Distant Figures Versus Human Faces / by Karie Luidens

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Last night the White House sent yet another e-newsletter promoting the narrative of border crossers as dangerous. “THIS IS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY,” declares their video of the day. The screenshot links to the White House’s Twitter page, where they’ve uploaded the 14-second clip.

In it, people can be seen climbing through and over the short vehicle barrier that divides the United States from Mexico in New Mexico’s remote Bootheel region. Because the footage was taken at night, it has the otherworldly quality of all images that rely on heat signatures rather than light. The images are set to music straight out of a political thriller or action flick—a pounding beat accelerates into a scary screech.

The accompanying text in both the email and the Tweet states that the footage is from January 16, 2019: “247 illegal migrants rush the U.S. border in New Mexico.”

I am so tired of the overblown descriptions employed by Fox News, the White House, and everyone else who’s more interested in fearmongering than accurately depicting what’s going on at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The people in this night vision footage, like the hundreds of other families from Central America who have crossed in large groups over the last six months, are not “rushing the border.” They’re walking across in the cold of night with children in their arms and deliberately, peacefully turning themselves in to the nearest Border Patrol agents. They’re following agents’ instructions in order to begin the legal process of applying for asylum.

I mean “legal process” in both senses. It is a process that unfolds in our complex legal system. It is also a process which these people have a legal right to access.

So here’s my video of the day. Instead of blurry black-and-white shots of distant figures, whose ghostly forms take on the threatening character of predators in a horror movie… this footage from the Albuquerque Journal shows a similar group of border crossers for who they are: humans. Humans who are more frightened than frightening. Humans who don’t actually come with pulse-pounding background music. Humans who are huddled together, holding hands. They’re stressed, on edge, but hopeful that this moment when they’ve crossed into the U.S. could be a turning point in their difficult lives.

Families seeking asylum wait for U.S. Border Patrol agents at the United States border with Mexico on Monday, Feb 4, 2019.