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letters from young farmers: Arizona bodies

Posted: July 9 2008

from Louella Hill

Dear Friends:

The count is in: 40 bodies were collected in June from the Arizona desert floor. This announcement (www.derechoshumanosaz.net from the US Border Patrol), interesting, coincides with our Independence Day.

I grew up in a town on the Mexican border in AZ and during childhood saw many dark faces, hand-cuffed, on the side of the road. Pilgrims. Immigrants. Aliens. In the hills above my house I found backpacks, clothes, empty water bottles, crumpled pictures of saints. At night, helicopters paced overhead, slicing the air with beams of light.

It was only when I came to Providence, however, that I awakened to the humanitarian crisis at hand. While teaching ESOL, a student whispered the story of how she'd crossed through the very hills I grew up in. She was crammed into some fold of a semi truck, a one-month old baby ("Edison") at her breast.

I'm now closely acquainted with many undocumented families--particularly those from Guatemala-- in the Providence area. I consider them to be the gentlest, most generous people on Earth.

The militarization of our borders, versus efforts to strengthen economies of the impoverished countries from which these people come, forces immigrants to cross in increasingly harsh and isolated areas (where humanitarian aid and detection are less likely). These people will go into debt for more than a year's salary to walk through the desert for days on end, in 114 degree heat. They are not coming to stay. They'll change bedsheets, flip greasy burgers, make enough money to provide for the basic needs of their families and then go home.

The complete list of Arizona's June bodies is available on the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website: http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net

Why I am writing:
Thank you to those who understand that immigrants are human beings; they deserve the ability to provide food and shelter for their families. Thank you to the heroic employers who take the risk of hiring these workers. And finally, thank you to the immigrants. Our country is held up by the strength of your back and the sweat of your brow.