On July 12, 2019 thousands of people took to the streets nationwide as part of a national call to action to close the refugee and migrant concentration camps. Leaders expressed the need to not only continue to share with the public the inhumane treatment of adults and children in the camps, but to also focus efforts on coming together, taking action and creating solutions.
Words and Photographs by Raquel Natalicchio , San Ysidro, CA - TIjuana, MX - July, 12 2019
San Ysidro, CA stands as the last district within the San Diego County before reaching the Mexican Border and was also the host of the largest rally and march in the National call to action to Close the Concentration Camps. This was organized by the Coalition to Close the Concentration Camps in conjunction with Lights for Liberty, both organizations a growing network of rights groups, social justice activists and organizations, and concerned individuals who have come together to demand the closure of the migrant and refugee concentration camps.
The rally began by acknowledging being on Kumeyaay traditional territory and thanking the Kumeyaay Nation for welcoming this event to their sacred land. A blessing and welcoming ceremony was led by Kumeyaay elders, bird singers and a danza Azteca group, shining a light on the unity and strength of the spirit of native people that comes from keeping their traditional ceremonies alive.
Kumeyaay elder Stan Rodriguez stood up to talk to the thousands gathered, saying:
“When we treat people with respect, we build love and respect for others, for ourselves. What were doing here today, is not to teach tolerance. Tolerance is not what we’re looking for. You can tolerate a mosquito bite or the weather. Im talking about celebration of diversity. Of all of us. To truly come together and love each other.”
Elder Stan alongside other elders and members of the Kumeyaay Nation stood at the forefront of the march to the Mexican border in which thousands followed. Streets were shut down for miles while people joined in from the streets and cars honked in solidarity.
The march ended at the Mexican border crossing with a vigil led by Lights for Liberty to voice demands for justice and to tell the stories of those impacted by the detention centers . Speakers went on to urge the necessity to get involved, take action through all avenues. From supporting organizations that offer supplies, sponsorship and legal aid to migrants and refugees, to demanding policy reform around immigration and border patrol.
So what can you do now? How do you get involved?
There are several organizations working tirelessly in several avenues in support of migrants and refugees. One such example is an organization ran by Bertha “Birdie” Gutierrez called- Bridge of Love Across the Border-
Bertha, known as “Birdie” is the incredible force that organizes sending supplies across the Mexican border to shelters and eateries hosting thousands of refugees and migrants. Her organization is fueled by donations and volunteers from people nationwide. I followed a generous donation from the Los Angeles LGBT Center across the border to Tijuana. Marine Corp. Veteran Jamal Johnson, came down from Philadelphia to support those affected by the crisis at our border by volunteering to drive supplies across the border to a shelter in Tijuana, MX. Comedor Contra Viento y Marea was the destination for those supplies and is one of the few eateries that provides two free meals a day, supplies like toiletries and clothes and a medical tent that opens once a day for check ups.
Migrants and refugees spend time volunteering in these shelters and eateries, many of them families. Alexis is a young man of 19 that fled an extremely violent Honduras to the US seeking refuge. He was detained and spent 4 months being transferred around through several detention centers, many of which he said he was put in “Hieleras” meaning “ Ice box” . Hieleras are notorious for extreme over crowding and inhumanely cold conditions. Alex explained he had nothing but one blanket for his duration of his detention. No showers. No water, other than the toilet bowls and maybe sinks if they worked. When getting into the details of the conditions, Alex became emotional and asked if he could not talk about that part. Alex’s trauma was very clear but nonetheless he came back to Tijuana, waiting for an opportunity to receive asylum. Alex spends his time volunteering at the shelters and eateries, and loves playing soccer with his friends.
It is important that we recognize that ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ are first and foremost HUMANS, People. People like you and me with families, hobbies, loves, passions, joys, pains, fears and all the things that connect us in being human. Building compassion will inspire action.
Below is a list of organizations that you can get started with to be involved. Please consider supporting by donating time or resources. Change will take all of us because we are Stronger Together! #CloseTheCamps
AFSC San Diego
Armadillos Búsqueda y Rescate
ipay Kumeyaay Nation of Santa Ysabel
National Brown Berets de Aztlán
Raíces Sin Fronteras
San Diego Border Dreamers
San Diego Indivisible
United Against Police Terror - San Diego Copwatch