News Interview: In The Sands Of The Desert

Vexed To Nightmare By A Rocking Cradle

August March
6 min read
Ingrid Ordoñez
Burqueña Ingrid Ordoñez leads a protest in Tornillo, Texas (Courtesy NM Dream Team)
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I am writing this right now—at 10:23am on Tuesday, June 19—about seven hours before the paper goes to press. My breaking news alert says that President Trump tweeted a message just recently—well, at 9:52am MDT—that says “Democrats want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.”

Using these sorts of dehumanizing justifications, Trump’s cruel zero-tolerance immigration policy continues its tragic development. Immigrants crossing into the US risk capture and detention. If they have their children with them, they will be separated from their families. You know the rest of the story by now. Repeating it does some good, but I am more apt at this point to tell you to go to your window, open it, thrust your head and shoulders out into the summer sun and scream that you are mad as hell and you are not going to take it anymore.

A more productive endeavor may be to follow the Rio Grande as it flows toward the southern lands. About 350 miles from here there is a town called Tornillo. It’s in
Tejas and it’s the place where the US government is housing the children of detained immigrants.

Last week, thousands of citizens converged on that desert outpost to see for themselves what was going on, to protest the inhumane and undemocratic results of the right wing being unleashed after the election of Donald Trump.

New Mexico Dream Team member and local elementary school teacher Ingrid Ordoñez took part in the massive protest and demonstrations that took place at the ICE immigrant holding facilities in that Texas town.

Weekly Alibi met with Ordoñez and NM Dream Team Communications Director Flaviano Graciano to get a better idea of what is happening to our world, just south of here, at the place where the river still flows and the hummingbirds fly past cages and walls.

Weekly Alibi: Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself, Ingrid?

I’m 21 years old and I am from Chihuahua, Mexico. I came here in 2007; my family and I were fleeing violence. My dad was a police officer, a municipal police officer in Chihuahua. He was a good cop; he didn’t want to collaborate or cooperate with the mafia or the cartels. Once my dad made that decision, and told them point blank, that he wasn’t about to work with them, my whole family was threatened. We had to leave our home behind or be killed. So I grew up in Albuquerque. Two years ago I received my green card; now I’m a teacher, a special education teacher at South Valley Academy.

So, you’re 21, already have a bachelors degree and a teaching certification and you teach special ed; that seems pretty exceptional to me.

Yeah, seventh grade.

What did you see in Tornillo, at a facility our government is using to house children who’ve been forcibly separated from their parents?

I went with the NM Dream Team. I’ve been a member for a few years now. When they asked me if I wanted to go down to Tornillo, I was filled with uncertainty; I didn’t know what to expect. Being a teacher and working with kids who are in the seventh grade made me realize that the image of children detained in tents and cages was crazy, it’s something we shouldn’t have to imagine. But it’s real. They are separated from their families. I am not sure that they are receiving proper nutrition, if they are being well-fed.

Did you see any occurrences of abuse, anything questionable?

So, we went down there for the protest and were not allowed access to the facilities. There were hundreds of people there on the edge of the facility, empowered, hundreds yelling for justice. We were only allowed to see the outside of the buildings. The police presence was heavy and it was heavily militarized. In one instance, when we were marching back and forth, there was an officer passing by in his vehicle with his phone out, continually recording us, passing by again and again.

What do you make of all of this?

I believe that this entire scenario is inhumane. I believe that our nation is repeating history. And we have converted facilities that were designed for people seeking asylum into prison camps. There are children in cages. What’s happening now is reminiscent of the Japanese internment camps, or worse.

What do you think citizens should do about these outrageous events and circumstances?

We should definitely push our congressional representatives to introduce legislation to defund ICE. What we are clearly seeing is that their main function seems to be separating then imprisoning entire families; they are actually targeting youths. So yes, I believe that qualifies their agency for defunding.

Is there some criminal conspiracy, as Trump has implied, where children are being used as unwitting pawns so that gang members and criminals can get into the US via the asylum process?

To our knowledge there is no evidence of that being a common practice. It may have happened anomalously, but it’s ridiculous to put forth such far-fetched beliefs as reality.

What will you remember about your pilgrimage to Tornillo?

It is absurd that our nation is having a conversation about the innocence of children, about children behind held hostage by the government. As Americans, we say how much we value our children, how they must be protected, yet we are imprisoning families that are running away from violence, to start better lives in the US. These children are not criminals.

Are you hopeful that this situation will evolve toward an end to such detentions?

I think it’s a really good time to question the type of people that are representing us in the government. These immigration policies are an indication of poor political leadership. As a young person I want to implore all citizens to vote in November. Your vote means something here and in the scope of what Trumpism is doing to our country. Voting is very important to the process of changing these policies.

Flaviano Graciano: First and foremost, the last thing we should do is lose hope. Now more than ever is the time to be informed and resolute about everything that is going on with this administration. And also be prepared. From our perspective, the prospective of the dream team, our job is to help the undocumented be informed, help them know their rights, know what they can do in their capacity—because they can’t vote—to get involved, to influence the popular vote. The elections this year will be very important. We must organize, be informed and take action through civil disobedience. You don’t necessarily have to go down to Tornillo. There are ICE detention centers all over this area of the country. The protests and demonstrations at these facilities should continue until the inhumane practices end.
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