March 2015 - Views from Alongside a Border

The Rio Grande Valley is bordered to the east by the Gulf of Mexico, to the south by the Rio Bravo, and to the north and west by a huge desert of thorny bushes.

the eastern end of the southern border of the United States.

There are two highways that cross this border region. About eighty miles north of the Rio Grande, the United States government has established permanent inspection checkpoints on these highways, effectively creating a second border. People traveling north on Highway 77 or Highway 281 are arrested and inspected by border patrol agents who are part of the national security apparatus.

An immigrant who does not have the documentation that the United States government requires for its northward journey may choose to leave the freeway at a point before the checkpoints, and attempt to evade the officers.

This detour involves entering the desert, a place populated with thorny vegetation, and with rattlesnakes, and walk on a loose, sandy surface that provides its own form of torture to walkers.

However, many immigrants manage to do so.

One month ago I received a phone call from a woman who was desperate to find out if there was anyone who could help her find her son. "One of the companions who traveled with him said that my son had become ill, and that they had had to leave him in the shady under shrubs ... they told me that the place was about two hours walk from this place called Falfurrias. Could you go get him? "He asked, and then he began to cry, responding to his own pain.

Eduardo also retrieves the corpses of the migrants who mur- der in the thicket. Very occasionally, he helps in a rescue effort.

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As Eduardo talked about the challenges of creating some friendship with local ranchers (migrant paths cross private property), Sister Pamela handed out a notebook which had photographs of some of the poor who died in the desert, and who Eduardo had recovered. Meanwhile, the sister shared several pizzas and sodas.

Eat pizza and drink orange soda while watching the remains of those who had died of thirst. I do not even know how to comment on that experience.

Then the sister put us to work: loading the large drums, several jugs of water a gallon, and some stretches of pipe to a van. The tubes were used to lift a Red Cross flag indicating the presence of water.

As we prepare to leave, Mr. Pamela dictated, "Everyone has to have a bottle of water in hand. You will need water where we go. "

With that, we went deserted inside, passing a county road that became two lanes of compact sand. During the trip, Eduardo did not make a single reference about the biblical mandate to offer a glass of water to one of the smaller ones, nor on the privilege of saving an anonymous life. Instead, he spoke to us about the United States Constitution.

"When I put on the water and raise that flag, I am expressing my opinion, which is my right to do. And with that banner, I am telling everyone, "These are people, they are human beings," and then added: "If we forget about this, then, as a country, we are waste."

For Eduardo, the loss of the flags is painful-and expensive. "For some reason," Eddie commented, "Vandals like to steal the flag. I guess they can not stand the fact of having to see the immigrant in a human being, someone who deserves the protection of a Red Cross. "

The sunset began to create its long shadows, and we left, leaving to these good people to finish their work. As the wind whined through this lonely place, I realized how the Red Cross flag was exposing against the blue sky. It was saying, in Human, "Hey! Stop, and have a glass of water. To get where you're going, you're going to need them. "