The following are testimonies from previous participants of the Migrant Trail.
I participated in my first Migrant Trail in 2006. It was hot; my feet hurt constantly and team dynamics on the trail were messy. But I survived the 75-mile journey and have learned a few things over the last seven years of walking.
For one, on the Trail I feel my body ache, something this aspiring academic doesn’t recognize regularly. Secondly, I pray for those who have died in crossing, fellow human beings whose names are written on small, wooden cross that we carry with us. They become familiar, fellow journeyers. I also pray for changes in U.S. government policy. Lastly, I reflect deeply on the borderlands situation and build relationships that strengthen me.
In my life, the Migrant Trail makes it real. In walking, I connect with the reality of death, physical and emotional pain and disastrous government policies. I will walk the Migrant Trail until borderland deaths are no more.
Jodi Read, 8th year walker (2013)
For the past ten years, The Migrant Trail has provided an active medium to honor brothers and sisters who have lost their lives in the Sonoran Desert. Migrant Trail participants walk to help us become more aware of the devastating impacts of militarization along the borderlands, the division of sister communities, and the damage to Creation and animal habitats. The continuous deaths along the U.S.–Mexico border call for witnesses to the injustices that migrants face.
The Migrant Trail invites us every year to stand in solidarity, to lift our voices and stomp our feet, to denounce our inhumane immigration policies. This is why, for the third time, I will join the 10th-Annual Migrant Trail.
Saulo Padilla, 3rd year walker (2013)
Director of the Office on Immigration Education for MCC U.S. Peace and Justice Ministries
After 4 years working on and around the border between Arizona and Sonora, this will be my first year on the Migrant Trail Walk. I have walked and worked in this desert before, but I have never taken the time to be formed by it and to commune with the spirits that pass through it and rest there. Although I know many individuals that have passed through this desert, now I have the option to experience but a small part of what they are impelled to do without back-up or amenity. I also look forward to making new acquaintances and forming new friendships at a level of depth perhaps inaccessible by any other means. Finally, I expect to be opened, challenged, and shaped in ways that I cannot yet imagine, but that I know will be foundational for all that is yet to come.
Jim Perdue, 1st year walker (2013)
National Coordinator for Immigration and Border Concerns
National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry of The United Methodist Church
I will walk again this year, the 10th anniversary of the Migrant Trail, to remember and grieve with families who have been left behind. For every person sadly discovered in the Sonoran desert, a family in Mexico or Central America has lost a loved one, a child, a grandchild, an aunt or an uncle. As a grandfather and father, the pain experienced by those whose family members have perished in the Arizona borderlands moves me deeply.
I pray for a day when the grandchildren of my migrant brothers and sisters will be able to sit on their papas’ laps, surround their beloved with love and kisses, and cherish their time together.
But first we walk. We walk to say, “Tear the wall down, bring justice to our world, and let our families live!”
Dan Abbott, 9th year walker (2013)
The Migrant Trail is no cakewalk. Seven days of hard walking in the desert means blisters, cholla cactus spines, and exhaustion from the dry heat. In my past journeys on the Trail, I have learned of the small gifts of food, water, a loving touch, even the ceremony of foot washing—all of them simple acts of caring that move me to tears when my body is at its worst. And it is precisely this sort of basic compassion for others that compels me to walk the Migrant Trail year after year.
I have come to see the walk as a spiritual calling, as a pilgrimage that reminds me of my duties to care for the stranger in our midst, to speak up for those who cannot or could not, to fight to save human lives. As I walk through this desert, I hear God’s clarion call as bright and as clear as the Sonoran Desert’s sun to advocate with my feet and my prayers for fellow travelers who walk in their great struggle to better care for loved ones.
Christi Brookes, 7th year walker (2013)
Desconocido. Presente. Desconocida. Presente. Desconocid@. Presente. During my first Migrant Trail last year as we raised our crosses and recited Presente for those who have died crossing the desert – I reflected on the connection between our government’s policies that force people to make life or death choices for their lives. The connection between our tax payer support for violent policies throughout Latin America and the names on our crosses that we read for 7 days.
I am walking the Migrant Trail again this year because I need to remember that with which step I take – with each name I say – with each Presente – it is my participation in the system that allows this violence to continue and on the Migrant Trail I will recommit myself to the struggle to bring about an end to the injustice and work towards the day when no one will die in the desert.
Paula Miller, 2nd year walker (2013)
I join the Migrant Trail Walk each year to touch back to the beautiful, awful place in the desert where many have crossed and so many have died in the crossing. I return to the Altar Valley in solidarity with migrants, with all workers, and with those friends who continue to struggle in the movement to attain justice and respect for all. I come with the blood of my immigrant grandparents in my body, and the blood of more recent immigrants on my hands — as all of us do who live in economic and social privilege at the expense of those who are exploited and abused and killed in the name of unjust laws, racism and greed. I return to honor the courage, love of family and endurance of those who risk their lives to come north to work in our fields and cities, to feed their children, and to live here as essential members of our community. And I come away from the Trail each year with renewed energy to work toward reforming our nation’s immigration policies and restoring the dream of a just and welcoming community. Somos UN Pueblo — We are ONE people.
Tom Kowal, 9th year walker (2013)
I choose to walk the Migrant Trail to remind myself of the ongoing injustices that occur every day in my backyard. Even living in Tucson it is easy to go about your day unaware of the suffering of our brothers and sisters–people leaving their homes, others attempting to cross, those waiting for family members to arrive, or for people to arrive back home. The walk is one small way that I say: I am aware. I am humbled. I remember and respect those that have passed under inhumane circumstances.
With watery eyes I speak and hear the names of people who have died as they pursued a dream. It’s easy to feel that we are powerless to make changes, but walking reminds me that we each have voice. I also encounter amazing people from across the country with information, stories, and hope for a different future. Walking is one small thing I can do to contribute to this vision.
Jennifer Metzler, 4th year walker (2013)
The first year of the Migrant Trail, our group inadvertently selected the hottest week of the summer, and were exposed to temperatures over 110 degrees. I remember walking that year and being completely shocked by how incredibly uncomfortable I was, and I marveled that so many of my friends had made the journey with a small fraction of the support that our privileged group had. Every year, I try to make a conscious decision to embrace the discomfort, to be grateful for the reminder of the agony so many people go through.
The first year I walked, I remember mentioning the Migrant Trail to one of my spiritual elders, telling him about the sacrifice we all made to make the journey. He stopped me, smiled, and said, “That is not a sacrifice. It is an offering.” It was a gentle reprimand, but a firm reminder of my space in the immigrant rights movement as a person of privilege. Each year, as I walk, I try to hold onto that kind rebuke, and never forget that the offering we make of discomfort and blisters and fatigue is a means by which we can truly stand in solidarity with our migrant sisters and brothers, and use the privilege we have been blessed with to demand justice on the border.
Kat Rodriguez, 10th year walker (2013)
On the 6th day of the Migrant Trail Walk in 2011, my left leg cramped up while I was walking. When it did, I thought I could walk through the pain. However, the group was moving at a good clip, and the faster I moved on my cramped calf, the more excruciating the pain. I fell way to the back of the line, and couldn’t keep up.
When I got into the support vehicle my first thought was that if I had been a migrant, I might’ve fallen way behind. In that heat, which was an almost unbearable 102 degrees, and without too much water or food, I might’ve been as good as dead.
However it was my second thought, a few seconds later as I stared out the truck window back at the Arizona desert where we had been, that nailed the reason for why I walk. Why I walked in 2011, in 2006, and 2004. And why I will walk in 2013. A simple leg cramp, generally shrugged off with a little rest, should never result in death. Yet many such injuries have, for people who need our mourning. And many more will–fully predictable (yet, easily changeable) because of U.S. border enforcement policy—for people who need our solidarity.
Todd Miller, 4th year walker (2013)
The first year I walked on the Migrant Trail, I’m ashamed to admit, I knew very little about the reality of the Mexico-Arizona border. When a friend told me of a 75-mile walk she did in the desert, the Migrant Trail became my catalyst for learning. I learned that U.S. policies are a direct cause of more than 5,000 deaths in the Sonoran desert, and that I, as a U.S. citizen, implicitly contribute to these deaths. I knew that by walking and learning more I could start on a new path toward changing the horrifying reality of the border.
I continue to walk because I continue to learn. I walk so that others ask me why I choose to walk. I walk so that I can pass along the knowledge that I gain. I walk to remind myself to stay on a path of change.
Cristen Vernon, third year walker (2013)
The Migrant Trail Walk was an extraordinary experience for me. I thought I was well prepared, having competed in long distance race walking events for over 40 years. The walk however was far different than any other I had participated in. It was not a competition, instead it was a collective effort to walk as one, in Body Mind and Spirit .
We arrived as diverse strangers from all over the US and many foreign countries. In less than two days we began to function as a team. We shed the skin of our everyday lives and focused on the task of honoring the migrant dead.
We walked in silence listening for the voices of those that had walked before us, praying with our walking feet. I was comforted to know I was not alone on this journey. As a team our voices would reach far beyond the trail. Collectively we prayed for a resolution to the injustice of our present Immigration policies; migrants striving to feed their families, willing to do the much needed work, should not have to lose their lives. The spirit of those who came before us was ever present and will always remain with me. I pray the deaths will cease.
Dr. Chris Amoroso, third year walker (2013)
I walk as an ofrenda to our brothers and sisters who began a journey and were left wanting; offering pazos as a reminder to myself that we can never become accustomed to the border wall, a scar in the earth that destroys our humanity. I walk humbly ,along with so many others as an act of resistance,to the injustice that exists in my own backyard and to try, in a small way, to provide healing.
Camino para recordar mi responsabilidad de dejar un mundo más justo para nuestros hijos. Para honrar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas, abuelas y abuelos, hijos e hijas que han sacrificado hasta su vida por buscar un nuevo amanecer. Para no olvidarme que en este desierto dejaron sus esperanzas y sueños, y que nuestro gobierno es un cómplice de esta masacre perpetua .Jamás hay que ser complaciente con la injusticia.
This year will be my 3rd year walking, and it is especially significant for me because my 7 year old daughter will make the trek at my side. I’m honored that she will join the walkers because her presence renews my resolve and gives me hope. Hope that as we walk we are actively changing- minds, attitudes, and spirit. I walk with her in hopes that she will never grow accustomed to the racial profiling, the militarized check points, the dogs, the helicopters, the death.
…With the hope that a better world is possible. ..
Marisol Flores-Aguirre, 3rd year walker (2013)