It is difficult to erase the image of a dehydrated man crumpled on the side of a dusty Arizona-Mexico border road near Nogales, Ariz. vomiting bile in the dirt. A compassionate Border Patrol agent stands over him, giving what aid he can and asks necessary questions of the physically distressed human being.
The illegal immigrant was crossing with a group of others trying to get to the U.S. to work. He fell ill and was left behind to be found by a good Samaritan or die.
An agent radios for an ambulance. It’s an hour away.
Meanwhile the agent reaches into the illegal immigrant’s backpack. As any Border Wars viewer would, I expected the agent to find drugs. No drugs. He finds insulin. The man is a diabetic.
He is no drug runner, just a man so desperate to earn money that he jeopardizes his own life scrambling through the desert in the dead of night.
Cannot say I enjoy watching the National Geographic TV channel’s Border Wars series because of the human despair and tragedy often shown.
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I lived in Tucson, Ariz. for seven pre-911 years and spent much time in both Nogales Arizona and Mexico working as a reporter for a Tucson newspaper. I also enjoyed going to Nogales Sonora for great Mexican food.
The drug trafficking and the mass of people flooding across the border was the same 40 years ago as it is today. The only difference is the intensity now of border law enforcement.
In my years as an agricultural journalist, illegal immigration was a constant issue, most very personal because they involved good people.
I have written in the past about the plight of people who risk their lives and lose - trying to cross the unforgiving Sonoran Desert to work. In years past I wrote of a dying woman trying to cross the border near Yuma who gave her last drop of water to save her baby.
These are human beings like you and me. They are desperate, not the “rapists and drug smugglers” that frighteningly ignorant Donald Trump talks about but people who are trying to feed themselves and their families.
Border Patrol agents are a special breed of cop. Working in a harsh environment, they have one of the toughest and no doubt most frustrating law enforcement jobs. I would really like to interview those agents standing over that man in the dirt - not a 10-second television sound bite.
Many are Hispanic, U.S. born, well educated, and trained Americans. But they likely are not too far removed from the man in the dirt. A parent, uncle, aunt, grandfather - someone in their family - no doubt experienced the same fate that the man at their feet was experiencing.
“There must be a better way than this.” they must think.
The term immigration reform includes solution-defying words that have befuddled politicians for decades.
The segment of the Border Wars episode I watched contained several segments detailing totally different scenarios Border Patrol agents face daily in an effort to not only stem illegal immigration, but also drug trafficking, laundering money from both sides of the border, river patrols, desert patrols, etc.
Illegal immigrant enforcement is just a fraction what Border Patrol agents do.
Nevertheless, immigration reform should be the first piece of the border wars puzzle put on the table. A workable guest worker or Bracero program, at least for agriculture and possibly other industries, makes so much sense.
Although I shudder to think of the bureaucracy of creating a workable American-Mexican joint program to achieve this, immigration reform must start somewhere.
The desert has taken far too many lives for the plight of that dying man to be repeated. These desperate men and women are simply repeating America’s history.
We all come from immigrant stock, but more importantly we are all human beings who should care about others.
More on Border Wars later.