Posts Tagged ‘Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution’

La Frontera in North America

March 7, 2008

 

    Father Amador of Immaculate Conception Church in Rio Grande City, Texas, has made the trip for 21 years. Every summer he travels to Rockport and Kingston and Wellesley Island to visit friends, wed couples, and sail the sparkling Saint Lawrence. His time in Canada and upstate New York is refreshing for him; this other border community certainly has elements of home, despite its northern exposure.

    My own parents live in Ogdensburg, New York, but an hour south of Ottawa. When I first moved to Brownsville, Texas, I drove my trusty 1994 Dodge Spirit from border to border. Though it needs to worry more about sand than snow here on the Mexican frontera, Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley most assuredly feel like home.

    This kind of coincidence is more than happenstance. La frontera, the border, Rio Grande, Saint Lawrence, a Maple leaf, Stars and Stripes, or an Eagle killing a Snake – these countries and their border regions are hopelessly intertwined. Our histories run in and out of each other’s like red and white run in all our flags.

    Herein lies the problem of treating borders as lines and not lifestyles, maps without morals, rivers without life, concrete divisions rather than dual communities. To divide Brownsville, Texas, from the Matamaros, Mexico, Bruce Springsteen sang about is more than simply building a wall along a levee – it is severing conjoined sister-cities. God forbid we do the same thing to Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec, by building a wall down the 45th Parallel and cleaving a town in two. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 itself is an affront to the community and interconnected cultures we have cultivated in la frontera.

 

    In the name of the Thousand Islands Bridge arching over the shining Saint Lawrence and the Gateway International Bridge suspended over the muddy Rio Grande, we ask all citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the United States to campaign a thousand times for legislation and policies which will foster positive relationships along the border rather than sever them.

    In the name of the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge and the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge, we urge border-crossers to make their international feelings felt and their voices heard from Capitol Hill to the local town hall.

    In the name of Ambassador Bridge and Rainbow Bridge, we pray that our nations will continue to view the diverse rainbow of immigrants as ambassadors of hope and progress and promise.

In the name of the Progreso-Reynosa and the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridges, we affirm that true progress in North-American relations is not far off, that our cultures and our environment and our economies are caught up in “an inescapable network of mutuality.”

    In the name of McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa Bridge and the Fort Frances-International Falls Bridge, we note that the United States’ Secure Fence Act of 2006 was a fall from grace, a detrimental piece of backwards law which promoted artificial divisions instead of natural coexistence.

    In the name of the beautiful Blue-Water Bridge and the arching Peace Bridge, we call for all militarization and violence along our shared borders to cease as we construct immigration policies, drug-prevention programs, environmental cooperation plans, and mutually beneficial trade relations similar to those of the successful European Union.

    In the name of all these and more, let us build bridges not walls. Let us rebuild broken bridges and the relationships they represent. Let us rebuild the bridge to our past, learning from dehumanizing immigration laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the literacy test. Let us forge new tri-national immigration legislation like the DREAM Act and earned paths to citizenship so that all people have the right to pursue their happiness in whichever North America it resides. Let us spend more time on our welcomes than our goodbyes, our fragile ecosystems than on our nativistic ego-systems, more money on our combined poor than on poured concrete.

 

    “Oh Canada,” “Viva Mexico,” “America the Beautiful” – God bless us all and may we learn to coexist as our borderlands have long exemplified. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote that, “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured” (“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”). If we can work on ways to progress beyond NAFTA and CAFTA to truly promote a working relationship, the idea of a border wall on the Mexican-American frontera will seem the absurdity it is and the push/pull factors of immigration in all three countries will be substantially reduced simultaneously.

     Mexicanos, Anglos, Canadians, North Americans, IMMIGRANTS – UNITE. We hope you will express solidarity with Father Amador and myself as we begin our upcoming march tomorrow. Along with numerous others, I will be walking 120 miles from Roma to Brownsville, Texas from March 8-16, and we would love to get support from the international community. This No Border Wall Walk invites any and all concerned citizens, whether they speak Spanish, English, French, or a mixture of them all. Please come and make your voice heard. Dr. King felt that “the ultimate tragedy in Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people but the silence of the good people.” Come speak out for yourself, the immigrant among us, and la frontera – good people must no longer be silently complicit in any North American country. Be the bridge you wish to see.

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People of Faith United For Immigrants- Presbyterian Church USA

February 5, 2008

    “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9 NIV) Martin Luther King Jr. puts this another way in his speech Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.

We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

 

Immigration is not a matter of us or them but of humanity. While the compassionate, human side of immigration is often forgotten in shock-jock radio shows and television syndicates, the Church continues to be a bastion of hope for the hopeless, a voice for the voiceless. The Presbyterian Church is part of this solidarity for border reform – not for the sake of simply changing immigration laws but rather changing the hopes and dreams and rights of immigrants themselves.

    In its 2006 General Assembly Policy on Immigration, the Presbyterian Church of the USA (PCUSA) set forth the following conditions as their dream for the Church.

2. Affirm that our denomination, mindful of the current realities and threats to our belief system, not sway from our solidarity with, and pledge of service to, all of our brothers and sisters regardless of their race, creed, color, nationality, or residency status.

3. Affirm those Presbyterian congregations and presbyteries that are already standing alongside immigrants and are actively engaged in acts of compassion, empowerment, and advocacy.

4. Challenge each Presbyterian congregation and presbytery to embrace a comprehensive approach to “advocacy and welcome” for immigrants that includes, at the very minimum:

a. an opportunity for hard-working immigrants who are already contributing to this country to come out of the shadows, regularize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria, and, over time, pursue an option to become lawful permanent residents and eventually United States citizens;

b. reforms in our family-based immigration system to significantly reduce waiting times for separated families who currently wait many years to be reunited;

c. the creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to m migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected; and

d. border protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying and preventing entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals, as well as pursuing the legitimate task of implementing American immigration policy.

e. a call for living wages and safe working conditions for workers of United States- owned companies in other countries;

f. a call for greater economic development in poor countries to decrease the economic desperation, which forces the division of families and migration.

5. Affirm the right of each congregation, presbytery, and our denomination as a whole, to speak out clearly and constantly to the media and others regarding the PC(USA)’s call to serve all those in need and to stand with the oppressed, our refusal to be deferred from this mandate, and our willingness to break laws that forbid us to live out our responsibilities to God and to our brothers and sisters who do not have U.S. residency documents…

10. Reaffirm that we must find ways to ensure that “marginalized persons” in our society, citizen or not, are not pitted against each other.

11. Express our grave concern about the negative impact of the growing effort to make the border more secure through building walls designed to move migrant patterns further into the more dangerous part of the borderlands, by increasing the number of federal agents, and by deploying armed National Guard to the already volatile region.

12. Commend the visionary efforts of programs such as Just Coffee, Just Trade Centers, and micro-credit programs that strengthens communities and enables people to stay in their homeland through economic development.

 

The Presbyterian Church, like so many other Christian denominations, realizes that the issue of immigration is not ultimately about borders but about boarders, not pesos but the peso of a world which continues to keep America rich and endowed with certain inalienable rights which are alien to so many people living in poverty just a few miles away. Christians in different denominations all realize that it is a sin for teachers in border towns, like myself, to make 10x as much money as qualified teachers across el rio. We must realize that the Gospel is not just the good news of Heaven but the good news of heaven on earth; it is the Church’s prerogative to tirelessly work to redistribute the blessings and gifts of God here in America to the rest of the world. So many nativists and xenophobes are opposed to immigration because it is a constant reminder that there is still not an equilibrium of rights and wealth in this 21stcentury globalized world. It is a constant reminder that the United States needs to reach out more, not less, to its neighbors, to work at the root of “push” immigration.

 

    *The Border Ambassadors are proud to be in solidarity with the Presbyterian Church of the greater Rio Grande Valley. As we walk the 120 miles from Roma to Brownsville from March 8-16, it is both to protest a physical border wall but also to encourage and show solidarity in the communities which are being impacted.*