Post written by Stephanie Thomas:
On April 9th over 75 people gathered together in Houston, TX, to greet President Obama as his motorcade left a fundraiser for Democrats. We came with a purpose: to tell him to stop deportations and stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. Community members met at a busy Houston intersection at rush hour, and then we walked through the posh neighborhood of River Oaks to meet Obama with our signs and chants.
This rally brought together a variety of groups representing both immigrant rights and climate and environmental justice. Groups represented included Texas Undocumented Youth Alliance, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.), Houstonians Against Tar Sands, Houston NoKXL and 350.org, among others.
Walking through River Oaks, I felt a deep sense of pride in myself and those joining the protest. Here in Houston, one of the major centers of the fossil fuel industry, we offered ourselves up with our message that our continued dependence on fossil fuels is unacceptable and dirty tar sands will not be tolerated.
And the issues of deportation and the Keystone XL pipeline are not separate. As our society burns up more and more fossil fuels, we increase atmospheric CO2 and impact the climate system. Droughts, flooding, and other climate-induced natural disasters, as well as disasters caused by natural resource extraction and militarism, are bringing more and more people to the United States, to which our president has responded by increasing the number of deportations, with this administration reaching now over 2 million. Deportations divide our families: fathers and mothers separated from their partners and their children, brothers and sisters, cousins…people are being torn from their network of support, creating deep trauma in communities, done as part of a political bargaining chip.
One participant called his cousin via cellphone to share the gathering with her. She had been deported only days before the rally. The suffering caused by the separation of families through deportations was made painfully visible as he expressed his anger and frustration to the crowd.
In Texas, the southern Keystone XL pipeline has already begun to flow crude and construction is underway to build a lateral pipeline to connect refineries in Houston with the southern Keystone XL. If the northern Keystone XL pipeline is approved and built, even more dirty tar sands oil will be brought to the Houston area. Many times, the same communities already dealing with issues such as deportation must deal also with environmental pollution and air quality issues. The Keystone XL pipeline puts already vulnerable communities at an even greater risk of disease.
As the evening went on, we called upon President Obama: “Stop deportations! Stop the Keystone XL pipeline!” And as we continued, we chanted: “Deport the pipeline!”