This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined by two humanitarian-aid workers who have been providing care to asylum seekers along the Mexico-Arizona border near Sasabe where Prevention Through Deterrence policies are playing out in realtime as thousands of asylum seekers are left out in the winter desert by Border Patrol.
Groups in California like borderkindness.org are doing similar work.
Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Live Like the World is Dying: Crisis on the Arizona Border
**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host today Inmn Neruin and today we’re gonna be talking about some pretty horrible things going on in the world which, you know, of course, we never talk about horrible things on this podcast. It’s always really good and wonderful things. But yeah, we’re going to be talking about a crisis that has been going on on the Arizona border near the town of Sasabe. And it’s gonna tie in a lot of things that we’ve talked about on the show before, especially from the No More Deaths interviews. So, if you haven’t listened to the No More Deaths interviews, they’re not…it’s certainly not required. But if you do not have a…like a broad understanding of the history of border militarization or fucking dumb things that Border Patrol does, it might be helpful to go back and listen to those episodes first. But yeah, but before we get to all of that, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts and here is a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo. [Singing a simple melody]
**Inmn ** 02:54
And we’re back. Thanks you all so much for coming on the show today. Would y’all Introduce yourself with your names, pronouns, and I guess a little bit about like what you do in the world that relates to what we’re going to be talking about?
**Bryce ** 03:24
Yeah, Bryce, he/him. I’ve been working with various desert aid organizations over the past couple of years, Tucson Samaritans, No More Deaths and some search and rescue search and recovery groups.
**Ember ** 03:42
I’m Ember, he/him, and have been working with No More Deaths around Arivaca, Arizona for the last year and a half.
**Inmn ** 03:53
Cool. So there’s been a lot of stuff happening at the wall recently, which, you know, is what we’re here to talk about and, yeah, I don’t know, do y’all want to just tell us about what’s what’s going on at the wall?
Yeah, I’ll just preface it by saying, you know, we’re very much just speaking as individuals who’ve been involved with wall stuff around Sasabe, Arizona, which is about an hour south of Tucson and we’ll talk more about it but to just step back, this is a crisis that’s happening all over the border and we’re really going to be speaking primarily to the situation that’s been unfolding around Sasabe in the last months and weeks and not speaking on behalf of No More Deaths or any other groups.
**Inmn ** 04:58
Cool. Cool. Yeah. Yeah, it seems like a huge, huge, huge, sprawling crisis of horrible things.
But yeah, so I think there’s been a lot more media about what’s happening in Jacumba or in Lukesville, where hundreds or thousands of people have been coming through the wall, not a port of entry, to seek asylum, and have been left out there in sort of makeshift camps for days or weeks at a time waiting to be apprehended by Border Patrol. And something similar has been happening east of Sasabe, which is this tiny, tiny, tiny little town, as Ember said, about an hour south of Tucson. For the past couple years, people have been doing a similar thing of coming through gaps in the border wall to seek asylum because they’re blocked from presenting themselves at ports of entry. So over the past couple of years, it’s mostly been like the Tucson Samaritans and Green Valley Samaritans that have been helping these people out, because pretty much the situation was that if you don’t call Border Patrol to come apprehend them then Border Patrol will just never come. It’s a super remote area of the desert. There’s a road that goes along the border wall that you can easily drive to get to these people, but Border Patrol just won’t do it because it’s not really worth their time. And so at times, there would be people stuck out there for like three or four days. I ran into one group that had written SOS in rocks and had built a fire just trying to get Border Patrol’s attention. And this is like two years ago before any of this was even in the news. And just…it’s kind of just slowly escalated until the beginning of November. A lot of violence broke out south of Sasabe on the Mexican side. And it’s just…. Between that and just other dynamics happening, it just shifted things so that we suddenly started seeing just hundreds of people there on the border wall seeking asylum. And where usually there were gaps closer to Sasabe where they could present so that Border Patrol could just show up in buses or vans and pick people up, now people were showing up much further east in more remote areas that are much more difficult to get to because of Biden’s new border wall construction that blocked off access to some of these closer areas. So now the situation quickly became that Border Patrol would take a very long time to pick anybody up. And because of the high volume of people, they’re now 20 kilometers, or 30 kilometers away from the actual port of entry. People are having to hike are left overnight just in the middle of nowhere, just building fires or doing whatever they can to survive the night. And, yeah, it’s been about a couple of months of that now.
I’m going to just reiterate that, you know, a big call of a lot of groups is to open ports of entry because this is stemming from the point that people can’t claim asylum at a port of entry, people are being forced to use this bullshit CBP app and wait for insane amounts of time, if ever, to be allowed to present for asylum. And so as we kind of hear the mainstream propaganda about what’s going on, there’s very little emphasis on the fact that the reason people are coming through gaps in the wall in really remote areas is fundamentally because they can’t claim asylum at a port of entry and because the gaps are being closed nearby and that’s just really important to ground it because there’s just so much misinformation about that.
**Inmn ** 09:10
For folks who don’t know, why can’t people claim…apply for asylum at a port of entry?
I think there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about this. A lot of people I think thought that that was going to change when Title 42 was repealed or thinking it had something to do with the MPP, the Remain in Mexico Policy, but this actually was, it was a separate policy decision that at first got some media exposure. It started with metering back in like 2017 or something–sometimes during–where they would where they would just let in a certain amount of people and then CBP agents would actually block people before they got to the port of entry and say "We can’t take any more people. You have to show us your passport," all this stuff. And then that turned into during COVID, "We’re just not going to take anybody." And then now with Biden, it has continued, where if you don’t have a CBP One app, CBP agents will just turn you away at the port of entry. And there’s been a lot of legal stuff about it. Like, I think in San Diego there were a couple big court cases where they said, "You can’t continue doing this," but the Biden administration has come out saying, like, "We don’t actually turn people away at the port of entry. We don’t do turn-backs." But clearly on the ground, that is what’s happening. And so I think people think of it as like that there’s some big law that needs to be changed or that, you know, people are trying to do something sketchy by coming between ports of entry, or at the port of entry, or that there is a legal pathway through the CBP One app and people just aren’t doing it. But really, the CBP One app forces people…. It’s essentially the remain in Mexico Policy but without the Remain in Mexico Policy. And then if people try to present themselves at the port of entry, which they should be allowed to do, they’re just turned away. And there’s not some…there’s not some big thing causing this to happen. It’s just pure policy that could be changed very, very soon if they actually had the desire to do it.
**Inmn ** 10:29
Yeah. So it’s like with this app, people are being asked to download an app to apply for asylum through and then they just wait for a notification?
Yeah. And then once the…. This should all be…. Nobody should take my word for this because I’m not like a fucking asylum lawyer or something. This is just from talking to people, my understanding of it. So definitely don’t…. Don’t take it too seriously. But from what I understand, people are…people download the app and once they get the notification that they have an appointment then they have to get to the port of entry where that appointment is within 24 hours or something. And then just get to it. But there’s no like…. The people will wait, you know, a couple months, six months, a year, and they just are sort of in limbo until they get their appointment.
**Inmn ** 12:35
Golly, it sounds like…. This sounds like a sick joke of like people like…. Wait, I’m not even gonna make the comparison. This sounds like a sick fucking joke. But um…and so this has been happening for quite some time. But very recently, things kind of got a lot worse in Arizona, or like around Sasabe.
Yeah, I mean, and it definitely seems like a big part of it is…whatever fighting between rival factions of the cartel south of the border. It’s hard to really say exactly, but at the same time, that…. People started coming in higher numbers in the last two months. People also started coming through the San Miguel gate on the Tohono O’odham Nation in even higher numbers than here. And over there, there’s not nearly as much…. Border Patrol was promising to, you know, set up structures and give water and all that stuff, but in the end, there’s just really not a lot of support over there like, you know, what we have here. There’s been a lot of community committee support and donations coming in, which has been great, but over at San Miguel, there’s not even that which is already inadequate.
**Inmn ** 14:08
Yeah, yeah. And maybe this is sort of me asking a question that I’ve had about all of this: I’ve heard that the town of Sasabe is like…. I’ve heard it referred to as a ghost town right now?
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s like 20 residents left or something like that. I have…a couple of friends of mine went down there recently to visit a friend who’s still living there and she runs a migrant outreach center in the town, which hasn’t really had people in it, but it’s doing fine. The garden is still going. [Inmn "Hell yeahs"] I do know people are definitely interested in coming back if and when things calm down.
**Inmn ** 15:00
Do…I guess do you want to talk about what y’all have been experiencing in kind of like the last week, I guess?
Yeah, I mean, pretty much as Bryce was saying, there’s been folks responding to this, primarily the Samaritans as a formal group from Tucson and Green Valley, who have been responding to this for much longer. But folks involved with No More Deaths really got involved more significantly about a month ago because of the massive increase in the numbers of people out there and people being pushed further out into the desert. And that response has grown quite a bit. It kind of started with a few people from No More Deaths who were getting involved and then has exponentially increased in the last week. It was a situation that was really, really challenging in terms of the amount of resources and supplies needed for stuff. Like, basically hundreds of people, primarily a lot of children and babies and families and elders, stuck out in the increasingly becoming winter temperatures with completely inadequate supplies, most people who expected to be picked up immediately and we’re instead waiting for up to three or four days in the winter conditions in very remote areas of the desert. The border wall outside of this area goes just right through very, very mountainous terrain. And so the border wall, you know, there’s a road on the border wall, but it’s basically, as you get far out, just being completely out in the middle of the desert. It’s an insane road. It just goes straight up and down mountains. And so people are stuck out there for, at times, up to multiple days and may have been waiting on the other side for some days before they crossed. And so a lot of the original response as our group started to get involved was just primarily supply distro and medical care and medical triage. And I mean, just to give a context of how many people were out there, I think we originally had an emergency request for $10,000 and we used that money in about a week.
**Inmn ** 17:41
Oh my god.
So that’s primarily for food, water, blankets, you know, over the counter meds, and gas for the trucks, and things like that. Things really came to a head. I mean, it was a very untenable situation or unsustainable situation in terms of people going out there regularly and being like, "People are going to die out here. This is a really fucked up situation." People tried to pressure and call Border Patrol to pick people up, which they were slow to do. So sometimes they would do it regularly. Sometimes they would take a lot longer. But last Friday, there was a massive rainstorm. And we had…those of us who had been involved in organizing support around it had already started to put out larger calls for support, realizing this was way out of the depths of just what our group could respond to. And so we were putting out larger calls for support from the Tucson community, from Arivaca, which is a town about 15 miles from Sasabe, and we were preparing a little bit for the rain in terms of…the day before we set up some tarp structures at some of the places people were waiting. But what happened on Friday, I think really expanded the calls to mobilize and got way more people involved. And yeah, I’ll leave it to Bryce if you want to talk a little bit about what happened on Friday.
Sure. Yeah. I mean, I guess some other context would be that, increasingly, we had to do a lot of advocacy for emergency situations because, like Ember said, it was really just, you know, kids, infants, people that were not prepared to be out, you know, 30 mile…30 kilometers from a road, coming just with the clothes on their backs or maybe a little day pack or something but really kind of expecting to be picked up by Border Patrol immediately. And there’s a lot of people that had started out with very serious medical conditions even. There’s at least a few cases that I was personally involved in of people coming to the United States specifically to seek medical care for their children. So, it’d be like a kid with kidney disease or, you know, needing some kind of medicine daily that hadn’t had it for multiple days are really serious things, you know, or some woman who is nine months pregnant and having medical issues. I mean, really serious things where somebody should just not be out in the middle of the desert. And the kind of advocacy we had to do for on 911 [calls] was just really obscene. Like, we call 911, say, there’s somebody out here with some particular medical emergency, they’d ask the nationality of the person, whether they were entering the United States illegally, things like that, and then transfer us to Border Patrol. And Border Patrol would either drop the call or say, "Okay, we’re sending somebody." and then we sit there for six hours and, of course, nobody comes. There were times when Border Patrol would actually come out. They’d check out like two or three 911 calls, say, "Okay, this person is not going to die today," and then leave. And then we eventually were able to convince some ambulances to occasionally come out for very, very serious cases. But even then, they started getting upset with us for, quote-unquote, "Crying wolf." And just the amount of advocacy that we had to do even to get that response was just…I mean, it was…it would just be hours of calling everybody we knew with connections to be able to get an ambulance down there. And then, even then, we would get threatened with arrest by Border Patrol for transporting people to the highway to rendezvous with an ambulance, even with permission of the ambulance. And so when the rainstorm came, it was this sort of perfect storm where we had a system in place where we were sort of prepared to medivac the most serious patients out of there and just sort of keep everybody else alive until Border Patrol came to pick people up because…. And then we would advocate for, "Okay, these people really need to be taken first. You need to take these people first." Which in itself is a really compromising position to be in just because we’re acting as an intermediary between people and their physical safety and the asylum process. It’s like this weird…. Like, we’re not the government, but we’re fulfilling this weird government role. And, yeah, it’s a very weird thing. But when the rain storm happened, we were not prepared for the reality of Border Patrol just not showing up at all. They had been pretty consistently, even if we don’t see them all day, they eventually show up at like five or six, especially if we call a million times and advocate and call 911, and all that. And so, the roads were muddy, but we were doing it in our janky little trucks, we were driving back and forth just fine. And somewhere around like two or three, it started…we started to realize that just nobody was coming. And they were…. Like, I don’t know why, after everything we’ve all been through, that anybody would have had any faith in Border Patrol to avoid, to want to avoid a mass casualty incident. But here they were, seemingly, just like willingly causing one. Just to give an example of what the scene looked like, we showed up, things were already pretty bad. Like people were in good spirits, just because, you know, they’ve been traveling so long, they’re glad to finally be there. And having a good sense of humor about things is kind of the only way to survive something horrible like that. People were still kind of in that space when we showed up. We handed out food and water. Most people, even though we had built some really rudimentary tarps structures, people generally opted to just keep walking because they didn’t want to just be stuck out there in the cold and rain. And every time we drove back and forth along the wall, we just noticed people getting increasingly more desperate as they realized that they’re just stuck out in the middle of the desert in this rain. And to the point where there was just no way to properly triage. There would just be…. We were just sort of bouncing…. Or, instead of actually helping people out, we were just bouncing around from emergency to emergency Yeah, we would be on our way to an emergency and then just see somebody laying in a puddle of water, just in agonizing pain–because even, you know, somebody gets a muscle cramp and can’t stand anymore and then they’re just laying in the cold and rain. And they don’t have warm gear, they don’t have anything waterproof. They’re just laying there and it becomes a medical emergency just because they’re stuck out in the elements in this rainstorm. And so we’d be on our way to some medical emergency and have to drop two people off to go deal with another one and then just hope that another of our trucks would come back to get people. And yeah, we started just having to treat it as–I mean, Ember could speak more to the medical stuff as an EMT–but there were…we had nurses with us and other medical people who essentially just started treating the triage as if it was…as if it was going to be a mass casualty incident.
Yeah, I mean, Friday set historic rainfall records. In Tucson, there was an inch of rain. And there was probably almost that much where we were and we’re talking about, you know, winter desert rain. So you know, 4000′, almost 4000′, elevation, like freezing…almost freezing temperatures and dumping, dumping rain, including large amounts of thunder and lightning. And with the lightning, keep in mind that everybody who’s there is against this 30′ metal border wall. And so, just a really, really scary situation. And it very quickly became obvious, as Bryce said, that we were…it was going to be way overwhelming for the capacity of the amount of people who are out there to respond to. It kind of started in the morning, there were a few Samaritans’, a group out of Tucson and Green Valley, a few Samaritans’ vehicles out there and then a few No More Deaths trucks came out. But one of the first things we did when we really understood the scope of the situation was just put out a massive call for more support, which was really inspiring to see really come out that night. But obviously, it takes time for people to mobilize. So we really tried, those of us who were on the ground there really realized, "Okay, this really has the potential to be a really horrific mass casualty situation." And I want to say, I have no illusions about Border Patrol, no illusions about the State giving a shit about people seeking asylum dying in the desert, but I was surprised, based on my experiences in the few weeks prior, I was genuinely surprised that Border Patrol completely refused to come out at all. And once that became clear, I think our plans really changed, because those of us who were responding that day, our plans for the rain were really to try to build, you know, to have some some shelters but fundamentally to keep people okay until they can get picked up by Border Patrol and brought to an actual place to be warm and dry. And as it became clear that Border Patrol was absolutely not going to come that day–and we had Border Patrol liaisons on the phone with them–and they were being pretty explicit about, "Yeah, we can’t come. It’s raining." Obviously, they can. They have trucks way better than our trucks. And they chose not to at all. And once that became clear, I think our mission really changed quite drastically too, to where, "Okay, we need to get as many people to these shelters and we need to build more shelters, but, fundamentally, we need to get people off the wall, just from a medical perspective." I mean, I was rolling out in the morning with my friend who’s a nurse who has been in a lot of disaster contexts and situations and he was like, "Holy shit, this is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen."
**Bryce ** 29:01
I think he said, "This is [emphasis on "is"] the worst thing I’ve seen."
He said, "This is the worst thing I’ve seen," and equated it to when he was in Haiti after the earthquake. It was where I think those of us out there were…. Once we realized the extent of the situation and thought that we are going to see a lot of children die today. A lot. You know? It was–and I will preface this by saying that, as we know of, nobody did die that day. And I think that was because of generally just choices of people responding on the ground, people taking care of each other who were out there on the wall, and pure luck of breaks in the rain are the reasons for that. I think it was a situation that could have…. A lot of people absolutely could have and would have died. But, you know, before the rain storm, there had been a lot of conversations about, you know, "Should we be driving people to the substation?" which is, you know, where people can be processed by Border Patrol–that has a certain capacity limit–in the town of Sasabe. And there were a lot of these conversations about the legal risks of that and the potential dangers to people seeking asylum because, to keep in mind, like most people, when we’ve been out there for the time any of us had been out of the wall, most people wanted rides to the substation. That was, you know, a big thing people wanted and needed. That’s where they were trying to get to. And there were all these conversations about the potential dangers of that legal risk. And what we encountered on Friday in the rainstorm was a situation where there was simply no choice. I mean, we were able to have some janky makeshift shelters at two camps along the wall that people, some people, did stay in, and we’re trying to treat and warm and dry and triage those people, but there were about 150 people–there was over 300 people out in the wall that day and there was about 150 people who were walking past the last camp the 12 to 15 miles between the camp. And by camp, I mean a very shitty janky tarp structure setup. I don’t mean a real camp. But there are about 150 people walking between the town of Sasabe that like 12 to 15 miles from the camp. Those people were out in the rain with no protection whatsoever. And so after we did some triage and made sure that, you know, the people further back on the wall were at one of these makeshift camps, we made the decision–that was not even really a choice–but just fundamentally that like people are going to die if we don’t drive everyone to the substation. So we made a choice to evacuate everyone on the road in multiple caravans of trucks and shuttles to the substation while calling Border Patrol, telling them what we were doing, making it clear that it wasn’t really a choice, that people people are going to die if they don’t get to get to the station. And we weren’t really sure how they would react to that. They, Border Patrol, did process everybody that was brought to the station. They got buses down from Tucson. And at the same time, they were being pretty hostile with volunteers that were evacuating people there, including a lot of threats of arrest, that people would be arrested and to "Not be doing this." But no volunteers were arrested. And everybody who was evacuated to the substation was processed within the next chunk of hours. And so, yeah, that kind of changes the whole dynamic in a sense. And the other thing that changed the dynamic is just this massive call for mobilization and support. So a lot of people from Tucson and Arivaca came down to support that evening and we were really in a triage situation all day and night of evacuating the most vulnerable and medically unwell people to the Border Patrol station and trying to do our best to make the makeshift camps slightly safer. But fundamentally, they were extremely inadequate shelters for people in the conditions that we were in.
**Inmn ** 33:34
Dang, yeah, that sounds harrowing and just fucking terrible. I I don’t have a real emotional response to it because it’s just…it’s just fucked. But I don’t know, it’s like this thing where it feels like things we’ve talked about on the show before with Sophie and Parker from No More Deaths talking to us about Border Patrol’s kind of…their tendency to create a humanitarian crisis that they then refuse to respond to. But they, at the same time, you know, they claim to…like, they claim all the time to rescue people from the desert. Or, like, framing themselves as these humanitarian actors when they’re the ones who are creating these crises and then completely not responding to them or like…. I don’t know, like, hearing more confirmation of discrimination of medical dispatchers and stuff to respond to calls or to pass that off to Border Patrol who then just doesn’t respond. I don’t know. It’s just terrible. And it’s like… Like Border Patrol’s perfectly capable of responding to these crises, right?
**Bryce ** 35:24
Oh, totally and even in this case with the same…. Because eventually they do get everybody. So if they just…they’re basically making the choice, in addition to like border wall, asylum, all that stuff, even with the current situation as it is, they’re making the choice to leave people out there versus if they just went and got everybody. They say their issue is capacity for processing people. But why not have them wait in Sasabe or near the station or somewhere where they’re not in the middle of the desert? They could just go get everybody, bring them to the station, and have them wait where an ambulance can arrive, where people can easily show up and give them help, where they’re not just…. I mean, there’s vigilantes along the wall, there’s like gun battles. For many days, we were hearing automatic gunfire just south of where people were waiting for asylum. Like it’s very much even outside of the danger of the desert itself. It is not a good place to be waiting. These people are freaking terrified. But the benefit of them being there for Border Patrol is that they’re totally invisible. So they’re just sort of hiding what…a thing that should be happening in public view in front of the Border Patrol station, in the middle of the desert where there’s just extreme danger. If they wanted to, they could bring everybody to a safer place. It would be bad for PR, because then we’d have a bunch of news articles about like, "All these people are like being kept in an open air detention facility," or whatever. But they’re essentially doing the same thing. But because it’s far enough away from the public eye and from their own facilities, it just becomes invisible in a way, the same as, you know, Border Patrol’s nonsense that they get up to with other kinds of people crossing the border with Prevention Through Deterrence, all of that policy; the suffering really is the point. I think they’re hoping that people will tell stories back home that they, "Showed up and things were really bad and we almost died and there was this rainstorm," or whatever, "Don’t do it this way." And the same way that their narratives kind of push things on the quote-unquote "smugglers" as being these predatory people that–which they are–but as being like, "It’s them that’s doing this. They’re the ones that are causing this," and just really outsourcing any blame of anything on to on to other people.
**Inmn ** 38:05
This situation makes me wonder if Border Patrol is making this conscious choice to, where with open air detention facilities they’re–in Arizona at least–are just like, "Oh, we don’t want to deal with that." or, "We don’t want to deal with the PR. We just don’t want to deal with it so we’re gonna do this other thing to push people further out or to really invisiblize it," like you’re talking about? I mean, that seems like a very Border Patrol thing to do. Which is horrible to laugh about but…. I guess you talked a little bit about Border Patrol’s responses to what’s going on, or to interventions that people are taking, and I’m just wondering if there’s any more, anything more to say about how Border Patrol is reacting to how people are intervening in the situation?
**Ember ** 39:09
There’s been significant threats of arrest to people as we’ve continued to evacuate people to the substation, and to people that are just walking to the makeshift camps. There have been continual threats of arrest. Some volunteers had their IDs taken and said they were coming back for them to arrest them. Fundamentally, we feel extremely strongly that, obviously, we would be doing it even if it wasn’t legal because it’s the right thing to do, because we’re not going to…we’re going to do what we can to keep people from dying. But fundamentally, we feel very strongly that it is completely legal what we’re doing and we will not back down from threats from Border Patrol and have been pretty explicit with them about that,
**Bryce ** 40:00
Yeah. Also, after one of those threats of arrest, they did go up to the further camp, which usually is a lot of women and children, and they picked up just a few people. They could have picked up way more. They just picked up a few people and said, "Wait in three lines. We’re coming back for the rest." The people all–it was, I think, like, maybe 100 people or so–they all waited in lines. Border Patrol left and then just never came back. And so people ended up standing in lines for hours, thinking that they were going to miss their place in line or mess up if they left the lines. And [it was] just this really cruel display of–and this is right after we got some media attention for the thing that happened during the rain, so maybe [Border Patrol was] punishing them for what we were up to or, you know, who knows how those people think? But that was one thing that we saw. Another thing is, we’ve actually been caught by Border Patrol while transporting people. And they stopped and essentially thanked us. So there’s, in addition to threats of arrest, we’ve also gotten that, because, I mean, if you’re a Border Patrol agent, and you have an…you believe your own bullshit about like, "You’re a humanitarian," and all these things, or whatever, then by those standards, hypothetically, we were actually doing your job and you should be thankful for what we’re up to by moving people. And this one agent that we’ve run into a few different times has definitely had that attitude, which is…. Yeah, I don’t know whether…. I don’t even know how to think about that. But it’s made it so that it’s given us a little bit more confidence in what we’re doing, but also has set up a weird thought of like, "Oh shit. At what point are they going to stop picking people up because they think we’re gonna do it? At what point are we really just unpaid fucking Border Patrol agents?" And so I think there’s a big…. And even just our role in the camps and all this stuff, like, how much of what we’re actually doing to save lives is playing into the wants and needs of the Border Patrol? And so trying to figure out ways to–we have been talking a lot internally about ways to ways to push back on that and sort of change tactics of what we’re doing in order to…in order to pressure them to be doing the right thing, rather than this unsustainable thing in which we’re clothing, feeding, housing, and triaging hundreds of people a day, which is just like wildly unsustainable.
**Inmn ** 43:01
I mean, it seems like this thing that’s become very wildly unsustainable. And I know that y’all have recently put out this big call for like, what? For like things needing to be different? Pr like, just like broader kind of community support? Just wondering if y’all wanted to talk about that a little bit?
**Ember ** 43:28
Yeah. The calls for support really started to come out of, you know, conversations after a few weeks of folks in our group responding really heavily to the situation and realizing that we needed way more support. And also, I mean, for one, supportive people autonomously responding to the situation outside of our organization, and also more like visiblization what’s going on because it was very invisible. There’s a few news stories about things going on in other parts of the Borderlands, similar situations, or even worse situations, but really not the attention that the extent of the situation demanded. So those calls for support went out before the rain, but the rain day really amplified it. A lot of people from larger networks in the area came out that night. And it led to huge…way more numbers of people getting involved. And part of it is us really trying to encourage a non–outside of our organization–an autonomous response from more people regionally to the situation that can obviously look a lot of different ways and I don’t think any of us presume to know what the best strategy or way to go about this is, but that, you know, making it more visible and having more people being involved is is an important and good thing. And I will add to that, this is obviously a situation going on throughout the Borderlands. But I think we’re in a unique position because of where we are, because of our proximity to Tucson because of networks of mutual aid and support that exists in these areas, because of the proliferation of aid groups that exist in these areas, and just generally, yeah, large networks of individuals that are down to support with something like this. I think there’s a potential for us to really build a lot of mobilization and support here that hopefully can also help spread and support other places where people are trying to respond to the crisis in their areas, some of which, as Bryce was talking about are, are significantly worse than what’s happening here. But it obviously also breeds enormous questions about like, what are we actually doing? What is our role here? And, yeah, and what are we doing? And I don’t think, you know, anyone presumes to know the answers to all questions.
**Inmn ** 46:06
Yeah, I think in terms of what the role of aid groups is…. Just just wanting to bring up this like, kind of weird, maybe complexity of like, I don’t know, it sounds, it sounds really, it sounds really weird to have to put yourself in the position of helping people get to Border Patrol or like helping people get to situations that are a potential open air detention facility or a detention facility that’s as hellish as it is out in the desert. But like, I don’t know, that…. It seems like a real…it seems a real mindfuck. And I don’t know, this isn’t really a question, just a thought.
**Bryce ** 46:58
It’s fucked up.
**Inmn ** 47:01
Yeah. Yeah. I was…we talked a little off air about this, but so there has been a little bit of media attention and I know that y’all have not been exactly happy about the media, like what large media sources are saying about what’s happening? I was wondering if y’all wanted to talk about what kind of media myths or narratives you see going around that don’t reflect what’s happening?
**Ember ** 47:44
Yeah, and I think on a personal level, just those of us that were out Friday that had been out for weeks before, you know, there have been a lot of conversations about the role of media and our general hesitation with media with most of our other work. But it just became clear that there had to be a significant push for a lot more media outrage about what was going on and about what happened that rainy day, because it was just a question of that this is just going to continue to happen and we need to visibilize this more. There was a journalist, a local journalist, who was out, who came out during the rainstorm and wrote a solid story about what was happening, but the larger mainstream media attention to it has been pretty horrific. I’ll say the New York Times came out here a few days ago and wrote a disgusting propaganda piece that basically…it was a piece about how, you know, hordes of people are coming into the country and Border Patrol is overwhelmed and doing everything they can and trying to rescue as many people as they can. But they’re so overwhelmed. It felt very much like the liberal media version of like an "invasion of the country," and Border Patrol being overwhelmed. I mean, I think it’s really scary that those are the…are the stories that are taking shape in the more kind of centrist or liberal mainstream media with no context of why people are coming here, no context of why people are being pushed out into the remote areas of the desert, no context about how much money Border Patrol has, and their absolute refusal to do their job in this case, which is to process people that are seeking asylum. None of that context. And instead, a story that literally is about, you know, Border Patrol just like trying to do everything they can to save these people being manipulated by smugglers. And it was also in the New York Times, was next to an article about the–kind of fear mongering–about a large migrant caravan that’s coming up through Mexico right now. And it just felt very much part of this media narrative that is really just playing into the worst fascist impulses. So, yeah, it was a pretty horrific article.
**Bryce ** 50:20
Yeah. And in addition to that, I mean, the New York Times article, in addition to other articles that ended up talking about the rainstorm and some of what we’ve been dealing with, we’re really tucked into a different story about the record number of migrant apprehensions. It seems like all these news media outlets were just sort of waiting for those numbers to get released and then they kind of had these pre-written articles and anything about the humanitarian disaster was just sort of tucked into that, which that narrative is always like, "There’s too many people at the border. Border Patrol is overwhelmed," or they’re not really interested in any other narrative whatsoever. And, which is just really bizarre, because, I mean, when a journalist comes out and we talk to them, the first thing we explain is [that narrative] is so much the opposite to what we actually see on the ground. Like, the migrant apprehension data is inflated because there’s now, rather than people seeking asylum at a port of entry, they’re coming through irregularly where that gets put in as a Border Patrol migrant apprehension. So it seems like numbers-wise that there’s some huge surge of, you know, the numbers are just off the charts and they’ve "never seen anything like this before." But these people actually should be under an entirely different system altogether, coming through a port of entry and, in which case, the migrant apprehensions would probably not change that much at all. And so there’s this narrative that gets pushed forth where you look at this increase in numbers, which is totally fake, and then you get to show Border Patrol in a place where we’ve been going out and just seeing…dealing with the most horrific medical emergencies every single day and watching Border Patrol do nothing to stop it and also [Border Patrol is] causing the situation in the first place, and it shows them, like…rescuing people. I think the New York Times article specifically said like, you know, under the caption for one of the pictures, it was like, "Border Patrol’s leaves with a group of people and rushes off to go rescue some more people," or something like that, which as you’re saying before, it’s like, they cause a problem and then give themselves credit for rescues, which is just not…is just upsetting and false and just like, insulting on a human level, you know?
**Inmn ** 52:57
Yeah. Yeah, they’re really…they’re quite…they’re quite adept at what they do, which is creating humanitarian crises that they then pretend to respond to so that everyone thinks that they’re humanitarian actors. Meanwhile, they’re sitting on their asses doing nothing.
**Ember ** 53:25
Well, I mean, literally. When we were evacuating people to the station that day, they were sitting on their asses doing nothing, not wanting to get up. "Well, there was a massive rainstorm," and asking us, you know, like, "How do you know these people are cold?" as a question.
**Bryce ** 53:42
**Ember ** 53:43
That was a question. I was literally asked. And this was with a group of like, mostly children who had been out in the freezing rain and were in severe danger of hypothermia, and they [Border Patrol] literally were like, "How do you know these people are cold?"
**Bryce ** 54:00
And then since we started building shelters, they would ask, "Oh, do they have shelter?" using our little like, half-assed, last-ditch effort to fucking have people not die against us or as an excuse to not go pick people up because they have, quote-unquote, "shelter?" You know, I mean, it’s just horrific. And Ember, do we have permission to say that correction thing?
**Ember ** 54:26
Oh, yeah, I think we should say it. I mean, yeah.
**Inmn ** 54:31
I’m so curious about what’s going to be said.
**Bryce ** 54:32
So, the New York Times, their original article that they published, so we all sat together and read it together and we’re like, "Oh!" we’re all yelling like, "What the fuck? That’s bullshit. Like, what the fuck are you talking about? Like, that’s totally…" and we get to the end and see that they have a paragraph saying, "Last friday, Border Patrol had to evacuate 300 people during this rainstorm that almost caused all these deaths," or whatever. And we were just like…I almost threw the computer across the room. It was like, you know, we expected an awful narrative but to have not just a lie but the literal opposite of what happened, like the people that caused the problem…. You know, because it would have been messed up no matter what it was on that day, but we expected, stupidly, Border Patrol to show up in the same way that they had been. And so by not showing up, they actually caused a potential mass casualty incident. So to give them credit for averting something that just outside of anything, any context, just was going to happen, and Border Patrol "rescued" people…and not that some random scrappy punks from Tucson wandered down into the desert and under threat of arrests drove a bunch of people to the Border Patrol station was just like…like, I don’t even have words for…. Like, what do you even fucking do with that? Like? Yeah, it’s…it was, so we…one of our media people forced them to make a correction. And they quickly did. They didn’t fix the rest of the heinous fucking article, but they at least changed that, which they also seem to credit it to Border Patrol. But our person was there during their [NYT’s] interview with Border Patrol, and at no point did Border Patrol claim to have rescued anybody on that day. So this was just New York Times on their own just coming up with some bullshit out of thin fucking air.
**Ember ** 56:37
And then when they corrected it, they never…there’s no note in the article that says a previous version was…had this lie in it and it was corrected. But I will also add that the article on the website was also next to an ad for Exxon Mobil and the other articles next to it were defending the genocide of Palestinian kids because IDF spokesperson says "It’s justified." So we also obviously shouldn’t be, you know, shouldn’t be surprised.
**Inmn ** 57:06
Yeah. I mean, you know, it’s like, we see the same thing over and over and over again, of governments causing horrifying things to happen and then blaming it on some shadowy thing and then taking credit for fixing it. Or making it worse. Wow, yeah, that’s fucked up. Like fucking shame. Shame on the New York Times. I know this is not a new thing for anyone to hear, but fucking shame on y’all. Yeah, it’s upsetting. It’s beyond upsetting. Well, I, you know, I want to end on a positive note. What’s some like…what’s some inspiring shit? Because also, this is…this is like, I don’t know, it’s…I feel like it’s easy to get wrapped into this, the horrifying reality of like, "Oh, we’re just doing Border Patrol’s job for them." Or, like, "How sustainable is this?" But y’all I’ve been doing…like, people have been doing some truly inspiring shit and I think that’s like really worth reflecting on and y’all will continue to do really amazing things to respond to these horrifying things.
**Bryce ** 58:42
But also, just right afterwards, the huge community mobilization that happened and continues to happen has just been not surprising but just really amazing like knowing that in some situations like this people can just…the Tucson community will just throw down so hard and so quickly for some shit is just… like I think brought us all to tears the next day when we went down to collect donations and stuff.
**Inmn ** 1:00:13
Yeah, the supply drives have been wild. Like that’s… Yeah, I don’t know. Ember, you got any inspiring shit to go out on?
**Ember ** 1:00:25
I mean, everything Bryce said. And just like, I mean, the night with the rainstorm, where it’s like, what we really realized we needed at a point is just like, people are building tarp structures, people are taking care of each other, but what we really needed at a certain point was just more trucks to drive people and evacuate people to the substation. And we would just get, kind of, convoy after convoy, late in the evening and at night of friends or people we don’t even know, through our networks, coming down. And it was really fucked up because it wasn’t Border Patrol, who we needed to fucking pick people up. But to just see so many people come out on really last minute notice and be able to help with evacuating lots of people, what we needed was those vehicles and more and more people. And people really showed up and continue to show up. And it’s the same thing people are doing all over the country in response to this, you know, from cities where people are mobilizing to support asylum seekers that are, you know, just being dropped off in random cities, and to just like other places along the border where people are responding to this at its inception point at the wall. Like, it’s really…. Yeah, the amount of mobilization is pretty awesome, just people like trying to take care of each other on all levels.
**Inmn ** 1:01:52
Are there any things you want to say before we…before we break? Any, you know, broader call things people who are listening hundreds or thousands of miles away can do?
**Ember ** 1:02:12
I think, you know, on a small scale people are gonna do what they can in the places they are, but on a larger scale, it’s like…a lot of these media narratives, a lot of the right-wing push, all of that is really going to continue to grow and push for harsher, gnarlier border policies. And I think that really the thing that can push back against that is people mobilizing together and organizing against it. And I do think there is power for…or potential for, with enough, you know, people, power for things to actually not get gnarlier but, you know, go in the other direction. And I think we really have to keep that in mind that we can’t just submit to the idea that, you know, the right-wing and the mainstream news outlets are just gonna push this narrative and policies are gonna get stricter and stricter. Like, we have power to push back against that as people everywhere, mobilizing and organizing together.
**Inmn ** 1:03:18
Great. Well, I mean, you know, not great, but…shit. Great that people are doing great things in response. I’m a little emotionally dead end right now because this…because everything’s just really fucked. Thanks, you all so much for coming on today and talking about what’s going on. And, you know, if anyone in the Arizona area wants to donate 4×4 trucks, donate your 4×4 truck.
**Ember ** 1:03:58
It will die a glorious death.
**Bryce ** 1:04:03
Yeah, a couple of trucks have already died on the border wall roads. So, trucks are very needed.
**Ember ** 1:04:11
I will add too, obviously, we preface it that we’re just talking about this one area, but maybe we could link in the show notes to just some of the other struggles of other groups and communities, you know, pushing back and mobilizing for similar shit.
**Inmn ** 1:04:28
**Bryce ** 1:04:30
I mean, yeah, it’s all over too. I mean, the stuff in California has gotten a lot of coverage. But also in Texas this stuff is happening just as much. So it’s really like border wide. And it’s somehow managed to be pretty invisible or co-opted into other narratives. But yeah, pushing…pushing back on that I think is super important.
**Inmn ** 1:04:52
Cool. Well, thanks y’all for coming on today. Hope you get some rest.
**Bryce ** 1:05:02
Yeah, thank you.
**Inmn ** 1:05:07
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this show, then do what you can to fight border militarization and do what you can to support asylum seekers in your city. Or go out and respond. If you’re near a place where similar things like what’s happening in Arizona and Sasabe are happening, then go out and get involved, see what you can do to help. And also, if you like the show, you can support it. You can support the show by liking, subscribing, following, and whatever…. These words are…. I’m clearly actually detached from how the algorithm works. And you can also just tell people about the show. It’s one of the better ways to support it and one of, just one of the best ways that people hear about the show. You can also support Live Like the World is Dying by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness is a radical publishing collective. We put out books, zines, and other podcasts, obviously. And you can support Strangers by buying books. You can support Strangers by listening to our other podcasts, like my other podcast, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, or our other podcast, The Spectacle, which was formerly the Anarcho Geek Power Hour. You can also support Strangers by supporting us on Patreon. If you support us on Patreon, for $10 a month, then we’ll mail you a cool zine every month, anywhere in the world. And you can subscribe to our Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And if you support us at $20 a month, then we will give you a really awesome thank you at the end of all of our podcasts, which are the names that you usually hear. And what I think is really cool about the acknowledgments tier of our Patreon is that you can put whatever! You know you can put whatever name you want there and we will thank and acknowledge it. So, you know, come up with a cool name or a cool organization that you want people to about like six times a month and we’ll thank it. We will thank those things. And speaking of which, we would like to thank Patolli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixter, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, Theo, Hunter, S.J., Paige, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the Dog. Thanks y’all so much for all of your support and making this show and so many other shows possible. And you know, to let people know, our Patreon goes to support, you know, broader things that Strangers does, but it also goes to support people who helped create the show. We pay our audio editor and our transcriptionist and maybe one day we’ll be able to pay guests or hosts. But currently…currently, we can’t do that. But yeah, anyways, I hope that everyone’s doing as well as they can with everything that’s going on. And we will see you next time. Bye.
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