ONE BIG CHANGE IS THE CONCERTINA WIRE ON TOP OF THE WALL THAT DIVIDES DOWNTOWN NOGALES, ARIZONA FROM NOGALES, SONORA. I TOOK THIS PHOTO WHILE WAITING TO CROSS BACK IN THE UNITED STATES.
Sunday's Arizona Daily Star newspaper had an article about the deployment of more military troups to the border and in particular, their task to install more concertina wire. The Nogales mayor expressed his concern as to the impact of this wire on both communities and in particular, local businesses. A local businessman, Evan Kory, stated:
" The razor wire was way more aggressive than anything we had seen, which scared me. It felt like it was out of our hands as a border community. You feel powerless, like your voices aren't heard."
I was last at this border in the winter of 2017 - there was the wall but not sheets of concertina wire, as many as six rows can be seen in the newspaper photo. An additional 150 miles of concertina wire will be strung. The Mayor of Nogales, Arizona, Arturo Garino, called for the razor wire to be removed, saying it hurts business and sends the wrong message.
Today's Arizona Daily Star announced that the Nogales, Arizona City Council is demanding that the federal government remove the concertina wire or the City will sue them.
San Diego has also expressed its concern over the concertina wire as well. Let's hope that there is an outpouring of border cities who say NO to the Trump Administration creating a war zone at the border along with its already militarization of the border.
Mothers with children or fathers with children are the people turning themselves into the Customs and Border Agents at ports of entry or after they have crossed in the desert. Increasingly it's entire families that are showing up at the border and asking for asylum.
In Tucson a former Benedictine monastery has opened as a temporary shelter organized by Catholic Community Services. The nuns sold the monastery to a developer who in turn offered the enormous church building to be used as a shelter until building plans are approved. Link to news highlighting the monastery.
I walked into the Intake room off this beautiful sanctuary late last Saturday afternoon. The Casa Aletas volunteer coordinator had called asking Spanish speaking volunteers to gather to help with an expected 45 people who were about to arrive - dropped off by ICE.
Another volunteer showed me how to record the interview on a Google docs, I took a deep breath and suddenly a very tired looking mother and her daughter appeared at my table. "Como esta?" I introduced myself and smiled at them. The young woman's name was Dulce or sweet and she was!
Soon there was a cacophony of voices as six of us interviewed the newly arrived immigrants. They looked and were exhausted - most of them coming directly from the hielera, the ice box where the Border and Customs detains immigrants at the border. There is little food and sleeping is difficult.
They patiently answered my questions: Where they were from? Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, El Salvador were the responses. How many days of travel from their home land? Were there any problems crossing Mexico? Any problems at the border with officials? Finally, who was their sponsor in the USA and where did this person live? Georgia, Florida, New York, Texas, were some of the responses.
A volunteer entered the room carrying donated teddy bears and other soft toys. The children selected the one they liked and held onto it tightly. In the days of turmoil in their young lives, it felt good to have something soft and cuddly to clutch. When the interview was over, the women or men always said, "Gracias."
They had been fed before the interview. Another volunteer appeared to take them to their room and to have a bath before sleeping. There is a clinic where volunteer doctors and nurses examine the families and provide medicine for the many who arrive with coughs or colds after their long journeys.
PERSONAL NOTE: This is my last day in Tucson as I am returning to my home in Portland, Oregon. I will share a few more stories of the traveling guests I've met these past five weeks. Tucson and southwest Arizona are beautiful,but it is a desert. We have had freezing temperatures at night these past few days. I will close with how we open and end each Samaritan meeting with silence and a prayer for those crossing the desert. Peace be with them.
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?