State Sanctioned Violence at the Border

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Immigration as a talking point or campaign issue often glosses over the real stories of the human beings at the heart of headlines and vitriol. And sadly, once the rhetoric dies down, people often forget that daily, thousands of people are still working through the labyrinthine system that is the US immigration. Before the end of the year, let’s stop and think about what this year has looked like and try to place some humanity back into the ongoing “immigration issue.”

On November 25, the caravan of refugees seeking asylum (let’s call them what they are) reached the Mexico and United States border, only to be met with tear gas by border agents. The rhetoric surrounding their arrival was dominated by right-wing media, spreading misinformation and fear on the airwaves and in our social media feeds. That propaganda was used heavily in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections as well, with enterprising conservatives capitalizing on people’s bigotry and fears in nasty ways.

Ultimately, as reported by NPR, many of the worst of the worst anti-immigrant candidates lost their races. But the “immigration issue” didn’t start during campaign season.

Over the summer, we learned that children were being forcibly removed from their parents and many put up for adoption. Parents were misled by federal agents about seeing their children again and self-deporting themselves. This was not only an issue about federal agents misleading parents and children but also the fact that many of these families do not speak Spanish, they only speak their Indigenous language. Court filings showed that many of these families deemed “ineligible” were in fact eligible. What’s worse, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an office within the Department of Homeland Security, has been working closely with ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to report families who are sponsoring the children who came to the US without an adult to arrest the sponsors of the children.

But the “immigration issue” didn’t start in the camps over the summer. 

On May 25, 2018, Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez was killed while in custody and had health issues that went untreated, as well as signs of physical abuse inflicted by federal agents. In these asylum seekers’ homelands, they may leave in fear of living their true selves. The Trump Administration released a memo, eradicating the guidance from the Obama Administration supporting transgender folks under Title IX; the current administration is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to legally define “sex” as the one assigned at birth and listed on the birth certificate. This could be potentially harmful for any transgender or non-binary person seeking refuge in the United States after they are resettled. Transgender people are facing much discrimination on their journey to the United States.

The “immigration issue” didn’t start in 2018. And it isn’t JUST about the complex situations for which people make the decision to physically move from one side of the border to the other.

The “immigration issue” didn’t start in 2018. And it isn’t JUST about the complex situations for which people make the decision to physically move from one side of the border to the other.

Are you seeing the theme here? Families are torn apart and if not by being separated from their children, then knowing their loved ones could die in custody. These are human beings seeking asylum in a country that promises to be the shining light on the hill – instead, these asylum seekers are being met with the institutionalized terror they thought they were leaving behind. There’re climate issues at work as people’s homelands are physically changing as a result of the man-made effects of climate change.

And just because the headlines aren’t there everyday, immigrants and refugees on both sides of the border continue to be marginalized by US institutions. Last week, an agent was acquitted of manslaughter; he was charged for killing a Mexican teen from across the border. And a look at headlines from around the country today include the following reports:

Want to support efforts to protect these families? Support Southern Border Communities Coalition and New Mexico Comunidades en Acción y de Fe. 


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Executive Director 

Marianna Anaya

Deputy Director 

Lucas Herndon

Energy and Policy Director 

Josette Arvizu

Communications Director 

Jackie Aguirre

Communications Specialist 

Edgar Cruz

Communications Specialist 

Alissa Barnes :: Executive Director
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you should know

Alissa Barnes is Executive Director at ProgessNow New Mexico where she leads a team that works on message development, issue and voter education, and amplification of progressive messages and values. She leads the organization in strategy development, fundraising, and organizational growth and sustainability.

Alissa’s background includes nearly 12 years at Roadrunner Food Bank where Alissa led the development and creation of multiple programs that are now national models, invested in community building and collaborations, and worked closely with elected officials, educating about hunger and why policies would either benefit or hurt clients in food lines. She has a BA from the University of New Mexico and various non-profit certifications.
  • If she followed her childhood dream, she would be a Broadway tap dancing star
  • Has seen Frozen 1 and 2 over 100 times
  • Loves heavy metal concerts
Marianna Anaya :: Deputy Director
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you should know

Marianna oversees strategic messaging and creative implementation tactics for issue-based and political campaigns. She leads the team’s digital and earned media programs, bringing a New Mexico values-based approach to her work. 

Marianna’s background includes race and ethnic studies in education as a focus at UT Austin and UCLA, political campaign work, staffing former Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham as well as leading organizing and communications work for the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

  • She currently serves as the Board President of Emerge NM. 
  • Her hobbies include getting more women, queer folks and BIPOC elected to office.
  • She has three cuddle-worthy dogs at home
Lucas Herndon :: Energy and Policy Director
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you should know

Lucas’ focus is on all things energy and environment, election integrity projects and general messaging strategy. He is often the front facing voice for PNNM when it comes to issues surrounding methane, renewable energy, oil industry accountability, and public lands issues. 

Lucas has an extensive background in public lands and solar energy. He was instrumental in the creation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in 2014 and has participated in every local election since 2012 through phone banking, online organizing, and poll watching. Lucas is a lifelong resident of Las Cruces where he has served in various capacities of leadership including as President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, District Director for the Dona Ana County Democratic Party, and attending and completing the inaugural classes of the Las Cruces Neighborhood Leadership Academy and the Las Cruces Tree Stewards. 

  • Owned a tattoo shop called Omega Tattoo & Supply 
  • Once got a chin bump “what’s up” from James Harden on an airplane when Harden saw Lucas’ beard 
  • Has a minor in Medieval and Early Modern History
Josette Arvizu :: Communications Director
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Josette Arvizu is the Communications Director at ProgressNow New Mexico where she oversees the development and implementation of systems that further the external and internal communications of the organization.

Josette’s background in marketing includes copywriting, paid media, SEO and content strategy for businesses and nonprofits, including convention and visitor bureaus from Bermuda to Anaheim. She began her career teaching writing to college students while in New Mexico State University’s MFA in creative writing program. Her previous work promoting diversity and inclusion includes coordination of writing and traditional arts workshops for Native American youth at the Tucson Indian Center.
  • Is a cat mom to an obstinate orange tabby named Quasimodo and a restless grey cat named Squirrel
  • Hasn’t heard a pun she didn’t like
  • Minored in dance in college and is an avid follower of ballet on Instagram
Jackie Aguirre :: Communications Specialist
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you should know

Jackie’s focus is on graphics and social media marketing that promote progressive issues across our state. 

Jackie’s background includes work in the Reproductive Justice space focusing on Latinx, Chicanx and Mexican-American communities.

  • She is a co-owner of a community art gallery celebrating BIPOC artists
  • She is a long-time volunteer for Planned Parenthood and works with college students to provide condoms/dental dams, menstrual products & other resources
  • She is a part of a group of women who love craft beer and hosts monthly beer shares with beer from all over the country
Edgar Cruz :: Communications Specialist
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you should know

Edgar Cruz is a Communications Specialist at ProgressNow New Mexico where he focuses on video creation and research that promotes progressive issues across our state.

Edgar has a background producing multimedia initiatives. With over five years of radio production experience, he is a movement agent who believes in exploring all avenues of media to inform and engage community.

  • Is a host of Espejos de Aztlan on KUNM
  • Is a member of Generation Justice
  • First discovered his passion for organizing as a high school student after joining the Youth Alliance in 2009