The Siege of the Autonomous Migrant Shelter in Tijuana

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Report from the Benito Juarez warehouse, where people have been resisting an eviction by riot police now for several days. For more updates, go to Commotion.World

The border is not just a wall. It is not just a line on a map. It’s not any particular physical location. It is a power structure, a system of control. The border is everywhere that people live in fear of deportation, everywhere migrants are denied the rights accorded to citizens, everywhere human beings are segregated into included and excluded.

The border does not divide one world from another. There is only one world, and the border is tearing it apart.

— Crimethinc. No Wall They Can Build

The weapons and infrastructure being deployed against asylum-seekers today will be deployed against all climate refugees in the future, including those within U.S. borders. When wildfires worsen in northern California, when hurricanes intensify in Florida and displace millions, when rising waters flood New York City, the very same tactics and infrastructure will be deployed against us, justified by the same logic of exclusion and emergency. Capitalism itself is the crisis destroying humanity and the planet, and climate migration is our shared future.

— Commotion.world, “The Caravan is Commotion”

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In the pre-dawn morning of December 29, 2018, 200 Mexican federal police attempted to evict migrants living in a warehouse in Tijuana. The warehouse, known as “Contra Viento y Marea” (formerly Benito Juarez) is currently the makeshift home to about 200 migrants who came to Tijuana with the caravan that originated in Honduras in October of 2018. The Mexican government is determine to evict the warehouse and relocate its inhabitants to el Baretal, an internment camp the government has set up 14 miles away from the border.

The residents of Benito Juarez refused to be pushed around. Upon learning that the police were preparing to evict them, a voice vote was taken and a collective decision was reached to resist the eviction. People chained themselves to the inside of the doors, and issued a list of demands to the police by sliding a note beneath the doors. Perhaps the police were unprepared for such defiance, perhaps the presence of international accomplices standing outside with their cameras convinced them that the eviction would not be accomplished with the required degree of secrecy. Likely, a combination of both factors led the cops to retreat as the sun rose.

This inspiring act of collective self-defense reflects the fact that the warehouse at Benito Juarez, unlike the internment camp at el Baretal, is a self-organized space. In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed dances, collective security teams performing conflict resolution, self-organized care for each other and living space, and even preparations for an upcoming art show — all autonomous initiatives by people who have fled intolerable conditions and traversed thousands of miles to land in a warehouse. In the face of misery, in the face of a bureaucracy that would make Kafka set down his pen and throw a brick, the people in Benito Juarez have shown us that life can fill a warehouse with passion, dignity, and care.

“the very existence of a self-organized migrant camp poses a threat to the border, because such autonomous organizing poses a threat to the logic of the states that borders purport to protect.”

And naturally, this is intolerable to the Mexican state. On January 4, 2019, Federales returned to the warehouse with hundreds of officers in riot gear and surrounded the warehouse, denying those inside access to food, water and sanitation. Today, January 7, the sun rises on the fourth day of the siege, as the migrants and their friends inside refuse to surrender the life they have built together. Cops are prepared to beat and gas people in the name of protecting their “health and safety.” It’s the same script, from Occupy to the ZAD to Standing Rock, and now to the border: whenever people organize themselves autonomously, the police suddenly take an interest in beating people up for the sake of their health. Similarly, in response to the news that two children have died as a result of their captivity by the Border Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security issues a statement reminding migrants of how perilous a journey they have undertaken. No shit. And yet, these people had survived against all odds until they encountered the monstrosity of U.S. border enforcement.

In fact, the very existence of a self-organized migrant camp poses a threat to the border, because such autonomous organizing poses a threat to the logic of the states that borders purport to protect. The logic of the state apparatus and the police is shrouded in the myth that people need external forces to order their lives. However, When people assert their collective desire to care for themselves without and against the police and the apparatus of state security, they show the world how fabricated this myth really is. In Benito Juarez, the migrants are destituting government, organizing their lives in a way that makes the state-sanctioned institution for managing migration irrelevant.

In Benito Juarez, the migrants are destituting government, organizing their lives in a way that makes the state-sanctioned institution for managing migration irrelevant.

Meanwhile, on the playa, people have rejected “the List” and its bureaucratic restrictions on the flow of bodies by simply attempting to swim around or jump over the wall. On New Year’s Eve, they were met, predictably, with the organized cruelty of the Border Patrol. The border is not a physical wall. It is a social relation between those who recognize that the earth is the common inheritance of all living beings and those who have made themselves into weapons of the powerful who attempt to hide this basic fact. Those employed by the Border Patrol are likely a sad combination of people “just doing their jobs” and those with a genuine passion for terrorizing the vulnerable. Without this population committed to defend it, the border would be just another hunk of industrially produced garbage, easily climbed over, dug under, or simply busted open. Like all cops, they have to suppress their capacity for empathy with those on the wrong end of their weapons in order to serve the interests of politicians and other liars.

The current conflict at the border is only the beginning. It’s an axiom of governing logic that what is applied at the peripheries will eventually move to the center. The logic of exclusion, the list, the militarization, the playing of groups off one another — each of these elements (will) form the script of how the ever growing numbers of displaced people are managed. Understanding this is the key to engaging with migrants from a perspective beyond mere charity. When we can look into the eyes of a group of teenagers who have lost their entire families and refuse to leave each other’s side for any reason, and see their present as our future and the future of our loved ones, we can understand the stakes of this struggle. First they locked out the asylum seekers…

In this context, it is important that solidarity actions focus on defending and spreading self-organized spaces like the Benito Juarez warehouse. Just as the actions of the state at the border today prefigure their management of the crises to come, so too must our resistance prefigure autonomous organizing and solidarity with those who refuse to be interned.

— Some international intercommunal accomplices in the struggle against the border


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