California Attorney General, Rob Bonta (official)

Several years ago, while working with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color through PolicyLink in Oakland, California, I had a front row seat to the inner workings of one of the most exciting times in California politics.  This meant that I got to cross paths with everyone from both Governors Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom (as Lieutenant Governor) as well as Kamala Harris (as Attorney General) Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and California Attorney General, Rob Bonta, who at the time represented my Assembly District in Oakland.  What struck me about AG Bonta was a combination of earnestness and accessibility.  Having witnessed him in listening sessions with local youth, I got to experience how well he listened, how much insight he had and the fact that his deep, deep compassion for human beings sits at the center of his political and legal mind. Maybe this is because of his background as an immigrant and a person of color; maybe he learned this in school.  Regardless of any personal opinions one may have about his political dealings, Rob Bonta is someone I have personally witnessed as a straight up good guy.

Ron DeSantis however, is another story.  I do not know him.  I’ve never met him.  I’ve never seen him publicly interact with anyone who looks like me (in fact, I’ve never seen him interact with anyone who wasn’t white).  His policies are atrocious and bigoted with little rationale beyond scoring conservative political points.  Inclusive of his many short comings, I find great irony in his resistance to the history of race and oppression being taught in Florida schools because so much of that history intersects with the different forms of human trafficking.

Only the most ignorant of people would not be able to understand that the coerced and or forced capture and transportation of human beings against their will or without their knowledge for profit (monetary or political capital) is literally trafficking.  This is what happened to enslaved Africans; it is what happened to Jews during the Holocaust; it is what happened to Native children removed to “Indian Schools”; it happens to vulnerable women and children around the world and more.  Shockingly, it is what is now happening with migrants entering the US at the southern border.  DeSantis, and equally culpable migrant runner, Gov. Greg Abbott will deflect from the truth of their actions, stating that they are somehow acting in these people’s best interest by moving them along to “sanctuary cities”, but the truth is that if you put someone in a bus, or plane against their will, or without their full understanding of where they are going, it is an act of kidnapping.  If there is financial compensation involved, it is an act of trafficking.

DeSantis and Abbot do not condemn these actions and they’ve tried to distance themselves from the facts, but the paper trails lead, most pointedly to DeSantis and his Florida government.  Although I recognize that we are a country of laws and that one is innocent until proven guilty, no one asked the migrants who have become pawns in this disgusting political show and I somehow believe that the laws of the land that entitle DeSantis to a full investigation should not outweigh the laws of humanity or human decency.  His involvement in any part of this display needs to disqualify him from any public office, let alone the Presidency of the United States.

If DeSantis is willing to participate in this kind of action, what’s to say he won’t try to cook up something just as draconian for transgender people in Florida…or worse as President for the country?  What’s to stop him from locking up women seeking abortion care and shipping them off to Minnesota?  If you teach CRT will you be packed off to New Zealand?  Will he bus Mickey Mouse back to California?

Rob Bonta, besides being a good guy is also a brilliant and highly detail oriented legal professional.  I trust that he will put his Yale degree to better use than DeSantis is putting his.  I also trust that he will blend that technical knowledge with his lifelong commitment to justice and humanity. He will find the legal facts but he won’t forget the people impacted by them.  The lottery of birth location is challenging to witness here because if anyone should be able to run for president its Bonta and not DeSantis.





When I lived in San Diego between 2014 and 2015, I also had the opportunity to directly experience some of the lives, lifestyles and challenges at the border between Mexico and the United States.  I got to see first-hand, the bustling cities of San Ysidro and Tijuana, I met incredibly dedicated people giving their time and energy to supporting vulnerable people and had direct contact with Border Patrol Agents.  Several things stood out to me:

  • Both San Ysidro (US side) and Tijuana (Mexico side) are vibrant places with rich bi-lingual cultures.
  • Where San Ysidro’s urban center gives way to genuinely suburban and fairly typical “American” middle class neighborhoods as you move north, Tijuana has a larger, more-dense urban feel for a wider area and then gives way as you head south and east to what would be considered by “American” standards rural settings with many dirt roads and more basic infrastructure.
  • Incredible numbers of people pass both ways through the port of entry at San Ysidro/Tijuana. The number looks to be equal in both directions, but most of the congestion is on the Mexico side due to the restrictive nature of how people are processed entering the US.
  • The vast number of people crossing the border, in both directions, at this port of entry are US citizens seeking goods and services or recreation.
  • There is thriving business for Mexican vendors on the Mexican side and US retail outlets on the US side of the border.
  • The people on both sides, were friendly, welcoming, diverse, funny and completely human.  There was nothing “alien” about any of them.

Probably the most striking aspect of my education about the southern border came in realizing that nearly all of the need for goods, services and people is driven by US demand.  This is true for textiles and mechanics (see the film Maquilapolis) but this is particularly true where human trafficking and drug smuggling are concerned.  My trip was part of a seminary immersion experience and as a minister in formation, I was exposed to people who had been trafficked and people who had been impacted by the drug trade as well as people who were thriving and not touched by either but were simply trying to live and get by in that environment.  And at the same time, living in San Diego, it was very telling to travel just 18 miles north and encounter the rich, young (largely white) people who were partying hardy and looking for easily accessible drugs oblivious to the connection they had to the life I had been exposed to at the border.  In San Diego, I also encountered more than one non-Mexican person who had been to Tijuana for quick and easy sex.

2015-01-14 10.34.42The “crisis” that Donald Trump attempted to present in his 9-minute address from the Oval Office is one that will always exist as long as American citizens continue to financially drive the billion-dollar illicit drug and human trafficking trades.  The people migrating north are not the crisis; the market for the exploitation of vulnerable people is the crisis…and it is a crisis that is as old as our government.  The people “flooding” the border are not the criminals that need to be dealt with.  In large part, most of them are seeking safety from violence in countries whose governments were imploded by US intervention.  The true criminals are in Washington, D.C.; the criminals are in the financial centers and corporation board rooms, and they are the ones inflating and manipulating currencies and values, paying off pharmaceutical companies and establishing a playing field of commerce that is ripe for exploitation of the poor and vulnerable people who have little or no choice on the bottom of the equation.  The true criminals are in every neighborhood and community of the United States and they are in all socio-economic brackets.  The criminals are you and I and our willingness to benefit from a system that has always thrived on oppression.

The true crisis is that our economy and wealth continues to be driven by the concept of trianglular trade as established with African slavery*.  According to Trump, a wall would be built to keep out the people who are supposedly the problem.  But the problem isn’t the slave…the problem is still slavery.


*From the musical 1776