THE FIRST SOLUTION
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THE FIRST SOLUTION

Immigration | United States | Children

Trump & Co’s Youngest Victims Beseech the Bidens: Please Restore Asylum. Set us Free. End MPP.

My life here has been very sad because many people turn up dead in the river, and I am afraid of that.” M, age 6

Two young brothers gaze across the Rio Bravo from the Dignity Village Refugee Camp in Matamoros, Mexico, hoping that asylum — and their freedom — will be restored in the US in January, 2021. Until then, they remain trapped by MPP, and preyed upon by the Cartel de Golfo (Photo: Thomas Cartwright, 2020)

On the morning of January 8, 2020, the fourth day of our Tex/Mex road trip gone awry, 30-something-year-old Jesús García Serna entered the Customs & Border Protection (CBP) office on the Reynosa-Pharr bridge, just upriver from Matamoros. He requested asylum, per his internationally recognized Human Right. He insisted that his life was at risk, that he was hunted by criminal gangs, that he needed urgent help. He pleaded that if sent back to Mexico, he would be kidnapped, instantly, and tortured — again — then killed.

That afternoon, at roughly 5pm, Jesús left the CBP office. His request to be allowed to enter the US to pursue his asylum claim flatly denied. Though he had ample credible fear of persecution, he would have to remain in Mexico, another of the 60k+ victims of Trump & Co’s Migrant “Protection” Protocol (which doesn’t protect anyone at all)while his case wound its slow way through an immigration kangaroo court system stacked against him.

Jesús began to make his way across the bridge, clearly crestfallen.

Just a few feet past the international boundary on the Mexican side, he stopped. He drew a knife from a pocket, reached up to his neck, and slit his own throat. By the time Border Patrol agents reached him, he was dead, lying in a pool of his own blood.

So great was the threat of remaining in Mexico — trapped between the violence he had fled and the likelihood of persecution ahead — José chose suicide.

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, presidential hopeful Joe Biden pledged to end MPP in the first 100 days of his administration. His wife, Jill Biden, had previously toured the refugee encampment in Matamoros and met many of the families and children trapped in tents on a flood plain in one of the most dangerous places on Earth. So the migrants are taking matters into their own hands. They’ve initiated a #PostcardstoJill campaign to remind both Bidens of their promise to #EndMPP in their 1st 100 days in office.

Below are quotes from MPP’s youngest victims, as well as the volunteers flying the tattered flag of American values who are helping to keep them alive, in answer to the question…

What is MPP?

6-year-old refugee, Matamoros, Mexico

How long have you been in the camp? I have been living here in the Matamoros migrant camp for about 1 year.

How has it been for you and your family? My biggest dream is to come to the US and study. My life here has been very sad because many people turn up dead in the river, and I am afraid of that.

“What is MPP? Banishment.” — Laurie Holcomb-Ramos

“It’s brutal, inhumane, reprehensible. Even the name is a lie, it’s endangering, not protecting, anybody.” — Katie Beth

“It’s the Migrant Persecution Protocol. Inhumane and cruel.” — Karla Rader Barber

“Wait in Mexico is really Die in Mexico. Or at least disappear in Mexico.” — Joshua Rubin

9-year-old refugee, Matamoros, Mexico

How long have you been in the camp? 5 months

How has it been for you and your family? Boring and here I have lived a life that we have never lived. When we came they wanted to kidnap us because we did not want to give up the money we had.

“Dangerous.” — Raquel Gonzalez Martinez

“Horrific.” — Cindy Andrade Johnson

“MPP is pure evil. It protects no one. MPP kills. It kills the hope of asylum seekers, mothers, fathers and children, who are forced to wait in Mexico in appalling perilous conditions.” — Diane Sonde

“It is deadly — MPP puts people at grave risk of assault, rape, kidnap, extortion, disease, human trafficking. It is not protective in the least.” — Julie Swift

6-year-old refugee, Matamoros, Mexico

How long have you been in the camp? 6 months

How has it been for you and your family? A bit difficult since it has been a very drastic change and I cannot go to school, I am afraid of not learning anything. I really like to study. I do not like the bathrooms. I am afraid of being here.

“It’s a program pandering to the xenophobic, racist, white supremacists. It’s the total antithesis to American values.” — Peggy Laging

“Xenophobic, Hate mongering, Inhumane, myopic, and Ignorant.” — Beatriz E. Vera

“Dastardly and reprehensible.” — Will Davis

14-year-old, Matamoros, Mexico

How long have you been in the camp? Since December 15th

How has it been for you and your family? Desperate. I want to go to my uncle to continue with my studies and fulfill my goals, have a better life and be able to help my family, especially my sister and I ask God to give me the opportunity to get there.

“MPP is an integral part of the overall machinery of death for which both the Trump administration and the Mexican authorities must be held accountable, together with cooperating states of origin such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, etc.” — Camilo Antonio Perez Bustillo

“MPP is the continuation of a decades long effort of deterrence by terror. A cruel and heartless effort to cause death and suffering to deter others from seeking safety and security in the United States.” — Thomas Cartwright

7-year-old refugee, Matamoros, Mexico

How has it been for you and your family? We have been in the camp for one year because we have been since August.

It has not been easy because there are days when we are hungry, we do not eat, we are thirsty, and it’s very cold. There has also been a lot of sadness accompanied by many tears.

We are a kind-hearted family we only ask for an opportunity in the country of the United States. God bless you.

“Inhumane, un-American, unfair, sickening, and very cruel.” — Mary Seagrove

“Cruel and inhumane!” — Margarita San Miguel Lopez

“The epitome of cruelty.” — Austin Border Relief

“Cruelty for cruelty’s sake.” — Sandra Hjelmaas Fraction

“Unbearably cruel.” — Debra Amore Selland

10-year-old refugee, Matamoros, Mexico

How long have you been in the camp? 8 months

How has it been for you and your family? It has been very difficult for me, we have suffered a lot from the heat and cold, from the animals that come out of the River. Many times I have seen my Mom cry asking God for a job opportunity.

“Hateful, brutal, cruel. An atrocity. A crime against humanity. Diametrically opposed to the America I was raised to believe in (that is, a beacon of hope, welcoming to immigrants, land of the free and the home of the brave).

Also, deeply sinful and the opposite of what all compassionate faiths and philosophies have taught through the ages. A travesty of public policy, a tragedy for refugees and asylum seekers.” — Amy Stewart

4-year-old, Matamoros, Mexico

How long have you been in the camp? On September 10, I have been here in Matamoros for 1 year.

How has it been for you and your family? Being here has been frustrating and traumatic, since there is a lot of evil. People die and hit people in front of children, they do not respect that there are children. We live every day with fear, but there are also good people who help us thank God.

“My situation with my daughters has been very hard, I have tried to be strong but there are days when life goes by, I just want to see my daughters grow up happy. I did not have that opportunity in the situation that were in, it was not what I wanted for my daughters.

We have all kinds of help, but it does not satisfy our needs. Sometimes we do not eat because there is no firewood to cook. We only ask that you please get out of here for the good of all the children. Put your hand on our hearts and feel the pain that the Matamoros migrants are going through.” — Ana, mother of two, living under MPP.

Mother of 9-year-old refugee, Matamoros, Mexico

How long have you been in the camp? We have been in the camp for 2 and a half months.

Well it is very difficult to be in this place. But what hurts me the most is seeing my child who does not realize many things. But I know that he is not happy although he does not say anything.

And then trust in God that soon we will be able to arrive with our family and that my child can have the care he needs.

“Genocide.” — Karen Hyams

“Genocide, slowly and painfully,.” — Gale Gordon

“Genocide. The stain of this level of cruelty and inhumanity will remain on the soul of this country.” — Fran Schindler

“State sanctioned child trafficking tantamount to genocide.” — Jennifer Wright

Protest poster from the January 2020 #EndMPP #RestoreAsylum #WitnessAtTheBorder Vigil, Brownsville TX (image by Sarah Towle)

How has it been for you and your family? The conditions in which we live are not human, we live in tents located in nature, but not suitable for our 7-year-old daughter.

She is surrounded by snakes, rats, dangerous spiders. I think this stage never it will be erased from our daughter’s mind.

We are still here because we cannot return to our country.

We ask for your help, do it for the children, my daughter’s birthday is coming up and she tells me she doesn’t want to spend it here.

Patricia, mother, age 25

“Inhumane!” — Peggy Mow Kaufmann

“Racist.” — Deborah Ward

“Inhumane, archaic, unconscionable, brutal, and xenophobic.” — Laurie Moore

“MPP is illegal. It is a violation of U.S. and international law. It violates the principle of non-refoulement. It is a betrayal of our values and our commitment to basic norms of human rights that we have previously agreed to as a nation.” — Tim Burns

Students complete their writing worksheets at the Sidewalk School for Asylum Seekers, Dignity Village Refugee Camp, Matamoros, Mexico (photo: Sarah Towle, 2020)

Bad. Without hope. Without future. We are in danger in Matamoros, Mexico, without future for my son who lost his studies in 2020. We cannot go back to Guatemala. We need to enter the U.S. for a good future for my family, to give my son a good education.” — Mother of Mario

MPP is a slow dehumanizing grind, an endless purgatory that chips away at the spirit and soul. Behind each asylum seeker is the experience of persecution, violence, or poverty so crushing there is only escape. Ahead of them, the promised land. Or so they believe. In reality, under Trump & Co asylum has become a mirage, a false promise. And from October, 2020, a privilege only to those who can pay.

With the MPP program, asylum seekers are given reason to believe that all they have to do is wait long enough and the gates to the US will open. So they spend months, living in tents or shelters in some of the most treacherous places on Earth, waiting for court dates that may never come. They are exposed to the dangers of inclement weather, venomous pests, communicable diseases, a ravenous cartel, and now COVID-19.

There is no comfort for the sick, and no rest for the weary. Life spent looking constantly over one’s shoulder has a way of transforming past trauma into toxic stress. There’s no childhood, no sense of control. The future stretches into the horizon, indefinitely on hold. And there’s the constant, gnawing hunger, not just for food, but for freedom.

“It’s a story that must be told.” — Carolyn Osmon

Trump & Co said: “The government of Mexico has agreed to provide [asylum seekers], while they’re waiting in Mexico, with appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”

That was a lie.

The US/Mexico border is one the most dangerous places on Earth. And Mexico’s efforts on behalf of US asylum seekers have been woefully inadequate, if they’ve come at all.

“Call them Natives instead of illegals. Call them Natives instead of Hispanics. Call them Natives instead of Latinos. Call them Natives instead of Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, etc. Because they have Native blood in their veins, following Native traditions from their Ancestors from hundreds of years ago, and are following the same path their Native Ancestors took thousands of years before them. Call them Natives, because they are Natives. They are my family. They are my Cousins. I am Native American. — Rebecca Coyochitl Lopez

Thank you for reading Episode 18 in my travelogue of a road trip gone awry: THE FIRST SOLUTION: Tales of Humanity and Heroism from Trump’s Manufactured Border Crisis, rolling out on Medium as fast as I can write it because it’s Just. That. Urgent. For earlier episodes, click here.

“Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.” — Toni Morrison, 1995

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“Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.”  — Toni Morrison

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Sarah Towle

Sarah Towle

Award-winning London-based author sharing her journey from outrage to activism one tale of humanity and podcast episode at a time @THE FIRST SOLUTION on Medium

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