Immigration issues have dominated the headlines across the United States for weeks. Protest marches, boycotts and different plans for reform are hot topics on the daily news. While this issue has only recently become important for some Americans, for the residents of southwest USA border cities, it has been, and is, a part of our daily lives.
When the U.S. Border Patrol was established in 1924, those agents were given a gun and a badge. They had to provide their own horse. These agents were mostly Texas Rangers, sheriff deputies and police officers. These agents had to become experts at reading tracks.
What issues were on the minds of American law makers in that era? Prohibition... they had to make sure liquor wasn't coming across the borders. Also, even in those early days, the United States had restrictions on the number of immigrants allowed into the country. Without the technology of today, that job was a daunting task.
Can the Crossing be Stopped?
How will illegal border crossings be stopped? Will putting a fence from the ocean coast of San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico stop the millions of immigrants from crossing? Will surveillance cameras be effective? Do barriers cut the number of illegal vehicle entries? What about tunnels, the Colorado River, the All American Canal and roads that cross our borders?
The fact that Border Patrol agents have erected rescue beacons and water stations in areas of known crossing points is proof that border crossing is not only occurring but their are regular routes. When these routes get choked off by successful crackdowns in one location, the cross over traffic moves to new locations.
While successful enforcement has and is occuring with manpower and budget increases, the immigrants still come. The schools must educate all immigrant children, legal or otherwise. Nonprofit hospitals will provide emergency care to all with need, legal residents or not. Food banks and other social service organizations provide meals and shelter to the few desperate individuals so hungry they will risk deportation.
Businesses that provide securty window and door screens are overwhelmed with orders. Violence is increasing as illegals crossing the border today are becoming more desperate. Newspapers have photos of illegals climbing the fences at U.S. Port of Entry points. We see illegal crossing over the recreational areas of the Imperial Sand Dunes. Lines of men, women and children run across the highways to meet with the "coyote" who will drive them deep into the United States.
Why do they still come? Economics tops the list of reasons. Minimum wage is over 12 times more than the typical wage in Mexico. When I was a little girl, we had men that worked for us from time to time. They would come to the door, desperate for food and offer to do any meneal task available. We paid them with milk, eggs and bacon along with a few dollars. In a few days the men would be gone, leaving at night with the protection of darkness.
We had friends that had farms and the labor was provided by illegal immigrants. Ditch digging and irrigation is back breaking work and even in the 50's not many Americans would work for the wages that farmers could afford. At that time it seemed to us, a win - win situation.
When driving or walking the streets of any Mexican or south of the border towns, something unusual happens. Some very nice men, women and children approach the "rich Americans" for money. Sometimes they are trying to sell you a trinket or gum. You might find the father or grandfather playing an instument while the kids are at the window with dirty palms turned upwards.
We have been approached by mothers with handicapped children and volunteers from the orphanige or ambulance service. We keep lots of dollars and coins just for these crossings. The wait in line is usually over an hour, so their is plenty of time for your concience and your heart to be overwhelmed by the desperation of human nature.
The border at San Luis, Mexico is pictured below. You will notice the fields and homes within inches of the border fences. These homes and fields are on the Mexico side and the solid metal fence and surveillance cameras are on the U.S. side.
Popular notions in the area is that the tunnels are still going under all the expensive roads, fences and cameras we Americans can install.