These first 2 weeks in Tucson have opened my eyes to some of the dark truths behind the US-Mexico border. Growing up in a Mexican family, I’d always heard snippets of stories of how people crossed the border, but it was not until my adulthood that I started grasping all the complexities about the border. During the current presidential administration, immigration has become a hot-topic issue, and the border has become much more politicized than I can remember. Visiting Nogales, a town split into two by the US-Mexico border, finally allowed me to have a picture and personal experience to the border. Looking into Nogales, Sonora from Nogales, Arizona set-off an unsettling feeling inside. To think that people a few blocks away were living drastically different lives because of this border.
The first week gave me an insight to some of the many problems that are a result of the border. From the mass incarceration of marginalized immigrants to detrimental environmental effects the border causes on its native flora and fauna, I would soon get to see some of these issues first hand. Walking into a courtroom makes you uneasy enough, but witnessing Operation Streamline takes that to a whole different level. In the span of a couple hours, 75 people were tried in groups of eight. The judge went through their script, while a Spanish interpreter translated each line of legal jargon to each person. Like cogs in an assembly line, each person was left with one-word responses, “si”, “no”, and “culpable”, over and over again. All of them plead guilty. Towards the end of the proceeding, I had a sudden unsettling realization that I was becoming accustomed to this sentencing. Then I tried to imagine the nervousness and stress crossing the minds of the people that were tried, worrying about their families in the face of an imprisonment before deportation.
Visiting the Tohono O’odham Nation and getting the chance to hear some of its people speak gave me a new perspective on how border communities are affected by increased border patrol. Some of our speakers shared their stories of being harassed and discriminated by border patrol, simply because of the complexion of their skin. Seeing how underdeveloped these border communities are, instantly brought a vivid image to my mind. I saw this sticker every day on the fridge at BorderLinks, but I didn’t really grasp what it meant until that moment. The sticker said “revitalize, don’t militarize the border.”
Although Paisanos Unidos does not have an office or a space they can call their own, I’m excited about getting to know the people behind the organization. I was lucky enough to be here for their quarterly hamburger fundraiser and was surprised by the success of this small organization’s fundraiser. They raised nearly $1200 selling hamburger to the Tucson community. Here I got to know some of the members, along with other people that supported the organization’s cause and values. These conversations, coupled with the sheer amount of work that went to not only hosting but also promoting the event, motivated me even further to help this organization in whatever capacity I can.