Merced ad­vo­cates stand in sol­i­dar­ity with mi­grants

Want of­fi­cials to view bor­der car­a­van as hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sue

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Front Page - BY THAD­DEUS MILLER [email protected]­ced­

The area of the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der where a car­a­van of mi­grants have gath­ered looks more like a war zone than a place where refugees may look for help in Amer­ica, a wit­ness told a crowd gath­ered in Merced this week to draw at­ten­tion to the is­sue.

Itzuri Al­berto and about 20 other peo­ple from ad­vo­cacy group Cosecha Merced went down to San Diego to see for them­selves last month, and some even crossed into Mex­ico to give do­na­tions of clothes, food, toi­letries and other items to the peo­ple stranded there.

“There’s no true or­ga­ni­za­tion that is as­sist­ing them, just com­mu­nal, grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions that are go­ing and drop­ping off ma­te­ri­als there. They’re dis­tribut­ing them them­selves,” the 23-year-old said Thurs­day.

Al­berto was tak­ing part in a can­dle light­ing cer­e­mony planned by Faith in the Val­ley of Merced meant to bring at­ten­tion to what’s hap­pen­ing at the bor­der. Sim­i­lar demon­stra­tions were held around the Val­ley in

an ef­fort to ap­peal to the faith­ful, ac­cord­ing to or­ga­niz­ers.

The show­down at the San Diego-Ti­juana bor­der cross­ing has thrown into sharp fo­cus two com­pet­ing nar­ra­tives about the car­a­van of mi­grants stranded on Mex­ico’s side of the bor­der, hop­ing to ap­ply for asy­lum in the U.S.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has por­trayed them as a threat to U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity, in­tent on ex­ploit­ing Amer­ica’s asy­lum law, but oth­ers in­sist he’s ex­ag­ger­at­ing to stoke fears and achieve his po­lit­i­cal goals.

The demon­stra­tions in the Val­ley are meant to send a mes­sage to elected of­fi­cials to di­rect fund­ing to­ward pro­cess­ing those seek­ing asy­lum, ac­cord­ing to Blanca Ojeda of Faith in the Val­ley.

“There is no real sys­tem to process peo­ple,” she said. “We want them to stand up and cre­ate that sys­tem. We want them to stand up and process asy­lum-seek­ers.”

The U.S. mil­i­tary said hun­dreds of troops pre­vi­ously de­ployed in south Texas and Ari­zona as part of a bor­der se­cu­rity mis­sion have been moved to Cal­i­for­nia to pa­trol the bor­der.

The mil­i­tary’s role is lim­ited largely to erect­ing bar­ri­ers along the bor­der and pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port to U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion.

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers and im­mi­grant rights groups have blasted the bor­der agents’ tac­tics.

There were clashes that saw Bor­der Pro­tec­tion agents launch­ing pep­per spray balls in ad­di­tion to tear gas in what of­fi­cials said were on-the-spot de­ci­sions made by agents. U.S. troops de­ployed to the bor­der on Trump’s or­ders were not in­volved in the op­er­a­tion.

The Rev. Ella Lu­naGarza of United Methodist Church of Merced said the treat­ment of peo­ple at the bor­der goes be­yond race is­sues.

“We should be very aware that this is not a brown is­sue,” she said. “It’s a hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sue, it’s a spir­i­tual is­sue and it’s an is­sue for peo­ple who care for this world.”

The ad­vo­cates in Merced also called for the un­der­fund­ing of the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, com­monly called ICE.

A group gath­ers Thurs­day in Merced to show sup­port for the mi­grants stopped at the U.S. and Mex­ico bor­der.

Blanca Ojeda of Faith in the Val­ley in Merced speaks to a group on Thurs­day. Ojeda says the demon­stra­tions send a mes­sage to elected of­fi­cials to di­rect fund­ing to­ward pro­cess­ing those seek­ing asy­lum.

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