Immigrants face dangerous journey crossing into the U.S.

By on April 18, 2002

PHEONIX- Nearly 120 miles southwest of this city, alongside the Arizona-Mexico border, lays the small dusty town of Yuma. Alfredo Casillas patrols this area as a local field supervisor with the U.S. Border Patrol.
He and 300 fellow agents are on the lookout for the over 200 immigrants a day, trying to cross the divide to what they consider a better way of life. The Yuma sector spans miles of border crossing, although it is only one of the many entryways into the United States.
“We do our job compassionately and in the most humane way possible,” said Casillas in an interview.
He said one of the most hopeless components of the job, is apprehending men who, for the most part, are just trying to better the lives of their families.
“You can’t help but feel sorry for them. They are good-hearted people, trying to make a living. How can you not feel compassion?”
He made clear, “We have a job to do, and [crossing the border] is illegal.”
Casillas said that he and his agents have occasionally given migrants food, water and some extra cash. He adds, “We are humans.”
The Sonoran Desert (which spans southern Arizona and northern Mexico) is the pathway to America for the migrants who often spend days at a time bearing temperatures surpassing 100 degrees, without a hint of shade or water. Some make it, others do not.
Casillas and his agents find both.
“We hate to see death,” he said. “You never want to see people lose their life.”
Last summer, 14 migrants died of exposure in the western Arizona desert after a trek gone-wrong.
“Coyotes,” otherwise known as smugglers, are always on the prowl for migrant crossers. The “coyote’s” job to promise the travelers a plan of escape from their origin to the United States, in exchange for money. Too often, though, the migrants are duped, left stranded to fend for themselves. It is the price to see freedom, and a large number of the migrants take the gamble.


About Jonathan Carlson