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Guest Commentary November 20, 2013 //  by  // 20 Comments

Immigration reform crucial for prevent inhumane acts facing migrants

My uncle Juan just wanted to work.

He wanted to reunite with his family in Houston and leave the hardships of living in Mexico behind. Like many Mexican immigrants, he had one goal: to pursue a better life in the United States.

He never reached it. He died of hyperthermia as he attempted to cross the harsh desert brush in Laredo.

When he was found, his body was in an advanced stage of decomposition. It is doubtful they would have run DNA tests to identify his remains.

Luckily, he had his Mexican identification card and my mother’s phone number tucked away in his back pocket.Had he not, he would have been buried under a sign reading “unidentified male.” I will never forget my mother’s reaction to the phone call she received on that peaceful fall evening.

This happens to families all across the U.S., and it is not acceptable.

The U.S. is the world leader as a destination for immigrants. Millions of people risk their lives for the American dream each year and end up burying the dream in the sands of the desert or drowning in the waters of the Rio Grande.

Migrant border deaths are ridiculously high in Texas. According to U.S. Border Patrol data, 477 people died at the border in 2012, 271 of those particularly at the Texas border.

The intense enforcement that pushed migrants away from traveling through populated urban areas included helicopters, drones and ground sensors. These hardworking humans who were searching for a better life traveled through and died in isolated areas of the desert to avoid detection, detention and deportation.

To add to this injustice, border patrol officials did not systematically DNA test the remains of the migrants as required by Texas state law.

This led to family members being unable to locate and bury their loved ones or to even know they have died.

Sadly, many remains are never found in the harsh terrain the migrants cross. As immigration reform continues to be a topic of debate, members of the U.S. Congress push for increased border security without even mentioning the deaths caused by inhumane enforcement policies.

The criminalization of immigrants in the U.S. is linked to high rates of death. Deportation policies shatter many families across the U.S.; immigrants are forced to leave their citizen children behind.

A culturally competent country would know the Latino culture places a high value on family. Many deportees will do anything to reunite.

The limited opportunities for deportees to enter the U.S. legally force them to take the more dangerous routes. In the attempt to avoid being detained as criminals by ICE, the migrants die.

When speaking about this issue, U.S. citizens opposed to immigration reform would say, “Well, they chose to risk their lives” or “If they know the harsh conditions, why come?” and I can understand their perspective in some cases.

At any rate, I believe poverty, hunger and the profound motive to get their loved ones out of extreme situations in their home countries wins.

It is the emotional vs. rational battle.

What if your son was at risk of being kidnapped and murdered by a drug cartel? Or if your wife was at risk of being raped, dismembered and left in a black bag on the front steps of your door, would you want to stay?

We cannot continue to ignore these humanitarian problems. As members of the land of opportunity, we must help immigrants contribute to American society. This is what immigration reform is all about.

An increase in border security will not solve the problem. Immigration reform that supports family unification is necessary.

Write a letter to your member of Congress today voicing your support for immigration reform. We must continue to tell the stories of those who died on their journeys.

If death does not get the government’s attention, what will?

Esmeralda Sotelo is a first-year social work graduate student and can be reached atesotelo1291@gmail.com.

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  • pagsnm

    There are over 8 billion people on this planet. How many do you wish to allow to come to our country? Although this is a compelling story, why does this country have to be the solution to the ills of these billions. Our first concern should be to address the needs of our own population. Also why should Mexico just because of its proximity be given a special place in the scheme of immigration. Over 50% of illegal immigration originates from Mexico and over 6 million Mexican nationals have illegally come to this nation in the past few decades. Family reunification is just another argument justifying more illegal immigration.

    • Truthzz

      That is just a selfish post. Even with no immigrants, there will always be problems in the country. Blame the government, NOT the people. If people from other countries want to try a new life style and immigrate to America they should have the chance to. There is no particular race that America is made up of….. America is standing today because it has people who are from different races around the world. People aren’t just given their amazing lives, they need to earn it and it may sometimes include travelling. You can’t stop them from trying to improve on their lives nor the future for their family. Where is the freedom in that?

      • ErikKengaard

        Selfish? Self interest. “…to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and OUR posterity…” Not someone else’s posterity.

      • DB

        Where do you get that the post is blaming people? What the ‘people from other countries (illegals) should do is to try and make things better in their OWN country and stop stealing the future of OUR children.

        Is that selfish enough for you? Idiot

      • DB

        Illegal aliens aren’t ‘traveling’, they are ‘occupying’. Your statement that they are trying a new lifestyle and immigrate to America is over-simplistic. SO, by your reasoning everyone who wants a new lifestyle should just move here?

        Why can’t they try to improve their lives where they are from…why is it OUR job to provide them a better life?

    • DB

      Just to correct you….ther are only 7.125 B people, so it’s not quite as crowded as you stated. However, I agree in principle that illegals should not be allowed to come here simply because their own country isn’t as great a place to live.

      • Timray

        end the goodies the American people are bilked out of and you would see a whole different attitude. every wave of immigrants faced natavists and their belligerence,,,,having lived in Mexico it is hardly devoid of racism either…the world is not devoid of racism…..but there is a point where we need to slow it down

    • Timray

      amen!!!!!!!!!!!

  • HeSaid1

    I am crying real hard!!!–NOT.

    Where’s the tears and compassion for the over 23 Million unemployed/under-employed/off the job market US Citizens and LEGAL Immigrants?

    • Jocelynn

      OMG, are you serious? Do you know how many jobs are out there?? You “Americans” just think you are too good for low wage jobs so illegals take them! Then you claim to not be able to find a job? Pathetic if you ask me.

      • HeSaid1

        You might want to watch Dan Rather’s Doc on how Illegal Aliens take jobs from US Citizens: high and low-skilled jobs, especially from our own working poor minorities:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeoBWzIRuic

      • Max

        Tell that to the people who used to work in the construction industry.

  • ErikKengaard

    “We cannot continue to ignore these humanitarian problems. As members of the land of opportunity, we must help immigrants contribute to American society. This is what immigration reform is all about.”
    Agreed that we shouldn’t ignore these problems. The answer is not to bring all the world’s poor into the United States and create a third world nation. The answer is fair trade, not free trade. The answer is to cease the war on drugs and decriminalize use. The answer is US pressure on the Mexican elite to do better by their people.

  • ErikKengaard

    “As members of the land of opportunity, we must help immigrants contribute to American society. This is what immigration reform is all about.” Nonsense. As members of a sovereign nation, we should protect our borders against an alien invasion.

    • DB

      Let’s begin with your misrepresentation of illegal aliens as ‘immigrants’. To be classified as na immigrant, they need to be granted a lawful status and entry.

      Or do you call someone who breaks into your home and uses your phone , eats the food in your pantry, takes a bath in your tub, and sits in your favorite chair a ‘guest’?

      Idiot

    • Timray

      amen

  • ErikKengaard

    “The connection between the oversupply of labour and plummeting living standards for the poor is one of the more robust generalisations in history.” Peter Turchin, Return of the oppressed, aeon magazine.

    “After World War I, laws were passed [the 1924 Johnson–Reed Act] severely limiting immigration. Only a trickle of immigrants has been admitted since then. . .By keeping labor supply down, immigration restriction tends to keep wages high. Let us underline this basic principle: Limitation of the supply of any grade of labor relative to all other productive factors can be expected to raise its wage rate; an increase in supply will, other things being equal, tend to depress wage rates” Paul Samuelson, quoted by Professor George Borjas, Harvard

    “JEDDAH: Saudis have begun complaining of surging labour costs following the exodus of a million foreign workers, although economists insist there will be long-term planning benefits from fully regulating the market.” in The Economic Times, November 7, 2013

  • Mina

    Esmer, thanks for sharing your story. I, myself, have many family members who would love the opportunity to even just visit the states. Many of my aunts and cousins from the Philippines see my posts and photos on Facebook and tell me all the time how much they would love to come even if only for a trip. It is so hard to get a Visitor’s VISA, much less a work or student VISA. On the other hand, after living here in Miami, I’ve interacted with more illegals than I could even imagine. I guess it is all about who you know, huh? The political aspect of it is extremely saddening. One of the realtors here in Miami also informed me that someone overseas can simply receive their green card if they were to purchase property here valuing $500,000 to $1,000,000. It struck me by surprise. So, just because they purchase high value property, they should easily be given the opportunity for permanent residency? Maybe I should let my aunt know to go ahead and purchase a million dollar property so she can legally gain citizenship. Money talks, my friend. Sadly enough, it’s the old saying that the few bad seeds ruin it for everyone else. There is so much border control back home in Texas, but girl, there is very loose control here in South Florida. The American Dream is something that is much harder for some to acquire than others, and I admire you for sharing your family’s story.

  • Timray

    this article is so devoid of facts it would make the strawman smile….it is my sincerest hopes his parents did not have to spend a lot to educate this sob sister….Cesar Chavez was totally correct when in 1969 he and Jesse Jackson marched to the border trying to save his union from the waves of illegals. he failed and so did his union

  • curaecivem

    Remove all the illegal aliens and many industries will suffer, some even collapse. The dirty secret is, U.S. industry loves the low-wage, no-strike pool of illegal workers, but aren’t about to support any idea of a path to citizenship because then the laborers they can now exploit would start demanding higher wages and better working conditions. By far the illegals take the jobs because “rights”-loving Americans aren’t about to work in exploitative work environments. They’re not stealing anything. Anyone can get a job in an exploitative work setting. But few Americans do because they’re not willing to tolerate the abuse.

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