In 1994 the United States launched Operation Gatekeeper, effectively militarizing the US-Mexico border. Within three years, agents strapped with M4 rifles and .40 caliber submachine guns patrolled their newly-installed fences 24 hours a day. The INS budget and the size of the Border Patrol doubled during the same period and the easiest routes north were sealed. Policymakers envisioned human action in economic terms, expecting that people would make a “cost-benefit decision” before deciding to journey across more dangerous terrain. They believed that no rational actor would assume the “cost” of crossing Arizona’s Sonora Desert in the summertime.
Policymakers were wrong. Each day this summer, countless migrants will begin 4-5 day treks in 110 degree heat for a chance to live and work in the United States. Many will never make it out of the desert.
Acclaimed director Marco Williams recently released his documentary: “The Undocumented,” which has aired as part of PBS’s Independent Lens series. The documentary chronicles Arizona’s deadliest summer months:
- Humanitarian groups work tirelessly to identify remains and notify families in Mexico and in the US;
- Medical examiners see their workloads double, triple, quadruple;
- Even the de facto mission of the Border Patrol transforms as agents spend their days saving lives and recovering bodies.
“The Undocumented” (1 hr and 25 mins) is available to stream free online until May 29th. I highly recommend this documentary to anyone who wants to see the direct impact of US immigration policy on human lives. Interestingly, PBS will also be releasing a video game called “The Migrant Trail” in June to “introduce players to the hardships and perils of crossing the Sonora Desert.” Both of these resources are available by clicking the links above or visiting the PBS: Independent Lens website.