The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


March 31, 2021/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team


Ice Boxes and Dog Kennels

A cooler can be a great way to keep your beer cold for a picnic, and your puppy loves a dark and cozy den. But neither makes for a space where any sane parent would ever leave a kid. If anyone found out you had your kid in a cooler or a kennel, youd be arrested for child abuse.


But children at the border are getting warehoused in places like these, sometimes for weeks at a time. Migrants call the holding cells in some detention centers — profit centers might be the better label — hieleras and perreras to describe the cold, small, and dark conditions they “live” in while waiting and waiting and waiting.


In 2019, a legal team interviewed 60 children at a Border Patrol facility near El Paso. The investigators heard stories of neglect and inadequate food, water, and sanitation. One visiting physician described “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day.” Without adequate bathing or medical care, with opportunities for sexual predators, centers like these amount to health disaster areas.


But wherever oppression festers, so does resistance — even among kids. They're putting complaint boxes, for example, to good use. Wrote one youth in a Texas facility: “We had a problem with the worker who was in our room we were sleepy and wanted to enter the room and he didn’t want to leave the room and he humiliated us . . . it is supposed to be if the staff asks for respect, they have to give us respect too.” Even in limbo, these young people, forced to grow up all too soon, have the courage to demand respect.


Loneliness and fear. Resistance and resilience. What will their futures be? Wherever they land, wherever they find home, our job will be to give them not just comfort, dignity, and opportunity, but the love that all children deserve.  


Last week, in a webinar on “Demanding Accountability for Separated Families,” the Latinx Accountability Project brought together four leading analysts and activists on immigration issues at and beyond the US-México border. Alvaro Bedoya from the Georgetown Law Privacy Center moderated the discussion, and we’ve excerpted here from his exchanges with Congresswoman Veronica Escobar from El Paso, CBS and Univision contributor Maria Elena Salinas, Jess Morales Rocketto of Families Belong Together, and Erika Ardiola of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, RAICES.


Alvaro Bedoya: Those responsible for splitting families apart at the border must be accountable for those inhuman policies. How can that happen?


Rep. Escobar: Today I saw Chad Wolf, head of Homeland Security under Trump, quoted in the Washington Post as if he is a credible and respectable source. The media must stop giving a platform to people who have put in place what are in effect criminal policies! If other countries were ripping children from their parents, with no thought of how to ever reunite them, the US would be calling it a human rights violation. Criminal charges would be the most just, but that’s not going to happen. But Congress can at least conduct hearings to get evidence as to who were responsible.


Jess Morales Rocketto: Family separation is nothing new. One of my own family was grabbed and deported during Operation Wetback in 1954, when over a million Mexicanos were swept up and out. News sources report on migration issues as if there were two “balanced” sides, Democrat and Republican. Rather than a focus on Party politics, they should be reporting and discussing the actual issue.


AB: How do we avoid the dehumanization of migrants?


Maria Elena Salinas: Having worked at CBS, I know that the mainstream media doesn’t cover the same stories as the Latinx media. And yes, instead of striving for “balance,” the stress should be on facts — and context. People’s stories don’t begin at the border! I did a series that showed how people had been first “abandoned” by their home countries and then “rejected” by the country they hoped would provide asylum. What are the root causes of migration? That’s not covered.


AB: Let me add that there’s an important difference between “illegal” and “undocumented.” The undocumented have rights — for example, for children to go to school . . . What can be done about the substandard facilities in which migrants are held?


JMR: Detention companies get paid for “heads in beds.” That incentivizes packing the facilities. The privatization of detention centers parallels prison privatization, leading to terrible conditions — and blacks are hit the hardest in both cases. Haitians suffer the highest amount of abuse in detention centers, and blacks fare the worst in prisons. You ask what’s the alternative? Anything would be better!


Erika Ardiola: The system aims to protect the US against supposed threats from those coming in, not to protect the migrants. They send in Rambo when it’s Mother Teresa that’s needed!


AB: Why wasn’t Biden ready to handle the migrant crisis?


EA: Kids must be taken immediately out of Customs and Border Protection, where they are put in what detainees call hieleras for coolers and perreras for dog kennels.


MES: Biden has dual tasks: to remedy past failures and to deal with new arrivals. After only 60 days in office, should we give him the benefit of the doubt? He’s getting hit from the left and the right, and, to his credit, he is listening more to the left. But he must give the press access to see how families are being treated. The main thing now is that he must act with full transparency.


Associated Press photos released last week showed immigrant children in US custody at the border sleeping on mats under foil blankets, separated in groups by plastic partitions.


The Challenge of Vaccinating Over 100 Million

México now faces an enormous pandemic challenge: to vaccinate the entire adult population of a profoundly unequal society. Other nations have based their vaccination priorities on age and occupation. In AMLO’s Mexico, the priority has been on the poor and most marginalized. Daniela Pastrana has traced the story of this biggest vaccination campaign in Mexican history. We've clipped this passage from her full Pie Página account.


Few countries in the world face the challenges Mexico does in vaccinating its population. The geography extends over a massive and irregular terrain, with some areas controlled by criminal groups, in conditions of extreme social inequality.


Mexicos vaccination campaign started December 24, with the application of the Pfizer vaccine to medical personnel, but it slowed as the company was unable to meet demand. On February 14, 870,000 doses of AstraZeneca arrived from India, and the second phase of mass inoculation began.


Over those two weeks, the vaccine arrived to the most extensive of the poorest regions in the country, the Montaсa de Guerrero, where the virus arrived at nearly the same time as it did to Mexico City, and where we may never know how many deaths it caused. The vaccine also arrived to Afro-Mexican communities in Oaxaca; and to the oldest people, like María Antonia, a 120-year-old great grandmother who is an example for her children and grandchildren in Veracruz. It crossed the desert to arrive at the homes of the Kiliwas, one of the Indigenous nations at high risk of extinction and with only three remaining language speakers.


Recent news reports and commentaries, from progressive and mainstream media,
on life and struggles on both sides of the US-México border


Mexico’s real COVID-19 death toll now stands at over 321,000, Associated Press. Mexican officials are acknowledging that the Covid death toll now stands 60 percent above the official test-confirmed number. With hospitals overwhelmed, many Mexicans have died at home without getting a test.


Humberto Beck, Carlos Bravo Regidor, and Patrick Iber, The Immovable AMLO, Dissent. AMLO’s government has successfully pushed policies aimed at reducing inequality, and the Mexican president continues to decry neoliberalism. But his government is failing to build an effective alternative.


Julett Pineda, Gangs Target Candidates Ahead of Mexican Elections, Organized Crime and Corruption Project. A new wave of violence has spread across Mexico as legislative elections approach this June, with criminal gangs murdering and threatening candidates to strengthen their political influence. The most recent victim: a judge from Chiapas who was running for mayor on the Morena ticket.


Max De Haldevang, Amy Stillman, and Justin Villamil, Mexican President Uses Energy Nationalism Card Ahead of Key Vote, Bloomberg. The business press is ringing the alarm bells over AMLO’s moves against energy privatization. In 2016, two years before his election, México allowed private companies to import and sell fuels for the first time since the oil industry’s nationalization in 1938. 


Francesco Manetto, México’s president ramps up attacks on all sides ahead of June elections, El País. López Obrador is hitting out against the energy sector, the judiciary. and the feminist movement, but he still maintains high approval ratings.


John Ackerman, INE: Árbitro vendido, La Jornada. La guerra del Instituto Nacional Electoral en contra de Morena no tiene límites.


Vanni Pettinà, El largo otoño de la irrelevancia internacional latinoamericana, sinpermiso. En los años 60 y 70 la centralidad latinoamericana para pensar una forma de globalización alternativa a la liberal fue absoluta. El contraste con el presente es desolador.


Blake Hosteler, The Biden Administration to Establish a New Relationship with México Where Clean Energy Sector May Play a Key Role, JDSupra. The Biden focus on international regulations will lead to higher foreign investment in México’s renewable energy sector.


The Mexico Solidarity Project brings together activists from various socialist and left organizations and individuals committed to worker and global justice who see the 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of México as a watershed moment. AMLO and his progressive Morena party aim to end generations of corruption, impoverishment, and subservience to US interests. Our Project supports not just Morena, but all Mexicans struggling for basic rights, and opposes US efforts to undermine organizing and México’s national sovereignty. 


Editorial committee: Meizhu Lui, Bruce Hobson, Bill Gallegos, Sam Pizzigati. We welcome your suggestions and feedback. Interested in getting involved? Drop us an email!


Web page and application support for the México Solidarity Project from NOVA Web Development, a democratically run, worker-owned and operated cooperative focused on developing free software tools for progressive organizations.