A snapshot of humanitarian aid in the Arizona borderlands

Through my good friend Ken Froessel, I had the honor this past week of meeting (via telephone) a man named Ricardo Elford. Ricardo is a priest who has been engaged in advocacy and humanitarian aid for migrants in the Arizona borderlands for over fifty years. Ricardo, Ken, my partner Patricia, and I had a great talk, and I look forward to meeting Ricardo in person when I go to work for No More Deaths. (The latest news: They’ll make final decisions on their September desert aid crew on July 15.)

Ricardo passed on to me an excellent recent article that provides a good snapshot of current humanitarian aid efforts for migrants in the Arizona desert—including quite a bit about the No More Deaths desert aid camp where I will hopefully be working soon. I thought you might find it helpful and interesting reading:

After Trump’s immigration crackdown, a desert clinic tries to save lives without breaking the law

Good news! No More Deaths desert aid camp not closing down after all

I have some good news to report: It turns out that the No More Deaths desert aid camp is not closing down after all. According to a NMD statement released yesterday, entitled The status of our work in the desert:

No More Deaths has not stopped any of our humanitarian-aid efforts. A recent news report stated that we have closed our aid station in Arivaca, Arizona and that those in need are being turned away. This is false: the aid station is open and volunteers continue to give care to anyone seeking help.

This news is a very pleasant surprise for me. My own blog on the closure was based on that news report from NPR, which said that the NMD desert aid camp “has decided to shut down operations for now.” Nothing from NMD (until now) contradicted that report, so I assumed it was true. I’m very glad to hear that, to paraphrase the famous quip attributed to Mark Twain, reports of the closure of the No More Deaths desert aid camp are greatly exaggerated.

So, the work goes on, and I’m very much looking forward to taking part in it. And speaking of that work, one more thing: To help keep the desert aid camp open, No More Deaths is asking people to sign a petition to the Border Patrol to change their enforcement policies and cease interference with humanitarian aid efforts. I don’t want to make a habit of putting action alerts on this blog, but since this one has a major impact on my own work, I hope you’ll indulge me. 🙂

“God grant that America will be true to her dream”

As the United States celebrates the Fourth of July (just another day here in southern Mexico!), I find myself reflecting on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. I love the way that King saw the deeper promise of those classic words of slave holder Thomas Jefferson from the Declaration of Independence. As King put it in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech:

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men [and women, I would add!], would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Continue reading ““God grant that America will be true to her dream””

No More Deaths desert aid camp closing down for now

I have some sad news to report: Because of the Border Patrol raid on June 15, the No More Deaths desert aid camp will be closed down for now. They will probably continue to use the camp as an distribution base to bring water and food out to aid stations on the desert trails, but the camp is no longer safe for migrants to enter. This means that No More Deaths will no longer be able to provide medical care—which means more people will suffer and die.

I don’t know what this will mean regarding my volunteering. I haven’t heard from them about that yet. Presumably they still need volunteers to distribute water and food on the trails. I’m not a doctor or EMT, so I wouldn’t be doing medical treatment anyway. I’ll keep everyone posted.

I hate “hate”

Okay, the title of this post is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but it refers to a phenomenon I think is all too common: the tendency among activists to use the word “hate” to describe the stance of those who disagree with them. I see this on the right in instances such as their absurdly calling Black Lives Matter a “hate group.” But I see it on my own progressive side as well. Indeed, hardly a day goes by without new messages in my e-mail box imploring me to stand up for particular positions because the people who disagree with those positions are promoting “hate.” I am to “deport hate,” “stand up to hate,” “stop hate,” “say no to hate,” etc. Continue reading “I hate “hate””

No More Deaths desert aid camp raided by Border Patrol

Since I’ll be volunteering for No More Deaths, I wanted to report some disturbing news. On Thursday, June 15, the Border Patrol raided the No More Deaths desert aid camp in southern Arizona—the very camp I will be working at. They sent a massive force of about 30 armed agents, 15 trucks, and even a helicopter to apprehend four migrants who were receiving urgent medical care at the camp. Continue reading “No More Deaths desert aid camp raided by Border Patrol”

A more constructive approach to problem solving: “How can I help?”

When it comes to problems, people love to focus on other people’s responsibility as a way of avoiding their own. This happens in every area of life; it’s the human condition. We all like to blame problems on someone else, don’t we? Well, here I want to suggest a perspective on problems and our responsibility for solving them that I think is much more conducive to finding truly helpful solutions. Continue reading “A more constructive approach to problem solving: “How can I help?””

Address the situation but love the child of God

The big political news this week, of course, was former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the US Senate on questions about the Trump administration’s ties with Russia and possible obstruction of the investigation into those ties. But I’m not going to get into the details of that here. Rather, I want to talk about thoughts that this event sparked in me: thoughts about the relationship between the quest to uncover and address uncomfortable facts about people’s actions—especially the actions of people in power—and the commitment of those of us on the spiritual path to love those people no matter what. Continue reading “Address the situation but love the child of God”

The darkness and the light in Portland

An incident that shocked the nation took place on Friday in Portland, Oregon. On a light-rail commuter train, a man stabbed two men to death and seriously injured a third when the three victims intervened to stop the man’s racist and Islamophobic rant directed at two teenage women in the train. The man, Jeremy Joseph Christian, was apprehended by police, and will now face trial for aggravated murder, among other felony charges. My loving thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been impacted by this horrific event. Continue reading “The darkness and the light in Portland”