ENOUGH IS ENOUGH Rally to Close the Camps at the Border BY Natsuki Nakamura
“No one is illegal on stolen land,” stated Christina Edwin in her opening words at a rally held on the Friday before Indigenous People’s Day. Edwin—a community organizer who has roots in Anchorage, the Yukon River, and Mexico—spoke on behalf of Native Movement, a grassroots organization focused on empowering Indigenous voices and sovereignty. We gathered outside the office of our legislators as part of a national call to action to close the concentration camps at the border. Edwin continued on to say, “We are not advocating for better conditions at the U.S. border in the detention camps. We are advocating to end the camps and to abolish ICE.”
ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was created in 2003 and has since been an institution that exists to criminalize and persecute immigrant communities in the United States. This rally was jointly put on by Native Movement, the Anchorage Democratic Socialists of America, the Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (AUUF), and Alaskans for Human Rights at the Border. The focus of the rally was to stand in solidarity with all those suffering at the hands of ICE and call for the end of deportations, family separations, and incarcerations.
The national call to action was intentionally centered around Indigenous People’s Day to draw parallels with the trauma inflicted by the government onto Indigenous people here in the United States as a result of corporate and colonialist interests. Indigenous communities have been forced off their land in order to extract resources from the Earth. Indigenous children were separated from their family and culture when forced to attend “assimilation” boarding schools. Central America is still grappling with the aftermath of U.S.-backed military dictatorships and now also increasingly with the impacts of climate change. Many of those seeking asylum at the border are Indigenous families who have been forced to leave their native lands due to violent situations or unlivable conditions. Every day, families are being separated as people must make the hard decision to leave their homes in hopes of a better life for their children.
Dennis Arashiro, the chair of the Social Action Council of the AUUF and board president of the Japanese American Citizens League in Alaska, also spoke at the rally. “There have been two visions of this country. One gave us Columbus Day,” said Arashiro. “This is a vision that gave us the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Indigenous people… What’s happening at the Southern border is nothing new; it’s not an aberration. It is a feature of this vision of America.” This vision continues to be realized each year as Congress appropriates billions of dollars for ICE and the increased militarization of the border in the name of border security. Our government continues to invest in more walls, cameras, patrol officers, and prisons at the border, and treats anyone who crosses as a criminal.
I spent six weeks last winter volunteering at the border with an organization in El Paso, Texas. Everyone I met had submitted themselves to ICE in hopes of being granted asylum. Many families spoke Spanish as their second language after their indigenous language, and now found themselves surrounded by English in a new and unwelcoming country. By the time they had reached our doors, these weary travelers often had little more than the clothes on their backs and that trademark foil blanket from ICE—their only defense against the concrete floors and frigid air of the detention centers. I was relieved to see people start to come alive again after a shower, a warm meal, and the opportunity to talk to their loved ones. As children played together, I was always impressed by their resiliency. It is undeniable, though, the tremendous amount of trauma this government is inflicting on a daily basis by needlessly incarcerating children and individuals who have done nothing but been born on the wrong side of an arbitrary border.
Samuel Johns, a hip-hop artist and community organizer of Ahtna and Athabascan descent, closed out the rally with some verses he wrote. “I live in a nation that doesn’t acknowledge colonization, or historical trauma instilled in many generations, a nation that gave me a biblical name,” Johns raps. “I don’t want your money, just my land reclaimed. No more materialistic pride for our boys and girls ‘cuz the time is now for a sustainable world.”
Natsuki Nakamura is a member of the Anchorage Democratic Socialists of America—a people-powered organization working to democratize society and the economy—and was a co-organizer of this rally.
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