This summer, because I wasn’t able to afford college tuition, I have decided to go to Arizona and help out with an organization called No More Deaths.
No More Deaths is pretty controversial. In response to the statistics that around 200 people trying to cross the Mexican-American border die each year, they have decided to take volunteers to provide food and water to those dying in the desert. While they do not physically aid migrants in crossing the border, it is clear that if it was in their power, the volunteers would have no qualms doing just that.
When I told my family about my decision, they absolutely hated it. They refuse to acknowledge that what the organization is doing is not illegal, and there have been a lot of racist comments made about “lazy Mexican workers feeding off of hard-earned American taxes.”
Almost everyone else I have told has had the same reaction. While at lunch with some of my friends, a friend with normally compassionate responses reacted very harshly, and admitted that she has very racist feelings toward Mexicans — using the word ‘racist,’ and sitting right next to another friend who was Mexican.
But these feelings aren’t about racism. My family and friends’ attitude are about fear, which causes the racism and irrationality and lack of compassion. I never understood, however, what it was they feared so much; the people I will be helping are normal people, trying to take care of themselves and their families.
Things started to become clear when I read about the anti-immigration bullshit that began after the Boston Bombing suspects were apprehended or killed. At first I thought they were tangential to the collective American reaction, but as more and more tweets in my very liberal newsfeed echo anti-immigration sentiments, I realize this is one of the main reactions to what occurred in Boston.
“The border” is a construct. These invisible lines exist more solidly in a psychological sense than in any physical one; they don’t even follow bio-geographical logic; and they are mostly arbitrary creations. I have understood all this for a long time. But when I read all the anti-immigration tweets, when my father made the irrational statement that anti-border activists in Arizona might even be harboring terrorists, or when I heard one of my best friends make scared, racist remarks about Mexicans, I realized that the border construct is about feeling safe. “The border” is to many people an invisible filter, able to weed out all of the bad people in the world to make their domain a safer place for theirselves and their children.
That makes it a really hard construct to oppose.
Given the events in Boston, it’s likely No More Deaths will not achieve much in passing legislation for immigration reform this summer. So perhaps I will still go, perhaps I will not. But it clear to me that the way to have immigration or border reform be successful, there has to be an incredibly strong effort in conveying that migrants do not have to be feared. Fear is the enemy in fighting anti-immigration, not “racists” or “rednecks” or “ignorant politicians.”
People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other. — Martin Luther King