Migrant Trail Walk #6

Thursday 5/28/09

Today is “hump day”. Once we are finished with the scheduled 15.9 miles(!), our longest day, we are over the hump and more than half way finished. We got up at 3 AM, packed all the gear and started the walk just a few minutes before 4. We will wait to do our morning “circle-up” at our first full stop when it is finally daylight. We are promised a treat at the end today –showers with hot running water!

We are camping tonight at Caballo Loco Ranch, a campsite/RV park that is 8.3 miles off highway 286, just to the north of the BANWR. Our first 4.6 miles today took us out of the refuge area and the balance of our walk will now be along two state highways, 286 and Ajo Way. That means single file and stepping off the road shoulder when a car approaches. The speed limits are 55 and 65 along these stretches and it seems that almost every other vehicle that passes us is from the Border Patrol.

Mel and I are once again asked to drop off the gear trailer at the destination ranch. We need to stop en route by a trailer with Porta-Potties to get the padlock for our trailer hitch. The trailer is to be parked close to the road but at 4AM it is hard to spot among the mesquite, cactus, and other wilderness growth that makes mile after mile appear the same to me.

At the morning circle, Kat reminds us that we are not trying to mimic the migrant experience. Those who cross here do not often travel on the gravel roads or the paved highway but instead look for openings in the underbrush – just like we do in trying to find our eco-toilets. And now, because we are walking on the shoulder of a paved highway with fences alongside the right-of-way, we will be using two Porta-Potties for the remainder of the trip. We walk not to mimic the experience but rather in solidarity with the migrants and in remembrance of those who didn’t survive it.

Our campsite is at 4,000 feet and the vista of the mountains behind us and across the Altar Valley where we walk is spectacular- especially at sunrise today. But today is relative luxury – flush toilets and showers – our first since leaving Monday morning. Overheard in the men’s bathroom: “I don’t really need to “go” right now; I just want to hear the sound of flushing!”

It is amazing how much we take for granted in our lives. We don’t often recognize our privilege until it is taken away or surrendered voluntarily. This experience, like that of prison, helps me recognize more areas I need to be willing to surrender to be in solidarity with others in our world.

In the midst of the heat and the dust (compounded by no showers …), small graces become important stepping stones. April came up to me and asked if she could wash my long-sleeved shirt that I wear for protection from the intense sun. Then she asked if there was anything else I needed washed at the camp laundry and my pants made filthy from changing the flat tire and hauling 5-gallon water jugs came to mind. While I had changed my pants after my shower, I now had nothing clean to wear after the walk for my flight back to the Twin Cities. Problem solved!

Tom graciously gave me a repaired camping chair he had brought along, saying I could use it until it broke again. It did well the first day I had it but collapsed right in the middle of our logistics team meeting the next day!

During supper, someone asked Margo, a public defender lawyer for Pima County who also has a growing (mostly pro-bono) private immigration practice on the side, what her take was on getting a comprehensive immigration reform bill through Congress this year. About 20 or more of us sat around listening to her stories and perspectives from her many years as both an activist and an attorney. She volunteers for No More Deaths as well as other groups but her advocacy as a lawyer is something few of us are able to emulate. Her work is so important in trying to keep families together who are threatened by deportation of one or more members. It is critical to retain a vestige of hope as well as an attitude of resistance for this work. I’d like to get her perspective on the role civil disobedience by Anglo/US citizens might play in support of immigrant rights, wishing to stand and act in solidarity with those threatened by our policies. Maybe we can talk as we walk tomorrow or in the afternoon after we rest.

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