An Update on My Life After Arizona

First and foremost, I must offer my apologies to my friends and supporters who are following my blog. I am very aware of the fact that I have not written since November of last year.

The truth is, I have been busy with my personal life and have not been inspired to write. I moved to Spain after leaving Arizona and I found a job in Barcelona teaching English. I spent about six months there living as an undocumented immigrant. I struggled to find work and make ends meet, and ultimately decided that the best thing for me would be to come home.

I could not even begin to compare my experience in Spain to the experience of an undocumented immigrant living in the US. I never spent my days in fear that the authorities would question me about my legal status. I was able to enter and leave as I pleased, and I hardly faced any form of discrimination. Apart from that, I was offered many jobs despite the fact that I did not have a work visa in Spain; However, it was difficult to find work that paid decently well and to get enough hours. A lot of jobs admitted that they could not hire me because of my legal status, but I was still treated with respect.

Since it was difficult to find enough work in Spain, I moved home to California. Since coming home, I have spent a lot of time with my family, and this past week I started volunteering at a wonderful nonprofit organization in Berkeley called the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC).  I had first heard about them while volunteering at Survivors International in San Francisco. I knew that the EBSC provided immigrants and refugees with legal services and I was interested in learning more about them, especially since they are located within walking distance to my home.

Though I am still getting oriented, I am so excited for this opportunity. Since the EBSC office is located near the UC Berkeley campus, many of the people I will be volunteering with are UC Berkeley undergraduate and law students. I was surprised by the number of people that expressed interest in volunteering at the EBSC (in the few days I have spent there), but I was also astounded by the amount of work to be done in such a small office. My first few days I spent being overwhelmed by the sheer number of phone calls that the office receives. The majority of their clients are Spanish speakers, so my background in the Spanish language has come in handy.

I am fascinated by this work and now I am able to connect the dots. I have the opportunity to hear about people’s experiences in their home countries, then crossing Mexico, crossing the US-Mexico border, and finally being settled in as an immigrant. I am able to hear about their unique challenges in each stage of their lives, and I continue to be inspired by their courage and resilience.

Spotlight on John Moore and his Poignant Photos of Border Life

When I first started researching the border region, I would often come across John Moore’s work.  He is a New York City-based senior staff photographer for Getty Images.

His photographs have inspired my interest in border issues, and they beautifully capture many of the realities of life on the border.  Looking at some of his photographs take me back to my own experiences on the border and many of the themes that I came across while living in Arizona.

Moore captures the daily realities of the border and the struggles that the people must endure.   I see all sides of the issue in his pictures, the problems with the law in practice and the law in theory; family separation; migrants’ struggles for betterment.  Above all, I see an earnest humanity in his photographs, a humanity that we oftentimes forget when we live our comfortable lives away from the dark struggles that encompass much of the world.

Nogales, Mexico Immigrants pray during a Catholic Mass held at the Kino Border Initiative center for migrants March 10, 2013 near the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Mexico. The center feeds hundreds of meals per day to immigrants recently deported from the United States and those about to attempt to cross into the U.S. illegally.

Nogales, Mexico Immigrants pray during a Catholic Mass held at the Kino Border Initiative center for migrants March 10, 2013 near the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Mexico. The center feeds hundreds of meals per day to immigrants recently deported from the United States and those about to attempt to cross into the U.S. illegally.

La Joya, Texas  U.S. Border Patrol agent Sal De Leon stands near a section of the U.S.- Mexico border fence while stopping on patrol on April 10, 2013 in La Joya, Texas. According to the Border Patrol, undocumented immigrant crossings have increased more than 50 percent in Texas' Rio Grande Valley sector in the last year. Border Patrol agents say they have also seen an additional surge in immigrant traffic since immigration reform negotiations began this year in Washington D.C. Proposed reforms could provide a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States.

La Joya, Texas U.S. Border Patrol agent Sal De Leon stands near a section of the U.S.- Mexico border fence while stopping on patrol on April 10, 2013 in La Joya, Texas. According to the Border Patrol, undocumented immigrant crossings have increased more than 50 percent in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley sector in the last year. Border Patrol agents say they have also seen an additional surge in immigrant traffic since immigration reform negotiations began this year in Washington D.C. Proposed reforms could provide a path to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States.

San Diego, Calif. Family members reunite through bars and mesh of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Friendship Park on November 17, 2013 in San Diego, Calif. The U.S. Border Patrol allows people on the American side to visit with friends and family through the fence on weekends, although under supervision from Border Patrol agents. Access to the fence from the Tijuana, Mexico side is 24/7. Deportation and the separation of families is a major theme in the immigration reform debate.

San Diego, Calif. Family members reunite through bars and mesh of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Friendship Park on November 17, 2013 in San Diego, Calif. The U.S. Border Patrol allows people on the American side to visit with friends and family through the fence on weekends, although under supervision from Border Patrol agents. Access to the fence from the Tijuana, Mexico side is 24/7. Deportation and the separation of families is a major theme in the immigration reform debate.

Havana, Texas A U.S. Border Patrol agent escorts a group of undocumented immigrants into custody with helicopter support from the U.S. Office of Air and Marine on May 20, 2013 near the U.S.-Mexico border in Havana, Texas. The Rio Grande Valley area has become the busiest sector for illegal immigration on the whole U.S.-Mexico border with more than a 50 percent increase in the last year.

Havana, Texas A U.S. Border Patrol agent escorts a group of undocumented immigrants into custody with helicopter support from the U.S. Office of Air and Marine on May 20, 2013 near the U.S.-Mexico border in Havana, Texas. The Rio Grande Valley area has become the busiest sector for illegal immigration on the whole U.S.-Mexico border with more than a 50 percent increase in the last year.

Source: Moving Photos Capture the Complex Story of Undocumented Immigrants – David Rosenberg

More photos can be found at: John Moore Portfolio

Interviews from the Border: Marcos Hernandez


Audio Produced by the Kino Border Initiative

Interview and Music by La Muna

Transcription and Translation by Catherine Born and Natalia Serna

 

It’s a hard blow and I don’t know what I’m paying for, but I think I must be paying for something.  It’s a hard blow for me. It’s a hard blow for me and I think for my wife and my kids too.

My name is Marcos Hernandez.  I’m from Leon Guanajuato.  When I was fourteen years old, I crossed to the US.  My dream was to make my house and have a family. Thanks be to God I achieved it.  I have my wife and I have my family, they’re in Fresno, California.  But I’ve been deported out here: I’m in Nogales, Nogales, Sonora.  And now that I want to go back to be with my children and wife, I see very little chance.

I started working on a dairy farm at night and in the morning my wife would go to work picking grapes.  I would wake up to take my children to school In fact, I’d brushing my youngest daughter’s hair.  I would brush Kimberly’s hair.  She would say, “Daddy, brush my hair for school.”

I would wake up really tired, two hours after work.  I would leave for work at five o’clock, finish at three thirty in the morning, and arrive home at four o’clock.  I would bathe, and at seven o’clock I woke my kids to take them to school because my wife would leave for work at six o’clock.

Lupita, her name is Lupita, would wake up.  Since my wife was already working and especially now that she has to be both mom and dad in my house.

Adam, I call him my golden boy, didn’t want to get into his school clothes.  He came to me, woke me up, and I said, “Okay, honey, let me get up.” So I woke up.  And that day, that day I don’t know why, but  I brushed my little one’s hair and stood outside to wait for the bus, in front of the door of the house.  And as I said bye to them, I told them I would pick them up from school in the afternoon.

At two thirty I left to get them… well… I went to turn on the car so I could be there by two forty and wait for them at the door when the bell rang and the children got out of school.

When the police stopped me I asked him what was happening and why he had stopped me.  He started to question me.  He said I didn’t make a proper stop at the stop sign, but I had stopped properly, I did everything well.  But he stopped me anyway and told me to get out of the car because he was going to check my record.  He checked my record and I thought, “Ok, he’s going to ask me to get out, that’s fine.”  So I got out of the car, and then he put handcuffs on me and I said, “Why are you doing this?”  He took me and put me in his car, and when I was in the car he asked me for my social security number.  He asked me if I knew my social security number and I told him, “No.”

It was all he said to me, and then another police officer arrived.  And I understood what they were saying, they were making fun of me.  And I just looked at the clock in the patrol car, and I kept thinking my children would be watching through the window, through the gate, especially my little girl.  And in English I said, “Sir, I need to go to the school for pick up my sons.”  “I don’t care,” he said, “I don’t care.”  Once I started crying, I was left without words.  I  never arrived and my kids were left waiting for me.  The police didn’t care at all about anything.

It’s a hell that no one deserves, but I think that many of us are going through this.  The first months are hell, to live this, the separation of the family.  They separate you and you can’t see them again.  In my case, I was really close with my four kids.  With the four of them I played, with the four I fought, with the four… everything.

I lied to the youngest two.  They asked me why I had to go to Mexico and why I hadn’t brought them.  I said, “No, I couldn’t.”  “Daddy, why are you in Mexico?”  “And your car?” I told them I brought it to Mexico, it’s still in Mexico.  They asked, “Why didn’t you bring us? We want to see grandma,” my mom. I told them I came straight from work, I can’t go.  “When are you coming back?  Will it be a long time?” “We are going to punch you, because we wanted to go to Mexico too.”  “And the car, did you bring it with you?” “My Mom wanted it so she could go to work.” But the police took my car and impounded it.  It was in the car pound.  It was there for a month, but we couldn’t pay.  We couldn’t pay the car pound, it was $1,300.  Since we couldn’t pay, we lost the car.  It was a good car.

Now that I’m on the border I tell them I’ll be there soon.  It makes them happy when I tell them, “I’m on my way, maybe next week I’ll already be with you. God willing, before you start school I’ll be there with you.”  But it’s a lie, I haven’t been able to get back.  I’ve been on the border three or four months now.

It’s a pain that only the heart knows. The heart cries and the heart will always be crying.  The eyes have their own moment for crying, but my heart is always crying within me. You try to be strong and sigh, but that sigh carries all of one’s weeping.

And now, now my dream is to be with my family.  This is everything right now in my life: to try and reunite with my family and my children, to hug them, and my wife too. To thank her and my children too. To let them bite my cheeks, I wouldn’t mind, or to let them give me knuckle sandwiches, I wouldn’t mind.  That’s my dream right now: to reunite with my family.

We want to show them that we are people. We just want to work to give our families a better life.  And if they would give us that opportunity, well, that would be great.

This story was produced by the Kino Border Initiative

To hear more Interviews from the Border (Kino Historias), go to La Muna’s website: http://lamuna.bandcamp.com/album/kino-historias

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Este golpe que me dio la vida no se que estaré pagando pero pienso que estaré pagando algo. Es un golpe fuerte para mi. Es un golpe fuerte para mi y pienso que para mi esposa y mis hijos también.

Antes que nada mi nombre es Marcos Hernández.  Soy de Leon Guanajuato.  Yo a mis catorce años crucé el cerro.  Me fui para los Estados Unidos.  Mi ilusión: hacer mi casa, tener mi familia.  Bendito sea Dios lo he logrado.  Tengo mi esposa, mi familia la tengo en Fresno, California.  Yo estoy deportado acá fuera.  Ahora estoy aquí en Nogales, Nogales, Sonora. Y ahora que quiero regresar a instalarme con mis hijos y mi esposa, la veo poco dura.

Empecé trabajar en la lechería de noche y en la mañana mi esposa se iba a trabajar la uva y yo me levantaba a mandar mis niños a la escuela.  Incluso peinaba la niña más chiquita. A Kimberly la peinaba.  Me decía, ‘peiname papi para la escuela.’

Yo me levantaba todo dormido ahí como sólo dormía dos horas de mi trabajo.  Salía a las cinco a las tres y media de la mañana y llegaba a la casa a las cuatro.  Me bañaba y a las siete levantaba mis chamacos para mandarlos a la escuela porque mi señora se iba a la a las seis.  Se va a las seis para trabajar.

Lupita, se llama Lupita, se levantaba.  Es la que los arregla por que mi esposa ya estaba trabajando y más que nada ahorita que es la que se esta haciendo padre y madre en mi casa.

El Adam yo le digo el nino de oro… no quiso… no quería cambiarse.  Me fue y me despertó y yo le dije “Okay mi hija, déjame levanto…” ya me levanté.  Y ese día, ese día pues nadie sabe ese día.  Yo peine a la más chiquita, los peiné, y ya me salí a esperar el bus allí… en frente de la puerta de la casa.  Y ya no mas me estaba  despidiendo.  Le dije que en la tarde iba a recogerlos a la escuela.

A las dos y media me salí ya… pues… salí ya a prender carro  … para ir a levantarlos  y para estar ahí alas 2:40 ahi en la puerta ahí cuando dan el timbre de escuela que salen los niños … cuando me paro el policía ya le dije que que  pasaba, porque me había parado. Nos más me empezó a investigar,  e que no marqué, si yo marqué bien todo  … y ya me paró y me dijo que bajara del carro, me iba a chequear…  mi record y chequeó.  Y yo dije esta bien, me va a bajar Me bajó del carro, me esposo y ahí fue donde me empecé a asustar ¿Por qué hace esto?  Me esposo y me metió a la patrulla y una vez dentro de la patrulla, me dijo que a cual era mi social security.  Que si m e sabía mi numero de social security.  Le dije que no.  Y ya fue todo lo que me decía e incluso llegó otro policía… otro policía y como que yo les entendía lo que decían Se estaban burlando.  Y yo, yo miraba el reloj, miraba el reloj en la patrulla y mis hijos se van a estar asomado por la ventana, por la puerta ahí. Incluso Mi niña  la mas chiquita.  Y en inglés le dije, ‘Sir, I need to go to the school for pick up my sons.’   ‘I don’t care.’ Me decía, ‘I don’t care.’  Estando a llorando  Ya no, ya pues, me quedé sin palabras.  Y nunca llegue me quedaron esperando, y a la policía le valió todo.

Es un infierno, no se lo deseo a nadie… pero yo pienso que muchos estamos pasando por esto… por esta situación.  Pero los primeros meses es un infierno.  Vivir eso,  la separación de la familia.  Porque sea como sea Te separan, y no los vuelves a ver y los que más la llevan son los hijos.  Y más en mi caso yo estaba bien ingrido con mis cuatro hijos.  Con los cuatro jugaba, con los cuatro pelaba.  Con los cuatro… todo.  Los dos más chicos, les eche una mentira.  Me decían que porque me había venido a México.  Que por que no los traje.  Dije no, no mis hijos no puedo.  Papi, ¿por que estás en México? ¿Y tu carro?  Le digo, me lo traje para México.  estoy en México.  Por qué no nos llevaste? Nosotros queríamos ver a mi abuelita, a mi mama. Le dije ni modo mis hijos me vine de mi trabajo no puedo ir.  ¿Cuando vas a venir? vas a durar a que que vengas.  Te vamos a pega porque nosotros queríamos ir a México también.  Y ya no … el carro ¿te lo llevastes? Mi mamá  lo quería para trabajar.  Y el policía me quito mi carro.  Lo dejamos en el corralón.  Era un nesper, pero pues por no se podía pagar… no se pudo pagar el … el corralón eran como mil trescientos … No se pudo pagar y lo perdimos … estaba bien el carro.

Ahora que estoy aquí en la frontera Les digo ahi voy ya pa lla y se ponen bien contentos.  cuando les digo hay voy ya palla a lo mejor por la otra semana ya estoy con ustedes.  Primeramente Dios antes de que entren en la escuela ahorita a lo mejor estoy ya con ustedes.  Pero son mentiras No he podido llegar Ahorita en la frontera ya  tengo como tres o cuatro meses.  Un dolor que solamente el corazón siente.  El corazón llora y el corazón siempre va a estar llorando los ojos no.   tiene su tiempo para llorar  los ojos pero el corazón siempre va a estar llorando por dentro.  Tratas de ser fuerte… suspirar… pero en el suspiro va todo el llanto.

Y ahora, ahora mi sueño es lograr reunirme no mas con mi familia.  Esto es todo ahorita en mi vida: tratar de reunirme con mi familia y mis hijos, abrazarlos y a mi esposa también.  Darle las gracias, apapacharla y a mis hijos igual.  Que me muerdan los cachetes no le hace que me den coscorrones no le hace es mi sueño ahorita: lograr reunirme con mis hijos.

Queremos demostrarles que somos personas, queremos trabajar no más para sacar adelante la familia.  Y… si nos dieran esa oportunidad que bien.

This story was produced by the Kino Border Initiative

http://lamuna.bandcamp.com/album/kino-historias

Reflection on Three months in Arizona

Dear readers and friends,

I want to start by expressing my gratitude to all the wonderful people that I have had the fortune to cross paths with over the past several months.  I feel blessed to have met such compassionate, wise, generous, dedicated and loving people.  I am grateful to have met so many people willing to give so much of their time and resources to this cause.  Thank you all for touching my life with your presence.

It is difficult for me to put into words how moved I have been by the compassion and love I have experienced here in Arizona.  To work with those that may be at the lowest point in their lives, but are so grateful for all the small things you can do for them.  I cannot tell you how many times I was nearly moved to tears meeting people that have experienced so much hardship in their lifetime, but people that don’t harbor hatred or resentment.  I have learned a lot from them.  The volunteers have also inspired me, I have seen with my own eyes the triumph of love for humanity in spite of incredible struggle and adversity.

It is with a heavy heart that I leave Arizona.  To be entirely honest, it is a bittersweet parting.  On one hand, I am grateful for this opportunity and have been blessed by this work.  It has fulfilled me.

On the other hand, I am happy to return to my family, to the life that I’ve always lived and am so familiar with.  I will admit that I’ve experienced some measure of homesickness and culture shock while living in the hot Sonoran desert.

I will also mention that this work calls to me:  it is a cause I am passionate about and I will continue to devote myself to it.

Lastly, being moved as I am by border issues and migration, I plan to retroactively blog about this experience.  I have several posts that I have been working on – I will be posting them in the coming weeks and months.  Past that, I plan to continue writing about the human experience of migration.

Many thanks for taking the time to listen to me and for being a part of this.

Sincerely,

Catherine

 

DSCN5597

Marty and I with Peg, our wonderful intern coordinator

Desert Search Part II: Signs of Migration

Signs of Migration

Sign of Migration

Though we did not encounter any groups of migrants on Saturday’s desert search, I was astonished when I realized how much migration has marked the Arizona Earth.  If you know what you’re looking for, you will notice many signs of migration.  I made a list of the things I noticed while looking out of the car window:

-3 shirts

-1 torn pair of jeans

-3 black water jugs

-7 Border Patrol trucks

-2 border patrol checkpoints

Let me explain…

Richard displays a pair of torn and tattered jeans found by the side of the road.  The jeans were most likely discarded by a migrant in crossing.

“Lucky Me” Richard displays a pair of torn and tattered jeans found by the side of the road. The jeans were most likely discarded by a migrant in crossing.

Richard displays a pair of torn and tattered jeans found by the side of the road.  The jeans were most likely discarded by a migrant in crossing.

Richard displays a pair of torn and tattered jeans found by the side of the road. The jeans were most likely discarded by a migrant in crossing.

Clothing: You may not even notice a shirt or pair of jeans on the side of the road, but many migrants discard their soiled clothing and change into clean clothing once they reach the United States.  Also see Backpacks from the Border.

Water Jug Covered in Black Plastic:  Richard shows us a gallon water jug covered in black plastic.

Water Jug Covered in Black Plastic: Richard shows us a gallon water jug covered in black plastic.

A broken, black water jug discarded in the brush was probably purchased by a migrant in Altar, Sonora, Mexico, where they have made a business of manufacturing and selling black water jugs to migrants.

A broken, black water jug discarded in the brush.  It was probably purchased by a migrant in Altar, Sonora, Mexico; where they have made a business of manufacturing and selling black water jugs to migrants.

Water jugs:  I saw a good amount of garbage and water bottles, but black water jugs are a sure sign of migration.  Many migrants purchase black water jugs in Mexico or cover gallon water jugs with black plastic.  White plastic water bottles tend to reflect light at night, and when border patrol does their nightly searches, migrants with uncovered water bottles are more likely to be caught.

A Border Patrol truck passes us going South on Ruby Road.

A Border Patrol truck passes by.

Border Patrol trucks:  seeing the B.P. trucks is a daily fact of life on the border.  At this point, it would be weird not to see border patrol.  They cruise the highways and roads in the area and look for migrants.

A Border Patrol Checkpoint on Arivaca-Sasabe Road.

A Border Patrol Checkpoint on Arivaca-Sasabe Road.

Border Patrol checkpoints:  There is one checkpoint on Arivaca-Sasabe Road and another on I-19 North toward Phoenix.  Generally the B.P. will peak into your car and ask if you and everyone in the car are all US Citizens.

Living in Western Arizona, I am constantly reminded of the conflict between the law, enforcement, and migration.  Whether it be the wall (which I can see from my bedroom window), Border patrol trucks or the things migrants leave behind.

Border Patrol Grows as Seizures Drop

Al Jazeera America: Border Patrol grows as seizures drop

With apprehensions at 39-year low, Congress may double agents in what residents say feels like a ‘militarized zone’

An article written by Joe Sharkey for Al Jazeera America that Marty and I were quoted in.  The article is about militarization of the border.

Border Patrol grows as seizures drop

August 22, 2013 6:00AM ET
With apprehensions at 39-year low, Congress may double agents in what residents say feels like a ‘militarized zone’
A Border Patrol agent patrols the fence dividing the U.S. and Mexico in Nogales, Ariz.
A Border Patrol agent monitors the fence dividing the U.S. and Mexico in Nogales, Ariz.
John Moore/Getty Images

NOGALES, Ariz. – For Marty Ethington and Catherine Born, summer interns working on immigration issues with a community organization, the helicopters routinely swooping over their heads are one striking aspect of life in this dusty border city.

“Last week, four helicopters came right over the roof, so low the house was shaking. I’m not sure what they were looking for, but you definitely knew they were there,” said Ethington, 26, an intern with the Santa Cruz Community Foundation. The volunteer agency based in Arizona’s Nogales partners with grassroots organizations in Mexico’s Nogales Sonora, just on the other side of the towering, rust-colored steel fence that undulates over the rocky hills and desert ravines between the two cities, marking the U.S.-Mexico border.

Born, his 23-year-old colleague, has also been startled by those clattering choppers.

“I grew up in the Bay Area, and I’ve never seen anything like that,” she said. “Sometimes you suddenly feel these helicopters buzzing right overhead, and you look up to see who it is.”

It’s the U.S. Border Patrol.

The agency, whose ranks have swollen fivefold to more than 21,000 agents since the early 1990s, is an imposing fact of life in border regions such as Nogales, a desert town of about 20,000 residents at the southern end of Interstate 19, 60 miles from Tucson.

Many residents complain that the area, even as far as 25 miles from the border, feels like a “militarized zone,” and it could see another doubling in the number of agents as Congress considers an immigration reform bill that would spend an additional $46 billion there — despite the fact that Border Patrol apprehensions in 2011, the most recent data available, reached their lowest point since 1972 (PDF).

Beyond the border

The daily routine in the area is marked by the visibility of armed Border Patrol officers, on foot or in their green-and-white vehicles, emergency lights flashing as they respond to reports of undocumented migrants who have managed to climb over, and in some cases tunnel under, the metal border fence. That barricade — part of nearly 700 miles of fence between the U.S. and Mexico — reaches 20 feet in height through most of downtown Nogales.

While most residents support aggressive measures to control illegal immigration and drug smuggling, and most say agents in town are typically polite, “we do live with a large community of armed guards here — and if you double that number, they’re going to be tripping over each other,” said William N. Neubauer, 70, a retired surgeon who owns a 10,000-acre cattle ranch that sprawls through scrubby hills just off Interstate 19, about 10 miles north of town.

In addition to nearly 20,000 more agents, the immigration reform proposal includes vast new spending on fencing and a new wave of high-technology sensors, aerial drones, radar and other sophisticated surveillance and detection equipment. This proposed new spending comes at the same time that it appears fewer people are attempting to cross the border — perhaps due to poor job prospects in the United States. Border Patrol apprehensions fell to 340,252 in 2011, down from a peak of nearly 1.2 million in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Border Patrol’s visibility stretches well beyond the border itself. Along I-19 about 25 miles from Nogales, there is a large Border Patrol checkpoint where northbound traffic must halt under a high hangarlike canopy. Armed agents with drug-sniffing dogs wander along the backed-up cars and trucks, while other agents inspect vehicles and question drivers about their citizenship. Anyone deemed questionable is pulled aside for more intensive secondary inspection.

Last summer, agents ordered a frail Mexican-American man out of the car in which he was being driven from his home in Nogales, Ariz., to Tucson for a party celebrating his 96th birthday. He was detained for nearly 30 minutes of questioning in 100-degree heat because a checkpoint sensor had detected what the Border Patrol later said was “a trace of radiation” from the vehicle. The man was Raul Castro, a former U.S. ambassador who was governor of Arizona from 1975 to 1977. The ex-governor’s implanted pacemaker had evidently triggered the false alarm.

Economic impact

The I-19 checkpoint — one of the busiest of more than 30 Border Patrol checkpoints on roads in the Southwest, many miles away from the border itself — is a cause of more than just annoyance, said Neubauer. Tourism in towns such as Tubac, a shopping and arts center about 4 miles south of the checkpoint, is also affected.

“You used to see busloads of tourists coming down here, but that’s fallen way off,” Neubauer said. “Canadian tourists especially got tired of being hassled at the checkpoint because if they don’t have the right documentation with them they’re in deep stuff.”

Residents of nearby communities complain that the checkpoint, which opened in April 2010, also hurts real estate values — a claim supported by an analysis of real estate data last summer by the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona.

“The I-19 checkpoint is having a negative impact on residential real-estate prices,” said the report, which also cites local concerns that the checkpoint “creates a military atmosphere that is intimidating to people going through it.”

Even away from the I-19 corridor, there is similar unease about the pervasive Border Patrol presence. In Patagonia, a sleepy mining town in a mountain valley northeast of Nogales, agents looking for undocumented Mexicans are a daily sight.

“We’re 15 miles from the border, but there is a prolific amount of Border Patrol activity — vehicles driving through town at high speeds, or stopping people on back roads arbitrarily,” said Abby Zeltner, the town librarian.

“They seem to have this assumption that they’re the law, and that’s it,” added an associate, Faye Finley.

William Risner, a Tucson lawyer and activist who represents the family of one of several youths who have been shot in recent years by Border Patrol agents, holds a harsher view of the agency.

“Over the years there has been a tremendous change of attitudes, an impudence, in the Border Patrol,” Risner said.

The Border Patrol did not respond to several attempts over a number of days for comment.

Measure of success

A Border Patrol agent flies over the U.S. and Mexico border above Havana, Texas.
A Border Patrol agent flies over the U.S. and Mexico border above Havana, Texas.
John Moore/Getty Images

Still, the agency’s stated goal of deterring illegal immigration appears to be working.

The decades-long efforts have yielded success, if success is defined by the sharply decreasing numbers of people apprehended each year for illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico. In the Tucson sector, which stretches for 260 miles, apprehensions of undocumented border crossers were 120,000 in the 2012 fiscal year, down from 123,285 in 2011 — and down dramatically from the peak of 616,346 in 2000, according to Border Patrol data.

The Tucson sector, which includes Nogales, is by far the largest and most aggressively policed. But through all of the rugged Southwest borderlands, apprehension numbers indicate that illegal migration is down significantly. In the San Diego sector, for example, apprehensions were 28,461 in 2012, down from 42,447 in 2011 and 565,581 in the peak year, 1992. The only recent increases have been in sectors like the Rio Grande Valley in Texas — up 65 percent to 97,243 in 2012 from the previous year, partly because highly concentrated enforcement in Arizona has funneled some illegal migration eastward into Texas.

But the intense concentration of Border Patrol enforcement in urbanized, high-traffic areas like Nogales continues to have one tragic side effect, pushing some illegal migration into less aggressively patrolled desert wildernesses stretching west of Nogales. There, growing numbers of desperate migrants, typically exploited by criminal “coyote” smugglers, die trying to walk through brutal, sun-blasted terrain to Tucson or even to far-off Phoenix.

In the 2012 fiscal year, even while overall illegal migration was dropping, the Border Patrol reported 463 migrant deaths (an increase of about 25 percent from 2011) on the Southwest border — 70 percent of them in the Tucson and Rio Grande sectors.

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People Without Papers: Dalin Esparzo, Interview #1

People Without Papers: People Without Papers: Dalin Esparzo, Interview #1

Another story of a migrant we met in the Comedor.  This is a post from Marty Ethington’s blog, a fellow intern.

 

People Without Papers: Dalin Esparzo, Interview #1

 

A Brief Introduction
My main objective on the border is to create a documentary film with the aim of raising awareness of migration issues in the United States by illustrating the human side of migration. This is the translated, consolidated and in no other form altered version of a 30-minute interview which I conducted and filmed for this project. The film is still in the filming/structuring phase.
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The Lady from Honduras
My name is Dalin Esparzo and I am 29 years old. I come from the area of Olancho in the city of Catacomas, Honduras. I actually live on a ranch called “San Marcos. I had a beauty shop.

I grew up in a home where there was a lot of violence; my father beat me.
I have sisters and three brothers. The violence that we lived through, because of my father, united us.
My sisters and brothers left home when they were between 13-15 years old, when I left I was 13.
We didn’t all leave together, but we would keep meeting up with each other as we traveled.
My sisters were in the capitol, Tegucigalpa. So I escaped the house and found them.
I knocked door to door walking the city asking for work.
It wasn’t easy.
I worked as a maid when I was 13 and was exploited without pay for about 6 months. I was almost 14 years old when I left.
I used false papers from an 18 year old and was able to get work.
My name was Maria Eloisa.
I worked in an underwear factory for “Victoria’s Secret” for 5 years. I worked 12-14 hours a day; they left me all alone.
It was a lot of pressure for a 14 year old.
At the age of 15, I hung out with people who were not good. They got me drunk and then raped me.
I met the man who raped me after I left my parents house.
He was 28.
I have 3 of his children.
My father, being the way he was, called up the man who got me pregnant and said to him “you have to come get her and take her with you!”.
I had to live with the person who raped me for two years.
After I separated with him I found out I was pregnant with my twins and I was alone.
He came to the U.S.
In February he was deported. He is now in Honduras but not with our children.
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I have 4 children.
My daughter, Alejandra, is 13. I have 10 year old twins, Oscar and Roge; they look very much alike and are a little mischievous; you can imagine- they are twin boys! I also have a 2 year old daughter, Dana.
They are very polite, good kids.
I was the only one raising them so I tried to give them a good childhood. I was a good mother to the best of my abilities.
I was their friend as well as their mother.
We have a good relationship and now they are with my sister.
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I have come to Mexico 4 times and been deported 4 times from Piedras Negras.
This time I came on the 1st of June from Honduras.
We can’t enter legally to Mexico. We are undocumented since we get to the border; the same process as to cross the U.S. but I haven’t crossed the U.S. yet so I can’t compare.
The truth is that the pass through Mexico for us Central Americans is much more difficult than for any other country.
We walk a lot… 17 hours or up to 7 days to get around the Mexican border.
I have more fear of being deported by Mexican officials than by U.S. officials because all the U.S. will do is deport you.
In Mexico, the ones who find you are delinquents; gangsters like Zetas or Salvatruchas; criminals. If you don’t pay them they will kill you.
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We have to travel by train.
At each station Mara charged me $100 to travel on the train.
Mara are gangs made up of Hondurans, Salvadoreans and Mexicans. Mara kills but they are not as powerful as the Mafia.
They take advantage of us. The ones who can’t pay go back home or stay in southern states of Mexico.
We cannot just buy a train ticket; we are undocumented and will be reported and deported.
You have to catch the train while it is running. It is difficult.
The train station guards will let you on while it’s stopped if you pay them 400 pesos and then…
…How do I say this?
They ask for sex in exchange for certain benefits.
There are always people willing to protect you but for the price of sex. The machinists will say “I’ll take you in the room and you don’t have to deal with the criminals”.
But he is another criminal.
You have to deal with one or the other.
So we were always paying…
…You don’t have to risk your life.
This is the life on the train.
This train starts in the state of Tabasco to go up north. There are around 700 people.
You travel with people who drink and do drugs. We would watch how they would fall off the train while playing around high or drunk; many lose their lives.
It is not a nice trip.
However, as long as you are paying, you keep moving up north little by little.
I traveled by cargo train for 27 days, but in Mazatlan we were assaulted and thrown off.
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After we got kicked off the train in Mazatlan, we came to Nogales with a supposed guide who found us a coyote that said he would help us cross the border.
They tell you it’s a good coyote that has taken other family members safely.
In our town, generally, the good coyotes are known- the ones that take people to their destination well and alive.
You can’t trust anyone.
But at least you know their families and they know yours, so you know how to find them.
Once you are there everything is different; they trick you.
The first 2 days the coyote asked us for $700 to pay off the mafia and then we were supposed to take off.
5 days passed.
He spent the money on drugs like cocaine, beer and marijuana… in the same apartment where he had us all.
There are guns and guards and you can’t leave.
We were 17 people.
I asked for money to go to the pharmacy and one of the armed guards was following me.
Once I got to the pharmacy, I went in the front door and out the back. I ran about 3 blocks and jumped into the first taxi I found.
I could not tell the police about the experience because it would mean risking my life.
When I escaped there were 13 people left.
3 men from El Salvador had left because they said they wanted to go back to El Salvador and one girl who broke her teeth when we were assaulted in Mazatlan was being treated by Red Cross.
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When I first came to the shelter, honestly, I was terrified.
I didn’t even come out to the patio for the first 4 days. I was scared of all the other migrants.
They would ask me “are you going to come out today?” and I would say “no way! I’m fine!”.
Maria saw me crying and she told me she would take me to a more secure area.
The shelter is a very safe, peaceful place where you can get psychological therapy and recuperate from the trauma so you can reconstruct your life.
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I will cross into the U.S.
I will leave Nogales. I can’t cross here for fear of the same mafia that kidnapped me before.
I’ll travel by truck and find a coyote.
It’s the only way.
I’m afraid of the desert but not because of U.S. Border Patrol. If the U.S. gets you they just deport you back home and that’s fine.
I have heard there’s a lot of drugs and mafia.
If bad people get you, you can be killed, raped and who knows what else? You can also be kidnapped for ransom and instead of helping your family out they end up having to give everything they have.
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I want to get to the U.S and work for at least 3-5 years.
I will look for work first, I have friends who are already in the U.S. working.
I just want to finish building my house in Honduras so I can have my own business.
I don’t think it is right…
…The people who migrate, Central Americans, Mexicans, etc., experience the most economic hardships and if they go to the U.S. it is because they want to help. Like we say; “we don’t want to take anything, we are giving our time and hard work”.
I think that as a Honduran, the problem is the people who migrate go to work and then enjoy the new life and don’t want to return.
If we had a 5 year permit there would be opportunity for everyone.
5 years to go and make the most of your time in the U.S.
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I have a 50% chance of making it to my destination, 25% chance of being deported and 25% chance of dying.
But we always say…
“We prefer to die fighting than to die of hunger in our own country.”
My name is Danil Esparzo and my American Dream is to get there, work for 3-5 years and then go back to Honduras to perform my role as a mother.
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Contributors:
Kino Border Initiative, el Comedor: KBI supported Danil during her time in Nogales as they have with countless women in her situation. They provided space for the interview at el Comedor.
Maria Casanova: Maria (aforementioned by Danil in the interview) is a student from Guadalajara who spent her summer volunteering with KBI. She had an array of responsibilities, most noteworthy was running the women’s shelter. Maria organized the interview and translated my questions to Danil. Without Maria this interview would never have happened.
AnaLuisa Morales: AnaLuisa translated the interview, using an audio file, from Spanish to English and constructed the original English transcript with time code. AnaLuisa will continue to play an essential role in the creation of this documentary.
Catherine Born: Catherine is my fellow SCCF intern. She translated much of Danil’s questions from Spanish to English during the interview.
Peg Bowden: Peg Bowden is the activist, writer and SCCF intern-coordinator who introduced me to el Comedor and has avidly supported me and this project.