I thought I was going to have to wait until next season to satisfy my craving for the high drama of HBO’s wildly popular Game of Thrones. I ended season four excited that two of my favorite characters are still alive. With the help of his brother Jaime, Tyrion Lannister was able to escape his death-by-combat sentence. And Jon Snow survived the battle against the wildlings at Castle Black. As a member of the Night’s Watch, Snow helps guard the massive wall that stretches 300-miles along the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and defends the realm from the wildlings and the mummified ice creatures known as the White Walkers. Yes, I thought I’d have to wait until next year to get my fill of border battles, wall defenders, and talks of threats and coming invasions. But thanks to the residents of Murrieta, all I had to do was get in my car and drive 30 minutes southeast of the Kingdom of Riverside for the same drama.
When the residents of Murrieta were told that a border patrol station in their town would be processing a steady stream of unauthorized immigrants from Central America, their response was far from the leaders of the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s when nearly one million Central Americans crossed the US border seeking asylum from political persecution and violence caused by civil war. Back then, because America’s federal immigration policies made asylum difficult, a group of diverse religious organizations defied federal law and declared themselves official “sanctuaries” and likened their activities to the 19th century Underground Railroad, by providing a safe-haven and temporary refuge. Murrieta residents instead blocked the buses, chanting with the same level of anger and vitriol as the “sanctuary proponents” had compassion and humanity.
Like other southwest states that border Mexico, California is ground zero for America’s immigration battle. We once were a country that welcomed refugees and immigrants across our borders. I guess the quote from the Emma Lazarus’ poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” no longer applies. Instead we guard the wall against the “wildling” invaders, well mostly children and women, but just as dangerous I guess. We offer no sanctuary. We demand all buses be turned around and re-routed to anywhere but here. I wonder if that is the legacy we want to leave. In a “Message to the Community of Murrieta” (published on page 9), City Manager Rick Dudley chastised the actions of the protesters who claimed victory in stopping the buses, “This was not victory,” he said. “It was a loss for the city of Murrieta, for the community that we live in and love. It made this extremely compassionate community look heartless and uncaring.”
I know our immigration issues are complex, but there are lessons to be learned from past experience. This isn’t the first time Central Americans pushed desperately across the border and were herded into crowded detention centers and pressured by our government to return. Our government once again is too busy playing partisan politics to find real solutions to our immigration issues. I believe the $4 billion in emergency funding that the president requested earlier this week is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. And while I’m excited to know that two of my favorite fictional characters will be returning for the fifth season of Game of Thrones, I’m not sure who will really win in the real-life border saga taking place in Murrieta and throughout America’s border states.
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