A hole in the fence

Some years ago now, lnhammer and I visited Organ Pipe National Monument. As we were exploring a lonely dirt road there, we found ourselves following a length of fence between the U.S. and Mexico borders.

And at once point, there was a hole in the fence.

Holes in fences always need stepping through; especially holes that lead into another country. So I did step through. And back. And through again.

After a few moments, I realized I’d been expecting something to change, when I crossed that border. I expected things to feel different, somehow. But they didn’t, of course.

I spent a long time staring at the land on both sides of that fence, thinking about how it was the same land, the same desert, the same ecosystem. That land looked no different, from the two sides of the fence.

When I hear people talk about illegal immigrants, I hear the word they used a lot. Not they as a harmless pronoun, but they with a certain emphasis–said in almost the same tone one might say those people, except that we’re too enlightened to use phrases like those people anymore.

Excerpt the thing about living in a border region is, the people are a lot like the land. Someone who’s just crossed the border from Mexico looks a lot like someone who’s family has been here for generations. Illegal immigrants don’t look any different from legal ones. There is no they. There’s only us.

Sometimes, I think it’s hard for folks in Washington–or even folks up the road in Phoenix–to understand this. Sometimes, I wish everyone could spend some time stepping through a hole in the fence–or living among people who come from both sides of same.

I think that whatever one’s political views–and that whatever immigration legislation the U.S. ultimately comes up with–it will be a lot more humane and sensible if we start thinking about what the right policy would be for us, and not for them.

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