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Immigration | Global Migration | Border Externalization

How Walls, Deterrence & Title 42 Embolden Organized Crime

Dora Rodriguez’s tell-all tale of Surviving the Sonoran Desert

Central Americans on the Mexican side of Trump’s 30-foot border wall with their coyote. Note the matching camo and other look-alike supplies — all purchased prior to departure in cartel-controlled mom-and-pop shops in Sasabe, Mexico (credit: Sarah Towle, 2021)

On Monday, May 23, 2022, as the world awaited the long-fought for lifting of Title 42, the United Nations dropped the bomb that there are now more than 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide.


That means 1 in every 100 people on the planet right now has been driven from their birthplace by war, conflict, crippling poverty, weather-related disasters, etc. Eighty percent of these people are in the Global South.

Title 42, an obscure public health provision under the US Centers for Disease Control, was invoked by the Trump administration in March 2020 in the guise of controlling COVID-19. But what it really did was put an immediate end to the right to seek asylum from persecution at US southern ports of entry. Title 42 cut off one route to lawful migration, trapping Brown, Black, and poor people on the other side of the US line.

The abuse of Title 42 has persisted under Biden. It is to blame for expelling roughly 2 million people, to date, back to the harms they fled without any due process under the law. It has turned untold numbers of the world’s most vulnerable people into sitting ducks for cartel violence and organized crime. Under constant threat in Mexican border towns, waiting their turn to request protection for now years on end, many legitimate asylum seekers have been pushed to try their luck in the unpredictable Rio Grande, or by scaling the now 30-ft border wall, or by hiking through the Sonoran desert — one of the hottest places on earth.

Many won’t make it.

In Episode 14 of Witness Radio, I speak to one person who did survive the desert trek — but only just. Her name is Dora Rodriguez, and her tragic tale, which sparked a movement in the 1980s, stands as a profound example of the failure of the now decades-long US borderlands strategy of deterring migration by taking measures most cruel has created a market for organized crime. The political abuse of Title 42 is just the latest manifestation of that strategy, which has cost the lives of so many already. Because it was not rescinded on May 23rd, as it should have been, others will be forced to follow in Dora’s footsteps this summer. And many more will die.

When will the US government be held accountable for these crimes?


Additional Information:
UN: More than 100 million people forcibly displaced in the world
As Biden Prepares to Take Office, a New Rush at the Border

Cited Organizations:
Casa de la Esperanza
Tucson Samaritans
No More Deaths
Humane Borders
Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans

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Sarah Towle

Sarah Towle

Award-winning London-based author sharing her journey from outrage to activism one tale of humanity and podcast episode at a time @THE FIRST SOLUTION on Medium