From Ray Ybarra:
Someday children will be able to walk into a library and read about a period in history when thousands of migrants died attempting tounlawfullyenter nation-states. The children will be appalled to read in this history book that there was once a time when human mobility across borders was not recognized as a human right. In the final chapter of the book, they will read about how the oppressed and disenfranchised across the globe organized to demand recognition of what was already known in their hearts. The time to write that final chapter is now.
For two years, I tracked anti-immigrant vigilantes through the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border. I met migrants who had blood coming out of their noses and purple masses where their lips used to be. I came upon migrants who were drinking their own urine to postpone death and saw mothers carrying their babies through the scorching, unforgiving terrain. I cannot forget the faces of people who were walking for days simply to find a job. I met mothers whose children died of dehydration and spent countless hours trying to conceive of a solution to the human rights tragedy created by borders. After many discussions with migrants, from rural communities in Mexico, to the border, and in communities across the United States, I kept hearing the same phrase:Tenemos un derecho humano a cruzar fronteras,translated,We have a human right to cross borders.
Challenging the assumption that the rights of countries to regulate migration are superior to our rights as human beings to cross borders is long overdue. Now is the time for migrants and their allies to share their experiences, hopes, and aspirations, and to stop tailoring the discourse to sound appealing to the oppressors.
Past social movements provide examples of individuals asserting their rights despite immoral laws. Rosa Parks knew she possessed the right to sit anywhere on the bus. Before the passage of the 19th Amendment, Susan B. Anthony knew that women possessed the right to vote. Similarly, we must now turn to those who are most profoundly affected by immoral and inhumane immigration policies to lead us by example. Let us bury the notion that migrants are simply economic victims who need activists to be their voices. Every footstep in the desert can be considered an act of civil disobedience by visionaries paving the way for a movement for equality, liberty, and freedom. Migrants across the world cross international boundaries because they know that mobility is a human right. They have already provided the leadership—now it is time to identify followers.
Right on. My only caveat — the only thing that I’d want to change — is to suggest, instead of
act of civil disobedience, to view independent border crossings as direct action. Immigrants aren’t crossing borders in order to get arrested, or to challenge the morality of government border laws; they are crossing borders in order to find homes and jobs — to get the things they need in their lives, even without the approval of coercive governments — in order to render the destructive violence and stupidity of government border laws simply irrelevant to the lives that they lead. Not because political actors have been challenged to the point that they are no longer willing to go on enforcing unjust border laws, but rather because the actions of the immigrants themselves, and those who stand in solidarity with them, have made them unable to go on enforcing unjust border laws, even if they wanted to.