So listening to a podcast is not really reading, I know, but I get the chance to read or listen to podcasts on my commute to work and this trilogy from Radiolab really made me stop and think. Obviously being a Spanish major in college, working with Mexican immigrants in the U.S. and now living in Mexico, I’m interested in issues related to Mexico. I thought I knew a fair amount of what goes on at the Mexico-U.S. border but it turns out the history of how the U.S. detains immigrants is different from what I imagined.
I’m giving a little bit away here but basically the current practice of immigrants crossing the desert or river and being detained before they officially cross the border is a fairly recent change. Immigrants used to hop or climb through holes in the fence in the major cities that span the border. Border patrol also played a much more reactive role, patrolling cities looking for illegal border crossers. This meant that many times border patrol detained and questioned Hispanic Americans living in these border cities thinking they had crossed illegally. There was one high school right on the border with a high number of Hispanic students that eventually got fed up and the students sued the government to protect their rights and won. So border patrol was forced to switch tactics to be more proactive and crossing the border became a much more deadly affair. Crossing at major cities became impossible as border patrol had such a major presence there so immigrants were funneled into the deserts and mountains, with the thought by the U.S. government that if more people ended up dying while crossing they would stop trying.
Well more people died but they’ve kept coming. The second and third podcast in this trilogy focus on how much higher the heath toll is in the desert than we imagine and what that means for families in Central America whose loved ones have disappeared on their trip. Warning: the second and third podcasts can get pretty graphic but overall this is a super interesting story and something that all Americans should be aware of.
Border Trilogy Part 1: Hole in the Fence
Let me know what you think, did you know about the strange human rights dilemma on the U.S.-Mexico border?