Cowboy Killers by Grace Walshe
I was reading the poem Barking by Jim Harrison some time in the days following the white supremacist terror attack in El Paso, as well as the Mississippi ICE raid, which left children and babies without anyone to pick them up from school and daycare. This was the largest ICE raid in a single state in US history, impacting nearly 700 people.
Harrison’s imagery of migratory birds travelling from Mexico to Montana led me to think about how borders are unnatural and arbitrary. I wrote this poem as a response to the callousness of modern immigration policy and the way in which it has made space for white supremacist terrorism, which is treated by governments with disproportionate benignity when compared to Islamic terrorism.
Even though I wrote this with recent American events in mind, it applies to many countries globally, especially my own. Australia has, for nearly two decades, carried out some of the grimmest immigration practices with offshore detention centres holding refugees, including children, indefinitely. The remoteness of these island detention centres has allowed for a level of media suppression Trump would envy, given the current inhuman conditions in US border detention centres.
Since 2010, 45 people have died in Australian onshore and offshore detention centres, with over half of those deaths known to be suicide.
Since Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, 24 immigrants have died in the custody of ICE, a figure that doesn’t include the deaths of four immigrants who died shortly after being released from custody.
I study Indigenous studies and this kind of cruelty is reminiscent of the state sanctioned violence against First Nations people at the time frontier colonialism.