Hi, It’ s me, Xochitl (pronounced So-chee) La Pestaña. I don’t usually opine on things in print, or much of anything for that matter. I’m quiet and reserved by nature and happy to go on my morning and afternoon walks with my humans and always being on time for dinner. But recent headlines reminded me of my early days when I was abandoned and ran the streets of Hollywood for months on my own. A terrifying time. Stealing food from trash cans as best I could and avoiding dog catchers and roaming bands of coyotes. Only to say, I know what’s it’s like to be out in the cold.
Now I notice that Christmas is the time of year for welcoming strangers, opening our hearts, donating to feed the hungry—all in commemoration of the arrival of Jesus—whose mother and father had to show up in Bethlehem for the Roman census, with Mary probably having birth pangs as she bumped along on the back of the donkey that carried her and they were finally allowed to stay in a freezing barn.
Don’t know if choirs of angels helped with the labor—think they showed up later—but on this mortal plane it certainly wasn’t a nice welcome for the family or the baby.
Sorta like arriving in Texas when Greg Abbott is governor and you’ve just hoofed it some 2500 miles from Venezuela and gotten across the border. Previously you would have been put on a bus with a snack bar and a bottle of water if lucky and shipped off to New York, Chicago—Democrat-run cities, as Abbot likes to put it.
Now the plan in Texas for new arrivals includes local police powers to arrest anyone deemed as an illegal border crosser—a law set to take affect in March 2024. But that’s still being contested. Abbot’s welcoming of the stranger has included stringing razor wire across the border and putting floats in the Rio Grande to block crossers.
My humans tell me that more than 80,000 people have been shipped from the Texas border by bus to cities around the country, 23,000 sent to Chicago as part of Abbott’s border-clearing effort, known as Operation Lone Star. Many of these travelers are asylum seekers—following the steps of the law just as Joseph and Mary were doing in showing up for the census.
The new Texas protocol–in the spirit of Christmas I guess–immigrants are now being loaded onto jets instead of busses. On December 21st more than 100 immigrants were air-shipped from Texas to Chicago.
Just a week before that, a five-year-old boy who had arrived by bus died in a shelter for asylum seekers in Chicago after a medical emergency. People, especially little ones, who have walked long miles and are then shipped elsewhere are desperately vulnerable. A volunteer at the shelter told AP “The people who live inside are coming to us and saying, ‘please give us blankets, give us clothing for our children, we need bottles, we need diapers”.
Meanwhile, lots tsk-tsking and rhetoric on the U.S. side about the brown hordes flooding in from the south and poisoning the blood of America—hat tip here to DH Trump and Adolf Hitler for the fascist phrasing. Many others may be empathetic but remain as confused as can be about how a system could be re-constructed to be sensible and humane and protect everyone.
Reform and reshaping of immigration has got to happen—the governmental wrangling has been going on for decades and we’re all confounded and exhausted, though there are lots of immigration rights lawyers and organizations that do have a clue. It’s about getting the powers -that-be to listen. But this rhetoric about blood poisoning does nothing to help it and actually does poison the body republic.
Well, it’s Christmas—so going back to Mary, the pregnant pilgrim to Bethlehem—let’s remember this season all the thousands of Marys who have made the taxing journey north, at any given stage of pregnancy. Some may have given birth roadside and carried their infants seeking the shelter of that proverbial welcoming manger in America. So, as someone who has been out in the cold, I’m sending all immigrants my best wishes and a light of welcome, kindness and justice. But beware the coyotes!