La Linea (The Border)

“La Linea” they call it – bars of steel

built to disrupt the natural order of migration.

There are no borders for politicians,

corporations, or narcos. Not for the

grey whales migrating from the Beaufort Sea

to the warm waters of Baja California.

Not for the Monarch Butterfly’s 2,500 mile

journey from Michoacan over the Great Lakes.

Only for the poor, the people with

skin like dusty, sun-baked clay.


We are born with dreams in our hearts,

looking for a better life for our families.

We make the trek to the country of dreams,

where the opportunities are vast and possible.

With hearts as heavy as our hunger and

as fearful as the incessant violence, we

kiss our children goodbye, imprinting their

faces in the softest part of our memories,

recording their voices into the sounds of our breath,

the only sounds that will puncture the suffocating

stillness of the desert whose unforgiving peaks

and valleys we attempt to conquer.


We leave for the country where streets

are paved with gold, hard work leads to

success, and education is the pathway to freedom.

Our expectations are high: back home

they talked about steady, abundant work,

about being able to save money to build a house

and start a little business for our family.

Not long after we get to the land of dreams,

we find ourselves toiling the fields for three

dollars an hour, working as dishwashers in

fancy restaurants where we can’t afford

a meal, competing with each other on

a corner for a day’s work like hungry ants.


We pay our life savings to the coyote, and

sometimes we pay with our lives, lured by

naïve expectations to 2,000 border-miles

of decomposed aspirations and desires.

“La Linea” they call it, an infected gash,

ripping lineages apart, disregarding cultures,

traditions and stories once told in the mother tongue.

T-shirts and tennis-shoes strewn about like

wilted wild flowers are a reminder of the

forgotten ghosts still wandering the parched sea,

trying to find their way home one last time.


We come here to escape government corruption,

officials taking our land because we don’t have

the right deed; to escape trade agreements pricing

out our crops and our labor, where the cost

of a coke is cheaper than “un kilo de tortillas”;

to escape the blood-drenched streets from

a war on drugs with endless consumption.

But it’s no different here. Just more insidious.

We’re slaves of the land our ancestors once owned.

and our spirits fade like the promise of a better life.


We walk in silence through the desert, talking

makes our mouths dryer. The crumbling of the earth

under our feet alerts us to the bones left behind

as a fine for dreaming and desiring more. The sun

lacerates our neck, face and arms like whipping flares.

The moon stings with cold, numbing our bones deep

into our remembrance of a place once familiar.

There’s fear in our eyes, but we don’t acknowledge it.

We simply glance at each other with brooding eyes,

praying for ”them bones, them bones, them dry bones.”


Some of us will make it to the other side, “al otro lado,”

with grit in our hands and determination in our feet.

Some will die in this merciless landscape with

no last name, no history, no DNA, to show we were

once here. Some of us will go on living, but slowly

die of heartache and disappointment, drinking away

the bitterness, stagnant in our throats. Some of us will

have a new dream, to go back, just one more time,

it will be the only thing that keeps us alive in this new

world made of competition, acquisition, and status.


With the help of volunteers, Border Angels leaves dozens of gallon jugs of water in the desert along high-traffic migrant paths. Why? Since 1994, more than 10,000 sons and daughter, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives have died from dehydration in their attempt to across our increasingly militarized border. Our water helps reduce the 475 plus deaths every year, that is at least one death per day. This past Saturday I was honored to volunteer for a desert water drop. I got a more intimate view of the life and death struggles that my brothers and sisters must overcome to escape hunger, state, narco, and gang violence, and to reunite with loved ones.

One of the most poignant and heart-breaking stories told to me during our water drop was of a 5 year old boy traveling with 19 men including his dad.  The little boy kept asking the men for water, but he was only met with head shakes.  The boy was the last to die, taking his last breath next to his father, who along with the 18 other men had already died.  This trip was not only about saving lives, it was also a powerful opportunity to invigorate me to continue the fight against borders, against policies that put profit over people, and laws that criminalize people who are simply doing what we would do in their shoes.


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