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In the middle of that desert that didn’t look like sand
and sand only,
in the middle of those acacias, whiptails, and coyotes, someone yelled
“¡La Migra!” and everyone ran.
In that dried creek where 40 of us slept, we turned to each other
and you flew from my side in the dirt.
Black-throated sparrows and dawn
hitting the tops of mesquites,
beautifully. Against the herd of legs,
you sprinted back toward me,
I jumped on your shoulders,
and we ran from the white trucks. It was then the gun
ready to press its index.
I said, “freeze, Chino, ¡pará por favor!”
So I wouldn’t touch their legs that kicked you,
you pushed me under your chest,
and I’ve never thanked you.
Beautiful Chino —
the only name I know to call you by —
farewell your tattooed chest:
the M, the S, the 13. Farewell
the phone number you gave me
when you went east to Virginia,
and I went west to San Francisco.
You called twice a month,
then your cousin said the gang you ran from
in San Salvador
found you in Alexandria. Farewell
your brown arms that shielded me then,
that shield me now, from La Migra.
In general, this extract praises the courage and humanity of the immigrants while condemning the border mechanism persecuting them. The immigrants form a community where they prioritize the interests of their friends, sometimes even at the expense of personal safety. The extent of selflessness eulogizes the immigrants and portrays them, especially those like Chico, as heroes rather than criminals, which legitimizes their conduct. In addition, the text constantly depicts the natural beauty of the desert in which the scenes unfold, which is in strong contrast to the border police who break the harmony and tranquility. Another way in which the author attempts to justify illegal immigration is by mentioning MS-13, a criminal gang that eventually murders Chico because he ran from it, which demonstrates the political instability in the fatherlands of the immigrants and indicates that their attempt to cross the border is not by choice. The border, preventing these people from entering the country by violent means, is seen as the polar opposite of humanitarianism and altruism.
In the first stanza, the repetition of “in the middle of”, along with the indentation that emphasizes the lines describing nature, places in the audiences in a setting which is a desert composed of not “sand only” but also “acacias, whiptails, and coyotes.” The tranquility is disrupted by the approach of immigration police and the resulting fleeing. The author abruptly transfers to a setting of the speaker’s group sleeping collectively, where “you (Chico) flew from my (the speaker’s) side in the dirt.” Not only does this scene evoke the closeness between the two, but it also compares Chico to an angel or a bird, which symbolizes his noble pursuit of freedom. In addition, the reference to Chino using second person pronoun “you” automatically involves the audiences in the conversation and encourages them to develop empathy to the illegal immigrants. In the following stanza, the author depicts the surroundings as peaceful and undisturbed by portraying “black-throated sparrows and dawn hitting the tops of mesquites,” which is, once again, abruptly disrupted by a scene involving intense exchange between the illegal immigrants and the border police. The authorial choice of braiding natural beauty with unsettling violence magnifies the horror and unpredictability involved in the immigrants’ journey. The people running from the border police are degraded into a “herd of legs,” which demonstrates their almost instinctive, thought-lacking reaction to the border patrol, which also illuminates the uneven, prey-predator power dynamics between the two parties. Chico “sprinted back” to the speaker to rescue him, where “sprint” demonstrates the urgency of the situation as well as the unhesitating nature of Chico’s act of compassion. The audiences, witnessing the moving selflessness, can develop empathy to the immigrants who possess formidable standards of morality. To express that the two are at gunpoint of the border patrol, the author writes “it was then the gun ready to press its index.” The unusual subject of the sentence compares the border police to guns to demonstrate that the police are rather machine-like and lack the humanitarianism and compassion seen in the immigrants, which furthers the audiences’ aversion to the police and border. When telling Chino to freeze, the speaker incorporates a commonly known Spanish phrase “pará por favor,” surrounded by exclamation marks, which, when combined with the scene later where Chico protected the speaker from the border patrol’s assault, reinforces the intense yet touching emotional quality of the scene as well as the profound bonds shared by the immigrants. In the concluding section, the speaker repeatedly bids farewell to various characteristics of Chico, which demonstrates the significance of their friendship. After confirming the murder of Chico by the Salvadorian gang, the speaker elevates the eulogy by bidding farewell to Chico’s “brown arms that shielded me then, that shield me now, from La Migra (immigration police).” Not only did the “brown arms” physically shield the speaker then from the border police’s assault, but they also emotionally shield the speaker now from the trauma that resulted from the experience, which, once again, condemns the inhumanity of the border police but eulogizes the significance of the selfless compassion shared by the immigrant community.