Dispatches From the Border: Crossing Over

Today we took a trip to a wall.

Back in January of this year I was part of a women’s delegation to Israel and Palestine. We spent many of our days there visiting a land torn apart by groups of people working, using all their considerable resources to divide people, to hoard resources, to create enemies when all of us had the possibility of friendship all along. Right in front of us they were dividing people by ethnicities, languages, socio-economic levels. How could a government allow national corporate expression to be symbolized by such a physically imposing, dividing edifice?

And, of course, while we were in the Middle East we were reading the news about our own president back at home, there he was, blathering on about building a wall, building a wall, building a wall. I want no part of that, I thought, a bit self-righteously.

Well, guess what?

We don’t need to start building a wall here in America because we already have a wall, and it has been here for a long, long time.

Cutting across land as far as the eye can see, radiating with the heat of an unrelenting sun, it divides a land that was never meant to be divided. As I saw it unfurled I kept thinking about the families. Families I saw at the humanitarian respite center yesterday, Moms and Dads with nursing babies or curious toddlers. I imagine that one day in Honduras or El Salvador or Mexico, they had decided that what they were offering their children there was too poor, too violent, too lacking in any kind of future for them to think about staying. So they packed what they could carry and dragged their children across this baking land—miles and miles and miles—until they finally arrived…at a wall. A tall, imposing, metal fence with clanging gates and big trucks guarding it and officers dressed in starched uniformed and carrying guns, ready to make sure there was no way in, never any way in.

Listen, I hated to take my kids grocery shopping when they were little. To make the decision to take your children hundreds of miles on foot with the faint promise of a new life—things must have been worse than I could ever imagine, much less describe. Hoping, longing, wishing for something different—anything—knowing that there was, in fact, no life, no future there—they made the treacherous journey and then they hit…a wall.

I’m thinking about all of that while I sit, annoyed, in my air conditioned rental car, coming up on an hour and a half of waiting in line at the Mexico/Texas border, waiting to cross into the United States. Ironically, only an hour before we’d driven tentatively and easily through the Mexican border patrol in Matamoras, passports in hand: Will they stop us? Do you need our passports? Is there a form we should fill out?

But here we are at the border in Reyoso, Mexico, waiting to be evaluated for entry. There are dogs and security cameras and uniformed agents and many guns. There are also families huddled along the bridge, looking for a little shade and being welcomed with the blunt force of American exceptionalism: You cannot come in. We will not share what we have. You are less valuable than we are.

And that’s really the core of it, isn’t it?

It’s why we were protesting at the Brownsville courthouse this afternoon, insisting that families be reunited.

It’s why we made our way to our own American wall to witness what asylum seekers encounter at our borders.

And it’s why we’re saying that people of faith must keep reminding the world of the precious humanity of every person—the spark of divinity that supersedes language or circumstances or birth or nationality.

Eventually we got through the border. It was a long line, but with our white skin and American passports we were welcomed happily.

The Customs and Border Protection agent looked askance at my collar and wondered aloud what I was doing there…but then he winked at me and said, “Next time you come down, take a trip to Paradisus. It’s just 30 minutes from here, and it’s a lot of fun!”

Pastor Amy is joining a delegation of of 11  women faith leaders who will travel to the Texas/Mexico border to confront the Trump Administration’s cruel and immoral family separation and family detention policies which treat people seeking safety from violence as criminals and incarcerates entire families. Click here to see the complete collection of Dispatches from the Border.