La Jornada, one of the most widely read newspapers in Mexico runs a cartoon every Sunday called “When the Border Patrol Catches Up With Me.” The Mexican towns along the 1,950-mile U.S. border are gateways to the mirage of the American Dream, and for generations, Mexicans have crossed into El Norte. Mojados, or border-jumpers, cross the mountains of California, the Arizona desert and the fast flowing currents of the Rio Grande in Texas. Others try a shorter route, scrambling past border stations equipped with ground sensors, night vision telescopes and remote operated cameras. A third of all majados are captured and returned. Others are robbed, murdered, raped and beaten by extortion gangs that ride the railways. Many die though from exposure, lack of water or simply being ill prepared.

In a bold move, the Fox administration has decided that needless deaths of so many poor migrating Mexicans has too long been ignored by its predecessors, and has set up the Office for Mexicans Abroad, to assist the matadors. One program is the distribution of survival kits and education to those wishing to cross the borer illegally. This approach, titled ‘Vete Sano, Regresa Sano” (Leave Healthy, Return Healthy), will cost $2 million US a year.

Distributed in 369 of Mexico’s poorest municipalities, these kits are lifesavers for an ill educated and often desperate group of people. Each survival kit contains food, water, and medical supplies (including condoms). Information on wilderness survival is included, plus a list of California health clinics that so not require a Social Security number. In selected communities health workers will lecture on matters relating to nutrition and the change of diet in the U.S. Also discussed will be psychological issues relating to immigration, as well as an n Asian breathing technique for combating stress, depression and anxiety.

The Mexican government enlisted the help of repeat border-jumpers in creating the programs content and structure. Hundreds of frequent border-jumpers have also been recruited and trained in emergency first aid, and equipped with supplies in the event that they come across people in distress. However, the survival kits will make it no easier to escape the regular border patrol nor such vigilante groups as the American Patrol, who have allegedly killed a number of majados- including some who were returning to Mexico.