On the heels of his recent regret for the drug-war deaths in Peru of a missionary and her baby, President Bush has now expressed condolences for the deaths of 14 Mexican citizens on the Arizona desert. The men died of thirst and exposure after crossing into the United States from Mexico.
U.S. government officials blamed the deaths on the “coyote” who led the men across the border and then abandoned them without providing them with sufficient supplies. But the president, members of Congress, INS, and Border Patrol, cannot escape their own responsibility for these 14 deaths.
For years, the U.S. government has spent millions of tax dollars constructing and refortifying a wall along the Southern border in California. The purpose of the wall? To prevent Latin American immigrants from illegally entering the United States, including those who simply want to come here to work.
Everyone knew that as the U.S. wall became increasingly fortified, immigrants would have to move farther east to make their crossing. And that meant crossing over the less- guarded, but more much inhospitable, regions of the Arizona desert. “People who illegally enter the United States have only themselves to blame. They should be obeying the law,” some people suggest.
But isn’t that what East German authorities used to say about people they killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall? Throughout history, people seeking either freedom or better economic conditions have never permitted walls to get in their way. It is the walls that governments construct to impede people’s hopes and dreams for freedom and economic improvement that are the real crime.
More than a decade ago, Americans rejoiced at the dismantling of one of the ugliest walls in history. It’s time to dismantle our own wall and to treat people who wish to enter the United States as the human beings they are.
Mr. Hornberger is co-editor of The Case for Free Trade and Open Immigration.