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Body Politics, Justice, States of Exception

#NoBootsNoBedsNoWall: Cuentos on how Industrial Complexes Feed off the Social Sin of Othering

…and they all crossed freely

…and they were heard without initial judgement

Yes. It is a true story of Anapra, New Mexico, a group of three crossed from Mexico into the USA freely with six Customs Border Patrol vehicles surrounding the area and a helicopter overhead. They greeted the interfaith group gathered to pray at the border wall. It was Friday, September 7, 2018. They looked back to the Mexican side at a woman crying because she had received a ten-year ruling where she could not re-enter the USA for having been picked-up by ICE without documentation recognized by the government of the USA. They stopped for a special greeting of the woman’s granddaughter, a toddler who had traveled from New York and met her grandmother for the first time through the iron fence. She was not taken to Juarez because of her own mother’s status as a dreamer.  These three even crossed freely back into Mexico where the Federales did not bat an eye. Yet, many along this same border now worry about leaving the USA because they were delivered by midwives on either side of the border and are either USA born citizens or naturalized citizens. However, the denial of passports is not new but has only been increased.

Yet, these three puppies all crossed freely back and forth between the two countries. They fit through the thick bars of the iron wall. No authorities from either side cared. These puppieswere allotted more freedoms than the humans who surrounded them. In fact, these puppies are only one example of what passes freely back and forth across the border. 

Jobs have been passed back and forth depending on the circumstance. Seeds pass back and forth, many times unwantedly carried by the wind. We even plant milkweed to allow the monarch butterflies to make their journeys from Turtle Island to Abya Yala because of the importance to environmental thriving. Yet, the USA has built a legal and literal wall at the northern border of Mexico. The fact that jobs, seeds, services, and puppies have more freedoms to cross this border than many human beings only points to the power of the created border industrial complex. 

The wall, which began as a chain-linked fence in the late 1970’s has spread to over 1200 miles along this border and is being updated by the current USA administration. This wall is composed of steel bars with gaps between. If one stands close to look through, one sees the actual detainment and overt symbols of criminalization for many people who are in fact not criminals; most of whom are Latinoas. The logic which creates walls among people must be exposed and torn-down. Practically, the wall must be defunded and removed! #NoWall

Yet, this wall marks only one of the many well-construed pieces of the social sins which mark some people as criminals when they probably have not committed any punishable crimes. Social sin comes because of human finitude first and foremost. Social sin comes from abuse of power. Social sin manifests itself in greed. Social sin can be found through criminalization of some rather than others. Social sin of othering feeds industrial complexes. Creation of discourses, especially around notions of “industrial complexes” allow for jargon to be used which actually sanitizes, hides, others, and easily allows for demonizing of those who participate in such industrial complexes. 

Besides the border industrial complex named above, I would also like to discuss the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex. All three of these create tightly interwoven webs which allow for the easy presentation of some populations as criminals because of the years of various individuals, groups, and general populations being presented as other.

As a family, they cried and cried when they heard that tío was dying of brain cancer in Guadalajara, México. Their father could not travel because he had come to the USA years prior on a religious visa to study at Mundelein seminary, left the seminary, remained in the country, met their mother and created these three children aged twelve, ten, and seven who were all born in the USA. Their mother had immigrated to the USA from Poland and overstayed her student visa. She had been arrested after she rolled a stop sign. She was somewhere between detention and deportation. The family had not seen or heard from her in three days.

The prison industrial complex is not new. It has taken other names in the past, but the targeting of certain populations to label as other, less than human, and criminals, then separate them from loved ones can be found at the core of the story of the USA. The government of the USA has used family separation as a tactic to create systems of power and destroy innocent life and cultures from its inception. From American Indian Boarding Schools to slavery to asylum seekers to travel bans, systems have been built which financially benefit a certain group of people while allowing many groups to be othered and dehumanized. These frameworks have been in place for such an extended time that they are considered normal. It is easy then to take the stereotypes created from these populations and easily make a logical move to those from these populations to be criminals. So, the false criminalization of Latinoas in the USA is directly linked to centuries of dehumanization and stereotyping of various populations in the USA. These systems have caused generations of trauma on both families and individuals we all carry this trauma in our bodies and many continue to be further traumatized.

Today, under that which we call the prison industrial complex, companies are making money off prison and detention facilities. Not only are companies earning profits, but also they are projecting to increase profit gains in these areas while working toward government deregulation to allow for more people per square foot to be housed in one facility. It costs between $134 and $775 per person per night at one of these facilities. That means between $48,910 and $282,875 annually per person. The logic that has allowed the creation of the prison industrial complex must be exposed and shattered. Practically, taxes paid by those participating in the USA economic system must not fund the prison industrial complex. #NoBeds

She stood at a table at the University of Austin supporting Latinoa rights and educating her Longhorn peers of issues regarding Latinao communities. Her majors of Latinx Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies have equipped her well to fight the growing sentiment that Latinoas, especially Mexican-Americans and Salvadorans are criminals by sheer existence. One may easily believe that her parents participate in ministries that teach English as a second language and clean bathrooms at migrant shelters with their Catholic community in El Paso. One may be stretched to believe that her father works for the Department of Defense and her mother for Customs and Border Patrol. After receiving their bachelor’s degrees, her parents wished to stay close to family in Juárez and El Paso and took the jobs that were available in the area. For many, such lives are judged as incongruent. Some make statements of hatred toward border patrol agents and others involved in making a livelihood by these industrial complexes. 

The military industrial complex is closely tied with the prison industrial complex along the border and throughout the USA. It is also closely tied to the farce criminalization of the Latinoas. The offices of Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been linked to national security and safety. These agencies straddle the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex. Funding for these agencies comes largely under the guise of national security. Yet, the same logic that allows for the othering of Latinoa citizens, permanent residents, and migrants also allows for othering of individual agents of these agencies. While the military industrial complex also needs to be defunded, along the Mexico/USA border the reality of the strength of these interwoven complexes makes it extremely hard to make a solid living without being involved in some way. Part of annihilating these industrial complexes comes through holding contradictions in context while we continue to work toward the dismantling of these systems. #NoBoots

Multiple organizations, such as the Hope Border Institutethe Border Network for Human Rights and the Southwest Environmental Center have been attesting for months. #NoBedsNoBootsNoWalls. We must continue to work to disentangle these logics of domination of the border industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, and the military industrial complex to annihilate the social sins they commit, including the farce labeling of Latinaos as criminals. 

Criminalizing Latinidad

Symposium Essays

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The social construction of the criminal other has long served as a justification for subjugation. Pope Francis has stated that the people of God can smell holiness, and perhaps there is also a greater need for the olfactory discernment of evil in our midst. Despite the risk of too literal an interpretation of this metaphor, deeper reflection is warranted of the ways in which evil must be resisted.

#NoBootsNoBedsNoWall: Cuentos on how Industrial Complexes Feed off the Social Sin of Othering

…and they all crossed freely

…and they were heard without initial judgement

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The Trump administration’s most recent actions at the border signal the end of all pretense by the president—and many in his base—that Christian ethical principles should meaningfully inform U.S. immigration and asylum policies. Patriotism and faith have become indistinguishable.

Movement and Contra-movement: A Pneumatological Response to Migration

Life in God is defined by a joyous freedom of movement, a loving and adventurous invitation to the dance of the Spirit. The book of Acts is witness to those who accepted this invitation like Peter, moved to go to a Gentile centurion’s home, thus initiating a new ministry with global implications beyond his ken.

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