Border Clashes Highlight A Dangerous Dynamic

Violence is being normalized through the Administration's policies and ideologies

November 28, 2018

“If they close the border I ask God that here in Tijuana, or in another country they open doors to us, to allow me to survive with my children.” Maria Meza and her twin daughters Cheli and Saira, run from tear gas canisters. The family is seeking asylum after fleeing violence in Honduras.
“If they close the border I ask God that here in Tijuana, or in another country they open doors to us, to allow me to survive with my children.” Maria Meza and her twin daughters Cheli and Saira, run from tear gas canisters. The family is seeking asylum after fleeing violence in Honduras.

Over the weekend, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents fired tear gas at a group of Central American migrants. Following the violence, ninety-eight migrants—including women and children—were arrested by Mexican authorities. According to the New York Times, many migrants were tear gassed after climbing the fence simply to negotiate their passage with U.S. officials. This comes amid an increasingly volatile situation at the U.S.’s southern border, where a large group of migrants is taking shelter in the Mexican city of Tijuana, awaiting their chance to seek asylum.

The actions of Customs and Border Protection officials are a lesson in how U.S. immigration policy and ideologies like xenophobia, or Islamophobia, often operate as one and the same material force.

Historically, the insinuation that Muslims, or Middle Easterners, are violent insurgents has preceded the use of force against American Muslim communities, and was certainly at play here. Last month, Trump demonized the “migrant caravan,” the very group of migrants met with undue force this weekend, by claiming that there were “people from the Middle East” among them.

This story also reflects how violence against asylum seekers, immigrants, and refugees is normalized through policies and ideologies which scapegoat migrant communities. In the case of immigration into the United States, policy and rhetoric have largely influenced the rules of engagement on both sides, particularly where rhetoric diverges from actual policy. The nearly 5,000 Central American migrants in Tijuana who are fleeing gang violence and the Honduran political coup, a product of United States involvement in Honduras, have been characterized by President Trump as “stone cold criminals.” Trump and his cabinet also promised, in obvious conflict with U.S. law, that border security had “every option” on the table to reduce illegal immigration, including treating thrown rocks “as a rifle.” Shortly thereafter, a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed by a border patrol agent. The newly proposed public charge rule, which plays on the belief that the needs of immigrants are less worthy of recognition than citizens’ needs, has already chilled the use of public assistance programs among those who won’t even be impacted.

The very prevalence of migrant flows should force questions about the quality of life in other parts of the world, as well as whether the United States has any culpability for those circumstances or responsibility to those fleeing them. We should recognize how tactics employed to justify violence in the name of policy are shaped and reinforced by ideology, and vice versa. This is particularly true since the current administration’s stance toward immigration, and the rhetoric used to support it, will not impact “stone cold criminals,” but people who contribute to society, and to whom we all share a responsibility.

As Congress debates next week the appropriations package that will fund the government, it must not provide additional funding for illegal actions, nor for a border wall. Rather, it should use all of its oversight powers to investigate this administration’s border abuses.

 

 

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