Leticia Sanchez is an undocumented immigrant, a 15 year resident of the Rio Grande Valley, and a member of La Union del Pueblo Entero.
“This country has given me a lot, but it has also taken a lot away. My mother died crossing the river coming to see me.”
As border militarization has increased, migrants with the need to cross the border for work or to reunite with family members but no safe and legal means of doing so have been pushed to ever more dangerous crossing points.
Border Patrol, cameras and border walls have been placed at crossing points that have served as migration routes for decades if not hundreds of years, precisely because they are relatively safe places to cross.
Now migrants brave the river's forceful currents, often with deadly consequences.
Since 2005 there have been around four hundred migrant deaths along the Southwest border each year. In the late 90s, that number hovered around 250 deaths per year. From 2000 to 2013, unauthorized migration to the US has declined, as evidenced by apprehensions along the Southwest border, one of the key indicators of total migration numbers, which declined by 75% according to Customs and Border Protection numbers. Over this same period, Border Patrol staffing has more than doubled, from 9,212 in 2000 to 21,391 in 2013.
Now, Texas Governor Rick Perry has sent Department of Public Safety state troopers as well as 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. The “border surge” of troops will cost the state roughly $30 million and will come from emergency funds.
As more border militarization is brought to the border, whether from Washington or Austin, more migrants like Leticia’s mother will lose their lives trying to reunite with their loved ones.
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The river's currents took Leticia's mother from her. She hopes for protection from deportation so that she will never be put in the same position, risking her life to be with her children.
“Now all of my children have Deferred Action and I don’t want to be separated from them,” she says. “I need protection from deportation, too.”
Leticia says that immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship and without border militarization is important so that Valley residents can live in peace.
At La Union del Pueblo Entero, we believe that reforms to immigration and border enforcement should treat everyone with the compassion they deserve as human beings, which includes safe means for families to reunite and no more border militarization.