Rev. Randy Mayer of Good Shepherd United Church of Christ and Sonoran Arizona Border Coalition on Commonsense Immigration Reform the Day of Title 1 Border Amendments
I come from the hot borderlands of Arizona, a place of great beauty, serenity—a place where people throughout the ages have learned to depend on each other for survival—they have learned the rhythms of the seasons and the ways of the desert—where nearly everything will either bite— you stick— or sting you. It is place where people for generations have worked together—trusted each other—could count on each other.
Over the last 15 years—that sense of community and trust—that sense of hope and looking for the best in each other has lessened—as the tensions of immigration have taken over our region. It has pitted people against each other—The push and pull factors of free trade economics has torn our region and—- our people apart. And we have the carcasses to prove it. Over 10,000 people —desperate people have died in the neighborhoods all along the borderlands. People who have families—mothers, fathers—sisters, brothers—sons and daughters—they are human beings with hearts and hopes whose lives were hanging by a thread—and then it was cut and survival and death surrounded them
For the past 12 years the congregation I serve—the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ has actively served the migrant— putting 1000 of Gallons of water out on the migrant trails—we comb the desert looking for migrants in distress—-advocating for their rights and just treatment. People ask us why—why would you do that? Our response is—why wouldn’t we—as people of faith—why wouldn’t we take care of our sisters and brothers—the least of these. Quite frankly we are sick and tired of the desperation and despair. We are tired of policies that push the most vulnerable and fragile into the most dangerous parts of the desert. Policies that puts the best workers on a journey to a job—but the journey includes the Devil’s highway—a walk that dances with death at every step.
That is why—this day is so important. Let the mark-up begin—let us begin that journey—toward just and comprehensive immigration reform that will move people out of the shadows—out of the deadly desert and into the ports of entry and into a process that is humane and fair.
As a person living on the border I believe in a pathway to citizenship—-we want all 11 million to get their just reward—what they have worked and waited so patiently for. But don’t attach this citizenship to triggers—we have seen far too many triggers in the desert over the years —they are just code words for stalling—struggle and death. Did you know that the last immigration bill of 2007 was loaded with triggers? Even though it never was passed —the border enforcement Senators got everything they asked for:
21,000 Border Patrol Agents
21,000 Inspectors at ports of Entry
651 miles of fencing
333 Video surveillance systems
9 drones for air surveillance
34,000 dentention beds
We can’t let it happen this time. Triggers just delay a meaningful conversation and put people in harms way. Let’s fix the system—and treat people like they should be treated —let them begin the journey toward citizenship so we don’t need the triggers.
As a person living along the border—I can testify that we need to keep families together. One of the most painful sights that we see along the border—is the broken, torn and shattered remains of families. Loved ones —that are so desperate to be together that they will risk even death to make that happen.
A month or so ago —in the middle of the night I got a call from a frantic young women(a US Citizen)—who was desperate about her husband who had been deported and was attempting to cross. She was keeping in contact with him by cell phone—he was in bad shape—no water—he was injured and couldn’t walk any further—slowly his cell phone lost power. I can’t tell you how painful—and helpless you feel—when someone is lost and is slowly dying and you can’t do anything about it. But I also have to say—it makes you pretty angry— unnecessary incidents that should never have happened in the first place. Keep the families together—husbands and wives—partners—children, sisters and brothers—don’t separate them—keep them out of the desert—out of detention—keep them united at all cost.
We in the desert—the borderlands that have seen far too much death and despair—know that this Comprehensive immigration bill is not going to be perfect—far from it—especially this early in the season—this is just the first day—but we will be back day after day—working, sweating—pushing and prodding—heck we will even pray without ceasing. Our goal is too make it the best that it can be. For we are people of faith, people that carry the values that can make lasting, positive and productive change—and we won’t quit until we get it.