Borderlands

June Reynolds is currently writing outside of Tucson, Arizona, about 60 miles as the crow flies from the border. Although she is not an expert in immigration or international politics, this is her general personal take over time, on what is going on in the borderlands.

Immigrant Seas, Immigrant Sands

Whether a watery grave, or desert mountain island,

They cross the “vastland” as an obstacle to a new life.

Willing to drown of too much or not enough.

Their dream is to be free of war and strife.

Whether immigrant sands or watery grave,

They cross the death fields with nothing to save.

Revolving door to send them back,

They drink water of life of which they do not lack.

June Reynolds, April 28, 2015

Anyone with a pulse, who has lived for a few weeks one-hundred miles from the U.S./Mexican line knows that there are a lot of neglected problems at the border. There are ports of entry, in which people can enter with proper papers, or they can turn themselves in to be processed, have a hearing, and in most cases being released back to the other side of the border. For twenty years, there has been a quiet problem of migrants, human trafficking or smuggling, and drug smuggling. The policies at the border, call for a better solution, but none has been created. There is no leadership to do the right thing. No leadership at all.

From 2000 to 2019, these have been the signs of the times.

No “Great Wall of China” border wall is going to stop people who are desperate. These people from the south can be disappointed to find that on the other side of the U.S. border, at Arizona, there is not a fancy shining city, no highways paved with gold, and in fact, the area they are entering is the 5th poorest in America.

Although there are many small entry points, Nogales is the biggest port of entry in the state of Arizona. Other than that highway entry point, there are towering sky islands of mountain ranges and dangerous deserts to cross. Many people from the south are unaware of this environment and try their hand to cross this vast-land and fail. The biggest problem is death — or in Spanish, muertes.

The sleepy port of entry at Lukeville, Arizona in 2017

The age-old human urge to migrate has been going on for a millennia or two. This urge to migrate is not taken lightly. To leave a homeland must mean it is important for survival. Historically, in this vast country, resources are far and few between and the original natives knew that they had to keep moving for survival. Between 200 and 300 B.C, the Hohokam natives roamed from north Arizona, of Salt River and the Gila River Valleys all the way south and west to the Sea of Cortes and the present day Baja, California. Their way of life was dependent on ranging and the petroglyphs on the rocks marked the way of their migration. The Hohokam people disappeared in around 1450.

Years later, other natives and new people who had migrated across the Aleutian Chain followed. Next were the Spaniard Conquistadors, with the Catholic Priests who established way stations with their missions and water holes. They charted the way through today’s Devils Highway. Next came the Chinese workers, who sailed to Mexican Ports and moved north and to the west to work on building the railroad tracks on the Transcontinental Railroad and all the branches that developed out of that. This set the first illegal crossing of the border into the inhospitable Devil’s Highway in western Arizona across the worst desert landscape known to many.

Rugged mountain trails that go on over the mountains.

It used to be that the rugged mountains, oven-hot deserts, and wind-blown sand dunes were enough to keep any type of migration to a low level, but human nature to move to a better life kicks in when dire poverty and/or the need for safety push people to find a better place. After World War II, the economy started booming in America and that economic lure was there for the people of Mexico. Ranchers were driving herds to market. Workers were crossing to do farm work and send money back to their home towns. There were robbers and desperadoes roaming the countryside. The give and take of laborers were the first to cross, but by the 1960's, individual men and some families were crossing to make a new life from money earned in American farm fields. These early immigrants took the money they made and took it back to their home or started other businesses in the states. By the 1980's, another wave of family groups came over the border. It was a common sight to see family groups moving across the Altar and Arva Valleys after descending over the Babaquivari, Santa Rita, and other mountains ranges. It was a common sight seeing family groups camping for a night over a ridge near a wash at the foot of the South Tucson Mountains.

By the 1990's, Drug Cartels took over whole communities in Mexico, causing even more people to flee to the north. By then, fear and bullying by the cartels replaced the reason for migrating. There have been waves of immigrants from South America coming for forty years to seek asylum from war and strife. To avoid conscription in an army or war that people did not believe in. To escape cartels or gangs taking up their land, homes, and community. Imagine you are living in a small town and men in strange uniforms come to your door and demand you pay a Tax — maybe a War Tax. This is how it is in Honduras. You have no work, so you have no money to pay this extortion. They threaten you by saying if you do not pay up, you or someone in your family could be murdered. Or, maybe there is young boy or man to be conscripted into their army, gang, or cartel. Where would you get the money to pay the extortion? It may be more likely to get shot than have a job. People are afraid of the police and will not report such threats. Honduras is the homicide capital of the world. So what would you do? Run away from your country?

Forty years of time has passed and America has not done or has not been able to revamp the Federal Immigration Policy. President Obama tried to keep a promise to at least make up for the the limbo-land that many American born immigrant children face every day with the “Dreamer” policy. Unfortunately the Dreamer Act is still in limbo-land and these children are not getting any younger. No other immigrant legislation has been formulated until Donald Trump immediately established the “Muslim Ban” in his first months of being in office. Now he has suddenly declared a National Emergency and a proposed building of a wall at the southern border. He claimed that Mexico would pay for it. It seems like Trump has stuck a stick in a beehive and has used this issue as a distraction and, at the same time, encouragement for migrants to come. People from Honduras, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Guatemala feel that they must leave now before the wall is built or the borders are closed. There is a feeling of immediacy. In March of 2018, there were 37,390 southern immigrants at the border. In March of 2019 there were 92,617 at the border.

In February, 2019, seventy thousand migrants made it to the border, from Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Honduras. They are making their way through Mexico, which is over a thousand miles. The Mexicans, who have been in the same situation over the years are ready to pass these people on the America. Recently, someone is getting these people on buses and sending them through the border to main American towns. Who could this be? None of this has been investigated. Eighty five people were dumped off in the desert in March. On Jan. 29, 2019 several busloads of people were dumped off on Hwy 2 south of the Mexican Border. Two-hundred and forty two people — families from Guatemala were arrested by border patrol. Sometimes they make it to the bus station in Tucson or Phoenix. Once these people get off the bus, they are rounded up and detained in America. Now all the detainee facilities have been filled to capacity. Facilities at Yuma are at 149 per cent capacity. President Donald Trump has directed that these people should now be bused to Sanctuary Cities. His reasoning has nothing to do with these poor people but as a political punishment to those who criticize his policies.

After a winter snowstorm and some rainfall on the Tohono O’odham Native American Reservation, which is the size on Connecticut, right on the Mexican Border. (The other side of the mountain marks the border.)

The revolving door for these migrants sometimes suggests that cross country trekking would be better. The problem is that this borderland crossing is very dangerous, especially from April through September. The desert is going into its worse season of year with triple digits of heat rising in the desert, rattlesnakes, truck-sized boulders to climb, and floodwaters from the summer monsoons. These are things that the migrants are unaware of.

This winter did not prove to be easy crossing either as cold weather followed by snow prevailed upon the land. There was heavy accumulations of snow followed by flash floods of snow-melt, causing road closures. This winter, there was a big rescue of a group of migrants out of a foot of snow in the Florida Canyon of the Santa Rita Mountains.

Trump’s plan to erect a wall is not very cost effective when the money could be used to help the root problems in the migrant’s countries. Instead of extending more aid to the Central American countries, Donald Trump just cut the existing aid to these countries 35 per cent. Just to build 57 miles of border wall would cost one billion dollars. Just think what a billion dollars could do for desperate farmers or women starting cottage industries. Just think what a billion dollars and some modern, firm, and fair immigration policies and a massive hiring of immigration lawyers, judges, translators, and social workers could mean to our problems not only far away, but on the border itself. The way the border is today is that: “…the way things work, don’t work.” As Luis Alberto Urrea says of the 26 Mexicans who tried to cross the Devil’s Highway desert in May of 2000. Only 14 of 26 lived to tell the tale. It was such a horrendous ordeal that the Border Patrol agents, themselves, collected their own money to provide emergency towers for those who are lost and dying.

The iron border wall at Lukeville.

There is a humanitarian crisis at our border. The President is going about this all wrong with his simplistic plan. El Paso had to house a huge group of migrants under an overpass bridge for a few days with a big emergency tent. People are so desperate, they are sending their children unaccompanied on a thousand mile trip rather than have their children joining the cartels, gangs, or the army.

Trump threatened to completely close down the borders and the ports of entry, right before the second biggest holiday of the borderland — Easter. Some people would not be able to celebrate and shop with their relatives. Americans are already canceling their beach vacations to go south. Commerce will be curtailed. Food from the south would not make it to the stores. (Luckily, for the moment, Trump changed his mind, but wait! Now he has fired his Homeland security head and others. Now he is going to send the migrants to sanctuary cities. The drama goes on.)

By threatening to shut down the border, our President is pressuring Mexico to do something just like his declaration that Mexico would pay for the wall. This is all meaningless as Mexico has enough problems as it is. America must solve this problem on their own. So we will remain in a stalemate: Comprehensive immigration reform and foreign aid Verses fear and isolationism. What will it be America? Who will suffer?