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Instead of sending in the National Guard, reform our immigration laws [Letter]

Having just spent five weeks in Central America, I felt heartsick on reading about the Maryland National Guard hunting down the poorest and most vulnerable people crossing our borders ("Maryland National Guard helping to patrol Mexican border," April 26).

After 25 years of working in Central America, I now have friends who are crossing that border. They are not running drugs, yet they are met by helicopters, dogs and guns. They end up incarcerated. Does the use of all this sophisticated equipment and manpower against people who are defenseless make sense?

Three or four decades ago, U.S.-funded wars in Central America sent civilians fleeing north for their lives on a perilous journey. They are still doing so, but now they are fleeing the gang threats and dire poverty that resulted from those wars. They are still trying to survive. If they could do so in their own country, they wouldn't be leaving. Most Central Americans love their homelands.

The gang behavior was learned in Los Angeles, an export from the U.S. It is not part of Central American culture. It has been fueled by the policies and practices of U.S. immigration officials, who deported the problem only to magnify it in the places it came from.

Just before I returned, a native co-worker was brutally beaten and cannot reveal anything to authorities for fear of being killed. Maybe time, energy and money can be better invested in revising our asylum criteria and working with young people to eradicate drug use, which is a major source of the problem.

Sister Patricia A. Rogucki

The writer is a member of the Baltimore Archdiocesan Immigration Coalition.

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