Lupe Renteria Salome

Lupe Renteria Salome is a member of the President’s Youth Council at The California Endowment and currently serves as a fellow to that committee, Leslie@calendowpyc.org.

Minerva G. Carcaño

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño is the board vice chair for The California Endowment and serves as bishop of the California-Nevada Conference of The United Methodist Church, bishopmc@calnevumc.org.  They wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

We are in a time of global pandemic and the U.S. Southern border wall is progressing.  More than 180 miles of new wall has been constructed, without recent push-back from those of us who have long protested the building of a wall.  But we are not silent nor unconcerned.

We are hundreds of thousands of justice seekers across the country who have grown into a very loud and committed movement.  We have heard, seen and experienced the unjust suffering of migrants.  

These are times to stop and consider the intersections of systemic oppression.  COVID-19 has made these intersections more visible, unveiling the layers and connectedness of human suffering and the domino effect that each hit causes for those living on the margins.  

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Consider the father, an undocumented immigrant worker, who lost his job because of the pandemic.  His daughter describes it as the hit that threw them 100 steps backwards.  He was an essential worker who for years received only a minimum wage with no benefits.  When he became seriously ill, he still worked without the ability to address his multiple illnesses. Ultimately the pandemic took his job sending his family deeper into fear, doubt and invisibility.  

When we are accused of being silent because they say we must have learned our opposition to the wall was wrong, we raise our voices with renewed commitment.

We are not silent, we are more active than ever – creating mutual aid funds for immigrant families, reclaiming homes to shelter in place, organizing and advocating for health and freedom of detainees. This is work that makes us stronger to continue to seek the healing of deep wounds that institutional racism and systemic oppression have inflicted among vulnerable communities.

The building of a wall between the United States and Mexico is a waste of resources that could be better used for addressing:  

  • poverty of communities on both sides of the border,  
  • lack of adequate economic, health and educational infrastructure in Central America contributed to by U.S. economic and political intervention that pushes people to migrate,
  • growing violence in areas where the suffering forces migration to safety, 
  • the broken U.S. immigration system that prevents the right of persons to seek asylum.

We are grateful for the solidarity from philanthropy who  are providing  emergency relief fund for immigrant families in California.  More partners are needed to step up to help alleviate the physical, mental and emotional stress of vulnerable families.  The inequities we have seen in this country cannot be unseen and we cannot in good conscience ignore our responsibility to address them.

In a time of global pandemic, we should not be building walls.  What we should be doing is building community.  This virus is no respecter of national borders, immigration status or racial, social or economic differences.  We know, however, those most impacted are the poor and people of color among them migrants.  

Building community requires we take this moment to examine the causes of poverty and why a disproportionate number of the pandemic’s victims are people of color.  As a society, neither our bodies nor our souls will ever be well while too many among us suffer. 

Building true community requires that we consider the well-being of all its members and not just some.  

Building community in a global context calls us to stretch the imagination of our minds to visions of a world healed of its afflictions and stretch the humanity of our hearts to the commitments necessary to care for one another.  

Walls may feel like security, but they are obstacles to what is needed to bring healing.  

These walls must be torn down so that we may hear the cry for justice of the suffering, see our way forward and be able to stand together as a global community with so much to live for.

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