SAHUARITA, ARIZONA. I am sitting in a large room at the Church of the Good Shepherd UCC with a large group of mostly white, Snowbirds. Grey hair, some people without hair and a scattering of younger adults visiting for the annual Border Issues Fair that this church sponsors. Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, a Phoenix lawyer, presents us with a challenge from his work with immigrants seeking to stay in the USA.
"Every human being who crosses the U.S. border knows that he/she has an inherent right to migrate." So who is it in our country who doesn't understand or accept that fact? He quotes Stokely Carmichael from a speech given in 1966 at the University of California, Berkeley.
"I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people. For example, I am black. I know that. I also know that while I am black I am a human being, and therefore I have the right to go into any public place. White people didn't know that. Every time I tried to go into a place they stopped me. So some boys had to write a bill to tell that white man, "He’s a human being; don’t stop him." That bill was for that white man, not for me. I knew it all the time. I knew it all the time."
Ray added. Immigrant rights are similar to the civil rights movement. It is the dominant white culture that does not recognize the rights of humans to migrate. It is President Trump and his allies who keep trying to shut down immigration.
NOGALES, SONORA, MEXICO
A Grupos Beta, Mexican immigration agency spokesperson in Nogales, Mexico, told us that their job is not to stop migrants from crossing to the United States but to provide information about the dangers of crossing the Sonoran desert as well as to patrol the Mexican side of the border looking for people in need of medical assistance. They operate a small shelter for migrants who need to bathe, call their family and make a decision as to whether they will return to their country of origin.
There are showers and bathrooms for those either waiting to cross or who have been deported from the USA.
The Grupos Beta spokesperson told us, a small group of North Americans, that they cannot stop the migrants, because in Mexico "it is not against the law to migrate" or in Spanish, NO es un delito a migrar."
Why does the US government and many U.S. citizens not recognize the right to migrate? Why do we criminalize people who out of desperation migrate to seek safety or to reunite with their family members who live in the United States. And now the Trump administration wants asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their applications are processed.
We visited a shelter for women in Nogales, Sonora - HEPAC, in Spanish it means the house of Peace and Hope. Fifteen women and children were in the space waiting their turn to go to the port of entry to ask for asylum. The shelter is preparing a new space as they expect more women and children to arrive in Nogales from the latest caravan coming north from Central America.
The two photos show the current space with families and the other is the new space waiting to be completed in order to house more families.
The majority of the American public do not want a wall, especially one that will cost $5 billion dollars. Let's yell and demand that our elected officials find some real solutions. As Dee Mango, the Republican mayor of El Paso, Texas said today on NPR:
"But the biggest problem we've got is the whole immigration system to begin with. I mean, it hasn't been addressed for 30 years. There's been a lack of intestinal fortitude on both sides of the aisle. And it's time for them to step up and do something about it." 1/28/19 NPR
Call your Member of Congress and Senator. Ask them to get together on a bi-partisan basis to pass a humane and just immigration bill that does not separate families and allows people to migrate. A WALL IS NOT AN ANSWER!
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?