Violence at U. S. / Mexico border spurs debate
December 18, 2018
All students from St. Paul Academy and Summit School, even though it might not be obvious at first glance, have a connection to immigration. Whether the recent news of violence at the border adds stress to their lives, or if one of their family members has struggled with immigrating, everyone is linked to immigration.
“[The media] depict immigrants as being criminals in a lot of ways; they don’t depict them as being people who deserve to be here,” 9th grader Katherine Bragg said.
According to the Associated Press, in recent weeks thousands of migrants have fled poverty and violence by joining caravans to request refuge at the U.S. Border. Their goal of refuge has not been met, and instead, violence has continued.
Sophomore Aman Rahman connects to the violence that many immigrants face.
“There seems like a lot of controversy around [President Trump] speaking on the behalf of people who he doesn’t have a connection to. Especially because all of these people are coming from war and are trying to flee and have a better life for their family, and they aren’t allowed to do that just because of decisions he’s making without knowing where they’re coming from,” Rahman said.
Immigration has dominated recent public discussion. Currently, immigration rhetoric has been focused on the “migrant caravan” moving towards the US-Mexico border. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, a rainstorm on Nov. 27 destroyed the Benito Juárez shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, forcing hundreds of caravan migrants to be transported 11 miles farther from the border to another shelter. Benito Juárez was already considered unsafe before the storm due to illness, food shortages, lice, and overcrowding.
The officials who were leading the migrants away from Benito Juárez said that the new shelter would allow for safer conditions including a roof and electricity. The migrants would also be allowed to come and go without restrictions.
The National Commission for Human Rights in Mexico recommended that the migrants relocate, but the 30-minute drive to the new and supposedly better shelter made it difficult for many to leave. They had already traveled more than 2,000 miles in the caravan, and many were unwilling to risk getting any farther away from the border.
“I think it is important to have regulations at the border like I don’t think we should have open borders but I do think that if people are trying to get into the country, we should provide pathways that make it easier for them to come legally,” Sophomore Isabel Toghramadjian said.
Senior Joe Kase voiced a similar opinion: “I think we should make it easier for people to immigrate here rather than force them out.”
Even though they had been warned by Tijuana officials that food and medical services would stop being provided at the Benito Juarez shelter soon, fewer than 500 migrants decided to move to the new shelter. In the Benito Juarez shelter, migrants had started selling cigarettes and renting out phone chargers, desperately trying to earn enough money to buy food. On the same day that the migrants left Benito Juáez, a group of migrants marched to the Mexican Immigration offices near the San Ysidro Port of Entry and were planning to stage a hunger strike until both sides of the border sped up the asylum process.
“I think that the way that the U.S. system is set up is going to lead situations like this because we’ve drastically cut down on the pathways to legal citizenship, so the people who are seeking opportunities, safety, or whatever, are kind of forced into unfortunate situations which are not good for them and aren’t really good for the country either,” 9th grader Milo Zelle said.
Mexican border officials stopped the migrants, stating that they did not want a repeat of Nov. 27, where a peaceful march quickly turned into hundreds of migrants at the border, with many acting violently.
According to the Washington Post, the majority of the migrant caravan approached the border peacefully with the intention of convincing the officials to increase the speed of the asylum process, but hundreds still tried to cross the border. Mexican authorities said that they would deport any member of the caravan if they attempted to cross illegally.
The Chicago Tribune reported that a few of the migrants threw rocks at US Customs and Border Protection agents, who responded by releasing tear gas into the crowds of migrants and their families. The Border Protection agents also released pepper spray balls, which were an on-the-spot decision. President Trump responded to this by saying that the officers used a safe form of tear gas.
“It makes me really upset and disappointed because what I heard was that they put tear gas on people that were still in Mexico. And I also think that there are other ways to do something then to release gas,” Toghramadjian said in response to the tear gas incident.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the U.S. authorities arrested 69 people, and Mexican authorities arrested 39 people. U.S. officials shut the border down for several hours after the incident, costing Mexico $6.3 million in revenue. The incident cost $6.3 million in revenue for Mexico because the U.S. officials shut down the border for several hours after the incident.
“I think if we can give them more opportunities to come to the country legally, we won’t have to deal with this,” Zelle said.
Quim Gil’s image of children at the border can be found here.