Guest Commentary

Councilperson Kozachik feels that we're better people than what the protests in Murrieta and Oracle demonstrated

A few weeks ago, a child was born at Tucson's University of Arizona Medical Center. The mother is a migrant from Guatemala, fleeing abject poverty and physical abuse. She joins hundreds of others who have been dropped at our local Greyhound Bus station by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with the instruction that they find their way to friends or family and, within 15 days, report to ICE for a deportation hearing. Her baby is now a United States citizen.

Faith-based nonprofits have joined with members of the community to form Project Mariposa, an organized response to receive and assist in transitioning the migrant families through Tucson. The stories I hear consistently paint the picture of women who have been subjected to domestic violence and abandonment in their home country, lied to at each border they cross about what awaits them in America, robbed and oftentimes raped during transit and left abandoned at the U.S. border by coyotes who are getting rich on this human tragedy.

Shortly after they're dropped on the U.S. side, these women and children are arrested by the Border Patrol, processed for status and delivered to our intake center at the Greyhound Bus station. They arrive confused, scared and worn out. Our volunteer group is charged by our own human-ness to receive these families with compassionate hearts and show them the love we would hope to expect were we to find ourselves in similar conditions.

I watch in disgust and amazement the protests going on in Murietta, California, and now in Oracle and areas of Texas. They remind me of incidents that occurred in Selma, Alabama, back in 1961, when mobs surrounded Freedom Rider buses with an ugly hatred that does not reflect the soul of who we are as a nation. In the '60s, the nation recoiled from such overt displays of bigotry. We can do no less when faced with the images coming from Murietta today. We're a better and more compassionate people than that.

The women and children sitting on those buses have been victimized by gang violence in their home countries. They have fled in an effort to find a new life. They are not scholars who have studied the intricacies of the U.S. Constitution and looked for ways to evade its rules. They must sit on the busses, see the angry mobs outside and wonder where on this earth they can turn to find a simple welcoming hand that will receive them as refugees coming from a violent land.

As a member of the Tucson City Council, I'm proud to represent the residents of Tucson who have stepped up and offered to be that welcoming and compassionate hand. We don't confront the broken hearts with arguments about comprehensive immigration reform or international economic-development initiatives. Those are issues to be sorted through by the national leaders of each of the countries involved. What these women and children need is a blanket, some food and the most basic of human kindness.

Frustrations are running deep all across the nation. We see members of Congress who are caught up in casting blame and positioning themselves for election campaigns. We see decades of dysfunctional public institutions throughout Central America failing their own citizens, the collateral damage from which is the out-migration of their own people. The buses that are arriving in Tucson don't carry the causes of these failed institutions. They carry the effects. And those arrive at our Greyhound station as simply people looking for hope.

There was a new U.S. citizen laying in her mother's arms in a Tucson hospital last month. Welcome to America, little one. It's my hope, and that of the Project Mariposa volunteers, that by the time you're old enough to understand, the Murietta and Oracle protests will be as anathema to your fellow countrymen as those that occurred in Selma are to us today.

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