Astronaut John “Danny” Olivas, has announced the “Between Land and Sea – Borders from Space” Campaign, in support of Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, Inc (DMRS), the largest provider of free and low cost immigration legal services in West Texas and New Mexico.
Inspired by a deep sense of family history, a love of our country, and a call to “do something” to help the children caught in the middle of the immigration crisis, Astronaut Olivas, and his wife Marie, traveled to El Paso, TX, with an initial goal to hand-deliver Spanish Language and Bilingual Children’s books to immigrant children being detained. The initial hope was that these books, along with some direct words of caring and support, would provide these children some comfort while they were being detained at the border. After being denied access to one of the facilities, the trip evolved into witnessing many other aspects about the immigration crisis, including attending an immigration court hearing, witnessing first-hand the experience of those trying to cross the border, and ultimately to meeting directly with DMRS representatives to discuss the crisis and to leave books with them to distribute to children. After the meeting with DMRS, he felt it was critical to support their efforts to help the children caught in the cross-hairs of recent immigration policies.
The “Between Land and Sea – Borders from Space” Campaign encourages donations to be made on the DMRS website at http://www.dmrs-ep.org/donate/ . It currently costs an estimated $1,800 (USD) to provide legal representation for one child who is seeking asylum in the United States, or who needs to be reunited with their family. The initial fundraising goal is to raise enough money to support ten children with full legal representation by DMRS.
Astronaut Olivas reflected on why this campaign was important to him and stated,
“As we approach the annual celebration of our country’s independence, we find ourselves deeply engaged in heart wrenching issues surrounding immigration and the children of immigrants. This is a perfect time for all of us to step back and reflect on what really makes America great. Our country has accomplished spectacular feats because it is who we are as a Nation. From putting footprints on the Moon, to being a beacon of hope for the world, America is great because her people are great. I am an Astronaut, Scientist and Engineer. I am also the descendant of an immigrant from Mexico.
My great-grandfather immigrated to the United States at the age of 10. I do not know for certain if he came with his parents or relatives, but my research indicates he was here by himself. It might go without saying, he had little to no education. Ultimately working in Smeltertown, just outside of El Paso, Texas, he never achieved a profession above day laborer. He entered this country at time before there was such a term as “illegal” immigration. However, my story is not unique.
Like most of the population in this great country of ours, had the policies we have in place today been in effect at the time our ancestry came to this Nation, most of us would have a far different story. How many of our ancestors would have been returned to the anguish, fear or tyranny of the country they fled? Because our country has been a welcoming sanctuary, we have reaped the benefits and become a nation of strength and prosperity utilizing the diverse range of skills, backgrounds and ideas of many cultures. The “American Dream” is alive for all of us, because those who came before us wished it not only for themselves, but for future generations to come. Why should today be any different?
Not only do the immigration policies, laws and practices need to change to provide security and inclusion, but all Americans need to frame the debate from their own, unique, perspective. What part of the world would each of us call home, had our lineage not been afforded an opportunity to participate in this grand experiment we call America? With the exception of full-blooded Native Americans, we all owe our very existence to the idea that a melting pot can, and has, produced the greatest country on the globe. The vast majority of us are the result of immigration. Not only should our leaders keep this in mind as they debate future immigration policy, we as Americans should empathize with the plight of all immigrants. They seek no more or no less than what our ancestors hoped for us.
I fully appreciate that a border is what defines a nation geographically. However, the backbone of our Nation is formed from the hearts of the immigrants, and descendants thereof, who reside here today. I am an American of Mexican descent, and virtually every single one of us is American of “fill-in-the-blank” descent. Whether you believe it is relevant today or not, the quote from the New Colossus, affixed to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”, is the very reason we are all here, regardless of political party, religion, income or otherwise. I ask every American to have heart and empathy for those seeking no more than what our forefathers sought. Let us welcome them for not just what they offer today, but what they and their future generations will contribute to this great Nation of ours.
We will continue to thrive as a nation so long as we do not forget our journey. Borders, other than that between land and sea, are constructs of the human mind, nothing else. America has discovered that her success is derived from those who have chosen to make this place their home. As we debate the appropriate manner for us to move forward in the immigration debate, let us all remember that it is from beyond the borders we have created, which as has made America great. The fourth of July is an opportunity to not only celebrate what we are, independent, prosperous, benevolent, but also who we are, a land of immigrants and their descendants.”
The “Between Land and Sea – Borders from Space” Campaign will also include a social media component, with updates to the Campaign and images and information from the Olivas’s trip to El Paso, TX being posted and updated on a regular basis. Please visit the “Olivas Border Blog” on Facebook at @fronteradelmarytierra .