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Published on May 30th, 2009 | by Ian Brown

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Internationally Recognized Advocate for Migrant Human Rights on the US-Mexico Border Dies at 72

By Sovereign Hager
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
CHULA VISTA, California – Roberto Martinez, a committed advocate for migrant rights on the US- Mexico border died on May 20th from complications of diabetes. Martinez appeared at marches, spoke on behalf of migrants, cataloged human rights abuses, and testified before Congress on the impact of increased militarization at the border.

Martinez’s career in advocacy began when he led efforts in demanding police action to violence against immigrants.  He has consistently fought for government accountability for failed immigration policies. As the director of the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, Martinez was instrumental in developing a human rights methodology, which is now widely regarded as a best practice by human rights organizations on the US-Mexico border.

The media often attacked Martinez’s convictions. Martinez received death threats, was arrested during the course of his work, and hate groups targeted his family. His wife, nine children, and their families survive him.

Martinez was the first US citizen to be honored as an International Human Rights Monitor by Human Rights Watch for his pioneering human rights advocacy in border communities. Recently Roberto received the prestigious Ohtli Award from the Mexican Government. This is the highest honor granted to a non-Mexican national for their service to Mexicans abroad. He was also the recipient of the Quezacoalt Award, presented by the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights.

Christian Ramirez, the national coordinator for the American Friend’s Service Committee reflected on Martinez’s death, saying “It’s going to be a terrible loss . . . for the whole border community. Voices like his are urgently needed at the border.”

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