Three weeks ago I flew to Phoenix and then drove to Tucson with about half of the UUA Board of Trustees, including UUA President Peter Morales and UUA Moderator Gini Courter. On Monday, in company with about 40 UUs, I crossed the border into Nogales, Sonora, and spent the day with groups that provide services to recently deported migrants: food, clothes, medical supplies, transportation back to their homes. On Tuesday, 6 of us returned to serve meals and visit a women’s shelter in Nogales, while the rest met with groups that work with migrants in Tucson. We had a chance to talk with migrants who had been recently deported, to understand why they try to cross into the U.S. repeatedly through the hostile Sonoran desert and mountains, often at the cost of their lives. All of them say the same thing, that they come not for themselves but for the survival of their families.
On Wednesday we returned to Phoenix for our Board meeting, from Wednesday night through Sunday morning. About half that time was spent with allies who work with migrants and Hispanic communities. We learned about the U.S. immigration system: how economic conditions in Mexico have been affected by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), largely destroying the native agricultural industry in Mexico; how migrants have been funneled into the most hostile stretch of the U.S. border in a policy known as “attrition through enforcement”; how migrants are arrested without due process and held in private prisons; how border patrol activities destroy the fabric of communities for citizens and non-citizens; and how deported families are split up and returned to different locations along the Mexican border, without identification, money, or medications. We learned about the work that needs to be done, from voter registration to political action to building support systems for those affected by deportation – including children who are U.S. citizens but whose parents have been deported. We learned that this is not a political debate, but a human rights issue. (more…)