I have walked across the border, the Mexican/USA border so many times…I have lost count. Immigration is very personal to me. I have been called to bring my camera to remote areas outside of Nogales, Arizona…to have my camera ready as Border Patrol open the back of the Ryder trucks; to capture the scared faces of young children and families whose long ride has stopped for us to share with the world.
I have traveled in vans with Coyotes down long dirt roads from inside Mexico, documenting the passage, the trail to the US. I have stared down the barrels of Mexicali’s M16s as they stop each van, question each person, wanting payoff money for their next meal.
I have interviewed so many young men as they find their way across the border en-route to the Carolinas for work, the same work we choose not to do because it is beneath our white privilege.
I have cried under the crosses at the border, the hundreds of cross showcasing those who have died during their travels to the land of the free. I have seen the camps in McAllen, Texas where young children wait…hundreds wait to learn what is next for them. Many of these children ranging from toddlers to teenagers left by their parents at the border in hopes the Border Patrol will take them to a place free from crime and poverty.
I have walked the roads where their are rocks left as markers, indicating check points for vans to pick up those traveling to California, New Mexico, and the Carolinas. I have seen the liter, the left over syringes from meth and other drugs used by Coyotes to keep the groups moving.
I have interviewed the Border Patrol units who are assigned to search and rescue during the summer months, when the temperatures are 110 degrees. They know, children are walking in the summer heat with little to no water…their human decency and empathy forge their every move to search and rescue.
I have documented the stories of land owners who have property on either side of the border, threatened by the Mexican cartels to keep quiet as they bring drugs through their private passages and fields where their families sleep.
The border is more than a wall…it is an institution. Immigration is an institution. The border is bigger than we can imagine funding private prisons holding children, funding Coyotes who slave drive people from Central America to the US, providing jobs, securing commerce, attracting public policy makers and national politics eager to show who has an answer.
The border is bigger than a Facebook debate, bigger than Twitter fight, bigger than a Congressional Committee Meeting with follow-up soundbites for the national media outlets…it is a institution that will forever divide this nation unless we commit ourselves to dig just a little deeper. Why has immigration become so polarizing?
We must ask…how and why!? We must ask more than why are these children in these holding facilities…we must ask how did they get here? Why were they separated from their families, and whose choice was it to make the separation between parent and child. Were they left at the border by their families for border patrol to pick-up? Were they left in the desert because their parents did not make it? Where did they come from, what countries, what continent, what reason? Why is all the sudden we are just now outraged…have we been blinded by the misinformation we believe as Big “T” truths?
Tonight, I think about the mother I met who spent months walking from Guatemala, who crossed the Rio Grande in McAllen, Texas…pregnant. What made her leave her home to walk through numerous countries while pregnant? What made her make this long journey to the US? I think about her child as she was detained and left in a holding cell for days as she began to have contractions. What makes a mother risk her life and the life of her child to travel all this way…for what?
I do not have the answers, but I sure have captured the stories. Maybe we should start listening to more stories ourselves…it might help us create sensible policy that works for all. These stories haunt me, remind me of my freedoms everyday, ones that I should not take for granted. There are many who are willing to risk their life for a little slice of my freedom.
What does your freedom look like, and are you willing to listen to others who are willing to risk it all for a little slice of our freedom?