By Maur Laur
“We feel hunted,” is what Hettie said shortly after visiting the miles-long barbed-wire wall that stretches along the Mexican-American border. “We feel hunted.” Hunted as in deer, running at the sound of rifle shots, echoing through the forest. Hunted as in geese flapping their wings in terrified confusion as they fly through the sky to escape the fire. Hunted like the indigenous people whose scalps were traded for dollars. Hunted as in immigrants ducking the bullets that border patrol shoots through the fence?
People are not meant to be hunted.
People are meant to be loved, cared for, protected. Is this what our country has come to? That we are forever in a wild goose-chase for people who simply want a better life? Will immigrants forever remain the runners? How many times must they flee? So now, while they chase their freedom, border patrol is chasing them? And for what? So America's militia can steal the American dream from immigrant hands before they’ve even grapsed it?
“My husband feels hunted,” she says with fear in her eyes that mirrored his. She looked over at him. He is here legally. But, he’s a dreamer. That means he gets searched on a regular basis. That means paranoia stalks him through every street corner, supermarket, and stoplight. That means his wife, Heddy, a U.S citizen follows him everywhere to ward off racist comments and deportation officials.
The hunted never sleep.
I stare at the barbed wire fence that cuts across the red-brown landscape and leaves a gash in the skin of the Earth. In one eye I see Mexico, in the other eye, the U.S. And in between is just space. If I were to close my eyes, I wouldn’t know where this country ends and the next one begins. “It’s just land.” I whisper. But, America has turned that land into a hunting ground. And the Earth’s heart hurts from its wounds on the surface. Images flit through my mind:
In a detention center outside of Tucson, Arizona, border patrol agents take away a baby’s formula and replace it with an unfamiliar mixture. She can’t stomach it, so she doesn't eat for four days. In a jail cell off the highway, police officers throw frozen burritos at a Dreamer whom they’ve arrested. In a courtroom in Phoenix, a 3-year old boy defends himself in his own deportation hearing, because he doesn’t have the right to a lawyer. On the Mexican side of the border, a 16-year-old boy throws a rock at a border patrol agent. What they throw back is not rocks, but bullets. Actually, they fire them from the American side. In moments the boy is dead and another agent becomes a killer.
In the English Channel, smugglers hands out defective life jackets filled with straw to refugees who are left with no choice but to flee ‘illegally,” because the U.S has capped the number of refugees admitted into the states at 45,000. If the boat sinks, their jackets will act as weights, pushing them below the surface of the water and they will all drown. In a refugee camp outside of Greece, a Somalian refugee walks two hours to an interview in which U.S officials will determine whether or not she can seek refuge in our country. She is minutes late to the interview because she had to stop and rest during the long trek in the heat and before she can apologize or explain, they immediately turn her away. Back in the Sonoran desert, a border patrol agent destroys a water jug that volunteers have set out for those immigrants braving the sand and sun.
I used to think that there was injustice along the borders and oceans that surround this country. But, now I realize it’s more than injustice. It’s evil. It’s a cold, hard absence of humanity. It leaves me enraged, hurt, and confused. How can we look into the eyes of our fellow human beings and tell them “you don’t deserve a chance at the American dream?” When we meet a refugee, an immigrant, an asylee, a person who has given up their culture, sacrificed their language, abandoned their homeland, left their family just to be here, how can we say, “that dream doesn’t belong to you?” That it’s reserved for those on our side of the fence, those with white skin and a couple generations between them and their own immigrant stories. How can we turn away our brothers and sisters of other nations? How can we rob them of their children, their means of survival, their dignity? How can we stomach the fact that people are dying, just because they’re not dying on American soil? How can we stomach the words “we feel hunted?”
Is our humanity so broken that we cannot see theirs?
In the desert beyond the southern border, a young woman lies dead underneath the shade of a single, forgiving prosopis tree in the desert. Mouth open wide in shock. Hands unclasped and limp on the ground. Some dreams swept away with the wind, others left to rot in the sand. When you’re dead, do you see the borders that we have created? Or is it just land? Do you know we have put up walls between each other, in an attempt to hide behind them? Or is it just land?
The sand piles on top of her body as the Earth begins to bury her, because no one else will. The desert doesn’t discriminate.
If someone were to find her, would they cry the tears she never did, when there was no more water left in her sockets? Would they long for the hope that has fled from her eyes? Or would he turn away, look at the wall between the U.S and Mexico, lean back contently, smile, and think to himself, ah yes, this is America, and we’ve truly made it great.
Maya Laur is from Wendell, Massachusettsa and is a senior at Deerfield Academy. She is a graduate of the Woven Word Young Writers program where she first discovered her passion as a writer and learned the power of imagery in elevating a piece.