Posts Tagged ‘No Border Wall Walk 2008’

No Border Wall Walk- Day 6 or the Day of Reflection

March 13, 2008

   No Border Wall Walk- Day 6 at Santa Anna Refuge

    I was confronted with our reasons for the No Border Wall Walk yesterday when Javier asked me to ride his pride-and-joy bicycle for him. It was a gorgeous day on the tranquil Rio Grande, and for a minute, I couldn’t imagine why he would ask me to ride his prized possession. His simple answer – La migra.”

    Whether Javier was illegal or not was not the question; the simple fact remains that our U.S. immigration policies would pounce on a Mexican-American man riding his bike on the levee, while the U.S. Border Patrol and the legislation they represent smiled at me as I ride recklessly with my Canadian tie flapping and Hecho en Mexico belt buckle tapping on my Border Ambassador button.

    Today was a long Thursday. March 13 was the day which made us reflect and ask ourselves why. Our walk was the smallest it has ever been today, but it was also more focused and more determined than ever. Leaving the beautiful Saint Francis Cabrini Church and heading out on Highway 281, the wind was full in our faces and the going was hard and long. We walked 17 miles, far and away our longest day. En route to Progreso, we passed fertile Valley farmlands which would be dissected with Hidalgo County’s border-levee wall compromise. Rows and rows of onions cresting the tilled soil, walls and walls of sugar cane bordering this byway, patches and patches of cabbage – a border wall would mean that produce on this side of the levee would be American, the rest would be hecho en Mexico. This is the land we are campaigning to save; today reminded us once more of this beautiful borderland.

    People once again showed that they are looking for ways to utilize their potential for positive actions. At our nadir of the afternoon, just as we had ceased singing carefree songs and our spirits were sagging, a car pulled over on the side of the road. All 6 women got out of the tiny car. Their green shirts said they were from Father Albert; their gifts of water and kind words proved they were angels. Apparently Father Albert and his parishioners are not content to house us only on Friday night and Saturday night, but also felt compelled to meet us along the way and inspire our sore soles.

 No Border Wall Walk- Day 6 with Father Albert’s Angels from Sacred Heart Church in Las Rusias

    The high point of the day came right after this water break. Marching on to Progreso, we soon passed an onion field in harvest. Mexican men and women were working the rows, bringing the white bulbs to light with a hoe before bending tired backs to lift them into a crate. We sang as we walked by, singing “No al muro, la frontera cuenta! NO Border wall, the border matters!” The field-hands were quizzical at first, stopping their work to see what we were about. The small group, already energized by this point, began dancing and singing “Ven con nosotros, ven con nosotros, a la Progreso a las seis! Come with us now, come with us now, to Progreso at 6:00” to the tune of “La Cucaracha.” Now they were listening. My heart leaped to see an older woman in a red workshirt begin dancing despite the oppressive heat and her back-breaking work. This is our why…

    Walking alongside my idealistic brothers and sisters who are testing their ideals in the fire of nonviolent direct action, I am struck by their tricky situation and exploited work. Our country needs more than a wall; it needs immigration laws which gets rid of quota systems, rework the current rubric for refugee status , the DREAM Act which could give students the opportunity to follow their educational dreams, and gives the 12 million or so extralegal residents some way to move toward legal citizenship.

    Our country does not illegal immigrants. These men and women in the fields should definitely be working – but they should be given real means to acquiring citizenship. We do not want illegal immigrants who are without rights, without hope, without help – we do need more legal immigrants who can participate fully in society. Immigration, which is the primary basis of our opposition to the borer wall, is the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Our country has 12 million extralegal workers living and contributing to our GDP, and at least twice as many people who depend on their working power and hope to keep the extralegal residents “illegal.” We must come to a point as a nation that we see people as assets and not liabilities – that will be the day we finally take the necessary bold step forward and begin to seriously diminish the amount of “illegals” in our country while increasing the number of legal immigrants.

    The night ended at Smokin’ Joe’s Barbeque, a tasty little bbq shack on 281. This establishment had Border Ambassador buttons and posters all over, and they treated us to juicy brisket, delumptuous ribs, and rich turkey legs. Beneath their awning live oak trees, we spoke once more about why we were walking along the proposed trajectory of such a wall. The levee-wall compromise intended for this section of Hidalgo County is less a levee and more an 18-foot concrete wall with sloping earth on the American side and sheer cliff on the Mexican side. The marchers on this walk take issue with the nomenclature of such a “compromise.”

    “They call it a levee because it ‘sheds water,’” Elizabeth Stephens said. “Walls shed water too, and so do raincoats.” The only real difference between a levee-wall compromise and a full-scale border wall is that it will look more aesthetic to American passersby. It would still send the same message of distrust, the same message of flippancy for environmental refuges, We were reminded that it is the express point of this march to counter this message of violence with a positive message. By walking along the border and having seen the connectedness of each town with its neighbor cities stateside and in Mexico, we must be continuously involved in re-educating the people en la frontera and in the rest of the world.

    After a long day of walking in the brutal Texas sun, I remember that I am walking to show my students the difference between Pancho Villa and Cesar Chavez. I remember that I am walking because this is the way adults civilly disagree. I remember I am walking because I love the glimmer of river that would be outsourced to Mexico, the refuges which have taken 20 years to conserve and protect but only months to override. I am marching because bills like the Grijalva Bill could begin to restore some sense and morality to the proceedings here on the border. I remember I am here to be “voice for the voiceless;” I am here because the Environmental Impact Statement for the Border Wall was close to 600 pages in English and under 100 pages in Spanish. I remember we are walking to unite communities, educate individuals, and highlight humanity. I remember now – Javier, George, Michael, Jay, John, Kiel, Roberto – we are all assets.

Immigration as this Century’s Civil Rights Issue

January 27, 2008

     Looking back on the past week of politics and King celebrations, this great man’s name and legacy were name-dropped countless times and by divergent voices. Hundreds of people used “King” in conjunction with race, and several misappropriated his voice to supporting a particular political candidate, despite the fact that he pointedly avoided joining his support to a certain party because it would compromise his ability to change the status quo if he were linked to it.

    King was a supreme believer in the “interrelatedness of all communities and states.” He went on to state, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. 189).

    Certainly King’s movement was not tied up in, or limited to, racial inequality and segregation. By the end of his life he had already began applying his love-force and nonviolent strategies to the anti-war movement. Critics in the late-1960s, some even from within his camp, struggled to understand why he would “hamstring” himself by moving on to another issue before racial equality was fully realized. But this was not a watering-down of his arguments; no, it was the fullest realization of equality. Dr. King died applying nonviolence to unions and working for class equality, and this progress would have inevitably led him to immigrant rights.

    The civil rights movement emancipated those, be they Chicanos or African-Americans, who had been here and been treated unequally for years. Immigration reform is the next civil rights movement, perhaps the last within our borders. Immigration reform means equality for those who are new to this country and assured rights to the future generations who will come here in the future. This is the movement of our generation, to ensure equality and certain inalienable rights to every resident within our borders. King forwarded the fact that no man or woman is illegal; it is our duty to continue providing these rights to everyone in this great nation. As globalization begins to affect human migration patterns, it is crucial that the United States model immigration policies which are humanizing and fair, compassionate and progressive.

    There are no outsiders, no us and no them. It is imperative that one of the world economic powers begin making moral policies. All the economic, all the social, all the political arguments for immigration can and have been made. When it comes down to it, our nation must begin making moral rather than dogmatic decisions. As Dr. King wrote, “if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values” (Autobiography 340). Until we begin thinking morally, it will continue to mean little to us if we spend billions of dollars destroying countries far, far away. Until the U.S. spends more time investing in the hundreds of thousands of people crushed by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market and less in trying to control the oil moguls, we will continue to fail to live up to our greatest.

    Again, King hits upon this necessary morality of government. He writes, “..True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring… …A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death” (Autobiography 340-1).

    Immigration reform and border policies are the issue of this century in these United States and in the rest of the world. For anyone interested in challenging America to seriously reevaluate the issue of immigration and borders this March 8-16, please visit the No Border Wall Walk link on this page. As the primaries are in full swing and our country prepares for a new leader, this is a unique chance to join our voices in one loud grito for the voiceless.