Jun 4, 2011

Immigration Reality: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone - a book Excerpt

Thanks to Rolling Stone, the following is an excerpt from Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone by Terry Greene Sterling.

Book Excerpt: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone | Rolling Stone Politics : "In the years I’ve covered the Arizona-Mexico borderlands as a reporter for newspapers and magazines, I’ve come across hundreds of objects of immigrant trash strewn in the desert. The litter had always outraged and saddened me. On the one hand, it seemed disrespectful, contaminated pristine stretches of desert, and killed wildlife. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but wonder about the untold story behind some migrant trash. ...

Each immigrant crossing illegally into Arizona drops an average of eight pounds of belongings during his or her journey, according to federal environmental officials. Even though illegal immigration has declined, tons of fresh trash are still strewn along Arizona’s borderlands. Volunteers pick it up. Federal employees pick it up. Cowboys pick it up. Hikers pick it up. Although the trash is offensive, just about anyone who cleans up immigrant trash is moved by some of what the travelers leave behind.

Volunteers who leave water for migrants on the desert trails make shrines out of immigrant trash. I came across one such shrine near Arivaca, a tiny town that sits about twelve miles north of the border. Whoever made the shrine had arranged little stones (in the shape of a heart) around a pile of immigrant trash. A small figurine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, that beloved brown Mexican national goddess-Madonna, overlooked a choppy mound of photos, worn-out athletic shoes, T-shirts, baseball caps, plastic one-gallon water jugs, hooded sweatshirts, backpacks, blankets, and empty bottles of electrolyte solution. There was a cell phone in the shrine, a large black plastic garbage bag that had been fashioned into a makeshift raincoat, a yellow toy truck, an inhaler for an asthmatic, and a small sun-baked Spanish prayer pamphlet called Oraciones de los Emigrantes, which literally means Prayers for Emigrants.

The fragile booklet was tiny, about three inches square, designed to fit in a pocket of a jacket or a backpack. The sun-brittle pages contained prayers to patron saints of travel, prayers appealing for safe passage. But one prayer, in particular, caught my eye.

Dearest Infant Lord Jesus, who accompanied by your sainted parents Mary and Joseph, knew the bitterness of leaving your homeland for Egypt, we ask you on behalf of all the children who are homeless immigrants and refugees, these children who suffer as you once suffered, we ask that their parents find work, food and a home, and that they always be received with love, that outsiders they meet treat them as brothers, and that you please keep their bodies and souls safe."

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