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7 iii St;’4 , iikrt ” 4-* Photo by Steven Goodson TEXAS S ERVER June 18, 1982 _ A Journal of Free Voices 75 After Crossing Rio Bravo By Chad Richardson and Joe Feagin Lower Rio Grande Valley The Rio Grande is a treacherous river. Countless bodies are pulled every year from its muddy waters, giving evidence that its Mexican name “El Rio served. For Mexicans illegally crossing into the U.S., however, the dangers of the river are often mild compared to the myriad of problems they face in trying to carry on their lives “on the lam.” Some live with ‘constant uncertainty and fear until they are either apprehended or return to Mexico. Others, however, seek ways to legalize their status through application for legal residence through the Immigration and Naturalization Service partment of State. For such individuals the uncertainty and risks of staying afloat in the legalization channel are frequently worse than the dangerous undertows of the Rio Grande or of trying to hide from immigration officers. Estimates of the size of the undocumented population in the U.S. vary tremendously, with low estimates of twelve million. These estimates are Mexican aliens in 1978 constituted 97.5% of all aliens apprehended by Border Patrol Officers, though Mexicans are often estimated to constitute only about 60% of the total undocumented population in the U.S. Such figures lend credence to the charge that the Border Patrol is, in effect, “an anti-Mexican police force.”‘ For undocumented Mexicans seeking to legalize their status, however, the Border Patrol and INS investigators are only part of the problem. A host of other agencies and individuals are involved, often in the performance of “services” of questionable value or exorbitant cost. In order to understand this network, since 1978 we have interviewed approximately 40 undocumented Mexican aliens and ‘As we discussed in the August 28, 1981, issue of the Observer, however, the influx of Salvadoran ref ugees has recently shifted a major focus of enforcement activities to the deportation of refugees.