This statement was prepared by Stacey Gomez (BTS Maritimes Coordinator) for the Antigonish Rally for Migrant Justice on June 30, 2018, a global day of action to speak out against US & Canadian immigration policies.

As we gather today, lets remember Claudia Gomez Gonzalez, a 20 year old Indigenous woman from San Juan Ostuncalco, Guatemala who was shot and killed by US border patrol in Texas last month. She left her home to find work to pay for university, unable to do so in Guatemala and, it is said, to reunite with her longtime boyfriend. We join her family in continuing to call for justice in her case.

Her case reminds us that violent immigration policies separate families in many ways and about the vulnerability and discrimination that occur due to factors such as gender, Indigeniety and socio-economic status.

Like Claudia, many migrants are often forced to leave their homes and their families, in her case for economic reasons. Migration and displacement often occur due to factors such as poverty, violence and insecurity. Many of the undocumented immigrants that we hear about who are crossing into the US come from Central America, including Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They come from countries that have suffered from the violent policies, both past and present, of the US government. This includes US political interference and military support in Guatemala, deeply connected to the 36 year armed conflict and genocide faced by the country’s Indigenous communities, which forcibly displaced 1.5 million people and continue to have effects today.

Canada too bears responsibility, for instance, in its strong support of Canadian mining companies operating in Guatemala and globally, which often operate without community consent and push people to leave their communities, dispossessing them of their lands and livelihoods. Canada also has it’s own egregious policies and practices around immigrant detention and separation of families. As the CBC reports, “Canada has also detained migrant children – and in some cases, has restricted access to their asylum-seeking parents – despite its stated policy to do whatever possible to avoid it. Last year, 151 minors were detained with their parents in Canadian immigration holding centres.” Finally, Canada also has a record of mass separation of Indigenous children and parents, through residential schools and the 60s scoop. We see that today in the over-representation of Indigenous children in state care.

Lets keep the US and Canadian governments accountable so that families can stay together and be treated with dignity, regardless of their immigration status.