Stories from the Border

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

As many days along the border are, yesterday was filled with joy and sadness.

I made my first visit to Casa de la Misericordia in Nogales, Sonora. This shelter, run by Sister Lika, is a true oasis.There is no limit to how long families can stay and I felt like I was walking into a community of support and love. There is a school for the children, gardens, chickens, picnic areas and playgrounds. I laughed and smiled during my entire visit because that was the mood of everyone within these safe walls.

Many of the women at Casa de la Misericordia are going to join the Artisan Project, but I will share more on that later.

The difficult part of the day began when we crossed into Nogales and saw the incredible number of migrants waiting for an opportunity to present for asylum. Title 42 remains in place and continues to shut down the opportunity for most asylum seekers to legally cross into the US. The number of children and families waiting was staggering.

When we pulled up to Casa de la Misericordia, there was a young mother waiting outside the large gate with her two young children. She started to cry when she saw us and shared that the shelter was full and she didn’t know where to go. She agreed to wait for us while we went inside and tried to learn more about options for her.

When we went in, we not only learned that they were full at 120 people, but that they also had a waiting list of over 100. While this young family’s story was heartbreaking, it was just one of a sea of others seeking safety and refuge.

The young family was from Guerrero, Mexico. The mother shared that her brother was killed by a gang and that they threatened to come back for her and her children. At 24 she left with her 6 and 3 year old and made the 3 day trek by bus to Nogales. Both of her parents live in the US and have for over 15 years. The 6 year-old daughter told us, “Vamos a la casa de la abuelita!”. She had been told they were going to their grandmother’s house. We knew their chances of getting across were slim. Title 42 remains a great barrier for them to even be able to share their story with the right people. But, there is hope. The Florence Project and other incredible organizations along the border are working hard and crossing many families each day. So, I hold out hope that they will indeed reach their grandmother’s house and begin to create a new life for themselves.

After driving this family back into town from Casa de la Misericordia, we were able to find a place for them to sleep for the night close to Kino Border Initiative. This “safer” place was in a parking lot of small motel. The motel had three rooms that were full beyond capacity and there were people filling the parking lot, hoping their situation was only temporary. There was a gate that closed the parking lot off from the rest of town, and our hope as we drove away was that the gate would provide enough protection to keep this young family (and all of the others inside) safe against all of the chaos and ugliness that comes from desperation and uncertainty.

Dora, from Salvavision, coached them on how to remain safe. She told the young mother to remove the gold chain from her daughter’s neck and put it in a safe place. She explained to her that she couldn’t let anyone know that she had family in the US, except the lawyers at Kino Border Initiative, because it will make them targets for the Cartel and others, and that she should not believe anyone who tells her that they know an easy way across and that they will take them all. It is too dangerous for her little ones, and the desert would not be kind.

I watched the mother remove the chain from her daughter, and nod and listen intently to all that Dora shared. My hope is that she will now find others along her journey who will show her kindness and support her efforts of reaching her parents. That she won’t let her desperation guide her to trust the wrong people.

Interactions like this change my life. Every one creates a shift for me. Last night, sleep did not come easily, as I thought of this young family in a parking lot with no idea of what the future held.

This morning I have to ground myself in a deep trust that we truly can change. That we can see and understand that our survival is linked to the survival of this young family. We aren’t walking this path alone, we are all on this journey together, and our ability to pause and truly see one another is a critical part of this global equation we are all witnessing. We have learned that borders are no barrier to the spread of pandemics, climate change, fear, and need. We cannot hide within our perceived safe bubble. Glass houses shatter.

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