Species: Onychomys torridus
Habitat: The arid badlands of south-western US and adjacent regions of Mexico, in burrows stolen from other rodents
In the dark expanses of the Sonoran desert in the US, a terrifying creature stalks the night, searching for fresh meat. Anything will do: crickets, rodents, tarantulas - the nastier the better.
Even the poisonous scorpion cannot escape the savage monster’s little pink paws. It fights bravely, stinging its attacker on the nose. To no avail. The mouse ignores the painful venom and cruelly breaks the scorpion’s tail by pummelling it into the ground, then bites its head and feasts on its flesh. Throwing its head back, the murderous animal howls at the moon.
No, it’s not the mythical Chupacabra. It’s the southern grasshopper mouse (Onychomys torridus), the only carnivorous mouse in North America. Its unique biology and resistance to scorpion venom may one day help researchers treat human pain disorders. But for now, it’s just after blood.
AN ESTIMATED ELEVEN million illegal immigrants live in the United States. More migrants, mostly from Mexico, pour in over the southwest border every day. To halt the flow, the United States has hired additional border patrol agents and built a fence along parts of the border, but migrants have evaded these measures by shifting their routes and entering through deserts that are unprotected. Some of these migrants lose their way and die of exposure. The Border Patrol gives medical aid to anyone it finds and captures, but it cannot reach everyone who needs help. A few Americans have taken steps to offer water, food, and medical aid. But these Good Samaritans have come into conflict with the Border Patrol, and with ranchers and other citizens who have set up patrols to detect illegal migrants. And during a period of high unemployment, Americans throughout the country, but most notably in Arizona, have supported laws that crack down on illegal immigration but that may result in racial profiling and harassment of Hispanics.
According to Ananda Rose, the pro-migrant groups are driven by religious conviction, compassion for people who end up dying in the desert, and opposition to American law, which in their eyes treats illegal migrants too harshly. The ranchers and their supporters do not oppose immigration, but they do oppose uncontrolled entry by illegal migrants, who bring with them dangerous crime including drug smuggling, and often destroy property and ultimately threaten, or so they argue, American culture. A lawful system of migration exists, one that distributes visas to people who live in different countries; the illegal migrants from Mexico act unfairly by pushing to the front of the line. The upshot is a “showdown” between two passionate groups that share no common ground.
Rose avoids taking sides in the dispute, but it is easy to see where her sympathies lie. A nun who works in a soup kitchen that helps migrants on the Mexican side of the border “is a well of strength and determination.” A member of the anti-migrant Patriots Coalition, who is described as “sitting in a lawn chair, eating his third cream donut and petting a standard white poodle who is draped in a full-sized American flag,” gets less favorable treatment. Rose thinks that reasonable people can disagree about how the government should deal with illegal immigration, but she also thinks something must be done to end the deaths in the Sonoran Desert, and she is clearly more impressed by the charitable impulses of the pro-migrant groups than by the law-and-order mentality of the donut-chomping patriots. Indeed, she criticizes an Arizona law that devotes state enforcement resources to immigration enforcement, and she attacks the border fence, arguing that it sends a message of exclusion.