To the guards firing teargas on the US-Mexico border: your family were immigrants once

The violence enacted on those at the border will only push migrants to find even more dangerous routes into the country

Migrants enveloped in tear gas after heading toward US

Don’t be confused by my name, Shahrazad. I’m a Latina, Guatemalan with Mexican-American roots, living in the United States. Born and raised less than an hour from the United States-Mexico border, my life and culture was mostly influenced by Mexico. Going between Tijuana and San Diego was at least a monthly outing. My mum has always worked helping immigrants, specifically undocumented families. My dad proudly served in the United States Marine Corps, where he has seen first-hand why these people decide to flee.

I was raised in a house and community where helping others is just who we are. And this nonsense at the border boils my blood. What’s even more infuriating is the fact that members of my family, my own blood, justify the abuse and perpetuate the Donald Trump rhetoric against immigrants. I’m ashamed of fellow Latinos speaking badly about the refugees. This is the time for us to speak out against these human right violations. Stop with the excuses and the memes perpetuating hate about Central Americans.

It’s almost as if we forget our own history. The US is a land of immigrants. The only true natives of this land are the Indians. My family didn’t cross the border; the border crossed them with the Gadsden Purchase of 1853. My family didn’t go through any extraneous immigration process. Their citizenship was immediate. My mum had a fast immigration process because she married a marine. Regardless of legalities we’re all human and deserve to be treated like so.

A woman and her children escape the teargas at the US-Mexico border

In the last few days, reports from the US-Mexico border have shown heartbreaking images of refugees attempting to flee violence and poverty from their respective countries, fleeing the border fence in fear, screaming. Unarmed men, women and children were surprised with teargas flying onto Mexico soil. An act considered illegal in warfare, but not illegal to use in riots. The now iconic Reuters photo taken by Kim Kyung-Hoon of the mum fleeing the teargas with her two daughters is inscribed in my brain. Similar to Napalm Girl by Reuters photographer Nick Ut this is an image never to be forgotten. After weeks of migrating north from Honduras, migrants were met with violence from Mexicans and violence from US security forces. This will forever be a shameful part of migration history.

It wasn’t too long ago when Jews fled parts of Europe seeking refuge and were turned away at the border. It was 14 November 1938 when the New York Times reported the scenes at a European border, “Jews on Knees Beg Netherlands Entry; Implore Admission at Border, but Guards are Doubled.” It was only eighty years ago. If only we could learn from our past.

Sunday’s attack on members of the refugee exodus was a new low for the United States. The exodus is non-violent. Refugees come unarmed and desperate for a new life. The nativist and xenophobic reaction of those on the border in Tijuana and even Latinos in the US is absolutely disgusting. People forget that some of us were dealt a better hand in life and for those who were dealt a worse hand, they can’t just “get in line”. Their time for change is now not tomorrow.

Closing the border isn’t going to change anything but the region of where people cross. This is history repeating itself. A more militarised border in San Diego pushed crossings further east to more dangerous desert areas, where thousands have disappeared or died. According to US Customs and Border Protection, 7,216 people died crossing the border between 1998 and 2017; the number doesn’t even include those disappeared. And now the violence in Tijuana will only result in more misery with people being forced to cross in increasingly dangerous parts of the border.

So far, despite a barrage of violence from Border Patrol, the migrants have remained weapon-less, armed only with rocks and rubbish to throw over the 18ft steel fence. One thing for sure is that none of those children that were brutalised by teargas could ever have thrown a rock over that fence. It’s too tall. Yet, they were still to experience the full force of the Border Patrol’s aggression. There’s no telling how the repercussions of such actions will affect a young mind and body. It’s too early to know the long-term impacts of this horrible situation. People need to wake up and step down from their pedestal. We can’t allow such inhumanity to happen. Soon, it’ll become normal. And that’s the scariest thought.

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