Emilia was 13 years old when her grandmother-Abuela with whom she was living in El Salvador, became sick and decided that she could no longer care for Emilia. Grandmother-Abuela paid a “coyote”, a person to smuggle Emilia into the United States to live with her aunt and uncle.
Grandmother-Abuela paid $8,000 US to the smuggler who put Emilia on a bus. Emilia traveled for several days through El Salvador, through Central America and up into Mexico. She was alone and barely had money to eat along the way. In Mexico, she stayed overnight in a small motel near the border of the United States, and during the night, a man came and shook her awake, telling her to come with him. It was dark outside and there were other men and women climbing into the back of a truck. Emilia climbed into the truck. It was very hot and dirty. She found another young woman to sit near. Together they huddled on a hard wooden bench in the back of the truck. The other woman was named Maria and was about 20 years old.
The man drove them on a bumpy dirt path over rocks through the frontier between Mexico and the United States. Emilia had a small sack with her, carrying
her few belongings.
The man stopped the truck and Emilia could hear rushing water. The man told the people to climb down an embankment into the water. He told them that when they reached the other side of the river they were to run as fast as they could and keep running until they found a town.
Emilia knew how to swim, but the current in the water was very strong and several of the people went under the water, others were swept away with the current, while still others got caught in the weeds along the edge of the water and in the water. Emilia swam as hard as she could and reached the other side, with Maria and about 25 other people. They had started out with about 50 people. She didn’t know what happened to the others in the dark.
Emilia lost her small sack in the water, but as soon as she climbed out, she and Maria started running as fast as they could. It was very hot and they had no food or water, but they kept running. They saw other people running also. As the sun
came up, they could see other people every now and again, but they were walking
through what appeared to be a desert and there weren’t many people around them at all. Emilia was careful because she saw several snakes with rattles on their tails in the rocks.
Suddenly, several men jumped out from behind some rocks and grabbed Emilia and Maria, knocking them to the ground. The girls fought back, but they weren’t
strong enough to fight off the men, and the men ended up raping them. When the men were done, they left the girls lying in the dirty sand. Their clothes
were ripped and they were bloodied where the men had hit them.
The girls were dazed, but they stood up and started walking again. Neither one spoke to the other. They walked for hours and hours. Maria was having trouble walking and they both were very parched from the heat and lack of water. Finally, Maria said that she couldn’t walk any further. Maria lay down in the dirt. Emilia tried and tried to get Maria to keep walking, but Maria would not stand up again. Emilia sat with Maria for more than a day. Emilia kept thinking that after
Maria rested, she would be able to stand up and walk some more. During the night, Emilia heard Maria struggling to breathe. When Emilia awoke on the third day, Maria was dead.
Emilia stood up and started walking. She didn’t want to leave Maria out in the
desert, but Emilia was afraid that she could die also. Emilia walked for another day and half before she came to a town. In the town, she was able to find a kind lady who took her to a local church where she got food and water, let her use a cell phone to call her aunt and uncle.
Eventually, Emilia joined her aunt and uncle in New England. She is now 15 years old, but she suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome still today.
How do we measure border safety and national security? How many agents does it take to control an almost 2,000 mile border? How do we define border security, and if we cannot even define it, how can we hope to solve it?
Perhaps, focusing less on undocumented immigrants, and focusing more on the smugglers, and our broken immigration system is a better way to shore up our border. As long as immigrants have to wait years and years to be reunited with their families; as long as US employers have to wait years and years to hire employees, and as long as smugglers have a clientele willing to pay, people will continue to cross our borders illegally.
Perhaps if we finally create a realistic and legitimate means for families to be reunited, for employers to fill the jobs that US citizens will not take, we may be able to effectively control our borders.