Analysis of the El Paso Times; How Bill Knight Fell in Love with the Nutty Advocate

by Mari A. Gomez

An analysis of the front page spread of the El Paso Times on June 26, 2017 titled Advocate dedicates life to empowering immigrants written by Bill Knight.

I don’t know what was worse, the writing in this El Paso Times story, or the subject of the writing, Fernando Garcia the nutty guy that heads the Border Network for Human Rights, who judging by this piece is dreaming of open borders. Perhaps the combination of the two (the terrible writing and Mr. Garcia) made the piece, which  was the front page of the El Paso Times on Monday June 26th, 2017 that much more exacerbating. 

The main pull quote in large letters reads: ''YOU ARE ENTITLED TO BASIC RIGHTS'

The headline itself reveals something about where this guys stands. One is not “entitled” to basic rights. That would imply that someone gives you those rights. Our rights however are not “given” or “created” by anybody, certainly not government, they are innate as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. This is what the founders referred to as natural rights.

The word "entitlement" of course has also  garnered some rather negative connotations and when used often extends to privileges that are not natural rights, which is exactly what happens later on in the piece.

The most frustrating thing about this front page story, (it is a combination of the writing and the interviewee) is how completely vague it is in regards to what this guy actually does through his organization.

The piece states Garcia sees these people referred to as “lost souls” as one of two things: “victims and clients.” He is presumably referring to 'illegal aliens' which he mentions just before that, then says, “once they are labeled as a victim, it takes away the power of that person. In some cases, they were seen as victims only.”

Wait. Who labeled them as victims?  How are they victims? Victims of what? The oppression of the border? How does a decision to cross a border illegally make them a victim? 

“The second thing is that they were seen as clients. Filling out paper work…I didn’t want to be in the business of charging people to fill out papers-though that is necessary…”

Paper work for what? 

Bill Knight is not helping here. He doesn't seem at all interested in providing any clear information.

Garcia goes on to talk about how he trained a group of people to go out into the community and educate this group of “lost souls.”  These trained people going out to talk in churches and neighborhoods were called ‘human rights promoters’ and were taught the first, fourth, sixth and fourteenth amendment before he sent them out to talk to people. He says, “Even if you are undocumented, you are entitled to basic rights…” 

You are not ‘entitled’ to anything. But the question is what "basic rights" is he talking about here?  

Neither the writer, nor Mr. Garcia ever clearly define what they mean by “human rights.”  It is profoundly elusive and it’s even less clear because the writer is driven by emotion. He begins the story:

“It is but a river. And so much more.”

A very dramatic opening. 

 Knight goes on to write:

“Fernando Garcia looks out on the Rio Grande River, that gentle journey of water that flows easily and gently between these two old border cities, that unknowing force of nature that separates hope and hopelessness.”

Aside from the cliches and “gentle” and “gently” in one sentence, Knight reflects on this idea of unsuspecting nature being used as a tool for man’s senseless cruelty. Then, he clearly states that on one side of the river is hope and in the other is hopelessness. I don't know that calling Mexico hopeless is the right position to take. Somehow I think Knight might not have meant to disclose that particular viewpoint, but in his attempt to reach poetic heights, he did. 

Let’s continue. As Garcia talks about these human rights promoters, now armed with training on the first, fourth, sixth, and fourteenth amendment he says:
“It was a human rights issue. Health, education, housing, labor rights. We looked at the way black Americans brought attention to their neighborhoods in the 1960’s. Immigrants should have the capacity to bring their issue to the public mind.”

The constant and purposeful omission or reluctance to differentiate between illegal and legal immigrants. It would make a difference to know what they are actually discussing. If it’s Garcia’s efforts to educate Latino communities on their Constitutional rights, encouraging people to stand up for civil liberties and not be intimidated by Border Patrol or other agencies, that’s all fantastic. 

If he’s talking about illegal immigrants and in some way encouraging it, suggesting they are entitled to healthcare, education, or housing that changes the conversation. When African Americans were fighting for civil rights, they were doing so as citizens, for the most part people that had lived in the country for generations. In the same quote he claims they should have “the capacity to bring their issue.." What is meant by capacity? And what exactly is “their issue”? In addition, his phrasing suggests that health care and education are ‘human rights,’ which is not stated anywhere in either of the amendments he mentioned, or any of them for that matter. They are certainly not basic natural rights in the way the Founders defined them.
Knight spends a whopping paragraph on SB4. As many have here in El Paso, he has reduced the law to one inaccurate statement and describes it as follows: “..a bill which essentially allows local law enforcement official to act as immigration agents.”

People omit some important details. 

The SB4 Bill allows but does not require local law enforcement to ask about immigration status once the person has been detained because of a crime. That is to say, they cannot stop a person buying an ice cream cone without cause and ask for their papers, they also cannot discriminate based on skin color. It is once that person has been rightfully and lawfully detained for a crime that officers can inquire about immigration status. The bill does not apply to witnesses or victims reporting a crime. It does not apply in hospitals. It does require, however, that local law enforcement that has custody of a person that federal law enforcement is seeking, that they lawfully hold that person until the appropriate federal agency can pick them up. 

Of course Knight is already in love and painting this guy as some hero sacrificing himself, admittedly at the neglect of his own children, for the “lost souls” crossing over from “hopelessness,”  that he takes very little time to explain what he’s actually talking about.

Read the text of the bill here.
Further on in the piece they mention how the Border Network began “documenting abuses with the immigrants and law enforcement agencies… Physical abuse, psychological abuse, racial profiling, illegal entry.” 

How is 'illegal entry' an abuse by a Border Patrol agent? What are they actually discussing here?

It quickly moves on to the HUGS NOT WALLS  event. Bill Knight is clearly swooning over this, he describes it as “heart-wrenching.”

I visited the Border Network’s website, which states:

“..hundreds of families will have an opportunity to embrace each other, many for the first time in decades. This act protests the deep inhumanity of the U.S immigration policies that have fueled massive numbers of separated immigrant families  and scarred communities across the country.”

The “deep inhumanity” of the border? Is it inhumane to have a border that demarcates a nation's territory? Mexico has one too you know. They also have immigration policies, which are much harsher than the U.S has had in the past. 

 Some of the people talk about how they haven’t seen their family members in a decade, or twenty years. Yet none of the reports or coverage, does anyone ask the question: Why? Why hasn’t this person seen their family in twenty years? They have been living illegally for twenty years? Did they commit a crime and get deported? Why can't they visit the U.S?  In twenty years you couldn’t get a visa to visit your family? Why? In twenty years Fernando Garcia of the Border Network didn’t educate your family on obtaining legal residency or on how family members could come and visit? It's never explained and Knight doesn't bother.

And just when you think that there are no answers here, you get to the end of the piece. 

“His goal?…” Knight writes, “Perhaps someday he would like to look out upon the Rio Grande and see simply a river-and nothing more.”

And there it is. A river and NOT a border. This guy hates the fact that there is a border between the United States and Mexico. Although Knight writes, “perhaps” and  “would like” so it’s hard to tell if this is Knight projecting or actually expressing Garcia’s intent. I think it’s both. 

The entire piece is written in a way that provides very little information and creates vague impressions about this guy educating the innocent victims on the Constitution. However, his entire premise, which at least in this piece seems to be centered towards illegal immigrants, actually undermines law from the government system he seems to be educating on. According to this story, his organization encourages the blurring of borders and helps illegal immigrants feel ‘entitled’ to certain things (though they don’t really define what) and yet it is front page of the paper, presumably indicating the fact that the editors had zero qualms about this. 

Yet, we live in a country where you can have a tax exempt organization, which provides you a decent living,  even when that organization essentially encourages and helps people feel they are entitled to things when they break the law of said country. Somehow America is both “hope” and the oppressor.

Mari Gomez1 Comment