Monday, June 15, 2009

Letting “Illegal's” Die Is Better Than Littering

image Water is a life saving resource.  In the western world we often take our access to potable water for granted, forgetting that there are many circumstances in which access to water quite literally means the difference between life and death.  Walt Staton of the Tucson AZ humanitarian aid group, No More Deaths, has been placing jugs of fresh water in Arizona desert at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. 

According to Allvoices:

In the brutal Arizona desert south of Tucson, summer temperatures regularly top 110 degrees. Shade is scarce. Every year literally hundreds of undocumented migrants die trying to walk north from Mexico through this merciless environment. It is virtually impossible to carry sufficient water. No More Deaths' website reports 79 migrant deaths in the southern desert already this year, with 20 bodies of deceased migrants recovered from Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge alone since 2002. For the past five Staton has attempted to alleviate migrant misery by providing them with food, medical care, and--most importantly--emergency water.

Instead of being given a humanitarian award for his  efforts to save lives, he was convicted this month of littering.  That’s right littering.   This “crime” is punishable by up to a year in prison and a ten thousand dollar fine.  I understand image the the environmental concerns of a non biodegradable jug being left in the desert, however we are talking about human lives.   This heightened concern is not because a government agency finally sees the value of protecting our shared resources, it is a direct result of anti-immigrant hatred. 

The government is interested in using the desert as a natural barrier to help keep out so-called illegal's and if the cost of such an action means death, then clearly it is irrelevant.  The people that are dying are of color and whiteness has made it more than clear that our bodies and lives are of little value.  When it comes to immigrant, White European and Common Wealth citizens are whom are desired.  

The US has criminalized South American immigrants for attempting to escape the poverty largely created by unfair trade and colonialism.   This kind of behaviour is seen as even more defensible now that the US economy is in a recession.  In times of economic retrenchment, it is always the poorest and most vulnerable bodies that are targeted.  It is not an accident that this conviction coincides with a rise in the hate rhetoric of groups like the minute men.  Protecting Americas borders is constructed as saving American jobs and yet it is clear that without these workers some industries would experience collapse.  These jobs are also not highly sought after positions by those that have legal status, even in times of extreme poverty.

The government has continually shown a reckless disregard for human life in its treatment of so called illegal immigrants.  Women have reported rape by bandits as well as officials, in their attempts to achieve economic advancement.  There have also been countless deaths of illegal farm workers from dehydration, exhaustion and poor working conditions.  Even after arriving in the land of “milk and honey,” their lives are still very much at risk.

The way stop so-called illegal immigration is not at the border but by making it more tenable for people to stay in their countries of origin.  Cancel the spurious debts that impoverish so-called third world nations,  ensure that all future trade is done fairly, and finally stop fuelling foreign disputes by interfering in the affairs of state of other countries.  Allowing people to die in the desert because they are trying to escape the circumstances created by neo-colonialism is inhuman.  Walt Staton  is a hero and the sooner more of us understand how precious a single human life is, the less misery there will be.