The Immigration Churn

Photograph Source: Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General – Public Domain

Rochester NY pastor Katie Jo Suddaby was recently on the Southern border and witnessed first-hand the horrors the US is perpetrating on Central American migrants there. She reported about this at The Historic Calvary at Andrews Church; what follows is my writeup of her talk.

Rev Suddaby started with the central, chilling point she wanted us, above all, to take away from the talk, namely that the US is regularly torturing innocent men, women and children in our name, within concentration camps on the border not unlike those in Nazi Germany. These facilities are so crowded that migrants have to take turns lying or sitting down. All the camps have or will have an “Ice Box,” a room kept at freezing temperatures to torture  migrants for between 24 hrs and several months. ICE is stopping volunteer doctors from providing vaccines and is withholding vital medication (such as insulin or  antiseizure drugs) from people while they are in the Ice Box. Food provided is often spoiled or otherwise inedible, no soap or toothbrushes are provided, and conditions are horribly unsanitary. Family separation is used regularly as a torture tactic, and people of all ages are dying in US custody. The stated purpose of all these horrific practices is to deter other migrants from attempting to come to the US. Why, then, are all these migrants leaving their countries to risk the arduous journey to come here? Ironically, US foreign policy has itself created this humanitarian disaster and desperate “invading caravan.”

US regime change policies in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries over recent decades have destabilized their governments and empowered criminal elements such as drug cartels. The cartels force Mexican and Central American farmers to grow poppies, staying poor with no feasible alternative. Small business owners and others are also controlled by the cartels.The US is the main market for these drug cartels since Americans consume and are often addicted to the vast majority of Central American and Mexican-made drugs. This means we provide the demand that funds the cartels, which makes them powerful, in collaboration with the oppressive, corrupt governments we put in power in these countries.  These entities can then afford to buy the guns we sell in massive quantities to these Central American countries. The resulting armed lawlessness in these countries causes families in Central America and Southern Mexico to flee for safety, at great risk and hardship, to our Southern Border.

We’ve seen what awaits them when they get here. But most don’t even get through when they seek asylum. The US places legal, physical, and psychological barriers against all immigrants (both legal and illegal), creating a humanitarian crisis at the border. While in Mexico, migrants often cannot work, and they are vulnerable to the very cartels they escaped as well as to criminals. Mexico is not a “safe third country,” as claimed by the US administration turning its back on asylum seekers. Central American and Mexican cartels have connections in border cities, Mexican police are paid by cartels to find and kill people who have escaped, and Mexican criminals prey on the displaced because they are an easy target for kidnapping and ransom.

It is illegal for the US government to turn away an asylum seeker, and Mexico also cannot legally turn away asylum seekers or participate in the US’s illegal actions. Neither government is legally allowed to “manage” a number system whereby asylum seekers are given a number that determines their court date. So the governments have turned the management of the illegal number system over to a group of migrants. This group records people’s numbers by hand in a notebook and gives out numbers on a slip of paper. The US tells them how many (arbitrarily determined) numbers they can call per day. People wait months in Mexico for their “credible fear” interview to justify their need for asylum in a US court.

Often when the asylum seeker reports to the border for their next court date, they find that it has not been registered with the Mexican (or American) border patrol, so they are not allowed to cross to make their court date. Their case is then dismissed for “failure to appear.”

Legal help is regularly unavailable because US Border officers are “flagging” the US Passports of legal aid workers volunteering in Mexico so that the volunteers are stopped, subjected to extra searches and delays, and sometimes not allowed into Mexico for days or weeks at a time. They cannot help asylum seekers prepare their cases. All paperwork submitted to an immigration hearing has to be in English. And asylum seekers are required to afford and provide their own US lawyer.

The rabidly anti-immigrant US government, along with the private prison companies that profit massively from the detention center costs, spread the message that we need more horrific concentration camps, both to house alleged migrant “criminals” and drug traffickers and to deter others from trying to come. So the cycle, the “immigration churn,” continues unabated and the needless, endless suffering goes on and on.

Doug Noble is an activist with Upstate (NY) Drone Action Coalition.