Photo credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Department of Homeland Security)
Dilley, a small Texas city eighty-three miles north of the Mexican border, greets visitors with a cheerful sign.
“Welcome to Dilley, Texas,” it reads. “A Slice of the Good Life.”
That good life extends only so far. Just west of town, nearly two thousand women and children are locked up inside the massive South Texas Family Residential Center. With a capacity of 2400, the brand-new Dilley is now the largest immigration prison in the United States. There are so many children at the camp that they sometimes outnumber the adults, the New York Times reports; their average age is nine years old.
A memorial to migrants who have died trying to cross the border stands in Reynosa, Mexico.
According to the US Customs and Border Protection, more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border in the last six months, up 92% from the previous year. The humanitarian crisis has sparked new urgency in the immigration debate, one that President Obama recently proposed to solve by increasing the speed of their deportations. Though Obama has since backed off from that plan, seeking instead $3.7 billion in funding to help alleviate the situation, how exactly those dollars will be allocated, or whether even his request will pass the crucible of Congress, remains unclear.
Meanwhile, unaccompanied immigrant children are still arriving at the border in droves. The numbers, in aggregate, are staggering but they belie the human struggle each of these children have undergone simply to reach the US. It is exactly that struggle that Margaret Regan writes about in The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands. In the following excerpt, Regan, in telling Josseline’s story, shows us the sometimes tragic and all-too-real dangers that many of these unaccompanied minors must increasingly endure.
Josseline pulled her two jackets closer in the cold. She was wearing everything she had brought with her from home. Underneath the jackets, she had on a tank top, better suited to Arizona’s searing summers than its chilly winters, and she’d pulled a pair of sweatpants over her jeans. Her clothes betrayed her girly tastes. One jacket was lined in pink. Her sneakers were a wild bright green, a totally cool pair of shoes that were turning out to be not even close to adequate for the difficult path she was walking. A little white beaded bracelet circled her wrist. Best of all were her sweats, a pair of “butt pants” with the word HOLLYWOOD emblazoned on the rear. Josseline planned to have them on when she arrived in the land of movie stars.
She tried to pay attention to the twists and turns in the footpath, to obey the guide, to keep up with the group. But by the time they got to Cedar Canyon, she was lagging. She was beginning to feel sick. She’d been on the road for weeks and out in the open for days, sleeping on the damp ground. Maybe she’d skimped on drinking water, giving what she had to her little brother. Maybe she’d swallowed some of the slimy green water that pools in the cow ponds dotting this ranch country. Whatever the reason, Josseline started vomiting. She crouched down and emptied her belly, retching again and again, then lay back on the ground. Resting didn’t help. She was too weak to stand up, let alone hike this rollercoaster trail out to the road.
Regan will be a panelist in two different sessions. For "Borderlines," Regan will join Phil Caputo, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and a novelist (Crossers),and Thomas Cobb, novelist whose Crazy Heart was turned into the Oscar-winning film, for a session on writing about the border. The panel will meet at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 12, in the Catalina Room of the UA Student Union.
Regan will also be speaking at 4 p.m., Saturday, in Gallagher Theater in the UA Student Union, in the session "Dispatches from the Borderlands: Human Rights, Personal Stories." Moderated by journalism professor Jay Rochlin, the panel also includes authors Sam Quinones (Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream) and Kathryn Ferguson, Norma Price and Ted Parks (co-authors of Crossing with the Virgin). The session will be broadcast live by CNN's Book TV.
In December, Regan's book was named a winner in the 2010 Southwest Books of the Year Best Reading competition run by the Friends of the Pima County Public Library. Judge Margaret Loghry noted, "All concerned citizens should read this collection to better understand the issues in the borderlands today." The Unitarian Universalist Church also selected The Death of Josseline as a Common Read, to be read and studied by congregations nationwide.
Margaret Regan's The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands has been praised as, "A keen-eyed perspective of how questionable public policy has resulted in far too much preventable loss of life," (Midwest Book Review) and, "A humane, sensitive, and informative perspective on a current and controversial topic" (Ana Castillo, author of The Guardians).
The book has been chosen as this year's Common Read by the Unitarian-Universalist Association, and a reader's guide is available on Beacon.org. Read an excerpt below or at Scribd and get talking about the human stories behind the contentious issue of undocumented immigration.
You can also read these previous posts at Beacon Broadside by author Margaret Regan, or browse all of our posts on immigration.
Robert Krentz was a modern cowboy. When he patrolled his ranch northeast of Douglas, he rode an ATV, not a horse. No matter. A rancher was a rancher and Krentz's family had run cattle on this 35,000-spread since 1907. Krentz had been trying to restore the parched land, and his innovative water system helped convert a portion of it into a wildlife habitat. In 2008, just after its 100th anniversary, the Krentz ranch was inducted into the Arizona Ranching Hall of Fame.
Krentz was a big man, tall and heavy, and, at fifty-eight, prematurely snowy-haired. He was known as a gentle giant, given to helping out needy border crossers in this heavily traveled migrant corridor. They walked his land regularly, and once his house had been broken into.
"If they come in and ask for water, I'll still give them water," he told a PBS interviewer back in 1999. "That's just my nature."
Saturday, March 27, 2010, was a cool day for early spring, only 50 degrees or so. Krentz rumbled out on his ATV to check his water lines, his dog trotting along beside him. There'd been some trouble lately in these rural Cochise County grasslands. Residents blamed migrants for a rash of home robberies. And the day before, Krentz's brother Phil had spotted some drug mules on their ranch and called the Border Patrol; agents arrested eight undocumented immigrants and picked up nearly 300 pounds of marijuana.
At some point Saturday, Rob radioed into Phil; over the crackly airwaves Phil heard the words "illegal alien."
That was the last time Rob Krentz's family heard from him. Hours later, his body was found out on his ranch, still on his ATV. He'd been shot multiple times; his dog lay wounded beside him.
The death of Robert Krentz changed the conversation about immigration in the United States. The killing made national and even international news. The county sheriff pleaded for calm, noting that the murder was unsolved (it remained unsolved as of July 2010), but that didn't stop anti-immigrant groups from asserting flatly that Krentz had been shot in cold blood by an undocumented immigrant, or felled by a Mexican drug dealer. Angry citizens around the country demanded that the federal government take action.
A hot wind swept through the Arizona desert on the first day
of July, pushing gray clouds across the sky and carrying the welcoming smell of
dampness in the air gave some small hope to this parched land. During all of
June, it rained not a single drop in southern Arizona. The temperatures spiked above
100 degrees on twenty-two days, including sixteen days in a row during the last
two weeks of the month. On one day, June 23, the mercury shot up to 109.
region’s powerful summer thunderstorms—the monsoons—haven’t started yet but everyone’s
praying for rain. Last week in Tucson, in a traditional celebration on the
feast day of San Juan Bautista—St. John the Baptist—on June 24, neighbors
carried his statue around on the banks of the dried-up Santa Cruz River, in
hopes that the saint would baptize the borderlands. So far, the saint hasn’t
answered their prayers.
Finally, a wave of praise for Amie Klempnauer Miller's She Looks Just Like You on the The StrollerDerby blog, which quotes Salon.com's "delightful" interview with the author, plus over on Mombian. Also, ForeWord Reviews in their May/June issue, says: "She Looks Just Like You tells a story that parents from all sorts of 'categories' need to hear." And the June issue of Curve Magazine notes, "Motherhood can be scary for anyone, but when it comes to lesbian, Nonbiological moms-to-be, there was no real guidebook—until now. Miller talks about the excitements and difficulties that come from being the lesbian partner who doesn't give birth."
This past week, Beacon authors have been very active out in the world, putting a human face on immigration and talking topics spanning a wide gamut of social justice issues, including: global population, feminism, consumer choices, education, and so much more. Visit our homepage to see the many books on immigrant rights that Beacon has published. And, if you're in or around Boston, learn more about the May Day March, which will begin on Boston Common at noon on Saturday.
WNBC New York talks to Stacy and Steve Trebing about their successful struggle to save their daughter with a "savoir sibling." The family's moving story is chronicled by author Beth Whitehouse in her new book The Match.
Author Bob Moses champions a constitutional amendment to guarantee quality education, the topic of his forthcoming book Quality Education as a Constitutional Right, in The Nationarticle about the 50th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Today marks the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Hear Dana Sachs talk about the nearly 3,000 "supposedly orphaned" children swept into "Operation Babylift" on NHPR's "Word of Mouth."
Two weeks ago five young Americans were hiking the trails in the Tumacacori Wilderness in southern Arizona, a few miles north of the Mexican border.
The terrain here is rugged, with rocky pathways snaking through up-and-down canyons in the mountains, and desert cacti ready to pierce a walker’s skin. But the volunteers had a reason to be out trekking this forbidding turf on a winter’s day. They were members of the Tucson activist group No More Deaths, and they were leaving food and water out for the migrants who throng these trails when they slip over the border into the U.S.
Not all of the migrants make it through.
On February 9, the young volunteers, members of the Tucson activist group No More Deaths, were about two miles east of Ruby, a remote ghost town long since abandoned by the miners who once dug their claims here. Loaded down with gallons of water -- each one weighing more than eight pounds -- and boxes of food, they decided to walk down a narrow canyon they had never passed through before.
Suddenly, in the path ahead of them, they saw a shallow grave.