Migrant Caravan Support In Tijuana
I drove down from Los Angeles to Tijuana at the tail end of December 2018 because I’d heard there was a need for help transporting donations to shelters around the city. I’d been to Tijuana a few times before, and was traveling in the company of a trusted comrade, so I arrived feeling prepared. I wasn’t, but collectively the scores of volunteers who rotated through the doors of Enclave that week accomplished far more than I expected.
On my first day I drove a newly re-wed migrant couple to the shelter at El Barretal. They beamed with hope at the improved prospect of avoiding separation, promised by the documentation of the day’s ceremony. By day two, I found myself leading the tech team at Al Otro Lado. I don’t work in IT, hadn’t touched a PC in six years, and wasn’t exactly thrilled about office work, but it needed to be done, so I dove in and learned on the go. When a laptop wouldn’t print, I re-installed drivers. When a soft birth certificate image needed sharpening, I retouched it. And when an outreach lead was awaiting my redesign of the Creole version of the map to our building, and an officiant needed a document printed for a couple about to be married, and the printer went down, and I became visibly overwhelmed, a comrade saw my distress, calmly looked me in the eyes and said “take a break, I’ve got this.” And I did. And she did.
My techie role ended abruptly one night when I learned that my three roommates, all DSA comrades, had found themselves inside the warehouse where migrants were taking shelter near Benito Juarez. In an act of radical solidarity, they chose to stay inside when the entrance was blockaded, their bodies strategically stationed between the migrants and the riot gear-clad Mexican federal police. Seeing a need, another volunteer who’d just joined the tech team that day stepped up to take on my duties, freeing me to spend most of the next two days and nights supporting the occupation from the outside.
We coordinated watch shifts. We took up a collection and rented hotel rooms for migrants who lacked shelter from the rain. It was cold, and occasionally frightening, but it was joyous too. Street medics taught eye washing techniques in case of pepper spray (which U.S. Border Patrol used on migrants just two nights prior). Migrants inside passed extra blankets out to those of us in the street. We talked about how our involvement in DSA had brought us to Tijuana, and how we saw the struggle for these migrants as intertwined with the struggle against borders. But we were nearly always busy, so we expressed our politics mostly through acts of solidarity.
I don’t know how to gauge how much our work helped build DSA. We certainly built new connections among members across the country. Maybe more importantly though, we built a sense among all those who’d volunteered that we can contest oppression when we work collectively. We can learn from each other. We can self-organize. We can ask when we need help and step up when we see a need. We proved all this and more to each other, and in doing so I think we built confidence in the growing power of socialism.
To learn more about this caravan solidarity work, contact Andrew at: firstname.lastname@example.org