Make America think again
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Consider the scenario: A 55 year-old farmer — father to three, grandfather of two and married for 20 years — endures a decade-long drought near Jalisco, Mexico.
His farm is subsidized, novel irrigation tactics are introduced, low-interest loans are given, but the inevitable occurs: His crop runs dry, his debt surpasses $20K and he decides to take the only skills he knows further north, where pay is good.
This is exactly somebody our group of Notre Dame students encountered while spending winter break at the United States/Mexico Border. After a semester studying immigration policy, we met with United States Border Patrol officers, local ranchers and humanitarian aid groups to immerse ourselves in the complexities surrounding the border.
The Arizona-Sonora border, extending over 350 miles, traverses peaks and trenches. It is a home to spectacular panoramas, unique wildlife and a culture that fuses nations. By the turn of the 21st century, the deaths of more than 11,000 undocumented migrants was well under way in our own Sonoran Desert. Today, a wall threatens to divide a land that conjoins two great nations.
Operation Hold the Line and Operation Gatekeeper, both Clinton-era measures, closed the California and Texas borders, funneling migrants to the most dangerous and remote parts of the Sonoran Desert. Deaths caused by dehydration and exposure soared after these laws were enacted, provoking local churches to band together and deliver aid to those who were dying in their own backyard.
For the last 20 years, humanitarian groups such as “No More Deaths” and “Samaritans” have trekked to remote sections of the Arizonan desert to drop off water, food and medical supplies along migrant trails. These groups have been charged for anything from littering to conspiring to transport illegal aliens over 30 times. Never have they been convicted. Never is humanitarian aid a crime. Regularly, border patrol slashes water supplies. Regularly, militia groups destroy food caches. Every week of the year, local residents and authorities find human remains along these trails in southern Arizona.
The decision to cross illegally is particularly disagreeable, but no one deserves to die. Migrants are often deceived or ignorant of the geography of the southwest. The lights in the distance — a three-days walk through barren dessert — are mistaken to be Chicago. Those lights are Tucson, a city 1,745 miles away from Chicago.
Illegal immigration will exist as long as America’s economical abundance persists. People come here for a better life today, just as the English, Spanish, French, Polish, Irish and Italians did decades ago. A wall will not prevent illegal immigration. It will further polarize this great country. Tunnels in Mexico slither below our borders, only to emerge through the floor boards of abandoned homes. The instant Border Patrol finds one tunnel, another is already being built. Don’t put money into the steel beams of isolationism. Put it into our legal system, our think tanks and our research institutes. Before we make America great again, let’s make America think again.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.