Friday, April 24, 2009

Brush Pickers, POS, Monday hikers

Monday Hikers:
Here is what is planned for this coming Monday:

Walkers: The Walkers are hiking Fort Warden. They will car pool in Poulsbo at 9;15, depart at 9:30 arriving at Fort Worden at about 10:30 meeting up at Building 300 (Visitors' Center). They will walk west along West Gate Road then proceed north along an unmarked trail paralleling the west boundary as far as the Chinese Gardens then proceed southeasterly to the cars along unimproved roads.

Hikers: The Hikers are hiking Lower Big Quil. They will car pool in Poulsbo at 8am.

Mountain Goats: The M.G.'s will hike the Little River Trail. They will car pool in Poulsbo at 8am. The M.G.'s will be checking for downed trees. If you have a GPS - bring it.

I've hiked with the Monday Hiker Mountain Goats twice. I hike too slow to keep up with them.

The 15th Annual Olympia's Procession of the Species will be celebrated on Saturday, April 25, 2009 @ 4:30pm last year's was an entrancing kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, delighted by 27,000 smiles beaming together.


On Brush Pickers

I don't like them cutting down the salal but the damage they do is nothing compared to what the timber industry has done and continues to do. Most of the local brush pickera are Mam Guatemalans and they come here to escape from the hell of working for American corporations in Guatemala. Mam Guetemalans are Mayan Indians who were able to hold out and survive Spanish and then American colonialism by hiding out in their mountain homes. They are no longer able to hide though and now most work for pennies a day on the coffee plantations.

Here they work from dawn until dusk, sometimes in knee deep snow and they consider it to be a better life then what they had in Guatemala. If conditions in Guatemala were not so oppressive they would not be here. Yes some of them leave garbage behind but not as much as some target shooters leave.

I don’t know anything about padlocks getting cut but lately I have seen a few heavy equipment operators who did not have the right key to open the gates when they went to check on their bull dozers, road graters and feller benchers. ICE and the forest service have teamed up to arrest brush pickers who have permits to pick brush but are not in this country legally. The forest service tends to wait on the Skokomish Valley road and then detains permitted brush pickers until ICE arrives and then ICE takes them to Port Angeles and then to Tacoma and then deports them.

Many of these brush pickers are my neighbors and my children’s classmates, they work hard and they pay taxes but most of them will never get to collect Social Security. Most of them work until they are about 60 and then they go back home to be supported by their families in their old age. While they are working in America they send money home to their extended families.

Brush pickers helped me get my Jeep unstuck on the Upper South Fork Skokomish last year. I find most of them to be friendly but also very scared because they don’t want to be deported. I am not afraid of them but they are afraid of me. I’d rather be on a trail with brush pickers then with dreaded-locked trustafarians from TESC.

Indy Media report on Ice and Brushpickers:

I.C.E. Agents Targeting Salal Pickers in Quilcene

Every two months, the Forest Service issues permits for picking salal. Immigrant workers are by far the most common group of people that line up for these permits, a fact duly noted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Over the past several months ICE agents have shown up to these permit issuing days on the lookout for undocumented people, reinforcing the existence of a hostile and terrifying environment for those fighting to meet their most basic needs in a country that deems them “illegal”.

Over the months, the number of groups of immigrant workers who come to buy permits has decreased considerably. The possibility of ICE agents waiting around to kidnap people, take them to the Northwest Detention Center, and forcefully deport them back to their homelands is a very real threat. Since a key element of ICE’s “smooth” functioning has been to keep raids and deportations out of sight from the rest of the community, giving these acts of violence undeniable visibility is crucial when fighting back. On Wednesday, November 19th, a group of people went to the Forest Service in Quilcine, Washington, to stand in solidarity and defense of the immigrant workers who came to pick up permits.

About fifteen minutes before they arrived, an unmarked vehicle slithered up and a large white man with a big gun jumped out. He went right after a small group of people huddled around a water fountain, screaming in Spanish “Are you Guatemalan? You want to fight me?” Two men from the group escaped, but one person was snagged and roughly dragged into the van. He is currently being caged in the NW Detention Center, torn apart from his wife and baby. The agent, who had identified himself as an immigration officer in Spanish to the men, was also seen at the previous permit issuing in September where 7 people were taken, including a mother and a baby who were later released. Additionally, a seventeen year old boy hiding in the back of a van was chased down, beaten up, and taken away by the same man.

After the rapture of the man by the armed thug, most of the people waiting to buy permits fled the area. Within an hour, some came back and waited for their turn to get a permit. Because there are usually so many people in line for permits, the Forest Service uses a “lottery” system where they take everyone’s information and randomly pick 50 people to grant permits to. Typically 150 people show up to get permits. On Wednesday, there were roughly twenty. In spite of the small crowd of people, the Forest Service stuck to their system. One by one each group went inside, showed a US picture ID, filled out a form, and forked over $150. After everyone had done this, everyone got a permit and left. The permits are good for two months or a limit of 3,000 lbs of salal.

Although Forest Service officers claimed they did not go out of their way to assist ICE, there have been many discrepancies surrounding this statement. Members of the immigrant community have said that the information collected by the Forest Service (including license plate numbers and identification for all applicants) was used to locate people in recent raids. Two weeks after the September issuing of permits two vans of brush pickers, all with Forest Service granted permits, were detained on their way back from work by ICE officials. Also, those who went in solidarity learned that after the November 19th permit issuing, the same unidentified immigration agent followed a van of Guatemalan immigrants and there was a car accident. One woman is reportedly in the hospital.
Through conversations with immigrant workers and other allies, the group of people who went to Quilcine learned of a dangerous problem becoming more common: smaller scale employers and documented immigrant employers hiring undocumented people to do heavy physical labor, and then avoiding paying them by either threatening to call ICE and snitch, or calling ICE and telling them to start running. One man remembered doing a week of intense labor, expected to receive compensation, and then was told by his employer that immigration agents were on their way. Cashing in on a very tangible fear sweeping the targeted immigrant community provides free, expendable labor for employers. In the name of profit, greedy monsters are helping the Department of Homeland Security do its violent work.

The next permit issuing is scheduled for January 21st, the summoning date on each permit granted in November. A supportive, non-intimidating presence can provide some level of protection for our targeted sisters and brothers as long as we respect their autonomy, make no assumptions about our role as allies, do not impose our help, and maintain good communication (on their terms) throughout this struggle. Bringing cameras to focus on ICE agents (should they show up) is a good idea, keeping in mind the importance of not compromising the safety of our hunted-down comrades. As privileged, documented citizens, we must take personal stakes in tearing these monsters and their institutions to the ground.

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