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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Arizona needs your help NOW!


I was broken hearted when I made my way through the Colorado mountains, threaded my two seater Toyota Spyder down the Colorado River canyon past Moab, Utah, and turned the corner to race through the giants growing out of the desert floor in Monument Valley.  I was at the Arizona state line heading for a Promise.


down the road

There was the Totem Pole, East Mitten and West Mitten Buttes, and of course, The thumb, towering like giants from the desert floor into the sky.  I was a stranger passing through another country, the Navajo Nation, on my way to destiny.  Fortunately, the Navajos are more friendly to traveling strangers than is the U.S. with the people of Mexico. 


bridge over san juan river 

Soon enough, I found myself at the St. Matthews School and in “Fellows Orientation”.  A Fellow is basically an “intern” or “volunteer” with the new organization called Promise Arizona.  Promise Arizona graciously reimburses Fellows for expenses at the rate of $100 per week plus finds housing with a host family.  


st matthews school

The new organization grew out of the vigil at the State Capitol after Governor Jan Brewer signed the most aggressive anti-immigrant legislation in history, SB 1070.  On July 28th, a judge stayed some of the most aggressive portions of the law pending review in court.  The law required police officers to detain every person they suspected of  being undocumented until their immigration status could be determined.  That meant a fair number of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents were destined to spend the night with Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio because they forgot their passport.


daniel sings

  With the ugly law under attack, Promise embarked on a new endeavor.  Rather than wage war on each new wave of anti-immigrant legislation flowing over Governor Jan Brewer’s desk, why not attack the problem at the root, expel it root and branch?  Why not nurture leaders in the Arizona community who could find eligible citizens to register to vote and then get to the ballot box?  Eventually, some of these new leaders will themselves be running for office.


faith hope vote posterFrom the start, the project was ambitious.  There are at least 650,000 Hispanic voters in Arizona.  Only 25% of them managed to get to the  polls for the primaries.  Sheriff Arpaio was elected by a slim margin last time with his candidacy coming up again in 2012.  Other key offices will come up for vote in November.  One thing is sure, had a majority of the community voted that was eligible, Arizona SB 1070 would likely never have had adequate voices to give it a yea vote.


In order for Promise to deliver the “Promise” it needs an immense amount of labor.  Considering a fair portion of the constituents who could help had left francisco in barrio with lots of helpArizona, the labor pool was dwindling.  That is why volunteering for the Promise Arizona cause makes a lot of sense.  They are looking for individuals to work for three weeks as fellows.  And they are looking for bus loads of people who will work for a week or so.


My first three days with Promise proved earth shattering.  Trainer Michele Rudy taught me it was o.k. to grieve for my many friends who had been forcefully re-located and torn from their families.  However, I needed to take the next step.  In front of me was a solution to the problem.  Was I up to the task?  Was I willing to make the sacrifices, to put in the time, to have the faith and hope to bring the life of the “Promise” to Arizona citizens?


For me the answer is a resounding Yes! 


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