I am privileged to front page O. Felix Culpa’s trip to the Tornillo march this weekend. I’ll let her take it from here:
From O. Felix Culpa:
Trawling the internet over Saturday morning coffee, I chanced upon an announcement for a march on the new tent city in Tornillo, Texas, scheduled for the next day. I read the info to my wife and we said simultaneously, “Let’s go.” We abandoned our weekend gardening plans, packed a few things, dropped the dog off with a friend, and drove 300-plus miles southwest to El Paso, where we spent the night. The drive was pretty and uneventful, except for the plague of insects committing suicide on our windshield near Fort Bliss.
Early next morning we headed to the march’s starting point at the Tornillo-Guadalupe Toll Plaza on the US-Mexico border. It’s in a rural area, marked by orderly pecan groves interspersed with verdant alfalfa. But the land is brown and desolate where the fields end and the internment camp begins. Although set up for 400 children, capacity might be expanded to 4,000 according to the government.
Many other cars were turning off the highway ahead of us as we approached. Good! we thought. These people must be going to the march too and we can follow them. It seemed unlikely that so many people would be heading to this remote place on a Sunday morning for any other reason, and we were right.
There were already hundreds of cars parked along the roads when we arrived and more kept streaming in. All told, about 2,000 people came – more protestors than residents in Tornillo – extraordinary numbers for a Father’s Day event in an out-of-the-way location announced late Friday. Most were from El Paso, but folks hailed from all over Texas and as far away as Salt Lake City, Denver, and Santa Fe (us).
The crowd of families with young children, youth, and seniors – brown, black, and white – huddled for shade under the toll plaza cover, waiting for the march to start. The sun was already fierce at 9:30 a.m. – on the coolest day forecast for the week. Three guards stood at the entrance to the camp, watching. We couldn’t see the tents, which were somewhere behind the barbed wire, walls, and outbuildings. The organizers informed us they had not been able to secure permission to enter, so we marched out a short way, then back through the toll plaza to a gathering place as close to the camp as possible for the rally.
Beto O’Rourke was highly visible throughout, surrounded by supporters, cameras, and broadcast microphones. He’s tall, handsome, and an effective speaker. He notably avoided directly attacking Trump and the GOP (this is Texas, after all, and he’s running for Senator), but was clear about the immorality of the family separation policy: “This is inhumane. This is cruel. This is torture to take a child from that mother, from that father, who literally risked all, including their lives, to bring them to safety, fleeing horrific violence.” All true. Beto added, “People say this is not who we are. But it is who we are. We are doing this and we must stop it.” Also true.
A small commotion arose just behind me and I turned to see Joseph Kennedy III, carrot-haired with that pink-and-white Irish complexion and distinctive Kennedy good looks, working his way through the crowd to the speaker’s box. He too denounced the anti-immigrant policies: “We recognize that universal truth that humanity does not come with citizenship or with a green card,” and concluded by noting our American immigrant family names are “Jimenez…Martinez…O’Rourke [applause]…and Kennedy,. My family is Kennedy” [more applause].
Kennedy sped away in the requisite black SUV to seek entry into the camp. I don’t know if he got in. The crowd dispersed shortly afterward, some heading to Father’s Day brunches, while others, like us, drove home. I’m glad we went and we have more work to do to rescue these children and restore them to their families.
Me again. There are more photos below the fold.