Friday, December 5, 2008

Crossing the Line

The sedated patient, his bullet wounds still fresh from a shootout the night before, was lying on a gurney in the intensive care unit of a prestigious private hospital here late last month with intravenous fluids dripping into his arm. Suddenly, steel-faced gunmen barged in and filled him with even more bullets. This time, he was dead for sure.

Above is the lead of a story that appeared on the front page of the New York Times today. Reporter Marc Lacey goes on to explain the situation of Mexican hitman entering emergency rooms in hospitals along the U.S. border, such as the above incident in Tijuana. Sadly, incidents like this (which includes shootouts between police and warring drug cartel members) are becoming more common in Mexican border city hospitals. The main reason for more than 5,000 deaths this year in Mexico, almost double of last year, is due to the increase in violence from drug trafficking.

Mexican doctors and staff met in November 2008 to discuss violence in Tijuana. (New York Times / Eros Hoagland)

Because I am living in a predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood in Chicago, this situation is very disturbing to me. I have always wondered: Why do so many Mexicans risk their lives and leave behind loved ones to live in America working low-wage jobs? Surely it can't just be the countries close proximity to each other. Neither could it only be notions of "the American Dream." There is definitely something not working in Mexico, especially when 170 people were murdered in Tijuana last month. Some critics say that President Felipe Calderón's harsh stance toward drug trafficking has forced the cartels to fight over a decreasing turf.

Nevertheless, the increasing drug violence and kidnappings in Mexico, unlike say in Guinea-Bissau or Venezuela, is something that closely affects the United States. Just last year dozens of drug violence patients were treated at an El Paso hospital. Illegal immigration and the economy are two poignant issues in America, and Mexico will always be a factor, at least in my lifetime. Reading the New York Times story only leaves me with more questions.

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