June 18, 2018

Tomorrow morning, ActionAid USA is cosponsoring an action in Washington, DC, targeting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin, along with our allies across the faith, immigrant rights, and environmental movements. We are protesting CBP’s brutality and its participation in the “family separation” atrocities currently taking place at our southern border – something we prefer to call “state-sponsored kidnapping” in an attempt to better reflect the horror of this practice.

It has been with increasing outrage that we watch how the U.S. immigration enforcement apparatus has shown its true colors under the current administration. The machinery of mass detention and deportation was established, funded, and expanded in a bipartisan fashion well before Donald Trump. State-sponsored kidnapping is, unfortunately, history repeating itself and not entirely a fresh new evil solely attributable to the Trump administration. But overt white supremacy at the top of our government has allowed hate and inhumanity to flourish, even more unfettered than before, in agencies like CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

While domestic immigration policy is not an issue we work on actively as ActionAid USA, the issues we do work on – land rights, food security, climate justice – all have deep implications for the movement of people. We stand in solidarity with people and communities as they struggle to keep their ancestral lands, or ensure that they can grow enough food to eat, or adapt to increasingly severe climate impacts. We also stand with these same people and communities when the challenges they face mean that the most rational – and often the only – choice that they have is to get up and move.

As my colleague Doug Hertzler recently wrote, ActionAid has a presence in Guatemala where there are many factors forcing people like Claudia Gomez, the indigenous woman murdered by CBP a month ago, to migrate. In Guatemala, as in many countries, indigenous peoples like Claudia’s once occupied land that has been taken from them for large-scale plantations or other “development” projects that offer no benefit to local communities – outright displacing many and leaving still more with few livelihood opportunities. And as the climate crisis worsens, large-scale forced displacement due to increasingly intense storms, droughts, sea level rise and more is a virtual inevitability, including from Central America into the United States.

U.S. complicity, or outright guilt, is at the heart many of these root causes of forced migration – from our historical efforts to destabilize democratic governments, to our economic pressures leading countries to pursue massively inequitable development pathways, to our disproportionate contribution to global climate change. This makes it doubly unjust that our response to migrants at our borders is so deeply lacking in compassion and humanity.

It is with this in mind that ActionAid USA, as part of a global organization that takes sides with people living in poverty and those most marginalized around the world, is choosing now to engage in the resistance to the unjust U.S. immigration enforcement machine.

Our action tomorrow targets CBP, a fundamentally abusive agency that is at the forefront of state-sponsored kidnapping and so many other atrocities at the U.S.-Mexico border and elsewhere. But we believe that the very idea of criminalizing migration runs counter to the full realization of human rights for all, especially when so many of the root causes of migration can be traced to unjust policies in rich countries like our own, ongoing legacies of colonialism, global environmental and climate injustice, and an increasingly inequitable international economic order.

As the movement for radical reform of the U.S. immigration system – including the outright abolition of agencies like ICE and CBP – grows in momentum in our country, we must also be clear-eyed and critical about the U.S. policies that are driving people from their homes in the first place. As an international organization grounded in the struggles of frontline communities in the global South, we will continue to bring these perspectives into the broader narrative.


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