As the team reaches the trek's first border crossing, into Mexico, we are reminded of the celebrated and troubled history of migration that has occurred at this border over the decades. In the 19th century, American settlers who were moving west and south from the eastern seaboard sought to settle in the Mexican Territory. In recent years, migration has been primarily south to north from Mexico to the United States, although this immigration is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous. Although Mexicans were once welcomed into the U.S. because of their willingness to work for little pay, the American government is now trying to drastically reduce the number of Mexicans immigrating to the U.S. In order for Mexicans to get into America today, many must try to cross the border illegally. The border has become a place of death and turmoil, and with the recent addition of "The Gatekeeper", an ugly 10-foot-high welded-steel wall equipped with night-vision scopes and ground-motion sensors, it's unlikely that the danger will disappear anytime soon.
Why would so many Mexicans risk their lives to leave their families and all that is familiar to them? Have you ever asked members of your family about relatives who migrated from one country to another? Much of the motivation for Mexican migrants is related to money and the desire to provide for their families. Today's Mexican economy is very poor. The average worker in Mexico can expect to earn 26 pesos, or 3 American dollars per day. The potential for earning up to $6 (15 times what they can earn at home!) in places like Texas or southern California offers a glimmer of hope for many poor Mexicans. Many of these people have a very difficult time understanding the grave dangers they face before filling up their plastic water jugs and embarking on the 50-mile trek to San Diego. Some never make it. . Would-be migrants have starved and frozen to death after being abandoned by smugglers, their bodies left to the coyotes and mountain lions. Many drown in the Rio Grande river. But the motivations are so strong, people commonly attempt repeat crossings. If a would-be migrant is caught and sent back across the border, studies have shown, he or she is likely to take the risk again and again rather than return home. We were researching the topic on the Internet and found some quotes from Mexicans who are thinking about trying to cross the border: "We've seen on television and heard on the radio how dangerous it is,'' said Rosa, a heavyset 30-year-old woman wearing shorts, a sweater and hoop earrings as she huddled on the rocks with about 50 other migrants one evening. "But in reality the situation [in Mexico] is so difficult that they haven't left us with any other options." And as another Mexican citizen commented, "To bring some of that [American] money back to Mexico, oh, would we be blessed!"
According to those Americans who want to reduce the number of Mexican immigrants, the negative impacts of immigration include a decrease in available jobs for Americans, decreased wages because most Mexicans are willing to work very cheaply, and an unnecessary strain on government services such as education and healthcare. Other Americans believe that the U.S. should strike a balance between controlling the number of people who cross the border and protecting those Mexicans who are making valuable social, cultural and economic contributions to our country. The World Trek Team crossed the border without even receiving a second glance from the border patrol guards. While crossing, we couldn't help but think about all of those people who risk their lives every day to try to cross in the other direction.