Immigrant Rights 1900 Feet Underground

A reflection on the recent mining crisis in Huntington from organizer, Dushaw Hockett: At Our Best When We’re At Our Worse

I’ve long wondered why this is the case.  Why are we -- human beings -- at our very best in the worst of times? 

I surmise it has something to do with how our hearts and minds are wired.  Almost by default, we radically shift priorities – and values -- when faced with our mortality or that of the ones we love. 

This has been evident as I’ve watched the rescue effort unfold in Huntington, Utah where six miners are trapped 1900 feet beneath the earth. 

I work on immigration issues for a national social justice organization.  I view myself as pro-immigrant.  But I am more pro-human.  My community values are such that human condition trumps difference – whether it’s difference by race, geography or immigration status.  I see similar values now on display in Huntington. 

Three of the six miners – Carlos Payan, Luis Hernandez and Manuel Sanchez -- happen to be what we would consider new immigrants.  But in the midst of toxic and hostile dynamics playing out across the country with respect to immigration, Huntington and, for the time being, the rest of the country watching events in Huntington, are immune. 

I watched the television as hundreds of family and community members signed poster-sized pictures of the six miners.  From what I could tell, no one by-passed the pictures of Payan, Hernandez and Sanchez. 

I’ve watched as 179 rescue workers (until recently) have worked around the clock beneath the earth, risking their own lives (3 of them literally giving their lives), to bore a hole to the miners.  They’re not boring two holes:  one for immigrants, one for non-immigrants.  They’re boring one hole out of which six men will be extracted – we pray alive.     

I’ve listened as the experts have described what they believe conditions are for the miners – an unbelievable darkness and silence that borders the sensory deprivation technique used to interrogate prisoners of war.  I imagine the six men pressed closed together … Brandon Phillips’ White skin pressed against Manuel Sanchez’ brown skin.  I imagine the conversations the men are having.  The connections they’re making.  The type of bonding taking place that could only happen when mortality renders everything else small and irrelevant.   I could hear Luis Hernandez telling Kerry Allred about his one-year old daughter.  And Kerry, being the elder of the six miners, giving him pointers on parenthood. 

Lastly, I’ve watched the names and pictures of the miners repeatedly flash across the television screen.  No negative mention of immigration or immigration status.  No mention of wrongs done to person, property or community.  Just pictures of miners.  Men.  Family men.  Community men.  But, more importantly, hu-man.   Our hearts are with you Carlos Payan, Kerry Allred, Brandon Phillips, Luis Hernandez, Don Erickson and Miguel Sanchez. 

By Dushaw Hockett @

EditorialsFIRM Admin