When I was a kid, a coyote (the people smuggler kind, not the Canis latrans type), dumped a truckload of illegal migrants on the road by our farm. One-hundred plus degrees, and 500+ miles from the Mexican border (Texas is a BIG place)…these people had been locked in a sweltering truck for a while. They’d been robbed and abandoned. I was never clear whether they were coming from the border, or heading back.
A dozen ragged men, women, and children staggered up the long driveway and surprised me in our yard, where I was working on something or other.
I was a kid (14/15 or so), and I was by myself. They could have taken what they wanted. What they did was ask, a little bit desperately, for water.
I showed them to the water hose and turned it on. I then entered the house and fetched a bunch of those new-fangled two liter plastic soda bottles that our family had consumed, and passed them around so they could take water with them.
They drank their fill, filled their bottles, rinsed the dirt and sweat from their bodies and clothes, thanked me (some of the women with tears in their eyes), and left.
I was a kid then. I didn’t understand the complexities of the migrant debate. I didn’t understand that my actions at the time could be construed to be illegal by any law-enforcement or government official that decided to be a dickhead.
Fast forward some 30 years.
I’m no longer a kid, at least on the outside. I understand the issues and pitfalls inherent in US/Mexico policy and the migrant debate. I *believe* that immigration policy should be reasonable and enforced. I know the issue is not easy, or simplistic. The problems and solutions are and will necessarily be, complex.
So, when banging through the withering heat in the Texas wood country a few years back, when I stopped to take a leak and an obvious illegal migrant lady stepped out of the deep woods and asked for water (agua por favor señor, hay niños…) while looking back into the woods, what do you think I did?
Well, I gave her the three bottles of water and the plastic two-quart canteen I was carrying on the bike and watched her leave.
I may have outgrown my naiveté (note, I did say “may”), but I have not outgrown my principles.
I’m a Texan. I’m in Texas. When somebody asks for water and you can spare it, you. give. it. to. them.
It’s not complex.
Turns out my actions that day were observed. Within minutes of setting out again I was accosted by a couple of dickheads (note, this is not due to their office, this is their personal choice) in a green INS truck from a “mobile command and observation” post “down the road a bit”. I was threatened with arrest, tickets, impoundment, etc if I didn’t tell them about my “network” and show them exactly where I had been standing at the edge of the woods.
The female of the two apparently could not believe I just stopped to take a piss, and when I told her I didn’t really want to show her exactly what I was doing, she snapped at me that if I didn’t show her and right now, I’d be arrested. So, I proceeded whip out my pointy bits (I’m a “pointer” as opposed to her being a “setter”) and piss on their tire. Piss on demand. One of my proudest moments.
Even though I was following orders, they were not amused.
Eventually I got tired of the pair and their refusal to summon local law enforcement or at least a DPS guy, so I told them, and I quote, “Piss off.” mounted my Valkyrie, and left at what was no doubt an unsafe speed. They could have shot me or arrested me…they tried neither.
I’ve taken some criticism over these actions but hear this…
I believe in the rule of law but…if the lawmakers or enforcers make the decision to be a dickhead, OR somehow think that they can make it illegal to give a thirsty person water in the Texas heat, they have plainly, explicitly, and irrevocably abdicated any authority they actually had over me.
It’s a complex issue. There are a lot of sides.
But water is life. You ask, you get.
I woke in the night recently, thinking of these people.
I have my demons…and lord do I have my failures…my nightmares.
But at least denying desperate, thirsty people water is not one of them.
What would you have done?