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Don’t Mess With El Paso

Guest Column
T.K. Focht

I’d like to know where Michael Borucke is from. Then perhaps I could tear into his home as irrationally, illogically, and ignorantly as he did mine.

El Paso has problems. El Paso probably has more problems facing it than do most cities its size -- serious issues such as incredibly high unemployment and lack of decent housing for its people. However, running around pointing out all the negatives is only a way to anger people. Providing incomplete or false explanations for those negatives will only make them angrier.

Borucke points out the use of racial profiling in a police search of his bus and on the international bridges. Quite frankly, it’s either that or search everyone. Keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States is not a matter of racism, it’s a matter of protection. Illegal immigration only contributes to the problems facing the border because it is accompanied by unemployment, poor health, poverty, and homelessness. And if there’s anyone I would rather not have breaking laws and carrying unlicensed weapons, it would be people who have nothing to lose because they’ve already broken the law by coming here.

Borucke goes on to point out that El Paso is dependent on heavy industry and seems to lack commerce. I’m not sure how the lack of large buildings in downtown El Paso shows a lack of capital -- this arrangement is not uncommon in the West. We have space, so we spread ourselves out. (I have problems understanding why people here live stacked on top of each other, but it’s the way the city is built.) El Paso prospered for two reasons: its location as a pass in the Rockies and its mineral resources. However, because the desert climate prevents other large population centers from growing nearby due to lack of food and water (the city’s supply will run out in 2020), only the natural resources have dominated the city’s growth. It was only once the industry was in place and the population was growing, that El Paso began to have any sort of commercial environment of the type Borucke was looking for.

It is true that we are losing even that industry to Mexico, predominantly through NAFTA. However, there has never been a reason why the city could not benefit from NAFTA. Federal and state funding goes into El Paso for transportation and for improving quality of life. The resources are there. My mother worked for several years in a computer center with two purposes: teaching paying customers about computers and teaching people the government paid for about computers and the English language. The jobs are there for people with skills -- even just the basic skill of speaking English (or both English and Spanish, which is even better, putting many of these people ahead of me in the job pool since I only speak English). It does take some effort, though, and some people aren’t willing to commit to that. Instead, in the years since NAFTA, I have watched people protest it on the international bridges because they lost their jobs. In the meantime, there are other people who have quit bitching, gone to classes, gained skills needed in an American market, and gotten jobs. Often their new jobs are higher paying, less intensive, and less hazardous. If there is any contrast between wealth and poverty due to NAFTA, it’s there.

As a side note to that, I’d like to note that I appreciate Alison Wong’s representation of El Paso. It’s nice to know that when I go home, I will see a crude, dilapidated town filled only with beggars and criminals. I’ll take some pictures and send them to The Tech. Then we won’t have to rely on the drawings any more.

As far as the United States stealing Texas and California from Mexico, Mexico stealing Texas from Native Americans who were predominantly Apache and Comanche, and the Apache and Comanche stealing it from still earlier tribes, I personally am very glad it happened. If history hadn’t gone that way, I would not be here. My mother’s family would be somewhere around Barcelona. My father’s would be in western Poland or eastern Germany, if they even existed. Like it or not, history happens and we are the result of it. If bad things are a part of it, that isn’t a reason to shut one’s eyes and complain that things aren’t fair. We can only try to make things as right as possible in the current situation and move on.

Overall, I’d like to point out that there is one redeeming quality of Borucke’s article. He points out at the end that things will only improve with El Pasoans and Juarenses acting together in their own interest (where ideas given to us by people thousands of miles away cannot) and that we seem aware that there are numerous outside forces acting on us. Oddly enough, we have long been aware of that. Outsiders don’t see the entire picture and haven’t learned many of the reasons we do things the way we do. And yet Borucke doesn’t see himself as one of those outsiders. Perhaps that’s just another of the juxtapositions he points out in his Spring Break article -- this one between perception and reality. Borucke’s perception seems to be that people will appreciate his warnings and take them to heart, thankful that he has pointed out so many things we haven’t seen before. The reality is that people are already aware of the problems and that we realize that the solutions are there -- but that they won’t come from people visiting the area for two or three days.

T.K. Focht is a member of the class of 2004.