Kim Duncan is a CSJ program leader from Portland Oregon. She led a delegation from two churches in Oregon, including her own.
Last October, a group from three UU congregations in Oregon went on CSJ’s Border Justice tour on the Arizona – Mexico border. On April 19th, we presented our experiences following the service at the First Unitarian Church of Portland. It was a rousing success!
Homemade Mexican tamales made by our friend, whose husband many of us have supported while he was in sanctuary in Portland – as well as an interest in US immigration policy and border conditions – drew nearly 40 people at Portland’s First Unitarian Church on Sunday.
What they heard, and what we were privileged to report on, were the experiences both wrenching and uplifting, that confronted us during our six day journey with CSJ partner, BorderLinks, in Tucson, Arizona.
We confronted a wall that was ugly, high and forbidding along our border. We saw altars along the desert migrant trails, commemorating the deaths of those who tried to cross but failed. We met migrants in Mexico who said they would continue to cross, in spite of the risks, because the danger they fled in Central America is worse, or because there are jobs waiting for them in the US. We saw the cast-off belongings left behind in the desert as immigrants made their way north. We witnessed 50 shackled migrants appear together in a courtroom and within a half-hour be mustered out and deported back to the border or to jail. We learned that private prison companies are making profits out of our border policies.
We were appalled.
We didn’t get clear answers about how to remedy this mess, but we met many heroic individuals trying to relieve the day-to-day suffering and angst in their communities. We met with people and organizations providing hidden way-stations in the desert that supply water and medical care to migrants; we talked with advocates trying to change the court processing; we visited with a woman named Rosa who was in sanctuary for over a year in Tucson, whose faith was inspiring. We were relieved to hear that her faith was rewarded a month later when she was free to go home.
We were humbled and touched by these experiences.
We presented this and more on the 19th. We replicated the cross planting ceremony that we performed with Frontera de Cristo in Douglas – honoring those who gave their lives for a better life. We invited speakers knowledgeable on US border policy and the violence that is pushing people to leave their homes and risk everything to come to the US.
Today, many in our group are at work in Portland helping where we can with individuals and families affected by our country’s immigration policies. We are advocating for Congressional action to fix this nightmare and we are endorsing efforts to divest funds in organizations invested in private prisons.
There aren’t any simple answers, we know that. But we saw our nation’s current policies in action – which waste lives, build terrible resentments, and punish desperate people who, like some of our own forebearers, are seeking better futures.
We can do so much better for them and for us.