Crossing state borders is nothing new to me since I started my project to work 50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks.
This week, I prevented immigrants from crossing a different kind of border. I had the opportunity to work for the United States Border Patrol in Southern Arizona to complete week 14.
Every week, I change states and work the job that represents the culture and economy of that particular state. To name a few; I have already worked as a park ranger in Wyoming, a hydrologist in Colorado, and a corn farmer in Nebraska. I am writing a book showcasing different job opportunities and cultures around America.
I get a first-hand experience working different careers in America, and this is one career I will never forget. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into until I had to sign a release form. I was unaware of the danger that I was about to face throughout the week.
“You never know what you’re going to see day-to-day, but I’m sure you’ve never seen any of it,” Agent Michael Scioli stated. Once we reached the town of Nogales, he was right. I have never been to the U.S./Mexico border, but I didn’t just go to the border, I was patrolling it.
We drove along the border, which they call the “line,” for a couple of hours. Agent Scioli always mentioned, “If you see or hear rocks coming our way, lean into the center of the vehicle.” Luckily, our vehicle never was a target, but the Border Patrol vehicle ahead of us was. The agents had to bring out their pepperball launchers to prevent them from throwing more stones. It works temporarily, but they always come back. Most immigrants know exactly where agents are at all times because they have scouts on the hillside with binoculars. It’s not like sneaking into a concert; it’s a costly operation that many are unaware of.
After patrolling the line, Agent Scioli showed me the underground passages through the sewer system. That’s when I knew this wasn’t anything similar to sneaking into a concert. It smelled horribly and it was really dark. After immigrants crawl back up to street level, they blend in with the locals. At that point, there’s no way of telling if they are illegal or not. Well, there’s one way; seeing how nervous they look and act.
Once we left the town of Nogales, we went out into the desert to track foot sign. Every agent must know how to track foot sign. It’s an important art that will lead you to illegal immigrants that have hiked for several miles. I can’t imagine being here during the summer. Every tree that provides shade has empty water containers and a piece of clothing left behind. I actually found money under one of the trees. And they said I wasn’t getting paid this week.
Lastly, we went back to the Detention Center empty handed, but I got to see the dope room and try on one of the smuggler’s backpacks that weighed up to 40 pounds. I can’t even imagine people carrying those backpacks during the summer for miles. It’s not surprising that Border Patrol agents have to act as a rescue team as well.
Daniel Seddiqui has resolved to work 50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks. You can track his progress online at www.livingthemap.com. Eventually, he plans to write a book about his experiences crisscrossing the country.