FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fighting Fear, Hundreds Join Border Caravan for Migrant Rights

by

Caravan2-768x432

The Federal Building looms overhead like a threat as the protesters gather. Washington policies have brought them here to Sacramento, to push the state government to protect its citizens and communities from the anti-immigrant orders of the 45th president.

Union members, migrants, government officials and grassroots organizers—the categories often overlap—chant and march before stepping up to the mike to tell their stories and make their promises. Matching t-shirts read “Caravan Against Fear” with dates in April and a graphic of a child, her arms spread in a welcoming gesture, her face turned upward in hope.

It’s the launch of an unusual caravan for unusual times. One sign reads “Somos el pueblo. Respeta nuestra humanidad”—We are the people. Respect our humanity. Since when do the residents of an advanced democracy have to plead for respect for their humanity?

Apparently, since the election of Donald Trump. Although deportations and fear existed before, since November 2016 and the orders of the Trump administration to arrest, detain and deport up to 3 million undocumented workers the atmosphere has gotten much uglier. In this “America,” even authorized migrants can be targets, families hide in their own homes, police are reassigned to hunt migrants rather than criminals, and the wall on the border has become the visible sign of the far more dangerous and insidious construction of walls within the hearts and minds of U.S. citizens.

“I was born here but I’ve always lived in fear because my parents always lived in fear,” Melissa Santos said to the crowd. She described years of being instructed not to answer the door and being scared going out to the store for fear her undocumented parents could be deported. Her mother suffered domestic violence during most of Melissa’s childhood and couldn’t call the police. If a childhood of fear and violence was bad, she believes the nation is headed into even worse times.

“Ever since Trump won the election, immigrants became targets, and now they’re even more targeted because they can’t call law enforcement,” she told a crowd of caravan members and supporters. One after another, speakers described communities locked in fear and families paralyzed by the uncertainty of how and when their lives could be permanently disrupted.

“Living in the shadows” former president Obama called it, and in the end, he failed to remedy the situation. With the arrival of Donald Trump, the shadows deepened and for millions of people, including many of those here today, going about the tasks of daily life risks being separated from loved ones, friends, jobs and homes.

California Values, California Resistance

Workers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and immigrant and human rights organizations in border states organized the caravan to confront that growing fear and bring together resistance actions. In large part as a result of their pressure, the state of California is taking a prominent role in confronting Trump’s vision of a nation delivered into the hands of a white, male, wealthy elite.

As the world’s sixth largest economy if considered a separate country (something that has been seriously proposed since the Trump election), the state has the economic muscle to chart its own course. As the state that hosts more immigrants than any other, California and many of its elected representatives have taken a stand against the deportation and anti-worker polices of a president they did not elect.

The main goal now is passage of Senate Bill 54. SB54 is a proposal to make the entire state of California a “sanctuary state.” Although related laws exist and municipalities have adopted similar measures, this would be the first statewide declaration on the books. It mandates police to act as police and not immigration enforcement officers, and banishes ICE operations, providing relief to immigrant families afraid they could be nabbed at any moment.

“California has been very successful,” noted State Senator Richard Pan, a supporter of the bill. “Other states and other countries want to emulate what we’re doing, and part of that is our embrace of our diversity. We have many immigrants who have come to California and contributed vitally to our culture, our economy and to the vibrant place that we call California. So, when someone tries to inject fear and distrust and division, that’s counter to what we believe here and what we should believe in the United States.”

“What we do here in California is going to have an effect on the rest of the country,” notes SEIU-USWW president David Huerta to a cheering crowd.

SB54 is also known as the California Values bill and that’s the real battle here. Although the United States has a deep vein of racism running throughout its history, formally driving out immigrants has happened only briefly and sporadically in the past. To make that a part of a new vision to “Make America Great Again” runs against the day-to-day reality of what actually does make America great. It lacerates whole families and communities.

In the age of open racism, the joyful diversity of the demonstration is in itself defiant. The signs reflect the movement’s demands: “ICE out of California,” “Families united to protect immigrants and refugees,” “Unstoppable together,” “#HereToStay,” “Immigrants welcome here,” “No Ban, No Wall.” Someone starts the chant that marked the Jan. 21 March on Washington: “This is what democracy looks like!” Another modifies it: “This is what California values look like!”

Caravan’s border journey

The Caravan against Fear is a joint effort of some 230 organizations. The route winds through California then sets off along the border, just as the Trump administration calls for the first multi-million dollar bids to build more wall, and moves forward on plans to beef up anti-immigration measures disguised as national security.

Following the demonstration at the Sacramento Federal Building, some 60 people loaded into white vans with slogans and hashtags painted on their sides. The buses headed off to the next stop in Modesto where they met with state Assembly members.

Back on the road, walkie-talkies keep the vans in line—no one is allowed to jump ahead or straggle behind. At a community meeting in Stockton, caravan and community members relate experiences that follow a common thread: They begin with injustice and they end with empowerment.

Night is a short rest on a hard floor, but no one complains. More than 1,000 miles lie ahead, and just as many stories. Fear is a tool of autocrats and bigots, and the Trump administration knows that. But it requires the acquiescence of the fearer.

The message of the Caravan is simple: Break the fear by coming out of the shadows, not withdrawing deeper. And in the daylight, we can see each other, join together and fight back.

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS) .

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 29, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
No Laughing Matter: The Manchester Bomber is the Spawn of Hillary and Barack’s Excellent Libyan Adventure
Vijay Prashad
The Afghan Toll
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post’s Renewed Attack on Whistlblowers
Robert Fisk
We Must Look to the Past, Not ISIS, for the True Nature of Islam
Dean Baker
A Tax on Wall Street Trading is the Best Solution to Income Inequality
Lawrence Davidson
Reality and Its Enemies
Harry Hobbs
Australia’s Time to Recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Sovereignty
Ray McGovern
Will Europe Finally Rethink NATO’s Costs?
Cesar Chelala
Poetry to the Rescue of America’s Soul
Andrew Stewart
Xi, Trump and Geopolitics
Binoy Kampmark
The Merry Life of Dragnet Surveillance
Stephen Martin
The Silent Apartheid: Militarizing Architecture & Infrastructure
Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail