NOVEMBER 14, 2018
For the most marginalized, abolition is our main strategy for liberation. Right now, there is a caravan of asylum-seekers inching closer to the country that seeks to eradicate them, moving forward despite economies, laws and xenophobic cultures attempting to hold them back. Driven by the will to live and prosper, they defy laws and borders to demand a better life than the one torn apart by the US in their homes. Their actions embody the work that we try to carry out daily at the intersection of criminalization, racial justice, and immigration.
The following is a call to arms for all immigrants, abolitionists, and community organizers to take a stand in defense of the 5,000 asylum seekers – who are putting their bodies on the line to put into practice the world that we fight for daily.
It is not news that the United States continues to play an active role in creating refugee crises by globally displacing people. In fact, it is a trend that arguably defines the United States in the clearest terms. From its inception as an autonomous government (for white land-owning men) bound by constitutional rules on land they had stolen from indigenous peoples, the US as a country has depended on the import of humans and the labor they generate.
The first victims that fueled the US’s growth were the Indigenous communities who were nearly wiped out and African slaves who were torn from their homes and forced to build the foundation of this country. This practice continued for hundreds of years and even when the world began to turn its back on the cruel, racist and inhumane practice of slavery, the US continued to treat humans as property based on skin color.
It took a so-called civil war and a constitutional amendment to ‘end’ legal slavery in 1865, but not the racism and social institutions that predicated skin color as a class status. Instead, the Civil War cemented these institutions and allowed for the continued abuse of humanity carried out by white americans.
Despite its shortcomings, the Civil War also introduced us to a real resistance against the evils of the American empire from within. It was the beginning of the abolitionist movement, a Black-led effort of subversion that recognized the only way to destroy american hegemony was to break its racist laws. The abolition of slavery was the first major victory in a struggle that we continue to fight today.
(It is important to note that the first act of resistance against this empire was that of Native Americans attempting to preserve their sovereignty on the land, and any claim for liberation on this land should have them at the forefront.)
To continue fueling the imperialist machine post-slavery, the United States paired the continued exploitation of Black and Native lives with an influx of immigrants looking for opportunities. German and Chinese migrants built the railroads to the West; Irish migrants built the infrastructure of the East Coast; Filipinos, South American, Cambodian and Vietnamese migrants worked the fields.
To gloss over the contributions of each of these groups and all other exploited people on whose back this country sits is to diminish their immeasurable historical importance, and it is crucial to understand forced migration as a factor in creating imported labor for the US. But I will stick to these examples for the sake of brevity and making my point.
Simultaneously to the internal development of a labor caste system, and following a long tradition started by Western European countries, the United States pillaged the rest of the world alongside its european ancestors. From Africa to India, to the Caribbean Islands, to South America, to China, to the Pacific Islands, the US used its military to implant corporate interests in place of autonomy for nations and sometimes entire continents.
This system of global oppression was ultimately reinforced by the use of nuclear weapons in WWII by the US, which created the political tensions that exist today. Weapons of mass destruction were intended to destroy all resistance against the pillaging that drives migration.
The result? A world bound by US imperialism in which countries are destroyed and robbed of their most essential resource: human life.
This U.S playbook for such destruction is called capitalism. Primary amongst its intents is the destabilization of countries in favor of its corporate interests. Once destabilized, a country becomes dangerous and few have the strength to escape from their homes to become refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers.
A modern example of this displacement can be observed in Honduras. In 2009, democratically-elected president Jose Manuel Zelaya was replaced in a US-backed coup d’etat led by Porfirio Lobo. Nine years later, Honduras has the highest crime rate in the world. While american pundits on both sides of the political spectrum blame drugs and gangs, it’s clear that the US-backed coup and its intended purpose of destabilizing the country to facilitate taking Honduran natural resources created these conditions.
That eventually trickles down into the newest wave of migrants fleeing instability; refugees and asylum seekers fleeing Central and South America, most of whom are from Honduras.
Despite fleeing violence with hopes of finding safety, the migrant caravan attempting to legally ask for asylum at the United States border isn’t facing the warm acceptance of a benevolent country. Instead, they are facing the ire of a xenophobic, egotistic leader bent on self-gratification and his riled up base of fascism-apologizers.
As the capitalist pillaging returns less, natural resources continue to deplete and the world is paying the repercussions of american industrial carnage against the environment through climate change. The victims of this change are now being turned away, spurned as invaders and free-loaders instead of as laborers to fuel the imperialist machine as was done before.
This anti-immigrant attitude has ripple effects. The same tone carried by the United State’s far-right wannabe-tyrant is carried by Mexico’s incoming ‘leftist’ president Manuel Lopez Obrador. Instead of resonating with the struggles of his own people, who have long been the subject of targeted xenophobia, and being an ally to the newest victims of this hate, Obrador has aligned himself with his own country’s oppressor.
I bring all of this into context to emphasize the historical roots of a country bent on destruction. The migrant caravan and its vilification is the latest instance of classic american imperialism where they go in, destroy, and blame others for the turmoil.
Fortunately, just as the US has a long history of oppression, those who fight for liberation have a rich history of resistance to draw from.
The Native American resistance to US imperialism predates the nation itself. Native folks have been fighting against colonizers and existing since before this nation was even conceived.
Additionally, the Black abolitionist movement that has planted the seeds for true, radical organizing in the US is rooted in the abolition of the primary establishment from which this country drew its power.
Those efforts must continue and be reinforced by new movements if we are to save this world from the destruction of imperialism.
Just how the US has consolidated right-wing xenophobia into a vitriolic attack on a group of people fighting for their lives, it is time for those of us who call ourselves undocumented organizers and social justice organizers to join forces and defend people that, like us, have been displaced from their homes.
It is not a lost irony that we seek refuge from violence in the stolen home of the villain that has destroyed our home. As we fled to seek refuge, we willingly entered the belly of the beast.
At the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), abolition is our main strategy for liberation. We recognize that the source of global oppression for people of color world wide is Western imperialism spread by the United States and heralded by far-right extremist political puppets put into power to destroy our countries of origin.
To turn our backs on the migrant caravan is to turn our backs on ourselves, because the reality is that these migrants are abolitionists in practice. Driven by the will to live and prosper, they defy laws and borders to demand a better life than the one torn apart by the US in their homes. Their actions embody the work that we try to carry out daily at the intersection of criminalization, racial justice, and immigration.
The work of abolition is not complete. Slavery still exists in the form of imprisoned children fighting fires and prisoner labor being leased to private companies. Our world is shaped by the same american hegemony built on the backs of slaves, and if left unchecked, the US will continue to reinvent and reinvest in the shameful practice.
The migrant caravan is a bold stance against everything that the United States exemplifies. American hegemony is reinforced by american laws and in a stunning act of resilience and bravery, the caravan inches closer every day to the country that seeks to eradicate them.
This is a call to arms for all immigrants, abolitionists, and community organizers to take a stand in defense of the defenseless who are willingly putting their bodies on the line to define the world that we fight for daily.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
José Servín is one of two Communications Coordinators with CIYJA and is based in Santa Ana, CA.
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