Public Witness

Borderlands, Barriers and Protecting One Another

Allison Tanner

July 8, 2022

Pilgrimage bus entering a checkpoint as we left the borderland of Calexico

While on my recent pilgrimage to bear witness to the harms of detention centers in California, I was deeply impacted by my time in the borderland of Calexico. We traveled to Imperial Regional Detention Facility in the Imperial Valley, a facility that is intentionally isolated and difficult to access. During the three hour drive from San Diego, we passed through desert lands along the US/Mexico border. The border wall was in full view, and there were fortified checkpoints for everyone leaving the area. Customs and Border Patrol’s control over this area meant they could stop us and detain anyone on the bus they deemed “suspicious.” The power of CBP to induce terror among our sojourners, all of whom had their proper paperwork with them, was palpable. We practiced community care, offered prayers, and thankfully passed through this area without incident.

Borderlands are notorious for instilling terror and encountering violence. While traveling through Calexico, I was reminded of my time in Palestine, and the similarities of living in proximity to walls of government control and exclusion. While such barriers are purportedly constructed for security, they inevitably end up being places that practice great harm. Once any group deems another group as unworthy of existence in certain places, they can rationalize all kinds of atrocities. The recent discovery of the horrific deaths of 53 people found in a truck in San Antonio is testimony to the harsh realities taking place in borderland communities.

In light of the pain inflicted and endured in the borderlands, I continue to work for a world without walls of exclusion, exploitation and expulsion. The Bay Area World Without Walls Coalition, which I convene, endorses this powerful Urgent Letter to the international community connecting the harms of borderlands from the U.S. to Palestine to Europe and beyond. We live in an era in which walls of injustice are expanding, and we are called to practice community care, join in struggles for justice and liberation, and together create better futures for our world. Below are experts from this Urgent Letter worth reflecting upon:

It is urgent that we unite, listen to the demands of the oppressed and “the others”, organize ourselves, raise our voices and redouble our efforts to overcome the systems of oppression that are ever more killing.

Together we can prevail.

Today it is crucial we stand together for a World without Walls and:

  • For an end to the racist anti-migration policies and militarization of borders that criminalize and kill migrants.
  • For an end to all military and security relations with Israel and its corporations that test their weapons and methods on Palestinians to then export them as battle-tested around the globe.
  • For an end to the systems of structural racism and supremacy, including Israel’s 21st century version of settler colonialism enabled by a vicious system of apartheid and for a UN investigation into Israeli apartheid and the re-activation of the UN mechanisms to fight apartheid.
  • For a truly democratic, just and ecological world.

While some of these specific calls to action highlight Palestinian struggles against the Israeli government, we must also address the atrocities enacted by our own government and its systems of racism, anti-migrant policies and militarization. Uniting with peoples across the globe who decry borderland crimes against humanity, let us join together in working for a world without walls.

Praying for peace, working for justice,

Pastor Allison