The 2006 Desert Southwest Annual Conference of United Methodists in the USA directed the Conference Board of Church and Society to provide a way to study the issues we face concerning immigration.
As part of this, they went to Mexico to explore, on a personal face-to-face level, what the issues were, what economic pressures the Mexicans faces, how Mexico and the USA were interlocked together, what effect trade deals had on Mexican farming, and all this comes out in their report. Below is the third part.
This was long before today’s troubled issues about immigration, but it opens up some good ethical questions with each section. I’m not giving my opinions; I’m leaving it for the reader to look and make up their own minds.
The Desert Southwest Conference Board of Church and Society
Borderlinks Trip Reflection - Part 3
After our trip to the desert, we visited a casa de huespedes, a hospitality house.
Hospitality houses are inexpensive rooms provided to migrants for one to three nights as they make their preparations to cross the desert. As we entered the courtyard of the rooms, we were an instant attraction.
Many migrants gathered around us as Poncho and our Borderlinks guide explained that we were representatives from the Desert Southwest Conference’s Board of Church and Society, and that we had come seeking to attain a better and more comprehensive understanding the migration issues.
What we experienced immediately were responses filled with anger. The migrants could not understand why we, in the United States, would be so mean and hurtful toward them. They only wanted to come and be productive, helpful people in our country. They could not understand why we would place the kind of restrictions and have the kind of attitudes that we did toward them. We believe their deeper question was, and is, “Why would you treat us as less than people, and why would you cause us to place our lives at risk, when all we want to do is work and contribute to your country?”
After 15-20 minutes much of the tension subsided, and we asked them to tell us a little about themselves and why they were making such a long and dangerous trek. In nearly every case, the reason they were migrating was to earn enough money to provide their families with enough food and adequate shelter, to give those they loved a little higher quality of life. As we listened we realized that they simply were trying to do for those they loved the same things we do for those in our hearts.
One man was leaving a wife and six children behind. There was a 14-year old girl, a 16- year old girl and 16-year old boy as part of the group preparing to cross. Several of us who had daughters that age became very quiet as we thought about our own daughters preparing to make this journey.
We asked if they planned to permanently live in the United States. Approximately 90% of the group shook their heads and responded that they were only going for one to three years.
Poncho then reminded us that because of American policies and actions, many people who simply wanted to come and spend just enough time away from family to earn enough to live a better quality of life decided to stay because it was becoming so hard to make the crossings. So, again, our policies are creating the very scenarios we are trying to prevent.
After about an hour of some very frank, very emotional conversations and the promise that we would take their stories back with us, we closed in prayer. We prayed for the migrants and their safety, we prayed for an end to the policies that created the economic issues that diminished life, and we prayed for the families left behind without a father, mother, daughter, or son.
What do you believe are the economic impacts of these migrants upon our economy?
Do you believe we should revisit our policies in light of the fact that many people simply want to come to our country for limited periods of time to make enough money to bring a better quality of life to their families?
How do we respond to people who want to know why we create and support policies that threaten the lives of others?