I was driving along a dirt road, about five miles north of the border, when I saw two men sitting by the road. “We’re lost and we want to turn ourselves in to the Border Patrol,” they told me as I stopped alongside them.
They had walked two days from Nogales and Mario was not able to go any further. “I’ve got diabetes and it’s affecting me,” he said. His arms were scratched, his pants were torn, and he was having difficulty walking.
Mario is 43 and his cousin Fernando is 19. They’re from Mexico City and they had traveled three days by bus to get to Nogales.
There was no cell phone coverage so I drove them to the nearest paved road to wait for the Border Patrol. It was already warm at 8 A.M. and it would reach 100 degrees that afternoon. After just a few minutes, a Border Patrol truck came by and I flagged him down. I explained that Mario and Fernando wanted to turn themselves in because they couldn’t go any further and that Mario had diabetes which was affecting him.
Agent Stransky drove into the pull-out and parked about 20 feet away. He got out of the truck, opened the door of the small enclosure on back, and yelled “Yo!” at Mario and Fernando. He didn’t say another word to them as they walked to the truck, stepped up on the bumper, and stooped down to get inside. There was no acknowledgement that Mario and Fernando were human beings and not stray dogs. He then closed the door and quickly drove away.
The migrants call these Border Patrol trucks “dogcatchers.” There’s a bench on both sides of the enclosure about 12 inches above the floor and the roof is very low – Mario and Fernando were both hunched over as we said good-bye. There’s just one small window on the back door and another small window on the front. If Stransky had been in an accident because of driving so rapidly, there were no safety devices that would have protected Mario and Fernando from being injured.
The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” that is being debated now in the senate calls for hiring another 3,500 border agents. That will likely result in even more migrants being treated like stray dogs.
In love and solidarity,
Photos of Mario and Fernando, and Stransky’s “dogcatcher:”