August 2007

I attended a No Border Wall rally today. There one of the organizers said a truth most of us hated to hear but needed to stop denying. She said something to the effect of, “This is already Federal Law. If we do not change the minds of people nationally, we will get a wall.” I immediately thought, “How true.” We need a greater sense of urgency. It should be understood by now that solidarity within the movement is not enough. We need to affect hearts and minds. Me need to teach the country (starting with ourselves) a moral lesson, and nonviolent civil disobedience is the way.

It is time for this blog to become what I’ve always intended it to be, a place to discuss how nonviolent civil disobedience can be applied to immigration. So I am announcing a major change in direction for the blog: nonviolentmigration version 2.0 if you will.

I invite anyone who has a sense that what Dr. King and others did in the Civil Rights Movement could be used in our present situation with immigration to embark with me on an effort to blog weekly on the subject. I will create a syllabus of speeches by Dr. King, chapters by Gandhi, sermons by Jesus, etc., all on nonviolence or civil disobedience, and our assignment will be to write a blog response (once per week) that applies the principles taught by these leaders to the current immigration system.

The prerequisites are these:

  • A belief that the best general approach to the issue of immigration is from a human rights perspective.
  • A general respect for the philosophy of nonviolence and the methods and practice of the civil rights workers in the 1950’s and 60’s.
  • A commitment to studying one sermon/speech/chapter per week and writing one response per week.

If you meet these prerequisites, I strongly encourage you to contact me about this undertaking. If you have a blog, send me a link to one of your more detailed posts. If not, please send me a writing sample so that I can make a decision about who to include as a regular contributor. (I ideally want to limit this to perhaps three or four writers so that each writer can respond to each other writer each week).

Please email me at stating your interest.

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I attended the No Border Wall Rally in Mission tonight and found it very informative.

There are very strong local concerns about the wall, and for reasons other than my own. I’ll summarize some of them here, keeping in mind that my biggest opposition is other than these listed.

Local Reason #1: The Environment. A woman who runs one of the local wildlife sanctuaries spoke and the summary was that a wall of the kind promised, will destroy the ecosystem and will likely mean the extinction of some species.

Local Reason #2:
The Economy. We are among the poorest communities in the U.S. Mission isn’t in my county, Cameron County, but its economic situation is very similar. Cameron County was recently declared the poorest county in America. Putting up a wall on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande will eliminate tourist dollars coming into the region (tourism is the fourth largest component of the economy, and one of our best ways to get dollars from outside the Valley into the local economy).

Local Reason #3: The River. If we build a wall on our side of the river, we give it away. People live near water for many reasons, and we live on the Rio Grande for all of those reasons. If we lose the river, we lose irrigation for agriculture, we lose our drinking water supply, we lose many forms of recreation. The Rio Grande is (I’m thinking here) probably the third or fourth most important waterway in the U.S. behind the Mississippi, the Missouri, and maybe the Colorado. To build a wall on our side of it is to give it away to Mexico.

Local reason #4: The Land / The History. Our meeting was held at La Lomita Church, a historic church that many people here consider to be sacred ground because of their personal history with the church. This church will be in this no man’s land between the wall and the river if the wall gets built. The most touching moment of the evening for me was after the speeches were given, while a Mariachi band was leading us in a procession down to the river, a few of us straggled behind because we wanted to see the church (I live in Brownsville, an hour away, and hadn’t yet seen it). As I walked quietly into the tiny church, I saw an old, dark-skinned man, equally humble as the church, kneeling in prayer. This church, his parish, is only one of thousands of historic sites that will be lost if the wall is built. The current plan will cut off at least 35 homes, just in Mission (a very small site compared with El Paso, or even Brownsville), not to mention so many restaurants and public sites. Three families in Mission have held property extending from the river for over 250 years. The river is what makes that land useful, valuable, and meaningful. If we build the wall, we lose all that historic, economic, and cultural value.

Local Reason #5: The Meaning. Any honest person can tell you that this wall is about keeping out Mexicans. Here in the RGV, we don’t want to do that. We are one community, much like Minneapolis and St. Paul. Each border city has a twin, so much so that they often share a name (Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Nogales and Nogales). We are one family, and a wall will either separate us because it works, or it will separate us because it was supposed to have worked. Whether it succeeds or not, the message, “You are not welcome here,” is being understood already. I think we feel something like a bridegroom bringing home his bride to meet his family and having to constantly apologize and make up for the offenses she endures at the hands of his relatives. Our Uncle Sam is yelling all sorts of obscenities at the people we love and we are doing our best to say, “I know he’s impossible to ignore, but please believe us, we really do love you.”

If you are in favor of the Border Wall, please… and I ask you with quiet sincerity… please consider us who live here and don’t want it. We are not extremists, we are not clueless, we are not biased. There really is a better way for you to get what you want. This will hurt us much more than it will ever help you.

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Several events to oppose the border wall in our community are quickly approaching. Here is a summary for the events in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Sat., August 25, at 5:oo pm Mission, TX La Lomita No Border Wall Festival

Tue., September 4, at 6 pm Roma, TX Hands Across El Rio

Wed., September 5, at 6 pm Rio Grande City, TX Hands Across El Rio

Thu., September 6, at 6pm Los Ebanos, TX Hands Across El Rio

Fri., September 7, at 6 pm McAllen, TX Hands Across El Rio

Sat., September 8, at 1 pm Brownsville, TX Hands Across El Rio

For more information, click Here.

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I found a fairly recent article protesting the Border Wall. I very much enjoyed the article, which includes information about a quickly upcoming direct action campaign. I quote part of the article here.

Johnson-Castro: The Death of the Border
By Jay Johnson-Castro

The No Border Walls group held the prototype for Hands Across El Rio on the Roma-Miguel Aleman bridge on July 14. (Photo: Martin Hagne)

August 7, 2007. If the Washington elitists have their way, the Texas-Mexico border as we know it today will die. It is terminal. It is suffering from an invasive and malignant disease. Tyranny.

The proposed border wall is a wall against all the citizens of the Americas to the south of us and to us who live here inside the checkpoints. The border wall would even cut us off from the international boundary, our beloved Rio Grande. No fishing, boating, swimming. No picnics in the park on its banks.

Elected officials from our entire border region have spoken out in solidarity against the border wall. But have not been heard by the Washington elitists. Elected officials outside of our border region look at our region with contempt. They would build walls and separate us from our neighbors and destroy our environment while doing so. They are militarizing this special region with thousands of troops and plan on subjecting the inhabitants to unreasonable search and seizure. They would arrest and imprison any person who looks like a “refugee” that has no proof of citizenship. This is not Palestine. This is not Baghdad. This is the United States. This is Texas. This is the land of the free…and should not be the land of tyranny.

Full Article Here.

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Back on November 11th, I predicted on my blog that “I don’t think this election will get us any closer to where we’d like to be.” Recent failures in the Senate shows that I understated reality, we are actually further from where we want to be than before.

This only goes to show that our current approach to immigration reform is not working. May Day rallies are great for flexing our muscles, but they are doing nothing for changing hearts and minds. I am further convinced that we need to learn from history and adopt the methods of SCLC, SNCC, and NAACP.

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