The 2013 delegation from PTS to Borderlinks landed in Tucson, Arizona on Friday, October 18. For the next six days, we experienced moments of deep sadness and frustration, but they were offset by moments of incredible joy, happiness, hope and celebration.
We took a walk on a ranch in Green Valley, AZ, guided by our host, Laurie, who took us to three locations where migrants had died in the desert. We held silent vigil, we prayed, we remembered. We worshipped with Southside Presbyterian Church. It is a wonderful, welcoming, diverse faith community. We visited the border wall at Nogales, and remembered Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a 16 year old shot by Border Patrol who claimed he was throwing rocks. We stayed in Nogales, Sonora at HEPAC “the home of hope and peace” and learned about the effects of NAFTA and other US and Mexican trade and immigration policies.
We talked to a U.S. rancher who lives on the Arizona/Mexico border in Cochise county and listened as he explained how the fence and US policies are affecting him. We spoke to a border patrol agent, an ICE agent, activists working to end Operation Streamline,the founders of the Sanctuary Movement, and met a remarkable man who is a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, Mike Wilson For the last 20 or so years, Mike has put water in the desert for migrants. We met people who are actively working in Mexico to create opportunities for people and programs that slow the “push” factor involved in the migration from Mexico to the US. And we went to Douglas, Arizona and Agua Preieta, Sonora, Mexico. In Douglas we met Rev. Mark Adams, the pastor at Frontera de Cristo , a Presbyterian border ministry that partners with various organizations to help migrants and affect change. We participated in a moving vigil, remembering over 200 people who have died in the Tucson desert since the late 1980s. And in Agua Prieta we visited theirMigrant Resource Center and Café Justo (some of the best coffee on the planet!)
Each one of us had different expectations, different ideas about what we would experience, and different goals for the trip. There is no doubt that each of us will wrestle with issues and images for many years. Some of us may be moved to minister on the physical border between the US and Mexico, while others of us will be moved to minister to the spiritual and emotional borders between people and cultures. There are no simple explanations, but it is easy to find villains. Scapegoating makes it possible for us to cast blame on others, while thinking we have escaped responsibility for our own involvement in the systems of oppression. As Jeannette Pazos, the Executive Director at HEPAC said, “it is the same God – the one who walks with the migrant in the desert, and the one who watches over the Border Patrol agent at his post.” Each member of this delegation is learning how to live with that tension, in what Parker Palmer calls, “the tragic gap,” -- that place between the reality we are currently in and the possibility we hope for.
MaryCruz Sandoval is a member of the HEPAC and Borderlinks staff. She is a remarkable woman with an amazing story. One member asked her what gave her hope and kept her motivated.She said, “First, we have our faith. And then we get to work.” This delegation has had our faith strengthened and deepened, and a desire to “get to work.” What that work will look like and how that work will manifest will be different for each of us. There were so many deep and moving moments, and a quick summary just does not convey it adequately.
We would love to talk to you about our experiences.
And now for a little celebration!! Sing along with us, to LaBamba!
Submitted by Kelley Becker and Marnie Leinberger