In mid-October I had the good fortune to be invited on a trip to the border of Texas and Mexico. I was auditing a class at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary called, “The Church, The Borderlands, and The Public Good”—all themes that I wrestle with as I learn more about immigration issues during this year of service for my church.
So far, I had felt connected to the work I'm doing here at Grassroots Leadership, and grounded in the knowledge that I am effecting systemic and individual change. The day I started was the day we started the campaign to get Sara and Nayely released from Karnes. Then I met Sara and Nayely when I took them to the hospital for an appointment. When I visited Hutto I met another woman who has been severely affected by the violence in Central America, and the subsequent violence of being locked in a prison in the country she fled to—the United States. Going to the border in October made the work that I do on the immigration team at Grassroots Leadership feel more realistic.
The last time I went to the border, I was a wildly underprepared, 17-year-old high school graduate who had never been confronted with my privilege—or the idea that our country could be doing anything unjust towards our neighbors. I had never heard of the wall, or seen pictures of it. The reality of the desert heat was not a part of my own reality. It was on that trip, as I was picking up clothes and backpacks that migrants had left behind in the brush just 20 feet away from the highway when I was struck by the absurdity that is the American immigration system. Then, I went to college and tried to forget everything.
Now, as a 23-year-old college graduate who is discerning my place and what it means to be a global citizen, I felt almost like I was making a pilgrimage to the border. A place of constant fluctuation, it felt familiar to me five years later. Maybe because I have been learning about the systemic absurdity and seeing it in action, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t surprised when we saw heavily armed and armored Highway Patrol boats, manned by Iraqi war veterans, leaving for a mission on the other side of the Rio Grande. I wasn’t surprised when a mother of two girls, who was close to my own age, arrived at the shelter in McAllen and told me her hair had started falling out in a hielera. I wasn’t surprised when my classmates had no idea and were even skeptical that the U.S. government is detaining women and children in abusive and prison-like conditions.
Everything that I heard and saw on the border hammered home just how important the work is that we do at Grassroots Leadership. We confront systemic issues, and we remember that each and every migrant is a human being.
An Border Patrol car waits on the banks of the Rio Grande.