On display in the sanctuary at Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, AZ, site of the Border Fair/Common Ground on the Border Fair today and tomorrow, were a series of quilts bearing witness to the thousands of migrant deaths in the Arizona desert each year. The quilts for each two year time span are different design, but each have memorabilia depicting the victims (or from the victims), and the names of those who died. That is, the names of each victim are included if the name is known. Many of the migrant dead are never identified. In some years, like the quilt in the center photo, each “unknown” victim is listed. In some, they are listed by the Spanish term “desconocido,” unknown.
Our presenter in the second set of workshops this afternoon, Shura Wallin, posed a question to us: what can we do? Shura, who is one of the founders and key life forces behind the Samaritans group that provides humanitarian aid to migrants in the desert, also got us thinking by posing the rhetorical question “How many people do you know who really want to leave their country?” So what can be done to change things? Migrants are forced to leave home to find a better life, a safer life, and they fall prey to another sort of persecution — indifference. So what if they die, they were crossing illegally. It is their own fault; stay where you are and you will not die in the desert attempting to cross.
Is this who we really are, that we will allow this to continue? We have another session with Shura tomorrow afternoon, and maybe, just maybe, we will come up with some answers, some action items. This cannot be what we want.