Friday, February 22, 2008

No isn't on the ballot

Normally I won't write about things like the topic below, at fear of sounding like the ranting white liberal. But this first hand account, written by a friend of mine this week, I think is important to get out there. It sums up well about how I feel about the situation, and it's an all too common occurrence.

And before you go out to vote, or tout the liberating aspects of the first possible female or black president, remember that all of the candidates support stricter immigration policies, and further fortification of the border, leading to more deaths. Remember that Hilary Clinton's husband put into effect Operation Gatekeeper, one of the most significant causes of migrant deaths. Leading to the next question, how often do you hear in the media or political campaigns about the deaths that happen each day at the border?

Yesterday afternoon three young volunteers and I were on a No More Deaths patrol in a remote desert canyon. We were dropping off water, food, blankets, shoes and socks along some remote migrant trails. Walking up the canyon, I saw some green shoes, and, thinking they looked pretty new, began to yell, as we always do, "Hola, hola! Tenemos agua, comida, somos de la iglesia, blah blah..." I only got to the second "hola" before I saw her teeth, and spun around, and told my friends "Stop."

I had never found someone dead in the desert before. The feeling is horrendous. So ugly, frustrating, tragic. I just looked at my feet and said "Goddammit." I'm still mad.

Joseline was only fourteen years old. She was from El Salvador, heading to the West Coast to reunite with family members there. I can't stop thinking of all the freshmen I taught at VVS – she could have been one of them.

Because obtaining a visa through official means is next to impossible, she, and thousands like her, can't cross the border at a port of entry. Instead, our spineless government builds walls to force them into the furthest, most inhospitable stretches of desert. As crossing without documents becomes more difficult, the price of the journey rises. Now smuggling people is as profitable as smuggling drugs, so cartels are more involved and violence is increasing. "Securing the border" is a stupid term that just means speeding up this vicious cycle.

Each year, hundreds of people die trying to cross the southern borderlands, walking north for a better life. Still, it is very rare for humanitarian aid organizations like No More Deaths to find a deceased migrant in the desert. It only happens about once a year. I guess this year my friends and I are the unlucky ones.

I'm not writing this message asking for sympathy – I'm asking for action. Though the many calls and kind words I've already received are appreciated, I don't feel comforted. How can I take solace when what we ran across yesterday is a regular occurrence here in the U.S? Take a look at the attached letter from my friend Deb. Thankfully, the 13 year-old boy mentioned in her letter was later found alive and well. But it shows the racism and inhumanity that is consuming our country. How can we feel secure when our neighbors are being rounded up and scapegoated in our own communities, far from the border? How can anyone feel comforted when a kangaroo court called "Operation Streamline" is forcing poor and hungry people to beg a judge for forgiveness for their "crime" of trying to feed their families – or face jail time and criminal records?

U.S. border policy is designed to neglect, berate, scapegoat, humiliate, torture, and kill innocent people. Let's change it. Now, goddammit!

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