There was a time before the USA, before Mexico, before any need to demarcate the economic line between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
There are people who are gathering in Tijuana. They are arriving by the thousands, on foot, by bus and truck and every means imaginable. They are coming alone and in groups, enfeebled and with children, some are children. They have left countries behind, and pushed through borders and fences and deserts and escaped deportation and violence and assault. They have gathered on this mythical line between the United States of America and Mexico. Where they will wait, for weeks or months, it’s unclear, until they are allowed to, given the privilege to, ask for asylum inside the United States. It is the status you ask for when you have run out of options, when you are begging and pleading because the water is rising and the doors are locked and you’re about to drown.
They have been greeted with violence and bigotry along their routes. Called cockroaches as they travelled through Mexico, and invaders once they reached its end, and they are still arriving in the hundreds and thousands. Members of the far-right in the U.S. and Mexico have launched attacks on them. Held rallies outside their tent cities shouting for them to return to some mythical homeland that clearly does not exist.
Wealthy Mexicans in Tijuana donning MAGA hats and megaphones tried to march on the people camped along the beach, they were repelled but their vitriol was clear. “Mexico First” means no shelter for what some have deemed migrants, or refugees, or asylum seekers. No space for the people carrying their children and their last possessions across thousands of miles, because whatever they think it is we have here is better than wherever they just came from. That possibly dying, or being imprisoned, or both, is still better than the tragedies they came from. Have they not seen the cages we put children in? Have they not heard about the open-air internment camps that dot the Texas landscape? Something tells me they had, but the water was rising around them and drowning just isn’t an option.
These people, these migrants/these asylum seekers/these refugees, they came knowing their cases were weak, that asylum is not granted lightly and they will most likely be turned away. But they also knew that this was their only chance. The U.S. has no place for them, does not value them based on their sheer humanity alone, and for that will not grant them passage past it’s gates.
They made this journey regardless, fleeing bone-aching poverty, and instability and violence born out of the U.S.’s destabilization routine across Central America. They left behind a gendered violence, where their mothers and daughters go missing and their body parts are found strewn across empty lots. And once they made it here they were told to wait, it might be months… “But we can give you jobs in the Maquillas”, the factories where the U.S. sent its manufacturing when it became too expensive to pay workers and they were tired of hearing the complaints about things like “conditions’ and “benefits”…the place where the word Femicide was coined. The economy that stretches along the border where the number of disappeared is in the thousands.
We should not let these people in because of the distance they have travelled, or the fact that they carried their children here, or because they are “legally” trying to attain asylum. We should let them in because freedom of movement is a basic right. And this border, this militarized line cutting through indigenous land, is a fallacy. It’s only political and economic role is to keep them- and all the other “thems”- out, depending on the voracious appetite of the U.S. labor market. Its purpose is to make sure that those that do make it here -the ones that travel the thousands of miles and dare to walk past a line in the sand- are vulnerable.
The United States needs those 12 million people living here under the designation of “illegal” to stay that way, because how else would we exploit them? How else would we maintain an agricultural economy, a meat packing economy, a domestic worker economy, without a population that we have legally stripped of any semblance of dignity?
No person is illegal, and no person should be forced to prove that the situations they are made to endure at the hands of U.S. trade policy and warfare are “bad enough” that they may move away from that danger. “The Border”- and the idea of borders- is a lie we were told so many generations ago that we have begun to believe it.
It does not have to stay that way.
This could be the last generation that requires people to document their worth and carry it around on a laminated card. We can demand an end to that wall, to all the walls that keep “us” in and “them” out; but it takes action and fortitude. Power, in all its forms, will never concede that kind of control, but we are the generation to take it. No politician -no matter how left or progressive- will tear that wall down. It’s up to us and the collective strength of all our hands and voices, together saying “Enough is Enough”.