Cosmonaut brains show space travel causes lasting changes
“We were designed for standing in gravity on Earth, and once that force is released, all the bodily fluids move upward,” says study author Peter zu Eulenburg of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The latest study suggests that the excess cerebrospinal fluid seems to compress the brain’s grey matter—the dark-colored neural tissue that contains nerve fibers and nerve-cell bodies. Though the brain largely bounced back after seven months on Earth, some effects seemed to linger.
The brain’s white matter, which is primarily made of nerve fibers, initially appeared unchanged. Yet in the months after the cosmonauts’ return to Earth, the volume seemed to shrink. The researchers speculate that the culprit is again cerebrospinal fluid. For the white matter, the increased pressure from the fluid may have forced some of the free water normally in the brain into the delicate white matter structure. Once the cosmonauts returned to Earth, the pressure lessened, water escaped, and white matter appeared to shrink.
Additional research is needed to determine what, if anything, these physical changes mean for cognition or psychological health. But the latest study adds to mounting evidence that life among the stars can have enduring consequences on Earth-born adventurers. Here are some of the other biological changes people headed to orbit—and maybe one day deeper into space—will need to prepare for.
Words matter. Is it @AP style to call migrants an “army”—above a photo of mothers tending to their infants and toddlers, no less? This is not only incorrect, but it enables a racist narrative sold by this @POTUS and his supporters. Armies invade. These people are running away.
#Polly_Pallister-Wilkins sur la marche de migrants qui a lieu en Amérique centrale...
Dear media reporting on the Central American migrant caravan, can you please be attentive to how you talk about it? 1/n
People are walking, walking not pouring, flowing, or streaming. Walking. They are walking along roads, they will be tired, hungry, their feet will hurt, they will have blisters and sore joints. They are not a natural liquid phenomenon governed by the force of gravity. 2/n
Their walking is conditioned by the infrastructures they move along like roads, the physical geographies they traverse like hills and rivers and the human controls they encounter like border controls and police checkpoints. 3/n
All of these things are risky, they make the walk, the journey more difficult and dangerous, esepcially the police checkpoints and the border controls. These risks are the reason they are travelling as a caravan, as a large group attempting to minimise the risks of controls 4/n
And the risks from gangs and criminals that migrants on their journeys routinely face. Their journey is a deeply embodied one, and one that is deeply conditioned both by the violence they are leaving and the violence of the journey itself. 5/n
So media please try and reflect this in your storytelling. These people are not a river obeying gravity. They have made an active yet conditioned choice to move. When they encounter a block in their path this can be deadly. It can detain, deport, injure, rape, or kill. 6/n
And these blockages are not boulders in a riverbed around which the river flows. These blockages, these #checkpoints, border controls or police patrols are human blockages, they are not natural. So please try and reflect the political structures of this journey. Please. End/
Addendum: there is a long history of caravans as a form political resistance in Central America.
#marche #migrations #Honduras #Amérique_centrale #mots #vocabulaire #terminologie #média #journalisme #presse #caravane #métaphores_liquides #risque #gravité #mouvement #contrôles_frontaliers #blocages #barrières #résistance #Mexique
Migrants travel in groups for a simple reason: safety
A caravan of Central American migrants traveling to through Mexico to the United States to seek asylum is about halfway through its journey.
The caravan began on Oct. 13 in Honduras with 200 people. As it has moved through Honduras, Guatemala and now Mexico, its ranks have grown to over 7,000, according to an estimate by the International Organization of Migration.
The migrants have been joined by representatives from humanitarian organizations like the Mexican Red Cross providing medical assistance and human rights groups that monitor the situation.
Journalists are there, too, and their reporting has caught the attention of President Donald Trump.
He has claimed that the caravan’s ranks probably hide Middle Eastern terrorists. Trump later acknowledged there is no evidence of this, but conservative media outlets have nevertheless spread the message.
It is reasonable for Americans to have security concerns about immigration. But as a scholar of forced migration, I believe it’s also important to consider why migrants travel in groups: their own safety.
Safety in numbers
The Central Americans in the caravan, like hundreds of thousands of people who flee the region each year, are escaping extreme violence, lack of economic opportunity and growing environmental problems, including drought and floods, back home.
Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico have some of the world’s highest murder rates. According to Doctors Without Borders, which provides medical care in crisis zones, 68 percent of the migrants and refugees it surveyed in Mexico had experienced violence. Nearly one-third of women were sexually abused.
Whether crossing Central America, the Sahara desert or the mountains of Afghanistan, migrants are regularly extorted by criminals, militias and corrupt immigration officials who know migrants make easy targets: They carry cash but not weapons.
Large groups increase migrants’ chance of safe passage, and they provide some sense of community and solidarity on the journey, as migrants themselves report.
Publicizing the dangers they flee
Large groups of migrants also attract media coverage. As journalists write about why people are on the move, they shed light on Central America’s many troubles.
Yet headlines about huge migrant caravans may misrepresent trends at the U.S.-Mexico border, where migration is actually decreasing.
While the number of Central American families and children seeking asylum in the U.S. has increased in the past two years, Mexican economic migrants are crossing the border at historically low levels.
And while most migrant caravan members hope to seek asylum in the U.S., recent history shows many will stay in Mexico.
In response to Trump’s immigration crackdown, Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised to welcome Central American refugees — and try to keep them safe.
Trump’s Caravan Hysteria Led to This
The president and his supporters insisted that several thousand Honduran migrants were a looming menace—and the Pittsburgh gunman took that seriously.
On Tuesday, October 16, President Donald Trump started tweeting.
“The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!”
“We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States, with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will STOP (END)!”
Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted:
“Spoke to President Hernandez of Honduras about the migrant caravan heading to the U.S. Delivered strong message from @POTUS: no more aid if caravan is not stopped. Told him U.S. will not tolerate this blatant disregard for our border & sovereignty.”
The apparent impetus for this outrage was a segment on Fox News that morning that detailed a migrant caravan thousands of miles away in Honduras. The caravan, which began sometime in mid-October, is made up of refugees fleeing violence in their home country. Over the next few weeks, Trump did his best to turn the caravan into a national emergency. Trump falsely told his supporters that there were “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” in the caravan, a claim that had no basis in fact and that was meant to imply that terrorists were hiding in the caravan—one falsehood placed on another. Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered more troops to the border. A Fox News host took it upon herself to ask Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen whether there was “any scenario under which if people force their way across the border they could be shot at,” to which Nielsen responded, “We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people.”
Pence told Fox News on Friday, “What the president of Honduras told me is that the caravan was organized by leftist organizations, political activists within Honduras, and he said it was being funded by outside groups, and even from Venezuela … So the American people, I think, see through this—they understand this is not a spontaneous caravan of vulnerable people.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s Twitter account “confirmed” that within the caravan are people who are “gang members or have significant criminal histories,” without offering evidence of any such ties. Trump sought to blame the opposition party for the caravan’s existence. “Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!” Trump tweeted on October 22. “Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally.”
In the right-wing fever swamps, where the president’s every word is worshipped, commenters began amplifying Trump’s exhortations with new details. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida wondered whether George Soros—the wealthy Jewish philanthropist whom Trump and several members of the U.S. Senate blamed for the protests against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and who was recently targeted with a bomb—was behind the migrant caravan. NRATV, the propaganda organ of the National Rifle Association, linked two Republican obsessions, voter fraud and immigration. Chuck Holton told NRATV’s viewers that Soros was sending the caravan to the United States so the migrants could vote: “It’s telling that a bevy of left-wing groups are partnering with a Hungarian-born billionaire and the Venezuelan government to try to influence the 2018 midterms by sending Honduran migrants north in the thousands.” On CNN, the conservative commentator Matt Schlapp pointedly asked the anchor Alisyn Camerota, “Who’s paying for the caravan? Alisyn, who’s paying for the caravan?,” before later answering his own question: “Because of the liberal judges and other people that intercede, including George Soros, we have too much chaos at our southern border.” On Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show, one guest said, “These individuals are not immigrants—these are people that are invading our country,” as another guest asserted they were seeking “the destruction of American society and culture.”
Peter Beinart: Trump shut programs to counter violent extremists
In the meantime, much of the mainstream press abetted Trump’s effort to make the midterm election a referendum on the caravan. Popular news podcasts devoted entire episodes to the caravan. It remained on the front pages of major media websites. It was an overwhelming topic of conversation on cable news, where Trumpists freely spread disinformation about the threat the migrants posed, while news anchors displayed exasperation over their false claims, only to invite them back on the next day’s newscast to do it all over again.
In reality, the caravan was thousands of miles and weeks away from the U.S. border, shrinking in size, and unlikely to reach the U.S. before the election. If the migrants reach the U.S., they have the right under U.S. law to apply for asylum at a port of entry. If their claims are not accepted, they will be turned away. There is no national emergency; there is no ominous threat. There is only a group of desperate people looking for a better life, who have a right to request asylum in the United States and have no right to stay if their claims are rejected. Trump is reportedly aware that his claims about the caravan are false. An administration official told the Daily Beast simply, “It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 percent accurate … this is the play.” The “play” was to demonize vulnerable people with falsehoods in order to frighten Trump’s base to the polls.
Nevertheless, some took the claims of the president and his allies seriously. On Saturday morning, Shabbat morning, a gunman walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people. The massacre capped off a week of terrorism, in which one man mailed bombs to nearly a dozen Trump critics and another killed two black people in a grocery store after failing to force his way into a black church.
Before committing the Tree of Life massacre, the shooter, who blamed Jews for the caravan of “invaders” and who raged about it on social media, made it clear that he was furious at HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish group that helps resettle refugees in the United States. He shared posts on Gab, a social-media site popular with the alt-right, expressing alarm at the sight of “massive human caravans of young men from Honduras and El Salvador invading America thru our unsecured southern border.” And then he wrote, “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
The people killed on Saturday were killed for trying to make the world a better place, as their faith exhorts them to do. The history of the Jewish people is one of displacement, statelessness, and persecution. What groups like HIAS do in helping refugees, they do with the knowledge that comes from a history of being the targets of demagogues who persecute minorities in pursuit of power.
Ordinarily, a politician cannot be held responsible for the actions of a deranged follower. But ordinarily, politicians don’t praise supporters who have mercilessly beaten a Latino man as “very passionate.” Ordinarily, they don’t offer to pay supporters’ legal bills if they assault protesters on the other side. They don’t praise acts of violence against the media. They don’t defend neo-Nazi rioters as “fine people.” They don’t justify sending bombs to their critics by blaming the media for airing criticism. Ordinarily, there is no historic surge in anti-Semitism, much of it targeted at Jewish critics, coinciding with a politician’s rise. And ordinarily, presidents do not blatantly exploit their authority in an effort to terrify white Americans into voting for their party. For the past few decades, most American politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, have been careful not to urge their supporters to take matters into their own hands. Trump did everything he could to fan the flames, and nothing to restrain those who might take him at his word.
Many of Trump’s defenders argue that his rhetoric is mere shtick—that his attacks, however cruel, aren’t taken 100 percent seriously by his supporters. But to make this argument is to concede that following Trump’s statements to their logical conclusion could lead to violence against his targets, and it is only because most do not take it that way that the political violence committed on Trump’s behalf is as limited as it currently is.
The Tree of Life shooter criticized Trump for not being racist or anti-Semitic enough. But with respect to the caravan, the shooter merely followed the logic of the president and his allies: He was willing to do whatever was necessary to prevent an “invasion” of Latinos planned by perfidious Jews, a treasonous attempt to seek “the destruction of American society and culture.”
The apparent spark for the worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history was a racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election. There is no political gesture, no public statement, and no alteration in rhetoric or behavior that will change this fact. The shooter might have found a different reason to act on a different day. But he chose to act on Saturday, and he apparently chose to act in response to a political fiction that the president himself chose to spread and that his followers chose to amplify.
As for those who aided the president in his propaganda campaign, who enabled him to prey on racist fears to fabricate a national emergency, who said to themselves, “This is the play”? Every single one of them bears some responsibility for what followed. Their condemnations of anti-Semitism are meaningless. Their thoughts and prayers are worthless. Their condolences are irrelevant. They can never undo what they have done, and what they have done will never be forgotten.
Latin American asylum seekers hit US policy “wall”
Trump’s new restrictions mean long waits simply to register claims.
The movement of thousands of Central American asylum seekers and migrants north from Honduras towards the southern border of the United States has precipitated threats from US President Donald Trump – ahead of next week’s midterm elections – to block the group’s entry by deploying troops to the US-Mexican border.
Under international law the United States is obligated to allow asylum seekers to enter and file claims. However, immigration officials at the country’s southern border have for months been shifting toward legally dubious practices that restrict people’s ability to file asylum claims.
“Make no mistake, the administration is building a wall – one made of restrictionist policy rather than brick and mortar,” said Jason Boyd, policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
As a result, hundreds, possibly thousands, of asylum seekers have been left waiting for extended periods of time on the Mexican side of the border in need of shelter and basic services. Firm numbers for those affected are difficult to come by because no one is counting.
Some of those turned away explore potentially dangerous alternatives. Aid and advocacy groups as well as the Department of Homeland Security say the wait has likely pushed some to attempt to enter the United States illegally, either with smugglers or on their own via perilous desert routes.
While some of those in the so-called “migrant caravan” are searching for economic opportunity, others are fleeing gang violence, gender-based violence, political repression or unrest – all increasingly common factors in Central America and Mexico that push people to leave their homes.
Menacing phone calls
When people from the migrant caravan reach the southern border of the United States, they may find themselves in a similar position to Dolores Alzuri, 47, from Michoacan, a state in central Mexico.
In late September, she was camped out with her husband, daughter, granddaughter, and aunt on the Mexican side of the DeConcini port of entry separating the twin cities of Nogales – one in the Mexican state of Sonora, the other in the US state of Arizona.
Alzuri and her family were waiting for their turn to claim asylum in the United States, with only a police report in hand as proof of the threats they faced back home. Camping beside them on the pedestrian walkway just outside the grated metal door leading to the United States, nine other families waited to do the same.
Over the preceding month Alzuri had received several menacing phone calls from strangers demanding money. In Michoacan, and many other parts of Mexico where criminal gangs have a strong presence, almost anybody can receive calls like these. You don’t know who’s on the other end of the line, Alzuri explained, but you do know the consequences of not following their orders.
“If you do not give [money] to them, they kidnap you or they kidnap your family,” Alzuri said. “They destroy you. They kill you. That is why it is so scary to be in this country.”
Other people she knew had received similar calls. She also knew that those who didn’t pay ended up dead – pictures of their bodies posted on Facebook as a macabre warning of what happens to those who resist.
Fearing a similar fate, Alzuri packed her bags and her family and travelled north to ask for asylum in the United States. A friend had been granted asylum about nine months ago, and she had seen on television that other people were going, too. It seemed like the only way out.
“I had a problem,” she said, referring to the phone calls. “They asked us for money, and since we did not give them money, they threatened us.”
Before leaving her home, Alzuri said she filed a police report. But the authorities didn’t care enough to act on it, she said. “They are not going to risk their life for mine.”
No way out
Despite the danger at home, Alzuri and others in similar situations face an increasingly difficult time applying for asylum in the United States. At the Nogales crossing, asylum seekers must now wait up to a month simply to be allowed to set foot inside a border office where they can register their claims, aid workers there say.
Those waiting are stuck in territory on the Mexican side that is controlled by gangs similar to the ones many are fleeing, though local aid groups have scrambled to find space in shelters, especially for women and children, so people will be safer while they wait.
The situation hasn’t always been like this.
In the past, asylum seekers were almost always admitted to register their claims the same day they arrived at the border. Since May, however, there has been a marked slowdown in registration.
US Custom and Border Protection (CBP), the federal law enforcement agency responsible for screening people as they enter the country, says delays are due to a lack of capacity and space. But asylum advocates say similar numbers have arrived in previous years without causing a delay and the real reason for the slowdown is that CBP has shifted resources away from processing asylum seekers – not just in Nogales but across the southern US border – resulting in people being forced to wait for long periods or turned away altogether.
This is happening despite the insistence of high-ranking Trump administration officials that asylum seekers present themselves at ports of entry or face criminal prosecution for crossing the border irregularly. Such contradictory policies, asylum advocates argue, are part of a broad-based effort by the Trump administration to dramatically reduce the number of people able to seek protection in the United States.
“Our legal understanding is that they have the legal obligation to process asylum seekers as they arrive,” said Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a Nogales-based NGO. “There’s no room in the law for what they are doing right now.”
A system in crisis
In the past decade, migration across the southern border of the United States has undergone a dramatic change. Every year since the late 1970s US Border Patrol agents apprehended close to a million or more undocumented migrants entering the country. In 2007, that number began to fall, and last year there were just over 310,000 apprehensions – the lowest number since 1971.
At the same time, the proportion of people entering the United States from the southern border to claim asylum has increased. Ten years ago, one out of every 100 people crossing the border was seeking humanitarian protection, according to a recent report published by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a non-partisan think tank in Washington DC. Today that number is about one in three.
According to Boyd of AILA, the increase is being driven by ongoing humanitarian emergencies in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, an area of Central America known as the Northern Triangle. These countries have some of the highest homicide rates in the world and are wracked by gang violence, gender-based violence, extortion, and extra-judicial killings. “Many of the individuals and families arriving at the US southern border are literally fleeing for their lives,” said Boyd.
But the system that is supposed to provide them protection is in crisis. Beginning in 2010 the number of asylum requests lodged in the United States started to balloon, mirroring an upward trend in global displacement. Last year, 79,000 people approached the US border saying they had a credible fear of returning to their home country, compared to 9,000 at the beginning of the decade.
The increase in credible-fear claims, as well as asylum requests made by people already in the United States, has strained the system to a “crisis point”, according to the MPI report. This has led to a backlog of around 320,000 cases in US immigration courts and people having to wait many months, if not years, to receive a hearing and a decision.
Senior officials in the Trump administration, including the president, have consistently lumped asylum seekers and economic migrants together, positing that the United States is being “invaded” by a “massive influx of illegal aliens” across the southern border, and that the asylum system is subject to “systematic abuse” by people looking to gain easy entry to the country.
People working on the ground with asylum seekers refute this. Eduardo Garcia is a communication coordinator at SOA Watch, an organisation that monitors the humanitarian impact of US policy in Latin America. He has spent time in Nogales speaking with people waiting to claim asylum.
“The stories of many of the people we have talked to… are stories of people fleeing gang violence, are stories of people fleeing because one of their sons was killed, because one of their sons was threatened, because one of their family members [was] raped,” he said. “They have said they cannot go back to their countries. If they are sent back they are going to be killed.”
Still, the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration – responsible for the recent child-separation crisis – has also included measures that have restricted access to asylum in the United States.
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would begin criminally prosecuting everyone who irregularly crossed the US southern border, including asylum seekers. In June, that policy was followed by a decision that the United States would no longer consider gang and sexual violence – precisely the reasons so many people flee the Northern Triangle – as legitimate grounds for asylum. Around the same time, CBP appears to have deprioritised the processing of asylum seekers at ports of entry in favour of other responsibilities, leading to the long waits and people being turned away, according to humanitarian workers and a recent report by the DHS’s Office of Inspector General.
And even as these restrictive policies were being put in place, Trump administration officials have been encouraging asylum seekers to try. “If you’re seeking asylum, go to a port of entry,” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said in an 18 June press conference. “You do not need to break the law of the United States to seek asylum.”
“I came here with the hope that if I asked for asylum I could be in the United States,” said Modesto, a 54-year-old from Chimaltenango, Guatemala. In mid-September he was sitting in a mess hall run a couple hundred meters from the US border run by KBI, which provides humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers.
Modesto had already been in Nogales, Sonora for several months. Like Dolores Alzuri, he fled his home because criminal gangs had tried to extort money from him. “I worked a lot and was making a living in my country,” Modesto explained. “The problem in particular with the gangs is that they don’t let you work… If you have money they extort you. If you don’t have money they want to recruit you.” And people who don’t cooperate: “They’re dead,” he added.
The situation Modesto found when he arrived in Nogales, Sonora was far from what he expected. For starters, there was the long wait at the border. But he also discovered that – as an adult travelling with his 18-year-old son – even once he entered the United States he would likely end up in a detention centre while his case slowly made its way through the overburdened immigration courts – a practice that has also increased under the Trump administration. “I don’t want to cross… and spend a year in prison when my family needs my help,” he said.
Modesto is in some ways an exception, according to Williams of KBI. Many of the people arriving in Nogales, Sonora are families with children. Once in the United States they will likely be released from immigration detention with ankle monitoring bracelets to track their movements. These people often choose to wait and to claim asylum at the port of entry when there is space.
After more than 100 people piled up to wait at the border in May, local humanitarian groups set up a system to organise and keep track of whose turn it was to submit an asylum claim to US immigration officials. They also scrambled to find spaces in shelters so people were not sleeping on the walkway over the weeks they needed to wait.
Now, only people who are likely to enter soon are camped on the walkway. When IRIN visited, about 40 asylum seekers – mostly women and children – sat on one side of the walkway as a steady stream of people heading to the United States filtered by on the other. Some of the asylum seekers were new arrivals waiting to be taken to a shelter, while others had been sleeping there for days on thin mats waiting for their turn. Volunteers handed out clean clothing and served pasta, as a CBP agent opened and closed the metal gate leading to the United States, just a few tantalisingly short feet away.
The slowdown of processing “leaves people stranded – in really dangerous situations sometimes – on the other side of the border, and completely violates our obligations under both domestic and international law,” said Katharina Obser, a senior policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission, an NGO that advocates for women, children, and youth displaced by conflict and crisis.
As a result, some people arrive, find out about the wait, and leave. “We’re fairly certain that those are individuals who then end up crossing the border through other means,” Williams said.
The DHS Office of the Inspector General came to a similar conclusion, finding that the contradiction between Trump administration rhetoric and policy “may have led asylum seekers at ports of entry to attempt illegal border crossings.”
The situation in Nogales, Sonora is far from isolated, according to Boyd of the AILA. “Recent turnbacks of vulnerable asylum seekers have been documented throughout the US southern border,” he said, including at many ports of entry in Texas and California. In those states, asylum seekers have reported being stopped as they approach the border and told they cannot enter because immigration officials don’t have the capacity to process their claims.
“Turnbacks form part of a comprehensive set of practices and policies advanced under this administration that appears aimed at shutting out asylum seekers from the United States,” Boyd continued.
Meanwhile, people like Dolores Alzuri – and most likely some of the thousands of Central Americans who are travelling north from Honduras in the hope of claiming asylum – are left with little choice but to wait. Moving somewhere else in Mexico or returning home is not an option, said Alzuri. “The violence is the same in every state,” she said. And crossing the desert, “that’s a big danger.”
She and her family don’t have a back-up plan. “Let’s hope that I do get [asylum], because I really do need it,” she said. “You don’t live comfortably in your own country anymore. You live in fear that something will happen to you. You can’t walk around on the streets because you feel that you’re being followed.”
Commentaire Emmanuel Blanchar via la mailing-list Migreurop:
Un article intéressant car il rappelle opportunément que la « caravane des migrants » en route vers les Etats-Unis est également composée de nombreuses personnes qui souhaiteraient pouvoir déposer des demandes d’asile. Or, si la frontières Mexique-USA est loin d’être encore mûrées, un mur administratif empêche déjà que les demandes d’asile puisse être déposées et traitées dans le respect des droits des requérant.e.s.
No es una caravana, es un dolor que camina
La caravana de migrantes es sólo la primera manifestación pública y masiva de la crisis humanitaria en la que vive la mayoría de la población; negada por el gobierno, por la oligarquía, embajadas, organizaciones de la sociedad civil y por algunas agencias de cooperación que le hacen comparsa a la dictadura.
Esta crisis humanitaria es provocada por el modelo económico neoliberal impuesto a sangre y fuego, que sólo pobreza y violencia ha llevado a las comunidades, que ante la ausencia de oportunidades y ante el acoso de los grupos criminales no tienen otra alternativa que la peligrosa e incierta ruta migratoria; prefieren morir en el camino que en sus barrios y colonias.
El infierno en que se ha convertido Honduras tiene varios responsables. En primer el lugar el imperialismo, que a través de su embajada promueve la inestabilidad política en el país con el apoyo directo al dictador, que para granjearse ese apoyo les ha entregado el país, hasta el grado del despojo y de la ignominia, como puede observarse en los foros internacionales.
Otro responsable es el dictador, que además de la incertidumbre que genera en lo económico, en lo político y en lo social, ha profundizado y llevado al extremo las políticas neoliberales, despojando de sus recursos a comunidades enteras, para dárselas a las transnacionales, principalmente norteamericanas y canadienses.
La oligarquía corrupta, mediocre, salvaje, inepta y rapaz también es responsable de esta crisis humanitaria, quien se ha acostumbrado a vivir del presupuesto nacional a tal grado de convertir al Estado en su patrimonio, por medio de un ejército de ocupación, de diputados y presidentes serviles y títeres, que toman las decisiones no para el pueblo, sino que para sus insaciables intereses.
Hay otro actor importante en esta crisis y es el Ejército Nacional, fiel sirviente de los intereses imperiales y de la oligarquía, que sólo sirve para consumir una gran tajada del presupuesto nacional y más que un ejército defensor y garante de la soberanía nacional es una fuerza de ocupación; listo para asesinar, torturar y matar aquellos que se oponen al dictador, al imperio y la oligarquía.
Desgraciadamente esta caravana la conforman los miserables, los desheredados de la tierra, los parias: “los que crían querubes para el presidio y serafines para el burdel” como dijo en su poema, Los Parias, el poeta mexicano Salvador Díaz Mirón.
Estos miserables y desheredados no huyen de la patria, la aman, la adoran y la llevan convertida en un dolor sobre sus hombros, huyen de los verdugos y carniceros que nos gobiernan y de los otros responsables de esta crisis humanitaria. Los que huyen aman a esta tierra más que los que nos quedamos.
WALKING, NOT FLOWING : THE MIGRANT CARAVAN AND THE GEOINFRASTRUCTURING OF UNEQUAL MOBILITY
In 2015 our TV screens, newspapers and social media were full of stories about ‘flows’ of migrants ‘pouring’ into Europe, set alongside photos and videos of people packed into boats at sea or meandering in long lines across fields. This vocabulary, and the images that accompanied it, suggested that migration was a natural force: like a flow of water that cannot be stopped, governed only by the forces of gravity. Now, this same language is being used to describe the ‘migrant caravan’ of the thousands of Hondurans leaving the violence of their home country and attempting to journey to the US.
This essay began life as an angry Twitter thread, hastily tapped out with my morning coffee. I argued that people were not flowing, but rather walking. In this Twitter thread, I tried to forge a connection between the how of the journey—noting both the material and geographical aspects impacting and structuring how people move—and the physical impacts of that journey on the bodies of those on the move. I called attention to the travelers’ tired, blistered feet in an attempt to weave a thread between the material (and political) geographies of the journey and the embodied experiences of those making it. The Twitter thread drew some attention and solicited an invitation to write a short intervention for the small Dutch critical-journalism platform De Nieuwe Reporterwhere it appeared in Dutch with the title: “Dit is waarom media niet moeten schrijven over ‘migrantenstromen’” (“This is why the media should not write about ‘migrant flows’”).
Time has passed since I wrote the intervention. Since then, the caravan has journeyed to the US-Mexico border. US and Mexican authorities have responded with tear gas and closures, highlighting in clear terms the violence of the border and corresponding mobility governance. This violence is too often obscured by talk of flows: in the intervention, I worked hard to make visible what watery metaphors of ‘flow’ do to shape how we think about migrant mobilities and what is lost in their usage. I attempted to highlight the uneven politics of mobility that is shaped by and made visible through a consideration of what I want to call geoinfrastructuring, alongside the embodied effects of this uneven mobility. Here, in contrast to modernity’s quest for faster, more convenient, more efficient modes of travel to overcome the limits of the body as it encounters and moves through space, the migrant caravan’s mode(s) of travel—walking, stopping, starting, bus hopping, sitting, waiting, sleeping—bring into sharp relief the ways that for those excluded from privileged mobility regimes, the body is in intimate concert with the material world it encounters.
The remainder of this essay will first reproduce the short intervention I wrote for De Nieuwe Reporter before thinking through more conceptually how this opinion piece relates to scholarly work on mobility and infrastructures.
What we call things matters (while often invisibilizing how they matter). A Reuters report on the status of the migrant caravan in English from October 21st had the headline “Thousands in U.S.-bound migrant caravan pour into Mexican city”, while two days earlier a report by Reuters had talked about a “bedraggled” migrant “surge” attempting to “breach” the Mexican border. Meanwhile in other news outlets, the watery theme continued with a migrant “storm” in the UK’s Daily Mail, and a “wave” in USA Today. And lest we think this was a something restricted to reporting in the Global North, the Latin American press has not been immune, with Venezuela’s Telesur talking of a “second wave of migration.” Meanwhile in the Dutch language media, De Telegraafwrote of “Grote migrantenstromen trekken naar VS”, the headline handily highlighted in red in case the emergency nature of these “migrantenstromen” was not clear.
A counterpoint was offered by oneworld.nl, who talked of the dehumanizing effects of such language use. Indeed, what we call things matters, because politicians also echo the language of the media creating a self-re-enforcing migration language. Unsurprisingly Trump has talked of flows in his condemnation of the Honduran migrant caravan, while Mark Rutte earlier this year talked about Europe not being ready for a new “migrantenstroom” (“migrant flow”). However, what we call things also matters as much for what it reveals as what it conceals. The widespread use of watery and other natural metaphors when talking about migration journeys hides both the realities of and the reasons for the people’s journeys. To talk of rivers, streams, floods, and flows masks the experiences of the thousands of people who are walking thousands of kilometers. They are walking along roads, up hills and across borders; they are tired and hungry, and their feet hurt. Many are travelling with children as people are leaving lives of poverty and deadly gang violence and looking for a safe future in the United States. Just as the British-Somali refugee poet Warshan Shire urges us to consider that “No one would put their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”, in the case of the Honduran migrant caravan it’s very unlikely that anyone would walk thousands of kilometers unless the road was safer than their homes.
One of those travelling is Orellana, an unemployed domestic worker travelling with her two five-year-old grandsons. She declared she had no choice after the boys’ father was murdered and she “[Could not] feed them anymore”, and she is too old to get a job herself. Orellana has decided to try and get to Texas where her daughter, who migrated three years before, now lives.
What the watery metaphors also hide is the agency of Hondurans like Orellana in attempting the journey and what the decision to travel in such a large group tells us about the realities of the journey itself. While the migrant caravan is walking to ostensible safety, the northbound journeys of Central American migrants through Mexico to the US are not safe. Many thousands attempt this journey every year, encountering detention and extortion by the police and drug cartels, physical violence, rape, and death. The policing of Mexico’s southern border, undertaken with the support of the US, does not only capture migrants in its net. Mexicans of indigenous appearance, suspected of being from Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador because of crude processes of racial profiling, are routinely caught up in and detained in police patrols and at police checkpoints. In all this, women and teenagers are at particular risk. The risks of the journey are the reasons underpinning the choice of the Hondurans to travel in a caravan—the idea being that the greater the number of people, the lower the risk of capture and deportation, of physical harm from police, cartels and criminals along the route, and of being stopped by border controls. Moving in a caravan also removes the need to employ the services of smugglers who are often linked to cartels and are a source of the violence migrants face. In other words, people are reclaiming the right to move without paying large sums of money.
Talk of “flows” also hides the way the journeys of migrants are shaped by the infrastructures of their travel. Roads direct migrants in particular directions and border controls interrupt their movement and divert them into using different paths. Unlike a river, they are not a force of nature that can make their way to their metaphorical sea by the quickest and most efficient route possible. The obstacles migrants encounter on their journey are not only natural obstacles like rivers, deserts, or mountains, but also human-made obstacles like police roadblocks, border control points and migrant prisons.
And yet in the face of all this, they still walk. Faced with the difficulties of the journey and the promise of repatriation, some have already returned to Honduras. But many in the caravan have now crossed two national borders, with Guatemala and Mexico. Their numbers are growing as many people see the strength in numbers and the difficulty, both practically and politically, of preventing passage. Many others still are left sleeping on bridges, hungry and thirsty with little access to sanitation or shelter as they wait to enter Mexico. And yet they walk, they wait, and more join because “It’s even worse in Honduras.”
In my work on humanitarian borderwork I have begun to argue for a deeper focus on the ways infrastructures and geographies intimately shape not only the risks faced by those excluded from safe and legal travel but also how the excluded move (Pallister-Wilkins, 2018, 2019). This builds on William Walter’s earlier demand that studies of migration take the journey seriously:
The vehicle, its road, its route—these particular materialities are not entirely missing from scholarship on migration politics. But… they rarely feature as a central focus in theorisation and investigation of migration worlds. This is surely a paradox. All migrations involve journeys and those journeys are more often than not mediated by complex transport infrastructures, authorities and norms of transportation. Granted, in many instances those journeys may be rather uneventful and not in the least bit life-changing or politically salient… Nevertheless, in many other instances, the journey is politically salient, perhaps even a life-or-death experience. (2015: 270)
Alongside taking the journey seriously, Mimi Sheller’s important work has shone a light on systems of ‘motility’, differential mobility capability, and mobility justice (2018) and Vicki Squire has drawn our attention to the biophysical role of deserts and seas in governing mobility (2016). Therefore, a focus on the journey and differential mobility capabilities challenges the watery metaphor of ‘flow,’ compelling us instead to understand how infrastructures and geographies—roads, bridges, deserts, mountains, border controls, police patrols, walls and fences, time and speed — make possible and condition particular types of mobility with embodied effects.
Infrastructures here, following Lauren Berlant (2016), are defined by use (and movement) coming to pattern social life. They are what organizes life. As such they are agents in the (re)production of social inequalities (Donovan, 2015) and uneven geographies (Chua et. al, 2018). Alongside the way infrastructures pattern social life, consideration of infrastructuring offers a dynamic way of understanding the how of unequal mobility beyond the crafting of policy, enabling a greater consideration of infrastructure as something dynamic and mutable in the context of use. Infrastructures are not all encountered or utilized equally. A road driven is not the same as a road walked. Moreover, in thinking about context and use, Deborah Cowen (2014) has drawn our attention to the ways infrastructure, such as complex systems of just-in-time logistics, not only works to overcome the limits of space and time, but also offers opportunities for disruption and resistance. The essays in the “Investigating Infrastructures” Forum on this site show the role of infrastructures in crafting and reinforcing uneven geographies.
With this in mind, I also want to consider the role of physical geography as an active agent working along with border, policing, and transport infrastructures in conditioning the how of unequal mobility as well as the embodied risks migrants face. The exclusive and privileged nature of various (safer) transport infrastructures and the growth of differential mobility regimes results in physical geographies and their attendant risks coming to matter to what Karen Barad would call matter (2003), in this instance to human life and well-being. In these instances, physical geographies have been politically made to matter through various policies underpinning mobility access and they come to matter at the level of the individual migrant bodies that encounter them.
Infrastructural projects—roads, railways, and shipping routes—are all attempts to overcome the limits of physical geography. Planes and their attendant infrastructures of airports, airlines, runways and air traffic control make the traversal of great distance and the geographies of seas, mountains, and deserts possible and less risky. By making air travel exclusive, not through cost alone but through border regimes that deny access to those without the correct documentation, physical geography comes to matter more. Those seeking life through movement are increasingly prevented from accessing such transport. Thus, at the level of individual bodies and the journeys they make, the physical geography of the route comes to play a greater constitutive role. As Mimi Sheller makes clear, “There is a relation between personal bodily vulnerabilities, the struggle for shelter, the splintering of infrastructural systems, and the management of citizenship regimes and borders” (2018: xiv).
Infrastructural projects such as roads, railways, and runways suggest attempts to overcome the limits of physical geography and yet are also intimately shaped by them. Mountain roads, for example, contain hairpin bends necessitated by the gradient of the slopes they cross. Bridges span rivers where such engineering can practically and safely take place. Meanwhile, a lack of roads or bridges impedes mobility, encouraging migrants to use boats, to swim, or like the Rohingya’s journeys from Rakhine into Bangladesh, to use the small narrow dykes that have shaped the environment of the wetlands of the Naf River delta.
As John Law noted in his study of the possibilities that the Portuguese ship created for long distance control and an apparent human-technological triumph over space, the physical geographies of the ocean—“the winds and currents”—are an ever-present actor working in concert with infrastructure networks (1986). According to Law, it is not possible to think about these infrastructural networks and the social, political, and economic forces they represent and bring into being without a consideration of what he calls the natural, or what I am calling physical geography. The nature of concern to Law is very different from the natural world evoked by discussion of migrant flows and the wide variety of attendant watery metaphors. In these discussions, flow is a description. For Law, flow would have and perform a relational role. This relational ontology becomes even more politically pressing when the natural has embodied effects on the lives of migrants bound up in such a relational system. Put simply, the physical geography alongside infrastructures affects how people move and the risks they encounter on their journeys.
Therefore, geoinfrastructuring, I argue, is important in considering how people exercise mobility. Geoinfrastructuring both conditions the journey of the migrant caravan and creates particular embodied effects, such as sore feet, blisters, joint pain, sprained muscles, and dehydration. Moments of enforced waiting on the journey, such as at border crossing points, generate their own embodied risks due to poor sanitation, lack of access to clean drinking water, and exposure to extreme weather, which in turn creates the need for as well as the time and space for limited humanitarian relief (see Pallister-Wilkins, 2018). However, as the migrant caravan attests, geoinfrastructure also creates the possibility for a (conditioned) resistance to exclusionary political-material mobility regimes. Infrastructural spaces and systems—roads, transit areas, buses and pick-up trucks—are being claimed and used by Honduran migrants in their journeys to the United States. In Europe and in the context of my own research, one of the key architects of Médecins Sans Frontiéres’ Search and Rescue operations has impressed upon me the important interrelation of the sea, infrastructures of surveillance and visibility, and the boat in making possible humanitarian efforts not only at saving lives but in addition the “activist” element of such search and rescue. Here, the dynamics of the sea, in concert with European border surveillance systems such as EUROSUR and the boat, make possible certain political interventions and disruptions that, it is argued, are not possible in other environments such as the Sahara and speak to Law’s idea of a relational ontology.
Away from the migrant caravan and my own research on search and rescue in the Mediterranean, I have become interested in exploring the relationship between physical, infrastructural and border geographies in how migrants choose to cross the Alps from Italy into France. These crossings occur at only a few points along the border, at crossing points that are manageable to migrants with differential mobility capabilities. Importantly, they are less risky than other crossing points due to lower altitude, better transport connections and a reduced police presence, such as at the Col de l’Échelle between the Italian town of Bardonecchia and the French city of Briançon. People do not cross through these places for lack of other routes. The town of Bardonecchia, for example, is located at the Italian entrance of both the Fréjus tunnel linking France and Italy, carrying motor vehicles under the Alps, and the older Mont Cenis tunnel linking France and Italy by rail. The entry point to the Fréjus and the trains using the Mont Cenis are heavily policed. The policing of the Fréjus tunnel is further made easier by traffic having to stop and pass through toll booths. And yet, the presence of the railway and its attendant station in Bardonecchia means that it is relatively accessible for migrants travelling from the rest of Italy. Its proximity to the French border, only 7km and a relatively gentle walk away, means that this particular border region has become a particularly popular passage point for migrants wanting to leave Italy for France.
I have come to know this region well through its additional and complimentary infrastructures of tourism. The cross-border region is a popular holiday destination for people like me who are drawn there by the geoinfrastructure that makes for excellent cycling terrain. This tourism infrastructure for both summer and winter Alpine sports and outdoor activities means that the area is comparatively heavily populated for the Hautes-Alpes. This has resulted in services capable and willing to assist migrants with their journeys, from dedicated and well-equipped teams of mountain rescuers, to a large hospital specializing in mountain injuries, and solidarity activists offering food and shelter. In this region of the Hautes-Alpes, geoinfrastructuring, like with the migrant caravan, shapes not only how and why migrants make their journeys in particular ways: it also facilitates the exercising of political resistance to exclusionary border regimes by both migrants themselves and those who stand in solidarity with them.
With this short essay I have attempted to challenge the language of flows and in so doing drawn attention to the constitutive role of infrastructures and their embodied effects in how migrants, excluded from safe and legal forms of transportation, exercise mobility. I have argued that as political geographers we should also consider the role of physical geography in making a difference in these journeys that occur in concert with roads, rivers, mountains, deserts, tunnels, bridges and vehicles. These physical geographies, as Vicki Squire argues, have biophysical effects. This is not to normalize the very real bodily dangers faced by migrants in their journeys by seeking to lay blame at the foot of the mountain, so to speak. Instead, it is to suggest that these physical geographies come to matter and have very real effects because of the political role ascribed to them by human decision-making concerned with (re)producing unequal mobility. It is to make the case for what I have termed here geoinfrastructuring—the assemblage of physical, material and political geographies—that shape how migrants move and the risks they face.
Une nouvelle étude suggère que notre compréhension de la #gravité serait totalement erronée
Ce qu’à fait Verlinde, est qu’il a supprimé la gravité de l’équation : il suggère que la gravité n’est pas une force fondamentale de la nature, mais plutôt un phénomène émergent, tout comme la température par exemple, qui découle du mouvement de particules microscopiques. En d’autres termes, la gravité serait un effet secondaire, et non la cause, de ce qui se passe dans l’Univers.
Verlinde avait proposé une hypothèse radicale concernant la gravité en 2010. Mais aujourd’hui, il est démontré dans sa nouvelle étude que lorsque celle-ci est considérée comme un effet secondaire dans l’Univers et non comme une force fondamentale, il n’est plus indispensable de trouver une nouvelle particule qui composerait obligatoirement la matière noire : le comportement des galaxies serait sensé, même sans elle. « Nous avons des preuves que cette nouvelle vision de la gravité est en accord avec les observations », a-t-il dit. « À des échelles importantes, il semblerait que la gravité ne se comporte pas de la manière dont elle est décrite dans la théorie d’Einstein », ajoute-t-il.
Afin de parvenir à cette conclusion, le physicien a cherché à comprendre exactement comment la gravité se forme, au niveau microscopique. Ses calculs suggèrent que la gravité est un phénomène émergent qui naît de l’entropie de l’Univers : l’entropie est une propriété de la thermodynamique qui décrit combien d’énergie est gaspillée dans un système (à quel point un système est chaotique). Nous pouvons également le décrire par la quantité d’information qu’il faut pour décrire un système : plus quelque chose est chaotique, plus il faudra d’informations pour le décrire (et plus il y a de l’entropie).
Le modèle de Verlinde applique l’entropie à ce que l’on appelle le principe holographique : en gros, il s’agit du fait que des fragments d’informations fondamentales seraient stockées dans le tissu spatio-temporel. Et ces « atomes » de l’espace, comme les décrit Verlinde, pourraient se mouvoir et progresser vers une entropie élevée. Selon les calculs du physicien, cela produirait une force entropique agissant comme la gravité.
Ondes gravitationnelles : la découverte du siècle ?
La découverte d’ondes gravitationnelles par les équipes du détecteur LIGO confirme non seulement la théorie de la relativité générale émise il y a tout juste cent ans par Albert Einstein, mais elle ouvre également aux scientifiques tout un pan de l’Univers jusque-là inaccessible aux télescopes. Explications de Pierre Binétruy, physicien au laboratoire Astroparticules et cosmologie (APC) à l’université Paris Diderot.
Interview réalisée par Olivier Boulanger, journaliste à Science Actualités.