Border Truth and Justice Initiative
“I am invested” wrote poet Claudia Rankine, “in keeping present the forgotten bodies.” Despite concerted efforts to erase the past, the U.S.-Mexico border holds the memory of forgotten bodies from Indigenous genocide, migrant deaths, murdered women factory workers, lynching of Blacks and Mexicans, and white supremacist-motivated mass murder. This region is situated at the crossroads of racial violence, human rights abuses, and practices of dehumanization. No concerted efforts have ever been undertaken to create new paradigms to reclaim the dignity of the victims and to address the suffering from endemic collective and individual trauma.
The Border Truth & Justice Initiative will create a first-of-its-kind border truth commission that equips border communities to address legacies of racialized violence and develop concrete recommendations for memorialization, education, and community healing.
The needs of borderland communities differ from the needs of other communities across the globe. The ever-expanding militarization of immigration enforcement in the U.S., policies of family separation and exclusion, and adverse narratives about immigrants have stigmatized Latinx and other minorities and increased violence and hate crimes against them. These challenges exist and will remain until resources, tools, and models are developed specifically to assist border communities address structural racism and violence, provide victim solidarity for restorative and reparative justice, and heal from past collective and individual trauma.
To confront the history of racial injustice in any part of the world we propose it must begin at the border – the place where racial inequities and human rights abuses are most concentrated. However, no specialized tools exist for border communities to address their historic and current harms.
This initiative proposes the following solutions:
1. Building on current efforts in the El Paso-Juarez region, create a transborder truth commission model. Historically, truth commissions have provided an empowering “voice” for victims, fostered social integration, and helped establish reform agendas, although these efforts primarily occur in nations in political transition. We propose to innovate this model for local communities across borders.
2. Create a trans-border institution that studies, researches, analyzes, and humanizes data by listening to the voices of marginalized communities in our border region to create a shared understanding of racialized violence and inhumane treatment of people along the U.S.-Mexico border. Anticipating the commission will make recommendations for social change, we simultaneously will build an organizational capacity to fight for implementation of those recommendations.
3. Engage creative communities to develop sites of memorialization and community healing that transcend international and state borderlands.
4. Build a model for public awareness and education that is binational, bilingual, and bicultural and uses cutting-edge technology to connect communities across borders. We intend to export these models to other communities along the U.S. border and eventually globally. The goal is to train others to use the tools we have developed, so that they may unearth and confront their own histories of racial injustice and how that history impacts the present.
Potential benefits for the border region
The following are examples of how transitional justice and the use of a certain mechanisms like a commission would benefit the border region:
Addressing structural racism and violence on the border
Healing beyond criminal justice procedures and prosecutions
Empowering border residents and provide victim solidarity for restorative justice practice
Reforming state & federal agencies for non-recurrence and prevent violence based on racism
Changing education curriculum in order to inform and address systematic violence and racism at the border
Extending border life and narrative beyond the border
Privileging and listening to border organizations that have been suppressed at the national level
Developing a cross border solidarity network to address international human rights violations along the border