Tue 24 January 2006
Thousands of Mexicans come to the United States every year and, besides the legal troubles of border crossing, they face a tough journey across the desert in order to reach their destination. They have very little information to go on and many die from dehydration as they attempt to find their way through the vast deserts of the american southwest.
A faith-based organization called Humane Borders is trying to help the situation. They have produced a number of maps documenting town locations, roads, water stations, walking distances, cell phone towers and even places where other immigrants have died along the way. This was made possible in part by GIS software donated by ESRI.
I heard today on CNN with Lou Dobbs that the Mexican government is now printing and distributing these maps to citizens. Though the maps will clearly state "Don't Do It! It's Hard! There's Not Enough Water!", critics are saying the maps aid criminals and will enourage illegal aliens to cross the border. Others have pointed out that, from an economic standpoint, this may benefit the US border patrol since so much of their budget is devoted to aiding sick and injured imigrants and properly taking care of the dead. Humane Borders is hoping to make people aware of the risks so that they can either choose not to go or be better prepared should they decide to cross.
In any case, it is an interesting example of how geographic information is still so important (and controversial) in our society.