A new movement of refugees fleeing violence and starvation in Central America began to reach Tijuana last month, in the hopes of applying for asylum in the United States. Comprised of multiple, self-organized caravans, the refugees passed through incredible hardship and risk before thousands were temporarily settled in the Benito Juarez shelter – a sports complex on the southern side of the border wall where many were left to sleep outside, with minimal provisions. In addition to the wall, the refugees have faced a whole series of surveillance and control mechanisms that tend to turn the shelters into open-air prisons: restrictions on movement, attacks by U.S. border guards with tear gas and Mexican nationalists with rocks and baseball bats, control over food, and the constant risk of arrest and deportation by Mexican police. Despite this repression, autonomous groups on both sides of the border have organized with the refugees to address material needs, offer legal support, and to politically organize to allow them into the United States.
This week we speak with Stephen, a solidarity organizer from San Diego, who describes the recent movement based on first-hand experience, as well as putting it into a broader context of US militarism, border violence, and incarceration. He works with Otay Mesa Detention Resistance, who simultaneously support the refugees in Tijuana while struggle alongside detainees in the US to shut down the Otay Mesa Detention Center.