It’s difficult to believe that just one image of a baby who has drowned can make us understand that the migration crisis of refugees is a global problem. As much as one tries to be in support from one side of the world to another, even knowing that crossing the Sonoran desert to get to the US can be as dangerous as crossing seas to get to Europe, I cannot compare my own experience of walking that desert to what happened to that little one and their family.
I can’t compare it because I’m still alive. Even though I suffered hunger, thirst, exhaustion and danger, today I’m still alive and I’m here to write about it. I can’t imagine what was the situation of that family in their country. But I’ve seen something that may possibly have similarities.
I remember being in Sasabe, Sonora on a little ranch right next to the border with Arizona. Hundreds of people were there getting ourselves ready to walk one of the most dangerous trajectories in the world.
They had no idea of the danger or the risks. Their innocence didn’t allow that.
I remember people of every age, but the image that I can’t erase is the children. I remember being worried, full of nerves and uncertainty thinking about what I was about to embark on and the possible consequences. But I remember seeing the children on this tiny ranch in the desert: running and playing without a worry in the world – without having any understanding of where they were, where they were going or any reason why they had to. Even less, they had no idea of the danger or the risks. Their innocence didn’t allow that.
That’s how I imagine the little one from Syria must have been, without any concept of their family’s reality or their situation. They didn’t know their country was pounded by war or that their family had no place in their own land. Didn’t know that this trip wasn’t for recreation but for survival and, that in this act of survival, they were putting their own lives on the line.
To see a dead body in the desert or on the shore of a beach – and just to have the concept that this is the reality of migration won’t take us anywhere. What we’re seeing is only the tip of the iceberg. That child and their family wouldn’t have had to risk their lives had their country not been tossed into a bloody war whose real ends were the control of the resources there. Historically, indigenous people and people of color have been abused, forced to leave their land to search for something better. To seek refuge from the iron first of colonialism and capital. In a global system that is designed to exterminate and displace marginalized communities. The reality is that we can’t say that the governments have failed these people for closing their borders or refusing them refuge. The sad reality is that this system is working as it’s intended to. That is, it was never designed to help or benefit the refugees.
For me, there are times when its hard to speak about my own experience. I don’t know if it’s shame or trauma but like I opened, here I am, alive, and as a result, incomparable.
It’s late to do something for that baby or its family. And it’s hard to believe that humanity can still have hope to change and be better.
My hands tremble to write that because it’s too difficult to process. The only thing I hope is that this can become a call to conscience, a call for global solidarity among migrant communities the world over.
At a time where the US is filled with such hate toward our part of the migrant community, to recognize that migration is a global problem, to recognize that migration has its roots in war and colonialism may be the first step. The second is not to wait for the governments who designed these systems of oppression to be the ones who solve them, but to take action ourselves.
Fernando Lopez is an organizer with the Congreso de Jornaleros in New Orleans. He originally came to the US in 2009.