Mirrors and a Baffling News Day

What is the news today??  The Supreme Court rules that apparently racism is a thing of the past, while completely mis-defining tribal identity and threatening native sovereignty.   And then Senator Wendy Davis is currently filibustering in Texas to keep draconian abortion laws off the book, too, so that’s cool.

Meanwhile, I am reflecting on a protest I attended yesterday at the Suffolk Detention Center in Boston, opposing the massive deportations that happen each week, invisible to the eyes of many Americans, but brutally real to many others.

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photo courtesy Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

We stood at the intersection of Mass Ave and I-93, 40 or 50 of us within sight of the Suffolk Detention Center, where detainees could see us through their barred windows. We waved and chanted, holding signs showing our solidarity and support; they waved back and banged on the windows, showing signs of their own: ICE 7 Years, and Thank You All.

As deportations continue by the thousands and the US sits on the brink of Immigration Reform, we need to be watching.  This country doesn’t make it easy for us to watch passively and see the full picture, so we have to look, and we have to listen. Carefully.

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photo courtesy Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

We could see into the part of the detention center nearest the highway, but walking there, we passed walls of windows, which were mirrored on the outside.  We could not see in, but the people inside could see out.  If we listened, we could hear them banging on the glass, hidden from us.

A two-way mirror is a simple tool to hide an atrocity.  What would it look like, to drive by on the highway and see hundreds of faces peering through the glass, hands pressed between bars, mouthing words?  Would we ask who those people are?  Would we ask if they really need to be there?  So long as deportation and incarceration stays hidden, it’s easy to dismiss deportation and incarceration as something that doesn’t apply, so long as you follow the law.  “I don’t know the people detained,” you might say, “Aren’t they there for doing something wrong?”

Well who says it’s wrong?  The same people hiding them behind mirrored glass.

The people in the wrong are not who’s behind the mirror, but those who put the mirror there in the first place.

Not one more deportation! ¡Ni una deportación más!

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A different lens on “Shooting by Agents Increase Border Tensions” (NYT 6-11-13)

If you read this article: Shootings by Agents Increase Border Tensions in the New York Times today, please also consider reading Remembering Jose Antonio: Day of the Dead in Nogales from the Border Wars blog.  While I appreciate the NYT’s exposure of fatal shootings at the Border, I was upset to see the NYT open its article by describing, “…rocks hurled from Mexico rained down on United States Border Patrol agents…”

I attended the vigil for Jose Antonio on Day of the Dead when I was in Arizona on the Border Studies Program.  I was able to see, as the Border Wars article describes, the wall on top of the cliff that separated Border Patrol from the site where Jose Antonio was killed.  Whether or not Jose Antonio was throwing rocks at BP agents at the time of his death is a contested detail, and if he was, it is difficult to picture how the rocks could have been “raining down” from Mexico given the geography of the site.

The NYT’s use of this type of description allows the Border Patrol to be seen as the victims of violent and agressive Mexicans.  Border Patrol likes to be seen this way.  This was apparent in my interactions with the Nogales sector of the Border Patrol, who handed us rocks and asked us, “Do you think this would do some damage? Do you think it would hurt?”  But Border Patrol is not the victim in this situation.  They are heavily armed, and their presence creates an environment of fear and intimidation on both sides of the Border.  I hope that this visibility in the New York Times helps end this sort of violence on the Border, but maybe the NYT could invest their time and energy into investigating why this sort of violence is allowed to happen, and why there hasn’t been a single criminal charge of a BP agent since 2010, rather than investing time and energy into crafting sentences that make it sound like the Border Patrol is just barely surviving a hailstorm of boulders.