PHOENIX – A border wall. Smugglers. Small children being dropped into America in the darkness.
A grainy video released Wednesday by authorities — its figures visible only in ghostly white outline, its stark storyline dramatic and obvious — captures, in mere seconds, the dangers for migrant children at the southern U.S. border.
A man straddling a 14-foot (4.3-meter) barrier near Santa Teresa, New Mexico, lowers a toddler while holding onto one arm. With the child dangling, he lets go. She lands on her feet, then falls forward face first into the dirt. The smuggler does the same thing with a slightly larger child, who falls on her feet and then her bottom. Then the smuggler and another man run off into the desert, deeper into Mexico.
The simple scene caught by a remote camera is an extreme case. But it embodies so much of the saga playing out on the border amid a spike in migrant arrivals, particularly children.
There is implied desperation — a family willing to subject their children to such risks in hopes of changing their future. There is the callousness of the smugglers handling kids like rag dolls.
And there is that barrier over which so many have fought — a symbol of American strength for some, a decidedly un-American thing altogether for others. A fence that, despite its height, is relatively easily overcome.
For immigrant advocates, scenes like this underscore why immigration laws need to be overhauled with a focus on unifying families and making legal immigration easier. For many opponents of such reform, scenes like this are confirmation that the nation's rule of law isn't being respected, that a reform of immigration policies could never even be contemplated while such things are happening. And Americans of all political stripes may debate what circumstances, if any, justify parents taking such actions.
While such debates happen, thousands of migrants from Mexico, Central America, and countries further south are arriving every day to the Mexico-U.S. border. Many are fleeing violence or other hardships in their home countries. Others are simply looking for better economic opportunities. They arrive by boat or wade through the Rio Grande River in Texas, or come on land into California, Arizona and New Mexico.