By Aaron Schneider
“To lose a leg is not to lose one’s dreams,” Ms. Olga explained. We were visiting her clinic at the border of Guatemala and Mexico, where men and women convalesce after losing a limb in their attempts to hop a train north. Ms. Olga provides a glimmer of hope to those who might otherwise have lost everything, offering shelter from criminal gangs, corrupt authorities, and dangerous transport that afflict workers seeking the American dream.
Ms. Olga and others like her have created an underground railroad of sorts, helping workers recover their dignity. In August of 2008, I retraced the path of migrants, starting in Guatemala, passing through Mexico, and crossing the U.S. border, accompanied by Fr. Tom Greene, S.J., of Loyola, independent researcher Rebeca Zuniga-Hamlin, and four Tulane graduate students: Marcelle Beaulieu, Jennifer Boone, Lori Dowell, and Bradley Hentschel. This article is an effort to provide witness to the evidence we observed of rape, kidnapping, extortion, abuse, and injustice. Areas of vulnerability appeared at sporadic intervals, especially around borders and transport junctures, culminating on the other side of a chain link fence from El Paso, Texas, where Juarez has experienced more than 800 murders this year.
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