Portland Welcomes Migrant Youth
In the coming weeks, at least 90 unaccompanied migrant youth will be transferred from the border to shelters in Portland. Hundreds more youth will be transferred to Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington state. Nearly 39,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the US-Mexico border in 2013, and 74,000 are projected to arrive in 2014. The majority of these unaccompanied migrant youth come from Central America.
We realize that there are many complicated reasons why children leave their families and homes to brave a dangerous journey across the border. We further understand that our government’s policies and actions are central to the reasons for these children’s journey. Their struggle to have stable lives is similar to the struggle of many of us currently living in the Pacific Northwest. For these reasons, we will not treat these children as outsiders, alien, or the enemy, but as fellow humans trying to make a meaningful life.
Documented and undocumented people across the Pacific Northwest are organizing to welcome these children into our communities. Tuesday, over 100 Portlanders stood on corners in downtown Portland with signs in support of the children. On Wednesday, July 23rd more Portlanders will meet to talk about the ‘border surge’, how it relates to Portland, the root causes of displacement, and how to take action to welcome migrants to our community. The presentation and meeting, “From the Border to Portland: Standing with Migrant Youth and their Families” will be at 7 pm at the AFL-CIO hall (3645 SE 32nd Ave). These actions are, in part, a response to how both the right and the Obama Administration have dealt with the issue.
Anti-immigrant groups such as Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), and extremists such as The American Freedom Party have held small rallies and actions to demand the United States remain a majority white nation. The American Freedom Party held banners that read “diversity = white genocide” at a protest outside of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) in Portland. While these mobilizations have been small and isolated here in Oregon, they show how the national anti-immigrant movement and right wing extremists are using the border surge to push a xenophobic and white nationalist agenda.The Obama administration has dramatically increased deportations. They have refused to respond to the challenges faced by the over 12 million undocumented people who have made the United States their home. Many migrants across the country have become tired of waiting for an administration who appears to grow more blind and deaf each day to injustice.
For over a year, undocumented people and their allies have been taking action to address the border crises and mass deportations. One example is Bring Them Home, in which 150 undocumented mothers, fathers, children, students and LGBTQ people crossed into the United States from Mexico seeking to return home to their families and communities in the US. Additionally, people in several parts of the country blockaded buses from leaving immigration detention centers under the banner “Not One More”. One such action in Tacoma, Washington inspired the Tacoma Detention Center Hunger Strike. The unspoken context of these actions and of migration from the Americas is the long history of US intervention in the region.
For over a century, the United States has considered intervention in the affairs of Central America to be its right and its duty. The US government, using our tax dollars, has supported coups against democratically elected governments and the destruction of people’s movements for self-determination. The result has been dictatorships and politically repressive regimes that massacre indigenous people and squash political dissent. In addition, the US continues to fund and encourage military solutions to social problems such as the drug trade. These US fueled conflicts have pushed thousands of people to flee their homes as refugees.
Furthermore, Free Trade Agreements implemented in the 1990s decimated local economies throughout Central America. Many people experienced a rapid fall into poverty as hard won economic supports disappeared. The lack of economic opportunity and on going state violence continue to drive massive migration of people from this region.
We will continue to stand with the children arriving in the coming weeks. They are fighting the same fight as many of us here. Like us, they have to find work to feed their family, to keep a roof over their head, and to spend time with the people they love. They, too, constantly live in fear of violence. We all want a full life with meaning and not a life that is filled with an endless struggle just to make ends meet. We share similarities in our struggles. We also recognize the importance of not invisibilizing the differences. Identifying both the similarities and differences make our struggles stronger.
Rather than fighting against those coming across the border, we should be fighting alongside them. Fighting to stop the incarceration of all our children. Fighting for communities that welcome all people. Fighting for our right to live, love, and work where we please.
Statement endorsed by – Portland Central America Solidarity Committee, American Friends Service Committee, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, Hella 503 Collective, Bring Them Home NW, Center for Intercultural Organizing, Jobs with Justice, and Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project