After my church, the place in town I find most sacred and nourishing is Monroe Gallery at 112 Don Gaspar Ave. The owners continually have remarkable exhibits of photojournalism taking us back through our history and bringing us new, solid contemporary history.

Recently, their opening was of a photographer, Stephen Wilkes, and his work documenting the hospital island, one of the three islands that make up Ellis Island. The photos are deeply beautiful and profound, with light streaming through the abandoned buildings. Beside the photos are stories and words of people who were at the hospital; stories of making it through the process of entering our country.

One poignant memory for me was a little girl who had had polio and braces on her legs; her parents dressed her in a long skirt, and she made it through. There was much sadness there — long delays and being turned away — but there was a process. There was an understanding that receiving refugees and immigrants was an ordered part of our government and done with integrity.

Leaving the gallery, my husband and I walked toward San Francisco Street. Carefully settled at the opening to the parking lot was one of the homeless we see there often, a very attractive man with a nice white beard and very blue eyes, playing his guitar. We stopped to listen. Around him were several small packs and a small tag that said “Washington, D.C.” He was singing the folk song of Woody Guthrie, “Deportees.” It is a song of names — names of people killed when an airplane carrying these migrants back to Mexico crashed near our border. He said he was on his way to D.C. to sing there. A homeless troubadour. A true troubadour with a message. I wonder if he will make it to D.C., but for now he is singing for us.

The song tells the history of migrant workers who had finished the harvest of oranges and crops in California, and the overseer had sent them home by plane. The plane crashed, and they were buried in a common grave. Guthrie heard of this and went to Mexico to find the families of those killed. He found them, and the names of their loved ones, and returned to the site with grave markers with each of the names. And wrote this song. At the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Oct. 25, Joan Baez sang his song, but without telling the story; Arlo Guthrie has told it at his concerts at the Lensic, so I knew it immediately. Most don’t know the context. We need to know the song and remember that history.

Today we live with the most awful atrocities committed daily to our refugees and immigrants. A friend, a lawyer and former judge, just sent an email with the story of a foster family for one of the lost children who tried to adopt the child away from the parents. She was filled with tears and terror. Somehow, she was reunited with her mother. One example of the lost conscience of our country.

Ann Lovell Rowe is a writer and photographer who lives in Santa Fe.