Deborah

Love Knows No Borders Reflections

Deborah Sposito

What broke my heart open: Dec 9, 2018. Pastor’s testimony about an 11 year old Honduran boy who fled the violence & instability of his home country and made it all the way to the US only to collapse and die on the land of a US family. His identity was only recovered at the funeral home as his body was prepared for burial, his name and where he was going was hand stitched on the inside of his belt. Alone, this 11 year old boy traveled roughly 2500 to 2900 miles from Honduras to the US. Immediately, I remember that every Wednesday afternoon in NE Portland, I pick up my friend’s 11 year old US Citizen boy and together we take the bus to his house so that next year or the year after, he will be able to find his way home by himself. My friends’ son always has water, food and clothing. If not, I always have my phone, credit cards, ID, citizenship, white privilege, class, language, education and money, just in case. All of this wealth and resource for a 40 minute commute by bus, a total distance of 2 miles. He and I together are a clear example of white privilege and the truth that there is more than enough for all, this truth is the gut-wrenching contrast to deadly inequity, racism and disposability of certain lives. This is the politics of life and death. As adults with power, I believe we are responsible for all children everywhere and to fight injustice. What gives the US government the power to deny human rights to anyone and in particular, children? We have failed, all of us adults, to prevent the 11 year old Honduran boys’ needless death. We know his name and where he was going but we did not help him thrive in his new life let alone survive. Why did we lose him? We need to answer that question. In that search, we must take action.

 

What I heard: Dec 9, 2018. At the crowded and welcoming makeshift community center in Tijuana, the volunteer coordinator, said that he was not aware of any agencies recording human trafficking, forced labor or disappearances of the more than 5,000 asylum seekers. A colleague had been told of a report of kidnapping, a van full of young men were abducted and forced to clean the insides of vehicles covered with blood and where violence had been committed and some of them escaped to tell this account. As past incidences of human trafficking have indicated, asylum seekers, especially young women, young men and children are at extremely high risk of disappearing. At the New York City based Human Trafficking Legal Center, "women survivors of sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and domestic servitude make up 90% percent of their client population," see http://www.htlegalcenter.org. Victims in need of assistance should call the National Human Trafficking Hotline to obtain a referral: 1-888-373-7888, https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/oregon. Along the I-5 cooridor, human trafficking is an enormous and growing problem. My question is - how do we respond and take action to ensure the safety of the asylum seekers?

 

What I saw: Dec 9 - 10, 2018, Determined, thoughtful and exhausted individuals, from refugees to shelter staff, health care providers, cooks and legal aid. An abundance of determination to work together to improve the growing humanitarian crisis in Tijuana. Despite being under resourced, under funded, under fed and overwhelmed. Dec 10, at the public state park, Friendship Park, in San Diego County, I saw over 400 people, consisting of a similarly united and determined group of community and faith leaders and individuals, marching to the border wall to shine light on the US government’s violation of international human rights law and the US constitution. What I saw as we walked in the sand was the human constructed iron border wall and human conceived line in the sand, what I saw was a contrast: mostly well-fed and large muscled men in new uniforms, new boots, new SUVs & trucks, shiny weapons, riot gear, 4 helicopters constantly circling overhead, deadly wire fencing, video surveillance, cameras and binoculars. An armored boat. I saw a war zone. An expensive war zone. What I wanted was to throw up at the border. Seven days later and that feeling has not dissipated, nor the rage. A public beach is a US war zone with no transparency, no accountability and no oversight of those who guard it. Yet California provides the highest paid BP jobs to those who work the war, $66,492/yr - $91,950/yr. A good paying job for an expensive part of the country. I tried not to despise those armored men and few women. And instead focus on fighting the system that feeds them, puts weapons in their hands and bends their intellect. I have to see that their comfort, my comfort are joined and has come through the direct oppression and death of others. How do we undo this harm? How do we stop a war when collectively we have not acknowledged its existence?