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Nuns on the Bus: On the Border in Arizona

20 June 2013 No Comment
Sister JoAnn Persch, RSM
Pascua Yaqui Reservation in Tuscon, Arizona

“There are close to 70 Native American nations along the border. Their voices should be heard in the debate. We need comprehensive immigration reform.”

Nuns on the Bus


The gathering at the reservation near Tucson, Ariz., was held in a new auditorium, and the crowd was so large that there was standing room only. The meeting was a chaired by a staff member of Congressman Raul M. Grijalva. He welcomed the group and then invited the tribal council to greet the Nuns on the Bus and offer a prayer.

Sister Simone (Campbell) gave a brief overview of the purpose of the bustour. She explained that we come as learners, and we were anxious to hear stories.

There were three speakers who shared their experience. The first was Rev. Randy Mayer, the pastor of the Good Shepherd  United Church of Christ. His message centered around the open wound in the area caused by the current immigration system. His group works to save lives. They put out water in the desert for one thing. In spite of efforts, 6,000 have died while crossing. He reminded us that these are human beings who deserve comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. At the border, drones are used. There are more border patrols – a military zone in what was a beautiful spot. He said that we have to stand up against those with power and stand with the people.

Next, Ned Norris Jr. of the Tohona O’odham Nation spoke. Their nation has 2.8 million acres of land, and 75 miles of that is along the border. When the U.S.-Mexico border was established, members of their nation were divided. Today, 1,500 members of their nation live in Mexico because of the way others decided to draw borders. The Tohono O’odham nation was always sympathetic to the Mexicans who wanted to cross the border for a better life. The nation helped them on the way. Some of the compassion and understanding have changed because of increased crime with increased members. There is also a
problem with increased border patrol. Nation members have been harassed and verbally abused by border patrol. There are close to 70 Native American nations along the border. Their voices should be heard in the debate. We need comprehensive immigration reform.

Ruben Reyes and other members of the Pascua Yaqui council spoke of their experience. They, too, are harassed by border patrol. They, too, show concern for people seeking a better life. There are barriers for their nation. 400,000 Yaquis are trapped on the other side. The Yaqui society is older than any government system.

There are so many names at Ellis Island. We wanted immigrants then, why don’t we want them now? Immigration will help our economy. Immigrants need a path to citizenship. Comprehensive Immigration Reform must take a look at border issues. The fence is going through the reservation. Borders divide nations and families. Indigenous are people, and their rights need to be respected.”

This piece was originally shared by Network Nuns on the Bus.


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