Fiestas Primaveras Prize-Winning Essay: “How La Migra impacts our Community, and what we can do to change it”

[Note from BenIndy: As part of the Solano AIDS Network and BBLM’s inaugural Fiestas Primavera Festival on March 28, 2024, Benicia High School students were invited to submit writings for an essay contest discussing issues related to the chase-games malingering presence in a town that seemed ready to move on. This essay tackled the tough topic of why students are drawn to the game – namely, “there isn’t much [for teens] to do in Benicia” – and what else might deliver the same thrills for Benicia youth, minus the racism and looming danger of injuries, arrests, and even fatalities.]

Spencer and Mario Saucedo at Benicia’s Fiestas Primavera on March 28, 2024. | Photo by family.

By Spencer Ball, May 28, 2024

The game “La Migra” or “Border Patrol” has been treated as a tradition toward high school students at Benicia high school for several decades. The aim of the game is for the higher classmen (Seniors who are able to drive) to chase down lowerclassmen from Jack London Park to the baseball field downtown. This is a 3-4 mile journey the lowerclassmen, mostly freshmen, must complete on foot throughout the roads and fields on Benicia while avoiding the seniors that are able to kidnap, shoot, and harrass you and hinder you from reaching the baseball field. Now this seems like a fun cops and robbers game, there isn’t much to do in Benicia anyway and to have an intense chase game that uses the entire city and a playground sounds extremely fun. 

However there is also the concern of non players and the safety of others playing the game. The game takes place late in the afternoon and lasts until around 10:00 pm at night. For a majority of the time people are in the dark, running around the street, avoiding Seniors in their cars who are most likely driving erratically to catch the lowerclassmen.

This can lead to accidents of people getting run over or people getting into wrecks. On another note there is the concern of people who are not playing being confused for players. During the game the seniors assume anybody who is a teenager and out walking or running down the sidewalk is playing, which could subject them to being shot at or kidnapped without even knowing what is going on. I would be terrified if I was walking down the street and then out of nowhere somebody drove up to Me, kidnapped me, and dropped me off, potentially restrained in a location far and foreign to Me, for possibly hours on end. 

Lastly La Migra, meaning Border Patrol, was originally created to replicate ICE and the deportation of illegal immigrants coming into the country. This gives La Migra, which most people play for the cops and robbers gameplay, a racist and discriminatory premise, which is not needed in today’s culture.

I believe we can fix this through rebranding the game and playing it in a controlled area such as the Benicia Community Park, with the aid of the city of professionals who can make the game even better than it was with Seniors in their cars and BB guns.

What if we could get funding behind a cause to rework the game and get military personnel or professionals to provide a simulated cops-and-robbers game like what was La Migra, but controlled, with EMT services to help people in case there is an accident, and have the potential to be way better more funner and memorable? If students want the thrill of chase or battle, these people can give that to us. It would be an event that people might come to Benicia to participate in, news articles will give it traction, and it will turn what was once La Migra into a inclusive game where people will be able to enjoy a game in a way unimaginable before, and without racial bias rooted into the phenomenon.

[This essay was edited very mildly for clarity.]