Some cactus flowers found around Del Rio, Texas

C is cactus

Cactus needles pierced my knee through my pants leg as I chased a U.S. Border Patrol agent up a hill. I followed him for a day for a freelance assignment. After it was determined there was no person to catch, I realized I had needles in my  knee.

“Duct tape,” the agent said. “It will get those out.”

In addition to the prickly plants — throw in hot, deadly temperatures; difficult terrain; rattlesnakes; and dehydration — and you have an idea of what some undocumented men, women and children face as they cross the border from Mexico into the United States. Add in dangers from coyotes — the human ones who are paid to smuggle people across the border — and it made me wonder why people would risk so much to enter the United States illegally.

Then, I checked to see about the wait for legal entry. This Wikipedia entry seems like a standard answer — I’ve looked at several sources — there’s a backlog of a million-plus green-card applicants and the typical wait is three years.

That little patch of border I followed for an eight-hour shift opened my eyes to the dangers people face to illegally enter this country. Duct tape works well to remove cactus needles, but I never saw any of it near the trails of empty water bottles, canned food, tennis shoes and clothes abandoned at the edge of the Rio Grande River.