A week ago, on a glorious October Saturday evening, two of our grandchildren had requested help in preparing Halloween costumes. The girl’s outfit came together quickly, but the boy’s was complicated, as he needed a sword and a shield. We took the project to our front yard, as spray paint was involved, as well as test runs of swordplay.
The boy required a special detail in both the sword and the shield: we were to embed each with a blue patch that represented “chi” power. Calling upon the chi would create a powerfully secure space around him, he explained to me.
At about the same time that we were designing an instrument to create secure spaces, and just about six blocks away from our play, two women died while trying to cross into the United States. According to news’ reports, one of the women drowned while trying to hide from the border patrol in a small reservoir. The other woman’s body, the paper said, was found in brush at the end of the street.
Knowing the two women had suffered “unnatural” deaths just blocks from my home is deeply disturbing to me. I was playing with grandchildren at the time they died, terrified and alone, and so I wondered, “Were they mothers or grandmothers? Were they young women running from unspeakable Central American or Mexican violence? Had they gone back to Mexico to visit a sick dad or brother and, being without immigration documentation, had to cross the border by climbing the border wall that skirts the local reservoir? Were their deaths worth what they were travelling for? Would have mattered one whit to our national security if they had made it across?”
“Authorities believe the women were undocumented immigrants and do not suspect foul play,” said the Brownsville Herald. This note, too, was bothersome, although in a different way from the cold fact of their deaths. While I think that I understand that the reporter was trying to say that the women were not murdered, or, maybe, that the paper wanted its readers to understand that these victims weren’t neighbors who had suffered violent deaths, the phrasing was wrong, and in so many ways.
The sense I took from the article was that the death of these immigrants was justifiable, expected, and deserved. “No foul play” suspected—but what can be fouler than the untimely death of someone’s mom or sister or spouse or best friend?
The United States continues to spend ungodly amounts of money in an effort to secure the border. Rather than dedicating even just a fraction of those resources toward a sensible and comprehensive reform of our immigration system, we have opted for an obstacle course of fences and border patrol agents. Since 1998, the bodies of nearly 6,000 people have been found along the southern border. And these are the ones that we know about.
Last week, two more bodies were discovered, this time in my neighborhood. Even as my grandchild was wielding a sword and a shield, buttressed by his “chi”, a woman who could not swim desperately sought safety in the small lake that lies just down the street. Her “chi” failed her and she drowned.
There was no foul play suspected.