Migrants risk it all in deadly gamble for better life in US
The two teens had trekked in the Sonoran Desert’s searing heat for four days and were lost and almost out of water when border patrol agents in Arizona spotted them. Now, hours after being deported back to Mexico, 19year-old Rodriguo and his 17-year-old brother Jose sat quietly on a recent evening in El Comedor, a shelter in the town of Nogales within sight of the US border and its promise of a sweeter future.
Around them, some 60 other freshly deported migrants from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala waited, forlorn, for the evening meal served by charity workers. “Tomorrow we go back home to Oaxaca (in southern Mexico) and we will tell our mother that we failed,” said Jose, who asked that the pair’s last name not be used. “But we won’t give up, we will attempt the crossing again,” he added, matter-of-factly. The shelter in Nogales, a town that straddles the USMexico border, is run by the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a religious charity that offers migrants not only food but also legal advice, clothing and a much-needed dose of TLC. Spend time talking to the men and women crammed on the benches of the one-room shelter-their faces etched with the hardships they have been through-and their stories bring forth the stark realities of the immigration debate that has roiled the US presidential campaign.
‘Dignified way of life’
“The people we help are coming to the United States to seek a more dignified way of life,” said Sean Carroll, a Jesuit priest and executive director of KBI, which runs El Comedor (dining hall in Spanish). “These men and women literally cannot earn enough money to put food on the table for their families.” For several of the migrants at El Comedor, it was not the first time they had attempted the dangerous journey to cross the border, putting their fate in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers and drug cartels that can charge upwards of $7,000 for the trip through the unforgiving desert. Women are frequently sexually assaulted during the journey and many migrants go missing in the desert, where temperatures climb to 120 degrees in the summer.
Lost and desperate, some like Rodriguo and his brother end up hoping to be found by the border patrol agents who scour the frontier in vehicles, on horseback, on bicycle and on foot. Tougher border security aided by better technology has pushed migrants into remote areas controlled by drug cartels, Carroll and other officials who work closely with migrants said. And the recurring question raised during the US presidential campaign-why don’t immigrants just come legally? — is simply not an option for the overwhelming majority, they add. “Many of the people we serve have no legal way at all or are faced with the prospect of waiting 15, 18, 20 years in order to even be considered for the possibility of coming legally,” Carroll said. “And some are fleeing serious violence.” — AFP