I didn’t know what to expect when we were told we were going to visit the border. I was honestly expecting a wall like it is often publicized, not something like Trump is proposing but like the structures that exist outside of many urban areas. That is obviously not what we saw, and I was surprised for a number of reasons by the steel and barbed wire fence that we visited. Firstly, I was surprised by the fact that it is not meant to stop humans. Surprised in a good way, because I think it brings our focus back to the genuine problem with the migration crisis, which I believe to be drugs and violence. I don’t think people are the problem, unless they are the catalyst by which drugs and violence are arriving into the country.
I think this border wall and the way it is approached by the Tohono O’Odham is something the American people should learn from. I do not know how many migrants are not well-intentioned, but I think it is safe to say that many of them are just searching for a better life, not one riddled with violence and murder and extortion that exists in the home countries they are coming from. The stories of atrocities occurring throughout Central America and even in Mexico is something that I think the American people should sympathize more with. If we aren’t okay with more people coming into the country, then we should at least try to be more okay with donating funds and resources to try to improve the situation in these other countries so they are at least livable for their residents.
The culture of the Tohono O’Odham would be hurt badly by the presence of a border wall. As it is said on the Nation, the border crossed them and their stretch of the border is large enough for them to have a substantial stake in this debate. Not only should a border wall not be placed on their land, but the situation needs to be improved so that they have more than 2 legal ports of entry, because that is simply ridiculous. We need to respect the culture that we impeded upon and grant them more rights and autonomy to exist alongside the other O’Odham in Mexico.
Even though I think the majority of the migration crisis relates to drugs and violence, something needs to be done so that the O’Odham and other people along the border are safe from persuasion by cartel members to participate in their industry. We heard stories about young Tohono O’Odham being coerced by cartel members to help smuggle drugs, and it is more difficult to detect Tohono O’Odham participating in these activities because of the increased access they have to cross the border. This situation needs to be improved. I’m not sure, but maybe starting with education across the Nation about the situation will help prepare youth to deal with situations such as this and avoid getting involved with these people.
I think the immigration debate in our country needs to focus on some of the statistics that we heard while on the Nation. The majority of hard drugs that come across the border come through the ports of entry. Well, we have a lead. We should invest in more technology and patrol along the legal ports of entry to stop this from happening so easily. I think the implementation of integrated fixed towers may be a good step for the Tohono O’Odham because it can cut down on these activities without affecting the culture of the Nation too much. I think this is an interesting debate we are witnessing in our country and it will be interesting to see how plays out. I think we should give the less fortunate a home here but find a way to do it safely.