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4/2005 - ( CD - Immigration ) UDI Logbook an essay

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  • Al Soto
    Los Angeles Times ... through the black-and-red book that documents the undocumented: dehydration, heat exhaustion, fracture, radiator fluid ingestion. ...
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2005
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      Los Angeles Times
      >The Logbook. Counting the casualties of a relentless flood.
      >Fred Leonard is a writer based in Tucson.
      >I am a volunteer emergency physician at the Sells Indian Hospital, 60 
      >miles west of Tucson on the Tohono O'odham reservation. I glance
      through >the black-and-red book that documents the undocumented: dehydration,
      heat >exhaustion, fracture, radiator fluid ingestion.
      >Lately I see more and more names recorded in this log. I also see more
      >women and children. This morning I see four new entries. One is a
      wide-eyed >7-month-old boy who stares up at me from his young mother's arms.
      >The book I am reading is the hospital's attempt to keep track of the
      >travelers whose northward journeys end in its emergency room. LOGBOOK
      is >imprinted in gold capital letters on the cover.  Above that someone
      >handwritten Undocumented Immigrants (UDI) with a silver marker,
      inscribing >the abbreviation commonly used to identify these travelers. Inside,
      >line records in longhand a date, name, diagnosis and disposition.
      >In the five years that I have volunteered here, the number of people
      >flooding across this reservation has steadily increased. It has been
      >estimated at 1,500 a day, more than half a million a year. To the
      >there is corruption, overwhelming need and little work. To the north
      >is a ready supply of low-wage jobs perpetuated by corporate greed,
      >campaign contributions and deliberate non-enforcement of  immigration
      >Caught in the middle is the Tohono O'odham Nation. As other parts of 
      >border have become more difficult to breach-more Mexican troops,
      >U.S. Border Patrol agents, the volunteer Minuteman
      Project that has
      >generated so much attention lately with its efforts to deter illegal
      >crossings-this  75-mile stretch of Arizona desert has become a
      >route for the UDIs, drug smugglers and people-smuggling "coyotes."
      >The Connecticut-sized reservation is home to the Tohono O'odham, the
      >People. They have been here ever since I'itoi, Elder Brother, made
      >from desert clay. It is their nation, their sacred land, their
      >home. But to the UDIs and the smugglers, this land is just a means to
      >end, an obstacle in their path. This ruggedly beautiful Sonoran Desert
      >now scarred by their tracks and strewn with their trash, and its cycle
      >life is disrupted by their inexorable presence. So, too, are the lives
      >the Tohono O'odham.
      >This illegal traffic through their land is a tragic, zero-sum game.
      >resources they spend every day to deal with it are resources not
      >for other needs, and the Tohono O'odham have more than their share:
      >the highest rate of diabetes of any people in the world, violence
      >associated with burgeoning cross-border drug trade and unemployment
      >approaching 50%. Police, fire, healthcare and social service budgets
      >always been strained on the reservation. Now they are more so. The
      >Patrol agents cannot stem the flow, and because of orders from
      >UDIs who need medical care are not taken into custody. That way the
      cost of
      >their care is shifted from the federal government to local
      hospitals-and to
      >the Tohono O'odham.
      >In the emergency room, I see the impact of this flood one life, one
      >at a time. I must cut short my evaluation of a 73-year-old Tohono
      >grandmother with
      abdominal pain in order to care for the UDIs with
      >exhaustion and dehydration in the next two beds. I do not have the
      >antibiotic I want to treat a 3-year-old Tohono O'odham boy with bloody
      >diarrhea. It's not on  the hospital formulary because it is too
      >I request a specialist's evaluation for a Tohono O'odham man with
      >paralysis. A month later he still hasn't been seen.
      >Emergencies must be taken care of-and paid for-first, and there are
      >emergencies involving undocumented immigrants in this small hospital.
      >I turn the pages in the logbook and note that not every diagnosis is
      >too long a walk through too hot a desert: MVA, stab wound, dog bite,
      >With illegal activity comes violence. The coyotes and drug merchants
      >violent men who value no lives except their own. There is easy money
      to be
      >made extorting and
      smuggling people who come north looking for work.
      So we
      >see MVAs-motor vehicle accidents. Only these are no accidents. They
      >are rollovers of speeding cars, trucks and vans whose seats have been
      >out so they can be crammed with more undocumented immigrants. It is
      >the UDIs who are injured, dead on arrival or dead at the scene.  The
      >coyotes often are reported
      >as last seen disappearing into the desert.
      >Like the Tohono O'odham, everyone along this border is affected by the
      >flood-the ranchers whose animals are killed and whose fences are cut;
      >hospitals that face closure because of the enormous expense of
      >unreimbursed care; the police forces and social service agencies whose
      >budgets are drained; the advocacy groups that put their water stations
      >the desert; the park rangers who risk their lives trying to protect
      >fragile desert ecosystem; the Border Patrol agents in their
      >SUVs; and even the Minutemen. Like the immigrants, they are all pawns
      in a
      >game that ultimately lines the pockets of the powerful. Along this
      >there are no solutions created by the flood, only consequences.
      >I hear another ambulance pull up to the back door, and I put down the
      >logbook. The emergency medical technicians are bringing us three more
      >in need of care, three more entries  for the logbook. The flood will
      >ebb today. It is business as usual, on both sides of the border.
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      Buy Hydrogen or Hybrid Vehicles, not Hummers.  The government and the NEWS should reflect, not determine, the desires of the people.The news is to be reported not a melodrama of constant trivia. The founding fathers knew that government is always corrupt, that is why they gave us civil liberties.  The people must lead to survive corrupt governments. Read the constitution. (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this includes information for research and educational purposes.)  Al Soto (c) 2005

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