Monday, 26 November 2018 23:40

Saratoga Mom's Experience at U.S. Mexico Border

Border crossing bridge above the Rio Grande River. Border crossing bridge above the Rio Grande River. Photo by Richard MacDonald.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Josey Kakaty joined a “caravan of moms” earlier this month on a trip to the Texas-Mexico border where she hoped to gain first-person insight of activities occurring at one of this country’s southern boundaries.

 “The whole purpose of this event was to witness and interview people who have been affected by undocumented or illegal immigrants crossing the border,” says Kakaty, a mother of three who lives in Saratoga. She was joined by her 15-year-old son on the journey. The caravan migrants, who are largely from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, are fleeing their native lands to escape violence and political upheaval.

“If you listen to just what the media says, I think the whole truth is not presented. We need to have some more awareness. I wanted to see with my own eyes.”

One of the lead sponsoring groups for the trip was Moms for America, a non-profit educational corporation which explains that its purpose is to teach families how to nurture a love and understanding of liberty within their own homes.  The purpose of the trip to the border, said MFA President Kimberly Fletcher: “to meet with families who experience the impact of illegal crossings first-hand, in an effort to share their stories with the American people.”

“It was a full day of travel and we spent two days of going to different locations,” Kakaty says. “We went to an elementary school that was close to the border – Rio Grande Valley, Texas – where the entire perimeter of the school was surrounded by fencing. We also walked to the border and got close to the Rio Grande River just to see what kind of barriers we do have set up.

“There was barbed wire fencing and somewhat of a wall. You keep hearing about this wall – or lack thereof – so it was interesting to witness what’s there. It looks like rusted steel, maybe about 15 feet tall, but this was only 100 feet of it, and then the river just had some barbed wire fencing, no taller than five or six feet,” she says.     

“This was an organized group and I think they asked me to go along because I was on a Fox News panel for Security Moms, so I already had a public voice in this matter,” Kakaty says. The Security Moms are featured on segments of the broadcast network that showcases “a panel of moms” discussing timely issues with a host. 

“The ‘caravan’ is what prompted it and I was there to learn and get my own perspective,” Kakaty says.

The “Caravan”

Across the U.S. border, more than 2,000 people arrived in Tijuana this week, with another 7,000 not far behind, according to Mexican authorities. And that doesn’t include the roughly 3,000 migrants already in Tijuana seeking legal entry into the United States, according to The Washington Post.

“I don’t know what the solution is, but I believe we do need a wall. We have nothing to protect us right now. We live in a bubble in Saratoga, we’re not affected on a daily basis, but it is in our backyard,” Kakaty says. “This is America and we should all be safe. We welcome immigrants, clearly, this is a land of immigrants, but we have a lot of new social issues we have to address and enforcing our security will help with that. It’s a security matter, protecting our national security, that’s the main concern.”

President Donald Trump recently ordered 5,200 active-duty troops to join about 2,100 National Guard forces sent earlier this year to bolster the border, according to Military Times.com, an independent news source which focuses on news and information for service members and their families. The active-duty troops are limited in what function they may perform, however, under federal law, which restricts military engagement in law enforcement on American soil.

The president has also been accused by some of ramping-up the rhetoric strictly for political purposes. For three weeks leading up to Election Day, President Trump posted nearly four dozen tweets mentioning the U.S. border – a number of times specifically referencing the approach of the migrant "caravan" – a practice mostly non-existent since the election. Trump did resume posting about the matter briefly this past week, tweeting that “illegal Immigrants” asking for U.S. asylum will be detained or turned away and that “the U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it…Go Home!” 

The timing corresponds with a Trump-issued proclamation - “Addressing Mass Migration Through the Southern Border of the United States” which institutes new rules for those seeking asylum by insisting “aliens” must test their eligibility for admission into the country at an official entry port, rather than presenting themselves to Border Patrol after crossing into the country illegally. The American Civil Liberties Union has since filed a lawsuit to challenge the president’s new asylum ban, claiming it violates federal law, which recognizes the right of people to seek asylum regardless of where and how they entered the country.

After more than a month on the move, the caravan of migrants from Central America has come to a halt just a few yards from the border wall that divides Mexico and the United States, the New York Times reported this week. It could take several months for the claims of migrants seeking asylum to be heard at ports of entry. 

Kakaty says she visited with mothers whose children were killed by people who entered the U.S. illegally and shares the natural considerations of any mom, regardless of where they live.

“There’s a concern for moms and children on both sides of the border. The people who are coming, they are in jeopardy too, for so many things, including human trafficking,” Kakaty says.

Before even reaching the U.S. border, migrants making an often long and perilous journey suffer assaults, robberies, and abductions – the latter as many as 20,000 each year - by criminal gangs, as well as becoming victims of extortion by police and immigration officials in Mexico, says Salil Shetty, who served as Secretary General for the human rights organization, Amnesty International, from 2010 to 2018. “Health professionals report that as many as six in 10 migrant women and girls are raped on the journey,” writes Shetty, “and activists repeatedly raise concerns that abducted women and girls are vulnerable to trafficking.”

“One thing we saw at the border, it was just horrific; they call it ‘the rape tree,’” Kakaty says. “Some of the stories were just appalling.”

The Moms group visited a local dentist who told them she caters to many clients living in the U.S. without legal permission but who nonetheless are able to obtain medical coverage for dental work, and with local women who say they sleep with a shotgun under their bed, because, they say, people come into their homes at night.

The group also visited a bridge, which has a walkway above ground, where people with their documents in order are legally checked in and allowed to cross the border. Below the bridge, strands of barbed wire cling to posts spiked into the earth. It is here where the group witnessed a border patrol apprehension of a man and woman who tried to mingle in with the visiting group. “We had about 35 people there. One of the women let the border patrol know (about the people attempting to mingle in). They went to hide in the bushes and were trying to call someone, and they were apprehended.

“What is the impact on US citizens who live close to the border? They say the border is supposed to be the safest place, but it’s not what we understand by talking to people there,” Kakaty says.

“The bottom line is: illegal immigration is illegal. I’m a proud immigrant and my family emigrated here (from Sicily) and we came the right way. We used the right process. Why is there all of a sudden a discussion of having people come here not legally?” she says.

“We know these things happen; we just need to create an awareness, because it’s just not working the way it is. I’m glad that I went. I think it’s time we are informed and learn on our own. We need to educate ourselves to know what’s really going on.” 

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