Back in Montezuma, N.M. after 10 days on the road with 18 UWC-USA students, faculty chaperones, and Broadus, 8.5 years, a great traveler, interested in everything. In place of a Spring Break, students at UWC elect a service-learning adventure. This one was to study border issues, especially as they pertain to Mexican illegal immigration. We worked with community and human rights groups – faith based and otherwise – working along the US-Mexican border.
Humane Borders and No Mas Muertes put out markers and water in the Arizona desert for the migrants trying to cross over. The Border Patrol, and the Arizona state and county governments, as well as all mainstream denominations support their efforts, financially and otherwise, hoping to avoid a much larger humanitarian crisis along the border. There have been 1600 migrant deaths in the fifty miles of Arizona desert between Tuscan and Nogales since 2005. The work of Humane Borders is to prevent as many deaths as they can with the resources they have.
We camped out on a lot of church floors on both sides of the border. No county morgue trip this year but we did visit the federal courthouse, the Border Patrol Museum and talked with members of the Border Patrol. We visited a Mexican orphanage and C.R.E.E.D.A., an amazing addict-run treatment center for Mexican alcoholics and addicts, some of them former coyotes. The students carried out a number of tasks and chores at all of these locations. They also staffed a center for deported migrants returning from the US.
Many of the migrants are from southern Mexico, many from other Central American countries. The migrants have to be wary of the coyotes they hire to take them across the border and fifty miles of desert on the US side. The majority of women taken through the desert are raped either by their coyotes or by bands of robbers the coyote is in league with who wait in the desert. If the migrants are apprehended and deported, in Mexican border towns they are easy prey to predators waiting to take advantage of their ignorance. The Migrant Centers work to shield and counsel returnees.
I’ll be sorting out my own views of the issues in the days to come but I can say now that my sympathy is with the underdog. It isn’t that complicated a question. All it would take to resolve the problem humanely would be some genuine concern from the governments of the US and of Mexico for the well-being of its citizens.
Thanks to all who have left comments while I have been away! I’ll be posting responses and photos as I recenter here in NM.