Today's Topic



How Much Is
One Life Worth?

Natalia J. Garland

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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 crimes?

(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
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I 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 again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2006 Natalia J. Garland