Immigration Today

by: Patrick Skelly

The United States-Mexico border bas become one of the most highly debated areas in all of North America. There is a wide range of topics that fuel this debate. Some of these topics are much more significant than the others. One of the most important topics in this debate involves illegal immigration that occurs every day along the border. While immigration is on the forefront of this debate, one aspect of the story that gets left out of the conversation is the story of the lives of the migrants.  The stories of the migrants provide incredible insight into why they choose to immigrate across the United States-Mexico border. Often migrants have very noble causes for crossing the border illegally. Many make the decision because they need additional income to support their families; others are crossing the border to reunite with their families. One great example of this reunification can be seen in the story of Josseline, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran who tried to cross the border to join her mother who had crossed years earlier.[1] Sadly Josseline died while trying to cross through the harsh desert climate east of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument near Arivaca. Margaret Regan does a great job telling the story of Josseline, but many other stories similar to Regan’s often go untold.

Immigration and the migrants who cross the border has become a very large talking point for the staff currently employed at Organ Pipe National Monument. As the security along the border cracked down at major checkpoints, many immigrants began to cross through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas deserts.[2] One of the most popular areas of undocumented immigration can be seen in Organ Pipe National Monument. This has caused multiple problems for park rangers and other staff. The first problem is the fact that illegal immigration is against United States law, which the rangers are supposed to protect. The second problem is more important and has to do with human rights. Many of the immigrants crossing through the Sonoran Desert within Organ Pipe are unprepared for making the journey through this harsh climate. They often do not have adequate hydration and/or food. According to a Christian Science Monitor article, “Most border crossers die from exposure to Arizona’s scorching summer heat in remote desert areas, where they go to escape stepped-up border enforcement.”[3] While these deaths have become a huge problem for persons within the monument, these stories also go largely untold in the mainstream media. The awareness of what is happening is very low on the national stage. If awareness were higher many Americans would be able to sympathize with the migrants’ struggles.

The vast majority of migrants are not crossing the borders with malicious intent. Many of these men, women, and children simply hope of a better life. The threat of being caught does not discourage migrants from striving for a better life. According to research performed by Wayne A. Cornelius, the Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at University of California, San Diego, “Even if apprehended, the vast majority (92-97%) keep trying to cross [the border] until they succeed.”[4] The persistence shown by migrants is truly amazing. In recent years migrants have turned to the help of professional people-smugglers, known as coyotes.[5] Coyotes provide their services to hopeful migrants who are trying to cross the border in the safest and most secretive way possible. While some coyotes are honest guides trying to help their clients, others are ruthless individuals who take advantage of their clients. In 2010 border patrol agents, park rangers, and other various authorities discovered two hundred fifty two dead bodies within the Arizona desert.[6] Clearly, these deaths have become a bigger problem as time has worn on.

Although this problem has become a very large and dangerous one, certain groups help the immigrants. Tucson-based No More Deaths for example has made great strides in helping reduce deaths throughout the desert. Members of No More Deaths patrol the desert dropping off nonperishable items such as granola bars, Gatorade, and applesauce for migrants in need.[7] The men and women of the program believe this is not an immigration issue; rather it is a human rights issue. Deaths of innocent families have become a huge problem and No More Deaths activists are trying to put an end to it.

While U.S. citizens often view illegal immigration negatively, there is a side to the story that Americans often don’t see. The lives of these migrants are very fascinating. They are human beings just like any American citizen. They are trying to make a better living for themselves and their families. Immigration is the only answer for many of these people. Before judging take a look at their stories.


[1] Regan, Margaret, The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010).

[2] Nielsen, Chris, “Illegal Immigrants Bring Problems to Border Parks,” University of Miami, School of Communication, May 5, 2008.

[3] “Behind Decline in US-Mexico Border Crossings: Higher Risks, Lower Rewards.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 21 Apr. 2012.

[4] Cornelius, Wayne, Border Battles The U.S. Immigration Debates, “Impacts of Border Enforcement on Unauthorized Mexican Migration to the United States,” http://borderbattles.ssrc.org/Cornelius/ (Accessed April 20, 2012)

[5] Cornelius, Wayne, Border Battles The U.S. Immigration Debates, “Impacts of Border Enforcement on Unauthorized Mexican Migration to the United States,” http://borderbattles.ssrc.org/Cornelius/ (Accessed April 20, 2012)

[6] Robbins, Ted. “Illegal Immigrant Deaths Set Record In Arizona.” NPR. NPR, 06 Oct. 2010. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130369998 (Accessed April 23, 2012).

[7] Regan, Margaret, The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010).

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