Everyday they’re crossing the border down around Douglas, by the hundreds. That’s where the relief workers have made camp . You drive a motor home out there, set up along a trail used by the undocumented, wait, and wait, and then hunt them down — to offer food and water, an easier passage.It’s a scary place, the desert they cross. La Frontera, the Border. When they use the path farther West, near Organ Pipe Monument, the route they follow is called Devil’s Highway.
And like the serpent whose form the devil took, when they cross the border, they shed their skins. They shed their skins.
You find the places, the places they’ve shed their skins, where it’s happened. Most of the time, they are already gone.
They shed Mexican identity cards. They shed clothes, shoes and greasy back packs. They shed empty ephedrine packets, water bottles, heaps of plastic sacks. They even shed underwear, because they’ve brought new clothes for this moment. No Mexican garments, not even the smell of Mexico, can be on them. They shed a jar of dry marijuana, a jacket, a baby’s cap, rub against rocks and spines, acacia and cat’s claw, shedding their skins.
At the pick-up points, in the bushes, they make nests of the dead skins, nest and wait, then leap up and run to the coyote’s van, transformed.
Dejalo todo ya!
One man you found wandering with a broken arm; the woman with him nearly incoherent, dehydrated, sick. All they wanted was to go back, they said, trapped in their Mexican skins. Some don’t survive the crossing. A group of eleven dead on the Devil’s Highway. Trapped in old skins.
“No somos la Migra,” you shout from inside your own skin, safe and American. We are not the Police.
They are hiding down in a wash, rustling dry leaves, vulnerable, shedding. You leave the water jugs on the roadside for them.
“Dejo las ollas aqui. Ya me voy,” you say, backing away, shedding guilt as you step quickly over to your side again.
I’m leaving now, you say, Ya me voy, wishing them safe passage, new skins for new Americans.