May 2, 2010 by tristan savage
“Alto! Documentos todos! Esto es un operativo oficial! Cooperen o enfrenten las consecuencias!”
(Stop! Everyone show us your documents. This is an official operation! Cooperate or face the consequences.)
It was Sunday, 11:00 PM, not a light was to be found anywhere, other than the overbearingly bright resonance from the flashlight we were all abruptly subjected to. We were somewhere in the middle of nowhere, north of the Belize border, near the state capital of Chetumal, Quintana Roo. The bus I was riding in had come to an abrupt halt and was now being subjected to a flash inspection conducted by members of the Instituto Nacional de Migración, the Mexican version of the dreaded “Migra.”
Officers from the INM rushed in, awaking many of us from a light slumber, barking at us (in their exaggerated machoistic vocal tones) while being backed-up by a strategically-placed AK-47 toting triggerman outside the bus. At the same time, the hairs on every inch of my pale body stood erect! A sinister chill began to jackhammer my internal nervous system. I then realized that I may end up in some far off penitentiary, because I WAS UNDOCUMENTED! I had been pick-pocketed in January, so I no longer had my U.S. id, and I had left my FM-2, or Mexican green card with my wife in Playa del Carmen. What was I to do?
As the stern faced official began to check documents, I thought to myself, “QUERIDO DIOS- NO ME ABANDONES!” (Dear God, don’t abandon me.) I pulled my ballcap down over my face the best that I could and sat up straight. My mind also began to think, “why couldn’t have I been born a little shorter with a darker suntan?” I then looked in exasperation at the front of the bus, where a passenger was being detained, and whisked into federal custody. I thought to myself, “Damn! Nobody is safe here!” At that point, the inspector was getting nervously close to me. A single word occurred to me: “bravucón!” (Be brave.) Play it bold and nothing will happen. So despite by palpitating heart, I managed to exhibit a half-smile and decided to answer back in a stern, but pleasant tone, “Buenas noches, oficial!” (Good evening, officer) The inspector WALKED PAST ME, without even questioning me! I was the only one on the bus not subjected to what appeared to be at the moment, “la santa inquisición.” (Holy Inquisition).
I could hardly believe what had transpired before my eyes. I learned that after being roughed-up, a Central American had been detained and would not continue the journey to Puebla (final destination point) with the rest of us.
To many Mexicans, who are exposed to repeated immigration, customs and drug checkpoints, it may have been another mundane event in their daily life. To me, it was an eye-opener! It then dawned on me that this “gabacho” (white Anglo) was experiencing the similar horror that my Latino brothers and sisters often see on daily basis in the United States. It was a parallel nightmare that I had often seen working in radio and television, but never had the “privilege” of being subjected to. My mind was drawn to the prospect of the thousands of undocumented workers who deal with the abuse of Sheriff Arpaio and his corrupt minions in Arizona. I also began to ponder the fate of the Central American who was singled-out due to his appearance. What will happen to the Hispanics in Arizona who will now be racially profiled thanks to the draconian SB-1070?
I said to myself, “It’s a damn shame Russell Pearce wasn’t here!” Maybe in the reverse role as an immigrant, he might think a little differently and SB-1070 would have never come to pass. I would have loved to have seen how HE (or Arpaio) acted in my shoes, confronted face to face with their own tactics.
But then my mind wandered off, thinking about the Central American traveling companion. I had surmised
that humanity knows no bounds, borders nor ethnicity when it comes to cruelty. Power, privilege, and national “pride” corrupt mankind. The Mexican aggressors to a certain degree, were no better than their northern counterpart. As George Orwell would argue, “The oppressed become the oppressors.” Or in a more modern sense, Guatemalan recording artist Ricardo Arjona penned this refrain: “If the southern hemisphere were in the north, it would be the mess!” Such wisdom, such eloquence from a mere troubadour. Now, if only the oligarchy would understand….
As a post-script, on Thursday, April 29th, just 3 days after writing this commentary, Amnesty International confirmed my suspicions, officially categorizing it on par with Arizona in regards to human rights abuses of Central Americans. (http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/primera/34853.html or for English: http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.eluniversal.com.mx%2Fprimera%2F34853.html&sl=es&tl=en&hl=&ie=UTF-8)
Central Americans suffer greatly at the hands of Mexican officials, but they too often look down on their neighbors with their own prejudices.
As we debate the issue, we often forget about one of the most important illegal immigrants of all time- Jesus Christ. The infant Christ fled with his parents to Egypt, to avoid infanticide. I doubt if Mary and Joseph bothered to obtain a visa or a green card in order to properly enter. Had immigration agents deported them, his Messianic mission would have been violently truncated. Maybe to gain some consensus among the sometimes vitriolic atmosphere, we should shake up the Evangelical mantra, “WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?” and change it to “What would have they done to Jesus under current immigration laws?”
This guest post comes to us from Benjamin R Reed (“El Chupacabras”), a Mormon radiojournalist with KFTA AM – La Fantástica 970 – Rupert, Idaho
His story -from conservative radio host to Chomskyite defender of migrants’ rights- was profiled in the LA Times last year. He is from Idaho and lives in Queretaro, Mexico.