In light of recent events in Arizona, I propose we lead in our communities where national and global leaders lag behind on issues of human rights and love of neighbor. We know that the struggle in Arizona is one of many more to come, for instance:
- The partial injunction of SB1070 does not include the provision that makes it a crime to give a ride to a friend without documents or to provide hospitality.
- 333 immigrant-related laws & resolutions were enacted by states in the past year, up from 32 in 2005.
- Sheriff Arpaio in Phoenix helped deport more than 26,000 people since 2007; similar federal-local apprehensions occur every day and in every city of the country (with much less media attention).
- 1,200 National Guard troops will arrive this week to the Southwest border; the Obama administration still promotes enforcement as the answer.
- 57 bodies of migrants crossing the Arizona desert were recovered in July, a record number of border deaths in recent years, despite fewer people crossing.
The acts of creative non-violence and protests on July 29 were certainly tremendous, but victory is far from near. If anything, I hope we have learned from the Arizona epicenter that the solution for stopping these human rights violations is not in the Supreme Court (eventually), nor in a large overhaul of immigration reform. There is more work to do much closer to home. Our challenge as leaders and laity of faith is to use the same focus and energy -- such as coming face to face with a line of police in riot gear -- to directly confront the underlying issues of heart and mind that allow fear of migration, xenophobia, and the suffering of immigrants to continue.
The massive and free movement of people will possibly be the fundamental human rights question of my lifetime. As the United Nations General Assembly (finally) declared water a human right this week, it is projected that by 2050 2 billion people will be facing severe water shortages worldwide, which includes 70 percent of counties in the United States. Indeed, people will be migrating, and that may include you and me. We cannot wait until national and global leadership move the immigration debate beyond 'tolerance' to finally recognize migration as a human right as well. As a fundamental challenge for humankind, let us now ask: How can I prepare myself and my community -- now -- to accept this reality of migration and to proactively welcome my new neighbor? I suspect the answer to this will bring us closer to living in the world, as it should be. This church still has a lot of work to do, indeed!
Maryada Vallet works with No More Deaths, a humanitarian initiative on the U.S.-Mexico border that promotes faith-based principles for immigration reform.