. On the way to that search, they are hit upon by the common criminal, the organized mafia, non-immigration authorities who abuse them, threaten, rob and deprive them of their freedom.
The journey in which they are immersed is dramatic. They are subjected to harassment by the people smugglers who motivated them to undertake the adventure, or deceive them by offering "services" of relocation and shelter that they then do not meet; they sell what little they have to pay them or go into debt for years.
Therefore, it is unacceptable to the NHRC that there is still indolence and irresponsibility for accommodating migrants. Lack of political will and commitment to addressing the inexcusable abuses they suffer.
The application of the law is essential, as well as the respect and safeguarding of human rights.
Humane treatment of migrants must be assured.
In search of a new situation, from 1994 to date, more than 5,000 Mexican migrants have died in the desert, rivers and mountains on the northern border.
During 2007 and 2008, the average number of Mexicans killed at the border was 3 every 2 days.
The migratory phenomenon requires more attention. Migrants should not be criminalized or treated as criminals.
Photo: Walt Staton