El Comedor - Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
Last week I travelled to Nogales with two other Samaritans to help people who had just been deported. The Comedor is a combination cafe, medical aid station, international telephone call center and for fresh clothing. Most importantly it is to give deportees confidence that they are equal and have rights.
In the photo above, a KBI staff member is recording abuses a deportee suffered by Border Patrol or ICE employees. Earlier Sister Engracias had challenged the gathered deportees to write letters to US Members of Congress. "hands?" she asked, who will volunteer? Immediately a woman in a blue t-shirt, held up her hand. (She is in the back of the photo)
I went over to her and asked why she volunteered. "I have two children in Seattle, Washington and I want to see them again." "I am from Portland near Seattle." She smiled and asked, "Can you take me with you?" Painfully, i shook my head.
Sister Engracias repeated "Si, se puede," "We can change US immigration policy. If sheer determination could affect policy, then Sister Engracias would be my bet that "si, se puede."
Bob was the medical assistant and helped a man with a deep wound in his leg - I worked the phones. Men wait in line patiently as I dial the numbers in Mexico or Guatemala or Phoenix so that a deportee can tell his family where he is. A young man told me that his wife was pregnant and would deliver before Christmas. He reassured her on the phone that somehow he would be there for the baby's birth.
This time in Tucson, Arizona I have learned the importance of being with family. Family reunification is the leading reason why people cross the border. A recent University of Arizona study found, " People that have established lives in this country will do just about anything possible to be reunited with their family members in the United States...When family is the main motivation for migration, many people will cross again and again regardless of the punishments handed down." (Assembly-Line Justice, Lydgate)
Rosa and her family were an example of the devotion of a family to stay together. She endured 462 days in Sanctuary separated from her husband and two children in order not to be deported and separated from her family.
Neither the Border Patrol, the Wall, Operation Streamline or time in Detention Centers are stopping people from crossing. At the Community shelter this week I met a woman with two children from Guatemala. She had crossed last year by herself to rejoin her husband but was arrested and put into a detention center and then deported. This time she brought her two children. She was facing a three day bus trip to the Northeast - no English and she was nervous. I reassured her that she would find people who spoke Spanish on her journey. I hope in my heart of hearts that this was true.
This week is the tenth anniversary of Operation Streamline - I joined the local coalition in handing out fact sheets about Streamline, the en masse legal process that occurs along the SW border. We are seeking to end Streamline - one man I stopped, said "No I will not sign the petition, I agree with Streamline." It may be an uphill battle but we all need to keep speaking out about the truth of immigration policies that lock people into the USA - they cannot return to their homes because they cannot return and their families who risk their lives to join their loved ones up North.
I will post the End Streamline petition on this website and urge everyone to sign it and put it on Facebook for your friends to sign. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/end-operation-streamline
My life has been about crossing borders and cultures and building bridges across the boundaries that normally divide. Have you crossed any borders in your life?