Sandra Gonzalez Border Journal Entries
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Eating breakfast with the migrants was a nice experience because I felt like we finally had an opportunity to share something with them. I had an opportunity to speak with a man who was crossing the border today, he was a father of three daughters and his goal was just to get across and make some money. His intentions were not of staying the rest of his life over there, he just wanted to make a few dollars for his family and then return back home. He was from Chiapas and he had traveled a long way just to make it to Altar. I wished him lots of luck and shared with his my parent’s experience of crossing the border.
When we went to the plaza in Altar, I spoke to a group of men who had just arrived at the plaza that same morning. They had been deported and worked at a ranch which was owned by a Chicano. The ranch was located in Casa Grande a place near the border. Most of them had a family over in Casa Grande and they all worked really hard in the agriculture sector. He told me a few stories about him helping the migrants who came out from the desert. According to him, his boss didn’t want his workers to help those people because he didn’t want any problems. However, he helped the people because he knows how rough the journey is.
This migrant had lived in the U.S. for 19 years and now that he was deported he took this opportunity to go visit his mother in his town located near the border. I asked him how he was deported and he told me that as he was driving down, a sheriff pulled him and his buddy over for driving with a cracked window. First the sheriff gave him a ticket, and then the sheriff turned them in with the border patrol. The two migrants had families in the ranch and their boss was expecting them by Saturday because they had to start picking out the watermelons.
When I first approached these men I thought they had a coyote that would help them cross the border since the vans were lined up ready to take people across the border. However, the men told me they were not going to cross with a coyote because he knew the path well enough since he had crossed many previous times. They told me they we going to cross and within two or three days max they would be at the ranch where they work. I asked him about the border patrol that roams around the area in which he works and he told me that most of the Caucasian patrol officers are very nice compare to the Latinos. Apparently, the Latinos are the worst officers because they mistreat the migrants.
Throughout my trip so far, I’ve asked the migrants what race was the officer that arrested them and how were they treated. Most of them were arrested by Caucasian officers and they were treated well. In the detention centers where they were held, most were given Ritz crackers or other cookies with milk or juice as food. However, one of the migrants told me that one of his cell mates got upset because he was hungry and he had previously asked the officer for food, yet the officer refused to give him any. So they removed him from the cell and took him somewhere else because his attitude to the officer was getting worse. Many of the migrants believe that if you behave properly and do not act rude to the patrol officer that detains you, the officer will not harm you. Yet those who have been arrested by Latino officers receive rude insulting comments.
I believe Latino officers that take advantage of a migrant’s detention to either insult them or rob them are a complete shame to our culture. Just because they are in a better position than the migrants, I believe they shouldn’t take advantage of them because I’m sure they once had ancestors who immigrated to this country.
May 15, 2008
Today Thursday, I went to visit the Migrant Aid Station in which I was able to speak to a few of the men who had recently been deported from the United States. I spoke to a young man who was accompanied by his mother; they were both sitting by the gates waiting for the young man’s brother who had being detained for two months. According to the young man, his brother was expected to be released on that day. However, he was not sure whether his brother would be sent to that station or to another one which was farther away. Apparently the brother, mother and the young man were caught while trying to cross the border.
I saw many looks of sadness and failure by these two people, yet I saw other people who were sad but still willing to cross the border again because that was the only sign of hope. One of the most appalling stories I heard was from a man who had previously attempted to cross the border and was kidnapped by the “narcóticos”, his family in the United States had to send the narcóticos a ransom in order for them to let him go. He was robbed and set free, yet he still attempted to cross the border. On his second attempted he a made friend and when his friend ran out of water he stayed by his side with the little water he had left as they waited for the border patrol to pick them up. The look on this man’s face was of failure and disappointment.
I was devastated with some of these stories, especially with the young couple who tried to cross the desert with their newborn baby. Some of the desperation I saw in these people was enormous that even though they knew the consequences, they didn’t care because it was their only hope for success. Many of the people I spoke to were parents seeking to come to the United States in order to send remittances back home.
After speaking to the migrants we went to visit Grupo Beta. Honestly I was a little upset with the presenter’s comments in particular when he said all of us must have committed some sort of crime in our lifetime. According to the presenter, their main task is to supposedly help the migrants and educate them about the risks in crossing the border. Yet if they see pregnant women, regardless if she may be in a good condition, she is taken back to Beta and informed about the risk of crossing the border due to her circumstances. One of the most disturbing moments was when he showed us the pictures of the dead people they had found. Although I didn’t want to see them at first, I wanted to know how these people were found. (I was curious) Seeing the pictures was the worst because I saw images of people with bullets, or who died without water trying to stay in an area with some sort of shade and others who had been eaten by the animals. Some of the dead bodies were partially eaten by the animals and some were found only from the bones. A picture I thought was heartbreaking was one of a pregnant woman found died probably because she ran out of water and was left by the coyote.
After crossing the Mexican- American border, we took a trip to the desert where the migrants cross. Walking around there just made me think, “How can a person walk all of this in the night?” I personally wouldn’t be able walk those hills especially with all the rocks that make me stumble. I would probably be left behind since the beginning of the journey if I had to cross the border. But when I actually thought about it later, the worst component of a migrant’s journey is the desert where he/she has no clue in which direction to walk. Getting to the area like the one we walked in gives them the hope that they are closer to the U.S.
A moment in which I almost felt like crying was when Debbie told us the story about the woman who died in the desert and the young girl who also died trying to cross the border. The young girl had been traveling with her brother since El Salvador. And was only recognized by the green shoes she was wearing. The woman was found by her husband only by the hand and the rings that were left. I believe this was a horrible moment because these are only two examples of the 400 to 500 people who are found died every year at the border.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Today Kat Rodriguez came with a really great presentation about the border and the organization she represents. I admire her for her work especially because she is one of few who will attempt to contact a relative when a migrant has past away as he/she tried to cross the border. I imagined myself in her position and I sincerely would not be able to handle all the stress and real life experiences she must deal with when giving a relative the bad news about a love one dying in this risky journey. The worst that she must deal with is talking to a person who is in denial of accepting such reality.
I believe the most impacting moment of this trip occurred when we went to the Federal Courthouse in Tucson. Seeing the men and two women chained up like slaves was completely unfair. These migrants were treated unfairly just because they tried to seek a better future. As I saw them I noticed that mostly all of them were dark, they look like black people (no offense) but it was because they had walked in that horrible desert with the burning sun. Some of them seemed to have been wearing the same clothing in which they had crossed the desert.
I was sympathized as I heard each one of them say “culpable.” Here I felt completely devastated because I couldn’t do anything to help these people from being sent back. I felt helpless and awful because the only felony these people committed was crossing in a zone where Operation Streamline was active. Had these people crossed from another section in which Operation Streamline was not active, then their luck may have been different. From this whole trip I learned that regardless of how many times you send these people back, they will attempt to cross the border until they succeed.
The only thing Arizona is getting out of Operation Streamline is giving CCA more millions just for hosting these migrants in their detention centers. I don’t understand the point of making these people richer. Furthermore, these detention centers are going to increase in size, yet most of them probably do not have anymore room for more migrants. I’m not sure how many migrants are caught in a day throughout the whole border, but the number must be large and eventually these detention centers will not hold. Even if the migrants get squeezed into these places, migrants will continue to cross. And the techniques of the coyotes will improve that Operation Streamline will not deter immigration.
I think this trip has in some way traumatized me but I have learned so much. I feel very helpless and devastated because I don’t feel like I can do much to help these people. I think many people have to come down to the border to see this in order to believe it. News and legislation that occur in the Mexican American border barely make it to where we live because it does not directly affect the daily lives of many people. Living at the border and seeing many injustices changes your view on specific ideas. I see an attempt of mobilization to help the migrants who reside in U.S. Border States because there’s a larger population of them, however, I believe we should help them everywhere we can and not just at the border. This trip has given me the incentive to educate more people about what really does occur at the border and what we can do to help them. I am really grateful that borderlinks gave us the opportunity to share their knowledge about these current issues.