How Much Is
One Life Worth?
Natalia J. Garland
Our immigration system is a mess. (1) People are getting killed
crossing the border illegally. (2) Drug smugglers are turning
some border towns into war zones. (3) People involved in document
fraud are making millions of dollars. (4) Approximately 240,000
sex predators have crossed the border illegally.
(1) An S.U.V. packed
with 21 illegal immigrants rolled over as the smuggler and driver
tried to avoid a U.S. highway checkpoint. Nine of the immigrants
were killed. Others were taken to the hospital for injuries,
including a pregnant woman. I tried to imagine the pregnant
woman's story. What was she thinking?! Why did she take such a
risk with her unborn child? It could be argued that she used very
poor judgment, and that only she can be held accountable for the
tragic consequences of her irresponsible actions. Certainly, if
this woman were my sister, I would have tried to convince her to
stay home in Mexico. But, I imagine her as a young and daring
woman who wanted one thing for her baby: American citizenship.
(2) Almost every day
there are drug-related assassinations and kidnappings in the
border town of Nuevo Laredo, otherwise known as Narco Laredo.
Most of this crime is committed on the Mexican side of the town,
but Americans are also reported missing. "Mexico is like the
ham in the sandwich, between the supplier, which is Colombia, and
the consumer, which is the U.S." (Jose Luis Santiago
Vasconcelos). The Mexican government will apparently do nothing to
enforce anti-smuggling laws because officials have been corrupted.
Many journalists are afraid to report on illegal drug-related
activity. Why isn't drug treatment a political and mental health
priority in America? Why can't people see the connection between
America's drug addiction problems and Mexico's drug-smuggling
(3) The Castorena
family of Mexico has run a document fraud organization for 20
years and operates in all 50 states of America. It is a
multi-million dollar illegal business, selling phony documents to
illegal immigrants for $80 to $200 per document. Castorena has
used his profits to buy hotels, gyms, and other legal businesses
in Mexico. He has also exposed America to terrorism. Remember,
two of the World Trade Center terrorists boarded those airplanes
with forged documents. Although the majority of illegal
immigrants may be hardworking people, terrorists are able to blend
into their shadow world and obtain forged documents.
(4) There are more
young men in the illegal immigrant population than in the general
American population. Therefore, there is also a higher number of
sex predators: 240,000 reported. According to a study by Deborah
Schurman-Kauflin, Ph.D., most of them come from Mexico and
secondly from El Salvador. Almost 30 percent of their victims
are also illegal immigrants and the remainder are American
citizens. Only 22 percent of these predators have graduated from
high school. Eighty-one percent of them were drinking alcohol or
using illegal drugs before committing offenses. These offenses
include child molestation, rape, and sexual homicide.
Looking at the above
information, it can be concluded that illegal immigration involves
more than a simple labor supply and demand situation. Illegal
immigration involves all facets of human behavior. It is woven
deeply into the fabric of American life. It can also be concluded
that such behavior does not follow any notion of American racism
or cultural superiority: it involves Mexicans jeopardizing the
lives of other Mexicans; Mexicans and other Latinos profiting from
the addictive problems of Americans of all races; Mexicans preying
upon the employment vulnerability of other Mexicans; Mexican and
El Salvadoran men sexually assaulting Latina, African-American,
and Caucasian women and girls.
Of course, there are
a lot of reckless drivers on the roads. And obviously, American
men also sexually assault women and children. However, if our
immigration system were not so dysfunctional, some criminal and
unconscionable behavior could be prevented. It is a matter of
values and priorities. How much is the life of one pregnant
Mexican woman worth? Is she expendable? Does anyone, other than
social workers, care about America's drug addicts? Is cheap labor
so necessary to the economy that American businesses are willing
to risk a terrorist attack? Does cheap labor mean society must
tolerate the sexual assault of women and children as unavoidable?
If so, then cheap labor comes with a high emotional price which
its victims will feel for their lifetime.
In 1883, a Jewish
woman named Emma Lazarus wrote a poem about the relationship
between immigrants and America. The poem was engraved on a bronze
plaque and placed on a museum wall, in 1903 and after Lazarus'
death, at the Statue of Liberty.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
conquering limbs astride from land to land;
at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
the imprisoned lightning, and her name
of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
This poem could be
interpreted with a double meaning nowadays. There are
American-born citizens who are tired and poor, there are
emotionally traumatized and addicted individuals yearning to be
free, and there are homeless people on the streets of every
American city. The Statue of Liberty's motto is "Liberty
Enlightening the World." The Statue was intended to welcome
not only immigrants, but visitors as well as American travelers
returning home. Lady Liberty, therefore, must focus on solutions
to America's internal social problems, and it appears that
immigration reform and border control are prerequisite to the
process as a whole. Meanwhile, all kinds of people--workers,
students, drug smugglers, human traffickers, racketeers, sexual
predators, terrorists--continue to cross our golden border.
(Written 08/14/06: bibliography available.)
Until we meet