Tech on the Border
Commotion, a website connecting users with means of assisting refugees, reveals how technology both helps and hurts “caravanerxs.” Donate by clicking here.
Late last year and through the start of this year, hundreds of Mexican law enforcement officers descended on a roughly equal number of refugees living in Benito Juarez, a warehouse in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego. The refugees, who had been traveling in a caravan from Honduras, had relocated to Benito Juarez after the stadium they were being held in flooded. The police were attempting to evict the refugees from their new makeshift shelter, first with orders, then with a blockade stifling access to food and water, always with the threat of batons, teargas, or worse. For their part, the refugees were awaiting asylum processing by the US Department of Homeland Security, which — due to the implementation of the illegal “Remain in Mexico” policy — left them stranded indefinitely.
Dire circumstances aside, there were scenes in Benito Juarez that one could imagine playing out in any quiet corner of the world: teenagers, for example, glued to their smartphones, crowded around electrical outlets, trying to keep a charge. It’s a common sight that belies the reality of traveling 2,000 miles to escape torture, rape, even death.
The introduction of a ubiquitous piece of technology is a subtle reminder: Refugees, they’re just like us. But technology is a tool, and it can therefore be deployed against refugees, as well as used by them.