Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Let 'Em In

Artist Unknown, from a St. Michael's church bulletin

This is the time of year when the Arizona desert is at its most dangerous, a place of death and desperation.

Forced east from the physically safer California border by enforcement efforts there, thousands of men, women and children cross from Sonora into Arizona near Naco or Douglas or some other likely spot, and do their best to walk across desert that's 140 degrees on the ground, 100 to 120 air temperature, bound for Tucson.  Many are picked up by the Border Patrol, given medical treatment, and shipped back into Mexico.  Many others die from dehydration, heat stroke, or sometimes from snakebite or gunshot wounds.  Some are transported in overloaded vans and trucks, only to be abandoned en route, or to be killed or injured in traffic accidents.

Some of them make it.  Their reward is a chance to be in this country illegally, to earn wages that are paltry by our standards but princely by theirs, to give their families a chance at a better life. 

That is the dream that sends all those people on such a deadly trek, year after year.  They spend their life savings to hire "coyotes" to get them to Tucson alive, or they supply themselves with as much water as they can carry and make their way across in small groups on foot.  Either way, their lives are on the line. If they don't make it, but survive, they'll try again.  And again. Economic necessity drives them on.

Why in the world are we more willing to let these people die in the desert than we are to let them enter the country legally?  Can't we screen them for criminal records, drugs, and terrorism ties, and then welcome them to the U.S. in a reasonable, regulated way?  Is it so terrible that a city like Tucson, with its rich intercultural heritage, be allowed to take in poor folks willing to work hard for low wages, along with the middle-class WASPs from the Northeast who simply want to get away from snow and ice?  Can't we document them and let 'em in, on a trial basis, and arrest or deport them later if they turn out to be criminals or fail to gain employment? Sure, there would be problems to be worked out, but it could be done.

St. Michael's used to have a sign out front that said, "Jesus was a refugee."  That sign, at Fifth and Wilmot, helped to draw me in when I decided, years ago, to give church another try. I loved the compassion behind the sign, which showed the Holy Family en route to Egypt.  The people in the picture could almost as easily have been a Guatamalan family displaced from their home, or almost any refugees with a donkey, anywhere in this strife-torn world. Nowadays, the sign says, "Either we are all God's children, or no one is," another compassionate response to war and poverty.  St. Michael's also has a social concerns committee that tries to help people in Guatamala and elsewhere.  Frequently, we read in the church bulletin or hear during the church announcements about a border trash pickup expedition, or the effort to build and maintain water stations in the desert to help people stay alive, or the needs of a border health clinic.  We are told about groups called Humane Borders and No More Deaths, and are urged to support their good work.

I never do anything about any of this, except to stick a couple of bucks in a white envelope once a month, or copy the latest event info from the church bulletin onto the schedule page of the St. Michael's web site.  I'm too broke to give a lot of money to this, too fat, too shy and too busy to go walk around in the desert trying to help. But I feel bad every time I read or hear of more people dying for no good reason.  They shouldn't have to die.  It's a poor reward for such a valiant attempt at the American Dream.


Fox 11: No More Deaths
No More
Tucson Weekly: Traces of Identity
Here and Now: Hard Line


jcgeorgiapeach said...

I never realized how bad it was until we moved here.  In the southeast, you just don't hear of immigrant deaths...makes me wonder if anyone outside our area does either.   My first inkling about coyotes was when I heard about a pickup truck overturning at I-10 and Houghton and something like 10 people killed-44 injured a few years back.  What a shock!  

Congrats on your Editor's Pick!  ~Peachy

my78novata said...

I Love your little tuffy. What  cute dog. I Bet she is a sweet as sugar. Congradulations on being one of the top 5. You're journal is great!!!!!!! We homeschool & I have two girls one 23 who graduated from Homeschooling & is teaching at a private school & one 16 who has her permit now and takes care of a special needs child several time a week. Both care for the elderly, love kids & animals & take Karate & Piano. We also love to go camping. We love animals and always take our tw big dogs camping. We love working on old cars also or just fixing our up. You can also check out our kodak pictures page first link in our OTHER JOURNALS LINKS. Cars, animals and our way of living are all there. We love getting posts in my journal & see how our daily life goes on I 'd love to hear from you.  LORI  

deabvt said...

Congratulations!   Editor`s Pick!!!

shellys555 said...

Hey, Karen, Congrats on being an Editor's Pick. I seem destined to be a bridesmaid, never a bride. I get letters saying my journals are being considered but they never get picked. It's nice seeing someone I know get honored, tho. :) Just don't let the fame go to your head.

viviansullinwank said...

Congrats on being one of the AOL Journals Editors Top Picks this week!