"This is our most serious public safety issue and a national security threat to America," reads a billboard in Oracle, Arizona.
Surely the message must refer to Osama Bin Laden, still on the loose, I thought, or perhaps to lax safety measures at airports. But no.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the message is accompanied by a photo of a Latino family.
It is surely a sign of the times. It has become socially acceptable in growing sectors of our society to hate Mexican immigrants -- desperate border crossers risking their lives, fleeing poverty and hunger.
The quote is from Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, the Star reported, although he denies having anything to do with the putting up of the billboard.
The newspaper report was read as part of a recent weekly liturgy in downtown Tucson, led by Redemptorist Fr. Ricardo Elford.
The liturgy also included a statistic about migrant deaths: “Remember our sisters and brothers who have died on the border in search of work. Since last Oct 1 , just on the Arizona part of the 2,000 mile border, the bodies of at least 236 migrants have been found; since the year 2000, at least 2,079."
The closing prayer: "Beseech your blessing upon our torn and tortured borderlands. We live in a time of hate, mistrust, fear and violence. Bless us with your Holy Spirit, that we may follow your way and create a world where all may live and work together in peace. Amen"
I strongly urge everyone concerned about this issue to consider attending the conference "A Light to the Nations: Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the Church's Global Commitment to the Poor." It will be held in San Antonio, Texas, January 12-14, 2011. The sponsor is Celebration, NCR's worship resource.