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10 May, 2010 03:39

Border fence in Arizona desert divide not only countries, but separate families

A fence built on the US-Mexico border in Arizona divides not only territories between the two countries, but leaves families separated and living on different sides of the wall.

The United States on one side and Mexico on the other. A simple fence. But it’s not so simple for those living on this side of the fence, looking over.

“I just wanted to go because people would tell me beautiful things about the United States. But, that’s not what I saw. It’s not good,” deported Ruben Antonio Baltazar todl RT.

It’s a fence that’s caused many to risk everything – their freedoms and their lives – just to cross over.

“They are abandoned or they get lost, and they spend numerous days feeling really sick,” Juaquin Maldez Reyes from the Mexican Red Cross organization said.

It’s the border of one of the richest countries in the world – and one that is much poorer. But what happens when you’re one of the lucky ones who get across? One can find himself in a position of Mexican immigrant Alma Chacon.

“I was a normal girl in Mexico, studying. And I came for vacations and I stayed. I like it here,” Alma says.

Chacon is a single mom with five children who makes ends meet by babysitting and cleaning houses under the table. She says she came to the United States legally, but lost her papers some time later. And not long after that, police pulled her over and arrested her for unpaid tickets.

“He put me in chains and he arrested me and that’s all and I went to jail that night. It was a cold little room,” Alma remembers.

Chacon, who was pregnant at the time, ended up giving birth to her youngest daughter while shackled to a hospital bed.

“I have my baby and tied legs and hands and I tell them, the guard “Can you take me out?” and they said “No” and I asked “Why? I didn’t kill anybody, I didn’t do anything” and she said “I don’t care, that’s my job,” Alma recalls.

Arizona has been known for tough immigration laws. Local police have tried to crack down on illegal immigrants in their community. Many Mexicans like Chacon say they feel targeted by the law enforcement.

“I feel scared because I don’t have my papers right now,” Alma says.

And it looks like their situation might have gotten worse. In an unprecedented move, lawmakers in her state of Arizona have passed a bill that will require all immigrants to carry papers proving their legal status in the United States. And it gives local police the right to check those papers.

Hundreds of protestors gathered at the State Capitol day after day to protest the new bill. Many worry it will give police the right to racially profile.

“All of the hard fought civil liberties that everyone has been fighting for generations and centuries are now going to disappear,” one of the protestor, Orlando Arelas said.

Magdalena Schwartz is an immigration activist and pastor. Every day she meets with members of her community who have effected by the immigration crackdown.

“When I see the children’s faces, they are scared, they have terror in the face. Like they don’t want to live here in Arizona anymore, they don’t know what is going on,” Magdalena said. “We have a lot of people in our churches. They’re good people, they’re great people, they did not commit any crime. They’re not robbing stores or kill somebody just they want to have a life here with their family.”

And every day Schwartz sees many of those families separated or broken because of the problems that the fence causes.

Many people cross the border illegally every day. A lot of them try to have children in the United States so they will be eligible for American citizenship. But on numerous occasions the parents end up being deported back to Mexico leaving their children stranded on the other side of the fence in the United States.

Nuvia Joachin is now raising her son’s baby. Her son is awaiting his second deportation back to Mexico, and his wife was recently locked up when police raided a local McDonalds where she worked while looking for illegal immigrants.

“She misses her mother. The first days she didn’t talk at all. Then later she asked me ‘Grandma, where’s my mom?” Nuvia told RT.

An immigration battle is now brewing in the Arizona desert. And like every battle and every story, there is always another angle to the story.

“There are a lot of things that increase our costs. People coming over who don’t have healthcare, they come to our hospitals,” some Americans say, voicing their concerns.

“There are many people who come to this country and they go through the proper channels and they do the proper thing and the people who don’t do that – they’re breaking the law,” others say.

And while millions of Arizona residents wait for Washington to finally tackle the immigration issue, families like Nuvia’s are waiting for something else.

“I’m not worried about my daughter for my sake but for my granddaughter. Because she is little and she needs her mom,”  Nuvia said.