“Don’t worry Abuela, I’ll be back soon – I promise.”
Those were the words that Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, a 20 year old Mayan-Mam Indigenous woman, said to her grandmother before departing to the United States on May 7 at 3:00 am.
She lived in an area where there was little opportunity for advancement. She applied to the University of San Juan but didn’t pass the entrance exam at the Guatemala’s only public university. Her parents couldn’t afford to send her to a private institution, and with a string of rejections from banks and local businesses, she decided the only way to break the cycle of poverty and limited opportunity that so many in her community faced, was to make the dangerous journey from San Juan Ostuncalco to Alexandria, Virginia in hopes of continuing her education in forensic accounting and reuniting with her boyfriend, who had immigrated to the United States a year before.
Three weeks later, on May 23, Customs and Border Protection killed her with a shot in the head near Rio Bravo, Texas. The agents went on to detain the three other Guatemalans crossing with Claudia.
Outrage at dehumanization
On the other side of the border, Marta Martinez was preparing for her son’s end of the year when she heard the shots. She rushed out and saw a border patrol agent, gun in hand, and a woman, lying bloody on the floor.
Martinez filmed the whole incident and later uploaded it to Facebook.
“Why did you shoot at the girl? You killed her!” you can hear her scream at the agents in the video.
Martinez’s Facebook video went viral and rage began to pour in from all over the nation. From New York to Texas to California, millions of people have since come out to rally and shared their rage towards CBP and ICE while mourning for Gonzalez.
In Sacramento, California, a vigil held by the local branch of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement took place in front of the Sacramento Federal Courthouse on I Street. Representatives from LCLAA, Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Boycott Driscoll’s campaign, Danza Azteca and many other members of the community came out to show their support and voice their frustrations and anger with the United States’ immigration policies and the way that our country’s militarized border patrol and law enforcement have taken the lives of so many.
Activist groups all over the United States and Guatemala have asked for any information that would provide an inkling of justice to this inhumane crime.
“What’s the agent’s name? Has he killed before?” asked Dominga Vicente, Gonzalez’s aunt. “Tell the Americans we want justice.”
The Texas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union have called for the shooting to be fully investigated and repeated demands that Border Patrol agents wear body cameras. (Los Angeles Times.)
So far, no punishment or statement has come from the agent who killed Gonzalez. He has been placed on administrative leave and continues to be protected by CBP. In a statement released by Border Patrol, they called Gonzalez and the group she was traveling with “assailants” and claim that she assaulted the agent with “two-by-four pieces of lumber.”
However in a later statement, they didn’t mention any use of a blunt object and instead referred to Gonzalez as “one of the members of the group,” who rushed at him and defied orders. Furthermore, Martinez said that there were no piece of lumber anywhere in the area. The reports coming from Border Patrol have been inconsistent and ambiguous at best. They provide no answers to Gonzalez’s family on what actually occurred on that day.
Guatemala is still healing.
On May 30th, her body arrived back to Guatemala and hundreds of members of her community came out to hold a wake. Al Dia, a latino news outlet, indicates that the local government chose to provide economic assistance to Gonzalez’s family, “made up of her two brothers and her parents, Lidia Gonzalez and Gilberto Gomez.” The community has come out to support the family in the form of donations and company. However the shadow of a child murdered for just following the so-called “American Dream” loomed over the village of 29,000 people.
But of course, this is one more person in the long list of victims who have been brutalized by the United States’ militarized immigration tactics and culture.
This comes off of the heels of Trump calling undocumented immigrants “animals” in a round table meeting with California Republicans in mid-May saying, “We have people coming into the country or trying to come in- we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”
Of course, Trump claims these powerfully dark words were directed at the MS-13 gang members. Regardless, Trump has been spewing this criminalizing rhetoric much prior to the events of May 23, and all the while, manifesting the intent behind his words into actions. Only back in January, Trump used the phrase “shithole countries” to refer to the countries of Haiti and El Salvador, as well as the African continent.
In early April, Trump, looking to further militarize border security, sent the National Guard, as well as roughly 5,000 more border patrol agents to the border. This is detrimental to the safety of anyone who crosses the border. A recent investigation from the Guardian already indicates “that CPB agents used deadly force on at least 97 people” since 2003. Six of these 97 victims were children and 27 of those were U.S. citizens.
Of course, the rhetoric that the President uses only fuels the racism and xenophobia infecting our country and further legitimizes the fascist and anti-immigrant climate that is, and has always been, part of the United States. At a time when crime rates against black, brown, and indigenous people are going up, this is only producing more fuel to the fire of violence and animosity that is trying to burn down bridges for social and legal advancement for all oppressed communities.
We must continue to take action and take the streets as these atrocities continue to happen. As community organizers, radical socialists, and fellow comrades, we have an obligation to continue fighting for the rights and lives of oppressed communities, and show the oppressors within the capitalist system that we will not stand down and we will not stay quiet as lives continue to be taken.
Only a society that works towards liberation for all can help achieve this justice: a society that can ensure safe passage for migrants from homeland to destination, one that puts an end to racism, and to abolish a system that puts profit over the lives of people. Only the fight for a truly socialist society can bring us this level of equality.
We have a responsibility to bring forth revolution, not only for Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, but for all who have lost their lives to U.S. imperialism, bigotry, and Western colonialism.
We must continue to mobilize, educated, and organize our communities, and build their defenses with knowledge and continue to assist in amplifying the anger and passion of the masses.
Incluso en la oscuridad, la lucha sigue.