Here's just a small reminder of the country you now live in. On his Twitter account, Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old white-nationalist killer of 22 people at an El Paso Walmart including local Hispanics and eight Mexican citizens, reportedly "liked" a tweet that had first been posted elsewhere in 2017. It featured a photo of the name T-R-U-M-P spelled out with rifles and pistols. Recently, Crusius picked up his own AK-47-style assault rifle and extra magazines of ammo, harboring a desire (as he later told investigators) to "kill as many Mexicans as he could." He then headed south, "invading" a city ranked sixth among the "top 10 safest" in America. He left behind a four-page white nationalist screed that spoke of a "Hispanic invasion of Texas." It certainly reflected the president's endlessly invasive rhetoric, not to speak of the moment at a rally in El Paso last February when he intoned the line "murders, murders, murders. Killings, murders!" while speaking of undocumented immigrants, as the crowd chanted "build the wall!" (Of course, few even remember anymore, historically speaking, who was in Texas first and who invaded what then.)
In case you've forgotten how we got to this grim moment, think back to June 2015 when Donald Trump descended a Trump Tower escalator into the presidential race to the tune of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." Here's part of what he said:
"The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else's problems... When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you... They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people" It's coming from more than Mexico. It's coming from all over South and Latin America, and it's coming probably -- probably -- from the Middle East."- Advertisement -
The "invasion" followed. It would, in fact, be a Trumpian invasion of America's borderlands, which the president has worked incredibly single-mindedly to militarize and turn into contested territory. As Guardian reporter and author of the book Amexica Ed Vulliamy pointed out recently, it was a sign of the times that the terror, the horror, when it finally arrived in El Paso, didn't come from the other side of the border, "It arrived from the opposite, northerly, direction."
Today, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon offers another kind of reminder of the strange upside-down nature of this increasingly terrifying world of ours. She reminds us that those mainly Central American immigrants crossing the border in large numbers whom the president has raged against since 2015 are, in fact, the desperate victims of a set of decisions made not in Tegucigalpa, Guatemala City, or San Salvador, but in Washington over more than half a century. Tom
What Happens in El Norte
Doesn't Stay in El Norte
By Rebecca Gordon- Advertisement -
It's hard to believe that more than four years have passed since the police shot Amílcar Pe'rez-López a few blocks from my house in San Francisco's Mission District. He was an immigrant, 20 years old, and his remittances were the sole support for his mother and siblings in Guatemala. On February 26, 2015, two undercover police officers shot him six times in the back, although they would claim he'd been running toward them with an upraised butcher knife.
For two years, members of my little Episcopal church joined other neighbors in a weekly evening vigil outside the Mission police station, demanding that the district attorney bring charges against the men who killed Amílcar. When the medical examiner's office continued to drag its feet on releasing its report, we helped arrange for a private autopsy, which revealed what witnesses had already reported -- that he had indeed been running away from those officers when they shot him. In the end, the San Francisco district attorney declined to prosecute the police for the killing, although the city did reach a financial settlement with his family back in Guatemala.
Still, this isn't really an article about Amílcar, but about why he -- like so many hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans, Hondurans, and El Salvadorans in similar situations -- was in the United States in the first place. It's about what drove 225,570 of them to be apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol in 2018 and 132,887 of them to be picked up at or near the border in a single month -- May -- of this year. As Dara Lind observed at Vox, "This isn't a manufactured crisis, or a politically engineered one, as some Democrats and progressives have argued."
It is indeed a real crisis, not something the Trump administration simply cooked up to justify building the president's wall. But it is also absolutely a manufactured crisis, one that should be stamped with the label "made in the U.S.A." thanks to decades of Washington's interventions in Central American affairs. Its origins go back at least to 1954 when the CIA overthrew the elected Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz. In the 1960s, dictatorships would flourish in that country (and elsewhere in the region) with U.S. economic and military backing.
When, in the 1970s and 1980s, Central Americans began to rise up in response, Washington's support for right-wing military regimes and death squads, in Honduras and El Salvador in particular, drove thousands of the inhabitants of those countries to migrate here, where their children were recruited into the very U.S. gangs now devastating their countries. In Guatemala, the U.S. supported successive regimes in genocidal wars on its indigenous Mayan majority. To top it off, climate change, which the United States has done the most of any nation to cause (and perhaps the least to forestall or mitigate), has made subsistence agriculture increasingly difficult to sustain in many parts of Central America.
U.S. Actions Have Central American Consequences- Advertisement -
Scholars who study migration speak of two key explanations for why human beings leave their homes and migrate: "pull" and "push" factors. Pull factors would include the attractions of a new place, like economic and educational opportunities, religious and political liberties, and the presence there of family, friends, or community members from back home. Push factors driving people from their homes would include war; the drug trade; political, communal, or sexual violence; famine and drought; environmental degradation and climate change; and ordinary, soul-eating poverty.
International law mandates that some, but not all, push factors can confer "refugee" status on migrants, entitling them to seek asylum in other countries. This area of humanitarian law dates from the end of World War II, a time when millions of Europeans were displaced, forcing the world to adjust to huge flows of humanity. The 1951 Geneva Convention defines a refugee as anyone who has
"a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country..."