Friday, April 14, 2006

Aliens on the land

We asked the young man carrying the cross at the immigrant march last Monday who the person named on it was. He explained softly: "Marco Antonio Villaseñor died crossing the desert."

Although no one really knows for sure, the LA Times reports that the toll of persons dying out there keeps rising. Militarization of the border does not stem the flow of people, but it does increase the human and monetary cost to migrants.

The cost of a coyote, or human smuggler, to bring people into the U.S. has risen from $143 in 1993 to more than $2,000 today. Deaths during crossings soared to a record 460 last year.

Meanwhile, the number of Mexican-born residents living in the U.S. jumped sharply after the border buildup began, census data show.

Felix Lopez's experience shows why. The Phoenix construction worker easily entered the United States illegally in 1995, and didn't go back to Mexico until his mother died last year. After a harrowing three-day crossing through the Arizona desert — during which he said he heard voices of people who had died on earlier treks — he vowed never to return to Mexico. "I'm not doing it again," Lopez said of the journey.

And so militarization accomplishes the contradictory result of forcing persons who might go back to Mexico to stay in the U.S.

In Tucson, the religious and humanitarian campaign No More Deaths is concluding a 40 day Lenten and Passover fast for justice "in remembrance of the lives claimed along our border and in protest of the policies that cause these deaths."

Two No More Deaths volunteers, Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz, are being prosecuted by the U.S. Border Patrol for medically evacuating 3 people in critical condition from the 105-degree Arizona desert in July 2005.

During this Holy Week, I am reading The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, a day by day account of Jesus' final days. It is a wonderful book -- a reminder of how radically subversive Jesus' good news is for us, and for all principalities and powers.

But in today's context, the authors' reference to a Hebrew bible text jumped out at me. In Leviticus 25:23, God says:

...for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.

How dare we who merely have short term tenancy on some of the land deny it to others who are also aliens along with us?

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