Neomi Salvodor- No Estan Solos!
By: Neomi Salvodor
The Tornillo detention center is a children concentration camp holding against their will approximately 400 kids. It's hard to give an specific number since buses loaded with children enter almost daily. If you are in the area, unaware of the situation. You’ll never know that there is an encampment full of babies on the left side of the so called “U.S” and Mexico border. Jeff Sessions pushed and justified the zero tolerance policy. Which allows the government to mass incarcerate and separate migrant families. Which has been done in previous administrations. Yet, this is the first time children are incarcerated separately from their mothers. It criminalizes the act of migrating and strives to punish those who do by taking away the reason many cross the border for. Their children. The guards that hurried us out on my first close contact to the camp denied knowing about any children’s encampment. Majority brown, armed guards. Probably holding a similar history of migration than those they are now complicit of destroying.
On Wednesday, 27, 2018 activists from MiJente as the leading collective, Puente, Healing in Resistance and United We Dream, blocked the entrance of the Tornillo Detention Center. A tripod and two letters placed on the front gate interrupted the regular flow. A banner suspended from a balloon that said “no estan solos” (you are not alone). The action was planned in an effort to uplift the children's spirits. Yet, our crew and the banner got attacked by a white rancher. Who almost run over several members with his truck pulled a gun without the security and carelessly waved it on peoples faces. In the middle of all this chaos three buses of children were sent to cross the main gate. Despite of the march, despite of the blockade... My stomach turned upside down when the little ones stood on their chairs to see us from the bus windows. Waving at us. I’ve never felt so angry in my life. And as communities standing always against some kind of colonial bullshit we’ve learned to resist in flames. But this flames were somewhat different. The action of stealing children is a declaration of war. And our tactics shouldn’t be any less.
They were tiny, they looked like the babies in my own community. Brown indigenous babies, some of them still breastfeeding. Our stories, our wellbeing. Depend on our first sacred food. Now without breast to be nurtured and though from. We locked eyes for a couple of seconds, and I broke down. Those eyes will never leave my heart, but will remind me forever about the brutality of colonial states and white borders. We all cried; men, gender non conforming, queer, black, brown, journalists. It took as to a deep part of what Amerikkka is and what it’s been since settler contact.
What is the future of this babies? The camp in Tornillo is located by monocrop farms. All the runoff and air polluted with chemicals reach them on a daily basis. Environmental Justice is a big part of this conversation. Their immediate health is at risk, as well as the prolonged effects of intergenerational trauma in the hands of government agencies. Once the pop up camps all over the “U.S” reach its capacity they're gonna be sent to a military base. Some have already been sold for sex trafficking. The key point is to understand that they are making millions from separating and jailing families. Several agencies claiming to provide care are only doing the minimum. Which means two meals a day, no space for playing, no contact and very, very limited translators. This kids are being pushed to their limits daily. Mocked for mourning their families…
To use abandoned navy bases to jail children is not a coincidence. This country needs of people to power the military. Many of our babies are gonna be used as tools of war. Trapped in an never ending conflict. Others, probably the younger ones are gonna be put in adoption for white families. And in this case just like many others, we do not need your white compassion. We need our families humanity to be recognized. Our skills as parents to be valued to the point our family structures are uplifted and freed.
Many of this babies are in extreme isolation. They do not speak Spanish or English. They speak different indigenous languages. The layers of inaccessibility are various, but we have the power to become bridges. And the power to end all cages.
What is at stake? This is a colonization matter, stripping away the younger generation meant that they could control the future of the next one. It means a gap in our spirituality and overall our humanity. It’s indoctrinating and physically intending to raise a generation so full of wounds that they could no longer stay present to pass over what build us as Nations. Teach us our languages, teach us how to plant our crops and therefore give life to our families. During the boarding school generation relatives from the North were forced to assimilate inside some of the most brutal institutions. And so are our babies.
So what can we do?
Occupy every single one of these spaces. Hold the people harming our babies accountable with communal justice. Under an existing colonial system we cannot simply rely on institutions to free our babies. It's really up to us. To determine and have the authority to design our communities. Build what security looks like. Aside from this being a land right, is also a self determination fight. The O’odham Nation who has fought for the wall to not cross their territory is an example of how deeper this issue goes. Because of it having implications for sacred relations and the increasing militarization of our communities for the sake of expanding colonial ruling.
If you represent an activist collective; Support border efforts. Make your analysis truly intersectional and don’t forget to actively make the link between police brutality, militarization, and white supremacy. I.C.E and C.BP need to be defunded and permanently shut down. Not modified. We do not only want out families to stay together. We want them free, knowing no jail is meant to foster humanity. Do NOT forget that there are black migrants getting constantly erased from the narrative. Just as our LGBT+IA relatives.
Urge your networks to lend a hand in border shelters holding migrants. As a way to expand accountability. Make a call for indigenous translators to be also part of this effort; “The ability to communicate and offer real empathy” as said by Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner who has actively organize as an ally in border communities is key to diminish the impact of oppression. To take care of the emotional well being of our babies while we figure how to free them and reconnect them to their families is extremely important.
Raise money to bond the parents out. The detain migrant solidarity committee and Las Americas have some of the most respected legal aid. Organizations that help and that you can trust are few. This ones are efforts worth contributing to. People in borders cities are working really hard. And they don’t have the capacity to communicate to a broader network to define their needs. Reach out, we should be working together in a radical manner. We need mass mobilizations and impeccable analysis that take into consideration all that's going on. Take care of yourself, because this are not easy times. Yet bold resistance is what we are made of.