Saturday, June 14, 2008

Belatedly, The AZ Republic Blasts Immigrant Suffering

Finally the Arizona Republic speaks:

The season of dying has started along Arizona's southern deserts.

Those who die are illegal immigrants, so some people say they get what they deserve.

After all, some people say, "What part of 'illegal' don't you understand?"

They've said it so loudly and for so long that they nearly drowned out some of Arizona's other voices.

In hard fact, what happens along the Arizona-Mexico border every summer is an enduring humanitarian crisis that takes the lives of real people.

Husbands.

Wives.

Sons and daughters.

Fences haven't stopped the deaths. Increases in Border Patrol agents haven't stopped it. The National Guard didn't stop it.

According to Border Patrol reckoning, 61 migrants died in the Tucson Sector from Oct. 1 through April 30. This tally is seven fewer than for the same period last year, which echoes a drop in the number of illegal immigrants caught entering the country.

Even at a reduced number, this represents a tragedy that Arizonans should not be willing to accept or ignore. What's more, those 61 souls perished before the summer heat begins taking a toll.

Migrants have long died trying to cross the border, but the numbers more than doubled from 1995 to 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office. More than three-quarters of that increase happened in Arizona. It was the result of enhanced enforcement in urban areas, which forced migrants deeper into harsh desert country.

The Rev. Robin Hoover has been keeping track of where deaths occur. He says that, eight years ago, bodies were generally found within three-quarters of a mile of a road. Now, they are found nearly 5 miles from the nearest road. The reason? Increased enforcement has driven migrants to even more remote and dangerous areas.

Hoover founded Humane Borders to try to save lives by placing water tanks along routes used by migrants. Despite the decreased numbers of border crossers this year, Hoover says the water stations disperse in excess of 1,500 gallons a week.

Years ago, The Republic editorial page began writing about summer death counts in the hope of shaming Congress into reforming immigration policies that contribute to those deaths. Washington wasn't paying much attention.

In recent years, the issue of illegal immigration reached hot-button status. Attention jumped right over those dead bodies. It leaped past the human dimension. Instead of being seen as people who are caught in a broken system, migrants are now portrayed as villains who are unworthy of sympathy.

That's where Arizona is today. Anger has the upper hand. Rage is louder than reason.

But Arizona risks its humanity if it can't refocus on what immigration policies are doing to real people.

Husbands.

Wives.

Sons and daughters.

The humanitarian crisis along our southern border needs to recognized for the tragedy it is. Policies that contribute to deaths by driving migrants deeper into the desert need to be assessed for the impact they have on people.

These things need to happen for the sake of the migrants' humanity.

And Arizona's.


The comments about the original editorial, on the Republic's website, make clear that much of Arizona has already lost its humanity. That was left by the roadside the minute these people elected to treat legality as if it were justice.

Is there anything more dangerous to our common humanity, or more disgusting, than a person who's lost the capacity for self-scrutiny and the saving grace of compassion?

2 comments:

Partur said...

Wow. I hardly know where to begin.

First, I want to make it clear that I don't wish death upon any of the people crossing the desert in search of a better life. I admire that kind of determination- we all want that for our families, and death should never be a result of our efforts to do so.

However, breaking the law should never be a part of that mission, either.

With that in mind, I pray tell, what is the answer here? Whose responsibility is it to prevent this sort of thing from happening? Is lack of compassion really the issue, or is it the fact that the people who died crossing into Arizona made that choice and took that risk on their own? Why is it up to American citizens to open wide our borders and our pocketbooks for those who made the foolish choice to evade our laws in the first place? No one who upholds the sovereignty of our borders thinks these people deserve to die- believe it or not, we are capable of compassion- but we do see it as a natural consequence of MAKING THE PERSONAL CHOICE TO ILLEGALLY CROSS THE ARIZONA BORDER VIA THE SONORAN DESERT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER. It's like anything else in life- when poor choices are made, the consequences can be very, very painful.

On another note, as much as I disagreed with your 6/17 post "Should This Man be Our President," it was good reading. Interpretation is tricky business. I try very hard to understand the liberal viewpoint and criticisms of the conservative movement, and it definitely helped me see how those opinions are formed. We may not see eye-to-eye on most things, but I appreciate your blog nonetheless!

PICO said...

Hi, Parfur. Because your comment is substantive and complex, I'm going to answer it as a blog post today rather than here as a comment. Thanks for writing. Pico