“We’re dividing your city!” exclaimed Sister Simone Campbell, minutes after arriving in Nogales and seeing the border fence running through the downtown area for the first time.
Campbell rolled into town with seven other nuns on a tour bus with the words “Raise your hands! Raise your voice!” written in huge letters on its sides. The nuns have traveled across the country in the last two weeks, calling for the reform of immigration laws. That message was received warmly by dozens of Nogalians and others who gathered Wednesday morning on West International Street near the border fence on to welcome them.
The “Nuns on the Bus” tour coincides with the opening of a Senate debate on the first comprehensive immigration reform bill to reach the Senate floor in six years, and the issue of reform and border security were the focus of the speakers who addressed the crowd on Wednesday.
“We know that the shadow of this wall is making trouble for our world and we the people can’t live as one family,” Campbell said in her remarks to the crowd, adding that during their recent travels, she and the other nuns have seen widespread support for immigration reform.
“We know that we can do this because faith demands it, the economy demands it, but even more than that, I believe our Constitution demands it,” she said. “Our Constitution doesn’t say, ‘We who got here first.’ It doesn’t say, ‘We the ones who own the businesses.’ What it says is, ‘We the people.’”
The nuns are organizing a petition drive to let Congress know that there is a “tsunami of people in the United States who are supporting comprehensive immigration reform,” Campbell told the crowd.
Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino told the crowd that he remembered when the border fence was a five-strand barbed wire fence designed to keep cattle out. “Now we have a 20-foot wall. What’s next? I don’t know,” he said.
Luis Parra, a Nogales-based immigration attorney, expressed his solidarity with undocumented immigrants by quoting from “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” written by 17th Century author John Donne, including the lines “therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
“Quite frankly, 50 years from now our great-grandkids will ask, they will surely ask, ‘What did our great-grandparents do about the atrocities that were occurring in our backyards?’” Parra said in reference to migrants who die while crossing the border.
Following the speeches, the nuns and their supporters strolled along the border fence for a few hundred yards as the Trio Sabor Latino serenaded them with a rendition of “Guantanamera.”
The nuns stopped several times to peek through the gaps in the fence to wave and say hello to passers-by in Nogales, Sonora.