U-C: What I See

Friday, July 29, 2005

Dying to Get In


A quick update on border issues and resources.

First, there is a new dvd/video that is the best thing I have ever seen on the migrant experience on the border. It was done by a student in the BorderLinks "Semester on the Border" Program who was with us in the spring of 2004, and he got footage of migrants that is absolutely remarkable. The video runs about forty minutes, and it can easily be used for classroom (high school and college), and for church education programs for teenagers and adults. It is extremely compelling stuff. It can be ordered for ten dollars plus shipping from Brett's website at www.bretttolley.com.

Also, in April the Synod of the Southwest hosted an profoundly meaningful conference on immigration, border policy and migrant concerns. The material from that conference has been compiled in a new edition of Church and Society, published by the PC(USA). It is a phenomenol resource for anyone interested in being educated or educating others on these complex issues. This magazine is a consistently deep and thoughtful resource, edited by Bobbi Wells Hargleroad. Learn more about the magazine in general, subscribe, or order individual copies from: http://www.pcusa.org/churchsociety/. The issue you're looking for is on Migration, and it came out the end of June.

Finally, the migrant support work in the Arizona desert continues apace. There have no been almost 200 people who have lost their lives since the first of October. Two volunteers in the No More Deaths movement were arrested about three weeks ago as they were trying to get three, extremely ill, migrants to medical care. Though they have been offered a plea bargain, they have refused anything that could appear to be an admission that they are guilty. We're waiting to hear what will happen next, particularly whether or not they will be indicted and have to stand trial. They were clearly following the No More Deaths public protocols for who can be helped and how they can be helped, and they have good legal support. Their names are Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz. If you want more information, go to www.noremoredeaths.org.

I know that this continues to be a highly contentious issue, and that many have grave concerns about the legality of the act of providing food, water, medical care, and transport in a medical crisis. Theologically, I remain convinced that our volunteers are standing on strong scriptural foundation. Many texts can be sighted, but the story of the Good Samaritan, and the description of the Judgement of the Nations in Matthew 25, continue to be the Biblical stories that ground my own personal commitment to this work. "I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and 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 you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. . . Surely when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you did it to me."

Politically, this is an important time to invest in conversing with our elected representatives about these important matters. At President Bush's request, Senators McCain (Republican from my state) and Kennedy (Democrat from Massachusetts) have drafted a bipartisan bill that by any account would be a vast improvement in the immigration laws regarding migrant labor coming to the U.S. If enacted, it would go a long, long way toward taking death out of the border equation.

Legally, the statutes read that it is illegal to knowingly further the undocumented entry into the U.S. or presence in the U.S. of any person. It is our conviction that attempting to keep people from dying in the desert in no way violates those statutes.

Regardless or how you feel about these difficult issues, please keep migrants in the desert in your prayers as the hot summer continues. Please also keep Daniel and Shanti in your prayers. They are showing the kind of courage of conviction that we desperately need in a hurting world.

In peace, and with a dream of a world in which no one needs to leave behind family, culture, land and language to provide for their families.