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Baja Social Action

One Year In

It’s been a year since I’ve got involved in working with asylum seekers at the border. Remember the migrant caravan? That was a year ago. 

And I think we need a reset. Let’s get back to the basic question of, “Why are people coming here to seek asylum?” 

Here’s where I want to start. The reason people are coming to seek asylum is because the United States has made their home countries unsafe. 

They see the United States as a safe place to raise their families, a place where they’ll have the opportunity to climb out of poverty. A place where they have a chance. 

To understand “why” we need to understand history. 

Guatamala, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador. These are resource rich countries. So why are they poor? Why are they dangerous? 

Because of United States interventions.

Do you know what a Banana Republic is? (And no, not the clothing store.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_republic

That phrase was coined 120 years ago because of what the United States did to Honduras.

What’s happening today is equally exploitive. It’s basically the exact same thing. That $8 t-shirt you bought at Target you plan to wear once and throw away or those boxers you bought at Walmart? Check the tag… chances are they were made by an American corporation whose exploiting labor. The person who made that t-shirt is getting paid $1 a day or less. So how did that happen? Why can a textile company leave North Carolina and go to Guatemala and virtually enslave people in a cheap labor scheme? 

Well… it’s called American interventionism. It’s a cute way of saying our State Department, military, and good ole USAID have disempowered governments in the Northern Triangle for 100 years. We weakened their governments, we put in place politicians who let Americans rob the country, and then we get them hooked on foreign aid packages. 

Here’s a good overview: https://medium.com/…/timeline-us-intervention-central-ameri…

Once the United States could control and manipulate these countries governments… American corporations took over. They do anything they want to workers in the name of profits. 

Destroy the environment? Who cares… not like Guatemala has an EPA. Strip mining? Sure… look what they did in Haiti, just blame the people’s use of charcoal for deforestation and you’ll get people to mock Haiti instead of get angry at American companies.

No wonder narco traffickers and gangs took over. The people saw their government robbing them… it’s only natural that the people are going to get theirs. Plus, no one in the United States wants to talk about where all the money that’s fueling narco terrorist groups comes from… it comes from the drug habits of Americans and our “war on drugs.” 

Yes, the Northern Triangle is dangerous. But it wasn’t an accident. It’s by design. The weaker those countries are the more we, the United States, benefit. 

But– and let’s get back to people coming to the United States– for both of those challenges, poor labor practices by American corporations and gangs coming into power: WHO PAYS THE PRICE? The poor. It’s always the poor who suffer. 

But starting in the 2010s guess what happened? The poor got access to cheap internet. Information is power! Messenger, WhatsApp, Google– all of that information meant that the poor can ORGANIZE and that’s how these migrations really happened.

People say, “Well, these migrations didn’t happen before Obama was in office.” Yeah, that’s because they didn’t have cheap cell phones before Obama. But now they do, they can share info, organize… AND TRAVEL.

The reason they are coming is because they can share information about the routes, what towns to stop at along the way, where to go, how to do it, how much money you need. They get encouragement and information from those who have gone before them. 

So that’s the big reset. 12 months into my involvement. Guess what? The poor are going to keep coming. And they are not just coming from the Northern Triangle. Poor people are now coming to Tijuana and other border cities from all over the world. And they know Trump is falling. They know there are Americans fighting for them. And they know American laws have not changed. 

And they know they have a chance. A chance at a better life. A chance to start over. A chance for their kids. 

Don’t blame the poor for coming. If you didn’t want them to come you shouldn’t have bought that $8 t-shirt or that $8/lb Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at the store. Instead, blame yourself. You caused it. You benefitted from their exploitation.

We want them here. They belong here. 

So make room. Scoot over. 

Learn their language. Introduce their kids to your kids. 

Embrace them… why? 

Because that’s who we are as Americans. What makes America great isn’t our exclusion, it’s our inclusion.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

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