The Ides of March moved me with the receding winds. As a blizzard of cold air came up to Denver, I took a bus, south to El Paso, Texas. I’ve told this story hundreds of times to hundreds of new friends and followers:
I’m on a mission.
When I began the project, I started a 500px and started populating my gallery with photos with the intent to gain traction on the website in order to make revenue from photos that were relevant to the conversation around the border: from patrol cars go barbed wire fences; all while walking across the desert southwest through four states.
To me, “Open Borders” means simplified verification, easier means of travel between countries, express forms of asylum, and an altogether simpler way to be a digital nomad on a continent of many countries. More checkpoints and less walls. Less highways and more shared public transit and walking paths.
For this project however, Open Borders regards the exploitation, extortion of asylum-seekers, as a Closed Border, along with the Wall, the cost of applications, and the convoluted, obsolete form of seeking asylum or citizenship in the United States and similar nations built on free trade and by immigrants.
My goal is to do something, anything, and do it with purpose and a unifying mission. To me, the answers seem like needles in a haystack; a haystack that is as large as the world, where people are the hay, and a united world with peace in mind and all the answers to attain it, the needle.
El Paso to Yuma, AZ
From Denver, Colorado, in the winter, to the desert heat of El Paso, I wasn’t prepared for the weather, nor was I expecting to stay a single night in Texas. So I stayed long enough to push some boundaries and maybe a few buttons. All the while, I began documenting my experience and interviewing accordingly.
Authority gets you access. Without a shiny lanyard with “FOX,” “NBC,” or anything besides my own card, saying “PRESS,” there’s both more and less space in the journalistic sphere. While it may be harder to get people on the record and request and receive records, especially around immigration, investigative reporting may be an open field for your curiosity to frolic in. Until recently, I had no clue how useful my current practice would be.
Camper, couchsurfer, wwoofer, vehicle dweller, or just plain homeless; being a digital nomad means more than all that.
As a digital nomad, your home is online. Your community gathers and calls and texts, through digital means. Your work is remote and your choices reflect that small market, and its small compensation.
While you become more grateful for these little things that are free in nature, such as kindness and veggies, you also stray from the consumer culture that, while being American most of all, has circled the world. And if you travel every day, as I do, you may put off certain things that would be markers of your income, like getting your nails done and eyebrows threaded.
Implicit biases don’t only include race. One could be biased, without know it!, across cultures, ages, and perceived races, to name a few. Ones wealth or class is among these.
As a digital nomad you may appear homeless, unless you’re like my Road Sisters who stay in a location for about three months before moving on. However, I found this gave me an advantage in wandering into certain locations, as well as speaking as a compatriot to those living on the streets. They may not have security clearance but the stories can be very telling and evening illuminating.
If you volunteer and appear from the street, people tend to ignore you more. Brush you off. Pretend you didn’t say hello.
Don’t feel betrayed, it offers you an edge. You’re closer to those that have less, not only because you choose to also own less, but the prejudice is passed along just the same regardless. Wealth, it seems, is more an illusion than a reality. Perhaps that explains the growing gap between the super-rich and the majority of the country whose income rides the poverty line.
Digressions aside, looking “needy” may actually assist you to blend in with those that you’re volunteering to assist. They need friends. Though they may ask for gifts, their families and hearts yearn for the rest of their families, friends, and hands outreached to support one another.
Gifts are used for escape. Sugar to help the medicine go down. Games to pass the time. Friendship can do both. Resources can be shared.
For those refugees seeking asylum from Central America, both resources in navigating through the convolutions of the system, and a friend to offer support in whatever ways they can, are critically needed.
Not everyone is religious. Although most are, many believe but have little faith. Faith leadership along the southern border seek to change that.
The surge of refugees from Central America has triggered a massive response to expedite the process of asylum and citizenship. With numbers of unaccompanied minors and families skyrocketing over the past years’ averages, many organizations, assisted by the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and local food banks, are state diocese.
The Catholic and Episcopal churches of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California may be the most front-line to this humanitarian crisis. While they may seem to be large organizations, they still have a difficulty finding volunteers. Sitting in on congregations throughout the southwest I saw that they had to work diligently in their own congregations against the evils of prejudice and people’s implicit biases which keep them from loving as Jesus would. This, as in all things, would be a labor of repetition, surely.
Other organizations may erupt from these congregations, too. They, heeding the call, would act for the greater good in the name of Jesus. Such organizations in Southern California include the Build A Miracle organization, which helps rehouse those in Tijuana. Others, are more focused on the refugee crisis stateside, like RefugeeNet, which with these churches houses and clothes them, even working alongside organizations that don’t mediately sound relevant to the situation at all, for instance: United Cerebral Palsy (UCP).
Where do I come in?
In addition to getting this information out there, and maybe even helping the cause by convincing people to donate their time or money, what else am I doing? What am I doing next? What do I hope to accomplish?
Next. I’m heading up the Pacific Coast Highway, sleeping on beaches, elaborating on the intersections of this issue in immigration, and trying to fund this adventure in any way possible. As I travel to Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Redwood forests, Weed, and exit California for Portland and Seattle, I’ll continue adding context to this issue and other issues that overlap, while taking whatever odd jobs and side gigs, paid articles, and donations I can get.
As I travel, I’m also building a nonprofit. It would act like a PBS with a volunteer arm.
The organization would train, educate, and certify volunteers, maintain a location independent newsroom, teach local activists how to be advocacy and solutions journalists, as well as how to build and maintain their own local, independent newsrooms, all-the-while volunteering in order to be the change we want to see in the world.
What I hope to accomplish:
It may not happen today. It may not happen tomorrow. Even if it takes ten years, or more; it will happen.
Hope is there. There’s a will. I will find a way. Maybe with your help.
One day, we can count on our media reporting to be neutral, however, as the Overton window has shifted, unfortunately, so too has reporting.
Changing this environment, so that the atmosphere is inclusive takes more than a little political acticles and a few articles of dissent.
Do you agree? If you could, would you volunteer to build a house, or learn a new language through immersing yourself with refugees?
Does my idea sound ridiculous?