When there’s talk of border crossings and illegal Mexican migrants, my thoughts used to turn to the ugliness of Donald Trump’s dream: “I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border.”
But after reading a remarkable feature in California Sunday Magazine, I try to think about Sixty-Six Garage instead. The name of Mr Sixty-Six Garage may not ring a bell with you, but to be fair, it doesn’t ring one with him either. He is an undocumented Mexican migrant whose truck overturned on a border crossing in June 1999. He hit his head and never woke up.
Ever since the accident, Sixty-Six Garage has lived in a persistent vegetative state in a San Diego nursing home where he gets round-the-clock care. He is alive but almost completely unresponsive; he can do nothing for himself.
What a country America is! It produces a politician who treats illegal migrants as if they were cockroaches and nurses who treat them as if they were their own family. Would that the world media focused on the nurses rather than on Mr Trump’s grandstanding.
Anyhow, this 18-20-year-old man had taken the “undocumented” part of his journey seriously. He had no papers, no mobile phone, no tattoos. He could not be identified and so the nursing home bureaucracy christened him Sixty-Six Garage — although some of the staff protested that it was undignified.
Soon after he arrived, a wonderful woman named Paula paid a visit to a friend in the home and noticed him. She sat by his bed for a while and spoke to him in Spanish. From then on, every week for 15 years, she visited him. Like everyone else, she wondered who Sixty-Six Garage was.
There are thousands upon thousands of illegal migrants who go missing on desperate attempts to cross the border. Were they murdered? Did they suffocate in a truck? Did they die of thirst? Did they join a gang? No one knows. But their relatives are desperate to find them.
A photo of Sixty-Six Garage has been shared more than 300,000 times on Facebook. Earlier this year a friend of Paula’s took an interest in the case and Sixty-Six Garage was finally fingerprinted. A match led to his sister in the southern state of Oaxaca. Now Sixty-Six Garage has a real name and a real identity. His sister can wave at him over Skype on his birthday from Oaxaca.
As for Paula, the nursing home bureaucrats told her that since she was not a relative she could no longer visit him to protect his privacy. Sometimes she sits in a car outside his window and wonders how he is.
It’s a remarkable story. You can read it here.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.