Day 4 was spent divided between two worlds: the morning with Border Patrol and the afternoon in the comedor. At Border Patrol we witnessed a presentation by two border patrol agents who were part of the public service division, which includes PR and community outreach. The agents were well informed and engaging, albeit sticking to their script for most of our exchange. But it did humanize their work, and we talked about the difficulty of their jobs and why they chose this particular profession. One thing we learned was that when they are on patrol, they patrol alone over the difficult terrain we had walked the previous day: sometimes back-up is up to an hour away, even if the distance is less than a mile. The national guard are there helping monitor their state-of-the-art equipment in the control room looking for people crossing the desert. Sometimes their work is not only apprehension but also emergency medical services to those affected by the harsh conditions.
The afternoon was our last day in the comedor, where we did two servings. At this point some of the people remembered us, and the children came up and gave us hugs and kisses. There were new arrivals (some of whom we had seen in court the day before) with their own horrible stories – one older man who had been deported after living in the US for 23 years, others injured during their crossing. I was particularly struck by two young men who were overjoyed to be at the comedor: they had just been released from prison (one serving seven months, the other two and a half years) – this was their first moment of freedom. For some of us who had formed bonds with those we had served, it was a bittersweet parting: we shared the uncertainty of their future as we returned to our present. We are not allowed to exchange personal information with them (requests were made for Facebook friends), and to tell them no was very difficult.
Each evening, after a delicious meal (usually Mexican) and some good discussion, we reflected on the day’s events. This last evening we switched the order and reflected before dinner. The tears flowed as we each felt the pain of the migrants’ stories that merged with our own pain, as we acknowledged our positions of privilege to be able to return to our stable and certain lives while our hearts literally ached for those who continue to suffer. To bear witness to a group of people who want nothing more than to escape violence and poverty in their search for medical care for their sick, education for their children, and a better life changed us all, and the next day, as we met with Joanna Williams to discuss next steps, we made concrete suggestions as to how we would advocate for just and humane immigration policies as well as serve those in our community affected by unjust and inhumane treatment. Joanna actually comes to Fordham this week, and we’ll be meeting with her as a group again to follow up with her. We appreciate those of you who followed us on our journey and contributed to our cause. We want to thank the staff at the Kino Border Initiative for being such wonderful hosts and guides, the Office of Mission Integration and Planning for funding our journey, and all the people who spoke with us during our trip. Stay tuned for more updates in the months ahead and please remember and share some of the stories you have heard about on this blog.
Written by Jackie Reich