Having worked as a priest and border missioner as well as a Cochise County, Arizona, court interpreter (Spanish) for the legal defender on the Arizona/Mexico border for nine years (1996-2005), I am dismayed and deeply troubled by the inability of our national governing bodies to fail to resolve the “dreamers” (DACA) participants status in this country, but also the complete breakdown of attempts at long-overdue U.S. “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”
As a clergy person I adhere to the Christian historical tradition of welcoming the stranger, giving refuge to the poor, asylum to the oppressed, and care for the migrating masses of people throughout the world. Further, racial and religious bigotry in the name of protecting our “sovereignty” as a nation is deeply flawed. On the borderland, churches have a saying: "Dios No Tiene Fronteras.” God has no borders.
Following 9/11, white supremacists, in the guise of patriotism, converged along the border to “assist the border patrol” in their work, blaming immigrants for everything. Many times, commuting back and forth along the USA border highway, my wife and I were blinded by bright lights from the “minutemen vigilantes” looking for dark-skinned passengers. It is a fear-filled memory. Local U.S. and Mexico borderland residents hated this violation of their long-time traditional cross-border relationships.
For me, it is important to acknowledge kind and patient border patrol agents, customs officers, sheriff’s deputies, medical personnel on both sides of the border, legal and public defender attorneys, prosecutors and courts, who justly and patiently applied the law and saved lives.
I offer nothing but praise for the folks placing water in the desert for border crossers. Thousands of lives were saved.
Tragically the reaction to 9/11 and the economic fall-out of NAFTA impacted both sides of the border. There was and still is an unwillingness for all parties (organized labor, packing house industry, landscaping, hospitality service industry, agricultural industry, politicians from both sides of the aisle) to come to the table to promote comprehensive immigration reform.
Toward the end of my service there, there was a precipitous rise in racism, which now seems to have spread across our country, preventing comprehensive immigration reform. At this time, here in Ashland, I am proud to be living in a “sanctuary city” and hope citizens will stand and be counted to say no to deportation of “dreamers” and ask our legislators not wipe away family immigration policies, not build a wall that greatly offends borderland residents on both sides of the border who have lived for years in harmony. In life we need more bridges, not walls.
— The Rev. Tom Buechele of Ashland is priest in charge at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Shady Cove.