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Maria(s) Full of Grace

March 31, 2006

Paul and I just finished watching the movie Maria Full of Grace,
a film about a Colombian girl who comes to the United States with 20+
pellets of cocaine in her stomach in order to make money for her
family.  The pellets are as large as horse pills and were
swallowed by Maria–as well as three other girls sent to the USA with
her–prior to their 7-hour plane ride from Bogota to New Jersey. 
One of the girls dies upon arrival because a pellet splits open in her
stomach, and another of them is arrested at the airport.  The
other two end up escaping into New York City to avoid the mistreatment
of the drug dealers who had picked them up at the airport and dumped
the dead girl’s body in a river.

The most horrifying part of the movie is that it’s true.  The
particular story is not true, but the practice of sending girls from
Colombia to the USA with up to 30 or 40 cocaine pellets in their
stomaches is true; there are
hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Maria’s sent to the USA each year
to sustain the business of the drug cartels, which face ever tougher
customs security.

Watching the film and feeling the empathy I felt for Maria, who had
quit her previous job because her boss was abusive and thus was forced
into the drug trade–her only other income-earning option–made me feel
fiercely gratified that I have become involved in the fight for
immigrants’ rights here in Philadelphia.  An overwhelming majority
of the undocumented workers living in our country are hard working,
honest, strong individuals–they are not criminals as the House of
Representatives wants to make them (see for what our representatives
wish to do to immigrants).  Maria may have committed a crime by
crossing into the USA with drugs in her stomach, but those who would
have her imprisoned and deported for such a desperate act will have
committed a much bigger crime:  a crime against humanity.

The United States has always been sustained by the hard work of
venturous individuals who make the difficult decision to come to a new
country in search of opportunity; none of us, save American Indians,
would be here were it not for immigration.  How can we arbitrarily
decide it’s time to close America’s door to the world’s tired, poor,
and huddled masses yearning to breathe free? How can we close our door to our country’s history as well as to our country’s future?

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