Another view of La Migra

  Dear HCN,

Having lived and worked with illegal Mexican laborers for over 20 years from the Mexican border to South Dakota, I disagree with Jack McGarvey's essay and description of the U.S. Border Patrol as irritating and oppressive (HCN, 10/11/99). From this same perspective I laugh at his reference to the "affectionate" employers who employ illegal aliens.

On the countless ranches where I have worked alongside them, many who performed their labors at least as well as I, rarely have illegal aliens been treated like my equal. One ranch owner, who at the time owned more land than any other individual in the world, provided me with all the beef I could eat. The illegals who rode with me killed rattlesnakes for their meat. The irony was not lost on me years later when, before I could be employed in my own country, I first had to prove my nationality to the Mexican billionaire who owns one of the oldest and biggest ranches in New Mexico. Those who now pass through my property and the surrounding valley to pick chilies 20 miles north have been found living in roofless shacks for which their wages are deducted by their employers.

As with any organization that has the power to force people to do as told, there are Border Patrol agents who abuse their authority. My ancestors immigrated to this country several generations before Mr. McGarvey's, yet I, too, have, on occasion, been treated less than respectfully by Border Patrol agents. There was a time I knew every Border Patrol dope-dog by name from El Paso to the Big Bend because I fit "the profile."

But with a few exceptions, Border Patrol agents are men and women who are civil toward others regardless of skin color and professional in their actions - even when they have me standing where they want me as they thoroughly search my vehicle.

Mr. McGarvey did not mention that last year near his interstate subdivision, a young Border Patrol rookie, an immigrant himself from Russia, was murdered in the night, shot in his head at point-blank range by a Mexican dope-runner.

Also last year, of the more than 200,000 illegal aliens who were apprehended in the Douglas, Ariz., area alone, over 120 were found suffocating in a $29.95/day rental truck when it was stopped by Border Patrol agents on the highway near my home. The current coyote fare from Douglas to Phoenix is $600, no refund. With only their bare hands the illegals had peeled down the top of the sliding steel door for air. The driver was a 16-year-old Mexican illegal. I cannot imagine his passengers not readily accepting the Border Patrol's "racist" profiling. Of the hundreds of illegals I have encountered through the years, only one has told me how badly he was treated by La Migra.

Mr. McGarvey failed to say that the Border Patrol's helicopters are also used for the frequent search and rescue of both American and Mexican citizens. Without them there would be many more desiccated bodies lying in the desert. He is correct, though, about their fearful effect when used for control and apprehension. From my porch I have watched a National Guard helicopter stop and hold down in the brush some 20 illegals until mounted Border Patrol agents could arrive to line them out on a cattle trail and drive them to waiting vans.

On the other hand, I have returned home and entered my bedroom to see a hole rammed through the wall with a railroad tie; one of the five times in 18 months my home was broken into and burglarized by illegal aliens.

The vast majority of the Arizona/Mexico border does not look like a demilitarized zone as described by Mr. McGarvey, but is marked only by a barbed wire fence no more secure than his Canadian fence. But the lone Border Patrol agent who was recently shot twice in the chest from the Mexican side near Columbus, N.M., and saved only by his bulletproof vest, will attest that the Mexican border fence cuts from both directions.

Life on the line is hard and deadly for both gringos and meskins. Those who live here and do not choose to acknowledge this may do better in the more serene environs of Scottsdale or Santa Fe.

E.T. Collinsworth III

San Simon Valley, Arizona

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