February 14th, 2020
Sometimes I grow weary of writing. Well, I don’t mind the act of writing itself. I have to write. It’s part of who I am. If I stop writing, then I might as well stop breathing.
What bothers me is the need to promote my writing. I hate that. Maybe it is just my stubborn pride. It bothers me to ask somebody to use my words, even when it is for a good cause. I try not to get my written words all wrapped around my ego, but it happens anyway. It is possible that I might reach more readers if I begged somebody to print/post my essays. I won’t/can’t do that. I am not strong enough to beg, even if it might help somebody who has no voice, even when I may be their only voice.
A month ago I sent an essay to our local Catholic news source. I wrote to them about the crisis at the U.S./Mexican border. They have not responded since then. I am not surprised. The Catholic Herald is a creature of the archdiocese, and as such, seldom prints any articles more controversial than reports about upcoming Lenten fish fries. I think that Catholic publications should be prophetic voices, at least some of the time. The Catholic Herald generally is not. It is just a Catholic version of Pravda. It’s all propaganda, and in truth, the Catholic Church invented that term.
CORRECTION: A reporter from the Catholic Herald just sent me an email. She wants to a story about the border experience story. I take back a few of the mean things I said about the newspaper. Somehow, I’m not completely surprised by this latest development. It is the law of karma with a twist. God has a strange sense of humor.
All right. The following is the essay that I sent to the Herald.
Please use it. Somehow. Somewhere. Some time.
If you want.
“It’s cold in El Paso. Compared to the weather in Wisconsin, it doesn’t seem that bad, but the temperatures are still hovering around freezing. For the migrants who are stranded right across the border in Ciudad Juarez, this level of cold is a real problem. These people are living in tents, and many of these migrants and asylum-seekers are from Central America or southern Mexico; places where people have no experience at all with cold weather. Many of them are women and children. They have fled in terror from their homes, and now they are stuck on the wrong side of the U.S./Mexico border. They can’t go forward and they can’t go back. So, they sit and freeze.
How do I know all this?
I went to the border. I went there with a group of fourteen people from the Catholic Coalition for Migrants and Refugees, a group that has just formed in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in order to find out about the circumstances of these migrants. We learned that their conditions are wretched. I, along with the other people in our little band, slowly came to understand how much suffering goes on at our southern border. It was a worthwhile learning experience, albeit not a pleasant one.
Our group stayed for five days at a shelter run by Annunciation House on El Paso. We participated in a five-day immersion program that took us to places in El Paso, and across the border in Juarez. It was intense. We saw some things that were very ugly, and we also saw things that were hopeful. We were with people who were suffering, and we were with people who were trying their best to alleviate that suffering. We saw injustice. We saw poverty. We saw people struggling just to survive. Those five days changed how we see our world. Those days changed us.
The extreme hardship that we saw has many causes. Much of it is beyond our control. However, some of the pain that these migrants currently feel is caused by the government of the United States. Our government is keeping these people in Mexico, despite the fact they are seeking asylum in our country. Through a variety of ways, the current administration is punishing people who just want to live in safety. Our government is hurting those people who have already been hurt. We, as citizens of the United States, are actively working against the poor and the oppressed. That’s a fact.
The Catholic Church recognizes that nations have the right and responsibility to control their borders. The Church also says that people have the right to migrate. There is a tension between these two rights. Immigration laws need to be both just and compassionate. Our current laws in the United States are neither.
We are Catholics. Our job to help those in need. These migrants on the border are desperately in need. That’s why CCMR was formed, to raise awareness of their plight and call for a more humane response to these “least among us,” as Christ called them.
While we were in El Paso, we met the head of Annunciation House, Ruben Garcia. He told us quite clearly that our ministry was not at the border. Our work is back home in Wisconsin. He told us to take the lessons we had learned and use them in our own neighborhoods. The same fear and anguish that we witnessed on the southern border is here, within a few miles of where we work and live.
We can help migrants already here, right in our midst, but we must also try to help those in Juarez. To do that, we must become advocates, and we can do that more powerfully together than alone. That is what CCMR is about. Please join us. Call 414-427-4273 to learn more.”