On Monday of this week a group of 50 or so people from various backgrounds and of various religious and political beliefs gathered to begin the 11th year of a 75 mile trek from Sasabe, Mexico to Tucson, Arizona, through the brutal Sonoran desert, for the 11th annual Migrant Trail Walk. They will arrive in Tucson on Sunday, having walked an average of 10-15 miles per day. They walk with a team of support vehicles carrying most of their gear, plenty of food and water, and the companionship of others who care about the fact that people are dying needlessly in the desert. They walk to raise awareness of and in solidarity with so many who walk that dangerous wilderness without support vehicles and often die in a desperate search to reconnect with their families or to support their families.
There is deep gratitude that so many are still willing to walk, and deep sadness that so many still feel they must walk because the situation along the U.S. border with Mexico has grown worse and more deadly, and increasingly more expensive with fewer results with every dollar spent by the U.S. government on “border security.” The militarization of a border that cuts straight through ancient lands of the Tohono O’odham people, who for thousands of years seasonal migrated throughout the land of what is not northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States, is a line that cuts through the hearts of real people—children of God.
Up until the 1900s there was no fence—only open land. The first fence was a barbed wire fence intended to keep cattle from Mexico intermingling with cattle from the U.S. (the first “undocumented immigrants” were cattle!). That fence has slowly grown into a 20 foot high steel wall, with razor sharp sheets of metal at the top. Our immigration and trade policies have worked to heavily favor U.S. corporations who continue to seek cheaper and cheaper labor and bigger markets to sell their wears, while pushing small farmers and manufacturers (who do not benefit from government subsidies to help them keep costs, and thus prices, down) out of business. Try to find a corn farmer in Mexico. I’m told it’s near impossible because with the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico cannot charge tariffs on U.S. corn, grown by large, government subsidized corporate farms, shipped to Mexico and sold at rock-bottom prices against which Mexican farmers could not compete.
In both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures it is written that we are to welcome the stranger and offer hospitality as a sign of God’s grace, peace, and love. The Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor off the point of lower Manhattan holds a plaque that says:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
If we are truly the land of the free, shouldn’t we welcome people who are seeking freedom from all sorts of oppression? Shouldn’t we find a way to offer hospitality to those seeking refuge?
So, I hold in prayer this week my sisters and brothers walking the 75 mile 11th annual Migrant Trail Walk, as well as so many who are walking those deserts alone, hungry, and thirsty, and so many who have and will die this year (over 2,000 bodies have been recovered in Arizona alone since 1999 in Arizona, click here for more info from Humane Borders).
December 4, 2012 — U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Justice for Immigrants Campaign
Our God, you have given us in your word
The stories of persons who needed to leave
their homelands – Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, Moses.
You have chosen that the life of Jesus be filled with
events of unplanned travel and flight from enemies/
You have shown us through the modeling of Jesus
how we are called to relate to persons from
different nations and cultures.
You have called us to be teachers of your word.
We ask you, our God, to open our minds and hearts
to the challenge and invitation to model
Your perfect example of love.