Alberto Urrea is suggesting that neither of the governments are putting enough effort to change border policy, American more so than Mexican. Also, he is trying to explain how status quo might be viewed as beneficial for both sides to some extend. However, by changing the border policy, Urrea thinks that it would solve more than just border issues. It would improve economy of both countries, American in specific. Alberto Urrea is guiding us trough the tragic story of 26 people on their quest for better life. The main concern of this book is, obviously, more than just that.
Their quest is a story within the story of a larger proportion, complexity and importance, the border policy. In his book, Urrea is presenting all the pieces of the puzzle that create the big picture, from bottom to the top, and therefor making it more complex. He is talking about governments, Border patrol, criminals ,and people that are trying to cross the border. The emphasis is on the last ones in the chain, the walkers, as they are a direct victims of the story. The group of people in the story is no different than any other group that tried to cross border before, nor the group that is trying to cross the border tonight as I write this.
Big difference is the outcome of their journey, and the influence it had on the attempt to change border policy issues. Death of these people just opened the eyes to remaining few people unaware of the current issues and stupidity of border policy. The outcome is a direct result of border policy. Since 14 people died in this tragic event, it attracted massive media coverage and engaged both governments in seek for at least a temporary solution for this ongoing problem. “The media only cares about Yuma 14 because of the large numbers. But this tragedy goes on every day.
It never stops. If only one person dies out there, it is exactly the same horror story” (207). And shortly after this event they showed some willingness to change things. “Hope began to glimmer for a short period as presidents Fox and Bush courted each other. A kind of border accord loomed, and the sacrifice of the Yuma 14 helped stir the leaders of each nation to pity. Fox has wisely approached the United States in the fresh manner . The message was clear: Mexico represents billions of dollars in profit. Washington was moved to wonder, Border?
What border? Sweeping change was coming over the horizon. But the atrocities of 9/11 killed Border Perestroika. An open border suddenly seemed like an act of war” (204). According to Urrea, from this point on, many minor changes and improvements have happened, but all of these happened on not that significant level. Some of those were even counterproductive. “Homeland Security, that long arm of the Fatherland, moved to absorb the Border Patrol into itself, recombining federal agencies and trying to forge a colossus of border enforcement” (205). The Mexicans opened a small consulate in Yuma, though the consuls agree that the Yuma consulate is an empty gesture” (211). Border Patrol build light towers to help navigate lost walkers.
“The towers are build , raised, maintained, and paid for out-of-pocket by those bleeding-heart liberals, the Border Patrol agents themselves” (214). No change happened where it counts the most, governments didn’t do much to change border policy. “In the year after the Wellton 26 lost their way, Tucson sector racked up deaths in the hundreds. Yuma sector managed to reduce the season’s death rate to nine” (214). The Yuma 14 changed nothing, and they changed everything” (211). All of the things done so far were done mainly to manipulate the public eye, and to make them look like as they care and are trying to change things. Governments should have done more, because they had good reasons to do so. Some studies pointed out how beneficial would it be to change border policy. “Numbers never lie, after all: they simply tell different stories depending on the math of the tellers” (215). “Several studies have also pointed out that illegal immigrants actually depress wages.
They help keep the minimum wage down” (216). “If there are eight million tonks slaving away in the United States right now, most of those workers pay federal income tax: shaved right of the top. No choice, just like you. They pay state taxes: shaved right of the top. They get tapped for Social Security and FICA. There’s a whole lot of shaving going on” (216). Urrea is trying to point out that estimated lifetime net fiscal drain for the average adult Mexican emigrant, which is $55K, would be easily covered by their spendings, and would pour billions of dollars into American economy.
The numbers are high. They are currently making money out of their relationship, even with this border policy which clearly doesn’t make sense. “Thunderbird learned that Arizona gets $8 billion in economic impact annually from the relationship with Mexico. That’s profit, not cost. Mexico makes $5. 5 billion” (218). “UCLA’s North American Integration and Development Center released a study that found that undocumented immigrants contributed at least $300 billion per year to the U. S. gross domestic product (GDP) “ (217).
So, if it’s that clear that having more immigrants would improve American economy, why don’t they change border policy? Urrea didn’t really give much explanation why it is still like this, other than telling us how the negotiations between governments were put on hold after 9/11. Not only that negotiations were put on hold, but in the way it moved in the other direction, where America started viewing the border as a place where the threat is coming from. He rather writes about why it should be changed, and all the small players in the game that either suffer or benefit the most out the current rules.
He writes about Border Patrol, people that are “just doing their jobs”, but they also seem to understand the depth of this problem. They are the ones that see the worst results of this border policy: death, almost on daily basis. And even though they are the ones to prevent illegal immigrants from entering into United States, in general they feel sorry for these people. He writes about criminals that are benefiting from current situation, by trafficking people across the border for money.
Most often with no compassion for walkers, they treat them like animals, it’s all business for Coyotes. Mainly, he writes about poor people that are trying to cross border in search for better life for them and their families. Urrea is suggesting that border policy should be reexamined and changed, because the benefits from that would be much greater for both sides. By adjusting the border policy to the point where it would be much easier for Mexicans and other Latin Americans to enter United States legally, many problems would be solved.
Both governments would profit out of that. American by having a cheap documented labor force that pays taxes. Labor force that keeps wages low, and spends money in United States. Labor force that is doing “unwanted jobs”. Mexico would profit by reducing unemployment rate. Also, by big amounts of money pouring from United States from their own people, but also investments into their healthier economy. The rate of criminal acts on the border would be much lower, especially in human trafficking business.
There wouldn’t be a reason for people to wonder trough the deadly dessert in order to cross the border. Therefor, the rate of death people at the border would significantly become lower, which at the end counts the most. Border Patrol would never have to say again; “We deal with death so often in here that we forget. We forget, you see. We’re indelicate. If you don’t work here, death still means something to you” (220). After all, human life should be more important than anything else.
Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Devil’s Highway. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2004. Print.