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In hope of no more deaths

| Thursday, February 23, 2017

In the 1990s, Doris Meissner — then commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) under President Bill Clinton — stated that “geography would do the rest” regarding increased border security alongside the main ports of entry at the U.S.–Mexico border. She, along with anti-immigrant politicians and citizens, did not foresee that immigrants would simply reroute and cross through the more isolated parts of the desert, where enforcement is nearly impossible.

What Clinton, Meissner and other politicians also did not anticipate was the desperate circumstances in which many immigrants find themselves, a situation generally between living in horrible circumstances — or even death — in their home country and trying to make a better life for themselves by risking their lives to come to the United States by crossing a deadly desert.

Over winter break, I had the privilege to go to southern Arizona to tour the border and speak with humanitarian and legal organizations as well as Border Patrol officials. One of the most moving and inspiring moments of the trip was being able to spend a day working with a humanitarian organization that goes into desolate parts of the desert to put out gallons of water in key locations where they believe migrants cross. Now, this was a cool January day in the Sonoran desert, but I cannot imagine spending a week there over the summer months — the busiest months for migrant crossers — when the temperatures are above 100 degrees: a literal hell on earth. 

This is what migrants are willing to go through. Humanitarian organizations are responding to the thousands of deaths that are occurring because these immigrants have no legal routes to be able to come to the United States to make a better life for themselves.

Increased border security under Clinton, an emphasis on national security post-9/11 under President George Bush and the current attempt to drastically militarize the border by the current administration — apart from failing to deter immigrants — has created a humanitarian crisis that has resulted in the thousands of confirmed deaths of immigrants crossing the border.

Increased border enforcement does not work as an effective means to lowering undocumented immigration into the United States, nor does it work as an economically sustainable deterrence policy. 

We should not trade in such humanitarian and fiscal problems for a false sense of security. Instead, we should focus on a comprehensive alternative that treats the causes of immigration from the root of the problem, not futilely attempting to stop it at our doorstep.

Immigrants should not die because they are in the crossfires of a lengthy and contentious political debate. Politicians can argue on whether immigrants should be given citizenship or any other form of benefit, but ending or at least lowering the death rates of crossers and the protection of human dignity should be non-negotiable. 

As Notre Dame students, we should engage in the political debates, but we need to also realize that there are thousands of people dying in the desert, and we should not forget this because of bitter partisan bickering.

Monday at 12:30 p.m. in the Geddes coffee house, the Center for Social Concerns will be hosting a discussion of the human rights issues and horrendous events happening at the U.S.–Mexico border. Members of No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization that is based in southern Arizona, will lead the discussion. As their name suggests, their goal is to stop the humanitarian crisis happening at the border today.

No More Deaths’ goal is a worthy one and their mission should be our mission as well. I invite the entire Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s community to come and learn about the real and catastrophic deaths that are happening at the border.

Cesar Estrada


Feb. 22

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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