The crisis unfolding on the US-Mexico border is not new. It is the result of a decades-long neglect of an oppressed and impoverished community. This community is composed of “migrants” (whose circumstances have caused them to migrate north from southern Mexico and Central America) and of “deportees” (who have been returned south by deportation from the United States) Millions of people fit one or the other of these profiles, and thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, fit both. The community of migrants and deportees is bound together not by common location, but rather by common experience (forced migration), by the interlocking relationships of millions of extended family trees, and by modern communications technologies like Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp.
Migrants from the south today are commonly fleeing criminal violence, political corruption and persecution, unproductive fields due to climate change, and severely limited opportunities for advancement via work or education. At present there are over 10,000 migrants on the list maintained by Mexican authorities, waiting in Tijuana for an initial asylum hearing with US officials. These people – many entire families, many single women with children and many unaccompanied minor children – do not immediately have access to traditional work opportunities in Mexico.