I got my green card yesterday. It was surprisingly anticlimactic: where I expected the Spanish Inquisition, I got a pat on the shoulder and a short “congratulations.” The overworked INS officer disappeared before I even managed to thank him. Lanie and I had to find our own way out. A week of photocopying documents and painstakingly highlighting phone bills to prove that neither of us has any earthly duties but being the apple of the other's eye—wasted. I was too nervous to be annoyed. Our interviewer wasn't nervous at all; he was bored and harried. He seemed to wish we would go away and stop hassling him.
By my reckoning, his little red stamp has raised the black-market value of my passport from about nothing to about ten thousand dollars. Ten thousand was the going rate in Prague circa 2000, where I last discussed these matters with knowledgeable people. (It's astounding, the things people know.) Nothing, I suspect, is still the value of a passport from an obscure Central Asian republic, although I can't be certain. So far as I know, there is no market for obscure Central Asian passports because stealing them doesn't pay.
Today I checked the web for some fun facts on illegal immigration. Apparently, the death season on the Mexican border starts around April and rises to its zenith (or sinks to its nadir, if you're a pessimist) around June-July, when up to sixty bodies can turn up in a month. That's when the heat is so fierce in the Arizona desert that it boils your blood. They find desiccated corpses picked by the animals but otherwise well-preserved lying out in the sands. In Texas, migrants go underwater into rivers and canals to escape the sun. They wash up after a day or two, their eyes open and their skins cool. Water is what kills them East or West: too little of it, or too much.