Global events and economic policies have lead to increased migration globally. And the United States government has responded with militarization and low intensity warfare, in the guise of safety, security and management. And as a result, too many people are subject to punishment, exploitation and death. People crossing the Mexico/Arizona border encounter fences, hate crime, and the harsh desert because of lies perpetuated by the Department of Homeland Security, ICE and Border Patrol.
Working with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, I can connect the suffering of African Americans to immigrants of color in the United States. But on August 11, 2011 I attended a Border I attended a Border Solidarity Delegation with DRUM and Vamos Unidos, with the aim of making concrete connections between the experiences of migrants crossing the US/Mexico Border to runaway slaves in the Underground Railroad. These crimes against humanity have similarities:
- aid was given to runaway slaves by abolitionists, free slaves and slaves alike
- aid if given to migrant by concerned individuals, organizations, and former migrants and their family.
- runaway slaves had to cross of number of natural barriers, travelling in winter, mountains, rivers, suicide and avoiding slave catchers
- migrants crossing the US/Mexico Border face similar struggles like, and many die due to exposure to the elements, suicide, border patrol agents, and injury.
- Slaves and immigrants were and are the result of a global economy, and a global economic policy
- Runaway developed networks and codes to navigate their journey and identify allies, migrants crossing the border have to do this today.
I was excited to join this delegation and see firsthand how these connections can be made, and who would help me make them.
After a long day of travel, I arrived at our delegation orientation. I met an amazing group of activists from New York, Phoenix, with DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving www.drumnation.org), Vamos Unidos (vamosunidos.org), and Alliance for Educational Justice (www.allianceforeducationaljustice.org), the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (acluaz.org, ACLU) and Derechos Humanos (www.derechoshumanosaz.net). We introduced ourselves and shared our knowledge of the Border issues, what we hoped to learn and bring back from this experience. A theme emerged that was restated throughout the trip was education and solidarity. WE want to share issues on the Border with South Asian, Muslim, African American and student communities, in an effort to build solidarity in this movement. I believe everyone on this delegation believes that militarization and criminalization will not stop at the Border, but will and has moved into our respective communities.
Isabel Garcia, with Derechos Humanos then gave a brief presentation on the history of the Arizona/Mexico Border. She reiterated that these crimes against humanity have always taken place. She gave a historical, economic, political analysis of immigration in the country, focusing on Arizona. One can see, S-Comm., AB 1070, and E-Verify are not isolated policies. There are people, politicians and corporations tied to these decisions.
After our orientation I spoke briefly with Mary-Hope... African American ACLU is a part of the BAJI Advisory Committee in Phoenix. She shared with me, that she walked the migrant trail on the US/Mexico Border. And one night camping under the stars, she noticed the Big Dipper, and immediately she thought of the Underground Railroad. We share the same planet; we are the same species, being subject to the same Draconian laws. These connections have to be made. African Americans must see them and come to the conclusion that our liberty is bound in the liberty of others.