By ChaKiara Tucker
On October 24th, I woke up at 7:00 am and brushed my teeth. As I stood in the mirror executing my morning routine, my mind raced with thoughts about my plans for the day. I, ChaKiara Tucker, a black woman from the most southern parts of the U.S., was going on my first tour of the United States/Mexico Border. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement, I was afraid.
Would they shoot me on sight because of the hue of my skin? Would I be stopped and have my constitutional rights snatched from me? Am I coming back home?
Questions that may seem farfetched to others were running a marathon through my head.
Over the last two weeks as the communications coordinator for Alliance San Diego and Southern Border Communities Coalition, I have read countless articles surrounding Border Patrol agents, their out-of-control behavior — which includes a complete disregard for human life — and the agency’s lack of oversight and accountability. All of which had me a bit on edge about this tour.
It was time to go.
Upon arriving at Friendship Park, my grim depiction of life at the border was drowned by the beauty of my surroundings. I stood at the top of a bench and inhaled the breeze coming inland from the Pacific Ocean.
I absorbed the scenery for almost two minutes until I looked to my left and saw the primary and secondary border walls. My eyes squinted from the sunlight as they followed the border walls from the mountains all the way into the ocean.
I stood frozen and I let the weight of these barriers fall one top of me. And I sat down.
The beautiful scenery faded and all I saw were these hideous walls.
I watched as American citizens walked into the enforcement zone (the area between the primary and secondary walls) and met with their loved ones who were on the other side of the primary wall (in Tijuana).
I imagined that they shared stories and discussed family news – all of the things a normal family might do while gathered around the dinner table. My sadness increased. I couldn’t imagine not being able to touch or hug my family.
I observed the Border Patrol agent who stood their proudly, his chest inflated and his gun on his hip. He “protected” this segment of Friendship Park and stood his ground when our tour group began walking through the gate for a better look at the area.
“Hey, it’s a 25 person limit. You have to wait,” he spat.
I stared at him and I secretly took his photo. I wondered if he’d ever killed someone and claimed that he feared for his life. I wondered if he had any remorse for the behavior of some of his colleagues who had murdered migrants. I wondered why he became a Border Agent.
I didn’t dare ask.
Our tour guides, Christian Ramirez, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition and Pedro Rios, Director of the American Friends Service Committee San Diego, gave a historical summary of Mexican-American relations and the significance of Friendship Park.
While eating my snacks and gulping down my water, I began thinking about the considerable number of those who attempted to escape their native land and migrate to the U.S. in hopes of pursuing the American Dream.
I wondered just how many people had lost their lives during their migration. Extreme temperatures and a lack of water and food have contributed to many of these trips being the last days for some.
How could a land so beautiful have a history so ugly and pain-filled?
Before this tour, I expected 50 Border Patrol Agents lined up at the border walls ‘prepared for war’. Much to my surprise, there were only three visible patrol trucks.
Because the area I covered was so small, I don’t think any more coverage is needed for this part of the wall. Let’s not forget the one unmarked truck that made countless trips around our tour group. I couldn’t help but think his continuous rove was an effort to intimidate us.
And the ultimate “I’ve got the power!” gesture they displayed was locking the bathrooms. We were, however, fortunate enough that a groundskeeper was able to get the key from one of the agents. Of course that was after they told our tour guide that they didn’t have the keys.
The tour guides didn’t seem surprised that they withheld the keys from us. I wasn’t too surprised either, more like aggravated. I considered this to be a major power-trip, which mildly confirmed my assumption that some of these agents were arrogant and down-right hateful.
Think about it, it costs these agents nothing to keep the bathrooms open for the public. Besides wanting to infuriate and inconvenience us, there was no real reason to lock the bathroom doors.
I was well within my rights to be afraid for my life before going on this tour. However, I wasn’t expecting to be so sad. Sad for those countless lives lost while migrating from Mexico, sad for those who had been abused by Border Agents and sad for those families who are forced to see each other through the wall.
I can say that I have a new found respect for those individuals who attempt the deadly trek into the United States. As a mother, I too, would go to great lengths to make sure my child has the best life possible.
Actually, I am quite interested in seeing how Customs and Border Protection frames border life. In the very near future, I will be going on a tour with them.
Please keep your eyes open for my next post about that tour.
Until then, I wish you all peace, blessings and good health.
ChaKiara Tucker is the communications coordinator for Alliance San Diego and Southern Border Communities Coalition