I landed my first job as an editor on the Nogales Herald on the Arizona side of the Mexican border because I knew Spanish and the paper's Mexican editor had left to replace an older border inspector. After six months, I moved to Tucson and worked as an editor on the Arizona Star for a year and a half. Then in 1956, I joined the Associated Press Bureau in Phoenix. It was a small bureau; we had five people. It was a very busy time.
This was the period when so many migrant people were admitted to this country to work in the harvests under guest worker programs; and, as the demand for more laborers exceeded the quotas, illegal immigration began. But nobody worried about illegal immigration in those days because the truth of the matter was that contractors, farmers and others in Arizona profited from these people.
Because of my experience working on the border and my ability to speak Spanish, I was close to many incidents that now, more than 50 years later, are all too familiar.
"Van Crash Kills Nine"; Arizona, December 16, 1956: On the very day I joined the Phoenix AP Bureau, a van carrying nine migrant workers into the fields crashed and killed all nine of them.
“'Coyotes' Abandon Migrants in the Desert"; Arizona, 1960s: I received a call at midnight. Men and women being smuggled across the border by “coyotes” had been abandoned. The heat was severe, and they were in danger of dying of heat exposure. Sadly, that was exactly what happened to them. When I got there it was no longer a rescue mission. It was just a matter of retrieving the bodies. That led to another story.
"Humanitarian Groups Place Water in Desert"; Arizona, 1960s: Humanitarian groups in Tucson were alarmed that the “coyotes” abandoned the migrants without food or water. They set up stations with containers of water in the desert along favored routes. This wasn’t always popular with the border guards and park service.