Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BorderLinks, Justice: Monday

BorderLinks, Justice: Monday

This morning we woke up early to make our trek down to Nogales, AZ, a town that is bisected by the US-Mexico border.  We were able to see much of the Southern Arizona landscape on our trip, illustrating the truly inhospitable environment that immigrants must cross on limited food, water, and topographical knowledge.
Our first stop was the Kino Border Initiative, an organization that helps migrants on both sides of the border.  They have a kitchen, shelter, and clinic in Nogales, Mexico for deported migrants, as well as an educational mission on the American side.  The organization was founded in part by the Jesuit Order making us very proud and appreciative to be educated by such an active and compassionate tradition.  A man named West presented a wide range of information pertaining to the border and undocumented immigration, including the economic roots, the obstacles of legal immigration, and the relationship between drug violence in Mexico and US drug consumption.  We were all very surprised to learn the actual law that migrants break when illegally crossing the border: a misdemeanor known as "Entry without inspection".  The violation seemed relatively minor given the human costs of immigration that have been repeatedly demonstrated on our trip.  West asked us if anyone had ever broken a law.  After everyone in the room raised their hands, he asked, "Doesn't that make us all 'illegals' then, and not just those who cross the border without inspection?"

After this very informative and enlightening presentation, we had lunch in a park.  Shortly after, a woman named Jeanette came to talk to us about her work with an organization Home for Hope and Peace (HEPAC) which helps people in Nogales, Mexico by providing education, a positive environment and community, and shelter.  It is the sister organization to Borderlinks.  She shared with us her perspective as a lifelong resident of Nogales, Mexico and how the border has shaped her town.  She discussed how her work targeted the divisive, invisible walls that are formed in the mind and are a more dangerous byproduct of the physical wall that divides the two Nogales's.
We then went to see the actual wall, an extremely imposing structure.  It resembles prison bars or a giant metal picket fence.  It is clear to all that see it that the wall is meant to divide, not just to demarcate the boundary.  We were able to stand in the spot where, just months ago, a Border Patrol agent shot a Mexican teenager eight times for throwing rocks.  The description of the incident was a clear example of the invisible walls that Jeanette told us about.

The drive back was a much needed time to relax from the emotional toll of the day's events.  Nearly everyone fell asleep on the shoulders of our fast friends.  Upon return, we had but a few minutes to pack for a big surprise: We were going to have homestays that night. We split into 3 groups, by various levels of Spanish (especially since one of the hosts didn't speak any English). One commonality between all groups was that the food was great, the company enjoyable, and the sleep, deep man. Deep.

Our groups stayed with the couple Tony and Rosalina. They'd recently married a year before, and they eagerly welcomed us all in with pasta and conversation. Tony had been everywhere and was currently working in a biochemistry lab. Rosalina was an immigrant from mexico who raised her daughters on her own after she fled her abusive husband in Mexico. She currently spent her days working a nonprofit called Darnos meant to educate people on how to avoid violent abuse. One thing that she shared with us was that although the problem of immigration is big, there are so many organizations working to make things better. That is a cause for hope.

Anyhow, it's getting late. Better turn in for the night.

Eric Wu and Patrick McDonell

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