April 7, 2020
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Trouble 22 Crossing the Line


The United States of America has long billed
itself as a land of opportunity. As a beacon of freedom to the world, and a
shelter for those fleeing the persecution and tyranny of distant shores. A “City on the Hill”, whose noble character
is best embodied by the Statue of Liberty, and the immortalized words of Emma Lazarus
inscribed into her pedestal: “give us your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” There’s just one small caveat. Well of course, that poem was referring back
to people coming from Europe. In the US, opportunity
has always been encoded into race. European settlers arriving on its shores
were granted the opportunity for free land … provided they were willing to help
slaughter that land’s original inhabitants. Their descendants were offered
the opportunity to own slaves, and the right to kill, beat
or rape them with total impunity … provided they agreed to help hunt down
any other slaves that tried to escape. Even today, despite the declining premium
placed on their European heritage, white Americans still enjoy the opportunity
to live without the constant fear of being executed by police
during a random traffic stop, or deported while attempting
to pick their kids up from school. Children effectively abandoned
because their parents were swept up. For centuries, the implicit bribe of white
supremacy has served as the primary anchor for social control
in the so-called United States. Although it has assumed different forms over
the years, the maintenance and perpetuation of this internal caste system has always
remained a top priority of the ruling class. Politicians have used it as a tool to project
white working-class fear, paranoia and anger onto perceived racial enemies,
both foreign and domestic. Under the Trump administration,
this practice has assumed a particularly blunt and vicious character. From his calls to expand the wall
on the US-Mexico border, to his “zero tolerance” policy that helped spawn
a vast network of privatized detention camps, Donald Trump has consistently sought
to ratchet up tensions between his increasingly unhinged base
and the migrants and refugees chasing the promise of a better life. Over the next thirty minutes, we’ll take
a closer look at this wave of racist, anti-migrant sentiment coursing
through American society. Along the way, we’ll talk to a number of
individuals as they share their experiences of resisting the border, supporting undocumented
detainees, fighting back against la migra, and making a whole lot of trouble. Some of the historical context
that we need to address with regards to immigration from
Latin America to the U.S is the fact, first that our entire continent was invaded
by the Europeans taking over. There was genocide,
stealing of the land, the creation of the global North
based on colonization, taking over our wealth
and savaging our resources. The border, it is an act of violence,
it is an act of colonization that affects Mestizos.
It affects Indigenous people. It affects everybody. It affects our river.
Because the river is treated differently as soon as it crosses an imaginary line. The border region is an area where these
colonial regimes are competing for territory and competing for legitimacy. And they create their legitimacy based on
occupying Indigenous lands, and trying to delegitimize
Indigenous sovereignty. Once we realize that that’s the
fundamental core of the colonial project, we can start thinking about
taking down these borders. The U.S policy nowadays under Trump
has not really shifted, it is not a break
from previous administrations, it’s built based on
previous administrations. The tragedy of the twin towers was the excuse
to create the Department of Homeland Security, was the excuse to create
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and was the excuse
to privatize immigration detention. The U.S is the largest consumer
of illicit drugs. The drug market is what’s replacing the
agricultural economies of Latin America. The only way for people to economically survive
in a lot of locations is through drug trafficking. And drug trafficking is taking over
their areas and pushing them out. And so, people are coming here fleeing,
you know, the gangs and the cartels. When I was in detention, I got to know a lot
of people from El Salvador who were fleeing police violence and gang violence. And a big part of those stories and
those conversations that we had were about how United States
foreign policy and intervention have created those conditions
for that violence to take place. It’s easier to risk crossing the border
and living a life without documentation than to stay at home. A lot of women who are victims of
sexual assault and domestic violence fleeing those situations
trying to come to a safer location. And you also have a lot of queer, trans,
LGBTQ folks who are also fleeing situations of violence and extreme discrimination
where they’re not able to find employment, they’re afraid to leave their houses. A lot of the folks coming across have
been already victimized by a hate crime. Border militarization and state violence
against immigrants are always linked together. And border militarization is
military occupation of Indigenous lands, and people seem to forget that
when we talk about the immigration issue, and there are these calls to reinforce the border,
secure the border, militarize the border. That border is tribal land, and there are
tribal communities along that border. And so what you’re doing
when you’re calling for those things is calling for the military occupation
of those Indigenous communities. And so Indigenous communities feel
the brunt of the immigration repression in a way that no other
community in the U.S does. President Obama signed into law
a $600 million bill to deploy some 1500 new border patrol agents
and law enforcement officials along the border, as well as two aerial surveillance drones. The state controls movement
in both Mexico and United States. We have a situation where families are separated,
and it’s not just the family separation that you’re seeing on the news,
but we’re talking about Kwapa families that have been separated since the 1940s.
And they have not been able to see each other. We’re talking about relatives
not being able to go to funerals. We’re talking about traditional gatherings
that will never be a tribal gathering because the whole tribe can’t participate. You see a lot of native people
going out to land that they know well, and making sure that nobody’s dying there.
Because this is sacred land. This is land that has nurtured people for
thousands of years, since creation, and it was never intended to be a space
where people died crossing. The lack of the ability to freely move has
been detrimental to us– I mean, we have had very recently a tribal member die crossing
the desert because the traditional routes up the river that would have been taken are
so heavily patrolled and militarized it forces people to take dangerous corridors. On August 8 2019,
US Immigration Customs Enforcement, or ICE, conducted the largest statewide
immigration raid in American history. Over 600 federal agents targeted seven food
processing plants across six cities in Mississippi, detaining 680 undocumented workers. The raid took place on the first day of school,
leaving many local children shocked and traumatized when their parents failed to
pick them up after class, and they were left with nowhere to go. Let my parents be free. I need my dad by me
…. my dad didn’t do nothing. He’s not a criminal. As one of his first acts in office,
Donald J Trump signed an executive order calling for the hiring of 10,000 new ICE agents,
and promising to speed up the deportation of those he’s so fond of referring to as “illegals”. In the months and years that have followed,
ICE has become the most hated federal agency in the United States. Liberals and so-called “progressives”
have called for its abolition. A weeks-long series of protest encampments
dubbed Occupy ICE broke out in cities across the country, temporarily blocking field offices
and detention centres, and slowing down operations. And more recently, ICE facilities and the
homes of its agents have been hit by a wave of vandalism, sabotage and other attacks. A search is underway for one or more suspects
the FBI says shot at an ICE office in San Antonio overnight. Agents worry there could be more attacks ahead. In the coming years, as the American state
continues to escalate its war on migrant communities, its a fair bet that those who hunt down and
deport people for a living will continue to face an escalation of their own. Let’s hope so. It’s no coincidence that the first
day of announcing his campaign, Trump went after my community. We figured this would be bad,
but we didn’t expect the intensity of this war against us so quickly. They’re coming after us. They have no shame about it. They’re very direct,
very clear that they want us out. They’re committing ethnic cleansing. The US immigration system today
is just one big department at federal level, called the Department of Homeland Security. Under this department,
there are basically three main agencies. One is like the administrative agency that
runs the applications, fingerprints, etc. And they’re called USCIS – United States
Citizenship and Immigration Services. The other two agencies – that are separate,
supposedly – are the enforcement agencies, which is the police. That is Customs and Border Protection (CBP),
based on the borders and ports of entry all the way inland for a hundred miles. So that’s a third of the country. And most of the big important cities
are within those a hundred miles. So CBP has a lot of jurisdiction. And the other one is called Immigration
Customs Enforcement, or ICE. They do the inland work of detention and deportations. ICE has also somehow jurisdiction
within the hundred miles. Sometimes its hard to know
there’s a difference between the two. Sometimes the only difference that we see
is that CBP has uniforms and ICE doesn’t. ICE usually runs in non-marked cars. They dress in civil clothing. When they’re ready to do operations,
then they wear vests that say “POLICE”. They have deep collaboration
with state agencies. They also receive a lot of information through
surveillance and technology. They have a contract with Palantir, which
is a software company that develops the apps for them to read, for example,
the license plates of cars. They also use Amazon Cloud Services
for all their operations. They use social media. They’re using facial recognition software. Amazon was trying to sell their
facial recognition software to them. We don’t know where that sale is at, but
Amazon is not shy about it. They don’t really care. So they became really sophisticated in the
usage of high technology. So they can really find people anywhere. When I started this work in 2014
and I came out publicly as undocumented, I knew that they knew who I was. But I did not expect that they would just
all of a sudden send me a letter on December 20, 2017 to my house saying that they had
begun deportation proceedings against me. La Resistencia decided that this was not about
me. That we needed to use my case to elevate the
work, and we wouldn’t let ICE intimidate me, or our group. That we would go on the offensive. So what we did is, we went public. We announced what was happening. It was incredible the response of the people
there, the community, not only here in Seattle or Washington, but throughout the nation. But we knew that I wasn’t the only one. We learned of so many other colleagues and
comrades throughout the nation that have been also targeted by ICE. My family is originally from Mexico. We crossed over to El Paso when I was very
young, on a permit which eventually expired. For a majority of my life I lived with no
status, and then eventually in more recent years I was able to go under DACA. In the United States I was involved in various
types of organizing. Part of that was building movement and resistance
in my community against immigration and against police as a whole. I was taking part in an occupation outside
of an ICE detention center. And one morning I left the camp, and as I
was walking down the street, I was stopped by unmarked police vehicles with plainclothes
officers. I was handcuffed and put into the back of
a truck. From there I was taken to the back of an abandoned
Wal-Mart, where I was surrounded by various ICE and Homeland Security officers – both
plainclothes and in armour. From there I was taken to Pearsall Detention
Center, about forty minutes away. I was questioned by FBI agents about my
“involvement in movements”, as they put it. And I was questioned about people that I knew,
people in the camp, and I was promised that if I was to give up information that they
could talk to an immigration judge. And that it could really help my case. I didn’t give up any information. And from there I was processed and sent out
to Laredo. After I was sent down to Laredo, I was given
a great legal team and we fought hard. However, we really didn’t see any case where
I could be free on that side of the border. And so after about forty days in detention,
I did ask for my deportation. I was given a ten year ban from re-entering
the United States, and had to start a whole new life here in Mexico. In June of 2018, the first images were broadcast
of the debacle that eventually became known as the Trump administration’s
“family separation policy”. By that time the world saw the harrowing images
of what was happening on the US southern border, over 2,700 children were already trapped in
the system. This included dozens of children under the
age of five, who’d been shipped off to buildings referred to in official state jargon
as “tender-age facilities” … but more popularly known as “baby jails”. The state-sanctioned policy of ripping children
from their parents and detaining them in separate facilities was officially rescinded on June
20th, 2018 – although the practice continues on a smaller scale. Meanwhile, the official state policy has shifted
to detaining children alongside their parents indefinitely, or shipping them back to Mexican
border towns, where they will wait for years to have their asylum applications denied. The overcrowding and dehumanizing conditions
found in migrant detention facilities perpetuates an increasingly racist and sadistic culture
among the US Customs and Border Protection agents tasked with overseeing them. This is clearly reflected in the reports of
widespread sexual abuse being carried out against women and children in these family
detention centres, and the details of a recent leak exposing the existence of a private facebook
group, where agents were caught swapping racist anti-migrant memes and openly joking about
raping their female critics in Congress. Profiting off this depravity are private detention
contractors, who continue to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars
in government contracts each year. You see prison buses constantly. You see these vehicles hauling away families
en masse and when you see those buses going by, when you see a family get arrested in
front of your eyes, that in itself is colonial violence. There’s a long history of putting prisoners
all up and down the border and it’s cause it’s an outta sight, out of mind. You stick-em in the middle of the desert,
and you could do whatever you want. These are often for-profit prisons and they’re
maximizing their profits by packing more people than can fit in the facility, in the facility. And then reducing to the bare minimum the
amount of supplies that they give them. The conditions in detention are there to create
a sense of dread and a sense of desperation, and to make you lose hope about fighting your
case. Anytime a guard knocks on a window or calls
out your name, you’re worried maybe you’re getting moved somewhere or you’re going
to court and aren’t able to notify your lawyer, which happened to me very early on. This policy of imprisoning folks in these
squalid conditions, is intentionally inflicting what will be historical trauma on this entire
generation of migrants. In the past we didn’t have
privatized immigration detention. The detention was minimal,
deportations were minimal. It really ballooned under Obama, but what
we have seen under the Trump administration is that they have utilized every single aspect
of immigration law and criminal law to expand this machine, to make it really a war on immigrants. We wanted to do a shutdown action outside
the North West Detention Center in Tacoma. We wanted to bring light to what was happening
in Washington state. So in February of 2014, ten of us including
me and another colleague that both of us were undocumented, shut down for a day deportations
outside the detention center in Tacoma. We were able to stop two buses and then when
a third, a small van, was coming out trying to leave, five of us ran to the back, to the
small street to stop the little van that was trying to leave. I noticed how angry the driver of the bus
was when he wasn’t able to leave, but then right behind him I could see hands moving. And the hands were really close to each other,
I realized that there were people handcuffed, waving at us, moving their hands. And I couldn’t see their faces but I could
see their hands moving. What we were doing was the right thing, although
I was exposing myself to be arrested, detained, and possibly deported. About two weeks after we did that action,
we got calls from radio-stations, from relatives, from lawyers. Everybody was calling us saying, “there’s
a hunger strike in the detention center and the people organizing it wanna talk to you
all”. What are the detainees trying to achieve with
this hunger strike? Well this hunger strike started last Friday
with reportedly some 1200 detainees going on hunger strike. Basically what they want is an end to all
deportations across the country and really an improvement to their conditions right now
at the Pacific North West Detention Center, which is run by the private prison contractor
Geo Group. The hunger strike lasted all together 56 days,
and after the hunger strike ended we came together as a volunteer group and we decided
that we wanted to continue. Our work is to shut down the detention center
in Tacoma, by following the leadership of those detained. E13 News obtained this video from the July
13th rampage. Tacoma police say around four o’clock that
morning, 69 year-old Willem Van Spronsen from Vashon Island attacked the facility. He was armed with a rifle and firebombs, and
police say he set fire to his own vehicle during the chaos, which is what you see here. Officers responded, shots were fired, and
Van Spronsen died at the scene. Who was Will? We don’t know. We never met him. Uhm, we learned of his name the day that he
was killed by Tacoma police department outside the detention center in Tacoma. We learned that he was an anarchist that had
joined some local groups. Obviously we were extremely sad. A lot of people might want us to condemn what
he did. We believe that we shouldn’t police other
people’s actions. I personally think he did what he felt was
needed. And although I don’t understand it I feel
a lot of pain for his death. Again for us, it just reflects the frustration
that so many have throughout the country because we are getting to levels of violence that
we have never seen before. If we aren’t willing to challenge the infrastructure,
if we’re not willing to take action to decrease the profit margins for the companies that
are profiting off of these camps, then we’re not really doing anything effective. Protesting, blocking a parking lot trying
to make the employees feel bad isn’t gonna work. They’re profiting off of it, they’ve been
profiting off of it for the last twenty years, but cutting into the pocketbook of these corporations
and these agencies, is gonna be the only way that these camps are going to be abolished. Crowds of asylum seekers standing for hours in a parking lot that’s been hastily retrofitted into a makeshift detention camp. A terror-stricken woman clutching her children’s
hands as she runs from clouds of tear gas at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing. A mass shooting at a Wal-Mart, justified by
a delusional claim of self-defence against a perceived migrant invasion. As scenes like these become increasingly normalized,
the myth of the American Dream slowly dies, bleeding out on the pavement in real time. Recoiling from the sinking realization of
what their country is capable of, liberals and so-called “progressives” ignore the
reality of what it’s always been. Rather than coming to terms with the evil that
is the United States of America, they place their faith in the liberal coastal enclaves
of so-called “sanctuary cities” and pin their hopes on the 2020 elections. But no matter the outcome of the next election,
this problem did not begin – and won’t end – with Donald Trump. The American state will continue to create
more refugees, and it will continue to use the spectre of those refugees to justify further
militarizing its borders. The sooner that people come to terms with
this fact, the sooner they can figure out what they’re willing to do about it. Border organizing needs to be a little bit
more fluid across the border. We really need to step away from identifying
our individual anti-border-imperialism movements by imperial definitions, you know when we
only organize on the US side or only organize on the Mexico side that’s going to limit us. If you look at the effective labor movements
that were happening especially at the turn of the 20th century in Arizona, it was a mixture
of Mexican and American people that were coming together and organizing. Now us tribes, we’ve always had that cross
border because we have family on both sides and so those familial connections run deep. When we get together and think about how does
this state violence impact us in different ways and how do we actually have the difficult
conversations that we need to have between people coming from different experiences,
then we can actually take this system down. So when I’ve sat in conversations where I’ve
seen tribal communities and migrant communities actually sit down and have difficult conversations
about settler colonialism, about what does it mean to be in our different positionalities
and historical experiences and how we’re often pitted against each other for our own survival. And once we realize that this is divide and
conquer tactics and we sit down and confront it and think about okay, how are we each complicit
in each other’s repression, how can we undo that complicity, how can we actually have
solidarity for eachother? I think that there’s a lot that can come out
of that once we realize that we can actually move as a community and build things as a
community and provide for each other as a community. If we get enough people we can take down these
systems, you know we can take down these prisons. If you don’t have connections throughout the
colonial states and you’re not actively working against that colonial border from both sides,
then you’re only looking at half the equation. If you don’t have comrades on the mexico side
that have a safe house for you and vice versa, if you don’t have a safe house on this side
for them, then you’re not thinking about things outside of the imperial narrative. And that lacks efficacy. It’s very simple, listen to people detained. That’s what we do, we listen to people detained. We follow their leadership. We all want that place shut down but we believe
as Cipriano Rios Alegria, one of the best organizers inside, one of the best hunger
strike organizers ever, he told us “the walls are coming down and they’re crumbling from the inside, but they need a push from the outside”. It’s important to understand why the place
exists in the first place, why it was built in Tacoma, why it’s still there, why the city
of Tacoma hasn’t shut it down, why Washington State lives with this place, this sore in
our midst. But it’s also important to understand that
we shouldn’t be arrogant to think that we know what to do or that we have the solution. The experts are inside the detention center
and we need to listen to them. We have a lot of like, well meaning, white
comrades who try to come out and they want to help with the border and so, you know,
they’re going to do something like a water drop. And sometimes you know that’s good like ‘No
More Deaths’ really is on point with their work, but a lot of people just come out and
they’ll drop water in a place where there’s not really any migrants crossing or something
like that. And it’s just kind of like, you really need
to be talking to the locals, you need to be talking to the indigenous people who know
that area, who know where the need is, who know what specific infrastructure is being
utilized to oppress people. And you need to be basically asking like,
“what can we do to work with the local communities?” instead of trying to become this outside force
that’s coming in to exert your own power. Autonomy needs to come from a cooperative
effort of all parties involved but especially those that are directly affected by border
imperialism and border violence. So for people that want to get involved, well
become involved with La Resistencia because we have created a system that we call the
“Inside Outside’ where we know how to connect with people detained. At the end of the day when people call us
from the detention center, which they call us every day, every hour, the way we introduce
ourselves is: “we’re volunteers and we’re people del pueblo. We’re people like you. The only difference is that we’re not detained. And it is our responsibility to do something”. So we ask people to join us and to not get
tired and not get frustrated because things are only going to get worse until they get
better. For anybody who’s currently undocumented and
is in the struggle against ICE and the border and deportations, really envision a world without
any of those things and assess how hard you’re really willing to fight to bring that world
into reality and then find people who are like you and from there just, only be as careful
as you want to be. The coming years are poised to see ever-growing
levels of human migration, even as automation and advances in artificial intelligence shrink
labour markets and increase the percentage of the population deemed surplus to the needs
of capital. Within this context, states will seek to further
militarize their borders, while far-right militias and other vigilantes will be increasingly
emboldened to carry out paramilitary attacks on migrant communities and ethnic and religious
minorities. This is a trend that is already playing out
around the world, and sadly, it seems set to continue… particularly on the US/Mexico
border. Faced with this dire scenario, it is more
important than ever that anarchists begin taking seriously the need to build autonomous
community self-defence networks, and systems of functional mutual aid. This work can seem daunting, but it begins
with small steps, such as the fostering of new social relationships that are rooted in
solidarity and common struggles. So at this point, we’d like to remind you
that Trouble is intended to be watched in groups, and to be used as a resource to promote
discussion and collective organizing. Are you interested in getting more involved
in migrant solidarity work, or in starting a campaign against a local detention facility
in your area? Consider getting together with some comrades,
organizing a screening of this film, and discussing where to get started. Interested in running regular screenings of
Trouble at your campus, infoshop, community centre, or even just at home with friends? Become a Trouble-Maker! For 10 bucks a month, we’ll hook you up
with an advance copy of the show, and a screening kit featuring additional resources and some
questions you can use to get a discussion going. If you can’t afford to support us financially,
no worries! You can stream and/or download all our content
for free off our website: sub.media/trouble If you’ve got any suggestions for show topics,
or just want to get in touch, drop us a line at [email protected] This episode would not have been possible
without the generous support of Percy, Doug, La Resistencia, and the IAF. Stay tuned next month for Trouble 22, as we
take a closer look at climate change, the chaos it’s wreaking on our world, and our
collective inability to alter our current trajectory. You are going to lose London, parts of New
York, Boston, parts of Washington. Thirty feet of sea level rise probably displaces
roughly half a billion people… five hundred million people. Now get out there…. and make some trouble!

David Frank

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Link Skywalker Posted on October 7, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    What music is that? I like it!

    Reply
  2. Wes Watson's Dogg Posted on October 7, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    BUILD THAT WALL!!! TRUMP2020🇺🇸

    Reply
  3. Wes Watson's Dogg Posted on October 7, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    If you don't cross the border at a port of entry.. Then you are a crininal and will be treated like such.. NO BENIFITS FOR ILLEGALS!. my tax dollars are not for criminals who undermined the laws of the country they so badly want to be a part of. It does not work like that. Get in line like everyone else.

    Reply
  4. Hamish Fatcat Posted on October 7, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Fire to the prisons no border will stop us

    Reply
  5. Lucy DM Posted on October 7, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    is this a reupload? i swear i’ve seen this already

    Reply
  6. MH Posted on October 15, 2019 at 11:05 am

    I'm all for fighting against corrupt governments but bending over backwards and allowing non-citizens of your country to enter un-vetted is not the way to go. Instead of fighting legitimate corruption within the government you instead unwittingly aid the destruction of your country. Our history as Americans is fighting against corrupt governments. For the safety and well-being of your fellow countrymen it'd behoove a lot of you to think about the decision of aiding illegal immigrants entering the country, be rational and think about the future consequences not only for you but for your next of kin. That doesn't mean the government is right with everything it does. But having this inane idea of the government being wrong in every action it does is childish. Protecting her borders is a necessity of any successful nation, look at history, look at statistics and be rational.

    Reply
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