My Trip to the Border

“Hatred became coalesced into policy.”

Spoken by a representative of Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network.

This quote speaks such volumes as to the depth of the destructiveness of US immigration actions. I was able to see this first hand on a recent trip to the Texas border through the Courts & Ports: Faithful Witness on the Texas-Mexico Border sponsored by Texas Impact and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

Late on January 13th, I boarded the plane excited about heading to Brownsville and the border. Early in the morning on January 14th, we headed out to sit in on the court proceedings. It was heartbreaking to see people in shackles for merely wanting a better life. To my surprise, it was not just Hispanic and Latino immigrants crossing over in Brownsville. There were 6 men from Bangladesh and 1 from Sri Lanka in court. They were going to be turned over to immigration officials because they were not able to get interpreters due to the government shutdown.

After lunch, we volunteered at a respite center where multiple busloads of immigrants were dropped off as a temporary part of their journey. They were able to shower, get new clothes, eat, connect with separated loved ones and contact their host in the US. Our group packaged hygiene items, helped people get clothes and shoes that fit, interact with the youth and just be a warm and welcoming presence in their lives. One gentleman kept walking by me with his infant daughter, which I thought was strange. On his third trip past me, I remembered that I had on my clergy collar and laid my hand on his daughter’s back. The biggest grin I have ever seen spread across his face. What an end to a very stressful day.

The next morning (the 15th), we went to the offices of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, where we received more historical information about immigration as well as information on the impact of Trump’s ‘Zero Tolerance.’ From there, we went to two of the three ports of entry in Brownsville, TX. The first one was called the Gateway bridge. It is the main bridge used to go back and forth between the US and Mexico in Brownsville. At the top of the bridge was a make-shift camp of immigrants waiting to be called over to the US. They didn’t dare leave the bridge lest they lose their place in line since only a few were being called over each day. There had been a restroom, but it developed plumbing issues and they were not fixed, nor the restroom replaced by another.

The second bridge also had a make-shift camp, but their restroom was still working. They can expect to stay in these camps for weeks before being called. We encountered a man who had been an anthropologist in his home country. He was definitely not a criminal or a terrorist. In fact, most terrorists come here by plane, not through borders like these. Our last stop before returning home was a more permanent place where some immigrants can go while they are trying to work things out. At the respite center where we had volunteered, they can only be there 24-48 hours. At this center, they can stay 2-3months. Most of the people who come to this place, do not have a host and so the center becomes their host and helps them through the journey to citizenship. A few who had gone through the process now work at the center.

On this trip, we were taken through the progression of events that immigrants must seek to navigate, many without knowing English. We were given the history of immigration policies and information on the courts. We were able to sit in on the courts, visit two bridges that are ports of entry, visit a respite center and finally a more temporary/permanent shelter for those who need extra help.

I end this blog at the beginning. The day before I left Dallas I was at a workshop and a gentleman was leading a devotion. The focus of his devotion was, “We are God’s beloved.” Little did I know that this would help to prepare me for the upcoming trip. I led the following devotion for our group.

A devotional was shared yesterday about Jesus’s baptism. The clouds opened and God said this is my beloved son, in Him, I am well pleased. He challenged us to think of all of God’s creatures as his beloved.

This immediately brought our border trip to mind. The US does not see all of God’s creatures as beloved nor worthy of humane treatment. I’m constantly amazed at how passionate we can become around animal cruelty yet turn a blind eye to the sufferings of humanity.

First, I want to commend you for not turning a blind eye.
Second, I want to challenge you to see God’s beloved creatures everywhere we go on this trip. In the judge’s seat, in the uniformed personnel, in the immigrants, in the concerned people providing services and goods, to those in our group.

When we can learn to love and show love (they are not the same) everywhere we go, great change is possible.

Let’s pray.

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