Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for cactus

Some cactus flowers found around Del Rio, Texas


C is cactus

Cactus needles pierced my knee through my pants leg as I chased a U.S. Border Patrol agent up a hill. I followed him for a day for a freelance assignment. After it was determined there was no person to catch, I realized I had needles in my  knee.

"Duct tape," the agent said. "It will get those out."

In addition to the prickly plants — throw in hot, deadly temperatures; difficult terrain; rattlesnakes; and dehydration — and you have an idea of what some undocumented men, women and children face as they cross the border from Mexico into the United States. Add in dangers from coyotes — the human ones who are paid to smuggle people across the border — and it made me wonder why people would risk so much to enter the United States illegally.

Then, I checked to see about the wait for legal entry. This Wikipedia entry seems like a standard answer — I've looked at several sources — there's a backlog of a million-plus green-card applicants and the typical wait is three years.

That little patch of border I followed for an eight-hour shift opened my eyes to the dangers people face to illegally enter this country. Duct tape works well to remove cactus needles, but I never saw any of it near the trails of empty water bottles, canned food, tennis shoes and clothes abandoned at the edge of the Rio Grande River.

50 comments:

  1. What an amazing experience, Stacy and I've heard a few tales from my Mennonite mexican friends that make the hair on the back of your neck bristle. I bet it was a hard thing to do.

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    1. Catherine, I think it's good to hear these stories.

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    1. Erik, I was fortunate to spend a day with the Border Patrol. It gave me a different perspective.

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  3. Beautiful flowers. It's interesting to know what people go through to get here. We have a lot of illegals here in South Florida, too, but they mainly come by boat.

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    1. Miranda, I love the unusual flowers on cactus. We lived near a wonderful cactus garden. I'm so glad I visited in the spring when the flowers were in bloom. I believe a boat journey would be difficult too.

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  4. Stacy, this is beautiful--you bring home the problematic of emigration in a few details, few words... But so much meaning! Yep, there's no duct tape in the desert, and those piles of abandoned belongings you closed with literally made my throat tight.

    Mexican illegal immigration is rooted in more than the wait for green cards--it comes from a childish belief that the grass is greener on the other side, literally. Since the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Mexicans have been ingrained with the belief that the "foreign", the "other", is much better than the local, that the opportunities Mexico is so stingy with are readily available on the other side of that mythical line we call a border. Most people that take that desert journey truly believe they're traveling to the end of the rainbow, that a pot of gold is waiting there for them--they have no idea how hard life will be, even if they do make it across. In most cases, it will be much harder than it ever was in whatever God-forsaken Mexican village they came from.

    And that makes those piles of clothes all the more poignant. A stack of hopes, ninety-nine percent of which will be dashed without even a flutter.

    Thanks for this post!

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    1. Guilie, Before moving to Texas, I had just seen the end result of the journey. Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. *What a great entry, Stacy. I love this up-close-and-personal account, which has so much more impact than an article in the newspaper or a 15-second clip on the news might deliver. It's amazing what people will endure to get here, but I do understand. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Dawn, Being in the terrain gives a new perspective.

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  6. Very inspiring -- can see the relentless and advernturous reporter in you. Can't imagine what the illegal immigrants deal with -- such danger.

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    1. Patricia, I loved assignments where I followed law enforcement around. Cactus needles and all.

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  7. Fascinating post; love all the little details as well as the big themes. Thanks for dropping by mine, too!

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  8. Egad! What dangers some people face day to day. You are inspiring, my friend. You risked life and limb out there. Thank you for sharing this amazing account of what really happens. (((hugs)))

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    1. Robyn, I knew to pack water and lunch. For those crossing the border, it's multiple days and I know they can't carry enough food or water.

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  9. We have a large illegal Hispanic population in NC - I've heard several of the stories of crossing the desert to meet the coyote from students who trusted me. So scary to think of all that these people risk to get into the US. I wish there was an easier process for legal work visas and entry.

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    1. Jaye, I can imagine the stories. Where I grew up in Georgia has a large illegal population. I never really thought about the journey they took until I lived on the Texas border.

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  10. I know I'm repeating myself, but wow—you've led such a fascinating life.

    Living in Los Angeles has definitely opened my eyes to the prevalence and challenges associated with illegal residency.

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    1. August, I'm sure LA has a large population. Now, you've made me wonder, if I could write about folding laundry and make it fascinating. :)

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  11. Wow, what an experience. Thanks for sharing. I've seen a couple of shows on border patrols.

    Those cactus flowers are so pretty.

    Susanne
    PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

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    1. Susanne, I haven't watched those shows yet.

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  12. What a fascinating post...here I thought you were going to tell us about cactus plants (this one is ,by the way, quite beautiful)
    Monica, Older Mommy Still Yummy

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    1. Monica, The cactus flowers are beautiful.

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  13. We have several families in the school I work at who are in the US illegally. Many of them have very sad stories about their lives south of the border...

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  14. Scary. People who enter Australia illegally have to come by boat. Of course, that has its own dangers.

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    1. Lynda, By boat! Oh my. I can't imagine those dangers.

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  15. What a beautiful pic! http://1000wrongs.blogspot.com

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  16. Stacy, Your life is so fascinating! I'm in awe.

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    1. Susan, I'm still thinking about how to make waiting for contractors and folding laundry exciting. I have been blessed with fun opportunities.

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  17. That cactus flower photo is stunning. It's hard to imagine how much pain the plant can cause. Your research trip to the border must have been an eye-opener in lots of ways.

    Patricia Stoltey

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    1. Patricia, It was. The flowers are beautiful. My husband had a prickly lesson in the plants when he tried to get a flower from one.

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  18. Duct tape = magick! That stuff is good for all kinds of things.

    The flower photo was beautiful, such a delicate petal must be protected by thorns of some type, or they would be plucked right out of existence.

    I don't envy the heat and conditions you endured, but I do admire your tenacity. That's not coddling, comfortable conditions you set yourself up for, and to find the answer to a question that plagued you... curious sorts we writers are.

    Nice to have found your blog on the A-Z pathways!

    A-Z 2012 (#49) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Poetry
    A-Z 2012 (#861) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Haiku

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    1. November Rain, I was out there for one day. Some of the people who cross are out there for multiple days. (Two blogs for A to Z. Wow or crazy one, I can't decide. :))

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  19. Thank you for writing about the reality of the journey illegal immigrants face. We traveled recently in the great Southwest. I remember as we drove closer and closer to national parks (some were partially closed because of the number of illegal immigrants), that I felt appalled at the barren landscape and wondered how anyone could survive such a journey.

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    1. Beth, I'm always surprised as you look out from the highway and much of the Texas area we lived in appears to be flat, but there are lots of high and low points, canyons, etc.

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  20. It's incredible what people will do for a chance at a better life. I've watched several documentaries plus a slew of various programs that deal with the issue of illegal immigrants crossing the border and it's quite terrifying, really, what lengths they go to and how dangerous it is. It's amazing anyone can survive it.

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    1. Angela, I agree that's it's amazing anyone can survive it.

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  21. When you see what others are prepared to risk to get what we have, it makes you stop and think. I'm glad I found your blog, Stacy.

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  22. Amazing story! Seeing the plight of others first-hand is always an eye-opener.

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    1. Julie, Yes. It's one thing to hear it in a news report, but to see it first-hand was an experience.

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  23. Thanks for this. It's easy to forget sometimes what terrible hardships people endure to try and make a better life for themselves and their families.

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    1. Sarah, Yes and the majority of people are just trying to make a better life. There are, of course, some bad characters trying to cross our borders.

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  24. I have PTS from immigrating with my family legally at age seven. I feel for those that can't come into the country legally. Thanks for sharing this sad story. It is better than a news story to tell the story. :)

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    1. Clar, I'm glad you were able to arrive safe and legal. :)

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