No Free Ride

Illegals riding on top of the train heading north
Illegals riding on top of the train heading north
"Undocumented" immigrants catching a ride to the US border

Here, on Mexico’s southern border, the debate over illegal immigration is impossible to ignore as droves of the undocumented travel daily before our door. The trains in front of the orphanage, often overflowing but never without at least a few faces of Central and South Americans who believe the metal frame they are clinging to will whisk them away to the promised land.

Faces mingled with hope and fear, pain and desperation… usually belonging to young men, although it is not uncommon to see older men, women, pregnant women or even children sleeping on the tracks waiting for the next departure. They run the risk of being shot at or chopped down by machetes. Often they are robbed and forced to travel without funds. You can always find them sleeping on the streets.

Regardless of where one stands on the immigration issue, the question arises, “What pushes a person to risk their life in this manner? What kind of hell are they escaping that justifies the sacrifice they are making?” The train ride is free but we know that for these people there is no such a thing as a free ride. Hope comes at a high cost. Nothing has made me love America more than being forced to live far from her shores, yet in these days when the economy is down and unemployment is rising the question is easy to ask,

“What would I do if the tables were turned and I were in their shoes? What desperate measures would I be willing to take to put food on the table for my family? What if I belonged to the poor neighboring country?”

I am not suggesting that we condone breaking the law. Illegal entry into the US needs to be stopped, it is dangerous for all who are involved… especially for those who are entering illegally. But along with securing our borders immigration legislation must be revised to allow a greater number of honest hardworking individuals to enter the country legally and filter out those who possibly pose a threat to our nation… and if not, then perhaps we should change the words of hope inscribed on the Statue of Liberty …

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these — the homeless, tempest-tossed — to me;
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door

–the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty