By Liam Woodworth-Cook
Just before the United States celebrated the colonist holiday of Thanksgiving, canisters of tear gas were launched across the United States border into Mexico. The targets of the gas were numerous migrants running toward the border of the United States after being diverted by a Mexican police blockade during a march. The series of migrants traveling together has been labelled the Migrant Caravan, a loose collection of roughly 6,000 Central Americans fleeing their countries of origin to find safety and work elsewhere, mainly the United States. They made it it to Tijuana in mid-November to seek asylum in the U.S. Since then, they’ve made a camp in and around a sports complex.
Currently, Mexico is offering a one-year humanitarian visa for the migrants to work in Mexico. At least 100 people have been deported back to their home countries. Others are trying to go around or over the fence and enter the United States. The Tijuana-San Diego border is one of the most heavily guarded border spots.
This is not a pilgrimage of jubilance, nor a malicious assault on the United States. This is the movement of people in danger, of displacement and suffering. No family leaves home if home still remains, to paraphrase the quote in the refugee zeitgeist.
The President of the United States and others have defended the use of tear gas, deeming it necessary, or self-defense, as a small group of migrants attempted to create a hole in the wire fencing of the border. In the beginning of November, President Trump commented that the military ought to “shoot back” if the asylum seekers threw rocks, deeming bullets and stones equitable. He quickly changed tone, stating that migrants would be arrested, not shot. A quick change of tone or intent, means, once again, nothing. It is just wiping the smear of his true remarks with a napkin of political moderation.
The border station closed that day as migrants sought asylum. Border agents have been able to take in roughly 100 people per day, in the slow, backlogged process of asylum seeking. The tear gas landed among the children, mothers and fathers. The migrants dispersed away from the wall to seek safety. While tear gas has been prohibited in war by the Chemical Weapons Convention, it is often used for crowd control. Tear gas can burn the mouth and eyes, induce shortness of breath and choking, and inflict burns or rashes.
The United States has an infamous history of interfering with other countries’ sovereignty, Central and South America having been frequent targets for the United States’ corporate affairs for decades. This meddling has caused thousands of deaths and displaced people.
The CIA and other government officials were involved with the United Fruit Company, a major land-owning corporation that used its political power and resources to influence the government of Guatemala and hold power in the Central American region. In 1954, the U.S. supported a CIA-trained military coup of the Guatemalan government to defend American business interests from the left-leaning elected president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán.
The U.S. has supported numerous dictatorships and coups, in which severe military rule has led to brutal executions, feminicide and poverty. Popularly elected leaders, voted in by the ballot, have died in mysterious plane crashes or have been overthrown by U.S.-backed military operations.
It is this upheaval, decades upon decades, that the migrants are fleeing. Honduras had a military coup in 2009, with U.S. support. This destabilization and interference is at the core of the 2,700-mile trek of hundreds of people coming from Central America. These are the effects of colonialism, as perpetuated by the imperialist United States.
Borders are invisible lines defined by states. They are arbitrary laws created with sometimes physical markers. They are a construct. Beyond the fences are humans, and inside us all is water. We are vessels of water on a planet that is dying. Dying from colonization, and the global capitalist state. The environment is suffering, and we are in crisis. For some, this crisis is a daily teeter between life and death.