Written by: Sister JoAnn Persch, RSM
June 11, 2013
The gathering at
the reservation near Tucson, AZ was held in a new auditorium, and the crowd was
so large that there was standing room only. The meeting was a chaired by a
staff member of Congressman Raul M. Grijalva. He welcomed the group and then
invited the tribal council to greet the Nuns on the Bus and offer a prayer.
Sister Simone gave
a brief overview of the purpose of the bus tour. She explained that we come as
learners, and we were anxious to hear stories.
There were three
speakers who shared their experience. The first was Rev. Randy Mayer, the
pastor of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ. His message centered
around the open wound in the area caused by the current immigration system. His
group works to save lives. They put out water in the desert for one thing. In
spite of efforts, 6,000 have died while crossing. He reminded us that these are
human beings who deserve comprehensive immigration reform with a path to
citizenship. At the border, drones are used. There are more border patrols – a
military zone in what was a beautiful spot. He said that we have to stand up
against those with power and stand with the people.
Next, Ned Norris,
Jr., of the Tohona O’odham Nation spoke. Their nation has 2.8 million acres of
land, and 75 miles of that is along the border. When the U.S.-Mexico border was
established, members of their nation were divided. Today, 1500 members of their
nation live in Mexico because of the way others decided to draw borders. The
Tohono O’odham nation was always sympathetic to the Mexicans who wanted to
cross the border for a better life. The nation helped them on the way. Some of
the compassion and understanding have changed because of increased crime with
increased members. There is also a problem with increased border patrol. Nation
members have been harassed and verbally abused by border patrol. There are
close to 70 Native American nations along the border. Their voices should be
heard in the debate. We need comprehensive immigration reform.
Ruben Reyes and
other members of the Pascua Yaqui council spoke of their experience. They, too,
are harassed by border patrol. They, too, show concern for people seeking a
better life. There are barriers for their nation. 400,000 Yaquis are trapped on
the other side. The Yaqui society is older than any government system.
There are so many
names at Ellis Island. We wanted immigrants then, why don’t we want them now?
Immigration will help our economy. Immigrants need a path to citizenship.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform must take a look at border issues. The fence
is going through the reservation. Borders divide nations and families.
Indigenous are people, and their rights need to be respected.