A Reflection from the U.S./Mexico Border:
Governments looking to the Church
Jen Smyers, Vice-President of NJFON's Board of Directors and the Director of Policy and Advocacy with the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, joined NJFON staff and board members on our border trip last month. She graciously shares this reflection with us:
I just returned from a heart-wrenching trip to McAllen, Texas and Reynosa, Mexico. These communities face one another in the Rio Grande Valley, pierced by a jagged border of fencing, walls, levies and patrols. The trip was planned by National Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist ministry that provides immigration legal services across the United States, and facilitated by local Methodist lay people and clergy who intimately know the realities of life along the border.
Upon arrival to the border, Border Patrol agents showed us videos
fit for recruitment, boasted of high numbers of apprehensions and deportations and waxed poetic about their fellow agents who provided detained children chips and candy out of their own pockets.
We ate lunch with immigration attorneys who described how Operation Streamline
evades due process by forcing people to plead guilty in mass “trials” without access to translation, representation or an explanation of the long-term consequences.
In a nearby poverty-stricken area, immigrants’ rights leaders shared their table with us and demonstrated the importance of communities taking pride in who they are.
And at the Sacred Heart Humanitarian Welcome Center,
we met a family from Honduras cherishing the first shower, change of clothes and hygiene items they had been offered since fleeing the violence they faced at home. One little girl hugged a backpack given to her by the welcome center as we locked smiles for a brief moment.