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If You Had to Live in a Mexican Dump, Wouldn't You Try to Flee, Too?

Jean Hill - Diocese of Salt Lake City
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July 3, 2013

The Road to Juan's House - Mexican garbage dumps can be the location of shack villages where families live who have no skills, education or training to get a job. These poverty stricken families and children make their living sifting through the garbage by hand... looking for recyclable materials. But they make less than a dollar a day. Video shot on location in Mexico City by Eric Odell (newagemarketing101)

... As the US Senate engaged in its immigration reform bill last week, I had the opportunity to travel with Catholic Relief Services for a few days in Nogales, Mexico. On Monday, I visited a maquiladora (factory) and a city dump, two of the very limited employment options for many Nogales residents.

The dump is not only a workplace, it is home for more than 100 people who live in shacks cobbled together from the garbage that surrounds them. It is a neighborhood with men, women, children, grandmothers all working the same job – sorting garbage for materials to sell. There are no shifts, no benefits, no minimum wage. There is also no electricity or running water, no nearby grocery store or school, no indoor plumbing. It is dusty, dirty and toxic.

While there, I spoke (through an interpreter) with Jose, a 30-year-old man who has lived and worked in this "neighborhood" since he was 4. His 76-year-old mother, Doña Petra, has been there since she was 15. Jose shares his home made of plywood, cardboard and tarp with his wife and three children, ages 9, 7 and 4. Upon seeing us, Doña Petra invited us into her kitchen – a spot in the dirt where she has an open-fire pit topped by the used rack of someone’s discarded barbecue.

Meanwhile, a few miles away, the U.S. is finalizing what looks like a cattle chute for humans. This is a fenced-in tunnel for deportees. When the chute is complete, the buses from immigration detention centers will drop the men and women off at a turnstile that leads to a "walk of shame" down a metal tube in the hot Nogales sun, to a second turnstile on the Mexico side. The tube is fully fenced, though the deportees can see out on one side. On that same side, a path runs along the outside so that tourists can walk beside the deportees, gawking at them as they bake in their metal cage.

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