La Frontera

Today, at a public hearing for the Enviornmental Impact Statement for the proposed border wall, I read this statement:


As a military veteran who served four tours of duty to the Middle-East, I would like to address the Department of Homeland Security about the topic of security. While I was a sergeant, I was honored to serve with young men and women who sacrificed greatly for this country.  Like me, most came from humble homes of modest means where they learned how to work hard, get along with others, and sacrifice for the greater good.  While we were not the wealthiest or most educated, I feel that our platoon included some of the best people I had ever known.  Specialist Muñoz-Marin was not yet a citizen of the United States.  Sergeant Munguia, the greatest soldier I have ever known, was the son, brother, and cousin of family who had crossed the border illegally

            But regardless of family background, the common thread among the best of these soldiers was the reason for their service.  It affected the way they served.  These were the soldiers who volunteered for the tough assignments, even for the extra tours of duty.  That reason was this: they weren’t mainly trying to protect their own interest, their home land, or even their family.  Instead, they were trying to protect the idea and aspiration of America itself.  They were protecting what America means, what it is.  They weren’t guarding Betsy Ross, apple pie, or baseball; they were protecting something even more American than those things.  They were protecting liberty, equality, and democracy.  And while I have since come to understand the futility of war as a tool of liberty and democracy, I acknowledge that our best soldiers are serving with the understanding that what it means to be an American soldier is to sacrifice personal security in order to preserve liberty.

            So as someone who repeatedly made that trade, because that is what it means to be an American soldier, learning that my government would so cheaply surrender our liberty in favor of security is terrifying.

            I say terrifying because of the idea of terror and tierra—earth.  This wall, we are told, must be understood in a post-9/11-world.  It is, they say, a proper defense against terrorism.  But tumbling towers are not the only causes of trembling tierra.  Terrorism is not the only thing that threatens to pull the rug out from under us.  The very liberty which our soldiers are defending will erode from under their feet if we build this wall this way.

Indeed, nothing could be less American.  This wall this way erodes our bedrock values by changing us from one of the liberating allies of West Berlin to the Communist isolationists of East Berlin.  This wall this way erodes our fundamental identity by changing us from post-Martin Luther King America to pre-Ming Dynasty China.

            When you next see him, please tell Mr. Chertoff that the more zealously he pushes this forward, the more quickly he advances, the more responsibility will fall on his personal shoulders.  No lie can live forever and when truth crushed to earth has risen again, his zeal may earn him a legacy like Bull Connor of Birmingham.   As fellow humans, we extend to Mr. Chertoff our love and forgiveness.  Please, sir, do not trample our rights.

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Today I bought Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox’s book, Revolution of Hope, and started reading it.  At this point, I know almost nothing about President Fox.  Just 9 pages of his book have taught me more than I knew beforehand.  Before today I knew he was generally in favor of immigration.  Little did I know.

President Fox’s grandfather is from Ohio and never spoke a word of Spanish, even after immigrating to Mexico.  He left Ohio for Mexico in his search for the American dream.  I know the feeling.  Last spring I started searching for housing in Matamoros.  In a solo trip driving through neighborhoods, a sentimental feeling came over me and I put in one of my Simon and Garfunkle CD’s I keep in my car.  I found the track and let Paul Simon’s familiar humming hypnotize me into that often felt longing for an elusive something I’ve long sought.  “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.  I’ve got some real estate here in my bag,” the singing began.  “Kathy I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping.  I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.  Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they’ve all come to look for America,” the song concluded.  I realized right then that the sentimental, even nostalgic feeling I was experiencing was that same familiar searching for what America ought to be that I have been doing all my adult life.  I felt this same way as I was walking down the darkly lit stretch of Dyer Street that connected the Logan Heights portion of Ft. Bliss, where my barracks were, to the gritty Northeast section of El Paso where I bought the only lottery tickets of my life at a Circle K.  This was the feeling I felt during my first tour of duty to Saudi Arabia when I opened my family’s Christmas gift of a box of cold cereal.  A family of eleven children, and living in poverty, we had started a family tradition of each child receiving a box of cold cereal for Christmas–a luxury not experienced during any other season.  It was that same feeling that I felt as a non-traditional student in college trying to shrug off poverty’s psychological effects and accept a view of myself that included a bachelor’s degree.  What I felt, listening about the search for America in my car in Mexico (and these other times), was a heart agape and emptied of everything but hope, but longing.

President Fox put it this way:

South of the Rio Grande, which we call the Rio Bravo, we consider the entiere hemisphere to be the Americas.  America is the New World, where ancient civilizations like the Maya and the Aztec mingled with the bold and the enslaved and the desperate from Europe, Arabia, and Asia.  In this sense we are all Americans, and from Canada’s Yukon to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego we all share the dream of a better life.

It is from this expanded understanding of America that President Fox sees immigration.  “Hungry and desperate, seeking refuge from disease, war, persecution, and poverty,” Fox says, people are uprooted by “the four hoursemen of desperation who drive immigrants to the gates of hope.” (Why don’t we acknowlege poverty at home and a willing employer abroad as a valid reason to classify someone as a refugee?)  These immigrants’ “dreams belong to all of us, becaues needs that basic, values that common, and a hope that divine simply cannot be limited by borders.  America is in this way not so much a country but an ideal.”  The American dream, Fox says, “remains the last, best hope of mankind on earth.”

If you are a Besteiro Middle School student writing about Dr. Martin Luther King, you might notice the similarities between Dr. King’s dream of a world where black and white, north or south of the Mason Dixon Line would share in a common humanity, a true community, and President Fox’s dream for the same for Latino and Anglo, north or south of the Rio Grande.

President Fox continues,

The world needs this dream of the Americas, now as never before….  Most of all we pray for a revolution of hope to restore the founding spirit of our hemisphere, where the Statue of Liberty once welcomed the eager dreams of the poorest, bravest, and most desperate people of the earth.

I know very little of the Americas outside the United States.  Ultimately I did not move to Matamoros.  I could not find a roommate and although I found an excellent apartment, I couldn’t afford it on my own.  My total experience in Latin America is limited to roughly 10 weeks living and studying Spanish in Monterrey.  But it is this sense of hope and opportunity and this idea of equality, combined with a lifelong commitment to public service, that has led me physically from the Mountain West to the Midwest, to the Middle East,  the West Coast, and the Texas Border.  This hope, this faith, this love, and this commitment led me intellectually and spiritually here to the border–to the limits–of that hope and equality.

There is more Martin Luther King to come on Sunday.  There is more Revolution of Hope comming too.  My prayer tonight is that with them will come more readers, more believers, more optimists, and more searchers.
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In 2006, the Secure Fences Act was passed in both Congress and the Senate. The funds have since been approved, and the entire project is merely pending a few token studies concerning its impact on the environment, its feasibility, and its pecuniary implications. How did we arrive at such a place in American history?

The whole nation has been crying out for immigration reform since well before the 1960s. JFK heard their voices, but he was killed before he could radically change the quota system. Since then, restrictive immigration laws have been tightened and roughly enforced on our nations’ southernmost border and in our reluctance to accept asylum-seekers (refugees in other countries).

Our borders are places of violent clashes, deportation, and imposing fences.

Our legal immigrants are forced to become pochos, forced to forget their homeland in an effort to distance themselves from extralegal citizens the government and the media has vilified and quietly deported.

“Illegal” immigrants live in terror, working low-wage jobs, foregoing medical care, and paying extortionate rates for normal amenities in an effort to remain in a country which disrespects them and the country they left behind.

The entire nation cries out for immigration reform. Even the politicians could hear it on Capitol Hill. They could hear it, but amidst the din of partisan politics and the difficulty of making tough decisions on true immigration reform, both the Democrats and the Republicans opted for an easy way out, a symbol of border security and “immigration reform.” The wall was passed overwhelmingly by most major politicians, including my own Texas senators Cornyn and Hutchison, as well as mainstream presidential candidates such as Obama and Clinton.

And so here we are today. Brownsville, Texas, will be studied later on this month so that construction of the wall can begin in 2008. The symbol of a wall, laughable and medieval and impossible to believe, looks as if it will be coming next year unless the citizenry of the United States can raise its voice once more, refuse to be distracted by “token” gestures of immigration reform, and demand a real solution instead of this expensive “tokenism.”

Victor Hugo famously said, “There is no greater power on earth than an idea whose time has come.” The idea of immigration has been a long time coming, and it must be nonviolently urged to the forefront of American thinking.

The clearest fight for true immigration reform and against pseudo-solutions is the proposed border wall on our southern border. As Martin Luther King, Jr., outlines in “The Time for Freedom has Come,” we must do this by three key steps. First, any efforts to halt the construction of the border wall must expose the moral defenses of pro-fence politicians. The moral element never figured into the border wall monologue, but if this fence is to be stopped, a dialogue must begin which addresses the moral element of such a symbol of separation. This blog site is a beginning, but it must be preached from the pulpit and headlined in our newspapers. It must be sung over webcasts and it must be written in informed letters to our politicians. The moral element is clear – a Mexican border barrier signifies mistrust, racism, and nationalism – but the message has not been clearly voiced nor loudly proclaimed.

The second keystone concept of nonviolent resistance for King is that it must weaken the morale of its opposition. If well organized, a national boycott against key companies or an illegal immigrant strike could certainly weaken the morale of an opposition which secretly welcomes illegal contribution to our national GDP but publicly denounces extralegal workers. This contradiction has existed for decades, and its demise must be one of the main aims of any nonviolent movement.

Lastly, a nonviolent call for true immigration reform and no border wall must work on our nation’s conscience. So far, deportation detention centers like those at Raymondville, Texas, and the processing centers like the one at Port Isabel, Texas, have worked largely under the radar of human rights groups and national publications. It is difficult to prick the nation’s conscience without media coverage. We must no longer wait for the Associated Press to run a feature article on a single immigrant in a single detention center. These violations of basic human rights must be forced into the public eye via nonviolent demonstrations. Illegal immigrants should no longer suffer in these places alone and unnoticed. The Bible beckons us to be a “voice for the voiceless,” and nonviolent demonstrations should aim to translate these muffled calls for help from Spanish or Sudanese to an English which will awaken the once-great collective conscience of our country which has been lulled to sleep these 45 years.

BY working on the American conscience (and by this I mean all the Americas), by weakening the morale of supporters of immigration tokenism, and by exposing the moral defenses of those who would call for a Mexican border wall, nonviolent resistance will not only block the construction of the wall but will fluently call for reconsideration and reconstruction of our nation’s outdated, provincial philosophy on immigration. But we must begin by countering the wall; to ignore this physical representation of bad immigration policy would make us akin to the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan, plotting a sermon on brotherly love as he strides past the bleeding wayfarer. The time for this idea has come; the time is now.
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It’s been a long time since we lived the idea that people are innately good. Just laws, the kind of legislation our country was founded upon, enable and protect the innate goodness of the individual against the circumstantial evils of a few. Unjust laws, however, demean this innate goodness by making criminals out of innocents. The country with the most laws is the most corrupt.


Unjust laws of citizenship can be explained by the fixation of American culture on the unpredictable, “evil” nature of people rather than the more common goodness of the individual. Fear, or terror, born out of a single event one September, has come to shape not only our war policy but also the way we internally police our nation and stalk our borders.


It’s been a long time since we remembered that people are good.


King writes it this way: “We have allowed our civilization to outdistance our culture…Civilization refers to what we use; culture refers to what we are…” America needs, has in fact always needed, immigrants and new citizens to keep its economy and culture vital. But throughout our history, from the Alien Act of 1798 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the citizenship literacy test of 1917 and the first nation-based “emergency” quota system of 1921, our country has operated in a schizophrenic manner, not wanting or welcoming the very immigrants which made it great. The Know-Nothing party, created for the sole purpose of opposing my immigrant ancestors the Irish Catholics, lives on in the Minutemen and now the inglorious border wall. We have consistently despised the very things which make us strong. It was only the innate goodness of man, coupled with divine Providence, that these opposing forces never gained the upper hand and tyrannically ended immigration


“The great problem confronting us today is that we have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live.” As a nation, America is materialistically wealthy but spiritually poor, full of knowledge but too often without wisdom. Capitalism, with its unseen hand of the marketplace, does whatever it can to keep the prices down and sales up; as a result, low-wage labor provided by immigrants has become an integral part of our national GDP. American citizens defend their rights as consumers but too often lose sight of the ends for which we live. As King writes, “As long as there is poverty in this wold, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.” In the same vein, no one can be a citizen if there is someone living within our borders who is denied the basic rights of other residents.


It’s been too long since we made legislation which affirms the fact that man, made in God’s own image, is good and deserving of certain inalienable rights, alien or not.


IN this world of globalization, we must realize that the tenets this country was based upon do not apply merely to the continental U.S. but to the world at large. Globalization must have regulations, indeed, but we are hopelessly interconnected now so that the fate of one “illegal” immigrant is the fate of so many others. This new concept of the world begs a revised definition of the term “citizen;” how much longer can our nation exist with its double-standard for citizenship, with its 14 million right-less residents working to sustain the rights and wealth of the rest of our nation. We must come to terms that the way our nation stands right now, my rights are secured because someone else’s are denied; my paycheck is buoyed by the sub-standard wages of illegal immigrants we economically need and legislatively condemn.


It’s been too long since we recalled the goodness in our fellow man, in the global community, in our bordering neighbors, in all our residents of this great land.


The American dream reminds us that every man is heir to the legacy of worthiness.” And so, we must conclude that a nation which holds tight to restrictive, antiquated quote systems has forgotten the worth of the individual. We must reason that a nation which closes Ellis Island, hunts immigrants, and deports workers must not view people as an asset any longer, but as a burden. Far from being overpopulated, our nation’s immigration legislation heralds the arrogant notion that we already have everyone we need within our borders. But we know better than that. We must “in-source” ideas from Gandhi’s India, ideas about the importance of man and nonviolence. We must remember that people are good, not goods or commodities or without rights.


It’s been too long since we remembered the goodness of which we are capable and the means by which every one of us arrived at our blessed rights.

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“A just law is a law that squares with a moral law…[An unjust law] does not square with the law of God, so for that reason it is unjust and any law that degrades the human personality is an unjust law.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., could very well have been addressing today’s crisis in citizenship here in the United States of America. Our antiquated laws and quota systems are, at best unfair, prohibitive, and degrading. Public discourse surrounding illegal immigrants and those who have simply overstayed their visas runs the gamut between vitriolic slander and patronizing relegation to the lowest rung of American society. Both groups have kept illegal immigrants, or extralegal citizens, out of the public discourse and unable to campaign for betterment. There are those who would happily accept these immigrants, insomuch as they maintain their status as the thankless workers of our most menial jobs; there are also those who would peg them as would-be terrorists, tax-evaders, drug-smugglers, and an evil black-market population. These are the groups behind the laws, these are the opposition to any movement towards giving rights to extralegal citizens.

In “Love, Law, and Civil Disobedience,” King writes that “…an unjust law is a code that the majority inflicts on the minority that is not binding on itself…this becomes difference made legal.” The current path towards legal immigration and lawful citizenship is based on luck or birthright rather than the ideals we Americans supposedly hold so dear – that is, education, work ethic, and the family unit. At once, it is painfully obvious that only the rich, the connected, and the politically allied will ever get a chance to enter this nation of so many citizens of birthright. In much the same way that King fought a racial battle in the civil rights movement, this movement towards legalizing extralegal citizens aims at an equality based not on the color of your skin or the color of your country on the globe but on the content of your character, your willingness to be a productive member of society.


This movement faces two defiant obstacles, however, obstacles which Martin Luther King, Jr. himself did not even have to face. The first is to produce self-respect and self-worth in this burgeoning population of extralegal citizens. King had the good fortune of leading a minority with enormous self-pride (after the Harlem Renaissance and their emergence as key entertainers in the 1950s and 1960s). It is difficult, however, to rally around the term “illegal immigrant,” as it is necessarily a negative, demeaning term. However, these people in their defiant desire to become members of our society exhibit the very ideals we hold in utmost esteem in these United States. It is vital to impart respect to these would-be citizens, who have been demeaned and talked-down to by every form of media available in the U.S. Few will respect them so long as they remain subservient, quiet workers of fundamental importance; yet, as soon as they lift up their heads and their voices, the entire nation must needs hear their pleas if only because of the grinding, shrieking sound of a cog in our country’s most necessary gears. Could the United States wage a war at $200 million dollars a day if these 12 million undocumented immigrants recognized their own importance and ceased working? Could the United States continually put off the pressing question of immigration and quotas if it no longer had the luxury of cheap labor in the meantime? Therefore, these immigrants’ self-respect is a vital aspect of any nonviolent movement towards legalization.


The second obstacle is obscurity. King’s civil disobedience thrived on the fact that “…suffering can be a most creative and powerful social force…suffering becomes a powerful social force when you willingly accept that violence on yourself.” This is inevitably true, but for too long, the suffering of illegal immigrants has been one of quiet acquiescence. All too often, raids and roundups are done quietly, and these extralegal citizens are detained indefinitely and then deported in the dead of night. Scant media coverage and the lack of key public advocates has negated and nullified much of this suffering.

Private suffering is always self-destructive, in that it validates the aggressor and belittles the victim. King writes that, “…unearned suffering is redemptive,” and I keenly understand this to be true. However, that suffering must have its witnesses. The key to transforming this nonviolent movement from one of a silent mass to a vocal, suffering minority is making these indecencies and unconscionable acts very public. Up to this point, most immigrants have suffered more or less alone, feeling cut off from any sort of legal aid, severed from community ties, and hampered by a very real language barrier. This must change if there is to be a sweeping reform of our present system.


“…peace is not merely the absence of some negative force, it is the present of a positive force. True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice and brotherhood.” Silent suffering and a lack of self-respect are both forms of negative peace, whereas suffering made public must always reach the ears of true citizens and a people proud of their own worth have always garnered more value in society. As we discuss the means by which we can legalize much of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., we must be constantly reminded that the end is a transformation of the term citizen. Ultimately, any systemic changes with quota, visa applications, and immigration policies must recognize a shift in the way we classify citizens of these United States. It is not enough to simply relax regulations for temporary work visas, because this will never address the pressing problem of citizenship. We must reexamine the future of America and recognize that we need these extralegal citizens every bit as much as they desire to be a part of our nation. Our nation is not so great, nor can we be so arrogant as to suppose that we are done developing. America has always thrived and remained vibrant culturally, economically, and socially as a result of its steady flow of immigrants from all over the world.


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Characteristics of Just and Unjust Laws

About halfway through this speech, Dr. King states that an unjust law, which we have a moral duty to disobey, “is a code that the majority inflicts on the minority that is not binding on itself.” MLK describes this as “difference made legal.” Let us take this idea and apply it to the situation of the paperless people in this country. Doing so will help us understand exactly what it is we should be working for.

Is the illegality of undocumented people a result of a code that the majority inflicts upon them that is not binding on itself? Yes. In essence the majority says, “You have to get permission to be in this country; I don’t. I can reside and work and exercise politically as a matter of natural right; you can’t.” I believe Dr. King would say that this legal distinction, based upon the “immutable characteristic, arbitrary from a moral point of view,” (Rawls words), constitutes a prime example of an unjust law. Just as under Jim Crow law, some were legally discriminated against by others because of the difference in the color of skin between the two groups, the whole idea of an “illegal immigrant” is one based on the idea of legal discrimination based on the difference in the place of birth between the two groups. So I think our goal should be to abolish the semi-slave status of “illegal immigrant” by recognizing that all people have equal claim to live where they want.

King goes on to say “An unjust law is a code which the majority inflicts upon the minority, which that minority had no part in enacting or creating, because that minority had no right to vote in many instances, to that the legislative bodies that made these laws were not democratically elected.” Because democracy is a system of government that derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed, the Constitution doesn’t limit voting rights only to citizens. In fact, there is basically no Constitutional distinction between the rights of citizens and non-citizens. It could be argued (though I will leave it for another day) that because those excluded by immigration laws were denied the right to vote as to what the immigration laws would be, these laws are unjust and non-democratic. Given MLK’s standards for just and unjust laws, the goal we should have for this movement is to actualize the right of free migration.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>



Having identified immigration restrictions based on place of birth as unjust, Dr. King, I believe, would advocate our challenging this unjust system of segregation. But, “the means must be as pure as the end.” Dr. King talked about three competing approaches to social change. The first approach is resignation. Almost all people use this method to deal with injustice. They learn to adjust to injustice. The second approach, to “[rise] up against the oppressor with corroding hatred and physical violence,” is advocated by some today. As those who want to use nonviolence to bring about a free and equal society, we must not associate ourselves with either of these two methods. Just as Dr. King rejected the methods of Malcolm X, we must be very selective about how we will approach immigration reform. This is important because nonviolence is based in part on the idea that “the end is preexistent in the means.” Thus violence cannot (not just should not, but cannot) create a positive change. This is also true of “internal violence of spirit,” of hatred, and dehumanization. When we vilify those who oppose us or who debase and dehumanize undocumented people, we dehumanize them. We can never see them as our enemy, but as our future ally. We must realize that Jim Gilchrist, Lou Dobbs, and Tom Tancredo are children of God with infinite worth. “The image of God is never totally done,” and “even the worst segregationist can become an integrationist,” are powerful concepts. The civil rights movement sought not to advance the interests of one group over another, but knew that because their cause was just, it would benefit all people, even those who opposed them. This will require that we nurture and develop our capacity to love all humankind. Even more important than our unwillingness to tolerate an unjust system is our unwillingness to let that system cause us to hate. We must never call another human “enemy.”


Not Simply Disobedience; Civil Disobedience

It is interesting to read how strongly King supports the idea of civil disobedience. He does not advocate defying law. He even says “I submit that the individual who disobeys the law, whose conscience tells him it is unjust and who is willing to accept the penalty by staying in jail until that law is altered, is expressing at the moment the very highest respect for law.” Disobeying a specific law because of its immorality, but submitting to the general rule of law shows a very high level of respect for law. It is within that context of respect for the general rule of law, but recognition that some laws are unjust, that I encourage civil disobedience. We must break unjust laws openly and publicly, submit to the authorities, and trust that good people will not tolerate a system that allows good people to sit in jail because they refuse to “adjust to injustice.”

This means that we will be disruptive. Dr. King was constantly called an “outside agitator” for his unrelenting use of nonviolent civil disobedience. In this speech, he defends himself by saying that true peace was not disturbed, but only the “negative peace” of injustice. So it will be with us. We will be called outside agitators, we will be called disruptive. The analogy that came to mind for me, though, came from the “don’t rock the boat” idea. If a person is trapped under a small rowboat, s/he of necessity has to disrupt the apparent tranquility of the boat in order to stop from being drowned. But to suppose that because you are sitting in a stationary boat, peace must exist, is to neglect to see that your boat is potentially the instrument of someone’s death. As the drowning person pulls him/herself up over the edge of the boat, the rowboat dips toward the water on that side, but if the person sitting in the boat will be patient, the boat will regain its calm, but this time it will actually have peace, not just the appearance of it.



My biggest question after reading this speech is this: how will the fact that restricted immigration is federal law make this civil disobedience campaign more difficult than the civil disobedience campaign for integration? Could they have succeeded in the 50s and 60s if they were still living under the decision of Plessy v. Ferguson?

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<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–> The system of restricted migration, like segregation, uses tokenism to claim that justice is being realized, but like Dr. King, I recognize it as a mirage of justice, not justice itself.

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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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