by Naomi LaChance
Trump’s border policies display zero regard for human rights, but for several news outlets, as Trump foments xenophobia, what’s at stake is brunch.
The New York Times (4/1/19) warned on Monday that the “beloved avocado” may soon be harder to come by in the US after President Donald Trump threatened in a tweet to close the Mexico border over migration. “The rise in the popularity of the avocado would not have been possible without trade with Mexico,” according to the Times.
CNN (4/2/19) reported, “The United States gets nearly 90 percent of its avocado imports from Mexico,” warning that “the US could run out of the trendy toast-topper in just three weeks.”
“If US/Mexico border closed, avocados would soon be toast, for starters,” CBS News (4/1/19) warned.
You couldn’t pick a worse time of year, because Mexico supplies virtually 100 percent of the avocados in the US right now. California is just starting and they have a very small crop, but they’re not relevant right now and won’t be for another month or so.
SFGate’s tweet (4/1/19), “Avocados could vanish in 3 weeks if U.S. closes Mexico border,” prompted a rash of responses:
so uh I like avocados but there are maybe other consequences that are more important if this happens https://t.co/Z6DHebKX5m
— noah, shinramyun samchun (@noahreservation) April 1, 2019
The food supply is, of course, not an unimportant concern. The avocado metric is “a handy shorthand way of illustrating how an abstract issue like international trade actually affects people’s lives day by day,” William Reinsch of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Washington Post (4/2/19). But it’s a focus that allows journalists to tell the story of Trump’s border policies without addressing the human rights violations involved.
One of the most glaring examples of Trump’s immigration cruelty is the detainment of hundreds of migrants in a pen surrounded by chain-link fence and razor wire under the Paso del Norte bridge in El Paso, Texas. Asylum seekers were forced to sleep on gravel with only Mylar sheets in the cold, and subjected to other sleep deprivation tactics. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection officials, demanding an investigation.
Locking up families with small children outside behind barbed wire fencing and forcing them to sleep in near-freezing temperatures is shocking even for an administration that has consistently developed cruel and inhumane immigration policies.
“The real crisis we must confront is that of the Trump administration violating the rights of those seeking refuge in our country,” Segura added.
“The care of those in our custody is paramount,” Border Patrol’s Andrew Meehan said in a statement.
When the Times (3/31/19) reported that people had been transferred from under the bridge, they didn’t include the entire story. Debbie Nathan, reporter for The Appeal, contradicted their account:
Wrong, @NYTimes! Lots of #migrants, including children still under the Santa Fe bridge in #ElPaso but on the east side, not both east and west sides. Just saw them this afternoon, March 31. Scores of them. https://t.co/5sgYgymAqZ
— Debbie Nathan (@DebbieNathan2) March 31, 2019
The veteran border reporter followed up:
CBP saying it closed the concentration-camp-style prison under an El Paso bridge. But this is what area looked like today. Constant monitoring necessary. Media should not believe a word CBP says; they routinely lie. pic.twitter.com/nppdV8mkK6
— Debbie Nathan (@DebbieNathan2) April 1, 2019
The Times’ deputy national editor, Kim Murphy, tweeted that the story had been updated because another part of the bridge was still being used to detain asylum seekers.
UPDATE: Border Patrol says it’s transferring migrants from under Paso del Norte bridge to its El Paso Station. A second site on the other side of the bridge is still being used for processing. https://t.co/BBJvw3zQ7O
— Kim Murphy (@kimmurphy) March 31, 2019
The border patrol moved asylum seekers from under the bridge to other places. Some people have been released, but required to wear ankle monitors. Some people were moved to a parking lot that was even worse, a father from Honduras named Gustavo told Vice (4/2/19).
“The kids slept on top of our feet—we were standing up, because we didn’t fit,” Gustavo said. “You couldn’t see even one part of the floor. Just shoes and more shoes.”
His account offers a stark contrast to the frenzy over avocado prices.
“There were 1-year-olds,” he said. “They took away their blankets and they threw them in the garbage. They took away their hats. The kids trembled… It was so cold. There wasn’t anything to keep us warm.”
Featured image: Reuters depiction (4/1/19) of the kind of meal that would be threatened by an avocado shortage.