Monday, January 28, 2013

Fast Track for Immigrants

Wall separating Nogales, AZ, and Nogales, Sonora
Boom, ka-boom--today the bipartisan Senate plan for immigration reform is being released, and tomorrow we'll hear President Obama's proposals.,0,2085807.story

Four Democratic senators and four Republicans have been meeting to come up with a plan to be introduced in the Senate.  

The Democrats represent New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Colorado, while the Republicans are from Florida, South Carolina, Arizona, and Arizona.  John McCain and Jeff Flake.

It looks like someone got the message: border states need to be heard on immigration issues.  

Two of the eight--Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez--carry Spanish surnames.

Arizona is at the heart of the matter, a red state with a major commercial port of entry--Nogales--and the highest number of migrant deaths annually.  
Art on the wall separating US & Mexico, Mariposa port of entry, Nogales

If there's a bill both Arizona senators can get behind, staunch Republicans, the whole country should get behind it.  On the other hand, if the party's right-wing kills the forthcoming bill, it can only mean more bad news for Republicans as a whole.

If Congress can pass a program granting probationary legal status--green cards and drivers' licenses--for the nation's 11 million residents who currently can get neither, that would be huge news.

The issue of citizenship is thornier, perhaps because citizens can vote.  Many of those 11 million will vote Democratic unless the GOP seriously gets on board.

According to today's proposal, however, the green cards (permanent residency status with work permits) can only be granted "after the government certifies that the US-Mexican border has become secure."

What does that mean?  Supposedly a commission of border-state governors, attorneys general, and community leaders would figure that out.

Would making the border certifiably secure mean higher walls, more barbed wire, longer waits before crossing, and more deaths of desperate persons who try to cross illegally?  

It's going to be a long, hard debate before some form of immigration reform finally passes both houses of Congress, probably in August--if at all.

Time to pray and send those emails, letters, and phone calls to our representatives.

Notes from

Nogales ports of entry are Arizona’s largest gateway for international trade with over 309,000 trucks, 3.9 million pedestrians, 10,320 busses and approximately 2.66 million cars with 6.7 million car passengers per year. Arizona State University Researchers forecast this volume to double by 2025. 

The Mariposa Port of Entry is the largest entry point for fresh produce from Mexico, to the tune of over 4 billion pounds each year, representing close to 45% of the fresh produce consumed in the US during the winter months.

CNN Sin Limitas

On the first day of a big campaign for immigration reform, CNN will begin broadcasting news for Latinos in the Los Angeles area from 3 pm to 11 pm on Channel 63.

Sin Limitas will compete with the many existing Spanish-language channels in our area, but it's exciting for CNN to recognize the audience for news broadcasting to Angelenos who speak Spanish and want an all-news station.

For those of us who are learning Spanish, it will be fun to listen to this channel too.  We may get more information on immigration reform and a different take on many local, national, and international stories.

I'm a CNN addict, so I'm going to enjoy this channel and have my cake--CNN-- without having to put up with Anderson Cooper.

Arribe, Sin Limitas!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

News for the 11 million

Exciting news tonight: a Senate committee has agreed on a plan for immigration reform and will reveal it on Monday.,0,2085807.story

President Obama will reveal his plan on Tuesday.

The 11 million undocumented immigrants in this nation will finally have their issue taken up in Congress.

''In terms of the number of people who would potentially receive legal status, [the Senate plan] would be more than three times larger than the amnesty plan passed under President Reagan in 1986, which legalized about 3 million immigrants, " reports the LA Times.

Stay tuned--it will be an exciting week and an eventful spring.

Widening our Tents

"Bless you, my sister. Bless you on your way," we sang to Liz Thoman today at Women-Church (a song by Marcie Silvestro).  

"Transitions: Widening the Space of Our Tents" was the theme of the liturgy she designed as her farewell gift to us.

One of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Liz will be returning to Iowa and the home base of her order in about a month after living for many years in Los Angeles and heading the Center for Media Literacy here.

The service began with words from Teilhard de Chardin, including "Above all trust in the slow work of God."

Next was a quotation from Isaiah: "See, I am doing something new.... can you not perceive it?" (43:19).

"Our world is too small," began the "Psalm to Widen our Tent" adapted from Miriam Therese Winter.  "Our lives are too small. Our vision is too restricted.  Our theology is too narrow.... Help us to widen our tents."

Then each of the 25 or so gathered women shared one way in which she is widening her tent this year, transitioning to something new.

A blessing prayer for the journey came next, followed by singing "Bless You, My Sister" as a song for the journey with piano played by Ann Hidalgo.

Then each of us read a part of "Reflection: What the Prairie Teaches Us," adapted from Of Earth and Sky, to honor the heartland of the country to which Liz is returning.

The ritual meal came next led by Liz and by Dr. Theresa Yugar, who served a tortilla and cup of sherry as the elements of communion.  

"Thanksgiving" by Joanne McPortland was then read by Liz, including these lines:

O Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof,
That anyone should come under my roof,
But, O Lord, how glad!

The service concluded with a final prayer and singing "Bless You, My Sister" again with laying on of hands as Liz leaves us to move to Iowa.

For more photos, see:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Let's Cross Borders!

  Are you feeling claustrophobia?  Have you been locked inside the US too long?

Cross a border--drive over to Canada or Mexico.  Listen to another language.  Feel the mood of another country.

Too many of us live our whole lives never leaving the good ol' USA.  Others of us fly to Europe but rarely visit our next-door neighbors, Mexico and Canada.

While I was at my nephew's wedding in San Diego last weekend, I wanted to drive down and check out Tijuana but didn't have time.  As it happened, I left the hotel room too fast, forgetting a couple of items in the closet and thus having an excuse to drive south again with more time to cross the border.

Mexico is just 150 miles from my front door, but I haven't been down to Baja California for over ten years.  I haven't taken the house-building trips with Amor Ministries that my church organizes annually.  I haven't had any out-of-town visitors who wanted to visit Tijuana or Ensenada.

The big increase in shootings and violence associated with drug cartels has been part of the reason for my visits being fewer in the 2000s than in the 1990s, but lately interest in border issues has propelled me to Nogales, Arizona, and today to Tijuana, Baja California.

I've been appalled to hear about deaths of people trying to cross deserts illegally, and friends encouraged me to check out the ministry of groups like the Tucson Samaritans, No More Borders, and ___, so I drove to Arizona in early January.

Today was my chance to make a quick visit to Tijuana--why?  As George Mallory said of Mount Everest in 1923, "Because it's there."

I drove down Avenida Revolucion and down a few side streets filled with tiendas opening on the street with racks of clothing for sale, then back on Avenida Juarez toward the border.  

I missed the correct lane for San Diego on my first try, circled back, and was just turning back onto Avenida Juarez when a man selling newspapers asked in English, "Are you looking for the way to San Diego?"

"Yes," I confessed, quite obviously an American tourist.

"Turn left here," he said, "and then take the second lane from the left, even though the San Diego sign seems to be over the third lane."

"Oh, thanks!" I laughed.  "I made that mistake just now, taking the third lane from the left."

One small moment for him and me, but one step forward in international understanding.  People in Tijuana tend to speak excellent English and to be kind and helpful.

The line of cars to reenter the US happened to be very short at 2:45 pm, only a fifteen-minute wait.

Passing up most of the items being hawked by sellers walking up and down the lanes of cars, I bought one thing: a pair of yellow and orange metal flowers cut from a soft drink can and standing in the end of the can as a base.  The artist was a man in a wheel chair.

I passed a very short woman holding a baby swaddled in blankets and asking for money, then another similar woman.  Are they indigenous--pre-Hispanic? Their sad faces stay with me.

The US customs agent asked to see my driver's license and then asked if I have a passport.  

"Good! That will make things go faster," he said when I handed it to him.

I drove three hours up I-5 and was home, but that short visit changed me.  

Serious poverty is so close at hand, without much of a safety net, and Tijuana in the daytime is not that dangerous if you stay in the right part of town.

Alta California (now in the US) was once owned by Mexico, as were New Mexico and parts of Texas.  

Do we really need a wall topped with barbed wire to separate us?  

Is it ethical to live with luxury so close to intense poverty--and ignore what's on the other side of the border?

I propose that we all exercise our right to cross the US-Mexico border easily.  Let's cross often; let's have crossing demonstrations, one hundred of us at a time.  

Let's visit the wall often and become familiar with what it means to those on the other side.  

Let's have candlelight services at the wall for the number of people who died trying to cross the border in the last year.  

If we who live so close to the border ignore these problems, it's like ignoring the body bags that return from Afghanistan.  

We must never forget.

For more photos:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Obama and the Beast

President Obama got through the inaugural parade without being attacked, but his Cadillac limousine and his bodyguards were ready for anything.

Check out this graphic of the limo, known as "the Beast."

It has shotguns readily at hand and armor plating 8" thick on the doors.

Rumors say that blood of the President's type is stored in the trunk.

His Secret Service agents were tense as he and the First Lady got out of the tank, then walked and waved to the crowds.  

I was pretty nervous too, thinking of snipers in windows of buildings they walked past.  

Please, God, protect him.  Give wisdom to those around him.  May he have four more years of service without any assassination attempts.  

(Thanks to John Arthur for the tip on this graphic.)

Bibles & Badges for Immigration Reform

Bibles, badges, and business for immigration reform--that's what today's LA Times calls the disparate elements now pushing Republican congressional representatives to cooperate with President Obama's goal of making progress on immigrant issues.

"Traditional pillars of the Republican base, such as police groups, evangelical pastors and the US Chamber of Commerce, have begun to push skeptical GOP lawmakers to change federal immigration laws to allow most of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants to apply for legal status.",0,1627048.story

Email and tweet your representatives and senators to do it.  

As the president said in his inaugural address today, we have to find "a better way to welcome immigrants.  Our bright young students and engineers should be enlisted in our work force rather than expelled."

Do your part--contact your representatives!

Inaugurating the Future

Today's inauguration was filled with memorable faces and words--but it all took place behind bulletproof glass.

Myrlie Evers' invocation: "To become whatever our mankind and womankind allows us to be... May all your people, especially the least of these...    great cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 11).

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor swearing in Vice President Joe Biden...

James Taylor casually walking up, grabbing a guitar, and singing a verse of "America, the Beautiful."

Obama's swearing in while holding two worn Bibles--one owned by Abraham Lincoln and one owned by Martin Luther King Jr.

President Obama's address: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... These truths are self-evident, not self-executing...  A decade of war is now ending; an economic recovery is begun... The poor, the sick and marginalized...  Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall... Our individual freedom is inexplicably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth... so that no citizen is forcd to wait three hours or more to exercise our right to vote... Find a better way to welcome immigrants, so that our bright young students and engineers may be enlisted in our work force rather than expelled.   We must not mistake absolutism for principle.  We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect.  We have sworn an oath to God and country, not to party or faction.   May you and I as citizens use our votes and our voice to embrace our lasting birthright and answer the call of history to carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom."

Richard Blanco's stunning inaugural poem: "One sun rose on us today...  / One sky...  / And always one moon / like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop / and every window, of one country--all of us-- / facing the stars / hope--a new constellation / waiting for us to map it / waiting for us to name it--together."

The Reverend Luis Leon's benediction: "What does God require of us but to do justice, love kindness, and always walk humbly with our God?" (Micah 6).

Beyonce singing the national anthem...

Kelly Clarkson singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

Archbishop Demetrius of the Greek Orthodox Church of America giving the benediction at the inaugural luncheon: We pray "to the benign parent of the human race... [Help us in] building a more equitable and just society... through your divine and precious love.  Amen."

So much progress... and not the least, the bearded Archbishop praying not to "the Father of mankind... in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen" but instead drawing an image of God that is more inclusive.

Helpful to me was the explanation that an inauguration is like a coronation--pomp, circumstance, hope and a bit less of the political conflict that brought us to a peaceful transition of power.  

Brides in Boxes

What are your thoughts as you watch a wedding?

My EEWC friend Alena Amato Ruggerio reflected on this question and collected the views of scholars in a book called Media Depictions of Brides, Wives, & Mothers (Lexington Books, 2012).

See review on the blogsite

Here's an excerpt:

AR: I was given the privilege of selecting the image for the cover of the book... The publishers gave me access to a website full of stock photos and encouraged me to choose one for the cover. I got frustrated because so many of the models in the stock photos were thin, white women, so I got permission from the publisher to edit the stock to address that problem. I’m a great fan of, where both professional and amateur visual artists post their work. At Deviant Art, I found a talented digital artist from Britain named Daniel White, whom I commissioned to create an original piece for the book by replacing the bride’s skin and nails with lizard scales, spikes, and claws.
The resulting digital photomanipulation, called “With This Claw, I Thee Wed,” is an unsettling symbol for what this book is about: the bride represents idealized feminine beauty with a white wedding gown, romantic flowers, and nuptial bling, yet she is also a wild, problematic monster, which is what patriarchy really fears about women in our roles as brides, wives, and mothers. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ending Poverty--So Easy!

Oxfam released a study today prepared for the World Economic Forum in Davos with a startling set of statistics.  Just in case everyone hasn't heard this report, I'll post on it here with a link.

The $240 billion net income in 2012 of the richest 100 billionaires would be enough to make extreme poverty history four times over, according Oxfam’s report ‘The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all.’ It is calling on world leaders to curb today’s income extremes and commit to reducing inequality to at least 1990 levels.

"This type of imbalance is absolutely evil," commented Blaise Bonpane on KPFK

Thank you, Oxfam, for this reminder that hunger is not a given; it's a phenomenon of the inequal distribution of wealth and resources on this globe.

Likewise, budget deficits are not a given.  They are a product of ten years of war combined with unrestrained capitalist gambling.  

Follow the link to find out what steps we can take to move our social order toward less inequality of income.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jesus and the Water

In his three short years of ministry, Jesus forgot to say anything about homosexuality, contraceptives, and abortion.  Either that or his disciples forgot to write it down.

But Jesus did have a lot to say about water.

I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.  Come, you blessed of God, and inherit the realm prepared for you... (Matthew 25:34-35)

Give me a drink he asked a woman when he was traveling in Samaria (John 4:7).

Any who are thirsty, let them come to me and drink (John 7:37).

Today the modern-day Samaritans of Green Valley, Arizona, took me with them on a water drop  (see above view at dawn before leaving).

Ricardo Osburn and Dick Bernard drove me down to Arivaca Road, and we set off in Woof, their white Ford Explorer, on dirt roads to five locations where crates of 8-20 one-gallon jugs of water are placed out on the desert for migrants who may be wandering out there, two or three days after they've run out of water.  

Another Samaritan volunteer, Ed McCullough, a retired geologist from the University of Arizona, had selected the 24 sites by figuring out which trails are most heavily traveled and where bodies have been found.  

Harry Smith, Ricardo, Dick, and others visit the sites on a weekly basis, noting which locations are used the most and which are not; unused locations are dropped and others added.

We covered five locations on this morning's drive, starting near Arivaca and circling a small range of mountains called Cerro Colorado.  At each spot we checked the jugs to replace those that were empty or partially used.

During this cold week of early January, most of the sites had water bottles still unused.

But still there was satisfaction in knowing that for one day of my life, I was doing something Jesus had specifically recommended: giving water to the thirsty.  

And welcoming strangers, too--the people who are risking their lives to walk across this desert, unwelcome and unwanted in this country.

The Bible has a lot to say about being kind to strangers and foreigners--why do we Americans ignore those words completely?

Do not mistreat or oppress foreigners, for you once were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)

See also:

More photos at

Website of the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Wall Runs Through It

From Green Valley, Arizona, it’s a mere 41 miles to Nogales, the town straddling the US-Mexican border.  On the American side, it's Nogales, Arizona; en el otro lado, Nogales, Sonora.

Shura Wallin picked me up at my hotel and drove me directly south on US 19, turning off to drive a couple miles east to the Mariposa port of entry for commercial traffic, rather than the main DeConcini port.

She’s one of two founders of the Green Valley / Sahuarita Samaritans, started in 2005, an offshoot the Tucson Samaritans, which was founded in 2002 by people who had earlier been involved in the Sanctuary movement. 

After parking in a privately run lot near the border, we walked past the US and then Mexico customs stations, entering Mexico on foot rather than by car to avoid the three-hour lines of cars waiting to enter the US. 

“Shura! Hi, Shura! Buenos dias,” yelled the men walking along the lines, peddling snacks and souvenirs to the waiting drivers. She greeted them by name and hugged some of them.  One man thanked her for the jackets she had brought for his sons the week before.  "They have nothing," she told me.

Because she comes every Tuesday with a car full of people to visit El Comedor, the soup kitchen for deportees, everyone here knows her.  She also brings clothing, blankets, and other gear needed by the guests at El Comedor, a ministry of the Kino Border Initiative.

We walked up the side of the highway around a hill and then crossed the lanes, all six almost empty.

There on the other side, tucked into the hillside, stood a modest white one-story building--El Comedor--next to another small  business.  

The door was a section of chain-link fence, and inside I saw five rows of tables lined with chairs on both sides and set with baskets of bread.  No one was there yet because it was not yet 9 am.

Shura was welcomed by several women working in the small kitchen over steaming pots, some of whom are Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist.

Soon people filed in and were seated at the tables, women at one and men at the others.

To be fed,  persons have to show a white slip of paper identifying them as deported within the last two weeks.  Buses from the Border Patrol drop off deportees on the Mexican side of the DeConcini port of entry, and some of those who had been dumped there during the night had already found their way to El Comedor.

"Women, children, men are deported in the middle of the night," Shura told me. "Most have no idea of where they are, no money, no place to stay.  During the day Nogales is a safe place to be; however, at night the situation changes from safe to dangerous in the snap of a finger."

(What would it take to persuade our government to take deportees over during daylight hours?)

Fr. Ricardo Machuca Hernandez gave a prayer of thanks and blessing before everyone ate.  

Shura was busy talking with the women, hugging some and advising others, giving each one her undivided attention.

"I can't really help them," she told me. "Some will try to cross again and will be injured or worse.  What I can do is be kind."

At first I sat quietly at the side, self-conscious and not wanting to be in the way.  Then, however, I realized I should be greeting and talking with people as Shura was--as Jesus would do.

I walked to the nearest table of men and asked, "De donde estan?"  (Where are you from?), assuming Spanish was their first language.

They answered me in English: "From Phoenix." "From California--Indio.  Do you know where that is?" "From the Bay Area."

No accent at all--these guys had been in the US twenty years and more.

"Why were you deported?" I asked, completely puzzled.

"I'm CIMT," said a young man, maybe 22 or so.  "Crime Involving Moral Turpitude."

"What??" I asked.  The only context I could imagine for something that bad was incest.

Wikipedia told me that in US immigration law, moral turpitude is "conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals."

The US government further defines it on the Department of State website with a huge list of crimes in alphabetical order ranging from fraud to kidnapping, lewdness, manslaughter, murder, mayhem, pandering, prostitution, and rape.

"I showed a fake ID," the kid said.  

He spoke perfect English--could have been raised on my block in Santa Monica.  I noticed he was well-dressed, as was the man across the table from Indio, a father in his forties wearing a nicely trimmed light blue sweater.

They and another man had been detained since last March, April and May awaiting hearings; their appeals had been denied a day or two ago, and they had been left at the DeConcini port at 3 am.

"They said we could appeal," explained the older man, but since it took him nine months just to get his hearing, he decided to accept deportation and go to Mexico to work with lawyers on that side of the border.  

Neither of them planned to try to reenter illegally, but others at the table had plans to try to cross the desert in the freezing temperatures, dodging bandits and Border Guards.

As we were leaving, I said hello to a ragged man of about thirty sitting on a bench with tears in his eyes and one foot heavily swaddled in a clean white bandage.

"How did you hurt your foot?" I asked.

"Train," he said.  He'd been riding a train north and had only traveled a few miles before being injured.  His foot had not been run over by the train, just crushed somehow.  I didn't ask.

"Where are you from?"  When he said California, I asked where again.

"The Valley," he said.  

"Oh, Fresno? Bakersfield?" I concluded.

"No, the San Fernando Valley," he said.  "Pacoima."

"That's a few miles from where I work!" I replied. "I teach in Northridge at California State University."

"Oh, CSUN?" he responded.  "My two sisters graduated from there and are teachers."

I was flabbergasted.  This bedraggled, injured Mexican deportee was in fact a Californian who knew all about my world.

The two others I'd spoken with were also de facto Americans who had been deported on the slimmest of "crimes"--mainly the crime of not being born here. 

I gave him my business card, saying, "Call me if you get back to LA."

Shura and I left, walking on to the office of Grupo Beta, a Mexican government entity founded in 1991 to help migrants.  It's motto is "Vocacion, Humanismo, Lealtad" (vocation, humanism, loyalty).

There showers and toilets are available to new deportees, and bus tickets will be given to help a Mexican return to his or her home state, such as Chiapas.

There we met some of the people who had just eaten at El Comedor, waiting for a bus or other transportation.

We passed a cemetery gaily decorated with plastic flowers--but deportees who sleep there will be arrested and sent to jail.  There was also a tienda selling snacks, drinks, one-pound packets of peanuts, and tall canes of sugar for one dollar each.

Up on a nearby hill stood five or six tall, modern apartment buildings--one orange, one tan, one dark green.  Some of the Sisters of the Eucharist, who work at El Comedor, live there.

Smaller hillsides nearby were occupied by a colorful collection of haphazard homes and shacks.

As we walked back toward the border and our parking place, a man caught up to us and began chatting in English, for practice, to keep his familiarity with the language sharp.

He said he was from "the Bay area," specifically Berkeley, where both Shura and I had lived for many years.  

"I have to get back to take care of my daughter--she's three years old," he said.  

"Oh, was she born in Alta Bates Hospital?" Shura asked.  

"Yes!" he said.  We all laughed to find that three random humans in Nogales all knew Berkeley so well.

On the surface, he was a Mexican and deportee, while we were American women spending a few hours in Mexico.  

But just beneath the surface lay a web of connections--the fourth time that morning that apparent strangers and deportees had turned out to be neighbors from places where I have lived.

See also:

Peg Bowden's blog La Frontera: The Border

"US Policies Separate Families, Kill the Sick, and Create Havoc on the Mexican Border," May 30, 2012

# # # # #

Facing the Wall

Back in 1967 I stood in front of the Berlin Wall and felt the horror of a political system that felt a need to wall its citizens in.

Today I stood at the Nogales Wall and felt that same horror, but I also felt shame.  It's my country that has built this wall to keep citizens of other countries out.

People are dying on the north side of the Nogales Wall, just as they died at the Berlin Wall from 1951 through 1989.

Something there is that does not love a wall, / that wants it down wrote Robert Frost.

My guide tells me that in 2011 this wall grew from a mere car barrier, three feet high, to its present height of up to 30 ft.  In Nogales itself, the previous wall was 12-15 feet high, reports the MCC Latin American Advocacy Blog,

That rusting metal wall stood for over ten years.  In 2011 Tucson's mayor, Arturo Garino, recalled when the border in Nogales was marked by only five strands of barbed wire or a chain-link fence.

A photo of Nogales in 1936 shows a street marking the US-Mexico border with no wall.  From then to 2013 the world has changed, and if this wall is any indicator, it has not been progress.  Frost evokes the Stone Age as he tries to understand why people build walls.

The cost of building the new 2.8 mile fence was $11 million and an unrecorded number of lives.  

The Berlin Wall lasted 38 years.  How long will this wall be here?  

Let's storm this wall the way we fought apartheid: note its birth, its growth and changes, and work for the day we can tear it down, as we did in Berlin.

See more photos at

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

EEWC Friends in Arizona

After a nap, I was off to Judy Jahnke and Jeanne Baly's home in Sahuarita, AZ, for a wonderful dinner with them and Louise Davis and Arlynne Ostlund.

Louise brought corn bread and her home-made chili. Judy made a delicious sliced cucumber and tomato salad.  Sliced mango, pineapple, oranges, and applies were dessert.

Maggie, their 16-yr.-old dog, and Katy Kat, their young tabby cat, completed the warm circle.

I met these wonderful friends in Evangelical & Evangelical Women's Caucus--Christian Feminism, a group founded in 1974.

Now I need to get to bed to be ready for Shura Wallin, who is picking me up at 7:15 am for our trip to El Comedor ministry to deportees in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

See more photos of this evening at

Icy in Arizona

Ice covered the front and back windshields when I walked out to my car at 7:15 am.

I hadn't planned for time to scrape off ice, so I threw my backpack into the front seat and backed out of my parking place with no rear visibility and a blurry front view.  I had to be at the Safeway on Duvall Mine Rd. by 7:30 or hold up the group.

28 degrees outside was another fact I had not planned for.  Migrants, can't we agree not to try to cross the Sonoran Desert on days like this?

Soon, however, I was being whisked to our first stop: checking the bushes in a dry wash under Hwy. 19 and looking at basura under the north and south freeway overpasses to see if migrants had spent the night there.

"Somos Americanos... Somos Samaritanos," yelled Mike Casey as he led the three of us up the wash.

There were fresh footprints and a backpack, along with empty black water bottles sold in Mexico, but no one but us seemed to be there.  We scrambled up the rocks out of the wash, and Mike explained that it was only 21 degrees down there because cold air sinks into the washes and pockets under the freeway overpasses.

We drove south, leaving Hwy. 19 to drive to Amado and then Arivaca, one of the oldest towns in Arizona.  Soon we were in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and then entered Coronado National Forest, driving up rocky hills and through icy canyons, all northern hillsides spectacular with a few inches of snow.

Smugglers and illegal immigrants may be encountered in this area, a sign said.

On today's drive we did not find any migrants, as Mike explained is often the case.  But for five hours I listened to harrowing stories of other days when desperate people were found: a young woman suffering from hypothermia, wearing a t-shirt in freezing rain; a man who had fallen and was still determined to cross the rocky terrain, a mother asking, "All I want to do is work for my child.  Why is it so hard?"

In most cases the migrants have no idea where they are or how far they have still to go.  The goal of the Samaritans is to save lives: give them clean dry clothes and jackets, let them sit in the car and warm up, and convince them to give themselves up to the Border Patrol rather than continue and die.

"The hardest part for me is when they haven't got a clue, are in bad shape, and go on anyway," Mike said.

To draw a map for a migrant is illegal.  To put them in your car is also illegal--it will send you to jail for 15 years.

The good Samaritan in the Bible loaded the wounded man on his donkey and took him to an inn, but today in the US he'd be thrown in jail for that.

We saw many Border Patrol trucks and trucks full of hunters (it's javelina season--wild boar).  Two BP officers parked their truck and set off down a trail carrying Bushmasters.  

"It was easier for the migrants before 9/11," he explained.  "Fifteen years ago it was just a matter of walking in with a guide, but now drug cartels own the coyotes and tell them 'Work for us or die.'  The polleros round up the groups but are not in business for themselves and care less for the migrants."

For a while our dirt road paralleled the border, just one mile away.  But there was no way that border could be fenced: square miles of steep rocky ridges at an altitude of about 5,000 ft.

The day warmed up to almost 60 degrees.  We returned to Hwy. 19, drove north to Tubac, and bought sandwiches and a slice of quiche in a deli there.

A beautiful day, all in all--unless you were a migrant stumbling up the rocky hillsides and hiding in the icy canyons.

See more photos at

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Breeze of a Drive

Tucson/Nogales Trip -- end of Day 1

When can you drive from Santa Monica to San Bernardino in one hour?

On New Year's morning--one of the few times when there's no traffic on the LA freeways.

Mount San Antonio--also known as Mt. Baldy, taken from San Dimas near I-10

Leaving at 9:30 am, I arrived in Phoenix at 4:15 pm, not quite the 5 hrs. 42 min. predicted on the internet, but not bad considering it included a nap.

Then I was in the Tucson suburbs shortly more than 2 hrs. later and checking into my hotel in Green Valley, Arizona, south of town, by 7:15 pm.

Highlights: passing the snowy mountains around the Los Angeles basin, crossing the Colorado River and immediately seeing saguaro cactus, passing the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, Phoenix in the setting sun, and watching Orion rise in the southeast.

Oh--one more highlight: the gasoline selling for $3.19 per gallon in Quartzsite, Arizona.

The Best Western in Green Valley turned out to be a palace filling half a city block.  It looked like La Quinta Inn or a brand-new Holiday Inn, not like the usually modest BW I had expected.  Grand entrance, huge dining room/restaurant, marble front desk, meeting rooms... all much more elegant than I needed, but I did appreciate both a microwave and a refrigerator along with flat-screen television.

Outside the clear dark sky shone with stars, every star of Orion's belt brightly visible.

As I sank into a hot bath and soft bed, I thought about the migrants out there walking across the desert, shivering.  

What sense does it make to spend money on gasoline and a hotel when my goal is to learn about migrants and help them?  Perhaps I should have used that money to make a donation to Green Valley Samaritans instead of traveling here.

Ocean to Desert

Tucson/Nogales Trip - Day 1

It snowed about an inch in the Sonoran Desert south of Tucson, the Weather Channel says.

As I went to bed last night, I thought about the people walking across that desert, trying to keep warm.

By 6:30 am I leave my cozy bed and prepare to drive from the Pacific Ocean to that desert, where one of this nation's immigration battles takes place daily. 

The driving time from Los Angeles to Tucson is 7 hrs., 28 minutes, the internet tells me.  I thought it was about ten hours. 

We'll see!  The good news is that my cough is much diminished and I have the strength to drive (thank you, God, for meds like doxycycline). 

I'm off to visit Jeanne Baly, Judy Jahnke, Louise Davis, and Arlynne Ostlund, all friends from my favorite Christian feminist group, Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus--Christian Feminism--and to learn about the border issues while I'm there.