While most of America was distracting themselves with bbq and possibly passingly discussing the so-called “immigrant threat” to N. America that will no doubt reach a frenzy on the 4th of July, a group of 50 US citizens decided to remind N. Americans about the humanity of immigrants and the human rights violations they currently endure due to border policies.
Under the banner of “The Immigrant Trail: We Walk for Life,” 50 people walked the 75 mile route between Sasabe Senora Mexico and the point of Entry in Arizona. Unlike many migrants, many of the walkers had expensive walking shoes and packs, all had the water and food supplies they would need to remain healthy on the walk, and access to citizenship rights to cross the border. Despite these differences between symbolic and real acts of border transgression (used here in the sense of active challenge with the goal of change not active violation as it is used by conservatives), the political and ideological import of the walk remains. By choosing to walk on Memorial Day weekend, the event organizers shifted the discussion of immigration toward a global politic of militarization and solving N. American international relations with the building of walls.
The walk relied on several other performative acts of symbolism to reframe the immigration debate. Walkers carried small white crosses, like the ones found on the side of the road for road related fatalities, for each person who died crossing into Arizona this year. A little discussed result of the US immigration policy to beef up border security in urban areas near the border was a shift to dangerous crossing in the dessert and the increase in fatalities and sexual assaults of would be migrants. As someone who witnessed a Rape Tree in one border town last year, a tree where both coyotes and allegedly border patrol agents place the bras and painties of women and young girls who they rape for the right to be left in the desert rather than deported or sold, I wonder if the walkers carried crosses for innocence left dead on the side of the road?
Father Bob Carney also washed the feet of every walker at the end of the walk. His act referenced the sign of respect and brotherhood/sisterhood that washing the feet of traveler meant in ancient times. It reminded us of a divine mandate for stewardship and care for weary travelers entering our home.
The event ended with a call to end human rights violations and border militarization.
If you are interested in learning how to organize against the border, No Border Camps are being organized in Mexico and Europe right now and potentially elsewhere in the future.