In response to the increasing influx of migrants crossing the border into the U.S., a group of protestors blocked three buses filled with migrant women and children from entering the local Murrieta Border Patrol facility. The protests have continued for weeks, and the buses – which came to Murrieta in order to relieve overcrowded facilities in south Texas - are now being rerouted to San Ysidro.
These anti-immigrant protestors are using some of the oldest – and worst – stereotypes in the white supremacist, misogynistic handbook to attack people who even the UN has recognized as refugees fleeing violence. The chants and signs coming out of Murrieta range from sexist to xenophobic to violent.
Try this sign which pulls from the old favorite stereotype of Latinas-as-hyper-breeders: “Send them back with birth control,” says one sign.
Others manage to misuse the term “rape,” demonstrate their ignorance about who actually pays taxes – undocumented immigrant do too! – and construe refugees fleeing violence as the “real” villains here: “Free loading illegals are raping U.S. tax payers.”
The bigotry did not stop there. Protesters threatened women journalists on the scene, and interrupted pro-migrant vigils yelling “We speak English here!” In other cases, arguments between the two sides became so heated that there was spit involved.
Some are trying to argue that these protests have nothing to do with identity. But the reality is that gender, race, and global power dynamics play a huge role in who is forced to migrate and who is considered “illegal” if they manage to make it here. Most of the child migrants crossing the Border today are fleeing a war that the U.S. created – that is gang violence started in the U.S. and fueled by U.S. drug consumption. Those Latinxs who do make it across the border are then marked as “illegal,” less than human and therefore undeserving of the protections of the state.
In response to these conflicts, the U.S.-Mexico Border and huge swaths of Northern Mexico have been completely militarized, exacerbating violence against women and making it ever more difficult for women to survive in such unsafe and unstable environments. Because of this violence, women now make up half of the migrants who come to the U.S. And this year girls composed 40% – an unprecedentedly high percentage — of all child migrants who arrived in the U.S.
The journey north is dangerous for anyone: only the lucky ones avoid violence at the hands of drug cartels and local police forces. But it is particularly hard for women and girls. The chances of a woman being raped on her journey up are so high that many women preemptively take birth control before leaving.
Meanwhile, the Murrieta protests are inspiring others across the country to respond. Copycat protests have sprung up in Illinois and Arizona while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that his city will help to house detained migrant children and work to reunify them with their families.
President Obama is currently waiting on Congress to do the right thing (don’t hold your breath, dude) and approve his request for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address the crisis. However, Murrieta residents better get used to those buses because our country is doing nothing to actually end the war it has created, the war these women and children are seeking refuge from.
Juliana can’t stomach white people standing on what was once Mexico and yelling “Go home illegals!”