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Saturday, October 1

NASW Member Visits the Arizona-Mexico Border

Ruth Fast

As a school social worker in a Chicago Public School with two thirds Hispanic students, I appreciated the opportunity to go to the Arizona-Mexico border with a Christian Peacemaker Team Delegation. Some of my students’ family members or friends have crossed the border illegally.

 “Choose life—only that and always, and at whatever risk (Sr. Helen Kelley).” That is the goal of the Mexican migrants who cross the border to work in the U.S. in order to feed their families. These are the jobs our economy needs done whether that is picking our vegetables, landscaping our lawns or producing the products we want at an inexpensive price. Our economy grows and prospers partly on the backs of the migrants who work for low wages so we can continue the standard of living we have become accustomed to. Border issues are complicated. Economic forces create the migrants’ need to find work in the U.S. Without the disparity between the economies of Mexico and the U.S., migrants would not need to come to the U.S. for work. Policies, like NAFTA, continue to exploit Mexican workers in their own country perpetuating the inequalities. This creates the continuing need for migrants to cross the border to survive.

 The policy of the U.S. Border Patrol is to build walls in the most heavily populated border areas so the majority of migrants are forced to cross into the U.S. in the inhospitable desert area near Douglas, Arizona. Approximately 200 migrants die at this desert crossing each year. The BP thought that “building walls” would deter migrants’ crossing but didn’t consider that feeding one’s family might be more important than life itself.

 The Senate bi-partisan Kennedy- McCain Secure America and Orderly Immigration Bill includes two important changes in border policy; the ability for hundreds of thousands of undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. to enter a process to become documented and a “guest worker” policy to benefit Mexicans who would like to work in the U.S. and benefit U.S. employers who rely on this source of labor. This bill is not a perfect answer but is broadly supported by business and labor as well as many of the non-governmental humanitarian organizations stationed at the border. July 26 was the first Judiciary Committee hearing of testimony on this bill and hopefully will be a step toward decreasing the death and suffering of migrants in the Arizona desert.

Posted on 10/01/05 at 12:20 PM

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