A friend of mine told me the story of his illegal immigration. It was quite an eye-opener.
When he was young, his family lived in a country crushed by poverty and crime, government corruption and greed. Bribes to government officials were frequent and necessary because the country was a conduit for drug trafficking, which was rampant.
Nearly all of the citizens were dirt-poor, many keeping subsistence-level gardens in order to assure themselves of enough food during the year. Because everyone was poor, because no one had anything, everyone shared. It was the only way to survive.
His mother slowly scrimped and saved enough over the years to pay what we now call a "coyote" to smuggler herself and her son out. She recognized that neither she nor her eight-year old boy could survive a walk across the border - another way had to be found. So, she negotiated with a man whose company regularly ran a van filled with workers back and forth across the border checkpoint. Because the van made the transit every day, border guards were used to it, they paid less attention to it than to the general population.
Each seat in the van could be opened to store tools underneath the cushions. The cavities were also large enough to store people, if the hidden person was willing to put up with the contortions necessary to fit inside.
On the appointed day, he and his mother each climbed into their box, the seat cushions were adjusted and a worker took his place on the seat for the ride across the border.
They made it, but, as it turned out, their success was simply the first trial. The van didn't travel very far past the border checkpoint. Once they were safely across, they needed to get away from the area as quickly as possible. They had tickets for the train and began to walk towards the train station in order to get to where relatives would take them in.
On their way to the station, they were stopped by the police. The police officer noticed that they appeared to be lost, discovered they were not legally in the country, pointed them back to the border, ordered them to return to their own country and walked away. The mother and her boy walked in the direction the officer pointed out until he was out of sight, then turned and quickly headed back towards the train station.
This happened six times.
Finally, they made it onto the train, to their relatives and to freedom. The young man joined the air force, became a jet pilot and spent years ready to defend the country against attack. But it would be years longer before he finally became an American.
As Horst told me the story of his escape from East Germany, I thought it incredibly ironic. The same conservatives who used to champion every escape from the oppression, fear and poverty of communist governments now vilify those who wish to escape similar oppression, fear and poverty in Mexico. The same liberals who used to decry the way these communist immigrants were lauded in the West now themselves laud the migrant.
Despite the fact that these illegal migrants (from East Germany's point of view) were often deliberately infiltrated with spies and criminals intent on destroying the West, despite the fact that East Germany deliberately trafficked drugs across the border, despite the fact that the communist East bent every power at its disposal to destroy the capitalist civilization its citizens invaded, West Germany welcomed the immigrants and the West applauded her for it.
What a difference a few decades makes.