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Building Hope Along

U.S., Mexico Border

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Bishop Kirk Smith, left, holds white crosses during the Border Procession in Naco, Ariz., in early April. Images by Jonathon Shacat.
Those Wishing To See Tensions And Violence Reduced On Both Sides Of The Border Meet, March And Pray For Peace And Mutual Understanding in Naco, Ariz.

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By Jonathon Shacat
Special for Modern Times Magazine

April 21, 2013 — With white crosses and paintbrushes, a few dozen Americans and Mexicans gathered along the U.S.-Mexico border at Naco, Ariz., earlier this month for an annual event that fosters community and relationship to people divided by a wall.

The God Has No Borders Naco Border Procession took place in Naco, Ariz., and in Naco, Sonora, Mexico, on April 6. It was hosted by Episcopal Border Ministries, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona.

"I think, for me, we are doing this to keep this in front of us, to support one another, and to stay in the struggle until we have some sense that we have made important progress and strides," said Rev. Seth Polley, director of Episcopal Border Ministries in Bisbee.

In Naco, Ariz., participants placed white crosses along the border wall to remember individuals who have died in the desert in Cochise County, including Francisco Javier Dominguez-Rivera, a Mexican who was fatally shot by Border Patrol agent Nicholas Corbett in 2007, and Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie, who was killed from friendly fire last year.

The identities of some people who were honored during the vigil are unknown, because their bodies were so decomposed by the time they were discovered, said Lee McElroy, a member of Humanitarian Border Solutions, a group that funds a project to put water in blue tanks in the desert for thirsty border crossers.

Eric Carr, a member of Grace St. Paul's Church in Tucson, made a prayer asking God to open the hearts of the participants so they can see him, hear him and feel him, and "so that we can sense you and the land, the terrain, and the scars made by the wall."

Later, some participants walked through the port of entry into Naco, Sonora, Mexico, to continue work on the Naco Mural Project in collaboration with the Border Bedazzlers, by painting colorful designs on the rusty corrugated metal border fence, such as the famous B Hill in downtown Bisbee. And, some Mexicans and Americans shared an agape meal of bread and grape juice.

On April 5, Episcopal Border Ministries hosted another event in Naco, Arizona, to engage immigration reform and border issues called Church and State on the Border. Kirk Smith, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona in Phoenix, hosted a dinner with faith community leaders and political officials in an attempt to foster dialogue and build consensus on these issues.

Smith said he is very hopeful that Congress will pass a national policy on immigration reform. He thinks it is certain there will be some kind of reform.

"I think that one of the challenges for those of us who are concerned about what happens down here is just kind of keeping the spotlight on this," he said. "I think that once there is a policy, there is going to be a tendency for people to say 'well, that problem is solved now and we don't need to worry about that now.' It sure is a great step in the right direction, but that said, it is not the end of solving the problems on the border.

"When you look at history, you see that once revolutionary things happen, things can happen very fast," Smith said, adding there is an equivalent with marriage equality rights. He pointed out the Bisbee City Council's approval of an ordinance regarding same-sex civil unions earlier this month has embarrassed politicians in the state.

"The powers that be are beginning to feel the earth shift under their feet very rapidly, and I think the same thing is going to happen with immigration," he continued. "The Republicans are going to say 'well, now that we have done something about immigration, we can forget about it,' but the voters are still going to hold their feet to the fire."

Jonathon Shacat is a regular contributor to Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at jonathonwithano@yahoo.com.
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