By Larry Duggins
This week, several MWF folk joined a pilgrimage to the Mexican border sponsored by Texas Impact, a non-profit focused on lobbying for humane changes in immigration policy. The trip was an opportunity for pastors and lay leaders to travel to the border to hear from experts involved in the immigration struggle and to meet refugees awaiting processing on the Mexican border. The group included people from all over Texas and from a wide range of denominations. Our team travelled by bus twelve hours each way to and from Dallas.
On Friday afternoon, we walked along the razor-wired border wall to the bridge to Matamoros. We walked over the bridge, across the stream that is the Rio Grande at this time of year, and on to the plaza on the Mexican side of the border. There were groups of people, mostly family groups, sitting together in every spot of shade. There were no police or security people in sight, which really surprised me as we had heard rumors of rampant cartel activity in the area. A tent city was situated in an area close to the border station, taking advantage of the few trees that cast a little shade.
We broke into groups and began speaking to the people we encountered. Many had fled from gang violence in Honduras, and had come to apply for asylum in the US because they feared for their lives and the lives of their families. I was shocked by the number of young women we met either alone or in small groups—they fled sexual violence and exploitation, only to be forced into a tent city where they remained vulnerable.
At one point, a few of us spoke with a young woman with a small child in her arms. As Pastor Amy gathered her story, the little girl reached out to me. I held her hand for a few minutes, and she then leaned over as little kids do for me to take her in my arms. I looked to her mom, got an ok nod, and took her. She immediately went for my glasses, and we played putting them on her, and then back on me, then back on her. We did the same with my hat, playing peekaboo until she laughed. The idea that she and her mom will have to wait another forty-five days, exposed to the elements and predators, before they get to present their asylum claim haunts me.
Our government’s policies are punitive and inhumane, pushing the most vulnerable into the arms of the cartels. These are not terrorists or murderers—they are people running for their lives. Scripture is clear about care for the poor and the immigrant, so, as the administration policies grow increasingly harsh, it is up to churches to intervene and act. At the Missional Wisdom Foundation, we are brainstorming about possibilities for using our experience in intentional housing to help churches sponsor refugees who legally enter the US in order to reduce the backlog at the border. We will keep you informed about how your church can participate. The inhumanity of our current system has to change, and we can all be a part of the solution.