Mi­grants risk it all in deadly gam­ble for bet­ter life in US

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

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