As I write this, the Central American Migrant Exodus for Life–which includes over 13,000 asylum seekers–is fleeing political violence. In response, the United States government is deploying 15,000 soldiers to the US/Mexico border.
In 1990, School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch)–an advocacy organization founded by Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois and a small group of supporters–protested the training of Latin American military officers by the Department of Defense at the School of the Americas in Georgia. Now, SOA Watch is tirelessly advocating for justice for oppressed persons across the Americas. They organize opposition to its training in torture, oppose the militarization at the US border, and support policies to assist refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants to the United States.
For the third year, SOA Watch hosted a Border Encuentro on the Arizona-Mexico border on November 16-18, beginning with a vigil at a Detention Center in Eloy, Arizona. The participants marched to the beat of the May Day marching band, sang “No estan solos,” meaning, “You are not alone,” and could see the shadows of the detainees from afar in the windows of the buildings.
As the weekend progressed, other gatherings and workshops were held at the US/Mexico border in both cities named Nogales. This location was symbolic of the fact that no wall or border can deter the solidarity of people.
The meetings focused on the following principles:
- An end to US economic, military, and political intervention in Latin America.
- The closure of the School of Americas and Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
- An end to Plan Merida and the Alliance for Prosperity.**
- Demilitarization and divestment of borders.
- An end to the racist systems of oppression that criminalize and kill migrants, refugees, and communities of color.
- Respect, dignity, justice, and the right to self-determination of communities.
The SOA Watch Border Encuentro gave me a sense of hope and renewed energy to resist the structures of oppression and injustice that threaten communities. It reminded me that the only power that will bring liberation is people’s power, people’s resilience, and people’s faith.
** Plan Merida and the Alliance for Prosperity are both US policies that seek to further militarize Mexico and the northern region of Central America. The alleged goal is to confront the so-called drug war and contain mass displacement from the region. Rather, these policies have led to human rights violations.