Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Illegal Immigrants and Survival Stories

In my work I run across quite a few illegal immigrants. This post is not for or against illegal immigrants or a treatise on our schizophrenic immigration system, but like all situations I encounter, I look for the education that each situation can provide me. What I have learned time and time again from this particular group is about survival. Here's some things I have learned:
  • They travel great distances coming to the US, often for free. A common way to travel from say, Guatemala or Honduras is to hop the freight trains that go through Mexico and to the US. (Survival lesson: hitchhiking, walking, riding a bike, and hopping trains may be free ways to travel post disaster)
  • Their "survival supplies" that they carry with them for trips of indeterminate duration usually consist of the clothes on their back, maybe a little money, maybe a little food, maybe a knife or the like, and maybe a bottle for water. It amazes me that they can actually survive on such few things when my BOB is stuffed with things I may need to survive a disaster situation. (Survival lesson: ingenuity, creativity, and making do may be more important than having a shitload of survival gear)
  • They build a social network and provide information by word of mouth. Kind of like the drug dealers and gun runners I have come across, information isn't posted on the net about safe houses, routes that are better than others, good coyotes versus bad, etc. Instead they form loose friendships for protection/travel partners, stronger ties with people who can help them, and provide information quicker across their network than Ma Bell. (Survival lesson: have you developed/could you develop a network to help you in a time of need?)
  • They keep a low profile. Between the thugs and the cops, and anyone else who sees easy pickins with defenseless people traveling through their "turf", keeping a low profile can sometimes save their life--or at least keep them from getting robbed. (Survival lesson: keep a low profile in order to stay out of trouble)
  • They do travel long distances on foot, usually across a hot desert. I'm not sure I could accomplish such a physical feat but thousands of illegal immigrants do this each month. (Survival lesson: being in good physical shape can not be underestimated as far as survival situations go)
  • They will risk everything, often their lives, for a better future. This fuels a particular kind of determination that people who have a fairly easy life don't often develop. (Survival lesson: determination to survive is paramount)
  • They need to take care of their own. Although many come to the US by themselves, should they become injured they will be left behind in the desert to die. It is safer to travel with others who are dedicated to your protection and safety like brothers or cousins. (Survival lesson: having a survival team is a good idea--there's safety in numbers)
  • They need to be clever and stealthy in order to avoid Border Patrol. (Survival lesson: could you evade and if necessary escape from people who wanted to capture you?)
  • They settle into the US, often for years, living in an "underground" sort of way. They use cash not banks and if they need a loan it is a cash loan from friends or relatives, not a bank. They develop tangible job skills that can be "sold" to employers with a minimum of fuss such as landscaping, house keeping, construction, etc. They live many to an apartment in order to reduce expenses. They use information to their advantage such as what states issue driver's licenses with minimum ID requirements, which medical insurance plans cover them if they have an emergency (some states have insurance plans that specifically cover aliens--legal and illegal). (Survival lesson: can you be flexible enough to adapt to changeable situations?)

Those are just a few of the things I have learned from this group of people. And like I said, the point here isn't illegal immigrants--hateful comments will be deleted because the purpose here is not a immigration debate but rather to learn from people who are different than you. The more knowledge you have, the better. In every situations that you encounter, consider, what survival lessons can you learn that will help you in a SHTF situation. Question people to learn more. I always ask questions of people--soldiers returning from battle, homeless people, paramedics, fed types--basically anyone who has a story to tell that can provide useful survival information.


  1. I appreciate your post.

    There is much that can be learned from others if only one is willing to look.

    The homeless, immigrants, etc.; they have survival skills I can't even imagine.

  2. I'm really glad you brought this up. It's overlooked. We can indeed learn from others who live much differently than we're used to. Also, none of us will make it through alone.