The shocking image of a little child, just one year old, abandoned by a “coyote” along the river bank, is one of the recent scenes that have saturated the media. It embodies the desperation of migrants from different parts of the world to arrive in the United States, a country they expect to be the salvation for them and their families. The desperation is such that they prefer to gamble with their lives more than once, having already crossed seas, forests, and deserts.
Basically, the life of the migrant is filled with vicissitudes from beginning to end, starting in their places of origins, which they have abandoned for lack of opportunities, to the site that marks the end of the border. And between those two equidistant points, the possibility of death is ever present. Still, they continue to risk it all. Those who oppose them, whether because they are anti-immigrant, racist, or xenophobic, never seem to understand that the history of humanity is the history of migration. And that those migrations have always had the same detonator throughout centuries: survival.
This touches us all, deeply. For example, a few days ago we learned that the body of a child less than 10 years old was found floating in the Río Bravo.
As if that was not enough, on Monday evening a fire broke out in a detention center for migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, resulting in the death of at least 39 people, mostly Central and South Americans who apparently, according to press reports, were waiting to be deported. But that is not the only cruelty, as a video has come to light in which security guards are seen locking the doors of this detention center, despite the fact that the fire was raging. Regardless of the fire’s origin, no one in their right mind would leave human beings who are in imminent danger locked up.
It turns out that it is not going to be technology that resolves such a poorly functioning migration system as the United States’, just as a cell phone could not put in order an unequal economic system that traps millions across the world in poverty, and a handful in opulence watching from above, as human despair drifts across the continents.
Other examples: Cuban migrants have arrived in Florida on surfboards and a motorized hang glider; some weeks ago, a shipwreck was reported off the coast of San Diego, CA; and two migrants died and more than 15 were injured crammed into a train car in Texas. This happens year after year, but it seems like the deaths of thousands of human beings have not sensitized a political class that has the solution in their hands—the long-awaited immigration reform.
When these events occur, we always try to look for someone to blame and condemn the migrants themselves. The parents, for example, for turning their young children over to human traffickers, or for putting them in unstable boats to cross the Florida straits or Caribbean sea; or to cross the Darién forest, or the desert, in their eagerness to reach the United States.
It is difficult to put ourselves in their shoes, but it is also difficult for us to judge others without understanding the level of desperation that a mother or father must feel in order to send their children alone with a human trafficker, whether to remove them from the poverty or gang violence that asphyxiates their communities. Others will say “it’s not our problem.” But that is an error of principles and values, because when it comes to the tragedies of other human beings, nothing should be considered out of our concern.
This tragedy is also indicative of a broken immigration system, where order and common sense should prevail. After all, seeking asylum is a human right. Trying to preserve one’s life, liberty, and safety is also a human right. What do they not understand about this moral principle?
On the other hand, if the reasons for their journeys are economic, consider that migrants offer valuable labor that is sorely needed in the United States in various fields and sectors. Uniting this demand with the supply should not be an impossible exercise, much less a lethal one. The question is the same: what do they not understand about acting with common sense and with feet firmly on the ground, when it comes to the issue of immigration? Or maybe the question should be asked another way: what will the United States do when the world’s migrants stop considering it a country of destination?
As we have repeated in this space for years, ad infinitum, it doesn’t matter which deterrence measures are implemented, or whether Title 42 is lifted or remains; migrants will continue trying to come to the United States as long as poverty, violence, political persecution, and the lack of liberties rein in their countries of origin.