Lou Barletta is a congressman from Pennsylvania who is an ardent promoter of secure borders. His position is summed up in a July 29, 2013, Washington Times headline: “BARLETTA: No border security, no amnesty.”

His congressional website provides additional emphasis: “There should not and cannot be a plan to offer amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens present until we secure the borders.”

To which I say: “Amen.”

I have been to our southern border nine times, starting in 2005, and most recently in April. While apprehensions declined significantly – 72 percent from December 2016 to March 2017 — hundreds of thousands continue to stream across our border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Southwest Border Migration report on apprehensions between Oct. 1, 2016, and April 30, 2017.

One agonizing and distressing aspect of our border problems came to the surface — once again — last month with the deaths of 10 illegal aliens in a trailer found in a parking lot in San Antonio.

Death on the border is a little-remarked-upon issue, and one I first became aware of in 2004, 13 years ago, when a friend of mine from Framingham, Massachusetts, spent a weekend on the Arizona border with local activist Chris Simcox, editor of the Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper. They came across two “solos” while driving through the desert (“solos” are illegal aliens who come across the border without a coyote to guide them). The migrants were suffering from exposure, and one of them would have surely died if they had not come along and called the sheriff’s office, who dispatched an ambulance to rescue them, Mother Jones magazine reported in its July/August 2005 edition.


Simcox had started the border watch group under the tutelage of Henry Harvey, a retired Border Patrol agent. “Dub” Harvey instructed Simcox on the techniques of the job, and stressed to Simcox the importance of dealing with illegal aliens with restraint and compassion, something Simcox related to us at the memorial service for Harvey, who died while I was there on my first trip in 2005. Jim Gilchrist, the Californian who organized the Minuteman Project along with Simcox, credited Harvey with being “the inspiration in getting the Minuteman Project going.”

I returned to the border in 2006 (twice) and in 2007 and 2008. It was either in 2007 or 2008 that a body was found close to our encampment at a ranch along Route 286 in southwestern Arizona. The local coroner was called and the body was removed.

A Los Angeles Times article on Nov. 5, 2013, told the story of Lori Baker, a forensic anthropologist at Baylor University who examines the remains of those who die in the desert in order to identify them and inform their relatives. In 2012, 463 migrants died in the desert, the Times reported.

This is a national disgrace, and personally distressing; I was ashamed to be an American when I read of the 463 migrants who perished in 2012. No one should be dying on our soil in this manner. The intensity of my reaction is simply my sense of country and belief that there is no difference between my feelings about my country and my domicile here in Maine. My country is my home; my home is my country. I would not let anyone die on my doorstep, and no one should die coming across our border.

The author of a recent Portland Press Herald letter to the editor (“Borderland tragedies heartbreaking,” July 21) mentions some of the same observations as mine from her trip to the border. While that writer, Mary Lee King, offered no solutions, it is obvious she would not agree with mine, which is a totally secure border.

President Donald Trump, in his Jan. 25 Executive Order on Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, addresses the issue of border security with a definition of “operational control” as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States.”

Emphasis is on the word “all.”

We either have a border, or we don’t have a border. We either have a nation, or we don’t have a nation. The border must be made secure, and the responsibility lies with our feckless politicians in Washington, D.C., who should be fulfilling their constitutional duty in assuring the safety, security and sustainability of our nation. That includes the entire Maine congressional delegation.

Bob Casimiro of Bridgton is former executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Immigration Reform and current executive director of Mainers for Responsible Immigration.

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