Last month, Brother Brian McLauchlin SVD took part in a special program to give members of religious communities a firsthand look at the immigration issue on the Mexican-U.S. border. He shares that experience in this four-part blog. We invite you to read the first installment.
Sunday, Sept. 13
A group of 19 people gathered in Tucson, Ariz., for an immersion experience on migration across the desert. Our first gathering was at Most Holy Trinity, a parish that focuses on justice and peace issues, particularly around immigration. This experience was organized through the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), so there were several people from various religious communities, along with Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) coordinators. Several women also participated in the experience.
Rev. John Fife, a minister at Tucson’s Southside Presbyterian Church, gave the first presentation. After general introductions, Rev. Fife mainly presented on the history of the sanctuary movement in the United States. The movement has had a painful history.
Back in the 1980s, several parishes, including Rev. Fife’s faith community, provided safe havens for thousands of Central Americans who crossed into the United States. More than 500 churches and synagogues participated in this movement. Unfortunately, the U.S. government infiltrated this group, gathering evidence on the movement that resulted in the arrest of Rev. Fife and seven other activists. The movement became inactive for several years.
A newer version of the movement started in the early 2000s because of the rise in deportations and work raids by the federal government. Once again, the movement was spearheaded by Rev. Fife.
The Southside Presbyterian Church presently is providing sanctuary for Rosa Robles Loretto, a woman who was threatened with deportation after a traffic stop. Fortunately, her family lives in Tucson, so they are able to regularly visit her. With the help of the Presbyterian faith community, someone is able to be with Rosa around the clock. The participation of a whole faith community is crucial under such circumstances.
In 2002, Rev. Fife helped form the Samaritan Patrol, which provides humanitarian aid to those crossing the desert. On a daily basis, they go out to the migrant trails and provide medical aid and water to those in need. The Samaritan Patrol is a sister organization with No More Deaths, also based in Tucson.
Rev. Fife stressed providing sanctuary as a way to transform our unjust immigration laws. The time has come when we must act in favor of people, rather than allowing our laws to perpetuate an unjust system. People suffer on a daily basis because of the present immigration system.