Border Blog

When we lived in Los Angeles, many moons ago, one of our little known but interesting facts was that we had the second-largest native Spanish speaking population of any City on the Planet, second only to Mexico City and more than any City in Spain.

Now, here in Tucson, we are much closer to the US/Mexican border – and it is much, much more porous than that of California. Just 50 miles (80km) to our South there is a Town called Nogales, which actually straddles this Border. So you can imagine what happens; there is a huge amount of illegal trafficking going on.

In fact, it’s probably the largest industry in Nogales. Whether it’s marijuana or people being smuggled into the USA, both are very profitable for the transporters, who are highly organized and make a great deal of money from their efforts.

The marijuana trade is pursued by too few customs officers, who discover and confiscate thousands of kilos every month (no wonder they all seem so happy!). Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe – just maybe – they get 10% of the total. What gets through is worth millions of dollars to the Cartels behind the operation.

The bigger tragedy is the human one. Impoverished Mexicans give their life savings to so-called “guides” (known as Coyotes) to get them into the USA. Now, some of these “guides” actually do what they promise, and get people safely into the US. But, once here, they have no legal documentation, no “right to work” and live in constant fear of discovery by the Immigration Services.

Therefore, they are basically forced into low-paid, mainly agricultural, illegal employment. Which, of course, is seasonal. In the off-season, there is no work. Which means some return to their homes in Mexico, only to repeat the whole process the following year. Others remain here, taking whatever work they can get “off the books,” living from hand to mouth and sending whatever money they can back to their families South of the Border.

Even worse off are those who fall into the hands of “criminal” guides. The biggest thing to know about the distance between Tucson and the Border is this; it’s all desert! It is apparently quite common for these Coyotes to drop their passengers off just inside the US, leaving them to walk 80+km to the nearest civilization. Walking through desert, with temperatures well over 40C, coping with rattlesnakes, bobcats and insufficient water – all of which can be fatal, particularly the latter.

The process of becoming a legal immigrant is not easy. I know, because I went through it. You have, for example, to take an oral exam on American History and Constitution. Although I must say, I’ve seen an Oriental gentleman take his, with an Interpreter, since he spoke no English. And it struck me that it didn’t matter if the candidate knew the answers – only that his Interpreter did. For all anybody knew, the aforesaid gentleman may have been saying, “I need a haircut”.

I’ll try to return to something a little more satirical next month!

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