The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


September 7, 2022/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team

Photo: Rusiana Lurchenko/Shutterstock

Turning on the Tap — of Compassion

“We have Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, RC Cola, every kind of Cola,” a woman from the global South fumed way back at the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference, “but there’s no water coming from the tap!”


In México, more than one drought has stopped the flow of our world’s most essential liquid — and residents demanding adequate water have regularly come up dry. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, never seems to see shortages and goes on merrily converting water from a life-giving element into a drink that invites, among other maladies, life-threatening diabetes.


Climate change is speeding up the rates we experience droughts, hurricanes, and temperature spikes. Events once considered occasional natural disasters have become increasingly common unnatural disasters. People are abandoning areas where water has either stopped flowing or started inundating their homes. 


And those of us living in abundance and safety, what do we do when those people start showing up near our homes as migrants? Todd Miller, our Voices interview spotlight this week, first confronted that question when he ran into a migrant in the Arizona desert desperately in need of water. Miller initially hesitated. What walls have we erected in our own hearts, he reflects, that we see reproduced at our national borders? And, conversely, what border policies have us — as individuals — stifling the urge to help others? 


Who gets access to a decent life depends on whether we prioritize people’s lives or Coke’s profits. Making the right choice requires us to break up the barriers in our hearts and our policies that dry up the flow of human compassion. Turn on the tap! We need that compassion flowing now more than ever.


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Where Do the Borders in Our Own Hearts Lie?

Todd Miller, a journalist based in Tucson, Arizona who’s also lived in Oaxaca, has written widely about border and immigration issues. His books have examined issues ranging from militarization and the US Border Patrol to climate migration and the expansion of “border” into a global North-South division. His most recent book, Bridges Not Borders, offers an unexpectedly hopeful vision. You can follow Miller’s work weekly at The Border Chronicle.

Most people think of the US border as a wall” that keeps Mexican and Latin American migrants from crossing into “our” land. What does “border” mean to you?

“Protecting territory” regularly gets presented as the only way to understand “border.” But the border actually turns out to be less about land and more about protecting a global system that benefits US corporate and political elites. In this unsustainable system, the tentacles of US power reach into other countries, suck out their wealth, and become a huge contributing factor to displacement, dispossession, and even ecological catastrophe.


The border that separates global North and South has turned into the front line of a war, not an overt war — this war’s death and destruction seldom make headlines — but an invisible war against the poor.


In your book Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, you predict that climate-driven migration will pick up speed and become the major issue for our time. Is border policy changing to get ready for this phenomenon?

I used to see a climate crisis as a problem somewhere in the future. But that crisis has arrived, and it’s been building. Climate change does manifest itself differently from economic crises, but the two get cut from the same cloth. The US military apparatus, interestingly, has not put climate issues into the abstract future. Military planning looks 25 years ahead.

In the 1990s the Pentagon was already talking about climate change, and a 2003 Pentagon report concluded fortresses would be needed to keep out “unwanted starving immigrants.”


That same year saw the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created, ostensibly due to the September 11 attack. But other factors were also likely weighing on military minds. In 2010, Obama linked climate change to national security, and mandated that Homeland Security look explicitly at climate-related mass migrations. A 2021 Pentagon document on the climate threat mentions migration 18 times.


Climate migration has already become huge, with 1.2 million people displaced from Guatemala and Honduras in 2020 alone. In the Central American dry corridor — an area now particularly susceptible to drought — the number of people suffering from hunger has jumped from 2.4 million in 2018 to more than 8 million by the end of 2020, according to a World Food Programme report.  


Our world’s richest countries can somewhat withstand climate disasters, but, even in a nation as rich as the US, poor people will be at great risk of displacement. This could create issues between states. During the Great Depression, remember, California put up at the state border a “bum blockade.” Could this happen again?


Has having children yourself increased your sense of urgency about addressing climate migration fairly? 

My grandmother comes from Marinduque Island in the Philippines, a place that faces rising sea levels. I’ve traveled there. I’ve seen a house with waves lapping on it. I felt like I was seeing a corpse. I saw a man walking with his child and wondered whether that child will be able to grow up on this island. I look at my own children, and I wonder what kind of world will they live in.

Alfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse. Getty Images

So, yes, I feel more urgency. But — simultaneously and paradoxically — we need to slow down. We need less anxiety and more heartfelt concern. We need to take the time to develop relationships, bonds of solidarity, with people living in endangered places. We can ask ourselves where the borders in our own hearts lie — and then move to take those borders down.


Your thinking about borders draws on US abolitionist traditions. Can you explain why?


The writing of Ruth Wilson Gilmore on prison abolition has affected me profoundly. She notes that 1 percent of “abolitionism” speaks to getting rid of prisons and 99 percent to building a world of justice. We can apply abolitionist principles when we do cross-border organizing to address migration. Only a small percent of our work need be at the border itself. The rest should address fulfilling people’s needs where they currently live, the key to solving the challenges migrations create.


Look at the $400 billion spent on border and immigration enforcement since the Department of Homeland Security started up in 2002 — the drones, the surveillance towers, the prisons, the armed personnel. With this perspective in mind, we need to push to “defund the border.” Instead of militarizing the border, we should be focusing our nation’s attention and money on the cause of border insecurity: human insecurity.

Many in the US, you’ve noted, are suffering from “wall sickness.” How can we stop that contagion?


Wall sickness begins with fear. In my experience with Trump supporters, some fear losing their jobs, and that fear can turn into hate, as “others” get blamed for their own, well, insecurity. Meeting those “others” person to person — including Trump supporters — can be transformative. We need to find and create spaces where those meet-ups can happen. The borderlands could be such a place.


What our elites fear most: the human bond that makes people want to take down the walls and stop the invisible war between the global North and South.

When we live in a psychological bubble, with walls around our minds and hearts, we obstruct how we think and feel. Once we exit that bubble, there’s no going back.  


More Mexican Auto Workers Win Union of Their Own 

Workers at one of the many auto industry plants in México owned by U.S. corporate interests have just made their worksite one of the growing number that have chosen to go the independent union route. Reporters Luis Feliz Leon and Dan DiMaggio have the story, and we’ve excerpted here their just-published Labor Notes analysis.

Three miles from the U.S.-México border, auto parts workers at VU Manufacturing in Piedras Negras, Coahuila voted on August 31 to join an independent union, defeating company attempts to usher in an employer-friendly, politically connected union.

The independent Mexican Workers’ League (la Liga Sindical Obrera Mexicana) won 186 votes, while a union with ties to the powerful Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) received 101.

In June, the League and a local organization, the Border Workers Committee (el Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s, or CFO), filed a petition under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreements rapid-response mechanism. The complaint alleged that the company was interfering with VU workers’ right to free association by pushing them to affiliate with the CTM, a union notorious for signing contracts behind workers’ backs, locking in low wages and poor working conditions and preventing workers from forming genuine unions…

Management forced workers to sit through a form of captive-audience meetings with CTM representatives. CTM officials allegedly were allowed to sign up members during work time, with management even calling workers in for individual meetings where they were asked to join the CTM.

During a CTM presentation, a VU worker who complained about the company-friendly union was escorted off the factory premises by guards and fired...

Jovanna García, 26, who started working at VU Manufacturing seven months ago, says the victories of independent unions across Mexico (including SINTTIA at GM Silao) have demonstrated that change is possible.

The most important thing theyve taught us is the value and freedom a worker has to choose a union, which allows her to defend her labor rights," she said. "Its important to emphasize that companies dont have the right to decide for workers their union. Its the worker who makes that decision. Lets go for the change!”


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


Laura Carlsen, Green Tide Rising in Latin America, Indypendent. The US has much to learn from new feminist movements that have spurred Argentina, Colombia, and México to dump traditional abortion laws.


Arturo Páramo, Presidente: programas sociales son prioridad, Excelsior. En un mensaje con motivo de su Cuarto Informe, y tras destacar a los programas del bienestar como el distintivo de su gobierno, López Obrador dijo estar feliz porque “la revolución de las conciencias” ha reducido al mínimo el analfabetismo político en el país.


Bruce Baigrie, Privatized Energy: a warning from México, Amandla! An analysis that explores the decisions that locked México’s partially state-owned power utility into a subservient position to private power generators.


Barbosa y Mier suben el tono de su disputa por la candidatura de Puebla en 2024, SinEmbargo. Miguel Barbosa Huerta e Ignacio Mier se disputan la candidatura poblana de la izquierda. Puebla tiene poco peso electoral en el escenario nacional. Pero puede ser ejemplo de cómo las disputas internas de Morena pueden poner el riesgo el objetivo mayor: la Presidencia en 2024.


Mexican Public-Private Lithium Company to Be Located in Sonora, teleSUR. In April, a new Mexican mining law declared lithium a “mineral of public utility” and gave rights for its exploitation to LitioMx — Lithium for Mexico — a new public institution set to be directed by a Harvard-trained environmental health expert.


Claudia Sheinbaum, Marcelo Ebrard y Adán Augusto López: El saludo que dijo todo en el Cuarto Informe de Gobierno de AMLO, sdpnoticias. Ante dichas muestras de tensión, los mexicanos y las mexicanas han cuestionado la relación que llevan tras el anuncio de su rivalidad por la presidencia de México.


Sheinbaum has slight advantage over Ebrard for 2024 election, México News Daily. México City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has a polling lead over foreign affairs minister Marcelo Ebrard as the Morena party candidate for the 2024 presidential election. Morena-affiliated candidates overall maintain a strong edge over their opposition.


Alejandro Alegría, México perdió oportunidades de ser potencia mundial: Slim, La Jornada. Carlos Slim Helú, el empresario más acaudalado del país, asegura que la “lucha contra la pobreza no sólo es un asunto ético y moral, sino de justicia social, es una necesidad económica en esta nueva civilización”.


Elsy Fors Garzon, Senators of Mexico’s ruling party are at odds, Prensa Latina. Senate annoyance grew when the Morena party leader, Mario Delgado, announced he would not attend the Morena parliamentary group’s 9th Plenary.


Carlos Montesinos, Evo Morales será invitado de honor de AMLO a festejos del 15 y 16 de septiembre, Indigo. El expresidente de Bolivia recordó que México “nos salvó la vida y sirvió de refugio ante la persecusión de golpistas en 2019”.


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, Courtney Childs, Victoria Hamlin, Agatha Hinman, Steven Hollis. To give feedback or get involved yourself, please email us!


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