By Jorge Vielman
In this country, conflict around the issue of immigration has been raging for many years. To immigrate to USA in the late 70’s and 80’s was an adventure; today it can be a death sentence.
In late May and early June of 2010 I had the opportunity, with other MCC co-workers, to participate in a walk through the Arizona desert (The Walk of the Immigrant). For 7 days, we walked 75 miles from Agua Prieta Mexico to Tucson AZ. Our main goal was to educate people about the challenges and to the deaths of people who attempt to migrate to the United States through the Arizona desert.
For me, the walk was a transformative experience. By walking in the desert I felt like I was on holy land; holy because it reminded me that the desert was where Jesus spent a challenging 40 days. Although I was in the desert for only seven days, I was confronted with mixed feelings about the immigrants’ experiences and hardships on such a journey. In the desert a person is vulnerable to the danger of being abused by those who bring them, being abandoned by their companions and even death. In the desert they find their faith, and some, discover their dependency in God.
As part of our walk we stopped at the Home of the Immigrant Women in Agua Prieta, Mexico. Here I met Artemia and her 15 year old daughter. Many years earlier, Artemia fled their home in Mexico because of the poor living conditions and lack of employment. Artemia resided in Indiana where she had two boys. When Artemia found out that her mother was dying, she travelled to Mexico to say good bye. After her mother died, she started her return journey. She also brought along her older daughter, who was raise by Artemia’s mother, to live in the US with her and her other children.
Much of the Bible is about people who could be described as immigrant(s)- legal/illegal or documented/undocumented. In fact Jesus, our main example, and his family had to immigrate for political reasons and later for religious persecution.
Artemia and her daughter asked us to pray for their safety and for God to take care of them during their journey. Our immigrant brothers and sisters are told that crossing the border is illegal and wrong and that they are breaking the law Our immigrant brothers and sisters would like to be welcomed and helped so they can find solace in the new land.
I was transformed by the faith of my immigrant brothers and sisters and their commitment to keep their families together, safe and their pursuit of a better life for all their loved ones.
The Arizona desert became my holy land- the path that transformed my thinking, increased my faith and renewed my passion for justice for those families whose loved ones have been lost in the desert. It has also increased my desire to advocate for those who live in the shadows and are suffering but are afraid to talk or look for help.