May 12th 2008
Border patrol visit Begaeta Nukic
I was very enthusiastic about visiting the Border Patrol. When we reached the facility, I was surprised at the amount of border patrol vehicles parked outside in the parking lot. I could not believe that there were so many cars just parked there…shouldn’t they at least be out someone doing their job? But then again, why do they need so many cars if they are just going to be sitting there? In addition to cars, there were a few horses not too far off from where we parked and I assumed that they used these horses too when trying to catch immigrants.
However, what I was even more surprised about was when we actually entered inside. We had 3 agents come and meet us….and all of them looked Latino!! It must be wrong! I mean…they can’t possibly be working here!? Of all the nationalities I really did not expect to see Latinos here, well at least not that many. I could not possibly imagine that they would take on the jobs in which they would be capturing people of their own descent. And the worst thing is that these officers were really thinking that they were doing something amazing and doing their best to protect “their country”. Later we found out that of all the workers at the Border Patrol facility there in Nogales, 40% are Hispanics/Latinos. I really was shocked to learn that.
What made me really angry is when the first officer, Omar, said “there are legal ways to enter the country” and that these immigrants should do it that way. But he was overlooking the fact that these people have to wait for ages to get visas, if at all in their lifetime. It is not possible to get visas in a short time for these helpless immigrants. The wait is so long…that they know they will never get them.
The other guy, Raul was in some ways even worse than Omar. He believed that Mexican people needed to remain in their country and “if they work hard they can have a better job in the future and have a better living status.” I wanted to scream out “Are you serious?”. He really must be naïve if he thinks that for real. If that was the solution to the problems in Mexico, we wouldn’t have this immigration problem. Mexican people are hard working people and if that was the solution to their problems, we wouldn’t be discussing this now. They certainly wouldn’t be risking their lives trying to cross the desert if the solution was as simple as “work harder” in your own country.
Then Raul took us a room in which they process immigrants that they have caught that day. This was so humiliating for both me and I can only imagine how humiliating this must have been for those people who saw us watching them. At one point I locked my eyes with one of the men who was being processes and he was tired but at the same time he looked very helpless. He couldn’t do anything. I wondered what was going through his mind. Was he thinking about his family back in Mexico? Was he thinking what he is going to do when he gets back? Will he try to cross again? Did he think about paying back the money that he might have borrowed from someone for this trip? Why did God permit this to happen? He could have been thinking about many things.
But the fact that he was staring at me….I felt like he was asking me questions too. Perhaps…why were we all here watching him and others? That question, the “why?” question hung in the air…and I felt embarrassed. I started to cry and I wanted to tell him “I am sorry”…I am sorry for humiliating you by being here but also I am sorry that I am here but I cannot help you in any way.
In that same room was a little boy, perhaps 10 years old. He was so lost, and I wondered if any other people in this room were related to him or if he was alone. He looked so sad…beaten by the long travel. And then I imagined what if this was my friend’s brother? What if the man I saw earlier was my friend’s father? It could very well be. My friend and her family are in the United States now but they can be caught any day and sent back home. And I cried silently and helplessly….
Monday, May 12th 2008
Today when we went to the border wall, our mission was too look at the art on the wall done by local artists, Alberto Morackis and Guadalupe Serrano. Their art was very thought provoking, depicting the desert, border patrol chasing immigrants, immigrants running out of water and food, skeletons lying on the desert floor, etc. However, there was one piece of “art” that I found much more powerful in its simplicity than anything that Alberto and Lupe did. It was a simple statement “Si Es Pecado Que Dios Me Perdone”
“Si Es Pecado Que Dios Me Perdone” is still stuck in head. This statement, a simple line that was spray-painted on the wall among the rest of the writings done by other people, stood out for me. It symbolizes so much that it is hard to explain. When I see the picture, it screams out all the different things that we have learned about border issues. When I look at it, it screams, “We are just humans who want something better on the other side”. It screams, “We know it might be wrong but we have to go”. It screams, “We know that you don’t want us on the other side, but we have no options staying here”. Lastly, it screams out very loudly “We are religious people and we wouldn’t do this unless we were so desperate, so if it is a sin to cross this border then God please forgive us.”
So when people say that Mexicans are crossing to make trouble in the United States, I would point to this line. Would a person who is doing criminal things (it is important for me to say that immigrants crossing more than once are not criminals according to me…even though Border Patrol counts it as a criminal activity) be saying and thinking something like this? Would a person cross the border, fearing that it might be a “pecado” to do even more harm? Not a religious Mexican, I can assure you that much.
Wednesday May 14th 2008
This morning we woke up in Centro Comunitario de Atenzion al Migrante y Necesidados (CCAMYN). At CCAMYN, we slept on the floor but surprisingly I slept well. The air conditioner was right above my head so it was making noise, but at the same time, it kept the place nice and cool so I am not complaining.
After usual getting ready in the morning, everyone was excited to have breakfast. Once again, we will be eating with the migrants who are staying at CCAMYN. Someone came up with the idea of pitching in money to buy more food for breakfast so we were able to have a little better meal than usual. This was a great idea.
As we were getting the food all set up on the tables, migrants showed up. The man who was sitting with Andrew and me the night before for dinner did not come in. I told Andrew about this and he responded jokingly “He didn’t like us last night either. He left even though everyone else stayed around talking to others.” I thought about this too…but then again it could be that he was very tired and did not want to get up so early—after all; this breakfast was at 7:30.
As I was thinking of why the man was not here, I heard what was really going on. The man who had dinner with us did not come to breakfast because he was a coyote. They realized this when he was trying to recruit people to have them smuggled over the border and he was kicked out of this place along with his friend with whom he came in yesterday. What!?! I mean, really? But I believed him! I thought he was a migrant like all others and I did not doubt what he said the night before. He told us that he lived in the United States for 17 years, that he had a girlfriend in the United States so he was hoping that they would get married and that way he can get documents because she was American citizen. He told us that he was stopped by a local police officer for a small traffic violation and that that police officer reported him. I felt bad that this happened to this man. He was in the in the United States for most of his life and it was not fair that he got deported.
Now finding out that he was a coyote and that he was lying to me in my face, I felt betrayed.
Then it hit me! If I foolishly fell for his charm and believed everything he said despite that they were all lies, imagine how migrants feel when they are trying to cross. Whom can they believe? If this coyote was so convincing in his story about his life, he can in the same way come up with wonderful things about the trip and fool people into believing and trusting him with their lives. Migrants can get fooled easily because it is good things they want to hear to begin with. For instance, they could give him money beforehand because he could make them believe him that he needed it before. He could make them believe that he knows the quickest route to the United States and that it will take only a few hours, when it fact it will take them a couple days. Migrants can pay for this mistake with their lives.
As all of this was going through my head, I felt even worse for migrants. Their own people were betraying them. They really did not and could not believe anyone. This made their journey to the United States even harder; they were on their own.