Arizona: “Not a Welcome Mat!”


Members of CPT’s February 24 – March 3 Arizona delegation conceived “Operation Welcome Mat” after visiting the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time.

Barbed-wire fences scar the landscape all along the border. On the outskirts of Douglas, Arizona, an eleven-foot-high metal wall looms for miles until the barbed wire resumes once again. Where the fences end, treacherous wilderness takes over until the next border town emerges. In these remote desert areas between towns and Border Patrol stations, migrants make their way into the United States. More and more migrants die each year during these treks.

Months before U.S. President Bush publicly announced plans to send National Guard troops to fortify the border, CPT’s delegates encountered a contingent of the Massachusetts Guard working on the gravel road that runs parallel to the border. They poured concrete slabs, converting what was once a two-lane road used to patrol the area into one that could handle four or five lanes of traffic.

In response, delegation members returned to the border wall to prayerfully create a memorial for fallen migrants and to transform the new pavement into a “welcome mat.”

Armed with colorful sidewalk chalk, participants wrote in large letters: “Operation Welcome Mat!” “Welcome to Turtle Island,” “Mi Casa Es Tu Casa,” (“My Home is Your Home”) and similar greetings.

The action, dubbed “Chalk and Awe,” soon drew the attention of the Border Patrol. The group’s designated police liaison explained to one agent that they were decorating the road to welcome sisters and brothers from the south.

The agent in charge replied in a loud voice, “THIS IS NOT A WELCOME MAT!” He threatened arrest if the group did not cease chalking and vacate the area immediately. Having already completed the transformation, participants complied with the officer’s request.

“Our risk was negligible compared to the risk migrants face in their quest for a better life,” reflected delegation member Don Bryant. “We are committed to telling the migrants’ stories in our hometowns and will continue the work of transforming the intimidating and inhumane fortifications on our southern border.”

Many immigrants’ rights groups and people of faith calling for comprehensive policy reform contend that further militarization of the border is short-sighted and bound to fail.

CPT urges supporters to send bottles of water to the National Guard in Douglas with the following message. Please send a copy to CPT and to U.S. legislators.

Message: “Please use this water to help our migrant brothers and sisters in need. Water is an essential ingredient for survival. Border walls and further militarization have only caused more deaths in the desert. We need water tanks, not military tanks, along the border. Please follow your conscience when encountering and assisting our sisters and brothers from the south.” Send to: National Guard; 1401 E. 8th St.; Douglas, AZ 85607.

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