Not far from this lone mesquite tree and family shrine south of the U.S./MX border I found another mesquite where women’s underwear hung from the branches. The vulgar sight was evidence of the violence committed on a daily basis against women and children making the dangerous journey to the U.S. in search of a better life or a chance to reunite with family.
I heard first hand the account of one woman’s rape and torture after she managed to escape and had the good fortune of yelling for help within ear shot of a friend of mine. Her story was not atypical. She and her best friend had left Mexico to join family members in the U.S. They had paid coyotes or guides for passage into the U.S. like every other immigrant coming from the south does. Unfortunately the woman and her best friend were beaten and raped by the coyotes. Men in the group tried to intervene and they had the crap beat out of them. The woman feared that her best friend had been killed. She had heard her screaming when she was being raped and then there was an immediate silence.
I brought this woman clothes to wear while my friend fed her and gave her shelter and his girlfriend, a nurse, gave her medical care. Humanitarian groups were informed of her situation, her family was called, and Border Patrol was alerted to what happened. There was an urgency, at least we thought, to get law enforcement to the general area of the rape or at least to inform patrols in case her friend was still alive and then in case she wasn’t. Border Patrol had zero interest in the events that occurred or in searching for a possible dying woman. My friend and others went looking for the woman to no avail. In addition, the survivor had GPS coordinates and dates for the next two times the coyote was to guide groups across the border. Three tries had been part of her purchase price. Again, Border Patrol had zero interest in that nugget of information.
This is a story about one human. This story should be multiplied by tens of thousands in order to understand the risk that is being taken for dreams and new lives by so many while, we Americans, judge and criminalize them out of ignorance.