Bring Them Home
Los quiero mucho,
that was the last thing I told my parents before Mexico. & I told my partner, fuck this country. & after a connection in Arizona I was back in Mexico, but in a part I had hardly ever experienced.
Mexico was not home. Obviously. But how does Janie say it? You have to go there to know there.
Obviously I had no conceptualization of the cost it would demand to bring me & the group back. None. Or the cost I would have to pay & celebrate & mock & denounce & feign once already returned.
But this is skipping too much. I land in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora; heavily guarded but quaint & almost recognizably southwest & deserty. Aside from some minor downgrades it could be the US. Except everyone (almost) is Mexican. Mexican guard, soldier, teller, attendants, police, bus driver, van driver. Mexican currency, language, music. It’s ubiquitous, save for the unpreventable Americaness that creeps & imposes.
Day 1: Report from Mexico: There’s a lot of Mexicans in Mexico.
SO many, it’s like after existing in a country that doesn’t want you (and that you’ve never truly wanted) you’re in a place that should be familiar but you can’t rest. To believe in peace in northernmost mexico is fatal. Peace, peace, there is no peace. The militia is supposedly there because the police cannot be centralized and do not have the capacity to fight the narcs. Bullshit. The police is the better force against the narcs because they’re SUPPOSED to investigate first and then shoot, the military is trained to do the same in reverse. The narcs are present because to control the drug trade (and international trade in general) the US has increased its presence in past trade routes from Columbia through the Caribbean, so the cartels adjust.
& guess what? The cartels flourish. They have a guaranteed buyer in Americans, they can pretend to fight the corrupt Mexican government, that like the corrupt America benefit from THIS status quo. And they can terrorize & utilize the migrant (that will eventually be deported back) as a mule and a stream of income. All the power players are satisfied. The system is superficially challenge but is almost perfect enough to adjust to ANY change. Money is given to Mexico, to the military to pursue the bad guys, the bad guys receive money from US consumers who will never stop consuming escape & release & ecstasy in such a poor continent & the US cannot seem to stop allotting money to pursuing, patrolling, detaining and deporting migrants. The migrant and junkie and seller are criminalized & punished but the cycle has no end.
The only thing we, the undocumented, have is the truth (and we don’t have a monopoly on it, we just have more access to the truth, which we are, also, prone to distort).
Well here we are. All slow to arrive but ultimately we dine together and start making fun. Liz, Lulu, Luis, Maria, Cefe, Adriana, Me &, last to arrive, Claudia. Mario will join us on the day of the crossing.
Day 2: LEGAL ORIENTATION
Since this exact campaign has never been done before we count on a notoriously savvy & difficult attorney team to handle our cases. Margot is the best; during the Sanctuary movement she handled so many cases HER docket was the court docket. She has synchronized organizing and advocacy masterfully. Sadly, then, for our story, she has never worked with a more hard-headed group of youth. And we would have had the best organizer-advocates on our side were they not so set on dividing sides.
The strategy was simple:
1. Get detained by the US: We would present our request for humanitarian parole because (1) our ties to our community & (2) not being a threat to national security. If that failed then we would ask for asylum & argue belonging to social categories that would meet the credible fear threshold.
2. Get release within the US (most likely thru discretion through public pressure)
Asylum would be the legal tool to get us detained. Organizing would be the means for release. Our legal packets were each hundreds of pages long complete with personal information & research data proving our claims, each individual was & would continue to be oriented on how best to articulate their case.
Day 3: TACOS de PERRO
MEXICO is BEAUTIFUL. Beautiful, because, as Jean Toomer argues, it doesn’t try to hide it’s ugly. Only a mile removed from America there are no ubiquitous & monolith box stores off of every identical interstate exit. There is sprawl but it is more oriented around people, not automatons. The market still dictates but each space of would be white is full of color, style, & originality. Maybe it’s the desperation (poverty).
I try & then I let myself not try to be aware of my American frame of reference & prejudice. I must say, the shower at Don Bosco with the Sonoran hills before me was majestic.
So was the view from the youth house we stayed at one night. Hills and more hills speckled with light. Not the ostentatious light of the cities but a speck here and there adorning the landscape. So seemingly calm and gentle.
Later I was told that the challenging hills are populated because the rent is cheaper up there & that the property owners live much far away. The hills are adorned with life & civilization because of poverty.
Here we turn to some crucial allies (and there were many more) who shepherded us along the way. Benito, who set up almost everything for us & mothered us & oriented & comforted & never slept. Steve who’s pictures archive & make us timeless. Alex, whose footage wasn’t used but still patiently heard our stories. Felipe who was present as he is wont to do. Reporters who were interested in our deeper stories such as Cindy from the LA Times & Valeria who stayed a night with us at a youth house. Our hosts at the Don Bosco shelter, a married couple who have witnessed & bared the tragedies at the border with I don’t know what valor. & Last the art collective, Tacos de Perro, who named themselves such because Nogales is much more than a border-town. Nogales is known for its Tacos de Canastas & the collective appropriated the name & added some counter culture.
Allies Descend, Benito, Steve, Alex, Jason, U Mich guy, Reporters como Valeria & Cindy, our Hosts & the artist collective.
MAKING VIDEOS THAT NEVER GET PUBLISHED. Website crash, sensitivity/PTSD of Mario, Maria on suicide watch, Adriana is scared, Cefe is apathetic, Liz rolls eyes, Lulu is too brave? Claudia is brave, we lose Maria & first Nayelli, they day of crossinf dreamers show up, were there more that followed us (fox story??)
Day 4: The CROSSING: Perfect Love casts out Fear.
SO let’s talk about the crossing. The reason we’re here, what brought us together & that specific day..
Pope to brazil, prince is born… faith leaders cross with us
DETENTION: Not without Laughter
The consulate // phone call privileges & group pow wows. Isolation, hunger strike, lulu & maria protest, liz loses 10%, our parents, getting to know each other more, visits with margot, kat, benito & others
Making the time pass, basketball, KYR, trying to help, stay in touch, keep hope & pass time while playing cards, Auara visits.
THE INDIANS, Punjabi & gujariti, theyre so clean, give cookies, rollup rollup, they pray, have own network, 60 day wait time after traversing MEX
RELEASE: WONDERFUL ESCAPE
The media, what’s next? Round 2 & 3, what happened without us, what did we impact? Did we push or alienate other groups?
We brought Cefe Home.
We brought Me Home.
We brought Maria Home.
We brought Liz Home.
We brought Lulu Home.
We brought Claudia Home.
We brought Adrianna Home.
We brought Mario Home.
We brought Luis Home.
We brought Raul Home.
We brought Erika Home.
We brought Izzy Home.
We brought Edith Home.
We brought Brando Home.
We brought Leonardo Home.
We brought Sandra Home.
We brought Nayelli Home.
We brought Marco? Home.
We brought Jesus? Home.
We brought Elvira Home.
Tell me about the progeny of an illegal, an illegal herself. Who was brought up with well intention but ill advised. The direct product of grace & alienation.
Who has gone to school, away to school, donated a full college education, taught to revere the plain folk & fanciful powerful. Tell me about her.
How she wandered many a lonely starry night, chasing wind & tears & how the school formed her for jail.
& go into the descent, her isolation & depression & jail & her hunger for Truth.
& how one fine day she awakens to find herself chief amongst all protagonist. The foremost heir of the kingdom & a Lily & how her blood is not illegal nor legal nor American but divine royalty, subject of majestic piety.
I’m reading Hemingway’s “Snows of Kilimanjaro” story collection. Really loving it, and awfully.
Then the guard comes in the cell & sniffs around. Talks to me as if addressing a brute or foreigner. Long pauses: “You… Are… Indian?”
Inside I’m laughing… If he were not so easy to hate I’d ask if he identifies with the protagonist, facing his death, coming to appreciate life somewhat & love less. But no, I let him sniff uninterrupted & continue reading.
You know American Democracy is a myth because it’s so nightmarishly hard to become a citizen, and why? Because that’s deemed a Privilege.
Citizenship is a duty & it’s the duty of citizens to care for the least of these (really care, like in an existential deep way, there is no other alternative kinda way, and everyone can give & everyone needs sumthing). That’s true, philosophically, morally & fiscally.
& if we were really democratic we would risk it all & “lift every voice.” & if you are the foremost citadel of knowledge & power then this is the least that can be expected.
That we are bankrupt in all of these devices is an inevitable result of our delusion.
Our debt is huge. The interest is accumulating. The harvest is near.
*I know, I know citizenship is not the end. But it’s worth unpacking how we’ve cheapened & distorted the word; making both the citizen & non-citizen less in the process.
**& if America looked in the shadows then there she would find Democracy. & it is waiting to be found.
Even to-day the earth does not demand tax nor interest for her occupation. Nor does the humus demand the ever recurring question, What will you do with your One precious life. Equally the voles and lilies maintain silence to the concepts of sin and war. & the soul searches for filament that will stitch it all …
then elijah retreated into the woods, made a dwelling in a cave up a mountain & his figure became disrobed & he was tried by truth — lonely were the days, nights, long, hunger often filled him, but his heart contemplated & the seeming disconnection made him more at peace with humanity, tho larger was the space of silence in between.
and one day the lord visited: thunder, wind, falling rock & flailing trees howled at the mountain top. split stones, hailed, stormed & darkened all.
but the lord was not in the noise.
after some time sunlight cut thru & glimmered over water beads. & then — only then — did elijah feel god in the silence.
what would fromm think about our “individualist society” where in fact the individual seems to be very expendable (repressed); like isn’t this why saint john is offered the morning star or a true new name? the value of a restored identity (not at someone else’s expense or as an acquisition) but as gift is that necessary.