Tracking devices, night vision and motion detectors, micro drones (and “drone killers”) … a sharpshooter competition. Amid a feast of military gear on sale at Border Security 2020 in San Antonio last week were talks by current and former US immigration officials, who spoke in defense of this heavily weaponized response to migration.
The multi-day event at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center had folks hawking body armor and armored vehicles for the tracking, punishment, and incarceration of indigenous peoples on the southern U.S. border. Outside, however, was a call for humane treatment of asylum seekers. Medical care. Family reunification. The right to migrate.
“This is a community built on healing and love,” Beto Davila De León of the Southwest Workers Union said of San Antonio.
“We want to make sure that everybody who comes to San Antonio knows that they’re welcome. We’re not going to let people make money off of our pain and suffering as migrating people.”
— Beto Davila De León
As the coronavirus pandemic shuts down social and economic systems across the world, it also threatens disaster in the makeshift refugee camps that have sprung up on the Mexican side of the border. A creation of Trump’s Remain in Mexico policies, these tent camps already function on limited clean water, poor sanitation, and a constant threat from gangs and cartels. But for those at this expo, the profit lies precisely in the crisis—so long as more weaponry is the federal government’s policy response.
On Wednesday, March 11, roughly 50 San Antonio residents and supporters rallied outside the convention center and marched on the Alamo, calling on City leaders to make this year the expo’s last.
Jovanni Reyes, of About Face: Veterans Against the War, blamed the perceived problems with immigration on a history of unjust US military and covert interventions across Latin America. “People have to go somewhere, he said. “Coming here, it’s just chickens coming home to roost. So open the doors. … Open the doors to the people that are affected by all these interventions.”
Debbie Hernandez of RAICES pointed out the hypocrisy of allowing an event dedicated to the policing and (too often) murder of desperate asylum seekers (or, really, anyone in the line of fire) at a convention center named for a local champion of human rights. “I grew up hearing stories about the greatness of [Henry B. Gonzalez],” Hernandez said. “He’s a legend here—a legend for fighting for immigrant rights.”
A theme for many of those marching in the face of police pushback was the need for San Antonio to live up to its Compassionate City aspirations.
Wolfgang of the Autonomous Brown Berets de San Anto stressed the universal threat the expo represents to everyone in this country. “The surveillance systems we use to hunt down migrants, it’s eventually going to be used on anybody in the United States,” he said. “This is at the forefront of a police state culture.”
Support the campaign by adding your name to the petition addressed to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the San Antonio Council.
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