This is my second time coming back to the Borderland. The first occurred during a Borderlinks delegation with Charlie Thompson’s class, Farmworkers in North Carolina. My first experience with the border was nothing short of life altering. Suddenly, the evils of undocumented immigration were exposed to me. I have no idea that people, men, women, even children were crossing the desert every day. They crossed for the simple necessity of economic and financial stability. One of the most powerful quotations that has stayed with me from the first delegation came from a man I met at Groupos Beta. He said, “I would rather died in the desert trying to help my family, than watch my children starve to death at home.”
This second delegation has been quite different than the first. Although, we went to the same places and talked to some of the very same people, the mood of the delegation differed. Traveling in the summer, there were less migrants in Altar—the mecca of the human smuggling. However, I did meet two migrants who had been deported and were trying to cross again. They both wore USA baseball caps on top of their heads. This resonated with me because their hats seemed to symbolize an olive branch or peace treaty of some sort. They wore their caps proudly. They were proud of the U.S. of A, which seemed so ironic to me. As a US Citizen, I criticize my country so often. I criticize the environment policy. I criticize the prejudice and racism that still permeates in schools and work places. I am angered by the discrepancy and distribution of wealth. Yet, here were too men in front of me who were willing to cross, to risk their life just for a chance.
When a migrant crosses, he risks his life. If he fails, he fails himself. Some migrants sell all of their family’s belonging in order to pay a pollero or guide to take him to El Norte. This never truly resonated with me until we visited the Court during a session of Operation Streamline. Men and women chained and shackled, herded into seats by a boy who is scarcely a man. Ten men are trialed at once, in a chain gain. All pronounce ‘guilty’ as if there were no other choices. They are assigned strange adjectives such as felon, unlawful, and misdemeanor. As they are trialed, migrants walk pass me. Some younger migrants look at me with a smirk, saying that it won’t matter what the US federal government does, migrants will fine away. I don’t know whether to approve or feel conflicted. Yet, some refuse to look up, they seem to have had their spirit and soul beaten out of them.