Do Human Rights exist in the Borders?

Human rights don't exist when you're crossing the border because when you’re crossing you are not seen as a human being. You are seen as the stereotype from the country where you’re from: terrorist, drug dealer, rapist, thief, you are seen as a “bad hombre”. This past weekend I went to a Conference in Minneapolis and attended a session given by three NMSU professors, all three of them were foreigners and talked about the violence, fear and the violation of human rights that the borders represent. I have been crossing the border since I’ve been 6 years old, and I never really thought about how the crossing of the border was so emotionally tiring and stressful until this point when I heard their experiences.

You are in line waiting for your turn to pass with an officer, and since that moment you feel nervous. “Where are you coming from?” “How long were you there?” “Why did you go?” “Where did you stay?” “Do you have any food with you?” “Why are you coming here” “How long will you stay?” “Where are you going?” those are just of the some of the questions that an immigration officer asks once your turn to cross comes.   They seem like pretty simple questions, pretty easy to answer, right? Well, now that I am writing them I realize they really sound simple, but these questions are asked in such a harsh way, in a way in which they make you doubt yourself. No joke. Immigration officers strip down your confidence and dignity, they make you feel like you’re not worth a single thing and don't you even dare hesitating when answering these questions because they will immediately think that you are lying, even though they formulated the questions with this purpose.

Recently while I was coming back from summer vacation in Mexico with my family I was with the immigration officer ready to cross when I was stopped and asked to come to the infamous and terrifying back room. I felt blood rushing through my whole body and cold sweat in my back, I was paralyzed from fear and could not understand what had happened. I started thinking what did I do wrong? Did I bring the wrong papers? Did I register for enough credits? Maybe they took me down from the system? But why? So many questions started popping in my head but none of them made sense, everything was in order with my papers, in the university, I had done absolutely nothing wrong and I knew it but still I had so much fear and was shacking from head to toes.

I entered the back room which was under so much security, the officer told me to leave all my belongings in a table next to the door and take a seat, with no more information on why I was being taken there. That moment right there I felt with no human rights at all, I knew that if I asked him something things would be worse, I knew that if I resisted they would cancel my visa and along with that my three years of hard work in college. When I sat down I was facing a white wall, next to me were small cubicles with officers, behind me people being interrogated when I walked in I saw them and we shared one thing in common, we were afraid and our eyes were screaming in fear.

I saw how officers walked in and out bringing more people to the room, I saw them looking at my papers and ignoring them, deciding that their coffee and small talk were far more important. I felt so much impotence, I felt like crying and screaming but all I could do was keep staring at the white wall, wondering how long I had been there. While I was waiting, I saw how people were being taken into smaller questioning rooms, some people were handcuffed, I saw a family crying. I tried ignoring all of these things, seeing them just made me even more scared but it was impossible. Finally an officer checked my papers, when he took them the rush of blood came to me again, I started praying and repeating to myself, don't sign anything, don't refuse, remember you have the right for a lawyer. The officer talked to me “Are you a student?” and I answered in a shaky voice “Yes sir” he took a look at his computer I was anxious to know what he was looking at, he finally said “You’re good to go, everything is okay” Color came back to me, life came back to me. I grabbed my things and went outside, I noticed I had been there only 20 minutes but it felt like hours to me.

Crossing the border has always been stressful and nerve wracking, it doesn't matter if you've done everything right, you still feel fear and that's not okay. With President Trump’s new laws immigration officers have more power than ever, and can take your visa at any moment or deport you, they have the authority to do so, but not only they have this power they have something even worse, the power of being a judge themselves. That's right, before you could go to a court and hire a lawyer to fight but not anymore. Officers now possess the same power as a judge and this could not be any more terrifying, not only because they can take away your visa, but because they can abuse of their power and no one would tell them anything.

I want to remind everyone that the people who cross the border have dreams, aspirations, wishes of having a better life, but most importantly we are also humans and deserve to be treated as such. We have feelings, we are just like you but we go through a process in which people abuse their power and take away your dignity, your confidence, your value as a human and that will never be okay. We do everything they ask us, we are not a treat to their public safety we have been through multiple filters of background checks, but they still treat us worse than criminals. The moment we are in line to cross the border we know that human rights are inexistent there, we know we are not humans until we cross to the other side.