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Trump’s Wall, Border Security and the need for strategic responses that lead to immigrant justice

February 17, 2019

For months now there have been threats from the Trump administration about wanting to build a wall along the border of Mexico and the US.

It has been since he was a candidate, that Donald Trump wanted to build a permanent wall along the border, something that appealed to his voting base. The issue of the wall has become even more contentious, especially after the government shutdown earlier this year.

On Thursday, Congress voted to pass legislation that would provide $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing in Southern Texas and would increase Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) budget by hundreds of millions of dollars. This legislation passed in the Senate 823- 16, with wide bi-partisan support. Both Michigan Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters voted for this legislation. In the House a version of the bill passed 300 – 128.  

The New York Times also reported that: 

The agreement, tucked into a $49 billion bill funding the Department of Homeland Security, includes restrictions on where fencing can be built in the Rio Grande Valley and what can be used to build it. Only “existing technologies” are allowed, effectively prohibiting a concrete structure or any new prototypes that administration officials might try to put into place. Communities and towns along the border will also be able to weigh in on the location and design of the fencing.

Democrats have been using the language of “Border Security” during their tactical disagreement with President Trump and leading members of the GOP.

This decision by the Democrats has been seen by many immigrant justice groups across the country as a complete betrayal of what needs to happen around larger immigration issues and policies.

Being strategic amidst Trump’s threats

The legislation that came out of Congress on Thursday was not enough to satisfy the Trump administration and he has been threatening to declare a state of emergency and shut down the government again.

While these threats are fundamentally wrong and will only do more harm to immigrant communities, it is important that we think strategically about how to move forward on the wall, border security and ICE violence.

There have already been calls for demonstrations, specifically around Trump’s threat of a national emergency until he gets his border wall. Some of these actions are being organized by MoveOn.org across the country, with one scheduled for West Michigan today.

The MoveOn.org message for today’s protest is as follows: 

Protest Trump’s Attack on the Constitution to Declare Fake Emergency. NO HATE NO WALL NO RACISM NO ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY Trump wants to Steal Billions $ of tax payers dolllars needed for national disasters and misuse and insult our military for his racist unnecessary wall. Protest this Gross Abuse of Power on Presidents Day Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Part of the problem with this kind of language is that it only blames the Trump administration, while ignoring the bi-partisan reality of funding for border security and ICE. More importantly, the language doesn’t center the ongoing harm being done to immigrant communities.

In contrast, there are other actions being planned around the country, actions that are primarily being organized by communities of color and those most directly impacted by current immigration policies. This groups states, “We refuse to choose between Trump’s openly racist wall and the Democrats’ implicitly racist “smart border.” The differences between Trump’s border wall and a soft-power smart wall are minor variations on the same deadly theme. We will block the border wall. We choose another way: freedom of movement, solidarity, and mutual aid.”

In addition, the groups organizing these more strategic actions are also calling for the following:

  • We call for a “Block the Wall” mobilization on February 19 and 20 against the border wall and against the state of emergency. We can march, take over public space, and organize sick-outs in the nation’s capital. We can block every ICE detention center, field office, and ICE contractor around the country with the occupation of the public space around the facilities. Each of these offices are maintained by working class people in support staff, couriers, cleaning crews, tech services, and social workers. We invite all of these workers to call in sick and join the occupations on the sidewalks and streets.
  • We call for the organization of mutual aid to support the federal workers and subcontractors who remain uncompensated for 34 days of unpaid labor, and to support those who rely on government assistance. We call for cooperation to pool and distribute resources immediately to ease the daily struggles of those most affected. We commit to taking care of one another as the state gambles with the lives of millions.
  • We call for direct support for migrants and border struggles. There are multiple initiatives already demonstrating hospitality to migrants and physically defying the border that separates the United States from Mexico, from autonomous kitchens in Tijuana to indigenous-led anti-border camps in Texas. We will build the capacity to undermine the border, welcome refugees, and demonstrate that free movement can be beautiful, safe, and beneficial for all—so long as the police and la migra stay out of the way.

This kind of vision and strategy is critical if we are to work towards immigrant justice.

Things you can do to effectively support immigrant justice

  1. Build relationships with the immigrant community, relationships built on solidarity and mutual aid and NOT on White Saviorism.
  2. We need to center the voices and lived experience of immigrants while fighting state violence violence being done by policy makers, ICE agents or local law enforcement that is complicity with ICE.
  3. We need to support immigrant-led movements that are working for immigrant justice, movements like Movimiento Cosecha GR and national. 
  4. We need to directly confront systems of oppression that are targeting the immigrant community – ICE, local cops and state or private detention centers that are complicit in the ICE matrix. In Kent County, this would mean supporting GR Rapid Response to ICE.  
  5. We need to make the link between various systems of oppression, particularly where immigrant justice fits in. For example, US trade policies, the US funding of the so-called drug war in Mexico/Central America and climate change are all reasons that are contributing to people from that region coming to the US. Therefore, Capitalism, climate change, White Supremacy and other systems of oppression are the root of the immigration crisis. We need to work on dismantling these systems.

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