Carlos Torres Cazares
Ultrachrome print, 2009
Kansas City, MO
Translation: Open Border!
No Human Being is Illegal
Last Thursday, May 11, the Trump-era policy known loosely as “Title 42” expired with the federal government’s ending of the Covid-19 public health emergency. Title 42 is the entire section of U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, dating back to 1944, that deal with preventing the spread of disease. However, since the beginning of the pandemic, Title 42 has become shorthand for a specific rule within that section that allows the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to block noncitizens from entering the U.S. if they appear to pose a threat to U.S. public health. The Trump administration implemented the rule in the early stages of the pandemic, which essentially dismantled the U.S.’s asylum structures.
Anticipating a surge in border crossings, the Biden administration recently finalized a new rule that would also severely limit asylum seekers. The policy will prevent “migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. if they pass through another country along the way that also offers asylum.” Such countries include Colombia and Mexico, even though Mexicans and Colombians are among the top percentage of those seeking asylum in the U.S.
Title 42 was used nearly 3 million times since March 2020 to prevent migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. Mexicans, Kurds, Haitians, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans are among some of the 150,000+ refugees that have been long awaiting asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border. Over the past week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) held thousands of people at various parts of the border without providing food, water, or medical care. The camps were recently cleared thanks to the advocacy of civil rights organizations. Erika Pinheiro of Al Otro Lado argues that the creation of these camps without processing migrants is a political stunt designed to make the border crisis appear more threatening to the U.S. than it actually is.
As global migration escalates, it is critical to understand why millions of people are leaving their ancestral homelands. Climate disasters, U.S. economic sanctions against socialist countries, a legacy of U.S. imperialist policies that have destabilized dozens of countries, and wars of greed and desperation have created dangerous and unlivable environments for millions of people across the globe. It is unconscionable for the U.S. to neglect responsibility for its actions as a global superpower and continue to actively harm people seeking help.
CSPG’s Poster of the Week confronts the U.S. government’s bloody role in the driving forces of migration. Carlos Torres Cazares’ 2009 poster references José Guadalupe Posada’s Calavera Oaxaqueña (circa 1903) to demand open borders and an end to discrimination against immigrants. The original print has an armed peasant from Oaxaca, the most culturally diverse state in Mexico. Cazares may have used Posada’s reference to Oaxaca to refer to frequent Mexican governmental repression against its indigenous populations. This repression has caused significant migration, including into the U.S. The bloody machete suggests resistance.
This poster is included in CSPG’s newest exhibition Taking Museums to the Streets: Using Fine Art for Protest on display May 20 through July 9, 2023 at Mercado la Paloma in South Los Angeles. Every poster appropriates and repurposes an earlier masterpiece to focus on diverse contemporary issues including immigration, anti-nuclear, anti-war, censorship, disabled rights, ecology, HIV/AIDS, homophobia, sexism, and women’s rights.