This post was written in a studio in la cuidad de México
I must be a migrant too. I have passed over borders, seeing the nondescript partition of land, many a time. How many customs agents have flipped my passport pages, glancing up at me, stamping it and in disgruntled manner beckoning the next in line? How many? A few. Of course only Uncle Sam took interest enough to question me for nearly two hours in the JFK airport. I read about the ICE raids, travel bans, more violence on the border, more islamophibic restrictions of movement, I read about the courage of Ravi in NYC, I see a father hold a sign thanking "los jovenes" for having the courage to speak when our padres are too fearful; I see all this and wonder what my crossing home will bring?
The tragedy of borders encountered me early on this journey. The inequality and indeed injustices deeply rooted in the histories of racist and autocratic governing of the people of common ilk by French and Moroccan monarch alike are unavoidable. I met not one youth in Morocco who did not have dreams of the north, of the opportunities the liberties laying just beyond "the limit". Close enough to see sitting on the haffa in tangier. Yet without "desirable qualities" and a fair bit of capital, good luck. The EU, nor the US feels any compulsion to show equatable international relations allowing for on-the-spot entrance of Moroccan, Nepali, Peruvian, and certainly not Mexican citizens.
What is this obvious inequality of movement? That one nationality may move freely (if having the luxury of travel) to nations whose own citizens do not share that same right? Is such a relation just? Obviously it is not equal.
That if they want, and this is not to say it is the majority, but a sizable proportion of tourists that visit countries like Morocco, Colombia, Perú, and or to other nations in regions like South America or wildly diverse South and Southeast Asia they can come to consume narcotics, the sex industry (often full of underage sex workers), and or the less obviously insidious explorative resort-complex. Locked into a a grossly undemocratic dependency on money from the north (not all spent on industries as mentioned above) to trickle into domestic budgets, many perpetually indebted to the IMF or other regional development banks. Loans often agreed in the most obvious conflicts of interests of political elites and outside loaners.
The border is indeed a contested space.
Who and what get the right to cross are innately political and important questions.
In Nepal labor is an export. Raw human energy ready for disposal, packed and shipped to the Gulf states, to china, or to Malaysia. Wherever the neoliberal bug, the exploitative mix of state control and private ownership 'political business' as the political scientist from Malaysia, E.T Gomez who guest lectured at the U of M, writes; when politics and business become inexorably inseparable.
I saw the human result of this process, not always ugly, during an early, early morning in Kathmandu. As I waited with my host family in the dark along a dusty busy road in the norther outskirts, buses rumbled and plowed through the pot holed streets. I sipped tea under a bandana tied around my face. Nodding "la, la, tikka" pretending I understood a mumbling old man who was thoroughly convinced I was Nepali, even as it was explained by a family member I was not.
We had been waiting nearly an hour- why? The gulfers, the men who had gone of to Kuwait, Oman, UAE, Dubai, etc to work on oil rigs, to construct the glistening towers, the towers I suspect will soon collapse like a deck of moldy playing cards (as any such venture dependent on oil and an oil dependent currency)- well, these "gulfers" came back with loads of Nepali rupees. They were holed up in the strangely toylike hotels, glass structures colored blue and orange. Standing oddly in the dust, brown and grey of Kathmandu. The driver had to commander a boy freelancing as a bus hand/errand runner to go to the hotel and wake up the workers. Sleeping in what I'm sure was a deep drunken stupor. Nevertheless, it was this that delayed us for at least 2 and a half hours.
I tell this to add a human less depressing dimension of migration. The stories, the antics of the migrant worker. You have to smile and laugh at it sometimes.
The day I was leaving Lima, after a three week stay, I caught a taxi to the bus station. I was heading to Huancayo. I talked a bit with the driver, we talked about food which led us to discover we both had worked as cooks in the states. He had cooked at a Peruvian restaurant in Florida for about a year. "One day I'll go back" he told me. He had saved up enough money to help his family expand their house. A common story. As he dropped me off he said "thank you for visiting my country" in English, I told him in Spanish to come back to mine. He laughed and I headed off the Sierra.
As a cook, working in three restaurants I met quite a few migrant workers. I met a business owner who came in the 80s undocumented. And to anyone who would challenge their ability to be in the states, I challenge that person to be as brave and hardworking as the migrant workers in the States today.
Migrant labor has always been an easy scapegoat for a larger question of the capitalist division of labor and international political economics that often force people to leave their homes in search for better opportunities.
The story of the migrant is a story of human fortitude, humor, and a willingness to not only survive hardship, but to make something better for our families and ourselves. And while my migration across this planet has not been the typical migrant story. I come from two families that are testaments to the American migrant story. And this journey itself is indeed a product of that. To travel into the unknown, to look for a better possibility of what can be, that is what this travel has been. Day by day, step by step I see that.
Peace to the migrants, from the rural country side into the dark uncertainty of the city, to the voyages across oceans, Godspeed of those escaping the tragedy of bombs and burst of bullets, where ones dreams lie I hope they find them.
If capital can cross borders, so can we.