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Migrants, AZ

To the American public, the U.S. Border Patrol is either the heroic defender of our periphery or a band of thugs who beat up on displaced Mexicans. Neither view is accurate, as I learned in the fall of 2006, when I was commissioned to produce artwork for a Border Patrol station in west Texas. I began to take photos like the one at right (see www.dtaylorphoto.com for more), which shows a handful of border crossers some colleagues and I encountered near Elgin, Arizona. These young men had been lost in the desert for four days, and as they crowded at the side of our university van, they pleaded for agua por favor, comida por favor, la migra por favor. In other words, water, food, and the Border Patrol. As agents arrived, the migrants thanked us graciously.

Almost all Border Patrol agents say they just want a clear mission and will enforce whatever policy the American electorate articulates. They view their work as service to our country, in much the same way that someone in the military would. And although the majority are politically conservative, they have no trouble empathizing with the people they apprehend. Fifty-one percent of agents are Hispanic. A surprising number were born to parents who crossed the border. Some freely acknowledge that if they were in the south, looking north, they would be crossing, too; not surprisingly, they often save the lives of those who have been abandoned by their smugglers.

óDavid J. Taylor, A89, Associate Professor of Photography, New Mexico State University

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