Border crossings

I just found this excellent CNN article on the 1993 disappearance of Jose Francisco Fuentes Periera. Before this I had known practically nothing about his disappearance.

Seven-year-old Jose, along with two older brothers, his sister and an aunt, disappeared shortly after sneaking over the US border in southern California. They were part of a large group of people being smuggled in and someone yelled “policia,” and then everyone freaked out and scattered. When they all calmed down and found each other again, Jose was missing. The smugglers, after escorting everyone to safety, went back with a search party, but he’s never been found.

The prospects of finding Jose seem pretty bleak. They’re not even sure exactly where he disappeared, since they were all out in the middle of nowhere. Further, Jose didn’t know his date of birth or his last name, and he might not have known his real first name, since everyone called him by the nickname Paquito. I suppose it goes without saying that he didn’t speak any English either. The family is originally from El Salvador. Jose and his siblings was going to join their mother, who had moved to the US four or five years before, leaving them to be raised by grandparents. They lived in a small, remote village and Jose had never attended school.

Quite a few people — no one knows how many — disappear or die trying to cross the border every year. Because more urban areas are harder to get through, they try to go through the desert, where conditions are treacherous and it’s easy to get lost. Then, naturally, people are afraid to report disappearances and bring themselves to the attention of the authorities, and it’s likely that the authorities themselves will squabble over jurisdictional issues. I tried to see how many others on Charley disappeared during a border crossing and came up with Melvin Cedillo, Sandra Aguilar-Granados, Delfina Guzman, Miguel Cisneros and Armando Rivera Noriega. I’m sure this barely scratches the surface of the problem, though. I also have a few illegal immigrants who disappeared within the United States.

Like sex trade workers, people who vanish or become crime victims while illegally crossing the border are seen as having brought this on themselves, and I’ve seen some people speculate as to why the cops should bother to look for them, since it’s not like there aren’t enough crimes to investigate already. I think that kind of behavior/thinking is disgusting. However you stand on the immigration issue, these people are people, and if they disappeared within our borders then our authorities have an obligation to try to locate them.