November 2018

You may have noticed that civility, honesty and integrity seem to be quaint traits from a bygone era. I'm not going to dive into the causes here.  I just want to show that sometimes, there are easy opportunities for being kind.

Before we get to that, Nick Lowe wrote a song back in 1974, about the topic at hand (later covered by Elvis Costello in 1978) expressing a sentiment that seems like it could have been written in 2018. Nick turns 70 on March 24, 2019, we wish him many more years. Here are the guitar tabs in case you are bored...


Foreshadowing: not the luchador masks...

Here in Tucson, it is Big Business to process migrant people from south of the border.  The way certain people/organizations present this, hordes of terrorists and gang members are trying to invade the United States. Think about this: if you are terrorist or gang member, why would you join a caravan and walk the entire length of Mexico to sneak into the US, when you could easily murder some people, steal their money and a car and go First Class?  In actuality, Arizona gets groups of scared people trying to escape persecution and poverty in their native countries. People coming from Central American countries travel through Mexico for weeks before hitting the U.S. border, often in relatively large groups.  These "caravans" are bringing the workers that will cut your lawn, clean your house, cook at your favorite restauant make your bed, and harvest your crops.  What happens when such people get caught trying to come into our country without official permission?  In the past, they were allowed to stay until they received an asylum hearing to establish if they had credible fear of persecution back home. They were either granted asylum of deported back to their home country; if a family was traveling together that family would remain intact.  Recent policies now focus to initiate criminal court proceedings for anyone attempting any form of illegal entry, even though being in the country illegally is a misdemor like jay-walking.  There are two possibilities: either you go straight to federal prison, or you get a court date at some point in the future for a hearing to determine what willl happen to you. It's then up to you to find a place to stay until the hearing. If it's a family group coming in illegally, and if the parents go to jail, their children are sent to juvenile shelters until other arrangements can be made.

Southwest Key is one of the "non profit" companies (in this case the CEO is well paid at $700K+) with a lucrative contract to house immigrants.  They don't do such a good job screening their employees, and in fact even the State of Arizona is unhappy with them, Southwest Key is on track to do more than $600M business with the federal government in 2018, for a business that literally barely existed just a few years ago.

Back to the migrants... Here in Tucson, once they get a court date, border patrol turns them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (the infamous "ICE"), who brings them to one of the local "safe houses", where volunteers help to contact their families elsewhere in the United States and arrange for bus tickets to whereever they need to be. The migrants, often just mothers and children, are given clean clothes and a hot meal, a place to rest, and snacks for the road (often a two or three day bus trip).  Then they get a ride to the bus station where they continue their journey.  Little things, like a shower or clean socks or a piece of fresh fruit make a huge difference. There is a pretty good supply chain of donations of clean cloths, toothbrushes, tampons and whatnot.  One problem is where to put the stuff for the ride.  ICE provides large clear plastic trash bags, but plastic bags for storing all your possesions kind of suck. 

Did we mention that we attended a professional symposium in October?  There were great presentations, interesting papers, a variety of vendors in the exhibition hall.  And every attendee got a branded backpack, along with a paper copy of the program, the proceedings on thumb-drives and other swag. A well-known microwave vendor and sponsor sent along enough backpacks printed with the conference name and date for all the expected attendees, plus a few extra just in case.  Anything left over, because it's printed with the conference and date, would be thrown out, so....

1995 Ford Ranger, only been totalled once... it has never had more than 2,000 lbs of materials dropped in it from a bucket loader. 
A real truck, not pretend truck!

That's right!  After ensuring that all the attendees were taken care of, the conference vendor let us donate the extra 100+ backpacks to the migrants. When we dropped them off, we had a chance to chat with a volunteer who was STUNNED at the number of backpacks (he had seen people dropping off one or two now and then), and assured us they would make good use of all of them. This particular facility is a four-bedroom house that currently had about a dozen people in it, preparing and sharing food, sorting through newly-cleaned clothes, chilling out and rehydrating after long trips, watching Spanish television (many TV stations broadcast in our native language), and waiting for the time the that bus would take them to their other family members.  The  children have toys to play with, including crayons and paper - and the walls were COVERED in their efforts. 


It takes so little to make a big difference in the lives of these people.  If you live near a border, there is likely to be a progam near you (seach "migrant family charity" and your city name), or you can check with your local religious entities.  There are lots of organizations are looking for donations of cash or goods, or volunteer hours. 

Casa Alitas is run by a Catholic church in Tucson.

The Inn Project is the Methodist version, also in Tucson.

Tahirih is inspired by the Bahá'í Faith.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, now known as HIAS, has been doing this type of work for over 130 years.

Other churches are stepping up as well, and schools and companies all over town are setting up donation centers.  Chances are if your kid is in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, they have been stealing and donating all those toothbrushes you have been hoarding.

The National Immigrant Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation provide legal services.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to go clean out my sock drawer so I can properly welcome the next caravan. Maybe I'll up my game and kick in some Chipotle gift cards and some stuffed toys for Christmas.  And speaking of backpacks, anyone going to the RWW conference in January?


Check out the Unknown Editor's amazing archives when you are looking for a way to screw off for a couple of hours or more!

Fan/hate mail can always be sent to