What I Learned When I Went To The Border – Mary Doyle

St. Francis CW – Missouri
Winter 2017

“Yeah, I’ve pretty much seen it all,” I used to think as I looked back on 64 years of what has been a rich and beautiful life. I mean, I’ve traveled the world! I’ve been to war zones! I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to serve (but mostly being served by) my immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers. So when Missouri Faith Voices did me the tremendous honor of sending me to the convention of PICO Network on the Mexico/US border in Las Cruces, New Mexico last August I thought, in my privileged arrogance, that it would be a sort of fact finding mission. I would meet some people, take a few notes, and give a report to the board on my return. Just another in a series of many such excursions. And I wouldn’t even be leaving the country this time. What I learned during my three days at the border isn’t as important as what I felt. Sure, I had heard all about the border wall; haven’t my Latinx friends described it to me often enough? So what is it that brought me to my knees, unable to stop crying, when I actually saw it and touched it for myself? And I thought I knew all about how people are herded like cattle in immigration court; I’d read countless articles about it. But I respectfully challenge you to watch a mother, shackled hand and foot, being dragged off to jail as her young children watch, calling, “¡Te queremos mamita!” (“We love you mommy!”) and come away unchanged by the experience. Then there is Vado, an unincorporated community, which receives almost no infrastructure services from any governmental agency. As we drove around the bumpy, unpaved roads, taking in the lack of storm sewers (which has resulted in the drowning deaths of children during heavy rains), nonexistent street lights, and the general dilapidation, I noticed that no one in the car was talking. We were just feeling, and it hurt. That night our hosts from PICO Network asked us about our day, and the answers were telling. A young woman who grew up in Mexico and now lives in the US remarked, “When we looked into Mexico through the wall today I remembered that I might never be able to return. I might never see my abuela (grandmother) again. That thing isn’t a wall; it’s a cage.” A young man talked about Vado: “That community is exactly like Jamaica when I left it thirty years ago.” His voice breaking, he continued, “And this is the United States of America in 2017.” He burst into tears and left the room. So what did I learn from my fact finding mission? Not much, to tell you the truth. Instead, I saw, heard, and experienced a lot of things that my brain already knew but that my heart never felt. And I realized, for the thousandth time, that Jesus was literally and absolutely serious when he said to me and the rest of us who have power and privilege, “To whom much is given much is required.”

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