Saturday, August 31, 2013

Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

“Enrique’s Journey” is a 2006 book written by Sonia Nazario based on her Pulitzer prize-winning series of articles in the LA Times in 2002. Enrique was a 5-year-old Honduran boy when his mother, Lourdes, unable to feed her two children, left to find a job in the US. At the age of 15, he left Honduras to take the treacherous journey north to the US to reunite with the mother he felt bereft without. This book is the grisly account of that journey.

Pulitzer Prize or not, it isn’t a great book because Nazario pulls her punches politically & settles for evoking pity rather than igniting fury. She followed the journey made by Enrique & the 50,000 unaccompanied minors per year who leave Central America to find mothers in the US who had previously left to find work. Nazario made this arduous trip riding on train tops with the help of Mexican authorities & the train companies.

These immigrants--some as young as 7-years-old--endure assault, robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder, repeated deportations back to their own countries. Nazario describes these with wrenching frankness but she skims the surface of the important problems exposed & identified by the children themselves. Why can’t their parents find work in their own countries? Why is there such violence against them in Chiapas & who are the perpetrators? Why are Mexican police officials identified by immigrants as the most frequent robbers & rapists? Why do train lines not allow immigrants to board stopped trains but require them to leap aboard moving trains--resulting in hundreds of dismemberments & injuries? Why do US immigration policies & border patrol agents cause such gruesome deaths for so many immigrants with impunity rather than criminal prosecution?

The book was written before passage of Central American immigrants through Mexico was legalized by the Mexican senate--which has not lessened the violence they sustain by an iota. In fact it has increased, with mass executions, dismemberments, & mass graves. Piles of dismembered bodies are dumped on highways & exposed to public view--while 50,000 Mexican troops are prowling the countryside for drug peddlers they can’t manage to find. The story doesn’t add up!

One of the heartening stories Nazario tells is of the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico--a key transit point for the trains. Here the working poor who live on the side of the train tracks have organized themselves to provide assistance & defense for the immigrants. With each passing train they line up with bags of food, clothing, blankets, & solidarity. In some instances they have defended immigrants from attacking police agents & other goons. This photo is the hands of residents passing food to Central American immigrants as they pass through the town of Fortin de las Flores, Veracruz. (One of the most gruesome mass crimes against immigrants was in Veracruz--most likely as a warning to residents to cease their humanitarian aid & solidarity.)

One important thing Nazario highlights--albeit in a moralistic way--is how immigration has fractured family relationships in societies which cherish them. Men forced to migrate are torn from children & spouses, mothers are torn from small children, children are left bereft & grieving. Addiction among immigrants & among those left behind is often a consequence. These are not reasons for pity & crocodile tears. These are reasons to demand the US open its damn border & tear down its monstrous wall.

This moving video shows the faces of Central American immigrants (refugees really) & the dangers they face getting on & off moving trains. They are our brothers & sisters, not marauding enemies from the south:

Immigration is a human right! Open the damn borders!

(Photo by Don Bartletti)

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