Desert grasslands reveal a more nuanced view of illegal immigration
by Bruce Lindwall
A journal entry from a February day during an Expedition Education Institute semester in the Desert Southwest
I went out this morning and found some pictures down in the wash. This is how it happened and why it was so very important.
We were five altogether. Bill is the director of the grasslands research center here in southern Arizona; it’s his job to look after all 8,000 of the acres in his care. Four of us who had come to study up a bit on the ecology of desert grasslands: Thomas from my home state of New Hampshire, Antony from Montreal, and Khiet who was born in Vietnam but grew up in Pennsylvania. This morning we were all headed off a couple miles from the headquarters to pick up trash that falls by the wayside as immigrants slip across the border covered by darkness and becomes hidden in the folds and creases of the borderlands.
Bouncing along the dirt road we asked Bill about grassland ecology, successional stages, and alien species, thinking that we were pursuing the most important learning of the day. Little did we know how close that was to the truth. It was a short ride that ended at a seemingly random spot at the edge of the road. Our little crew outfitted itself with gloves, trash bags, and bottles of water.
It felt liberating to walk freely through the grassland. We had been limited to the roads these last few days for fear of trampling the many experiments laid out amongst the tawny brown stalks of sacaton and lovegrass. But now we were free to wander, and wander we did. Held together at first by habit and conversation, we gradually spread out to explore the small washes and gullies that so thoroughly wrinkle this land. Slowly our bags began to fill with the odd bits jettisoned by those who had come this way. There were empty food tins, torn trash bags, endless water jugs and lots of toilet paper, both used and unused.