Jenn Budd: Former US Border Patrol Agent

Jenn Budd, a former senior patrol agent for the US Border Patrol, met with us earlier this month.

Jenn’s life as a border patrol agent turned around completely when she began to speak out at Campo BP Station regarding the drug smuggling operation that her boss organized. She found herself alone, at 3AM, in a hail of gunfire after being commanded to patrol the area where she had seen drugs coming in. The occurrence of this gunfire and her orders to be there lead to her being offered a higher position at sector headquarters, in exchange for her silence.

She turned her badge and weapon in the next day. “You have to sell your soul at one point to just do the job.”

Today, her life consists of speaking out against those agencies that have harmed asylum seekers/migrants/immigrants, speaking out against an administration that has created a crisis via policies, volunteering at a shelter in San Diego, writing for Souther Border Community Coalition, and an ambassadorship for Define American (a “nonprofit media and culture organization that uses the power of story to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America.”) The full interview we have with her is a developing video piece.

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Building Community: Contra Viento Y Marea (Against All Odds)

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Ernesto winds down from the day at Contra Viento y Marea Comedor. He arrived in Tijuana on November 21st, 2018 with the migrant caravan that left Honduras on October 21st. He had always wanted to excel in his education, but the current state of his country did not have that opportunity for him. In his words, “Falta de oportunidades de estudio, porque soy un joven que busca oportunidades de superarme.” At first, he was seeking asylum in the United States; as time went on and more people were being denied and deported back to Central America, he decided to not pursue further for fear of returning to his homeland.
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Contra Viento y Marea, a community space in Tijuana, emerged from a series of repressive government acts against the migrant/asylum seeking community. The full story can be read on their website “contravientomareatj.com”. Today, it serves as a community diner, shelter, and community center. There is a garden on the roof, alongside a few tents where volunteers, migrants and collective-members reside.
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Tents pitched on the roof. The growing number of asylum seekers, migrants, and volunteers has turned the roof space into an area for residency as well as gardening.
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The start of a garden on the roof of Contra Viento y Marea. Volunteers from Jardin Lemniscata and the Contra Viento y Marea collective have started this gardening effort with the goal of “integrating the individual with the ecosystem to foment sustainable practices that prevent the unconscious, unmeasured growth of urbanization.”
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A hallway Inside Contra Viento y Marea. Artwork by @ashlukadraws on Instagram.
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A volunteer at Contra Viento Y Marea sweeps the floor after dinner is served at the communal kitchen/shelter space.
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Flowers grow among the concertina wire next to the border wall at Friendship Park.
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On the beaches at Playas De Tijuana, the border wall sits, corroded. “No obstacle can stop us from reaching our dreams. We are Mexicans. We are unstoppable.”
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A tattered art piece, that used to be an American flag, stays tied to the border wall. Reinforcement that was installed on the US side in March, can be seen behind the bottom half of the flag.

Frontlines: Migrant Caravan

Migrants from the Benito Juarez Sports Complex shelter in Zona Norte, Tijuana organized a march in order to demand to be processed for asylum, Sunday Nov. 25. 

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The march started after leaders of the caravan held a prayer using megaphones. Mexican federal police blocked the entrance to Puente El Chaparral, a bridge that pedestrians and automobiles use to arrive at the border-crossing area. As the migrants approached the police line, a caravan organizer told the group to stop walking. 

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“If we will be crossing, we will be crossing in peace,” he said.

The marchers stopped and gave thanks to the Mexican state for sheltering them, sang the Mexican national anthem, gave a solidarity cheer with those who participated in the International Day of Action march in San Diego, all while waiting for the police to let through.

After about an hour of waiting, caravan organizers decided to go around the blockade, down a street that runs parallel to the inaccessible bridge. Police immediately began pushing people down with their shields. The migrants gained momentum as the police continued to use force against womxn, childrxn, and journalists. 

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The migrants crossed the Tijuana riverbed, helping each other keep steady so as to not fall into the water. They arrived at the car port of entry where Mexican military troops watched from above.

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The group I was with made their way to the edge of the large parkway that makes up the border entry point. Four migrants scaled the wall that divided Mexico and USA. US forces on the opposite side pointed a high caliber rifle at the young men. The migrant group then sought another area of the border fence.

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The migrant group reached another section of the border crossing point, opened the fence and continued through. I was stopped by riot police and not let through. One officer hit me repeatedly with his shield.

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During my walk back the way I had came, I witnessed an officer, who was giving orders earlier, continuously beat and harass a migrant. A Mexican checkpoint official alerted the officer that he had a camera on him and the officer ceased to hit the migrant. 

Mexican federal police then sealed the border car port leading into the US. Soon, US Department of Homeland Security Special Response Team forces and US military appeared and began to install razor wire, completely sealing the border and announcing that any unauthorized person will be met with lethal force.

I made my way to meet the group of migrants who were being shot with tear gas and rubber bullets through the border fence by US forces. Mexican federal police rallied them up and forced them back into Tijuana city limits. The final image was the last one I could capture before the tear gas effect became too much for my senses.

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A Reflection on “The Roses That Grew From Concrete”

When you live in a community where you are statistically more likely to go to prison than to receive a high school diploma, most of your time growing up is not spent thinking about the school to prison pipeline & other forms of systemic oppression.

You are too busy struggling to make something good come out of each day.

I grew up with two constant factors: we moved around a lot within Orange County (mainly within Santa Ana), and money was always tight. My parents, both undocumented at the time, worked day-in and day-out to make ends meet.

I have always strived for a better life, that is something that will never leave me, but along the way I have realized that I have an intense yearning for the betterment of the community that raised me.

Fast forward to August 25th and I see colleges, organizations, resources, artists, and youth, all in the same space conversing with each other.

Connecting, building bridges, inspiring each other. This is what community looks like.

There are three moments that I want to share about that day that I feel have deeply impacted those who were present.

The first was during the community roundtable portion of the event. At the space were influential artists, musicians, young community members, educators, and organizers. Each person gave their introduction and story. From surviving suicide, to finding strength through teaching, each story added to the intimacy & impact of the gathering.

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KRS-One.
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OG Cuicide during the community roundtable sharing his story.
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Blimes Brixton.
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Educator from Roses In Concrete Community School, Oakland, CA.

As time progressed, so did the amount of creative energy in the room.

The second moment was one that no one could have predicted.

“Let us record an album, right now. Who is with me?” said KRS-One, with enough conviction to convince an entire room to raise their hands.

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In one minute, I would find myself on the sidewalk with everyone in the room, walking towards the nearest studio, in disbelief that KRS-One was completely serious in his words.

In two minutes, I would find myself in an overcrowded studio, with all of the musicians, a beat in my eardrums, and a microphone in the corner.

Depicted above, is the third moment. A spontaneous cypher.

The name of this series is taken directly from a lyric that was sung, “I’m Not Your Slave, This Is Freedom”.

Freedom, as defined by my experience that day: the mental capacity to create something that empowers those around it.