It didn’t have to happen. But, tragically, it did. And most likely, it may not be the last time. On March 2, 12 people were killed instantly when the SUV they traveled in was hit broadside by a tractor-trailer truck on a California highway. The accident happened on the outskirts of Holtville, about 40 miles west of the Arizona border and 12 miles from the border with Mexico.
Thirteen people died — one of the travelers succumbed later from injuries. The majority of those killed were from Mexico, while others were from Guatemala. The ages of the dead ranged from 20 to 55, with the youngest injured being 15 years old.
A SUV normally seats a maximum of seven people but this SUV carried an astounding 25 people! The main question is not how this happened but why?
News reports stated that it is not unusual for smugglers to be paid tens of thousands of dollars to transport workers — forced to leave their homelands due to economic hardship and political repression — across the border. One of the dead was a young Guatemalan woman hoping to go to college.
But this accident is not an isolated incident. It just made the major news due to the shocking loss of life. Car accidents are reportedly commonplace at this border crossing near the Imperial Valley. This is a rich California agricultural area where thousands of migrants work for low wages, under terrible working conditions, picking lettuce, leafy greens and melons.
Many, many im/migrants continue to try to cross into the U.S., seeking survival. According to the Oct. 14 Texas Tribune, during the fiscal year of 2020 that ended Sept. 30, the notorious U.S. Border Patrol apprehended over 400,000 people at the southwest border of the U.S. and Mexico. Close to 58,000 additional Latinx people were turned away at points of entry there.
Along the Laredo, Texas, border, there was an increase in the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended, from 2,521 in 2019 to 2,641 in 2020, a 5% jump. (tinyurl.com/k73myj9c) Thousands of migrants and their children have been detained for months in the U.S. under unsanitary, inhumane conditions. The Washington Post reports that the number of detained migrant children has tripled over the past two weeks to 3,250. (March 8, 2020)
So the tragic car accident near Holtville was not an isolated incident. As a 2018 statement by Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere (FIRE) said: “To fight for im/migrants, we must get rid of ICE entirely. It means dismantling concentration camps for immigrants and tearing down any racist border wall. Fighting for refugees means understanding that many im/migrants are fleeing conditions at home created by the U.S. And we must understand the global character of this crisis.
“The root cause of migration in this age is imperialism, the highest stage of capitalist development. Whether through wars and military strikes in the Middle East, far-right coups in Honduras in 2009 and Brazil in 2016, or draining countries’ wealth so they are unable to respond to natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti, imperialism creates the conditions that im/migrants and refugees are fleeing.” (tinyurl.com/5vjetu9x)
If the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border or the racist Border Patrol that protects it did not exist, 25 people would not have made a choice to be packed into an SUV and make that dangerous journey.
No matter who occupies the White House, U.S. immigration policy will not fundamentally change as long as U.S. imperialism exists to superexploit the peoples of the world and their resources.
This murderous system took the lives of those who died on a California highway on March 2 — and is taking the lives of thousands more. Open the borders!