By Ramon Cruz
The real victims of illegal border crossings over the Mexico border to the U.S. are hundreds of migrants who die in the desert every year. The Los Angeles Times and others have reported that this number of deaths ranges from over a hundred to two hundred and more painful deaths every year despite the reduced number who actually attempt to cross in recent years. The vast majority of these desert victims are desperate family folks simply seeking a job to feed their families back home. The US Border Patrol reported 322 migrant deaths in fiscal year 2016 which was higher than the numbers reported in 2014 and 2015 but lower than the number of deaths reported in any year during the period 2003-2013. Exposure (including heat stroke, dehydration, and hypothermia) was the leading cause. Not a good way to die: slow, painful and heartbreaking to the bereavement of the families whom these migrants hope to support.
In addition to exposure, a significant number of deaths are due to traffic accidents and there are also reports of death due to excessive force applied by Border Patrol agents as well as assaults by the menacing drug gangs. In August 2010, 72 would-be illegal immigrants from Mexico were lined up and executed, their bodies discovered on a remote ranch a mere 90 miles from the U.S. border. The drug gang responsible for the kidnapping and murders, Los Zetas, captured its victims as they traveled through Tamaulipas, presumably on their way to cross the border illegally into the United States. When the 72 people refused to work for the gang, they were executed. The dangers faced by these migrants include kidnapping, robbery, extortion, sexual violence, and death at the hands of cartels, smugglers, and even corrupt Mexican government officials. The 72 executed migrants are representative of the majority of migrants who are looking only for honest work across the border, not criminal ways or drug trafficking.
Additional fences and border patrols in recent years has had the effect of reducing the overall number of illegal migrants, but also funneling the migration towards mountainous areas and desert regions that are more dangerous to trek. As more fences and walls are built along the border, we can expect more funneling and concentration to extremely dangerous means of mobility and transportation. Only if the fences, walls and patrols are comprehensive and 99.99% effective in all border areas will we see an end to hundreds of painful deaths a year along our borders.
Ironically, if we really love our people in Mexico and Latin America, we may want to protect them by building the best wall system possible, even if it does not fit properly on our perfect political pedestals. It may be time to nudge a bit, or even a timely opportunity to negotiate a “huge” deal in a bipartisan manner. This will not only protect the family provider migrants by keeping them off these dangerous paths, but also stop those opportunistic drug gangs and mercenary coyotes from doing their criminal stuff across our borders. We cannot solve all the economic problems of Mexico and Latin America by allowing people to risk their lives to illegally cross our borders. The cost of lives lost in our deserts and mountains is simply too high despite the benefits for those who successfully cross.
Supporting the status quo makes us only a partner or co-sponsor to a system that doesn’t work and causes many deaths on both sides of the border every year. If you’re not killed trying to cross the border, you will be subject to a second class existence on this side of the border and often to be exploited or abused by unscrupulous employers and gangs. Yes, there are many who do survive the journey and bravely find a way to live a productive life to benefit their families on both sides of the border. But the system overall is exploitive for cheap labor that benefits large and small employers on this side of the border. The government and business leaders don’t need to make any laws or special plans to make this exploitive system happen. The natural instinct to survive for impoverished people south of the border is all it takes, and any space or crack in the border fence or wall they can crawl through.
The poverty of our southern neighbors is a boon to our businesses seeking to profit from cheap labor. And because we didn’t actually make policies or plans to deliberately create this poverty or openly invite people to cross our borders across the desert, we can claim that our hands are clean. Although we may want to hire eager workers, we don’t want to perpetuate a system that forces them to risk their lives seeking employment across the border. The border can be a two-edged blade or a secure fire-wall, depending on its design. Better alternatives need to be examined and applied.
Increasing the annual legal immigration quota for Mexico would be a simple and great help to increase the economy on both sides of the border. Even with the introduction of automated farming systems and robots or agbots, we lose millions of dollars worth of crops on this side of the border every year due to inadequate numbers of workers who are willing and able to do the back-breaking work of harvesting and weeding our crops in California and many parts of the U.S. The guest worker program provides H-2A visas to a few thousand workers from Mexico a year. Farmers are demanding that this number be increased. We can selectively improve our relations with Mexico and various states in Central America by negotiating more generous immigration quotas. The benefit to other countries is the likelihood that their expatriates will most likely send dollars to their families back home every month. We can increase our security, economy and agricultural prosperity by increasing quotas for qualified workers from Mexico and southern states.
Will increasing immigration quotas or guest workers induce Mexico to pay for the wall? Probably not, but it may be a bargaining chip for trade agreements and related policies beneficial to all, including legal Mexican Americans and Dreamers and those in-between. This increase of quotas will also reduce the incentive for those who think about crossing the border illegally. Politics requires borders. People need access to jobs regardless of borders. Many immigrants from the south and other areas also seek relief from governments that violate basic human rights and democratic freedom. Like the right to live.
The cost of building a wall across the border is enormous. Check the Great Wall of China. Millions per mile. The US-Mexico border length is about 1,951 miles. Where will this money come from? Will it be extracted from other social benefits? Do the indigenous people of this continent and their descendants have human rights beyond our modern national borders? Borders, walls and fences help to define good neighbors and allies in many parts of the world. But they can also promote the abuse and exploitation of proximate peoples including indigenous groups who may depend upon and value resources and areas with cultural significance and reverence beyond the newly claimed ownership rights and their borders and walls. Increased Border Control efforts including the construction of the fence between Mexico and the United States have greatly impacted cross-border tribal relationships. The native communities affected include the Lipan Apache, the Kickapoo Tribe, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo near El Paso, the Tohono O’odham in southern Arizona, the Kumeyaay in southern California, and the Cocopah of the Colorado River Delta. Because of its large size and location, a good number of unauthorized migrants have passed through the Tohono O’odham reservation near Tucson and their death statistics are also significant.
The Sonoran desert also skirts both sides of the border and is home to several endangered species including migratory wildlife. Covering some 120,000 square miles of southwestern Arizona, southeastern California, and the Mexican states of Baja and Sonora, Sonoran desert mountains, rivers, and canyons provide luxurious habitat for numerous unique species specially adapted for heat, aridity, and intense summer monsoons. More than 100 reptiles, 2,000 native plants, 60 mammals, and 350 birds call this desert home, not only surviving here, but thriving — as long as their habitats remain intact. A full wall extending across the border between the United States and Mexico would additionally compromise dozens more endangered or threatened species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over 100 endangered, threatened, or near-threatened species would be impacted.
The automated gateways we propose to protect all the endangered species mentioned above and to facilitate safe passage, may be powered by solar panels and wind turbines in appropriate areas. Why not use the right of way for additional wind turbines and solar farms to add to regional power grids? The green power system may actually help pay for the wall and then some. In some areas recreational amenities may also be incorporated into the wall system and surrounding area. The wall doesn’t even have to look like a wall in all sections. For example, in some places it could be part of a building or recreational park. Even our current President Trump has suggested solar panels on the wall, although they are not specified in the current prototypes. Several wind turbine farms already exist near the border in all southern border states including Arizona.
Many Americans favor the border wall, mostly to improve security. Some may also favor a truly effective wall to deter illegal migrants from suicidal pathways. The costs of a wall of this magnitude are high both financially and ecologically and will no doubt compromise other significant budget categories. Many oppose any wall of this magnitude because of these costs. Currently what we have to protect immigrants who approach our dangerous borders with the intent to cross illegally are a few signs in Spanish including the emergency beacons scattered around the desert, and fences mostly in urban areas. The border patrol also helps to save many lives each year with the help of various surveillance systems including drones and copters.
Increasing immigration quotas and guest workers may reduce illegal crossings somewhat, but as long as the border has a hole in it, or any other weakness whatsoever, some people will try to pass, tunnel below, hop or fly over, bust through, boat or submarine around, dangers and all, out of desperation. Hungry children – parent panic! The status quo is not acceptable. Something, someone, somewhere has to give. We cannot ignore and allow this horrible unnoticed, remote silent death cycle to repeat itself every year. Nearly every day, on the average, someone in our deserts and mountains, often alone, is gasping for water or quietly dying of heat stroke or exposure. By building 700 miles of fencing in the past few years and doubling or tripling our Border Patrol Agents, the funneling of migrants to more dangerous paths along our border may have put us at the point of no return. Either we completely seal off our southern border from end to end, like a secure fire-wall, or the casualty statistics will continue to remain in the hundreds every year, or even climb depending on economic factors and government policies. We cannot expect any administration to tear down the existing walls and fences and let the people pass as they will. After all, both parties have fully participated in building and expanding the defensive structure, walls, fences and patrols we have today.
Prototypes for the new wall under development are currently being constructed in San Diego. The design for urban areas may include two barriers separated by 150 feet which barricaded area is devoted to electronic monitoring and enforcement. Concrete walls will be used for the secondary wall on the northern side, whereas the southern barrier may be a see-through fence. This structure is clearly a human barrier of barriers unless military weapons are deployed by transgressors, which is not likely. If gangster cartels attempt to use heavy artillery, their days in the field will be short lived.
Though not intended to be environmentally congenial, the space between barriers is large enough for wind turbines, it seems, assuming the wind energy channels are available. More potential for wind energy may exist along the Texas border, although there is plenty of sun for solar panels along the entire border. All we need is an expanded power grid to connect our energy resources, which grid has been in demand for several years, as well as connected battery resources.
The wall may reduce or eliminate the loss of lives across the desert, but it will also diminish eager and skillful labor resources that we direly need on this side of the border in many industries, not just farming, unless we increase the immigration quotas and guest worker quotas for our southern neighbors who really do want to work for their livelihood.
Those seeking refugee asylum may be provided a day in court prior to being deported. Border Patrol agents may determine the possibility of asylum status based on how the migrant answers the question of why he or she is traveling to the United States. An answer indicating fear of return to his or her national origin may place the migrant in a potential asylum path depending on further investigation. Refugee status or asylum may be granted to people who have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion. As of Aug.16, 2017, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke has terminated the Central American Minors (CAM) Parole program. Accordingly, DHS will no longer automatically consider parole requests from individuals denied refugee status in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras under the CAM Parole program. The termination of the CAM Parole program does not affect the CAM Refugee program and its operation. Qualifying parents in the United States may still follow the existing process to gain access to the CAM Refugee program through a Department of State designated resettlement agency. On Sept. 5, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated the orderly phase out of the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). As a battered spouse, child or parent, you may file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). USCIS helps protect victims of human trafficking and other crimes by providing immigration relief. Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers lure individuals with false promises of employment and a better life. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a number of humanitarian programs such as these and protection to assist individuals in need of shelter or aid from disasters, oppression, emergency medical issues and other urgent circumstances. Only a few humanitarian alternatives are listed here. This article should not be perceived as legal advice. Immigration laws and enforcement policies have been changing very frequently. Consult with an immigration attorney for application assistance and free advice. If you’re just looking for a good job, you’re probably better off getting in line for a visa.
History has shown that our southern migrants are not only hard workers but also very creative and responsible people. We know, for example, that their native ancestors developed agriculture and astronomy prior to the intrusion of European and other exotic explorers thousands of years ago. They represent a great human resource to our continent that should be respected and allowed to properly participate in the full development of our collective American dream without second class citizenship. This includes many of our Dreamers who have already engaged in higher education and professional careers and who should be provided a special naturalization path. This point in our geographical history and political divide may come down to the cost of an immense wall (safe for people and the environment?) vs. the cost of hundreds of lives a year. We hope you will share this information with your followers and associates, whether or not you agree with our suggested ways of reducing deaths in our deserts. We hope you will agree at least that some changes in policy need to be made, and more discussion is imperative.
After the recent hurricanes and floods in Texas and other areas, we know that sustainable energy with a reliable power grid and flood control for all sea levels is a valuable ingredient for recovery. The wall may help in the southwest, if designed intelligently. Right now, that’s a big IF! Opposition and discussion is welcomed! The traditional immigration policy has been cemented in the ground for decades. We need a good wall, not just any wall, one that’s intelligently designed, and not one that crushes our environment and compromises flood control.
You don’t have to live near the border wall to be under the shadow it may cast on your environment. The loss of one species can have a domino affect on others in the food chain and symbiotic relations. Neither political party can do this alone, and even the outsiders deserve to be heard. That’s where you come in. Make your politicians think. Question them! Inform them! Inspire them! Replace them, if necessary, with grass roots leadership! It may be time for a real change. Engineers and aspiring engineers take note: This is your opportunity to make it happen! If we are concerned about the lives of border migrants and Dreamers, our energy should be focused on ways to finance the wall across the entire Mexico border and design improvements to make the wall environmentally congenial. Si se Puede! It can be done!
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