Throughout my travels as I have been attending conferences and visiting ministries, I have invited folks to send me short write-ups on their ministries and, with the understanding that, as I was able, I would post them on this blog. My hope in doing this is by no means to touch upon all ministries with a Presbyterian connection, but only to gives glimpses of the breadth and depth in which we engage in ministry around the world.
One of the locations that I will not able to attend because of my trip to Haiti is the Synod of the Southwest's Crossing Borders Event [PDF Flyer]. In the course of the discourse about my withdrawal from this event, I made contact with many folks who have been active in both local and national immigration advocacy and action. One person is Presbyterian Pastor Rev. Trina Zelle from the Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice in Arizona.
Here are some of Trina's thoughts on immigration . . .
Three years ago this month, I went to Altar, Sonora, Mexico, with a church group. Altar is a small community 60 miles south of the US/ Mexico border where people gather before beginning the long walk through the southern Arizona desert to el Norte and hoped-for jobs. During our stay, we visited a huéspederia, a place where people stay for a night or two as they prepare for their journey. I was struck by the large number of young faces I saw there and stricken by thoughts of what lay in store for them. We spoke together through our translator for awhile and then we joined each other in prayer: for their safety; for the well being of their families; for an end to this ongoing crisis.
On the drive back from the border to Phoenix, as huge, white prison buses passed me on the road, it occurred to me that a lot of people were making money off of these, and other migrants. From the coyote networks that recruit and transport – and often abandon them in the desert, to our bulked up border security apparatus; to politicians and TV personalities who build careers by fanning fear and hatred, to the private prisons that hold them, to the transportation companies that deport them, to the employers who underpay them if they pay them at all.
Three years later, immigrant misery is still a growth industry for my state and this nation as a whole. If anything, the hatred and fear has gained an even stronger foothold. I believe that as persons of faith, we tolerate this situation at our own souls peril. We also need to be as wise as Jesus told his disciples to be. A lot of people are making a lot of money keeping things the way they are. Any discussion about immigration needs to recognize this fact. It is not simply a matter of debunking myths and setting aside misconceptions and prejudices (important as these things are) but confronting the economic interests that have succeeded in making a difficult situation even worse and guaranteeing its continuation.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been engaged in immigration issues for decades and in the current discourse on immigration and c we are continue to be a prophetic and thoughtful voice in a sea of unhelpful rhetoric. From working with immigrant communities on our borders and around the country to working on comprehensive immigration reform, Presbyterians have been involved for a very long time.
So, what about you . . .
- How is your congregation, presbytery, synod or individually, how you all are – or are not – engaged with immigration issues in your communities: working with families, government involvement, advocacy, etc.?
- Are there issues that you think folks should be aware of that are part of the immigration dialog?
- Are there other groups, links and resources you would suggest for those seeking more information?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts and remember to check out the Presbyterian Church (USA) immigration site for resources, liturgies and other advocacy resources.