LatinaLista — Today, all eyes are fixed on Washington DC and ears glued for the latest hint at what was discussed at a late-night meeting between Obama and Clinton but the real action is happening outside the Beltway — at the US/Mexico border.
Things are heating up and it promises to be a long, hot summer showdown between border residents and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
By now, the story is old.
Opponents of a border barrier gather on the Mexican side of the fence in San Diego as part of a binational protest to the construction of a border fence.
(Source: Proyecto Fronterizo)
DHS is determined to construct as much fencing as they can accomplish along the US/Mexico border while the Bush Administration is in office. They’ve been stymied because they underestimated the sophistication of our nation’s border residents when it came to organizing themselves against being railroaded to comply with an order that would rob them of familial and public lands for a project that is bound to be known throughout history as Bush’s Blunder.
Yet, like cactus flowers growing in a waterless desert, there are little signs that resistance is growing.
In a significant sign of binational opposition to the border fence, a special vigil along the southern border called “From Friendship to Hope” (Friendship Park in San Diego to Hope Park in South Texas) took place last weekend.
Young girl at binational border protest at Friendship Park passes candy to children on the Mexican side of the fence.
(Source: J. Holslin)
John Fanestil, executive director of the San Diego-based Foundation for Change was present and shared some notes about the event:
Laurie Lynn Silvan Nogaim, of Fundacion La Puerta, shared how odd it was for Mexican environmental advocates like her – who have so long envied their U.S. counterparts because of the U.S. government’s openness and transparency and commitment to environmental protection – to find themselves seeing the U.S. government abandon these historic commitments.
Testimonies were shared. One man was deported last December after living 35 years in Los Angeles. With all his family still in LA, he has decided to make the best of it in Tijuana. He has landed a job, but complained about the salary – six days a week, eight hours a day, take-home pay: $70 per week.
One Border Patrol agent greeted a group of participants on their way out, addressed them warmly and invited them on a tour of the border so he could explain the challenges they face and why he feels they need the border fence.
Some law enforcement officers spent the period of our vigil running the license plates of all the cars in the State Parks parking lot. One student’s vehicle with expired registration was towed. When the professor who had invited the student asked the officer if there was any way the student could be spared the inconvenience of having the car towed, the officer told him that the decision was already made. “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” he said.
Border Patrol presence at Friendship Park was very high – at least a dozen officers were surveying our gathering at one point – in marked contrast to the low-key presence that has been typical at our gatherings in years past.
These mild confrontations between the Border Patrol and residents are in all likelihood going to escalate into passive disobedience as the government physically starts to erect the fencing.
It’s being reported by The Rio Grande Guardian newspaper that some border residents opposed to the fence are planning acts of civil disobedience late next month when construction is scheduled to start.
“There are people ready to do civil disobedience, people who have experience in doing civil disobedience, who are not afraid to do that,” said No Border Wall coalition member Ann Cass.
“We are going to gear up our actions through July 27, that’s when they said they will start building the fence.”
Asked what civil disobedience is, Cass responded: “Civil disobedience is when you are willing to break a law and you know in your conscience that the law is a bad law and what they (the government) are doing is bad.”
Are recreations of what happened at Tiananmen Square 19 years ago too farfetched to be a reality in South Texas and in more spots along the border?
What this administration has been able to accomplish with this issue, versus all of its other failed policies, is unite diverse groups, who would never have before joined forces, to counter an enforcement policy that has nothing to do with national security as much as it has to do with exercising government control — not because it has to but simply because it can.