Lines at the Border

Yesterday the high in Ambos Nogales was 100 degrees. It's a dry heat, which means that you don’t have warning when you body has sweated out all its water, and dehydration sneaks up on you quickly. Especially if you don’t know survival skills in the desert. Especially if you are old and frail, or very young.

And on that 100 degree day I crossed the line at the Nogales border into Mexico with my friends, Maritza Aguilar and Genesis Velazquez. I wanted to see the waiting lines of people for myself. We had heard that they were unable to cross quickly while seeking asylum, and that some were waiting for seven days at the border. These lines are filled with young children. When we arrived in the morning, we heard that the night before they moved families to local shelters, giving them a number so they could return to the border line. There were about 20-30 people in the line that were waiting (they hadn’t gone to a shelter because they were next). The children were listless, and the moms and dads were exhausted.

As we passed out UMCOR hygiene kits to them, we heard their grateful responses and saw the look in their eyes. Their eyes begged the question, “Am I going to make it across, or will I die here at this border after all that we went through to get here?” My heart was moved as I heard their stories of struggle (la lucha) and their prayers for safety. It was hard to leave them. I wanted to just sit down, lay on the ground with them, and sing them a song of comfort.

But we left and went to two of the shelters, delivering more hygiene kits and hearing of the needs. The people and churches in Nogales, Mexico are stepping up big time to care for these travelers who are stranded in their country. What amazed me is that the poorest of the poor are reaching out generously to care for others who are suffering even more. Their engagement brought me to my knees. We have much to learn from them.

Last night I had trouble sleeping. As I tossed in my nightmares, nightmares of children sleeping outside in the heat, I prayed — well it was more like soul-wailing — that we in this country could open our eyes, our hearts, and our resources to help.

There ARE some ways to help. You can call your representatives in Congress and demand humane treatment. You can ask if they are removing children from their parents and require a stop to that barbaric behavior. You can donate to shelters in Nogales, Sonora. You can give to The Inn Project, or UMCOR, or any group you know is stepping up. You can send basic items to El Mesias United Methodist Church in Nogales, Arizona. They will be God’s hands and feet for you as they deliver diapers, baby formula, underwear of all sizes, and socks.

We all can give money and resources. But what is needed most is for us to raise all holy hell and storm the gates to demand that we treat humans and children with the respect and dignity that is required of civilized societies. It is time to shout out when we read things like this and say to the powers-that-be: STOP! Children seeking safety are turned away. Children are being ripped from their mother and father’s arms. Children are being sent to detention. These things require a response from all persons of faith, and all persons with a heart of compassion.

Today it is cooler on the border. The high will be 98 degrees. It's a dry heat.

"Lines at the Border" originally appeared on Reprinted with permission.

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