American college students visit the border to learn about the horrors of illegal immigration

Bellarmine students joined artist Alvaro Enciso in planting a cross to memorialize the death of someone their age whose dreams ended in a patch of pigweed (Photo: Courier Journal)

While planting crosses in the Arizona desert with Alvaro Enciso, to honor those who have died, I had a moment of realization. I was standing there where someone my age had died. He was 20. A sweatshirt, most likely his, taken off in his final moments, lay on the ground. He was maybe 100 yards away from a large, fancy house. I think about him often, who he was before he was that cross. Because he was someone, a person. Did he have parents, maybe a little brother, like I did? Did he cross the border to give his family a better life?

Living in Kentucky keeps me so separated from the U.S.-Mexico border, and seeing the effects in real life helped me understand the magnitude of the horrors that go on there. The deaths that occur there, and what causes them, are so easily ignored when you live in the interior states. This invisibility is purposeful, so Americans can live in the dark about the consequences of our current policies.

It’s one thing to hear about the militia patrolling the southern border or to see a video of them. It’s another thing to stand there as a member of the militia proudly takes responsibility for removing water gallons placed along the border by a volunteer.

Water gallons placed along the Arizona border by a volunteer to help those crossing the border from Mexico.
Water gallons placed along the Arizona border by a volunteer to help those crossing the border from Mexico.

Through her actions, she very well may have condemned someone to death. Most people have the idea of their beliefs and ideologies existing in a vacuum. But this woman, and the people she works with, have made their beliefs actionable. They’ve taken things into their own hands. And their actions will have consequences. Maybe not for themselves, but the consequences for the migrants will be dire, even deadly.

Americans are so quick to say, “I wouldn’t let that happen to me.” How? Are you personally responsible for the economic situation of this country? Or how foreign powers affect our lives? Most recently we’ve seen how gas prices have been affected, and Americans all over the country are losing their minds. If you truly believe you would do anything to protect, provide for and support your family, then you can’t say that these migrants truly deserve these deaths. You condemn yourself in the same breath.

It’s easier for Americans and the American government to dehumanize migrants. If they’re truly humans, not aliens or “the enemy,” then their deaths are tragedies. Tragedies that are entirely preventable if the United States is willing to take a long, hard look at the current policies in place.

As both United States and global citizens, it is our job to humanize migrants. To ask ourselves about who they were when they were alive, and the lives they left behind. When we humanize them, and keep them visible, we do not allow people to downplay their horrific, violent deaths. I ask those who read this to do so with an open mind and take this to heart. Together, as a people, we can prevent the deaths of thousands of migrants each year.

Abbie Turner
Abbie Turner

Abbie Turner is a student at Bellarmine University who traveled with classmates to the US-Mexico border in Arizona during spring break to learn more about the plight of migrants seeking a way into the United States.

Source: Courier Journal

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