Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Caravans of Desperation

A caravan of asylum seekers from Central America were would-be invaders, a dangerous horde bent on violating US law, pawns of a liberal conspiracy,  proof of America's  need to build a wall. Vice-President Mike Pence, suggested leftwing activists were manipulating migrants. “They’re being exploited by open-border political activists.”When they reached the border they faced the latest fiction, designed to keep them out.

“We have reached capacity at the San Ysidro port of entry,” Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a branch of homeland security, said in a statement on Sunday. The agency lacked “sufficient space and resources” to process “persons travelling without appropriate entry documentation”. The US, in other words, was not violating US and international law by refusing to process asylum seekers. It simply lacked the capacity. Despite weeks of warning about the caravan’s approach, this gateway was suddenly unable to process any asylum claims. Lawyers and advocacy groups called the CBP claim a pretext to block people who were fleeing violence and persecution from using any of the 316 beds in the San Ysidro facility.
“It’s a lie. They just don’t want us because we’re foreigners,” said Katarina Francisco, 23, a Salvadorean cradling her three-year-old daughter, Allison. 
“We know that they’re lying,” said Tristan Call, a volunteer with Pueblos Sin Fronteras, which organised the caravan.
Migrant caravans often go by another name in Spanish: the “Viacrucis Migrante”, or the Migrant Stations of the Cross. In Latin America, the Stations of the Cross, which reenact Christ’s last steps and crucifixion during the Easter holidays, are an important part of religious ceremonies. Migrants, by organizing their own Viacrucis, are explicitly comparing their own persecution to the suffering Christ endured during his last moments on earth. Their march is as much peaceful pilgrimage as it is civil disobedience. Migrant Viacrucis marches started over ten years ago specifically to protest the increasing militarization of US and Mexican borders. In 2014, the US began quietly paying Mexico over $100m a year to catch and deport Central Americans along its border with Guatemala. Suddenly Mexican border enforcement was big business, and Mexico’s new anti immigration program, dubbed the Southern Border Plan, was born.
Within a year, detentions of Central Americans rose 79% under the plan, and detentions of child migrants ages 10 and under skyrocketed an astounding 541%. Mexico deported many migrants without due process, which is against international human rights mandate and,
technically, Mexican law. Assaults, kidnappings, and murders of migrants have also increased largely because, under the plan, border enforcement has forced Central Americans to cross in increasingly dangerous and isolated areas run by gangs and cartels. Travelling with a Viacrucis is often the safest way to cross Mexico as a migrant. Many are single mothers, toddlers, and even pregnant women. The Viacrucis had a disproportionately high number of LGBTQ migrants, who are assaulted and murdered at extremely high rates in Mexico and Central America.
Regardless of migrant caravans’ effectiveness, it is important to keep in mind that the Viacrucis is a product of militarized borders and increased deportations, not the cause of them. Marching migrants are not part of a hostile take over, but rather the effect of one. They are the ones who have seen their countries and lives crumble.

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