Read through archived FRONTLINE/World
conversations around this story below.
Jeremy - Boston, MA
"What are the Mexicans doing to achieve justice and equality
in their own backyard?"
Mexicans who criticize their government
tend to be either ignored or, occaisionally, they go 'missing'.
"Before they blame America for their
Mexicans rarely blame America for
"...they should have the courage
to criticize and protest..."
Sigh. Safe in America, where you
can say and do anything you want, don't you think it's a
little presumptuous of you to dictate politics to people
in other countries. Why didn't the Afghans throw out the
Taliban? Why don't the Fur fight back against the Janjaweed?
Why? Well, fear of death, for one
thing. It's all fine and dandy to say "Give me liberty or
give me death!", except, of course, that we here in the
United States are rarely threatened with death.
Anonymous - Orlando, Florida
We can keep complaining about illegals but know one has given us a good solution. Maybe we should build a wall like the Israelis? Or maybe we should try to help build the Mexican economy-(NAFTA) - so that Mexicans have no need to leave Mexico for work. It is definitely in all our interest to do so.
Jeremy - Boston, Massachusetts
Something else that just occurred to me: Few people have
a problem with buying jeans, coffee, DVDs, electronics,
fruit, or anything else that comes from halfway around the
world. That's the whole goal of globalization, isn't it?
That there should be no barriers between products and customers.
But people? No, no, no: the same
people who ardently wave the flag of free trade are the
same ones who demand that everyone on earth stay locked
behind borders and that those with the temerity to cross
a border--in other words, who actually put into practice
the notion that labor is a commodity like any other--deserve
Robert Schoen - Karlsruhe, Germany
Well made and in opposition to the voyeuristic journalism that is sweeping regularly over the Atlantic. These clips - they have the rhythm of compassion. Congratulations and thanks to the producer.
Keanolo - San Jose, California
The plight of the Mexican campesino is no doubt heart rendering
which should elicit a sense of sympathy and empathy in all
compassionate people. However, the state of Mexican society
with its corruption, inequalities and its myriad of socio-economic
problems perpetuated by a political system that that cares
nothing for its citizens. What are the Mexicans doing to achieve
justice and equality in their own backyard? Before they blame
America for their plight they should have the courage to criticize
and protest against the institutions which have created and
perpetuated the conditions under which they have lived for
the past 100 years.
Anonymous - Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
I am 21 years old and thinking about pursuing graduate school
and specializing in Latin American studies. Never have I
felt so compelled to pursue these dreams until after viewing
this program. I was touched and my heart ached for this
family. My father was also an immigrant from Mexico who
has worked hard for what he has today. I think it only fitting
that I give back to my people by studying the reasons and
effects of Mexican immigrants on our country. What would
we be without the people that are willing to go out into
the dead heat of the summer, sun and pick the shiny, perfect
grapes you probably have in you refrigerator. It's time
for justice, it's time for the deaths to stop, and it's
time to give those who want to enter this country the same
opportunities your ancestors were given.
Jeremy - No location given
"The U.S. cannot continue to be the welfare system..." If
I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone complain
about "immigrants on welfare". Get your facts straight:
There are NO immigrants on welfare right now. The 1996 welfare
reforms made it ILLEGAL for even legal, documented immigrants
to receive welfare until they had lived in the U.S. and
worked for 5 years. The same goes for Medicaid and all other
Jeremy Cusker - Boston, Massachusetts
Many of the postings here repulse me. People exulting over
this man's death and proclaiming, "Shows him right!"
You don't have to support open borders
or amnesty for immigrants, but it would be nice if all parties
here would acknowledge that a human being--a soul-bearing,
unique individual, beloved by God like all the rest of us--died.
More pragmatically, it should be
noted that these people are not coming after "your" job.
How many people here are field hands? How many work in chicken-processing
plants? How many people here work re-treading tires? These
people are here to do jobs that are the three D's: Dirty,
Dangerous, and Demeaning. Our economy lives and dies by
them, no less than it does the high-paid CEOs, engineers,
and managers that Americans all want to become.
And finally, let me re-iterate what
I've said before: there are NO immigrants on welfare. Since
1996, it has been IMPOSSIBLE by law for even legal, documented
immigrants to receive welfare or Medicaid. Mexicans who
come here do so because they want work.
Anonymous - El Cajon, California
First, I know it's probably a pathetically small effort
on my part, but is there any way to get some money to the
family of this man who died? I especially would like to
help the younger brother who is working here. He is so young,
brave, thoughtful and alone.
Next, are there no international aid programs that exist
to set up businesses in areas like this small town in Oaxaca?
Isn't that what they are supposed to do? It would be horrible
if the grandfather now ventured out to the U.S., when a
good small chili farm might save him that horror.
And finally, borders are useless. Oaxaca, and many part
of Mexico are beautiful places, and it is their home. They
only come here to work so they can return there. The tighly
closed border we now have results in more Mexicans staying
here (not what was intended I'm sure) as getting back and
forth is so difficult and dangerous.
Illegal Mexican workers are not taking jobs away from
Americans. I don't see many Americans applying for the backbreaking
work of picking fruit and vegetables, or working in slaughterhouses,
or many of the other physically demanding, emotionally exhausting
types of work they do here.
Next time you drive by a strawberry field look hard at
how the people picking the fruit are bent over and imagine
their back pain at the end of the day. Imagine trying to
do this yourself for even 4 hours. Think about it when you
eat a strawberry...
One day we will look back on this border and wonder how
we could have let it happen. Wake up to the pain of others!
Bob Lloyd - Lake City, Florida
A very powerful but sad heart-rending story! We feel so
for those poor children and the loss of their beloved father.
Would there be a way to get our sympathy and concern directly
Anonymous - Sisters, Oregon
I was both moved and angered by Ms. Spicuzza and Ms. LoMonaco's
piece about the family in Mexico.
The rhetoric about migrant farm workers goes on ad nauseum,
but nothing is done to ease these peoples' plight.
It is obvious, that if for decades poor migrant workers
have made this journey, they must feel compelled to do so.
To leave one's family for months on end is not a decision
made lightly. I am an immigrant from the UK. I came in 1967.
Obtaining a visa was very simple then. I am grateful for
the life I have led in the US and know how hard it is to
leave one's home.
The point of this email? Is it possible to help the Matias
Garcia family directly?
A number of viewers and Web site visitors have written
to us asking for information about how to help the Garcia
family. We will be responding to those requests individually.
Anonymous - Elgin, Illinois
I also felt sorry for the family of Mr. Garcia. I felt sorry
that knowing the dangers, he still chose to risk his life
to cross our border illegally, chancing death while knowing
the effect this would have on his family. This was not his
first crossing, he had done it for 12 years! Even if he
had not made the crossing since we tightened the old border
crossing site, he would have known of the dangers from all
the other men in town that had done it. Mr. Garcia found
a way to afford an airline flight to the border but yet
apparently never tried to pay whatever fee is involved and
cross the border legally. This program seemed to be trying
to blame the U.S. for tightening up our border, but never
once put any responsibility on Mr. Garcia. If Ms. LoMonoco
wanted to do a fair report, she should also check out Mexico's
border policies for their southern border. They don't just
give undocumented immigrants a free ride home, they put
them in jail or shoot them!
Kelly Stone - Atlanta, Georgia
The U.S. cannot continue to be the welfare system and the
HMO of the world. Why don't you report on the number of
criminals that are crossing the desert into our country
illegally? One report I saw stated that up to 75% of outstanding
arrest warrants in CA were for illegal aliens. Why not discuss
how illegals coming here without going through health screenings
are bringing in TB and leprosy, diseases once eradicated
in this country? Why not report on how providing free health
care to illegals has bankrupted hospitals all over the U.S.,
to the point that health care for citizens and legal immigrants
is compromised? Let's discuss how our law enforcement systems
are strained to the breaking point with all the added crime
brought in by illegals, yet they are not allowed to deport
or in many cases even check an immigrant's legal status
upon detainment. Let's talk about how Mexico has an organized
and well thought out plan to colonize portions of America
that they feel are rightfully theirs. Let's look at how
these people are making a laughing stock of the U.S. laws
by their illegal presence here, and how they are bankrupting
our social service rolls by demanding the American tax payer
put them on the dole once they are here. I am not against
immigration, I am against illegal immigration. Illegal immigration
is destroying any semblance of an American Dream future
for our children. These people want the American dream?
Then don't take it away from MY child-- come here legally.
George Ebersole - Foster City,
Unlike those who sympathized with the Garcias family I found
myself very much angered with their offspring, and wondering
why the people in Mexico (specifically the migrant worker
sect, and illegal immigrants) don't get it through their
skulls that we have walls, laws and other barriers along
our border for a reason. I could care less that the man
died of thirst and heat in the desert. He deserved it. He
was warned, he and his friends understood the perils, and
yet they ventured forth regardless.
What is it about these people? People
who get it in their head to violate our laws and land, and
for what; for a few dollars? Despite being poor the Garcias
were not starved (as was shown, stated and demonstrated
in the piece). These are not the hapless dispossessed from
Somalia or a Balkan Republic. I did not see any indication
that the Garcia's' family was wanting for anything. Were
they poor? Most assuredly, but they were not destitute,
nor were they denied the basics of living, unlike the truly
abused of Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the
globe embroiled in conflict.
Lastly, I'm equally troubled and
outraged by the amount of viewer sympathy authored in the
reactions to the piece. The whole point and intent of the
news's story was to elicit an emotional response (the scroll
of post mortem "John Does" at the end as an example of film
making technique). It wasn't to present facts so the viewer
could weigh the pros and cons. I didn't see any interviews
with poor U.S. families trying to find jobs. Jobs that they
may've taken were it not for the migrant worker. Nor did
I see interviews with workers who went through the process
to come to the U.S. legally, and what they thought of workers
illegally entering our country. To me this was not an objective
piece, but one with an agenda.
Quite frankly I don't care that
the Garcia's' family lost their son crossing illegally into
the United States. I really don't. In fact I hope we have
more of like examples to demonstrate just how unwanted illegal
migrant workers and/or immigrants are by the American people.
Jill Shultz - Mableton, Georgia
This story should have focused more on the lack of Mexico
to fix the problems in their own country. There are billions
of people who are poorer than Mexicans who would like to
come to the US to live. Just because Mexico shares a common
border with the US it doesn't give them any right to come
Lawrence Headrick - Tunnel Hill,
You can preach "They're doing it for a better life," but
you can't take the crime out of crime.
It is a violation of U.S. Law to
cross the borders without proper permission. Those who violate
that law should not be rewarded by allowing them to remain
in the U.S. Nor should those illegal aliens be allowed to
send earnings out of the U.S.
When will America and Americans
wake up and smell the garbage that is being cast upon America
by bleeding heart liberals and traitors who aid and abet
the criminals that cross our borders illegally?
It is a known fact that people on
welfare who have children on welfare will continue the cycle
of welfare recipients.
With illegal aliens coming to the
US and taking welfare, which they do, will we be able to
avoid the ultimate state of SOCIALISM? Is that America's
Illegal aliens are criminals no
matter what other spin you put on it.
Jackson Handmacher - Norcross, Georgia
The current situation is untenable. Illegal immigration
has created an underclass of Latin Americans who neither
speak English nor have any loyalty to the USA, who send
their earnings home and, when there is no work here, resort
to crime against Americans.
Unless and until the President and Congress get serious
about this problem nothing will be done to protect our nation.
We are becoming a country of two separate people, epitomized
by the message, "press 1 for English."
Ron Satchewicz - San Diego, California
Your program indicates deaths of migrant workers illegally
crossing our borders is due to American immigration policies
and greater enforcement of our borders. That certainly is
not the cause of their deaths. First there is personal responsibility
for the choice to break our laws and place themselves at
jeopardy to the elements. And the real cause is obviously
poverty. Therefore I have to ask Where is and why not lay
some of this "responsibility" at the Mexican governments
feet? After all they are an oil rich country. What is Mexico
doing to aid their own people? Does not a country have a
right to be "Sovereign" in protecting it's borders, or are
we to simply be assimilated by law breakers. And what fairness
is it to those who enter this country legally through the
process that is already in place to become citizens who
wait sometimes years before getting here....
Anonymous - Naples, Florida
It should open the eyes of the american people to see how
good they have it here. Also maybe open the eyes of the
government to see what these people are going through to
get here just to feed their children and families to take
of there needs, its not like there coming here to save money
for porches and name brand clothes. You know they did not
choose to be born there (a poor country). Anyone from america
would be doing the same thing for their children and families.
And the people that employed the immigrants that they work
hard for there money and they shouldn't take of advantage
of there situation. this story is very sad and heart renching
but people out there need to know whats going. I hope that
every person that reads this story prays for the people
Amy - San Juan Capistrano
This was a very sad story...putting all else aside, the
fact is, children lost their father, a women lost her husband,
a mother lost her son. How said for people to judge this
man for doing what he had to do to try and provide for his
family. How can anyone even think they can judge this man
for they have not been in his shoes. Is there a way to provide
help directly to Matias Garcias family?
A number of viewers and Web site visitors have written
to us asking for information about how to help the Garcia
family. We will be responding to those requests individually.
Lucis Reyes - Fort Meyers, Florida
All I can do is cry. I used to be a migrant worker and now
I work in a university. Here people talk about exercising,
sunscreen to go walking and low carbs diets. Migrant worker
only have one thing on their mind. The survival of their
families and there is no limit to what we are welling [stet]
to do. I thank the LORD for what I have and I pray for safe
crossing for all who cross the desert.
Anonymous - Sunnyvale, California
This was a very moving report. I was online at once since
I wanted to read more about the border crossing deaths.
I was touched to read the interview with the two Berkeley
reporters - Claudine and Mary - and how their lives got
interwined with the lives of Mathias' family.
The border crossing is a very complex
problem that has its roots in the macro-economic links between
U.S. and Mexico.
It's obvious that the U.S. government
needs to do more to help alleviate these problems. This
problem has to be dealt with in many levels:
1. The U.S. government should work
with the Mexican government to improve the standard of living
2. The U.S. should completely seal the border so that people
are not forced to cross in the desert regions.
3. Make hiring of illegal immigrants illegal with strict
enforcement in the U.S.
4. Allow for legal immigration of migrant workers to fill
the need of the U.S. labor market.
My 2 cents.
William Jackson - Augusta, Georgia
A country by definition has borders. These borders preserve
the accumulated wealth and culture that it's citizens have
earned and left to each following generation. Illegal immigrants
only wish to earn wealth and send it home to their own country.
Illegal Immigrants should work and fight to change the laws
of their own country as our fore fathers did so they can
prosper through freedom and property rights and stay in
their own country. Your story is nothing but propaganda
advocating law breaking by illegal immigrants and the dissolution
of our country by it's loss of borders.
Anonymous - Santa Cruz, California
The deaths crossing the border can be laid at the feet of
advocates for illegal immigrants who oppose the kind of
comprehensive enforcement that is necessary to deter such
crossings. The virtual non-enforcement away from the border
zone that President Clinton instituted when he began "Operation
Gatekeeper" guaranteed its ineffectiveness. The logical
consequence was to make the rewards of being in the country
illegally greater while at the same time increasing the
cost of getting here, including the ultimate cost of many
lives. For most the risk of death is worth what has become
a de facto amnesty once away from the border with ever decreasing
barriers to the many opportunities available to those in
the country illegally. It should be obvious that we cannot
have an immigration policy that reflects the will of the
electorate if the laws that would make it possible aren't
going to be enforced. Yet this is what advocates for illegal
immigrants rail against and politicians refuse to do. Instead
they argue that the massive number of illegal immigrants
in the country that has resulted from their own disregard
for both immigration law and the wishes of the majority
of the electorate justifies things that would further undermine
it, from driver's licenses to amnesties and even the ultimate
abandonment of our sovereign choice of immigration levels,
an open border. Of course this is an understanding of the
illegal immigration problem that will never find its way
into a PBS program even though a large portion of the population
would likely agree with it. It goes to show just how much
the concept of serving all the public matters to the Public
Angela Wilkes - Bicknell, Indiana
This was a very moving piece of journalistic license. I
truly felt for the family who lost their son/husband/father,
but I was extremely disappointed in the fact that a certain
level of integrity had not been achieved by your staff in
the making of this feature.
What wasn't mentioned once, and I was waiting to hear
it, was that these men were BREAKING THE LAW. You mentioned
"smugglers" but avoided using the much more honest "illegal
immigrant." They are NOT victims. They take calculated risks
in showing disregard for our borders. So what? The fenceline
moved east into the desert? These aliens still choose to
cross. I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with the people who
are here legally...I wish them "Good Luck" and "God Bless
You" and I hope they find what they are looking for. I am
the child of a LEGAL immigrant who earned his citizenship
through the acceptable channels.
In January, Pres. Bush proposed a plan that would open
up hundreds of thousands of work visas or "Green Cards"
so that more migrant workers could arrive in the US legally
and work. I thought that was GREAT! This proposal is languishing
in Congress forgotten. Perhaps you could do a follow-up
Beverly Frazier - Del Mar, California
It is the poverty in the minds of their leaders that have
led Mexican citizens to leave their country in duress to
achieve a few dollars for labor. These illegal trips cost
lives, cause misery to families, and gain little. I have
visited Mexico since 1951, finding so much beauty in the
land, the people and their arts. I have also sat hours in
the lines at the border and seen them trying to sell really
awful things, knowing their innate talents could lead to
lines of people waiting to buy their work. Why is this outrageous
outcome of governmental neglect permitted to occur decade
after decade? Programs to encourage art and crafts would
cost little and produce not only money but joy for a great
Anonymous - Portland, Oregon
WHY don't we give business to Mexico, so those poor people
don't have to leave their families, risk death crossing
our borders, to work on farms at the lowest of wages, just
so their loved ones can have food and a shanty????? Its
shameful.. Mexico and Canada are our closest neighbors,
I think its time We Unite.....A concerned American
Anonymous - Corvallis, Oregon
The US should spend more money on making a livelihood possible
for more people rather than protecting our standard of living.
At the minimum water tanks should be provided in the desert.
Michael Schmid - Leucadia, California
How tragic. Unfortunately, the lack of enforcement of the
border is a safety valve for Mexico, and it's corrupt government.
Our lack of control and the management of migrant workers
is due to the poiticians being afraid of the Hispanic power
in the southwest and California. We need to allow migrant
workers to enter in a controlled fashion. Not allow the
migrant population to bankrupt the hospitals and schools
in this country.
Robert Lofft - Eugene, Oregon
I thought all three stories on this evening's telecast of
Frontline/World were exceptionally well done. I was absorbed
by them. But I was especially moved by "A Death in the Desert."
PBS has helped me to see things differently, to better understand
the plight of others much less fortunate than I. I just
wanted to say thank you.
Alan Zachwieja - Port Angeles, Washington
I am sympathetic with both sides of the argument about Mexican
migrant workers. Both those who want to gain all rights
possible for Mexican workers, and those who want to secure
our borders and kick out all illegal aliens, including Mexicans.
As a romantic who believes in freedom of travel and migration
across the face of the earth, I sympathize with poor people
seeking sustenance and money wherever they can. I always
want the people traversing the dangerous deserts of the
American Southwest to survive.
I myself have worked in the labor underground of a number
of countries, just to survive, in my travels through the
earth on a workingman's tour of the world.
But as a penniless American hitchhiking through America
in the 1970's, I always resented that the Republican farmers
and ranchers would not hire me to work in the harvest of
their fields, and only hired illegal alien Mexicans. And
I am a hard worker, and always have been. While working
in the apple harvest in England, in 1979 and 1980, I was
considered the fastest applepicker in the region, and also
with the lowest percentage of bruises. In all jobs I have
worked, I have always been conscientious and worked harder
than was expected. I say this, not to glorify myself, but
to point out the flaws of the American agricultural economy,
and the plight of earnest workers in American capitalism.
Working too hard was never appreciated by my fellow co-workers.
And I was sometimes fired from jobs, such as night supermarket
stocking, for speaking the truth and for trying to improve
the work environment. Suggestions for better efficiency
and better safety were never appreciated by management.
But that was in the 1970's. Perhaps America's current employers
have more respect and consideration for their hard-working
So now I scrape by with low-paying odd jobs, doing repairs
for aging liberals, since all the other jobs in this region
are given only to Mexicans.
Still, it is ironic that America is being reclaimed by
the Indians (only, of the Mexican regions). If all the Mexicans
in America were to go on strike for a month, or a year,
I think the American economy would collapse, because Americans
have forgotten how to work, and how a just civilization
functions. The Mexicans will inherit America. And the Republicans,
greedy for greater profits on the backs of cheap labor,
with be at fault. Greed blinds the perpetrators to truth
and decency, as they fail to see the inevitable consequences
of their poor choices.