Yesterday at the Kino Border Initiative, I felt overwhelmed trying to give out clothing to all the families who needed it. When I was here two years ago a big day involved feeding and serving 300 people. Now between 700 and 900 immigrating people come every day. They are seeking food, clothing, health care, and assistance in applying for asylum in the US. Why is the number so great—and growing? One reason is that life in parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras has grown increasingly oppressive. Another is that the US has largely closed its borders in the Trump Administration and the Biden Administration is reluctant to reopen them.
The cartels have killed enough police and soldiers in Guerrero, and paid off enough others, that they are the most powerful authority in the state. The cartels impose a tax on local businesses for them to “protect” the business. Refusal to pay the tax leads to taking the money by theft, kidnapping, violence, and death.
Yesterday, a family of seven that was fleeing Guerrero, made it to Kino. They bore the scars of bullet holes in their bodies. The father of this family showed a missing finger, chopped off by a cartel leader. The parents were small business owners. Now they, like thousands of others, are migrating and seeking asylum. The cartels see migrating families as particularly vulnerable. They are poor and out of place. Their children are targeted for kidnapping.
I see these children every day. Beautiful, young, innocent faces. They look at times scared, tentative, and confused. At other times I see their natural joy and trust. These children, with their families, are fleeing for their lives and knocking at our door. They ask for a chance to apply for asylum. They seek to live in safety.
Yet we in the United States are fed stories about immigrating families. Political leaders and their corporate and media sponsors want to deflect attention from a massive, fifty-year transfer of wealth in the US away from the lower, middle classes to the wealthiest. In their attempt to deflect our attention, they point to immigrants as the problem. This is how they are getting elected and maintaining vast wealth and power—by fomenting fear and division.
I have come here because I want to know what is really happening. I want to learn from the poor themselves what their reality is. In meeting them, I meet a child, knocking at my door, seeking safety.
Steve Tumolo, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico – July, 2021