This I Believe

Emilie - Naco, Arizona
Entered on February 15, 2007

This I Believe

I live on the border, just three blocks from a fifteen foot tall steel wall, steel that, according to rumor at least, was once used as landing mats in the first Gulf War. Steel that must have been drizzled and splashed with oil, gasoline, and goodness knows what kinds of chemicals.

This fifteen foot steel barrier was erected by National Guardsmen and women who were sent to Arizona as a part of their training, to grade the dirt border road and erect mile upon mile of blockade between me and my friends and neighbors to the south.

At least one Guardsman has died while working here, crushed beneath the dozer he drove. Only one of the many border casualties here, in this war against immigration.

My friend Teresita used to live a mere sixty feet south of the wall. She and I used to talk about cutting a small chat door into that wall. Then we figured I could open it and holler through it to see if she was home before driving a circuitous mile around barriers, over speed bumps, and past armed guards along either side of the border – a hefty trip to visit someone only a few blocks away.

What I believe about the wall is this: It does not work. It has not prevented people from crossing into our country. People who want to come here have always found a way to do so, and they always will. They go around the wall. They climb over it. Humans have migrated this route for thousands of years, to trade, to barter, to make a living, and to visit their grandmother. A line of steel in the desert won’t change that.

And I believe this: Although people can negotiate their way over, under, or around the wall, animals cannot. The jaguar, recently sighted in our area, will be trapped forever either south or north. If south, we in Arizona will have lost him forever. Coyote, wolf, javalina, jaguarondi, deer, and many others will one day follow an ancient trail to be confronted by a newly erected wall of steel. It will harm them and many others in ways we cannot know.

And I believe this, too: This wall, the one I can see from my yard and my living room and my kitchen, this wall has severed a community of families and neighbors. It has sliced through what has long been almost one town, where children freely crossed to visit friends and cousins, where grandmothers once easily crossed to visit their grandchildren, their nietos.

This wall cannot stop immigration, but it has cut through the heart of my community.