A little over a week ago, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission was preparing to launch a project that raised the formidable hackles of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not to mention the hackles of immigration foes everywhere: the distribution of at least 70,000 maps to would-be illegal border-crossers throughout Mexico.
These maps, created by the faith-based Humane Borders Organization in Tucson, Ariz., pinpoint the locations of water tanks and rescue beacons along the Arizona-Sonora, Mexico border for people trying to make their way across. Semicircles indicate the distance a border-crosser should expect to walk every day, for up to three days. They also indicate areas where the bodies of dead border-crossers have been found in the past, as well as charts indicating which months are the deadliest.
Chertoff, however, dismissed the program as a ‘bad idea’ that will only entice more illegal immigrants to cross the border, borne by illusions of safety and concealment from Border Patrol officers. The result of the program, as Chertoff sees it, would only be ‘more migrant deaths and the further enrichment of the criminal human trafficking rings that prey on the suffering of others.’
Days after the program’s inception, Mexican officials caved in and announced that they have decided to scrap it. They indicated that the program’s termination was for the purpose of redesigning it, and was not a response to U.S. opposition.
Humane Borders thinks otherwise. ‘To deny children life-saving information in the perverse name of national security is a sin,’ proclaims a press release on the organization’s Web site.
Rhetoric aside, Humane Borders is correct to point out that the aborted program might well have saved countless lives. Chertoff’s dismissal of the program as nothing more than a badly conceived attempt to salve our country’s illegal immigration problems, ‘sin’ or not, is short-sighted at the very least.
The distribution of the maps may be taken by some as an invitation to risk crossing a border that once seemed like a minefield of dangers, but which now suddenly, and perhaps deceptively, looks more navigable.
The maps themselves, however, do not downplay the risks facing border-crossers; otherwise, they would not be indicating where previous crossers had met their deaths.
Moreover, on each map are boldly printed the messages ‘