January 17, 2008, - 2:18 pm

HILARIOUS: “Migrant Artifacts” – Illegal Alien Desert Trash Now “Art”

By Debbie Schlussel
This is hilarious.
Some aging hippy-dippy artist chick has invented a strange new high-brow mode of respect for illegal aliens. Their discarded wrappers, gloves, ripped jeans, and other trash is no longer “trash,” except maybe to you lowly, the lumpenproletariat, who is too unsophisticated to understand that a used condom covered in desert sand and who-knows-what-communicable-disease is actually advanced, brilliant art. These are “pilgrims” on a “journey,” after all.
No lie:

AMADO, Ariz. — Valarie James looks for art in the desert. On a recent evening stroll with her three dogs, she gathered up a soiled bandage, a discolored hand-stitched cloth and ripped jeans.
She recognized it all as items abandoned by people sneaking into the U.S. on foot.


Lost & Found at the Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink? Nope, It’s “Migrant Artifacts” “Art” on Exhibit. . . .

“For most everybody, this is trash,” says Ms. James, a 53-year-old artist who maintains a collection of migrant artifacts, mostly belongings discarded by illegal border crossers here. “You can see the migrant’s journey in these jeans,” she says, pointing to the holes made in them by cactus needles in the Sonoran desert.
Ms. James, an art teacher, collects all sorts of stuff on her desert treks. She treats with care the Tweety Bird backpacks, tattered hand-embroidered cloths and faded photographs she finds half-buried in dry creek beds or hanging stiffly on trees. Some discards are literary; for example, an anthology of Shakespeare plays and the “Diary of Anne Frank,” both in Spanish. Other things, ranging from bandages to binoculars, are more ordinary. “It’s like the pilgrims’ journey,” Ms. James says. [DS: Insert finger down throat.]
Litter left by illegal immigrants has long been a nuisance, but lately it has become a particular burden for Arizona. . . . The Bureau of Land Management estimates that each migrant dumps eight pounds of trash. In 2006, the agency and its partners in southern Arizona collected more than 300,000 pounds of migrant refuse in the 100 miles north of the border.
Immigration was already an emotional issue in Arizona. Litter is making things worse. Ranchers, hikers and environmentalists all bemoan the “migrant trash,” as an eyesore and a threat to desert wildlife and vegetation.
So-called staging areas, where migrants change into clean clothes and wait for rides at the end of their crossing, become “hazardous-waste zones,” says Roger DiRosa, manager of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
For Arizona residents as far as 30 miles north of the Mexican border, migrant trash is a daily annoyance. “I can’t stand the mess,” says Dick Riester, who typically returns home from his mountain hikes hauling a 40-pound garbage bag stuffed with plastic water bottles, backpacks and other things he finds on migrant trails.
Ms. James first encountered migrant trash in 2004, on the open range across the road from her ranch. As she was walking her dogs, she tripped on an abandoned bag. In it, she found two infant dresses, a little girl’s birth certificate and a Johnson & Johnson “No M?°s L?°grimas” (“No More Tears”) shampoo bottle. Next to the bag was a set of women’s clothing.
“What happened to this woman and her child?” she wonders. “Did they stagger to the nearby road? Were they picked up by the border patrol? Or, are they living somewhere in the U.S.?” She made a candle-lit shrine to the unknown mother and child in an unused building on her spread. [DS: Oh, how touching.]
As she encountered more castaway items, her collection grew. Neighbors and friends started giving her things, too, including a tiny crocheted baby mitten stuck with cactus needles. [DS: Awwww.]
Today, a makeshift gallery on Ms. James’s ranch holds her large collection. In the middle of the room sits a pile of 30 rolled-up blankets. In one corner, Ms. James keeps dozens of children’s backpacks — most of them with familiar logos — Scooby-Doo, Barbie, Batman. A medicine table features acetaminophen tablets, tubes of antiseptic cream and rubbing alcohol. Most of the labels are in Spanish, including one for an herbal remedy to treat snakebite. Among the display of shoes, sneakers and boots, a man’s black leather loafer stands out. Tucked inside are several pages from “Hamlet,” in which Shakespeare’s tragic hero ponders his own mortality.
“Was he a teacher?” Ms. James wonders.
A work by Valarie James called ‘Winter in the Sonoran Desert’.
Ms. James has washed and restored many items, including fine embroidered cloths. But she has left many items exactly as she encountered them, including a stiff, rolled-up child’s leather jacket.
Bibles and other books abound. Birth certificates and ID cards adorn a wall. There are airline and bus tickets, and deportation documents. Inside one wallet is a bundle of Florida business cards, job contacts, she figures. A message in Spanish — “Give it all you got so you can return quickly” — was written on the back of a family photo. A child’s drawing depicts the journey many illegal immigrants expect, starting at a hostel on the Mexican border and ending at a perfect little house with a well-tended lawn.
Ms. James has encountered migrants themselves, often on the verge of collapse or hobbling along on blistered feet. “For those of us who live close to the border, the humanitarian crisis is not an abstraction,” says the artist. Each year, hundreds of migrants perish in the desert. In 2005, a migrant woman died of dehydration in the arms of her son less than half a mile from Ms. James’s house.
Ms. James was inspired to make three life-size sculptures of mothers to honor the dead migrants. In collaboration with sculptors Antonia Gallegos and Deb McCullough, she created, “Las Madres: No M?°s L?°grimas,” which have been on display for more than a year at Pima Community College outside Tucson, where Ms. James teaches. Each sculpture is made from jeans and other articles found in the desert. Each mother’s arms are crossed over her heart and the eyes are closed in contemplation.
A separate exhibition of Ms. James’s art features a series of open wooden boxes, or “assemblages of the journey,” which incorporate items left behind by migrants. Ms. James curated the show at El Ojito Springs Center for Creativity in Tucson and it also includes mixed-media installations and photographs by other border artists.
Many people react strongly — and not all positively — to the assemblage of “junk” art. Gallery owner Randy Ford says the exhibit hasn’t been as well attended as he had expected. He believes area residents are tired of the immigration issue.
One visitor, Ursula Hollis, said migrants have ruined the pristine mountains near her home in Sierra Vista. “When somebody told me they see hopes and dreams in there, I laughed. To me trash is trash.” [DS: Right on, sister!]
Later, however, Ms. Hollis recalled that she had saved some immigrant trash herself — pictures and letters from children to their migrant father, which she had found in the desert and stashed in a drawer. “This young man and his children touched my heart,” says Mrs. Hollis. She mailed the belongings to Ms. James.

Of course, they touch her heart. They never took her job, lowered her wages, took her Medicaid, raped her daughter, killed her son, etc. . . . That, they did to other people.
Notice the “Diary of Anne Frank” reference. Do you really believe she found that in the desert? Do you really believe drug smugglers and illegal aliens from Mexico and Arabia sneaking in through our Southern border are reading “The Diary of Anne Frank”? Hello . . .?
When I saw some of this “art,” it reminded me–as is her obvious purpose–of the collections of belongings on exhibit at Auschwitz. But these are illegal alien lawbreakers who are lowering wages and bringing a crime wave upon our nation, not innocents rounded up by the Third Reich and destined for ovens and lampshades. The obviously intended comparison is nauseating.
Oh, and by the way, there actually is no art exhibit of illegal aliens’ used condoms. I made that up. That and an exhibit of discarded shell casings from illegal aliens guns and weaponry don’t make Ms. James’ “art”. Because that would remind us of what’s really going on. These are criminals, not Auschwitz death camp inmates.

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21 Responses

Maybe she’s on to something- I’ll invite her to my house and tell her my attic, garage and laundry room are full of “ART”. Maybe then my house will get straightened up….

MarySJ on January 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Oh I almost forgot—
How does she classify they “Rape Conquest Panties” Trees? Are they a profound artistic statement??

MarySJ on January 17, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Now that the US dollar has fallen versus the Canadian dollar, shall we see once again hundreds of Canadian shoppers coming into Michigan, buying new clothes and dumping their old threads in the mall parking lots before they head back across the border?
These old clothes could be recycled into Art.

montag on January 17, 2008 at 3:34 pm

What a moron. She is probably one of those bleeding hearts who doesn’t even understand the English language well enough, when proclaiming that “human beings aren’t illegal,” when no one ever actually said that HUMANS are illegal. Ya think she can guide me to where the bones are of the dead, those who failed in their trek to “freedom” (read: stealing our tax money)? I could build a house to live in with those bones.

jeff on January 17, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Jeff! I hope you’re having a LOVELY day.
    I’d like to bounce into your existence bubble to inform you that migrants pay for social security that they will never receive and cannot utilize food stamps. Also, as soon as Trump’s crackdown was underway, California experienced rotting fields of unharvested foods. Hm… Even more “mind-blowing” is that migrants sign up to be organ donors in the US, even though they can never receive a donated organ! And of course, the US no longer provides amnesty for those targeted by the cartel. When that happens, you die before you get to cross into the US legally. Hm. Sounds to me like these migrants are….people??? Caught up in a complex and multi-faceted situation??? With roots in NAFTA and the guaranteed mountain-death of Prevention through Deterrence??? History, man. Wow. I encourage you to contemplate these matters while you dwell in your macabre skeletal house.
    It’s integral to engage in critical thinking skills–but don’t worry, we all need a reminder every now and then.

    Alexa Bailey on November 6, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Wonder how many prayer mats & Korans there are in the “artifacts” — or have those all been consigned to display in a dumpster?

DocLiberty on January 17, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Montag, the discarded clothing problem was also a problem at the Galleria Mall’s parking lot outside of Buffalo and the Outlet Mall’s parking lot in Niagara Falls.
That said, a pack rat by any name is a pack rat.

John Cunningham on January 18, 2008 at 6:32 am

Now I’ve heard everything. She MUST be from San Francisco.

Rich B on January 18, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Canadians have used the U.S. side of the border, by Niagara Falls, as a garbage dump site for decades.Perhaps its time to return the favor…?

jeff on January 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm

So that Hispanic man yelling at me through my doorway was really performance art?

PJ on January 18, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Instead or hoarding all this stuff to advance her pathetic notion of herself as an “artist”, why doesn’t this woman do something useful with the useful items she finds, like, um, donate them to a local charity? There must be plenty of poor U.S.-born kids, or children of struggling LEGAL immigrants, who could use a new backpack for school, or a warm blanket. And BTW, these migrants don’t exactly sound like the wretched of the earth if they can afford to purchase such things and then leave them behind in the desert. What an utter load of c**p.

angloirishslav on January 19, 2008 at 2:27 am

    Common misconception. Migrants leave behind these items for various reasons that relate to the difficulties of their travels. Considering that they are oftentimes economic refugees, I believe you might have created a logical fallacy to explain what is, indeed, a question that requires deeper thought and research. It’s an understandable mistake on your part to have done so.
    Also, this art is representational. It is all that is left behind of lost and deceased peoples. It brings awareness to employ it in this fashion, and as such, cannot simply be donated.

    Alexa Bailey on November 6, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Common misconception. A migrant loses his/her belongings during their journey for various reasons, all of which require intensive contemplation or some research. The idea that they abandoned their belongings due to the ability to buy new ones later is the result of a logical fallacy, since they are typically economic refugees. It’s an easy trap of thought to fall into.
    Also, the items cannot be donated due to damage or value. Their value derives from what they represent, which is an ongoing humanitarian crisis along the borderlands. Representational art is not a new method of raising awareness, and it continues to be employed for that purpose. They are historically important.

    Alexa Bailey on November 6, 2017 at 9:18 pm

Wow…this is a horrible website which seems to attract horrible and negative people. wish i had not stumbled upon it.

DisgustedBy Debbie Schlussel on July 20, 2010 at 1:39 am

@DisgustedBy Debbie Schlussel

I have to say I couldn’t agree with you more.

To everyone else: Do you realize that only a mere 20% of the immigrants crossing are considered drug runners or murders or rapists? 20%, and that’s rounding up. You obviously have no idea what’s going on at the border aside from what you have heard on the news. In addition, they are not stealing anyone’s jobs, most of them are working as food service workers and other low paying jobs that only help to STIMULATE the US economy. Do me a favor and think about this: a child is born in the US, a legal citizen. That child’s mother is deported and now she is crossing trying to see her young child again, but dies in the process. Do you think that she’s a drug dealer or rapist? This happens everyday. How would you feel if you were trying to make a better life for yourself and your child, and you were deported or died trying to get to them? No one should ever separate a mother and a child, that’s just an inhumane thing to do. Just do some research, go down to the border and learn like I did, instead of coming on here and spewing your ignorant rant on the internet. Like the old saying goes, “Before you criticize someone, give up everything, walk 200 miles in someone else’s tattered shoes across the 110+ degree Arizona desert with your child and try to survive.” (I think it’s something like that…)

Ignorance is Bliss I Guess. on December 8, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Debbie, you have got to be one of the most ignorant, uninformed, uneducated people that have ever had the nerve to share their opinions. I sincerely advise you, for the cure of your own stupidity, to read up, study up, and get out of your spoiled-by-the-American-lifestyle point of view.
Furthermore, you are a complete racist, how dare you make such remarks as “rapists” and insult an entire nationality? Shame on you, Debbie Schlussel.

Terrible on April 12, 2011 at 12:42 am

I couldn’t agree more with the last three comments. Debbie, you clearly have no idea what’s really going on along our southern border. Most of these people are crossing because it’s the only way they can make enough money to support their families. I’m curious what you would do if your children were starving to death and there was no way for you to provide for them in your country. However, I’m worried the answer would be nothing because from reading this article you show absolutely no sympathy for these immigrants. Apparently their children should starve to death. And just to let you know drug smugglers are not the only ones crossing the border, so why is it so hard for you to believe Valerie found “The Diary of Anne Frank” in the desert? Women and children are crossing too, so how about next time you waste your time typing up your ignorant opinions you go out to the border yourself and get the facts straight. I can’t imagine that if you were less ignorant you would still have these views.These articles found in the desert are left by people who have risked everything they have to try to make a better life for themselves and their families, knowing that there’s a chance they could lose their lives in the desert. Also, I’ve met Valerie James and she is a beautiful, wonderful person, and her artwork is mind blowing.

thisisfrustrating on November 16, 2011 at 12:04 am

“The Diary of Anne Frank”?

Was it a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, the Albert Hachett/Frances Goodrich play, which turned the eloquent particularist, Anne, may the al-mighty avenge her blood, into a trite assimilationist, or was it Anne’s diary itself, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl?

Miranda Rose Smith on December 28, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Was it a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, the Albert Hackett/Frances Goodrich play, which turned the eloquent particularist, Anne, may the al-mighty avenge her blood, into a trite assimilationist, or was it Anne’s diary itself, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl?

    Miranda Rose Smith on December 28, 2011 at 2:02 am


    Miranda Rose Smith on December 28, 2011 at 2:06 am

Furthermore, you are a complete racist, how dare you make such remarks as “rapists” and insult an entire nationality? Shame on you, Debbie Schlussel.

Terrible on April 12, 2011 at 12:42 am


Dear Terrible:

The essence of racism is a belief in innate differences, the belief that “they’re born that way.” I defy you to find one sentence in which Ms. Schlussel suggests that anybody is born any way.

Miranda Rose Smith on December 28, 2011 at 2:05 am

^Check it, lady.
Dehumanization masquerading as some sort of (cruel) art critique… I invite Debbie to volunteer with No More Deaths, venture out into the desert to witness the trash artifacts, and then make an educated decision on the meaning of such items.

Alexa Bailey on November 6, 2017 at 8:45 pm

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