Reckling: Our own killing fields
Colder temperatures have settled in and the nights are now filled with the songs of coyotes as they travel the nocturnal landscape and their now-grown pups have been cast out to establish their own territories.
The howls, barks and yips have become a lullaby of sorts, their cries echo off the canyon walls and reverberate upvalley, across rugged ravines to distant points. When their calls are answered, or converge into gathered squeals of delight, a listener can almost envision the golden-eyed dogs congregating in the moonlight.
To some, the howl of a coyote in the darkness is a frightening, eerie sound. It adds to the stigma that coyotes unjustly carry: That they are demonic, sneaky marauders rather than extremely intelligent, versatile feeders. Besides, wild animals don’t possess the human traits we so frequently exemplify and it’s wrong for mankind, blinded by ignorance and fear, to label animals with our own undesirable characteristics.
But there is another beast that goes by the name “coyote” and it is truly an example of living evil. The human coyote collects exorbitant cash fees to “guide” immigrants through foreign countries and ultimately across U.S. borders. They are ruthless, greedy and heartless individuals who request full payment up front because they know many of their clients will not survive the trip.
As my friend Santos told me, “The coyotes that are guiding you don’t feel tired or thirsty because they are under the influence of drugs, they don’t care who is left behind to die. They just keep going.”
While the number of migrant apprehensions has sharply declined in recent years, which indicates fewer people are attempting the dangerous journey, the number of confirmed deaths has risen. There were 463 confirmed deaths in the past year and there are many more who are missing.
As Americans it’s easy to be angered and see the toll that illegal immigration numbers have taken on this country’s bottom line: Our public school systems are inundated, medical facilities and the ability to treat patients are compromised, prisons are overflowing, welfare is tapped out and most migrant workers are paid cash and don’t pay income taxes. The list goes on, but it’s the collateral loss of life that is truly shocking.
Our government’s inability to secure our borders not only puts U. S. citizens at risk, it has created a humanitarian disaster. The coyotes tell travelers the trip is easy and short. Sadly, many are abandoned and left to die in the deserts of Arizona and the unforgiving terrain of south Texas.
There is great irony in the fact that the U.S. government considers military action (and pours billions of tax-payer dollars into some) in countries half-way around the world, which care not one bit about our nation. In the meantime, we sit and watch, year after year, as hundreds die on our soil simply because the American Dream of a better life and opportunity to work lures them here. Because our borders remain permeable, it creates an irresistible opportunity to risk one’s life in pursuit of the dream.
Coyotes have been known to leave truck trailers full of people to bake to death in triple-digit summer heat. Trapped alive, their scratch marks on the container walls and their bloodied hands with missing fingernails are tragic clues to their tortuous deaths.
To measure any “success” with illegal immigration, the numbers to look at are the accounts of the dead and missing. “The numbers look different in light of the corpses on gurneys, the empty water jugs littering the desert, the children who have lost their fathers, the crosses hanging on the United States-Mexico border wall that bear the names of the dead — or crosses that simply say desconodido: Unknown,” reports Ananda Rose, author of “Showdown in the Sonoran Desert.”
This is no way to govern a country. The inability of our federal government to properly secure our borders is negligent and inhumane. Withholding assistance to border states to ensure security of their own state lines is a shameful failure. In our weakness and absence, drug cartels have now gained control of coyote operations, making immigrant trip attempts even more fatal, and the cartels have become the true governors of our southern borders.
It’s a devastating dilemma, and as many law- enforcement officers and ranchers can attest, the discoveries of bodies that have succumbed to exposure is deeply disturbing. Perhaps the key to change would be for each of us, along with our elected officials, to experience the horror of blackened, bloated bodies roasting in the scorching sun, with their clothing torn open by distention. Nameless and lost, they suffer and perish so far from home, with only flies and rattlesnakes as comfort in their death.
Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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