Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Death of Josseline

Sixth in a set of posts about the October UUA Board meeting

Like many UUs around the country, I am reading The Death of Josseline by Margaret Regan, a reporter from the Tucson area who has done border reporting in Arizona for the last decade. The Board's January meeting will be in Phoenix, with many of us coming early to Tucson to meet with some of the groups that Regan mentions in her book, including the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, which adopted the group No More Deaths (No Más Muertes) as a ministry in 2008.

I certainly knew there were deaths connected to the attempt to reach the United States, but not until I read this book did the magnitude hit me: in just the Tucson sector, 262 miles of border, nearly 600,000 are apprehended each year, over 200 found dead (emphasis on "found"). And one of the lines from the book haunts me: how far would you go to feed your children?

Many of those who cross (or attempt to) are not aware of how dangerous it is -- a walk of "just a day" described by the coyote (people smuggler) turns into 3 or 4, people from places like the Guatemala highlands unused to 110+ degree heat. If they cannot keep up, they can be left behind to not endanger the rest of the group, with hopes that they will be found by the Border Patrol in 90,000 square miles of rugged terrain . But many of them are aware of the danger, and try multiple times.

I break from the book to check on the work I am having done on my house, appreciative of any chance to practice my Spanish. One of the men walks right out of the book.

Roberto tells me his first language is K'iche', a Mayan dialect. He is from Sololá, near the houses I worked on several years ago with Habitat for Humanity, near Lago Atitlán. He has been here two years, and crossed the desert with his sister. Es muy peligroso - it is very dangerous - pero gracias a Diós estamos aquí - but thanks to God we are here. The rest of his family is in Sololá, including his wife and two children. According to the Guatemala representative for UNICEF, half the children in Guatemala are chronically malnourished - in indigenous areas, like Sololá, chronic malnutrition of children under 5 can reach 80%.

How far would you go to feed your children?

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