On Monday, December 10, 2018, a group of around 300 faith leaders, activists, and supporters walked to the border between Mexico and the U.S., specifically between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. The direct-action plan was that around 30 faith leaders from our group would walk further into the enforcement zone (and get arrested), which is now borrowed federal land patrolled by 5 or 6 agencies, some of those being Border Patrol, ICE, and the several military agencies.
The 2 miles we marched gave me a sample-size feeling of what it would be like to trek through miles upon miles, in desert, mountains, and water. The feeling that I experienced when being surrounded by coast guards, border patrol, state park police, ICE, military personnel, with helicopters and drones watching our every move overhead, is still indescribable. Watching border patrol with their hands on their pepper spray and military with their hands on their automatic weapons, made me understand the level of commitment this country has on creating borders and separation amongst human beings and ideologies.
Eventually, all of these agencies patrolling us, started to understand that we were not going to budge, no matter the warning or intimidation. This is when I fully understood that we were all potentially going to be arrested, because of the level of importance and impact the statement we were making was having. Asylum seekers, residents of Tijuana, national media outlets, and the patrol agencies realized that we were bringing a level of humanity and visibility to this issue that was threatening to the very core of the racist institution and society that we live in. They tried to call our bluff, unfortunately for them, we were not bluffing.
Since I could remember, I have been anti-establishment, anti-institution, anti-tradition, and so on. From an early age, I had the understanding that institutions that upheld religion and law were being used as tools of oppression and racism. I’m sure I made some kind of oath to never work for religious institutions, military, government, or any other large institution that (to me) was very clearly being used to oppress certain people and uphold certain ideologies. I thought that to help our people, we would have to completely dismantle these systems and go against them at full force. As I grew, I learned the phrase, “both/and.”
My journey in being part of civil disobedience and direct actions against the state very quickly brought some reality to my ideology and plan of action. At first, I would try and find groups, movements, and folks that were anti-establishment, anti-religion, and so on. They are out there, and I have learned and done great things with them, but there are also groups of people that more closely aligned with the reality of my situation and the problems my people are facing. I learned, that some of the groups that were helping my people had religious backgrounds, or worked for the government, or practiced law. It was very confusing, but also brought a new perspective on how I would better help my people.
As I got older, I started to understand that using the system or your religion as a tool to help folks survive those same systems (that are oppressing them), is incredibly effective. From 10 to 20 years old, I found myself working alongside faith leaders pretty regularly, because they were the ones “on the ground” a lot of the time. I started to realized that there are folks out there that aren’t using their religion to oppress other folks, the same way I found folks using the very legal system that is oppressing my people, to help them overcome it.