Yes, I’m sure immigrants are crossing the desert by foot for the free water

I can’t believe that this is even a dispute, or that there are people who seriously think it should be illegal to leave jugs of water out for desperate immigrants walking across the Arizona desert.

Two years ago, Daniel J. Millis was ticketed for littering after he was caught by a federal Fish and Wildlife officer placing gallon jugs of water for passing immigrants in the brush of this 118,000-acre preserve.

“I do extreme sports, and I know I couldn’t walk as far as they do,” said Mr. Millis, driving through the refuge recently. “It’s no surprise people are dying.”

Mr. Millis, 31, was not the only one to get a ticket. Fourteen other volunteers for Tucson-based organizations that provide aid to immigrants crossing from Mexico to the United States were similarly cited. Most of the cases were later dropped, but Mr. Millis and another volunteer for a religious group called No More Deaths were convicted of defacing the refuge with their water jug drops.

But opponents say the water drops are encouraging immigrants to continue to come across the border illegally. The critics say there ought to be Border Patrol agents stationed near the water stations to arrest those who are crossing illegally as soon as they finish drinking. So furious are some at the practice of aiding immigrants that they have slashed open the water jugs, crushed them with their vehicles or simply poured the water into the desert.

Yes, I’m sure that undocumented people, crossing the Arizona desert, are really only doing it because they know there will be free water.

Mr. Millis, a former high school Spanish teacher who now works for the Sierra Club, disputes the notion that leaving out water jugs is luring more immigrants. He said it was border enforcement efforts that had pushed those seeking to cross into dangerous desert areas.

As for spoiling the environment, he said he collected as many jugs as he left behind. He also recounts how he found the dead body of a 14-year-old Salvadoran girl near the refuge days before he was ticketed.

Water jugs aren’t the problem.


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79 comments for “Yes, I’m sure immigrants are crossing the desert by foot for the free water

  1. Lance
    September 27, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Well, it depends. Is it tap, sparkling or flavored?

  2. konkonsn
    September 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

    That part, where he found the dead 14-year-old…yeah, fuck all the people who slashed open or crushed that water or poured it out…just fuck them all.

    Sorry, I’m just pissed right now.

  3. September 27, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I agree that the idea that free water is going to encourage more illegal immigration is illogical at best, downright moronic at worst. People who are desperate enough to cross a barren desert are going to do it whether people are leaving out water or not.

    On the other hand, and this is not going to win me any popularity points I know, but the tickets are being handed out by the Fish and Wildlife folk, and their concern is just that, the safety of Fish and Wildlife, not immigration policy. Leaving stuff out, namely plastic jugs, in the middle of a wildlife refuge, from their perspective, is littering and poses a risk to the wildlife that they are supposed to be protecting. No Matter how noble the intention is.

    However I do think that without over-stringent and unreasonable immigration policy, this wouldn’t be an issue.

  4. September 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    He also recounts how he found the dead body of a 14-year-old Salvadoran girl near the refuge days before he was ticketed.

    That’s horrible.

    I have no more substantive comment to make at the moment. I knew people died on the crossing all the time, but somehow… that brought it home.

  5. September 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I completely understand andrea’s point. I didn’t blame the officer for issuing the ticket. But I thought people would react by discussing other possibilities (biodegradable? and then hiring people to collect them?) and not pettily and bringing up that this would encourage more illegal immigration, which is outrageous.

  6. KW
    September 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you for this post, Jill. I think this really highlights how desperate some people are to get out of their country. I got into a discussion with a co-worker recently about illegal immigrants. I got very worked up and went on about how, as white people that were born American citizens, it’s really easy to say “Such and such group of people should just do such and such” without thinking about it too hard. You can’t know someone else’s situation, what it’s like in their country, what their reasons were for coming here, and to just ignore all of it and say “Well, I think they just stay in their country/learn english/apply for a visa” really shows just how privileged we are. People are so desperate that they are dying while walking through a desert. But dammit, they better learn english when they get here!

  7. Bitter Scribe
    September 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Gee, why aren’t they poisoning those water jugs instead of destroying them? That would solve the immigration problem even faster.

    How depraved, how fucking inhumane do you have to be to deny a thirsty man water because he comes from the wrong side of a border?

  8. September 27, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    I support the people placing the water jugs. I believe that our immigration system is terribly harmful and should be changed to make it much easier to immigrate. Still, I think that the claim that “water drops are encouraging immigrants to continue to come across the border illegally” is probably true. Dismissing it by pretending that the claim is that people would be crossing for the “free water” instead of that people are more likely to make a crossing if there’s a reasonable chance of finding water along the way confuses things. The people who oppose leaving the water, or go as far as actively destroying the containers, believe that leaving water will lead to more crossing in the future. This belief is probably not wrong; it’s that they value keeping people out more than keeping people alive that’s wrong.

  9. protocoach
    September 27, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I think you’re right to some degree, but the guy also pointed out that he was picking up the empty jugs. I have a hard time seeing what harm a plastic jug could cause if it’s picked up relatively quickly.

  10. September 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    protocoach:
      

    That’s ONE guy picking up after himself. We don’t know that every person who is taking part in the water drop is practicing the same foresight.

  11. AJB
    September 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Read it and weep:

    Since Operation Gatekeeper went into effect in 1994, an estimated 5,600 migrants have died while attempting unauthorized border crossings.

    http://www.aclusandiego.org/news_item.php?article_id=000888

    This year, Arizona became known as the state with the toughest policies against illegal immigration. That’s why Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Eric Peters didn’t think the Pima County coroner would see a surge in migrants killed while trying to cross Arizona’s southern deserts.

    But despite beefed-up efforts to stem illegal immigration and an economy that makes work harder to come by, migrants are still trying to get into the country. And many are dying.

    In 2007, a record 218 bodies were found in Pima County. This year, the death toll could be worse. Already, authorities have recovered the remains of 170 migrants.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/24/nation/la-na-border-deaths-20100824

  12. wembley
    September 27, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    This reminds me of pro-lifers, weirdly. And abstinence-only education. And the people that oppose needle exchange. People are doing XYZ, regardless of its legality, and XYZ is or can be dangerous. So we can try to make XYZ legal and safe(r), or we can just ban it with the mindset of, “You died from doing XYZ? You deserved it.” There’s this deranged idea on the right that (A) no one EVER breaks the law and (B) if you break (certain) laws, you deserve to die.

  13. melancholia
    September 27, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    wembley: This reminds me of pro-lifers, weirdly. And abstinence-only education. And the people that oppose needle exchange. People are doing XYZ, regardless of its legality, and XYZ is or can be dangerous. So we can try to make XYZ legal and safe(r), or we can just ban it with the mindset of, “You died from doing XYZ? You deserved it.” There’s this deranged idea on the right that (A) no one EVER breaks the law and (B) if you break (certain) laws, you deserve to die.  (Quote this comment?)

    I think that is a bit of a strawman. I don’t think non-Glenn Beck right-wingers would say that immigrants “deserve” to die because they cross into the U.S. without papers. I think they would just argue that we should not allow people to make the immigrants’ activity easier by reducing the risks associated with it.

    In 2006 and 2007, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 illegal immigrants crossed the refuge annually

    I had no idea the number was that large – just in this one refuge? I can kind of sympathize with the position of Fish & wildlife – that is a huge burden on federal lands.

    And is it really necessarily inhumane to want to enforce immigration laws? Even if there was immigration law reform, you cannot seriously doubt that there would still be millions of desperate people from south of the border who want in – and those people would continue to try to break the law to enter. You have to do something right? I wonder how many people so outraged at the Fish & Wildlife position here would just let everyone who is poor and desperate come here if they wanted to. Maybe I am being unfair.

  14. a lawyer
    September 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I think the argument isn’t that people cross the desert for the water, it’s that the water reduces the risk involved in crossing the desert. If it’s less risky, more people will try. Whether that’s a good reason to let people die of thirst is another question (the answer is no).

  15. September 27, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I have no words for how angry I am made by this child’s death, and all the other deaths we never heard about. I hope I have heard for the last time someone defend this sort of thing by talking about Christianity. I cannot understand how a person can approve of taking water from children so that they die of thirst. I cannot understand how they can claim to be human, never mind a follower of Jesus, If I ever hear this again, then I will read them the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew.. Perhaps they might listen to Jesus if they don’t listen to anyone else: you take water from the thirsty, you go to hell. It’s there in black and white.

  16. wembley
    September 27, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    I think they would just argue that we should not allow people to make the immigrants’ activity easier by reducing the risks associated with it.

    My point was, and is: They will cross no matter what. You can alleviate the risk, and therefore help stop the deaths, or you can let people die. But they’ll keep coming as long as people here will hire them and as long as Americans refuse to do the labor that immigrants come here willing to do.

  17. Bushfire
    September 27, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Someone who is dumping out water destined for thirsty travellers is a passive-agressive murderer.

  18. je
    September 27, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    What Wembley (#16) said. I’d only add that they’ll keep coming as long as the United States continues to sign on to unjust trade agreements **coughNAFTAcough** that destabilize entire national economies and force the devaluation of national currency to the point that not only are jobs lost here in the US but they are sent abroad to places where people are then forced to work for pennies on the dollar, causing economic migration to the very place from whence their troubles began. I don’t buy the “increase the risk, reduce the tide” argument for a second. This isn’t some Learned Hand tort analysis – it’s real, desperate people.

  19. Miss S
    September 27, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    But they’ll keep coming as long as people here will hire them and as long as Americans refuse to do the labor that immigrants come here willing to do.
    Really? They are getting hired because they work for very little. That doesn’t mean Americans don’t want those jobs.

  20. evil_fizz
    September 27, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    I don’t think non-Glenn Beck right-wingers would say that immigrants “deserve” to die because they cross into the U.S. without papers. I think they would just argue that we should not allow people to make the immigrants’ activity easier by reducing the risks associated with it.

    I don’t see a meaningful difference between this “Well, them’s the breaks!” attitude and the “Well, we don’t want to encourage this sort of behavior…” You see it all the damn time in the talks about Gardasil (“Well, how can we prevent people from having non-socially sanctioned sex if we don’t threaten them with a disease?!”) and needle exchanges (“You’re endorsing heroin use!!”)

    The bottom line is that the speaker appears, at best, callous towards human suffering and misery. When you’re talking about something that can demonstrably reduce casualties potentially incentivizing the wrong behavior, your moral calculus is a little screwy.

  21. piny
    September 28, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Melancholia and a lawyer, I think the analogy to abortion is apt: people don’t simply stop doing it, no matter how horribly dangerous it is. Many of the people coming here to work are coming in the face of destitution. The desert crossing–with the attendant risks of murder, theft, kidnapping, and death from exposure; and the certain difficulty of life here–is the better option. So the question of whether we would allow is a red herring. We cannot allow or prohibit, really. We can use force to prevent people from crossing in safety, or we can allow fewer people to do.

  22. piny
    September 28, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Sorry–“allow fewer people to die.”

  23. Q Grrl
    September 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

    It’s a wildlife refuge. The needs of the wildlife trump human needs, no matter how desperate.

    Then again, decomposing bodies pollute environments as readily as plastic jugs.

  24. preying mantis
    September 28, 2010 at 9:35 am

    “But they’ll keep coming as long as people here will hire them and as long as Americans refuse to do the labor that immigrants come here willing to do.”

    Seriously? This has fuck-all to do with jobs Americans don’t want. With unemployment as high as it is and poverty skyrocketing, there’s pretty much no such thing. This has everything to do with employers wanting workers who they can pay abusive wages, demand labor abusive hours under abusive conditions, and sometimes actually physically and/or sexually abuse, who then have no path to redress.

    “I think the argument isn’t that people cross the desert for the water, it’s that the water reduces the risk involved in crossing the desert. If it’s less risky, more people will try.”

    From the stories reported by the border patrol when they pick up people in distress, it seems like a fair number of them are lied to about the risk in the first place. Leaving water out for someone who had a brutal multi-day trek described as a hard three-hour walk is unlikely to encourage anything, but it will save that person’s life if they’re abandoned or get lost.

    I still don’t understand what the hell the people who destroy these jugs are thinking. I mean, seriously. It’s unspeakably, jaw-droppingly cruel.

  25. September 28, 2010 at 9:46 am

    There are groups in Arizona who go out into the desert to pick up the “litter” that migrants leave behind. These items include backpacks, clothing, shoes, books, Bibles, family photos, cans of food and yes, water jugs that were either bought from one of the stores on the Mexican border towns whose sole economy anymore is to supply migrants for their journeys, or found along the way because they were put out by folks like Mr. Mills. I spent a day with one of those groups. The migrants leave a lot of these things behind because the coyotes force them to drop all their possessions and change into clean clothes so that if they are stopped on the highway, the authorities might not notice that they’re travelworn.

    So there are groups in the desert trying to pick up after the migrants. But ticketing people for leaving water is one effort to discourage humanitarian work against a large, systemic injustice.

  26. September 28, 2010 at 10:21 am

    wembley: They will cross no matter what. You can alleviate the risk, and therefore help stop the deaths, or you can let people die. But they’ll keep coming as long as people here will hire them and as long as Americans refuse to do the labor that immigrants come here willing to do.

    Individuals will decide to cross or not cross based on their circumstances in mexico, their expectations about life in the usa, and their expectations about the crossing. Make the crossing harder (deadlier) and fewer people will try. Put out water (enough to make a difference) and more people will try.

    (Again, I think putting out water is good, dumping out the water already placed there is bad, and the usa should be making it easier not harder to immigrate)

  27. Kristen J.
    September 28, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Miss S and Preying Mantis

    See UFW asks any USian to come take their jobs. At last check only 2 people accepted.

  28. MertvayaRuka
    September 28, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Bitter Scribe: Gee, why aren’t they poisoning those water jugs instead of destroying them? That would solve the immigration problem even faster.  

    Because this is as close as they can get to actually murdering them as they cross without it being legally considered murder. It hasn’t been that long since one of those odious border watch groups made a little mockumentary about doing just that; shooting people crossing the border and burying them in unmarked graves in the desert. It’s not like they’ve gotten any more subtle about what they really want to do since then.

  29. wembley
    September 29, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Make the crossing harder (deadlier) and fewer people will try

    I’m glad you agree that keeping the water out there is a good thing, that we should make it easier to come here, etc., but as I and other people have been saying: the above just isn’t true. Just like making abortion illegal (therefore deadlier) didn’t make the abortion rate go down.

    And thanks, Kristen J, for the UFW “Take Our Jobs” link. I absolutely agree that a big part of this is Americans not wanting to be horribly abused and work for slave wages, but… I don’t think it’s ridiculously out-there to think that there are middle- and upper-middle class unemployed Americans that, even were the conditions and pay better, probably wouldn’t be taking some of these jobs.

  30. Kristen J.
    September 29, 2010 at 8:39 am

    wembley,

    My grandparents were (legal) migrant workers. It is backbreaking, bone jarring, life shortening work even if the working conditions are good. I don’t expect most middle-class USians would be able to that amount of physical labor.

    But in a prior career, I was responsible for hiring physical labor to do construction. These were union jobs, paying from $20 to $40 per hour (depending on experience) with full benefits and lots of available overtime. I often had to hire documented workers from Mexico (and get them into the union) to fill those jobs. Under the very best working conditions, with breaks and a fully stocked and air-conditioned rest trailer, not very many people have the strength and endurance to take on that kind of labor.

  31. piny
    September 29, 2010 at 9:51 am

    It’s a wildlife refuge. The needs of the wildlife trump human needs, no matter how desperate.

    I hope this is a joke? I hope you don’t honestly feel that the biggest problem with dead bodies in a wildlife refuge is the environmental impact of all the extra carrion? I hope your biggest concern here isn’t that these people might damage the landscape while they’re fleeing from arrest or dying of exposure? If it is a joke, then I’m really sorry to have misread you.

    These people are suffering and dying because they don’t have any option besides the terrible risk of the border crossing. This story isn’t all that brutal, relatively speaking–for example, some coyotes kidnap their customers and torture them in basement holding cells until their families can come up with a few thousand extra dollars. The practice has become increasingly common as undocumented status has become more criminal. It’s common knowledge, all this danger, and still people cross over.

    I don’t understand why this isn’t viewed as a humanitarian crisis that deserves our compassionate attention. I don’t understand why we are even talking about the jobs these people might take once they get here, if they survive. These people are desperate; they are in need. They are dying on our land. This is our country. We are responsible.

  32. Q Grrl
    September 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Hey, I’m all for being compassionate, but I don’t have a problem with having certain parts of the earth set aside where the compassion goes to the land and animals. No biggie.

    Meanwhile, we can improve human conditions in Mexico/Central America and the US and work to making it unnecessary for heavy foot traffic, pollution, drug trafficking and human trafficking to take place in protected spaces (or anywhere for that matter).

  33. piny
    September 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    No. That’s just straight-up fucked. It’s a fucked derail, a fucked priority, a fucked angle. What about the wildlife is just fucked, and it’s a fucked attitude that is only even appearing here because we’re talking about the illegals, who are not really people, whose deaths are not really upsetting or tragic.

    There’s no need or justification for setting parts of the earth aside from normal compassionate concern towards human beings in extremity. And you can’t justify any interest in improving “human conditions” if you can see humans anywhere as so much misplaced meat. Water jugs vs. unspoiled habitat is just as stupid and selfish a false dilemma as water jugs vs. living wages. And both are based on a disgusting attitude towards people who can’t wait for encompassing assistance from a society that sees them as so many fugitive vermin.

  34. Q Grrl
    September 29, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    I see we view things differently. I don’t think it is fucked up to prioritize something above human concerns. Especially when we have alternatives that are getting hung up in political squabbling, etc.

    I have no problem with immigration. But you probably know that.

    [maybe you missed the part above where people were shocked! shocked! that someone might try to protect wilderness areas by issuing tickets. Maybe. Or maybe you just want to spout “fucked” at me. Anyhoo. It’s not a derail dear Piny; it’s part of the puzzle]

  35. piny
    September 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Yes, we do. I think that human concerns–that is, human life–is more important than the principles underlying the preservation of wildlife refuges. I also think there’s no conflict; I think that it’s untrue that providing water to dying people lost in a wildlife refuge has any significant impact on the refuge itself. I think that using littering laws against samaritans is dishonest as well as immoral. But still, if the choice is between harming a habitat and letting people die, I vote for the people’s lives. And if the discussion is about whether dead human bodies or live ones are more harmful to the environment they pollute, something is seriously wrong. Whether laws against lifesaving measures are enacted to save the right animals or kill the right people, they’re wrong.

    I don’t think this is about Immigration–not in the sense of less or more legal, less or more restricted, less or more economically sound, less or more economically feasible. Our current situation involves people dying in the desert. They’re dying because legal immigration is impossible; they’re dying because border patrol is increasingly militarized; they’re dying because our economy is increasingly rapacious both domestically and abroad.

    They’re also dying because we have decided that a wildlife refuge is not a place to save human lives, and because we have decided to punish people who go out into the desert to save human lives with a little water in a little plastic. That’s the immediate problem: people are dying because we punish people who want to save their lives. Those big questions of border protection are as important in their big sense as those big questions of environmental protection, but this isn’t a puzzle. It isn’t complicated at all. The solution is to stop issuing tickets, because the problem is a dead young girl a stone’s throw away from an oasis.

  36. Q Grrl
    September 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Hey, I don’t disagree with your opinion, it’s just not mine. I understand what you are saying. I also think that a few human lives lost is not such a high price to pay, as compared to wiping out entire species. Obviously our ideas of compassion are divergent.

    • September 29, 2010 at 1:18 pm

      Hey, I don’t disagree with your opinion, it’s just not mine. I understand what you are saying. I also think that a few human lives lost is not such a high price to pay, as compared to wiping out entire species. Obviously our ideas of compassion are divergent.

      …except that leaving water jugs out for human beings that we know are walking through the desert is not “wiping out entire species.”

      I agree that we have to protect wildlife refuges. But read the whole linked article — it’s not clear that a sealed water jug meant for human consumption meets the definition of “garbage” that is barred from being left in such refuges. No one her is arguing that we shouldn’t have wildlife refuges, or that the Parks Department shouldn’t ticket people who litter in those refuges. But here, we’re talking about full, sealed water jugs that don’t pose immediate harm to the environment, and which are picked up by the people who leave them. We can go ahead and not ticket the water-jug-leavers while still ticketing people who actually litter. That won’t wipe out any species, and hopefully it’ll mean fewer people die while trudging across the desert.

  37. Shelby
    September 29, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    The whole existence of a “nature refuge” is made possible by the murder of people who already lived on that land just fine. The separating of “nature” and “people” happened with colonialism. And modern conservation efforts are continuing that genocidal tradition (obviously, as evidenced by comments in this thread).

  38. Q Grrl
    September 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Shelby: a nature refuge is not the same as a wildlife refuge. But hey, if you want to diss current efforts to protect wildlife, go ahead. Hyperbole aside, do you care to back up your claims that the US is practicing genocidal (!) activities via the modern conservation movement?

    Jill: it isn’t just the water jug. It’s the foot traffic of the people coming across the border, the people leaving the water jugs, and the people ticketing the people leaving the jugs. Urine, feces, discarded objects, trampling of plants, etc., will cause adverse effects on wildlife populations. I don’t think it’s a minor point. I also don’t expect many people to agree with me that it should be a concern.

  39. Kristen J.
    September 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Or…OR….we could create emergency “rest” stations in the park with adequate signage. Then no littering, fresh water, AND perhaps access to emergency services. I’m sure others have thought about it. But there is no reason we can’t protect the animals and keep people from dying from dehydration.

  40. Q Grrl
    September 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Or we could work on the conditions in the US and in Mexico that lead to so many desperate people making such a dangerous choice.

  41. Sheelzebub
    September 29, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    How about this–we work on the conditions that would push people to make such a desperate choice and such a perilous journey to the US while simultaneously acknowledging that their lives are important and not sweating water left out for them to drink? If someone is desperate enough to risk their lives by crossing the desert, I don’t think they’re going to worry about the fact that they’re in a wildlife refuge. They will go through (or die trying) regardless.

    Just saying.

  42. Jim
    September 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    “There’s no need or justification for setting parts of the earth aside from normal compassionate concern towards human beings in extremity. And you can’t justify any interest in improving “human conditions” if you can see humans anywhere as so much misplaced meat.”

    Except that we really are a lot of misplaced meat. By any definition we are a weed species, a pandemic weed species, and our life is not worth more than anyone lesles’ Q Grrl is right. Sghe just is. But I doubt either she or I would start by denying water to people on the edge of death. These migrants are the least of the problems and I applaud these efforts to set water out for them. If the planet really is your concern, you start by cutting water off to NYC and London and places like that, the real nerve centers of the despoliation and destruction.

    And Shelby’s self-righteous censoriousness is just weak. She is referring presumably to clearances of Native Americans, which didn’t happen along this border. In fact the Tohono O’dham are one of the jurisdictions and communities hardest hit by the externalities of this migration and exploitation of cheap labor. Tribal lands have been ravaged by smuggling activity and drug operations, in Arizona and all over the west.

  43. September 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Jeff Kaufman: Make the crossing harder (deadlier) and fewer people will try.

    wembley: the above just isn’t true. Just like making abortion illegal (therefore deadlier) didn’t make the abortion rate go down.

    I’m not sure abortion is a good analogy here, but I’m also not sure the data backs you up. I agree that making abortion illegal makes it more deadly and that people continue having abortions. It’s hard to get good statistics on illegal activity, though, so how would we know that prohibition has no effect on abortion rates? There may well be studies on this, but a bit of looking on google didn’t turn anything up.

    In the end, though, I don’t actually know what effect putting out water has on the number of people from mexico willing to brave the crossing. I (and I suspect all of us) only have speculation. The idea that guesses of the potential difficulty would have an effect on how many people decided to try makes sense to me but I don’t have any more to go on than that.

  44. Tom Foolery
    September 29, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    If the planet really is your concern, you start by cutting water off to NYC and London and places like that, the real nerve centers of the despoliation and destruction.

    Like Ghandi said, be the change you wish to see in the world.

  45. WaterStationPrez
    September 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I am the president of Water Station, the group that maintains water sites in California. We do not significantly “make it easier” for people to cross the border; we try to make it non-fatal. Depending on who does the counting, somewhere between 5,500 and 8,000 people have died in the deserts over the past 15 years.

    We have licenses for 400 stations in San Diego and Imperial Counties. We have an excellent relationship with the Border Patrol, and sometimes in the heart of Summer, they and we are the only people on the trails.

    I can reassure you regarding littering, if that is not a real concern. Every organization who does this work — No More Deaths, Samaritans and Humane Borders in Arizona and my group in California — also leads clean-up activities. It seems that most humanitarians are also environmentalists.

    We cannot tell you how many people our stations have saved. I can tell you that as long as people are dying, we will continue the work.

  46. Jim
    September 29, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    ‘Like Ghandi said, be the change you wish to see in the world. ”

    NAFTA has rubbled the ecomony of the southern Mexican states, the source of a large proportion of the migration. Most people go to cities in northen Mexico, and the remainder go north. It costs a fair bit to cross north, and more to make it to the destinations where people find work. During the last, very close presidential election the leftist candidate said the gringos should close the border, it’s their right anyway, and anyway Mexico should offer enough opportunities to Mexicans that no one would have to leave, and closing the border would force a crisis.

    It’s hugely disruptive and destructive to the sending communities. It is also bound to have some good effects – the remittances are the first real cash those communities have ever seen, and the first real power and self-determination in centuries – their own schools in their own languages, street lights, paving, that kind of thing.

  47. piny
    September 29, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I don’t think it’s a minor point. I also don’t expect many people to agree with me that it should be a concern.

    It isn’t whether or not people should; no one does. You well might, but you’re surrounding yourself with a bunch of cynics. They don’t care about the wildlife any more than Operation Rescue cares about teenage incest victims.

    For comparison, say we weren’t talking about undocumented immigrants. Say some wildlife refuge were being trespassed on by teenagers from a local high school–or young adults from a university. Hazing ritual, dabbles in witchcraft, traditional year-end dare, whatever. Just a perennial invasion that had been going on for years or decades, something everyone knew about.

    Say some of these foolish young people died every year. Say that despite that, and whatever usual deterrence local and parks authorities might attempt, they kept coming. And dying.

    Do you think that the response to the deaths would be the same? Do you think the emphasis would be on apprehending them, rather than on rescuing them? Do you think that anyone would derive any satisfaction, however grim, from the prospect of parents arriving at the morgue to identify their bodies?

    Do you think that if some local adults decided to help these kids, that local authorities would punish them, or that fellow citizens would thwart them by destroying emergency water depots when they found them?

    Myself, I doubt it. So for purposes of this discussion, I don’t concern myself with the wildlife.

  48. piny
    September 29, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    But I doubt either she or I would start by denying water to people on the edge of death.

    Yes, but…this is exactly what is happening, remember? These tickets are being handed out in order to deny water to people on the edge of death. That’s why people are shocked and horrified, and that’s why people seem rather dismissive of conservationist fears: people are dying of thirst in the desert, and the authorities are clamping down on private efforts to save lives.

  49. piny
    September 29, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    And, no, q grrl pretty much would start right there, so long as the immigrants can’t keep out of the wildlife refuge:

    I also think that a few human lives lost is not such a high price to pay, as compared to wiping out entire species.

    It would be irresponsible not to eat Irish babies.

  50. September 29, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that human life is precious, and that no one of us is more deserving of that life than someone crossing a desert in hopes of finding some measure of economic security. I don’t give a fuck what that land is set aside for, I do not believe human lives are disposable.

    And really, let’s not pretend like people crossing the desert are causing more damage than people who live in wealthier nations, that somehow our ecological footprints don’t count because we personally are not traipsing across wildlife refuges. The food we eat, the energy we use, the clothes we wear, the appliances we buy.

    Seriously, if we’re going to talk about the assumed damage to a wildlife refuge caused by leaving filled jugs of water or by people crossing it, can we talk about blood minerals? Palm oil? Are y’all really sure your consumer habits are not supporting even greater damage than the notional damage caused by these water bottles?

  51. Tom Foolery
    September 29, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    ‘Like Ghandi said, be the change you wish to see in the world. ”

    NAFTA has rubbled the ecomony of the southern Mexican states, the source of a large proportion of the migration. Most people go to cities in northen Mexico, and the remainder go north.

    I apologize for my lack of clarity. I was suggesting that, if you believe that it would be good if major metropolitan areas were deprived of water, you ought to shut off your own utilities and let nature take its course.

  52. JDP
    September 29, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    The really outrageous thing is that plenty of people use these reserve areas for sporting and recreational purposes. Here’s the website for Buenos Aires National Wildlife Preserve, the park in question:

    http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/buenosaires/

    Under “recreation” you’ll find that they encourage horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, picnicking, and camping. Directly under the link for “recreation” you’ll find the link for “hunting” which states that hunting is permitted on the 90% of the preserve that doesn’t experience high foot traffic.

    Leaving jugs of water for migrants harms local wildlife more than hunting, mountain biking, and horseback riding? Are you fucking mad?

    “Environmental” nativism is just a smokescreen for some pretty foul racism. Especially when numerous human lives are at stake.

    • September 29, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      I am the president of Water Station, the group that maintains water sites in California. We do not significantly “make it easier” for people to cross the border; we try to make it non-fatal. Depending on who does the counting, somewhere between 5,500 and 8,000 people have died in the deserts over the past 15 years.

      WaterStationPrez, God bless you. You do amazing work. Please know that there are so many people supporting you and wishing you all the best.

  53. JDP
    September 30, 2010 at 1:57 am

    I still can’t fucking believe that anyone at all thinks that “not dying of dehydration” is an unacceptable use of public wilderness lands, but “shooting guns at animals for sport” is totally okay.

    But hey, there are endangered animals at stake….which animals? Here’s the list:

    The Refuge is known for the endangered masked bobwhite and its captive breeding program. The captive-reared masked bobwhite have been released onto the refuge for many years, but currently refuge biologists are focusing more effort on habitat management in order to increase survival of existing wild bobwhite. As part of a Refuge-wide Habitat Management Plan, a variety of habitat management strategies will be implemented to improve habitat conditions for both endangered and non-endangered species.

    The Pima pineapple cactus and the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl are two other endangered species on the refuge that are actively managed. Refuge biology staff and volunteers spend many hours annually surveying for these species prior to and after prescribed burning. This monitoring is done in order to protect the species and learn about the effects fire may have on them. The Jaguar, Chiricahua leopard frog, Kearney’s bluestar, southwestern willow flycatcher, and the lesser long-nosed bat are other endangered species that utilize the refuge.

    Okay, so two endangered populations (NOT species) of birds and one subspecies of cactus are actively being managed in this wildlife refuge. This includes a desert subspecies of the bobwhite quail, a species that is common enough to be a game species throughout North America, and a desert subspecies of the ferruginous pygmy owl, a common species that spans much of Central and South America. This management involves captive breeding and release as well as habitat maintenance. As far as I can tell, the management plans for these populations are not at odds with foot migration through these wildlife reserves. For example, here’s a US management report on the Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl:

    The incidence and impact of direct and indirect
    human-related deaths among wild birds are not well
    known. Casualties caused by pest control, pollution,
    collisions with cars, TV towers, and glass windows,
    electrocution by power lines, and cat predation are
    often underestimated, although likely increasing in
    occurrence due to human population growth (Banks
    1979, Klem 1979, Churcher and Lawton 1987). Even
    where human-related deaths are uncommon, they
    may still substantially affect populations of rare birds.
    Given the propensity for cactus ferruginous pygmyowls
    to occur in residential areas in Arizona, humanrelated
    factors may be a significant cause of owl
    mortality there. A cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl
    nesting near a house was rescued after colliding with
    an automobile window. Although it survived, it
    showed evidence of cranial hemorrhage (Richardson
    unpubl. data). Cats may be another local cause of
    mortality. In Texas, one adult owl and one fledgling
    were killed by a domestic cat. In Arizona, children
    were observed shooting pellet or BB guns near a nest
    site (Richardson unpubl. data); hence, shooting should
    also be considered a potential cause of owl mortality
    within urban areas.

    Hm. Sure looks like the biggest problems are residential development. I’m not seeing anything about water sites for migrant workers.

    Well, hell, maybe it’s a problem for the bobwhites. Let’s see:

    In summary, the extirpation of masked bobwhite resulted from the destruction of the fragile subtropical
    grassland ecosystem upon which the bird depended. The level valley bottoms and accessible “llanos”
    are very susceptible to livestock concentrations and are easily overgrazed. The bobwhites disappeared
    with the reduction ofthe grasses. The continuing loss of cover is now more aggravated in Sonora than
    at any other time in recorded history.

    Hmm. Cattle ranching and development. Not migrant foot traffic.

    Well, maybe it’s the <a href="http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/rareplants/profiles/tep/coryphantha_scheeri_robustispina/index.shtml"cacti that are being affected:

    Threats

    -Habitat loss and fragmentation from construction on private lands associated with a rapidly growing human population

    -Introduction of non-native species: Up to 75 percent of Pima pineapple cactus habitat has been significantly altered by the introduction of Lehmann lovegrass, an aggressive exotic introduced to provide cattle forage and soil stabilization

    -Effects of overgrazing by livestock, including erosion, and changes in hydrology and microclimate

    -Collection for horticulture

    Hmm. Residential development, livestock grazing, introduced species, and illegal collection for people’s gardens. Still not seeing “water stations for migrant foot traffic.”

    I realize this is kind of repetitive, but this is pretty typical for most situations where people are talking about threats to endangered species or habitats. The biggest threats to wildlife are not the vulnerable people who end up using these habitats out of desperation. The biggest threats are development of those lands for suburban housing, large scale industrial farming, and the species introduced through irresponsible agriculture, irresponsible gardening, irresponsible pet ownership, etc.

    But hey, apparently it’s easier to ask migrants and refugees, who are among the most vulnerable of people on earth, to sacrifice their lives when we’re largely unwilling to ask American heads of industry and residential development executives, who are among the most economically and politically secure of people on earth, to sacrifice even the smallest amount of profit.

  54. WaterStationPrez
    September 30, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Jill: WaterStationPrez, God bless you. You do amazing work. Please know that there are so many people supporting you and wishing you all the best.

    @Jill:

    Thank you, Ma’am.
    Your post caught my attention when I saw it on Google because you were able to pick out the second most jawdroppingly inane accusation yet, that we entice people to make the cross.

    The gold ribbon in the Freestyle Stupid Competition went to the commenter who, upon confronting a direct quote from Title 8 of the U.S. Code replied, “That’s a stupid quote. What you do sure sounds like aiding and abetting to me!”

    Thaks again. I’m enjoying your writing.

  55. Q Grrl
    September 30, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Right, the area is fragile and subject to abuse at the hands of humans (mostly through agriculture/ranching and development). The park is also publicly used.

    Of course, all of these activities can be mitigated by the preservation of the land and regulation of that land use. Where we differ is that I don’t think it is wrong to also regulate the foot traffic that accompanies folks migrating from Mexico. There are a number of ways to do this, one of which is dissuasion. Other ways are to improve immigration laws and to address the rampant governmental corruption in Mexico that creates the economic desperateness that sends people out into a dangerous desert trek.

  56. September 30, 2010 at 8:56 am

    It’s hard to get good statistics on illegal activity, though, so how would we know that prohibition has no effect on abortion rates? There may well be studies on this, but a bit of looking on google didn’t turn anything up.

    Guttmacher Institute, 1999:

    Results: Approximately 26 million legal and 20 million illegal abortions were performed worldwide in 1995, resulting in a worldwide abortion rate of 35 per 1,000 women aged 15–44. Among the subregions of the world, Eastern Europe had the highest abortion rate (90 per 1,000) and Western Europe the lowest rate (11 per 1,000). Among countries where abortion is legal without restriction as to reason, the highest abortion rate, 83 per 1,000, was reported for Vietnam and the lowest, seven per 1,000, for Belgium and the Netherlands. Abortion rates are no lower overall in areas where abortion is generally restricted by law (and where many abortions are performed under unsafe conditions) than in areas where abortion is legally permitted.

    Conclusions: Both developed and developing countries can have low abortion rates. Most countries, however, have moderate to high abortion rates, reflecting lower prevalence and effectiveness of contraceptive use. Stringent legal restrictions do not guarantee a low abortion rate. The Incidence of Abortion Worldwide/a>

    I think the parallels between this and the pro-life movement striving to make/keep abortion illegal/unobtainable while (at best) making no attempt whatsoever to change any of the factors that ensure a high abortion rate, are pretty exact.

  57. Austin Nedved
    September 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I think the parallels between this and the pro-life movement striving to make/keep abortion illegal/unobtainable while (at best) making no attempt whatsoever to change any of the factors that ensure a high abortion rate, are pretty exact.

    How is the anti-immigration movement failing to address any of the factors that ensure a high immigration rate? There’s really nothing they could do to reduce the immigration rate that they aren’t already doing.

  58. September 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Jesurgislac: I think the parallels between this and the pro-life movement striving to make/keep abortion illegal/unobtainable while (at best) making no attempt whatsoever to change any of the factors that ensure a high abortion rate, are pretty exact.

    I just read the study; thanks for the pointer!

    In their discussion section, it sounds like they’re claiming that attitudes toward and availability of contraception have the main effect on the abortion rate. Countries where contraceptives are acceptable and accessible have low abortion rates, and they use the example of tunisia to show that “good family planning services and a high level of contraceptive use can lead to low abortion incidence” even in developing countries.

    I believe there’s a correlation between a country prohibiting abortion and making contraception illegal or difficult to acquire, though I can’t find anything supporting this in a quick search. If this is true, though, it would suggest that higher abortion rates are not correlated with places where abortion is legal because people in those places have more access to contraception. In other words, my guess here is that if you made contraceptives either universally illegal, the abortion rate would increase in countries where abortion was legal more than in those where it was illegal, and we’d see that making abortion illegal (and more dangerous) does have an effect on women’s choices.

    (For clarification, I think contraception and abortion should both not be restricted.)

    Tying this back to the us-mexico border, I would say the parallel to this study would be a claim that “making it difficult to cross the border illegally does not guarantee a low illegal immigration rate”, which would be reasonable and does not contradict the claim that “putting out water for immigrants probably increases the amount of immigration a little”. Arguing otherwise is to say that pregnant women living harsh anti-abortion laws and mexicans entirely ignore risks when considering desperate actions, which is both unlikely and sexist/racist.

  59. September 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Austin: How is the anti-immigration movement failing to address any of the factors that ensure a high immigration rate?

    From an outsider’s viewpoint, the triple causes of illegal immigration to the US are:

    1. The trashing of the economy in neighboring countries, ensuring that people cannot simply stay home and earn a living there. Granted there isn’t a lot any ordinary person and do about that, but as far as I can see the anti-immigration movement ties in nicely with the kind of people who see no problem at all with the US government / corporations keeping countries to the south of the US in a state of economic disarray and trashing any government or political movement that tries to raise up the poorest.

    2. The ready use of illegal immigrants as undocumented cheap labor. This is actually the most obvious action anyone who genuinely cared about the issue could campaign for: if you make it truly costly for any individual or any corporation to hire someone who doesn’t have a legal right to work in the US – with amnesties and Green cards awarded to illegal immigrants who turn their employers in – that could foster a change.

    3. Making it possible for an ordinary person who lives in North, Central, or South America and wants to come to the US and earn a living there, to do so legally. Currently the US is one of the toughest countries in the world to immigrate to – the difficulties of getting in with a legal right to live and work – and the ease with which US authorities can deport you, even if you’re there legally and working towards citizenship – are legendary. The only way an ordinary worker from Mexico or Central/South America can get into the US is as an illegal immigrant: trying to do so legally is impossible. Again, this benefits the government/corporations of the US so much that there’s not a lot that ordinary Americans can do about it – but I don’t see the “anti-immigrants” even talking about it.

    Jeff: I believe there’s a correlation between a country prohibiting abortion and making contraception illegal or difficult to acquire, though I can’t find anything supporting this in a quick search. If this is true, though, it would suggest that higher abortion rates are not correlated with places where abortion is legal because people in those places have more access to contraception. In other words, my guess here is that if you made contraceptives either universally illegal, the abortion rate would increase in countries where abortion was legal more than in those where it was illegal, and we’d see that making abortion illegal (and more dangerous) does have an effect on women’s choices.

    Ireland and Italy are an example. For many years, both abortion and contraception were illegal. Abortion became legal in Italy in 1978: contraception became legal in Italy in 1971. Contraception became legal in Ireland in 1980: abortion is still illegal in Ireland both sides of the border, and Irish women who need abortions therefore travel to mainland UK to have one (or, now EU borders have opened up, to Belgium or the Netherlands). Both countries have otherwise got a normal European healthcare system, with stats falling well within the European norm.

    Abortion rates for both Ireland and Italy have been falling since the legalisation of contraception. There’s a book written by one of the London women involved in the abortion trail between Ireland and the UK Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora: The ‘abortion Trail’ and the Making of a London-Irish Underground, 1980-2000 that describes how for years Irish women living in London provided a bed for the night and support from and to the airport, to the dazed and worried refugees from Ireland’s pro-life legislation. Numbers of refugees have been falling steadily as a new generation of Irish women grows up in a country where contraception has always been legal for them. Similiar stats show the generational change in Italy.

    Making contraception legal is not an instant fix-it, any more than changing any of the three factors described above would be an instant fix-it for illegal immigration.

    But it’s a fairly obvious, commonsense conclusion: a woman who is pregant and doesn’t want to be has only one solution, to have an abortion, and whether that abortion is legal or illegal will not affect her need for it.

    A person who can’t get a job needs to eat to live: if they can move to where they get paid work and won’t see their children die of hunger, they’ll do it, and whether that is legal or illegal will not affect their need for work/income. You can make it as illegal and risky as you like: it won’t stop people who have only one solution to their need.

  60. September 30, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Other ways are to improve immigration laws and to address the rampant governmental corruption in Mexico that creates the economic desperateness that sends people out into a dangerous desert trek.

    I like how you put this in such a way that totally erases a) NAFTA and b) the US’ relative economic prosperity. It’s all about how the Mexican government is corrupt.

    I also think earlier comments make it clear that the ecosystem there is not so fragile that human presence will cause those kinds of problems.

    And I think you might do well to explicitly back off from the position that it’s okay for people to die while crossing the desert. That is, honestly, one of the most vile, disgusting things I have seen said on this blog and I am astounded that one of the bloggers here actually approved your comment.

  61. piny
    September 30, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Look, it’s not dissuasion and regulation. It’s interference in lifesaving efforts, with the given result of a lot more horrible deaths. They are dissuading samaritans from saving lives; they are dissuading immigrants by letting them die. Maybe you’re using these euphemisms because that bothers you; maybe you don’t think arguments about environmental protection sound all that strong when the trade-off is made explicit. But this policy–which is current, while all of your alternatives remain hypothetical–is killing a lot of innocent people.

  62. JDP
    September 30, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Q Grrl: Right, the area is fragile and subject to abuse at the hands of humans (mostly through agriculture/ranching and development).

    Except no, it’s clearly not that fragile, because otherwise hunting would not be permitted in the park. Additionally, I see no evidence that the park habitat is all that fragile given that the major threats to the endangered species present are already eliminated simply by virtue of declaring it a wildlife preserve.

    The park is also publicly used.Of course, all of these activities can be mitigated by the preservation of the land and regulation of that land use.Where we differ is that I don’t think it is wrong to also regulate the foot traffic that accompanies folks migrating from Mexico.

    Except that’s bullshit, too, because most recreational use isn’t “regulated.” They don’t limit the number of hikers who are allowed to use the park in any given period of time. And, as I said before, foot traffic is not a concern given the conservation and management plans currently being employed in the park.

    Additionally, management plans in other parks are often at the mercy of sports and recreation. For example, a friend of mine has worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service on a number of projects intended to focus on preservation of endangered fish diversity. However, these protected sections of river are routinely stocked by the FWS with game fish, including non-native game fish, in order to meet the demands of sport fishermen. Same goes for any number of other management plans that have to work around human need and land use requirements. No one could feasibly demand that we eliminate the Hoover Dam or cut water use by Las Vegas in order to preserve endangered fish species in the Colorado River, for example.

    It really doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a wildlife preserve, a national monument, or a national park. Human needs and recreational demands will ALWAYS come first. Whether we’re talking about recreational use of trails for hiking, crags for climbing, wetlands for fishing, or picnic areas for spending time with the family, people use these lands in ways that do affect the local wildlife. Ironically, traveling across a desert on foot and drinking from scattered water stations is an extremely low-impact activity. It’s nowhere near as destructive as hunting, which not only kills animals, but spreads lead birdshot throughout the desert, where it can be swallowed by various animals and poison them. Birdshot is much more likely to kill endangered birds than foot traffic.

    The reason I’m belaboring this point is because it’s worth pointing out that the choice of law enforcement to remove these water stations is not rooted in concern for conservation goals. In fact, protection of migrant foot traffic via water stations and shelters is completely reconcilable with conservation goals set by the federal government for this preserve. The fact that you’re clinging to the idea that the management plans for this preserve would be better met by letting thousands of migrant workers and refugees die of dehydration and exposure even though this is flat-out contradicted by federal reports describing the management plans for the plant and animal subspecies being actively managed in the park suggests to me that the environmental justification is really just an apologia for something uglier.

  63. October 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

    But it’s a fairly obvious, commonsense conclusion: a woman who is pregant and doesn’t want to be has only one solution, to have an abortion, and whether that abortion is legal or illegal will not affect her need for it.

    Sure, it doesn’t affect the need for it. The question is whether it will affect the decision to try and get one. I think you’re saying it will have no or very little effect, but this seems unlikely to me. A woman who is pregnant and doesn’t want to be likely has other things they don’t want to be, such as dead. Illegal abortions tend to be more likely to kill you, and the more risky an abortion is, the more strongly they’d have to want to stop being pregnant to decide to have one.

    I don’t think making abortion illegal is smart even if you’re trying to reduce the number of abortions because of the majorly negative effect on women’s health, but arguing that its legal status has no effect makes no sense.

    A person who can’t get a job needs to eat to live: if they can move to where they get paid work and won’t see their children die of hunger, they’ll do it, and whether that is legal or illegal will not affect their need for work/income. You can make it as illegal and risky as you like: it won’t stop people who have only one solution to their need.

    This oversimplifies the decisions that potential immigrants make. These are people, they’re smart, they consider risks, and describing their decision process as “there’s only one thing that can improve their situation, so they’ll do it regardless of the risks” dehumanizes them. The more risky the crossing is, the less likely they will live through it, and if they don’t live through it they can’t work in the usa and send money home. As with pregnant women, there are multiple possibilities. A pregnant woman may choose to go through with the pregnancy if they judge the risks and pain of an illegal abortion to be worse than the risks and pain of pregnancy. A potential immigrant may decide that the chance of dying on the crossing is large enough that they’ll take their chances with the difficult mexican job market.

  64. October 3, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Jeff Kaufman: Sure, it doesn’t affect the need for it. The question is whether it will affect the decision to try and get one.

    No, they don’t, because when you need something, you have no choice but to get what you need.

    Well-off white men who have never experienced a need denied frequently confuse need with want, because they are accustomed to express their wants as if they were needs. I think this is your state of confusion.

    A woman who is pregnant and doesn’t want to be likely has other things they don’t want to be, such as dead.

    Likewise illegal immigrants who trek across the desert. But they need to get to other side, so they go. They know someone of them will survive, and it’s human nature to want to believe you will be among the survivors.

    I don’t think making abortion illegal is smart even if you’re trying to reduce the number of abortions because of the majorly negative effect on women’s health, but arguing that its legal status has no effect makes no sense.

    Ah, the good old “School of Common Sense” which thus refutes those annoying little, you know, facts. Sorry, Jeff: your “I know what’s sense” is trumped by the facts every time.

    This oversimplifies the decisions that potential immigrants make. These are people, they’re smart, they consider risks, and describing their decision process as “there’s only one thing that can improve their situation, so they’ll do it regardless of the risks” dehumanizes them.

    I think again, you’re not sufficiently experienced in human nature to be able to claim that risk-taking behavior is “dehumanizing” the people who make the risky choices.

    Pregnancy is a situation where it can and has been shown, very simply, that because a woman needs an abortion she’ll get one regardless of whether it’s legal or not – and while this need for an abortion is specific and of course time-driven in a way that few men ever experience need, I think you’ll find it more productive to consider that you simply don’t know enough about need than to assume that a person in need has been dehumanized.

  65. ripley
    October 3, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Q girl, you need to respond to the issue raised by many already: the fact of your participation on this site, using a computer (likely made with tantalum from the Congo, metal and plastic from ??) somewhere that has the electricity (generated by what?), and (especially if you are in the global North), consuming and damaging more of the environment simply by making a cup of tea than most people in the global South.

    You are embedded in in more environmental destruction just sitting on your butt in front of a computer than any of those people in the desert. So how does that gives you the right to prioritize those particular few human lives” below that of the environment? You are weighing their lives as less than your own, on what metric?

    (and you have ignored all the other people who are allowed in the refuge, why are their lives are more valuable than those who need the water? by what metric is your and their lives not one of the expendable ones? why are “hikers” and “hunters” more deserving of life, and why are you?) just put that out in the open for us – you are not making some moral statement about humanity, you are ranking some human’s lives above others. I can’t quite see how your own life ranks over those you consign to death, if you are really talking about environmental impact.

    The only life you are entitled to prioritize is your own human life, which again, by virtue of your ability to participate in this conversation, is likely more environmentally destructive than a bottle of water or the person drinking it in the desert. if your math is based in amount of harm done by a person, where does that leave you?

  66. Q Grrl
    October 4, 2010 at 8:08 am

    “You are weighing their lives as less than your own, on what metric?”

    Well, there’s an assumption you just can’t prove.

    And “my” computer? I’m “in front of it” because of the same economic necessity that drives people across the desert.

    The only ranking I’m doing is that of the environment against purely human needs: political, economic, etc., that can all be changed if humans want to. The environment is entirely at our mercy these days. Clearly it’s an unpopular belief – especially when it appears as a dispassionate response to human suffering. I’m not ignoring some human use of the refuge — I acknowledged it while simultaneously acknowledging that the use that the refuge sees is manageable, controllable, and if parts of the refuge need to be closed to human traffic, they can be. What I’m not doing is cutting immigrant foot traffic from that list of people that the refuge has a right to control or manage.

  67. October 4, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Jesurgislac
    Ah, the good old “School of Common Sense” which thus refutes those annoying little, you know, facts. Sorry, Jeff: your “I know what’s sense” is trumped by the facts every time.

    I’m not trying to deny facts. If you can point me to studies that show that the legal status of abortion or the riskiness of immigration have no effect on the number of people who try, I would read them. The study above did not show that. It showed that there were some places where abortion was heavily restricted but women still got abortions in significant numbers and that there were other places where abortion was unrestricted and many fewer women got abortions.

    Jesurgislac
    you’re not sufficiently experienced in human nature to be able to claim that risk-taking behavior is “dehumanizing” the people who make the risky choices.

    I’m not claiming that people who choose to do risky things are dehumanized by their choices. I’m claiming that when you don’t have evidence of how the people involved are making their decisions, you need to apply what we know about people. One aspect of that is weighing risks. So if you claim that different amounts of risk would have no effect on someone’s choices, then unless you have evidence to support the claim, I’m going to think that you are making this claim in part because you don’t believe the people you are talking about to be capable of making rational decisions. (you could claim that the potential immigrants don’t know how dangerous the crossing is and that the information that some people put out water does not reach them. Then the issue is lack of information (which is perfectly human) instead of lack of reasoning (which, while often claimed about immigrants and women, is wrong))

    Jesurgislac
    Pregnancy is a situation where it can and has been shown, very simply, that because a woman needs an abortion she’ll get one regardless of whether it’s legal or not

    Shown how? A few individual case studies don’t work because certainly some (many) women do get abortions regardless of legality. The question is whether there are women who choose not to have an abortion because of legal restrictions and the accompanying increase in the danger of abortions. Backing up this claim would not be “simple” and would require either very sophisticated statistics or looking in detail at the situations of large numbers of women.

  68. piny
    October 4, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    It’s true: there’s no way for you to prove that you would cheerfully die of thirst in the desert for the sake of the desert; but this is unprovable because you will never be in that situation. So I agree: your claim that you weigh all human life this way is dubious. It seems much more likely that you view these human lives as relatively unimportant, and these deaths as less urgent. That is cold-blooded.

    A belief in the rule of law is not the same as support for racial profiling. A belief in the dangers of narcotics is not the same as support for the war on drugs. You can’t simply fold all the actions of conservationists into the goal of conservation–either in terms of motive or outcome. For all the reasons people have pointed out, this specific policy has little to do with conservation as an ethos or with normal policy. It’s thinly-veiled hatred, and the result is passive murder.

    That is the reason nobody here has much respect for the custodial duties of local officials. It’s a sham. They aren’t managing this particular sort of human traffic for the sake of the refuge; they’re doing it to punish immigrants.

    It’s also a red herring to constantly refer to our power with regard to the environment–or with regard to international traffic. That power is in the hands of different officials. This situation involves a single choice, and the decision to target samaritans cannot be balanced against some potential ameliorative measure on a national or international level. None of those things are happening, but none of them need to happen to stop this particular crisis.

  69. Kristen J.
    October 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Jeff,

    Go read up on the inelasticity of demand. There are a large number of goods and services for which people have inelastic demand (drugs, abortion…etc) and for most goods there is a level at which nearly every person’s demand is inelastic. Access to opportunity likely falls in the latter category which is why people like my ancestors risked a dangerous trip across the Atlantic with no guarantee of a job and my SO’s ancestors risked a dangerous trip halfway across the Pacific for near starvation wages.

    Having inelastic demand is not irrational it just is.

  70. JDP
    October 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Q Grrl: The only ranking I’m doing is that of the environment against purely human needs: political, economic, etc., that can all be changed if humans want to.The environment is entirely at our mercy these days.

    Except that this doesn’t even make sense from a scientific perspective. Humans are, like it or not, part of the environment. We and our ancestors have been making some degree of impact on the world around us for about 4.2 billion years. From a scientific perspective, we’re not even the authors of the greatest organism-driven environmental change. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to mitigate our effect on the environment; we should, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that environmental degradation disproportionately affects those without wealth and power. However, we should actually think about how to manage human use of the environment rather than panic and let astroturf activism dictate the terms by which we will and will not approach the issue of environmentalism.

    This is part of the reason I went through the science here in so much detail. Environmental decision making needs to be about making informed decisions that will actually serve to further local and global environmental goals. Without actually talking about the science, there’s no way to actually make informed decisions. In this case, the science states unambiguously that the problem is commercial exploitation of fragile environments for beef production and real estate development, not human migration.

    Clearly it’s an unpopular belief – especially when it appears as a dispassionate response to human suffering.I’m not ignoring some human use of the refuge — I acknowledged it while simultaneously acknowledging that the use that the refuge sees is manageable, controllable, and if parts of the refuge need to be closed to human traffic, they can be.What I’m not doing is cutting immigrant foot traffic from that list of people that the refuge has a right to control or manage.  

    Except that you continue to ignore and disregard the science involved. The problem in the Sonora is not Hispanic immigration. In fact, foot immigration has been a consistent feature of human presence in the Sonora for thousands of years, and it hasn’t destroyed the Sonora. In fact, most of the Latin@ migrants in the region are largely descended from the same indigenous peoples who have been traveling through that region for thousands of years.

    What is a problem is the large-scale conversion of this region into cattle range and suburban real estate. These are practices that are considered economically necessary and properly American, and are therefore excusable. I keep stressing this fact, but your response has repeatedly tried to downplay the importance of mundane capitalism in environmental degradation in the Sonora in favor of talking more about Hispanic immigrants.

    If the goal is to preserve the masked bobwhite, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, or the pima pineapple cactus (or other endangered species living in this preserve, then the conversation should be about residential development outside the park as well as cattle-grazing on public lands. There is no evidence at all that undocumented migration has any relevance to the problem at all, and a lot of evidence that this is yet another case where “environmentalism” is being used to put a gloss on anti-Hispanic racism. This isn’t about the masked bobwhite at all. Nor is it about the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. Or the Pima pineapple cactus. It’s about Arizona wanting to keep Hispanics out. Otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about border crossing at all.

  71. Q Grrl
    October 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    “If the goal is to preserve the masked bobwhite, the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, or the pima pineapple cactus (or other endangered species living in this preserve, then the conversation should be about residential development outside the park as well as cattle-grazing on public lands. ”

    It’s not a park. And the refuge is a response to human development. That’s really why we have them. I thought that was a no-brainer.

    And it is about Arizona and the US wanting to limit specifically Hispanic immigration. I haven’t argued that it isn’t. What I have talked about is that, in the face of this contentious immigration, there are some of us that might have tangential interests.

    What makes these deaths so important to your politics? Is it that you think you can avoid all of them? Some of them? Which ones?

  72. JDP
    October 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    1. You seem to be unclear about what the National Wildlife Refuge system exists for. It has not been established for the purpose of putting animals first and humans last. It has been established to allow the FWS to designate areas as protected park land for biological reasons rather than the rationale behind National Park and National Monument designations. NWR designation has literally no bearing on traffic and use, and human use of NWRs is actually more lax than human use of national parks and monuments. Your claim that “animals come first” on NWRs is complete fantasy.

    2. There are no “tangential interests” here. Human migration through Buenos Aires National Wildlife Preserve is completely irrelevant to the management plans for the endangered species at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Preserve. Period. It’s irrelevant. Stop with this bullshit about “stop trying to stifle debate on whether migrant foot traffic is harming the environment here.” Foot traffic is irrelevant. Period. End of fucking story. This isn’t a matter of politics. This is a matter of the goddamned science. The science to date is very clear on the fact that foot traffic is utterly irrelevant to management of wildlife in this park.

    Q Grrl: What makes these deaths so important to your politics?Is it that you think you can avoid all of them?Some of them?Which ones?  

    The NPS expends huge amounts of efforts to rescue lost hikers, stranded mountaineers, and so on and so forth. This includes large search parties, helicopter teams, and various other very large and very disruptive efforts.

    It strikes me that if the US has no problem sending hundred-person search teams and helicopters to rescue lost hikers, we can afford to look the other way when private individuals maintain water stations to protect migrants and refugees in border-area parklands.

    This isn’t about “politics.” This is about basic ethics.

  73. PrettyAmiable
    October 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Jeff Kaufman: I’m not trying to deny facts. If you can point me to studies that show that the legal status of abortion or the riskiness of immigration have no effect on the number of people who try, I would read them. The study above did not show that. It showed that there were some places where abortion was heavily restricted but women still got abortions in significant numbers and that there were other places where abortion was unrestricted and many fewer women got abortions.

    Has anyone pointed out that this analogy breaks down somewhere near the beginning? I think I read all of these comments (though I may have missed this comment, so excuse me if I did), but this isn’t perfectly analogous here:

    The appropriate comparison for putting water in the desert to make an illegal desert crossing (however legal it ought to be) easier would be to make illegal abortion easier (perhaps by the proliferation of doctors with sterilized equipment and spaces doing abortions in their super clean basement). — However, as far as I know, this never happened. Yeah, more people are aborting because it’s legal and because stigmas are slowly being lifted, the same way that more people would immigrate here if it were legal and stigmas against Mexican laborers were lifted. You’re not comparing apples to apples and that’s why this argument is hitting a wall.

  74. October 5, 2010 at 9:16 am

    PrettyAmiable: more people are aborting because it’s legal and because stigmas are slowly being lifted, the same way that more people would immigrate here if it were legal and stigmas against Mexican laborers were lifted.

    If I’m interpreting jesurgislac right, they’d disagree. If more people are aborting because it’s legal, that means some people would choose to forgo an abortion if it were illegal. I believe the claim is that abortions truly are something people absolutely need, and so the legal status should have absolutely no effect.

  75. October 5, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Kristen J.: for most goods there is a level at which nearly every person’s demand is inelastic. Access to opportunity likely falls in the latter category which is why people like my ancestors risked a dangerous trip across the Atlantic with no guarantee of a job and my SO’s ancestors risked a dangerous trip halfway across the Pacific for near starvation wages.

    Having inelastic demand is not irrational it just is.

    Having inelastic demand usually means that changes in the cost of something have only a small effect on demand for it and hence the amount consumed. The most inelastic examples on the wikipedia page [1] are pediatric vists (-0.04) and household eggs (-0.1). Roughly, an elasticity of -0.1 means that if the price of eggs increases by 1% then demand for eggs decreases by 0.1% and vice versa.

    Claims that people will entirely ignore changes in cost for something are claims that demand is absolutely inelastic. I’m not aware of any examples of absolutely inelastic demand for any good that has substitutes, though it’s generally presented in econ textbooks because it’s theoretically very clean. [2] So while the demand by diabetics for insulin may be inelastic because without insulin you *certainly* die, the demand for immigration won’t be because without immigration you only *might* die.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_elasticity_of_demand
    [2] http://www.mbs.edu/home/jgans/mecon/value/Popups/pop_up_case1_perfectly_inelastic_demand.htm

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