A further part of her analysis is acknowledging the ways that capitalism and imperialism both create the push factors that cause people to migrate and set up conditions that make it seem logical to criminalize migration. For example, the conditions of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) stopped Mexico from subsidizing corn production while the United States could continue such subsidies. In response, there was an increase in demand for cheaper American corn in Mexico and a resulting crash in corn farming opportunities. This directly influenced the number of farm workers seeking work across the border, who are met with hostility—if they can even enter the U.S.A.—because they are seen to be “stealing jobs.” Mexican migrants are disproportionately incarcerated.
Although Undoing Border Imperialism is not written specifically for a Christian audience, the aspects of it that resonated most were the values underlying NOII’s work and how those values align with my understandings of the justice work I feel called to as a Christian. NOII’s work is centred around challenging unjust social and economic structures by engaging with the hope of building a world where all human lives are valued and have access to what they need for survival and well-being. The way they go about this through both direct support work and speaking out against discriminatory policies reminds me of Jesus’ ministry which involved both community-level relationship building and challenging oppressive structures. For Jesus, it wasn’t enough just to feed the hungry without questioning why they don’t have enough food, nor was it enough to only preach about the unjust systems without forming relationships with those who were hungry.
As we shared together in the book club about what resonated and challenged us, we were able to help each other engage with the content—especially the challenges—more deeply than we likely would have on our own. While the questions and lessons that Harsha Walia offers are important at any time, there was also a sense among us that reading them together during a pandemic carried a different weight. For many organizations and churches, COVID-19 has brought up very real questions about what they need to change in order to better serve their communities and the world. Forming a group in your church to read a book like Undoing Border Imperialism can help facilitate conversations about courageous ideas for the future.
If you are interested in setting up a book club and want advice about getting started, contact Justice Ministries