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Thu06272019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

On this week's extra-thankful Independent comics page: The K Chronicles celebrates more of life's little victories; This Modern World looks into the future; Jen Sorenson examines a relative's Thanksgiving tirade; and Red Meat heads to the department store.

Published in Comics

Dear Mexican: I was reading the comments (BIG MISTAKE) on an article I recently read regarding St. Charles, Mo., adopting an Arizona-style immigration law. I was shocked at the amount of people who support this law, and my question to you is: Why can’t people see the bad implications of that law? What are we, World War II Germany, where we need to show our papers?

I’m outraged that in this day and age, there are so many folks racist against Mexicans. I’ve made people very angry by standing against the immigration law and the racial profiling of Mexicans. How is it that people can stand against racially profiling black Americans, and fully support the profiling of Mexicans? And they refuse to believe they are racists. HELP ME—please give me a good point of debate for these people who honestly believe that show-me-your-paper laws are lawful. I’ve tried to make them understand that STATE POLICE do not have the legal right to be IMMIGRATION POLICE. That argument does not work. They say that I MUST be an illegal immigrant or I am harboring one, because I don’t agree with the Arizona law/racial profiling.

Necesito Ayuda en St. Louis

Dear I Need Help in St. Louis: Some points to start. Until gabachos start forcing all Mexicans to wear sombreros to more easily identify them, it’s insulting to compare any anti-Mexican laws to what Jews had to endure in Nazi Germany. Simply put: Deportation isn’t genocide, no matter how much some yaktivists claim. Also, people who are opposed to the racial profiling of one ethnicity tend to be opposed to the racial profiling of EVERYONE, mostly because racial profiling is a bola de mierda.

Finally, tell those Know Nothings that the Constitution makes distinctions between state and federal powers, and only the feds have authority over immigration. Sure, some local jurisdictions have tried to play migra, or openly collaborate with migra—but courts time and time again have struck down such laws because of the Constitution.

Do these Know Nothings REALLY want to expand federal powers? They always cry no, but they’re more than happy if it means harassing Mexicans. So once you get them to admit that, just make the note that they’re no better than Obama—and watch them writhe like the culeros they are for comparing them to a negrito.

I’ve been dating a Mexican man for a year now and am madly in love, claro. His excuse for everything is, “I’m Mexican”—which, as you know, means that he works harder than anyone else, has bigger balls than any other male on the planet, and is so virile that he can impregnate a woman just by blowing on her.

What I don’t understand is that he rarely uses my name; I’ve noticed that seems to be a Mexican thing. I love being called chiquita bonita, but as far as I know, all of his friends are named vato, puto or güey. What gives? Also, he has started calling me cabrona, but he’s using it in a nice way—and I’m confused.

Please help this loving gabachita to understand her hombre.

Mamacita Chiquita Bonita

Dear Gabacha: Mexican men not calling each other by their given name is a working-class trait, like the Southern “son,” African-American “man” and the bro “bro.” The only Mexican twist we give nicknames is calling people El (Insert Nickname)—El Barbie, El Gordo, El Chiquidracula, El Kennedy, etc. But that’s another question—and I’m out of space for this semana!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: A very close friend of mine is supposed to become a U.S. citizen. He was brought here by his parents when he was 9 and has been illegal since then.

When the laws changed, he went through a lot of hoops, and it really didn’t look good for a long while—especially since he was already 30 by the time the law was truly enacted. But somehow, through petitions and an appeal, he has been told he will become a U.S. citizen. That being said, he is still waiting for the day, still working in a dodgy manner, and still not driving—his American wife always drives.

There’s a pallor of emasculation about not being a citizen. He feels second-rate—something I know not because he tells us, but because his wife and I are very close. He takes out his anger and resentment on his wife and marriage, and it’s caused immense stress.

Are there counselors specifically for people who are dealing with the difficulty of becoming legal? Is that a strange question? I love this guy so much—he’s such a close friend to our family. I’ve never met a harder worker and a more curious soul. This scenario, while common, is so unfair. It breaks my heart that he has to experience this—and has for years. Any advice would be so greatly appreciated.

Good Gabacha Friend

Dear Gabacha: There are many support networks for undocumented folks, whether they’re younger DREAMers, or people who just missed the cutoff point for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama administration memorandum that effectively put millions of people like your friend in a waiting game. And now with Obummer stating there’s no chance of any immigration reform until after the November elections, your friend and so many others will continue to wait in frustration—but tell your amigo he should feel no shame, and to keep the faith.

Then again, who am I to say anything? The Mexican was born in this country—it was my papi who came in the trunk of a Chevy—so maybe my privilege makes me wear rose-colored mad-doggers. Have him check out dreamersadrift.com, where my former producer, renowned artist Julio Salgado, and others tackle on the problem of what it means to grow up in this country without papers and a government de puros pendejos.

So I went to New York the other day, and we went to this neighborhood that was Dominican. I didn’t know what that meant, but it looked like a normal black neighborhood. Then I noticed they were all speaking Mexican. Is a Dominican just a fancy word for a black Mexican? Why are they so good at baseball?

Confused in Utah

Dear Gabacho: This is ¡Ask a Mexican!, not ¡Ask a Tíguere!, so I really can’t help you much here. The only facts I can offer are that a 2008 City University of New York study projected Mexicans to eclipse Dominicans as the largest immigrant group in la Gran Manzana in the next decade, meaning there’ll be a whole new group of Latinos to hate us soon. Oh, and that our mujeres LOVE bachata, the twang Dominican music form that’s the only genre in the world certified by God as an automatic choni dropper.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: I’m not Mexican, but my son-in-law is. He is intelligent, bright, enthusiastic and pleasant to spend time with. He came here, illegally, at the age of 18 with his aunts. He and my daughter are married, have a 3 1/2-year-old son, and have gone through the entire process of filing papers and paying fees so he could enter the country legally.

Last week, at the instruction of la migra, he went to Juarez, Mexico, to apply for his visa. He had his physical after waiting in line for nine hours. Then, on Wednesday, he stood in line for his 9:45 a.m. appointment from 7 a.m. until the consulate closed at 4 p.m. He was told to come back tomorrow. He showed up at 6 a.m. the next day and was finally granted his interview.

One question that is asked in the interview is: “Have you ever used drugs?” Well, being the honest person he is, and not ever wanting to be accused of lying, he answered truthfully: “Yes, I tried some with a friend about 6 months ago.”

It is from this experience that I have learned our own U.S. government doesn’t care about honest people; it just wants to appear “drug-free.” He was told he was banned from the U.S. and to reapply in 2 1/2 years! My daughter is beside herself with grief. She cannot afford to pay for child care without the help of her husband, so she will be forced to quit her job. My grandson believes his daddy doesn’t love him any more, or he would come home. And my son-in-law has learned this lesson: If you want to enter the U.S. legally, don’t admit to having done anything wrong—period.

My daughter and grandson now are in mental-health counseling, but their plan is to move to Tijuana, where a family member owns a home in which they can live. My daughter will commute to San Diego if she can find work. And for the next five years, while they go through the entire process over again, I will miss watching my sweet little boy grow up. I will miss having my only daughter and best friend with me, and I will miss having my loving son-in-law here where he belongs with his family.

I’ve written to my senators asking for intervention, and I’m going to get an appointment to see an immigration lawyer, but I’m not terribly confident. Do you hold out any hope for them at all?

Upset Mom

Dear Gabacha: Ever hear that canard by Know Nothings that Mexicans don’t want to enter el Norte the “right” way? Your yerno is Exhibit Número 1 on why we don’t.

Throw in the stupidity of our drug war, and coming into this country legally is unjustly harder than trying to get your tía to write her tamale secrets down in recipe form.

Honestly, the best thing for your son-in-law is to cross over illegally, as undocumented folks nowadays seem to have more protection than those who try to do it the right way—and while I have no problem with that whatsoever, how fucked up is it that we’ve come to this?

Wait, that came off VERY conservative, so let me save my Aztlanista reputation … ¡A LA CHINGADA CON MURRIETA!

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: During George W. Bush’s administration, there was a lot of talk for and against comprehensive immigration reform. One remark, stated by a Mexican, went something like, “Go back to Europe!”

Aren’t Mexicans of European descent also? Hello, colonized by Spain! I thought to myself, “Why don’t you go back to Europe? Unless you are puro indio, your roots from Europe also.”

Immigration reform aside, what are your thoughts on going back to Europe?

Murrieta Maven

Dear Gabacha: Eh, we say that just to show how stupid gabachos yelling, “Go back to Mexico!” sounds.

The only Mexicans who truly believe gabachos should head back to Europe are indigenazi types who claim they’re the pureblooded 15th linear descendant of Cuauhtémoc … while sporting facial hair straight from Extremadura.

Do Indians mangle Spanish as badly as they do English when you call a tech-support line?

What I like about Mexicans is they are honest with you if they don’t understand what you just said. They ask you to say it again. And if you don’t understand a Mexican who is nobly attempting to learn the universal second language that is English, the Mexican tries to say it again, more correctly. And Mexicans are grateful when you have helped them understand English a little bit better so they can communicate with you. Even in Mexico, Mexicans don’t mind if you don’t understand Spanish; they always make sure that everybody can communicate with each other, even if it means they speak English.

Then there are Indian tech support people, who seem to want to punish you for not understanding as they attempt to read English sentences, that they have no interest in trying to understand, from a piece of paper. If they don’t get it right on the first try, I have found that you should immediately hang up and call back, hoping for somebody who can understand English. I have paid cancellation fees and returned electronics items because of tech support that seems to be waging a sort of passive-aggressive jihad.

So back to my question: How does a Mexican deal with Indian tech support? Do you have some wisdom on how to navigate nonnative speakers without having a stroke? Oh He Who Always Knows To Press Eight For Spanish?

An American Consumer

Dear Gabacho: We press “2.”

What do you think about just opening the U.S.-Mexico border (and, for that matter, all the borders in the world)? I think that a lot of people who go the U.S. illegally would much rather work in the U.S. for a few months and then go back to their home in Mexico and live off of the earnings for a while.

You are a smart guy. I’m just curious what you think!

Bordering on a Bonus

Dear Gabacho: The Mexican has always been for open borders, if only because that’s been the American mantra since the days of Daniel Boone.

I’d say more, but my column’s word count gets slashed every five years or so due to the death of print—yay, Internet! In other news, (cut cut cut).

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: The tragedy currently playing out on the U.S. southern border has reminded me to once again ask: If the U.S. had sponsored and funded infrastructural, educational, social and economic development in Mexico and Central America from the 1950s through the 1980s in the way the more-prosperous countries of Europe helped the less-prosperous nations of their region to prepare them for membership in the future European Union, would not Mexico and Central America today be considerably more prosperous, healthy, sustainable, and better and safer places to live than they are, with less immigration to the U.S.? Could this be a topic deserving of book-length treatment?

Esperando sin Esperanza

Dear Waiting Without Hope: Book length? Try light-year length.

A massive Marshall Plan-style aid program has been the dream of neoliberals in el gabacho and Latin America since the days of James Monroe, and while it makes sense—better for the U.S. to invest in nation-building in, say, Quintana Roo than Iraq or Afghanistan, you know?—it’ll never happen. Primeramente, there would be an uproar across Latin America, as inhabitants will always reject overt acts of gabacho government charity in the (understandable) fear that Americans are trying to create a puppet state (see: Nicaragua under Somoza, Cuba under Batista, Mexico under everyone except Lázaro Cárdenas).

But even if Mexicans wanted that help, another group of people would be even more opposed: gabachos, who see any act of kindness toward Latinos as weak and sowing the seed for Reconquista.

Witness the current tragedy at the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of Central American and Mexican kids are trying to cross to flee ultra-violence at home. America’s reaction? Outrage that those chiquitos are looking for refuge, and outright assholery from residents in Escondido, Calif., where residents protested long and loud over a proposal to turn a vacant viejitos home into a temporary housing facility for refugee kids. Compare that with the 1960s, when the U.S. government and public openly welcomed tens of thousands of Cuban kids with Operation Peter Pan. The difference between then and now? In the American psyche, those kids were cute, light-skinned Cubans and useful Cold War pawns; on the other hand, the current niños are dirty Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Mexicans who deserve misery and death back home.

I continue to find that Mexican immigrants know they are not white, but refuse to identify or accept the fact that they come from indigenous people (even partly). Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way people fill out applications asking about race. Although we are free to identify as Hispanic/Latino (an ethnicity), we are also free to mark any/ALL races that apply.

Why is it that some Mexicans (like me) born on this side are more accepting of Amerindian ancestry, while Mexicans born over there wouldn’t dare? My best guess is education.

Xicana Xingona

Dear Badass Chicana: What Mexican in their right mind would want to be anything other than gabacho in this country? There’s been much made recently of stats that supposedly show more than a million Latinos checked off the gaba box in the 2010 Census, with academic yaktivists claiming the U.S. government duped dumb Mexicans into going white—but please. Being considered white gives you a muy grande advantage in this country—a secret known by everyone from negritos to Irish to chinitos to, increasingly, Mexicans.

Indian? In the average mexicano mind, they’re good for pyramids, funny movies and casinos where they can see Pepe Aguilar; otherwise, a vergüenza.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

When the Gang of Eight authoring the Senate immigration reform bill, which would be the first major overhaul since the 1980s, recently announced a new provision to create a “human wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border, tensions rose in D.C.

The move would double the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents and funnel more than $46 billion to border security in the Southwest. Since then, Arizona Sen. John McCain has said that the plans for a human wall might need to be tweaked, but an increase in border enforcement will continue to be central to the debate over this bill.

As deliberations continue, a new study for the American Sociological Review puts a new spin on the fundamental question of why there are so many (around 11 million) undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to begin with.

According to the new research, the danger of arrest and punishment at the border is not that big of a deterrent for many Mexicans considering whether to cross into the U.S. illegally. And as they weigh the decision, they have a lot more on their minds than just finding a better job. Many Americans assume that the decision to cross illegally is a purely economic one, since jobs in the U.S. often pay better. Yet values and social norms in the communities that Mexican immigrants come from may play a larger role in the decision to hop the border than previously realized. The study offers a gentle reminder—not to mention empirical evidence—that undocumented Mexican immigrants have the distinctly human trait of not being automatons.

“The view of would-be migrants as atomistic, utility-maximizing opportunists diverts our attention away from the complex and wide-ranging moral systems within which prospective migrants are embedded,” writes the study’s author, USC law professor and former Stanford research fellow, Emily Ryo.

Yet U.S. immigration policy in recent decades has been based largely on the premise that undocumented Mexican immigrants make decisions based solely on economics, Ryo says. Thus, the assumption has been that undocumented immigrants see any law as worth breaking—if it will help them earn a living. Yet a 2007 study shows that “incarceration rates for young men in the U.S. are the lowest for immigrants, especially for (first-generation) Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans—the groups that make up the bulk of the unauthorized population.” In other words, if these immigrants made decisions based solely on economics, they’d be breaking laws all over the place, even when they get to the U.S.—which they are not. Similarly, Ryo’s new work indicates that the premise that crossings are driven by purely economic factors just is not true.

Ryo found that in many communities across Michoacán, Morelos and Jalisco, when family or friends have attempted an illegal crossing before, subjects are three times more likely to attempt the journey themselves. An individual’s perception of the American justice system is also a big factor, though not in the way you might think: People who believe the system is unfair to darker-skinned immigrants are half as likely to have moral reservations about crossing illegally. Those who think the system is fair are 75 percent more likely to say they will not enter the U.S. illegally.

If Ryo’s research is accurate, U.S. policymakers could take a hint from it: Improving the reputation of our justice system could be one novel way to deter undocumented immigration. The more respect prospective immigrants have for the system, the less likely they are to try to break its rules.

The other suggestion that policymakers in Washington, D.C., might glean from Ryo’s work—and from what she says is a wider, growing body of research among academics—is that resources poured solely into apprehension at the border may not be the wisest allocation of tax dollars. (Last year, the U.S. government spent more on immigration enforcement than on all other main criminal federal law enforcement agencies combined.) U.S. investment in Mexican communities that aims to increase employment rates might be one way to deter the onslaught of attempted crossings—but not just because it may improve the economic situation in those areas. “It might make staying at home … a morally acceptable option for prospective migrants," because it could improve international perception of the legitimacy of U.S. laws, Ryo says.

Piecing together intriguing data like Ryo’s is one thing, but applying it to policy and making it politically palatable is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Tay Wiles is the online editor for High Country News, the site from which this was cross-posted. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Published in Community Voices

Dear Mexican: My co-worker was driving to work this morning when she realized she was being followed by a Mexican in his vehicle. He followed her for at least three miles on the road, and during this time, he waved at her, smiled when she frowned, and even puckered his lips. She took small streets and confirmed that he was following her every move until she was able to lose him.

Why do Mexican men tend to follow women when they are driving? Do Mexican men really think that relationships start on the road?

Perturbed in Pacific Palisades

Dear Gabacha: Let’s ask Chris Berman. In a 1990 Sports Illustrated profile (one of the first big ones on the legendary sportscaster, since the magazine was still lamely comparing him to Fred Flintstone), Boomer admitted to pulling the very stunt you just described. “One day in 1979, he tracked a silver Firebird down Interstate 84,” the story reads. “When it pulled into the parking lot of an elementary school, so did he. Berman got out of his station wagon and nonchalantly kicked its tires. When the driver of the Firebird walked past him, he asked her to go to breakfast with him the next day. She accepted, and four years later, they were married.”

Maybe your friend should’ve stopped her vehicle and met the Mexican of her dreams. Instead, she gets a yenta of a gal pal to stereotype only one group of men instead of admitting that all men are perverted pendejos one way or another. Next thing I know, you’re going to ask why Mexican construction workers make kissy-kissy sounds at women—without having ever walked past a Manhattan demolition crew.

The U.S. public opposed NAFTA, so why can’t more people connect trade policy to the current immigration debate? Why won’t people in this country get involved, even for selfish, populist reasons? Why should Latin Americans (and poor people worldwide) have to do all the work themselves? Before I read Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s Myths of Free Trade, do you have any recommendations for opening the eyes of gabachos, gringos and all the rest? Perhaps getting this published would be a start, so I will stop typing.

¡La Lucha Continua!

Dear The Struggle Continues: Here’s the problem, and you already hinted at this: I could recommend all sorts of books and authors that show the devastation NAFTA wrought on Mexico in the form of destroyed industries, and the subsequent mass migration to the United States that gabachos fret over so pinche much—but it won’t matter.

The best writer on Mexican immigration’s effects on Mexico and el Norte, of course, is Los Angeles Times scribe Sam Quinones (whose books I always plug come Christmastime), but most every Chicano writer and artist has railed about NAFTA ever since it started … to the choir.

How can you make gabachos care about NAFTA? Make it sing the national anthem in a mariachi costume.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or ask him a video question at youtube.com/askamexicano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Dear Mexican: So I walked into Carl’s Jr. the other day and gazed at a dozen middle-aged women of Mexican decent hustling and bustling around a kitchen. A flawless performance, yet I couldn’t help but think of my days as a youth and the responsibility I learned from my first job.

Do you think the youth of today have had less of a chance to procure a decent work ethic because most of today’s minimum-wage jobs are occupied by immigrants (both legal and illegal)? Put simply: If I lived a stone’s throw away from Canada, and their minimum wage was $14 an hour, I might go there to work and send all the money back to my family in the U.S. But I wouldn’t think it was right.

The Mick

Dear Mick: Blaming Mexicans for the flojo-ness of millennials? That’s the latest rant of Know Nothings, especially during the Great Recession. And, for once, it’s based on facts: Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that employment for 16-to-19-year-olds is at the lowest level since World War II, when we sent off said lazy teenagers to fight Hitler and Hirohito, and pointed the finger at immigrants.

But now we get to the issue that the right never wants to acknowledge in their rants: capitalism. It’s not the immigrants who told companies to depress wages and break unions to hire them; that’s due to the captains of industry seeking to make as much money as possible. It’s not the immigrants who force consumers to buy from rapacious corporations; that’s all on the plates of gabachos who want the cheapest products possible. And it’s not a fair system, but it ain’t the immigrants who insist on free-market capitalism—that’s all America, chulo.

Finally, spare us your hypothetical fretting about taking away jobs from others—your mick ancestors sure as hell didn’t care when they were robbing jobs from the Dutch.

I am a gabacha who lives in LA. My aunt, whom I love, is from Argentina—and she spends mucho energy going on and on about how her ancestors settled there from France, and therefore, she is actually white. (While I don’t have access to her ancestry.com profile, she and her children look as brown as many of the Mexicans I know.) Recently, her son has been applying for jobs and has gotten turned down, and blames not being hired on “all the quotas” there are for hiring people of color.

Is it just my aunt and her kids, or do all Argentines take pains to distance themselves from the rest of Latin America? I also don’t get why, if my cousin really thinks quotas are why other people are getting hired, he doesn’t play the race card and identify as “Hispanic,” since he could legitimately do so.

Sorry. I know your expertise is on Mexico and not Argentina, but there is no ¡Ask an Argentine! column for me to write to.

Blood Sausage Lover

Dear Gabacha: Even though I ain’t a carajo, I know enough about them to qualify as an expert—I once nearly dated one; I think Messi is God; and my compañera Aura Bogado blasts Know Nothings away over at The Nation and Colorlines. While Argentines do think they’re superior to all Latinos, what Latinos don’t?

I’ve always felt bad for them—from Perón to the Dirty War to Menem to Messi not being able to do anything during the World Cup, their string of bad luck makes them the Mexicans of the pampas, with chimichurri instead of salsa, and men who are far more fey.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or ask him a video question at youtube.com/askamexicano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

Cochise Stronghold rises abruptly from the desert outside Tombstone, Ariz., a craggy nest of pink granite spires and domes. Rock-climbers like me flock to the area for its tall, coarse slabs, weird rock formations, epic sunsets and remote backcountry feel.

Although it’s never happened to me, many climbers I know have encountered tattered backpacks, energy bars with Spanish wrappers, clothing or migrants themselves, a group drawn similarly drawn to Cochise’s inaccessibility—but for obviously different reasons.

Increasingly, immigrants aren’t making it beyond secluded border areas like Cochise: New statistics released by the U.S. Border Patrol show that while fewer people are sneaking over the border than a decade ago, more are dying in the process. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, someone attempting to enter the U.S. illegally today is eight times more likely to die than approximately 10 years ago.

In the 1990s, stepped-up enforcement in border cities like San Diego and El Paso pushed immigration highways into remote parts of the desert, where, unprepared for the harsh environment or abandoned by their guides, many migrants died. (I highly recommend Luis Alberto Urrea’s fantastic book on this topic,The Devil’s Highway.) The problem has worsened as the Border Patrol has hired more officers and built more highway checkpoints between major cities, according to Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America, who analyzed the new data. In addition to staying out of cities, migrants are increasingly forced to walk further north of the border before being picked up to avoid roadside checkpoints.

For many years, Southern Arizona was the deadliest place to cross: In fiscal year 2005, nearly half of all migrant deaths occurred in Border Patrol’s Tucson sector. But the danger zone appears to have shifted to south Texas, where between October 2012 and February 2013 alone, 70 human bodies were found. (Here in California, the number of dead is actually decreasing—six known migrant deaths, total, occurred in fiscal year 2012 in the San Diego and El Centro sectors.)

Changing immigration demographics may partially explain the shift to south Texas. According to the Border Patrol, more non-Mexicans, mostly from Central America, are crossing, and because many hitch rides on freight trains that travel up the gulf coast, the Texas-Mexico border is most logical place to cross.

The crossing is becoming more violent, too, as increasingly remote human trafficking routes overlap with those of drug-smugglers. Sometimes, they’re one and the same: Meyer says human trafficking operations “are rarely mom-and-pop like before” because of how expensive and difficult the crossing has become, and are increasingly intertwined with drug operations. “Migrants are viewed much more as just merchandise,” she said, and smugglers, paid by the person and in a rush to avoid Border Patrol, frequently leave slow walkers behind.

In a March brief, Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy offers a solution: Create more legal avenues for foreigners to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

“The current visa categories for agriculture and nonagricultural work are considered cumbersome and are only for seasonal work, not the type of year-round jobs filled by most illegal immigrants in the United States,” he writes. Anderson points to the Bracero Program, which helped Mexican farm laborers work legally in the U.S. during the 1950s. “When in 1954 enforcement actions were combined with an increase in the use of the Bracero program, illegal entry, as measured by INS apprehensions at the border, fell by an astonishing 95 percent between 1953 and 1959,” he notes.

Yet talk of immigration reform, to date, has focused more on getting high-skilled, high-tech workers into the country. And the immigration bill in its current form leaves out any discussion of how to make crossing safer, Meyer said, although previous reform proposals included a provision on studying migrant deaths. She'd like to see not just study, but more water caches and funding for the Border Patrol’s search and rescue team.

“You have all these people with no idea about what (crossing the border) really means,” she said. “They’re all exposing themselves so innocently to something that can be so harsh.”

Emily Guerin is the assistant online editor at High Country News. This is cross-posted from High Country News, and the author is solely responsible for the content.

Published in Community Voices

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