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OPINION - Journeys to America

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Later this summer my 8-year-old son will go to the Statue of Liberty while we're on vacation in New York. He and I will go to Ellis Island, where he'll stand in the Great Hall where his great-great-great grandfather first arrived in America. It is the place where our family's American journey began.

Now consider the stories being told by some of the teenagers who've been picked up near the Arizona border. A young lady from Guatemala, 15, had her family smuggle her into Mexico to meet with a gang of Coyotes who would lead her through the dessert. Her family transferred $10,000 to an aunt in Mexico as payment. Some of the money was spent bribing the local police -- who could have locked her up and sent her back home. Now without enough money for passage, she was told that she could work off her debt by helping a drug cartel at the border.

As best we can tell she was raped twice during the journey, once by the leader of the caravan of illegals, and once by one of the people who was travelling with. Her final push to the border included being left in a storage shed with 20 others with no food or water, and then stuffed in the back of a tractor-trailer for a 12-hour drive. The last two miles would be on foot, supposedly to an area where a network of trenches and tunnels would get her into Arizona. She'd been in the U.S. for about an hour when she was picked up by the border patrol. She's been in a holding center, that resembles a prison, for a month now awaiting a hearing.

The obvious reason we don't allow unlimited numbers of undocumented immigrants into the county is that language, culture and borders are what define a nation. Without them, we won't have a country. But the less talked about reason is that it is immoral to have people abused - financially, sexually, emotionally - by human traffickers. If our border was secure... if the message was that it's almost impossible to get into the country illegally... these thugs and creeps would be out of business. Who'd give them the money and make the journey if there was almost no chance of success?

People who arrive in this country after being exploited and treated as human cargo are never going to have a love of America. They've put themselves through unspeakable abuse to get here, and they'll be in it for themselves to stay here and get what they can. That's much different than arriving on our shores legally and becoming a U.S. citizen. How someone's American journey begins tells us a lot about how it's likely to end up.

Chris Conley

A smuggled photograph of a holding area within a U.S. border patrol station in Texas from Breitbart.com.

Image: The Statue of Liberty is seen during its reopening to the public in New York July 4, 2013. Image by: EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS