The family we are visiting lives eleven miles from the border between the United States and Mexico. Eleven. There is a whole world in these eleven miles that I didn’t know existed. I thought I was well-informed and well-educated when it came to the topic of immigration between Mexico and the US. But what I am learning while I am here, and the things I saw today, make me realize that I know absolutely nothing.
Today, we traveled to small villages and rural streets that held the homes of parent’s parents. Closer to the border, I did not realize how close until we turned a corner and suddenly I was face to face with a giant fence. Looking like a steel wall, it stretched as far as my eyes could see.
We’ve been hearing a lot about a wall during the course of the last year. Here I was face-to-face with what looked like a big damn wall to me. There was a gravel, frontage road that ran along the fence line that we drove down to see where it went.
About a 1/4 mile later, there was a gigantic gate next to a small bridge that ran parallel to the fence over a canal. The fence ran down under the bridge and in to the canal – clearly blocking anyone that tried to swim under the gate via the canal.
As I stood in the sunshine and stared at the fence, a feeling of sadness came over me. Our country was built by immigrants. We were ALL immigrants that came to this land and now here I was sanding on one side of a fence that was built to keep people OUT of our country. Why? How did we get here? Were those that lived on the other side of this fence so different from my ancestors that came to this country for the first time, looking to make a life for themselves and their family? I really thought I understood what immigration was all about and that it was a clear-cut issue for me. There was no emotion that was attached to it. And yet I was thrown off by my sadness and confusion at this fence and everything it represented.
And on the flip side of wondering why any of it was necessary, we had a conversation with two men that were doing work by the gate. There are a lot of locals that live here in the Rio Grande Valley – Mexicans that have been here for years and years – that voted for the guy who wanted to build the wall because it would help to keep out the drugs, the drug traffickers and those that were taking the jobs away from people here that needed them. Those that were tired of how things had worked up until now and thought that a loud mouth with new ideas sounded like a good idea for President. But they know that if you build a wall that is 20 feet high, people who want to immigrate will build a 21 foot ladder. Already the fence that is currently there can be scaled in an average of eighteen seconds.
So what is the answer?
What would you do if you had no job opportunities, no education, and no way to provide for your family (except running drugs for the cartel)? Would you do everything humanly possible to save your life and theirs? Would you swim a canal? Would you climb a fence? Would you give a damn about paperwork or figure it out later? I don’t know what the right answer is anymore. I’m grateful that I am seeing, learning and opening my mind on the side of the fence that is filled with any opportunity that I can imagine.