Yanely

Love Knows No Borders Reflections

Yanely Rivas

There are so many moments, experiences, images, connections and words shared that I find myself holding space for now that I am back in Oregon.

This past week, I found myself thinking deeply about the immense harm caused by U.S. and Canadian-led “intervention” throughout Latinoamerica that has led to environmental devastation, economic exploitation, and human suffering. When proxy wars, outsider-led coups, undemocratically installed governments, and imperialist companies continuously mine the natural resources in your homeland, an exodus rooted in a need for self-preservation and life will surely ensue.

That is what we are witnessing. A mass exodus of people fleeing state-violence and seeking refugee in a nation-state/country that has reaped the benefits of the suffering of thousands and thousands of people across generations and centuries.

For many in La Caravana, leaving their homelands is truly a matter of life and death. In a conversation with two young men in their early twenties, one of them stated, “Es mejor estar luchando por la vida que se la arrebaten… Lo peor es ser joven el El Salvador.” They have been waiting to hear their number to be  called outside El Chaparral, a U.S.-Mexico crossing-point, for over three weeks. They shared that they have been coming daily to see if it’s finally their turn to have their asylum cases to be heard, with no luck in sight. They don’t even know what the last number called out on the waitlist was. They had questions about what would happen if they crossed unauthorized. What if they crossed unauthorized and then sought asylum once on U.S. soil? Would it make their asylum cases more difficult? What if they got asylum in Mexico? Would they no longer be able to seek asylum in the U.S.? So much uncertainty, but for now, they wait for the day their number finally gets called. In the meantime, they will return to the tent camp set-up outside Benito Juarez; A highway, a fence, and an arbitrary system preventing them from arriving at the end point of their prolonged journey.

The next day, we found out that the asylum “number system” is being run by volunteers who are migrants seeking asylum themselves. A volunteer from Honduras, who came a couple of months before the caravan told us that each morning Grupo Beta gives them a number of people that will have their asylum cases heard that day. He shared that they were on number 1278. On average Grupo Beta request 30 - 60 people, which can be around 3-6 numbers because each number can be up to 10 people in a family unite. They never get told why the number fluxuates from one day to the next. He also shared that they have two notebooks full of names and numbers. Right now, they are on the first notebook and this notebook does not have folks who came in the recent caravan…

During our conversation, the volunteer asked us, “ What is your recommended process to let people in?”

Which made me think: What is our responsibility and duty as folks living inside the United States, to facilitate the entry and integration of people fleeing violence caused by our government’s imperialist ways? I find myself pondering the material response that will be needed when folks get in? Seeking asylum is such a long journey too. Folks seeking asylum cannot work once in the U.S. How can we come together to prepare to accompany folks during their asylum cases? What relationships need to be strengthened and/or built to facilitate support in Oregon? How do we do this in a way that honors and centers people’s humanity and self-determination.  

I want to uplift that from the inception of the caravan/ exodus, folks have been organizing and have struggled things out with each other along their journey for self-determination. After not being let into the Barretal, the largest shelter where folks were moved to by the Mexican government after they shut down the shelter at Benito Juarez, we turned towards two men standing in front of the entrance. I asked them if they knew why folks weren’t being let in. One of them said, it shouldn’t be up to them to let you in, it should be up to us. We talked about their recent action at the U.S. embassy, about their journey to these borderlands, the role of media, and state surveillance. Slowly, more and more people started huddling around and joining in the conversation. Someone shared that they had been organizing with Pueblo Sin Fronteras during their caravan journey, but that now, it’s a group of migrants coming together to organize themselves, under a different entity. He shared that when they got moved to el Barretal, they had set up a cocina, and the marines shut it down. Now, they are seeking to open a cocina outside the camp to be more self-dependent.

I had an extensive conversation with an 18-year-old from the group. We talked about state repression in Honduras,  Mexico, and in the U.S. He rolls up his pant leg and points to a scar above his ankle. He shares that he got the scar after a barbed wire pierced his ligament when he was running away from cops during a protest. He says he struggles to run comfortably now. With frustration in his eyes, he shares that he feels like they are living in a jail. He says, “Esto no es justo” (This is not just). He shares a profound dilemma he grapples with daily: Sometimes I think about crossing illegally, but then I ask myself, can I live locked up in a jail? I can’t.

He also shared more about what it’s been like growing up as a working-class person in Honduras. He has been working since the age of 5 and would miss school due to work. He talked about his work, and shared that in Honduras, you can get killed by gangs for working outside of your own municipality/ neighborhood (a reality echoed by the two young El Salvadorians we met outside el Chaparral). He pulls out his phone and shows me a photo of a friend who was shot above the ear the day before, blood covering the entire side of his head. He looked off into the distance, as he shared that he’s had 4 comrades murdered by gangs for working in other municipalities. In that moment, I could tell that he had transcended to a different world/ headspace. As people, we carry so many stories and people within us wherever we go.

And now I carry these stories with me.

I feel like there are many questions we need to grapple with as movements in the U.S. as well. There is a tendency to liberalize our movements and cater language and tactics that keep capitalist, imperialist, and colonial systems intact. I’m no longer satisfied with simply speaking truth to power. I’m more interested in speaking truth to each other and investing in mass movements that go above and behind the systems we currently have. We can’t just fight for the “rights” to be recognized by a nation-state/ government invested in imprisoning black, brown, and indigenous people in jails or a system that allows for hundreds of thousands of people to be houseless. We have to fight for all 11 million people and those yet to come. We must fight for the right to return. For an end to prisons and cages. For indigenous sovereignty to their land, on which many of us are settlers. I’m interested in fighting for a world were we can all communally thrive, where we honor and protect the earth, as well as each other.

We must fight with and for each other.
Across and through geopolitical borders.
Because Love has no border.