On June 30, the Trump administration announced that it will begin arresting parents and other relatives who hire smugglers to bring their children to the United States. The policy squares with the longstanding “prevention by deterrence” strategy operating at our border, and is part of the recent “surge initiative.” Ironically, the increasingly militarization of the border has caused an increase in the cartel-operated guides known as “coyotes.”

I recently returned from a trip with students to the border of Arizona and Mexico. Haunted by our experience in the borderlands, I am compelled to write.

My students and I wanted to learn more about immigration, to humanize this politicized issue. First, we learned the legal realities facing immigrants and asylum seekers. Although it sounds logical to tell immigrants that they are welcome here, but they need to take the legal path, it became clear that for most, the legal path is an impossibility. This path to citizenship can take anywhere from three to 15 years; many are denied entry.

For parents separated from young children, this time away from their beloved is unfeasible. One day our group took a water drop hike in the desert with the humanitarian group No More Deaths. Two long hours in the harsh Sonoran desert dramatized the desperation driving anyone to take the perilous walk through the borderlands.

We learned from undocumented people, who were not “bad hombres,” but rather courageous parents struggling to keep their families together, alive and safe from gang violence or grave poverty.

Economic indicators show immigration as good for our economy, especially in aging states like Maine. And despite the vilifying rhetoric about immigrants, studies show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. Furthermore, the available evidence does not suggest that undocumented people commit disproportionate levels of crime.

Mary Lee King

theology teacher, Cheverus High School

Portland