We were shocked, we were saddened, and we are compelled to tell others about the violation of human rights perpetrated by our government. The economic and political systems of the global north have systematically undermined the livelihoods and survival of the most vulnerable of our neighbors to the south.
We were members of a human rights delegation to the border with Mexico last month through the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice coordinated with Tucson-based BorderLinks.
Our delegation of eleven was led through five days of exposure to the unique and harrowing culture of the U.S./Mexican borderlands.
Several of us in the UUSC local action group have supported Francisco Aguirre and his family who spent three months in sanctuary at Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland last fall. We also participate in the activities of the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice.
Through the delegation experience, we learned the impact and role of labor history and policies such as NAFTA, on the plight of many Mexican and Central American communities. At the border we saw firsthand the incredible militarization of that strip of land. There was the imposing wall, the six hundred border patrol staff in the Tucson sector, the vehicles, the drones, the lights, the cameras, and the sensors. We are apparently at war.
We learned though our conversations with Frontera de Cristo and No More Deaths that the people crossing the border are classified as criminals. Through the use of checkpoints even the desert is used as a “lethal” deterrent. The very landscape is a weapon.
Our government has criminalized migrants. We witnessed this as our group attended “Operation Streamline” in the Tucson Federal Courthouse where we observed 55 shackled individuals take plea bargains and be sentenced between 30 and 180 days apiece to private corporate-run prisons before being deported. These private corporations contract with our government who simultaneously pays for the border patrol agents who assure that there are people to imprison.
We witnessed some amazing resistance to the dehumanization of the border. We went to an organization in Agua Prieta where women who were formerly involved in the miserable maquiladora factories are growing permaculture gardens, learning to feed their children healthy foods, and gaining leadership skills. We met Shura Wallin, a retired Californian who goes out into the desert with the Green Valley Samaritans to provide water and support to the men, women and children who daily cross over into the harsh Sonoran desert. In Arivaca we heard about the desert clinic and support systems coordinated by No More Deaths. And in Tucson we met Rosa and her supporters at Southside Presbyterian who has persevered in sanctuary there for over fifteen months.
You can become involved. Take action. Join the UUSC Action Group; attend an Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ) meeting and find ways to support our immigrant sisters and brothers. Learn more about our trip to the borderlands; see photos of our experience by visiting our church website. Come for a presentation by one the humanitarian aid workers of No More Deaths on November 30, 6:30 PM at First Unitarian.