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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Guest Commentary

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 [email protected]

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