A letter from Mark Adams on the U.S.–Mexico border
“For Jesus Christ is our peace who has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility between us ... Christ’s purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of two.” (Ephesians 2)
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
In the last months I have received numerous inquiries from partners throughout the United States about the impacts that the new Arizona law has had on our life and ministry. I have not been able to respond to all of the inquiries, so I will attempt to address some of the realities that we are facing here.
The divisions between people of Mexican descent and northern European descent have recently grown here on the Arizona and Sonora border as a result of that law that many feel will result in racial profiling by local law enforcement and others feel is just upholding the “rule of law.” (Ironically, the vast majority of local police chiefs and sheriffs in Arizona oppose the law and are angry that the legislature did not consult with them before “giving them the tools they need.”) In response to the law:
- Mexico issued a travel alert to all Mexican citizens about the potential harassment they may face in Arizona;
- Aeromexico, Mexico’s largest airline, has cancelled flights into Phoenix;
- the American Association of Immigration lawyers moved its convention scheduled for Arizona this year;
- many city councils including Douglas’ have taken formal action in opposition to SB1070 and are working to have the law stopped and/or overturned;
- we received a cancellation from a group scheduled to visit FDC in the fall citing the new Arizona law;
- a group from the Presbytery of Southern Kansas mentioned that one of their participants did not drive his own van in Arizona (but rather sat in the back) because of fear of being stopped (while he is a citizen, he is of Mexican descent).
In the midst of the growing divisions and fears, we continue to witness to the unity that God calls us to across borders; a unity in which
- love overcomes hatred;
- trust trumps fear;
- the lion and the lamb lay down together;
- justice rolls down like a mighty stream.
On the day the Arizona law was passed, around 200 persons of faith from both sides of the border had gathered in Phoenix for the “Crossing Borders: Encountering God” conference co-sponsored by Frontera de Cristo. You can read the statement that emerged from the conference in response to our broken immigration system.
Frontera de Cristo has been advocating for immigration reform since October 2001. Almost nine years of inaction and ecclesiastical statements later, our broken system continues to separate families, cause untold amounts of physical and emotional suffering, and over 5,000 deaths.
Our board president Jeni O’Callaghan stated in a recent letter to the Presbytery de Cristo, reiterating the importance of immigration reform and calling for opposition to the Arizona law: “During the failed attempt at an immigration overhaul in 2006, our Senator John McCain, who at the time was a champion of immigration reform, asked a group of religious leaders: ‘Where is the voice of the church? Aren’t you supposed to care about the immigrants?’” You can read the letter and other ways that our binational ministry is responding on the Frontera de Cristo website.
While our ecclesiastical bodies have all made statements about the importance that Scripture places on “loving the alien,” “remembering that we were aliens too in the land of Egypt,” and “welcoming the stranger,” the angry calls that were flooding his office were the voices who were “afraid of and/or angry at the alien,” “did not remember that they too had been aliens” and “wanted to deport the stranger.”
In the offices of our congresspersons and the halls of Congress, the voices of fear have been stronger than the voices of faith. The voices of concern for self and “cultural preservation” have been stronger than the voices of compassion and concern for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Just in the last decade more than 1,900 persons have died in Arizona alone while attempting to be reunited with family or arriving for a job to provide for their families. We have remained silent too long. Our sisters and brothers are not only suffering, they are dying in attempts to provide sustenance for their families.
May God grant us the courage to look beyond our perceived self-interest and lift up our voices to speak truth to power; may we be empowered to respond in faith and not fear; and may our state and our nation not only reclaim our identity as a state and nation built by migrants, but also as a state and nation that reflect the Judeo-Christian values of “love of the alien” and “welcome to the stranger.”
We give thanks to God for you and for your prayers and encouragement that allow us to share the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed here on the U.S./Mexico border and beyond through church development, health ministry, family ministry, the New Hope Community Center, mission education, and the Just Trade Center together as sisters and brothers from across political, cultural and economic borders.
Your mission co-workers on the U.S.–Mexico border,
Familia Adams Maldonado
Miriam, Mark, Cindy, Anna Flor and Nathan