Race in the United States

The Forgotten Illegal Immigrant

I have for the past seven years traveled to the border town of Mexicali in Baja California Norte, Mexico to visit my in-laws. I say town but Mexicali is actually a quite large city – it being the capital of Baja California Norte after all. Like many border cities Mexicali has become the home to a large population of deported illegal immigrants.

To cross the border into Mexicali is not difficult. More often than not it takes less than just a few minutes. However, crossing back into the United States is quite often a lengthy endeavor. “Making line,” as it is known down there, is an event in which you can buy the latest movies on DVD, figurines, sombreros, ponchos, or any number of knick-knacks or trinkets as you crawl slowly towards the border check.

During this event you will also see a number of people panhandling, window washing, or doing other odds and ends for money. Not always, but many of these individuals are illegal immigrants that have been deported and dumped literally yards across the border; too far from their original homes to afford the trip back yet not allowed to return where they came from.

“For the most part no one tracks them – not their government, or the U.S., or their advocacy groups in the states. They become largely forgotten . . .”[1] These individuals are ignored, swept aside by society with no way to make a living. And now, according to the newest reports, deportations are reaching record highs.[2] Unable to find work, many of the deported venture away from the border ultimately turning to a life of crime in order to survive.

This is a terrible issue and is too often callously ignored in the quest to secure the borders at all costs. “We have laws. We must enforce those laws and those borders. If someone comes here in a manner not consistent with our laws, we must send them home.” [3] Yet, in sending them home we end up just perpetuating a cycle of homeless, forgotten deported immigrants turning to a life of crime. In turn, our border towns explode with violence in record numbers and we on this side of the border question what can be done to stop the crime and violence.

Wouldn’t the easy thing be to provide the deported an opportunity to get back to their original homes? After all aren’t we human, tasked with watching over our fellow man? To me this may cost a bit extra on the front end to get these people home. But what we would save on the back end in border costs, police presence, and crime prevention – not to mention headaches and heartaches – far outweighs the extra money to get these people home.

I am not naïve. I understand that many of the deported understand the risks involved and that they had a choice to make – come to the United States illegally or attempt to navigate the difficult immigration process. However, when making line and watching the deportation busses unload, it is difficult not to imagine the atrocities that await these deported as they become just another section of the forgotten.

[1] Lornet Turnbull, Life after an illegal immigrant is sent home, The Seattle Times, April 7, 2008, http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2004330685_mexicoana06m.html.

[2] Ana Gonzalez-Barrera and Jens Manuel Krogstad, U.S. deportations of immigrants reach record high in 2013, Pew Research Center (October 2, 2014), http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/02/u-s-deportations-of-immigrants-reach-record-high-in-2013/

[3] Matt Walsh, Isn’t it mean and hateful to deport illegal immigrants?, The Matt Walsh Blog (June 27, 2014), http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/06/27/isnt-mean-hateful-deport-illegal-immigrants/.