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It All Started With the Border and That’s Still Where It is Today

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The United States government murdered Jacqueline Caal, the Guatemalan girl who died in CBP custody. Even before the Trump administration, the U.S. routinely used its border as a method for murdering immigrants. By placing walls near the large cities, it has forced migrants deep into the dangerous deserts of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila, seeking to cross over in remote parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas. These are areas without water, where one can easily get lost. These are areas where migrants die all the time, often found much later, without identification, lost to their families and to history. This is an unnecessary policy. But it is the policy we as a nation have accepted, even before Trump and ICE decided to go with active ethnic cleansing as their most important policy goal.

The death of a seven-year-old Guatemalan girl in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection is further evidence of how the harsh desert terrain along the south-western border is used “as a weapon” to deter migrants, according to a humanitarian non-profit, No More Deaths.

The organization, which provides aid to migrants crossing the border, believes US border patrol practices “prevention through deterrence” – closing off border access in safer urban centers in states like California and Texas so that those looking to cross the border go through rough terrain, where dehydration is likely and death a possibility.

“Crossing from the US border in any location, there’s no physical way as a human being to carry the kind of water you’ll need to survive those conditions for three, four days of walking,” said Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, a spokeswoman for No More Deaths, a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, Arizona.

A 2016 report produced by the group has accused US authorities of utilizing “… the landscape as a weapon to slow down, injure, and apprehend [migrants]”.

The girl, identified as Jackelin Caal Maquin, died less than two days after her father turned himself and his daughter in to CBP on the night of 6 December. The girl and her father, both from Guatemala, were traveling in a group of 163 people. The girl died from dehydration and shock, and “reportedly had not eaten or consumed water for several days”, CBP said in a statement to the Washington Post.

Moreover, when you have CBP agents dumping water left by humanitarians who believe that keeping people alive is more important than enforcing borders, you have even more active complicity by the government in the death of people such as Caal.

Two reports released by No More Deaths and volunteers from another migrants’ civil rights group, La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, published in 2016 and 2017, have detailed efforts US border patrol agents have taken to deliberately make the desert terrain more dangerous, including destroying water jugs left for border crossers. In the group’s 2017 report, it said that volunteers have found water jugs vandalized 415 times, affecting 3,586 gallons. The report also said border patrol agents have vandalized food and blankets in addition to harassing volunteers in the field.

A border patrol spokesperson told the Guardian in January that the agency does not condone the behavior. “We don’t want to see anyone out there die. We have to do our enforcement job and we do it as humanely as possible. We want to save lives.”

While border patrol aid interference with its food and water caches has happened for many years, No More Deaths is now seeing an escalation in crackdowns against its volunteers under the Trump administration.

Eight activists with the organization were charged with federal crimes in January for trespassing and abandoning property, the latter a reference to the water jugs, food and other supplies left by volunteers. One volunteer faces a conspiracy charge for harboring two undocumented immigrants, and could face 20 years in prison. The organization says the trials for the volunteers are set for next year.

Nevertheless, Orlovsky-Schnitzler says No More Deaths remains committed to providing aid to border crossers.

“Our mission plain and simple is ending death and suffering, and it looks different in every situation, but we’re not going away.”

But of course, fascists are always going to blame their victims for their own deaths.

“We cannot stress enough the dangers posed by traveling long distances, in crowded transportation, or in the natural elements through remote desert areas without food, water and other supplies. No one should risk injury, or even death, by crossing our border unlawfully,” said the CBP commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, in a statement.

This doesn’t even take into account all the ways the United States is directly or significantly responsible for the poverty and violence in places such as Guatemala that forces people to migrate. It’s Americans who use the drugs that fuel the violence. It’s American guns crossing the border going south thanks to our refusal to pass even basic gun limits that kill people. It was the United States that overthrew democratic leaders such as Jacobo Arbenz that spawned a thirty-year civil war that created a culture of violence in Guatemala, a war that the U.S. was always heavily involved in. It was the U.S. that loved Efraín Rios Montt, the evangelical with close ties to the Republican Party who committed genocide against indigenous communities by connecting indigeneity with communism and subversion. That Caal was indigenous is not surprising in the least. These make up the poor of Guatemala who travel north. The ladino elite has always supported American intervention for them to keep control of the Native majority.

In other words, the United States contributed materially to every part of Jacqueline Caal’s short, hard, and brutish life, from the poverty of her community to the violence in her society to her horrifying death in U.S. custody. That the response of so many Americans to be disgusted that these scary people are “invading” our nation demonstrates not only the complete ignorance of Americans about the rest of the world, but our own moral blindness that has made the planet a much worse place since the nation was founded in 1776.

In conclusion:

Indeed.

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