U-C: What I See

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Meanwhile, Back on the Border


I arrived back in Tucson on Sunday night at 9 p.m. Tucson time (5 a.m. Monday morning in Kinshasa), and on Monday I joined about 125 people who gathered in the border city of Sasabe to kick-off the "Migrant Journey: We Walk for Life." This event took place last year with thirty walkers. This year there are sixty full-timers who will walk seventy-five miles through the desert - following the journey taken by many migrants - and arrive in Tucson on Sunday afternoon.

Their journey is particularly poignant, because while I was in the DR Congo there was a record-breaking heat wave here in the Sonoran Desert. At least twenty-three people lost their lives due to heat exhaustion and exposure during the last two weeks.

The walkers will have great support, including vans that will transport food and water. They will walk in the early mornings and rest in the brutally hot afternoons, as most migrants do at this time of year. Even with that kind of support, the walk is dangerous. Last year two people had to be taken to Medical Facilities for rehydration.

A few weeks ago, I drove 100 kilometers south on the dirt road from Sasabe, Arizona to Altar Sonora, where most migrants arriving from the south generally arrive and begin their journey across the border. The washboard road functions as a bottleneck through which all the migrants in this part of the desert will pass before fanning out fifty to one hundred miles along the border in either direction to begin hiking through the desert.

As we drove south, we counted more than sixty full vans and four buses that passed us - all headed north with men, women, teenagers, and even a few kids - headed north looking for a job and the chance at a better life. Conservatively, I figure there were twenty people packed in each van, and forty per bus. That would make more than 1350 people who passed us in a two-hour drive on an afternoon in early May.

Matthew's words take on so much more meaning in this context:

"I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and in prison, and you cared for me."

My Catholic friends who care for these folks when they arrive in the migrant shelters of northern Sonora talk about "the Migrant Christ."

Please keep folks in the desert in your prayers this week, migrants and the advocates who care enough about their plight to participate in the Migrant Journey.

Check out www.nomoredeaths.org for information about migrant support and how you can be involved this summer.