Border Wall

Immigrant rights and environmental organizations come together on issues of immigration

Sierra Club unites with Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

November 2, 2010

Contact: Bill Chandler, MIRA, (601) 968-5183

Sean Sullivan, Sierra Club Borderlands Team, (520) 250-9040

JACKSON, MS – At this year’s 5th annual Unity Conference, sponsored by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Sierra Club will add environmental issues to the lineup. The conference, being held in on November 4-5, 2010 at the Cabot Lodge Millsaps in Jackson, MS, is the largest gathering in the state that focuses on immigrant and worker rights and Black/Brown Unity. For the 5th year, MIRA and SCLC come together to analyze our common struggles and plan for the future.

“While the Sierra Club is neutral on immigration, we have never been neutral on environmental destruction.” says Sean Sullivan, Co-Chair of the Sierra Club Borderlands Team and Jackson resident. The Sierra Club will be hosting a photo exhibit which depicts how the land, wildlife, and people of the borderlands are being negatively impacted by newly constructed border walls. Entrance to the exhibit is free of charge and be open for viewing 5:30pm – 8:30pm Nov 2 – Nov 4 and from 9:00am – 9:00pm on Nov 5 during the Unity Conference.

Bill Chandler, Executive Director of MIRA is pleased with the Sierra Club’s participation. “The Unity Conference welcomes the efforts of the Sierra Club to shed light on the reckless and destructive border polices wreaking havoc on the US-Mexico border. Walls have not stopped people from coming here to work, the walls forced people to shift where they cross to remote areas resulting the deaths of thousands of people in the desert.”, says Chandler.

Since 1995, the number of border-crossing deaths increased and by 2005 had more than doubled. More than 5,000 migrants have died from dehydration and exposure. It is estimated that thousands of undiscovered bodies lie undiscovered along the border.

“To address this complicated issue, we need to look at the root causes of migration. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced as a result of so-called free trade agreements like NAFTA. Small farmers in central Mexico cannot compete with government subsidized corn flowing south from big agri-business. These farmers are then forced to the Mexican border, to work in unsafe and environmentally hazardous factories. These types of agreements are not sustainable and must be re-examined.”, says Sullivan.

Chandler added, “it is refreshing to see a national environmental organization like the Sierra Club take this kind of stand on immigration issues. Too often nativist groups have tried to hide their xenophobic views behind environmental values.”

This year, we celebrate MIRA’s 10 years of advocacy, and look ahead to unique challenges and opportunities in the upcoming year, including the 2011 legislative cycle, redistricting, and the national immigration reform debate. The conference serves as the meeting ground for over 150 community organization leaders, activists, and volunteers; elected and appointed officials; members of the corporate, philanthropic, and academic communities; senior citizens; college students; and youth. Speakers will include: Maria Jimenez from Texas, Isabel Garcia, Arizona immigrant rights leader, and Bill Fletcher, Jr., a leading civil rights and labor leader in the AFL-CIO from Washington, D.C.

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