Christina Spach, Program Manager
My father and I traveled cross country last week, taking our time to explore places along the way from California to Georgia. Due to impeccable timing, a historic heat wave had hit the Southwest, causing relentless high temperatures peaking over 100 degrees. By the second day, we wandered off Interstate 10 to take a dip in the Rio Grande. The loop took us from Southeast New Mexico to Northwest Texas, through unforgiving desert, agriculture fields, dry arroyos, and four border patrol road blocks. Road blocks require ALL vehicles to stop for inspection, and I quickly realized that our white skin worked in our favor when it came to the level of questioning my dad and I would receive.
As you approach a border patrol road block, there are more than a dozen cameras pointed at the entrance. Once stopped, a border patrol agent asks how many people are traveling in your car (implying that you may be hiding someone) and if you’re a U.S. citizen. For my dad and I, that was the first time anyone had ever asked if we were legal citizens and, honestly, the words didn’t even register for me.
I followed this same exact route in 2009 when I moved out to Los Angeles, and I don’t recall a single inspection. Passing through these border patrol road blocks makes even the most innocent person feel guilty and violated. It’s terrifying for the white family. I can’t imagine how it must be for a person of color.
That night, I fell asleep to a Statue of Liberty documentary. How appalling that, in the past, we welcomed our immigrants with Lady Liberty and now it’s with intimidating security agents and a series of cameras in your face. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Have we turned into a country that treats people like criminals until proven innocent? Will there be a time when we’re all required to carry a passport or social security card when just traveling domestically?
When and how will we choose to push back?