Historic Riverside Church in New York City was the location for the send-off on Oct. 10 of the “National Caravan in Solidarity with the Children and Families at the Mexico and Texas Borders.” The enthusiastic crowd of nearly 100 supporters cheered on caravan organizers and participants, jumping to their feet several times during the program.
The Solidarity Caravan is being organized by immigrant rights, faith-based and other community, social justice and progressive activists, and labor unionists. Their school bus is traveling to 12 cities on its way to the militarized border town of McAllen, Texas. As of Oct. 13, the caravan had stopped in Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington; Durham, N.C.; and Atlanta.
The caravan received a warm welcome at its first stop in south Philadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 11, at a breakfast and discussion organized by Juntos, a Latino/a immigrant rights community organization. Relatives of undocumented immigrants currently facing deportation were among the speakers. Philadelphia area activists hopped aboard the caravan bus for a brief solidarity action prior to its departure.
A press release issued on Oct. 13 by caravan coordinator Teresa Gutierrez and Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, announced that on Oct. 14 there will be a meeting in Jackson, Miss., with civil rights activists to discuss the shared struggle for human rights for migrants, immigrants and all oppressed people in the U.S. There will also be a memorial service dedicated to the city’s late mayor, Chokwe Lumumba, an internationally known human rights leader.
On Oct. 15, the caravan will leave for Houston, and then continue on to San Antonio the next day. Stops are also planned for other cities in the state: Laredo, Brownsville, and finally, McAllen. There, the caravan will join with U.S., Mexican and Central American activists from human rights, faith-based and social justice organizations to protest the increasing militarization of the border and the enormous human cost of migration.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called in the National Guard, so there are now military personnel staffing checkpoints 100 miles from the border.
A major goal of the caravan is to redefine the upsurge of Mexican and Central American migrants from being simply a humanitarian crisis to its reality as an unprecedented Central American refugee crisis, which this year alone has led to the detention at the border of more than 65,000 unaccompanied children and 60,000 families. It will raise awareness of and mobilize against federal and local governments’ inhumane measures in dealing with the refugee crisis and the broken immigration system.
This is the worst refugee crisis in the U.S. in more than 30 years, say caravan organizers, with the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of children and families from their homes. They are fleeing organized crime, paramilitary violence and destruction of their local economies due to the imposition of free trade agreements under the auspices of the U.S. government.
Betsey Piette contributed to this article.