The caravan is commotion.
In October, 160 Honduran refugees began to walk north, away from the violence and persecution plaguing their homes. The exodus grew as they traveled through Central America: 1,600 as they passed into Guatemala; 4,000 as they waited at the Guatemala-Mexico border; 7,000 as they passed through Tapachula, Mexico. This caravan of men, women and children has walked roughly 23 miles per day in high heat, slept in tents or under makeshift cardboard shelters, and faced blasts from tear gas canisters. They have traveled thousands of miles by foot, hundreds by bus, and crossed a river by boat.
The decision in recent years for the Central American Exodus to adopt the caravan as a tactic reflects an innovation. With the caravan strategy, the migrants organize as a self-determined social movement and now intentionally retain visibility and collectivity throughout the migration.
The caravans arriving in Tijuana number a few among the hundreds of thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers who annually walk and ride trains across the deadly desert from Mexico into the US. For a sense of scale, from 2012-2014, between 400,000 and 500,000 migrants from Central America took this journey each year–and most did so surreptitiously.
The wealthy and powerful, with Trump as their advocate, have opportunistically seized on this caravan to manufacture a crisis. 7,000 asylum seekers do not make a crisis, but over-turning existing asylum laws, deploying 7,000 armed troops, and assembling detention camps does.
A militarized border forces migrants to seek extra-legal routes for crossing the border, leaving them more vulnerable to exposure, dehydration, human traffickers, and exploitative employers. The border has the fourth highest number of migrant fatalities in the world. In 2017, 376 people died crossing to the southern US borderlands. For years, groups like No Más Muertes, the life-saving aid in the southwest borderlands, and the Armadillos, a search-and-rescue group based out of San Diego, have been vigilant protectors of life in the desert. They have hiked with water, food, blankets, and first aid supplies to prevent one of the harshest environments in North America from claiming the lives of those forced to cross it. The US goverment has criminalized their efforts, and on January 18, 2019 four NMM volunteers were convicted of “entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit and abandonment of property,” referring to the life-saving supplies for migrants.
At the same time, border militarization translates into tens of millions of dollars pouring into the pockets of private contractors: war profiteers, surveillance companies, private prison corporations, and others who profit off of crisis and suffering. Further military infrastructure along the Southern California border threatens the further dispossession of the Kumeyaay nation, whose territory covers southern San Diego County and extends into Baja California.
The militarization of the US-Mexico border is a test run of a much larger detention apparatus: what happens there in the coming months is a preview of our future. Migration will increase dramatically within the next 50 years and, as the global climate crisis intensifies, the world may see up to 1 billion climate refugees by 2050. The weapons and infrastructure being deployed against asylum-seekers today will be deployed against all climate refugees in the future, including those within U.S. borders. When wildfires worsen in northern California and displace hundreds of thousands, when hurricanes intensify in Florida and displace millions, when rising waters flood New York City, the very same tactics and infrastructures will be employed against us, justified by the same logic of exclusion and emergency. Capitalism itself is the crisis destroying humanity and the planet, and climate migration is our shared future.
Within the constraints of the true disaster, global capitalism, we are determined to forge different modes of life: life premised on solidarity, compassion, humanity, and collective liberation. We can meet mass migration with creative problem solving and collective engagement that prioritizes self-determination. We see this vision in the self-organization of the asylum-seekers, in the support and hospitality the asylum-seekers have received in Mexico City and Oaxaca, in the autonomous support networks that spring into being after disasters and that bloom from the water stations in the desert. We see it in the forms of sharing elaborated at every occupation, camp, and blockade that emerges in struggle against the capitalist borders, pipelines, and detention centers that cut across our communities and divide our lives.
We recognize a moment to act in material solidarity with the caravan asylum-seekers: to share medical supplies, food, clothing, shelter, prepaid cell phones, other electronics, bilingual legal information and translation, and monetary donations.
This is flashpoint moment to contest the power of the Border Patrol and the fascists, and to give the migrant caravan a fighting chance. Caravan south or organize in your hometown.
The border must be abolished.