Our sixth station on the Good Friday Ecumenical Prayer Walk is at the railroad tracks where freight trains roll through Melbourne. Train tracks are a good symbol for migrant people because many migrants hop rides on trains to get to where they can find work.
Immigration is a hot topic in Washington as we write. A potential deal has been worked out. Secure the borders. Find a pathway for earning citizenship. Enact the Dream Act to allow children who were brought here by parents the opportunity for post-secondary education. All of these concerns factor into the debate.
What is seldom spoken of is the fact that unjust social and economic systems create conditions where people have to leave families and home in order to eke out some kind of existence. Under specious trade agreements, America, for example, has been able to dump government subsidized corn into Mexico. Mexican farmers cannot compete pricewise and, as a result, there are entire villages without men because they have migrated to find work.
Unfortunately, unscrupulous growers have hired and abused migrant workers for years. I have personally witnessed this degradation in migrant camps in North Carolina. Eight men renting a broken down, rat-infested trailer are paying the owner $1200 a month. We delivered mattresses because they were sleeping on cardboard placed over the bed springs. Workers on one farm labored from sunrise to sunset in the fields and then continued to work in the packing house until the wee hours of the morning. When a nurse told the owner that she was concerned about the men and their health, the owner threatened her, “You are a mighty ‘purty’ lady and you may want to keep it that way!”
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food campaign has resulted in Burger King, Taco Bell, McDonalds, and others to buy from growers who pay the workers one penny per pound more. Unfortunately, Publix has refused to get on board. (http://www.ciw-online.org/)
The opening prayer at the Sixth Station:
Lord Jesus, we are searching for you. Where are you suffering today?
All: Look for me among those who feel they have no choice but to leave their loved ones, their home, their whole lives behind and flee to a foreign land despite the risk of discrimination, prosecution and death. Look for me among the hearts that are broken as they see their families divided by the need to escape hunger, war, genocide, oppression, and persecution. Look for me among those who are stolen or coerced, held captive, abused and trafficked across the world to satisfy the greed and perverse and inhumane desires of others. Look for me among the tears shed and families ripped apart by such atrocities. Look for me among those who will not open their doors nor their hearts to the stranger in their midst. Look for me among those who fail to understand that those forced to flee would rather stay at home. Look for me among those strangers doing the lowest and dirtiest jobs that we would never do. Look for me among the scared and suffering victims of natural disasters, fleeing their homeland for a chance to heal and recover. Seek me there and you shall find me.
The concluding prayer:
Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth,
you grew to manhood as a child of the Passover people,
who came out of slavery and oppression in Egypt into a new land,
flowing with milk and honey.
Your own parents were refugees from the brutality of the despotic King Herod,
who would have murdered you if he could.
Today, the world is awash with the movement of millions of people
who must leave their homes and all they hold dear,
to flee from war and joblessness, hopelessness and persecution.
Families are torn apart. Desperate people are preyed upon.
Lives are ended by the dangers of slavery, or boat or train or desert.
Oh dear Jesus, protect them. Protect them all from any harm.
Lord, we confess our many acts of intolerance and selfishness,
our lack of hospitality and our indifference to the plight of those
who wander the world today in search of a safe haven.
Grant us a new heart to embrace the stranger, an open mind to accept differences, and grant us your forgiveness.
And so together we pray,
All: Lord Jesus, slain and resurrected, hear our prayer for the poor.
Today would be a good day to contact your senators and encourage them to support immigration reform.