Saturday, June 14, 2008
Week 1 (Rachel)
We shuffle into the courtroom and take a seat on the side. As we take in this new setting, we are struck by the mass of dark skinned men—and women—sitting identically in rows, lining the perpendicular walls of the pristine space. They seem so small, hunched over in their seats, with shame painted over their faces. I sense the anxiousness and wonder to myself if they know why they are here, if they know why “El Norte” has labeled them as criminals.
Just as we begin to take in the magnitude of the situation, a single sound rises above all the rest—the sound of metal on metal. These “criminals” are handcuffed and their feet chained together. As the judge calls each Latino to stand, they wobble forward, the motion made difficult by their shackles. Each defendant utters their plea:
Seventy times over, the downtrodden proclaim their guilt. What is the crime? Why, they crossed an invisible line, of course. They spent their life savings to make a treacherous journey to risk their lives, braving the elements of “el desierto” in the summer heat, to travel to the Home of the Free. They have come here to work. The wages in the maquilladoras—factories—are simply not enough to feed their mouths of their children, let alone fund their schooling. We return to the age old question: a man steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving children—is this a crime? Here, seventy brown people are tried in less than one hour, not for stealing but rather for journeying northward to work for their pay. “Operation Streamline” has made a mockery of the justice system. I wonder if such an atrocity would occur if the accused were of a lighter skin color. When did we criminalize man’s will to survive? Fitting with American history, these immigrants have come to the Land of Opportunity, hoping to live the dream of “rags to riches.” They are not fleeing religious persecution, but rather poverty and starvation. But the people of the United States are afraid that their pure nation will be contaminated, so we build a wall to stave off the “invasion.” Will it halt immigration? Of course not. The migrants are determined to survive, and they will return, no matter how high the wall is. No matter how many Minute Men line the “frontera.” They must return, they have to. You see, they simply have no other choice.