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Dear Governor Ducey,

Some songs got stuck in my head this weekend. Do you remember being in fourth grade and learning “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America” and, because you and I grew up in the ‘80s, Neil Diamond’s “Today”? The songs are as stuck in my head as the more subversive ones like the pro interracial marriage song, “Crabs Walk Sideways and Lobsters Walk Straight So You Can’t Have a Crab for Your Mate” and the one about civil justice, “Where a man can hide and never be found and have no fear of the baying hound but he keep a movin’ and don’t stand still, if the skeeters don’t get him then the gators will.” Turns out the guy never committed the crime, but he’s trapped in the everglades forever. Or the really sad, anti-war song “One Tin Soldier” that goes, “Now the valley cried with anger/Mount your horses, draw your swords/And they killed the mountain people,/So they won their just rewards” that has me thinking about Flagstaff and Phoenix. We might be the people up on the hill with the “treasure” (aka water) and you might come for it. If you do, you will unbury the treasure and read the note: “Peace on Earth, was all it said.” Peace is all we will have because it has snowed here but six inches this year instead of the normal 116, leaving us and you without any water.

I also have the more traditional songs in my head. As I flip through the news headlines, watching ICE make its arrests and deportations through communities all over the country, I can’t get the songs out of my head.

This is my country,

land of my birth.

Audemio Orozco-Ramirez, held in detention, was raped while in custody. Later, immigration deported him. His seven children stood on an icecap to sing goodbye, but the melting over shouted their voices. Who can hear a calf mourning his mother over the sound of threshing grass?

This is my country,

grandest on earth.

Laura, who left Reynosa to escape her husband’s bruising, regular and predictable as a heart beat, was deported by ICE. Her husband no longer loved her or her car, so he set fire to both. The flames rose high into the Mexican night—high enough to cross the border where they turned into smoke somewhere near Houston. Now she is safe. There is no way to distinguish burned human smoke from dinosaur.

Stand beside her 

And guide her

Through the night with the light from above.

Jorge Garcia lived here 29 of his 40 years, had two kids, a job and paid taxes. He was flown back to the country of his birth where he knew only a man who sold pigeons by the side of the road. “What are the pigeons for, Tio?” (Tio. One of seven words of Spanish he knew.)

“Sobrino, these are not pigeons. These are hawks who have lost their homeland. Exile turns once-protected red tail mountain feathers into opalescent. A pretty penny for a city bird.”

From the mountains 

To the prairies

To the oceans 

White with foam

A member of ICE kicked Eduardo into the Rio Grande. “Swim to the ocean, you shape-shifting fish,” sang the shiny calfskin of ICE’s boot. The ocean, tasting like lemons, kept Eduardo from contracting scurvy, but it wore the enamel right off his teeth, and then the shine of his bones.

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims' pride,

From ev'ry mountainside

My friend, Manuel, grows coffee berries in Ahuachapán. His family has kept the vines safe for over 100 years. It is not easy to protect plants from history. Fires are easily set—the olive trees in Palestine, 900 years old, burn as easily as coffee vines, as easily as lemon trees, as easily as nests, as easily as a woman whose voice sang about the purple mountains she could see in the not-too-far distance.

America is a beautiful country, don’t you think, Governor Ducey? Beautiful and big. 

Nicole Walker is an associate professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit


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