Migration is in our D.N.A.


Three generations of Kiwis ‘down the road’, it dawned on me that not only am I from a migrant family but I too am also a migrant.

27 years in Peru; 5 years in Venezuela; a stint in Australia: 5 years here in the Rio Grande Valley on the border the USA with Mexico.

Now when I go home to “Aotearoa” it is as though I’m somewhat of a migrant.

A migrant is

  • very conscious of not being from the place;
  • feeling not to have the same rights;
  • conscious of and having to come to understand the differences, and
  • even learning to not understand even some of these and never of course judging.

In all the places I’ve been in, getting the correct documents takes time, the authorities and local community has always shown respect.

In the United States, the paper chase is way more detailed and takes much longer time.

However, being a priest and caucasian I it is easiy get the ongoing visas to stay here, and once again there is always respect.

The world has become much smaller and we are often made very aware of the plight of refugees from Asia, Africa, the Middle East crossing into Europe, and creeping down the Pacific.

The plight of these people is ‘crude’ to say the least, almost unbearable to learn about.

Solutions to issues that migrants face are likely to be far from any possible reality we can imagine.

It may also be true that excessive migration “risks upsetting the way of life”.

I might have been be a migrant in various cultural settings, but my plight is nothing compared to the migrants I live among in Brownsville.

Maybe my life experience helps me understand and feel great empathy for migrants, but here on the border of this country whose leaders say is the greatest and the most powerful in the world, the situation for so many has its own type of fear, suffering and hopelessness.

Here there are

  • thousands of central American minors escaping the violence and poverty and housed in refuge centers;
  • mothers with their little ones some of who are separated from their children;
  • mothers deported while the state assumes responsibility for their kids;
  • adults: mexican and central americans (Guatamala, Salvador, Honduras and now Nicaragua) seeking refuge and a better life;
  • others from these countries who have crossed and outstayed their visas;
  • others who have managed to pass the stringent tests for residence;
  • kids who have come with their parents at an early age and now have no future to citizenship;
  • people who simply have come over the river without documents many of whom live in penury and constant fear.

With so many being deported, so many families being split apart that for many people, anxiety is their lot in life.

The situation is a bit like but far worse than the “overstayer times ” in New Zealand in the 70’s.

To top it off they are now sending the “National Guard” to the border.

  • Tony O’Connor is a New Zealand Marist priest working in the Rio Grande Valley on the border the USA with Mexico. He is a third generation kiwi; his first ancestor families traveled from Ireland and 1867 arrived in New Zealand. Like most poor migrants they came looking for a better life.
  • This is the first of 6 pieces on his experience of life on the border between Mexico and the USA.
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