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BORDERLANDS: Clandestine Journeys to the Periphery

August 24, 2010

by Rosemarie Milazo
original article:

When the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, he spoke of the humanitarian aid his group offers the broken world. As part of his acceptance speech he said “Hundreds of thousands of our contemporaries are forced to leave their lands and family to search for work, to educate their children and to stay alive. Men and women risk their lives to embark on clandestine journeys only to end up in a hellish immigration detention center, or barely surviving on the periphery of our so called civilized world.”

Working this summer with CPT partner No More Deaths, I met many who traveled a clandestine journey to the periphery.

I met more deported migrants than last year who say they simply give up. They can endure no more clandestine trips in the desert, no more frightened lives in our lan d of liberty.

Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has become more diligent in their search…appearing in schools, noon day Mass at the Catholic Church, checking passengers in cars and appearing in work places.

One migrant spoke of the number of Homeland Security agents he had to pass through before he even saw Immigration Officials. “Who is paying all these salaries?” he asked.

Another spoke of seeing a person in the desert, not sure if he was sleeping. He called “paisano, paisano.” When there was no answer, he threw some rocks to wake him, but there was still no movement. He sadly moved on his clandestine journey, leaving a dead person behind in the desert.

One young woman sobbed uncontrollably as she told us that she had lost her husband in the desert. His feet were torn by thorns and blisters and bleeding. He could not keep up and she heard him call out “Don’t leave me”. The coyote would not allow her to go back as it was to o dangerous to delay. He assured her that the others were helping him along. When she broke loose and ran back, he was not with the group. She turned herself in to the Border Patrol and went back to search for him. He was no where to be found and she came back to Mexico without him. She told us that in her dreams, she hears him call, “don’t leave me….”

I wondered about our “civilized world” as I walked through a border crossing point, watching the U.S. agent pull aside one man. He led him into a nearby room where I watched a gloved agent move towards him, his shoes flying across the room past another young man shackled to a chair.

I touched the periphery of our civilized world in the Tucson courtroom in the judicial process where five days a week, 70 migrants are led in, hands and feet in shackles, presumably guilty before being found innocent.

How many more lives are we placing on the periphery?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane Benton permalink
    August 24, 2010 1:24 pm

    Did Jesus come as a reporter to investigate and then tell the world what a grim place they’d created so that out of shame or guilt or disgust they’d change? I think not. He came to show us the way out of the hell we’ve made. He demonstrated self-giving service and that pain, suffering and death are survivable. It’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance. We don’t have to make clandestine trips trying to find a place to flourish. God is with us where we are.

    May we pray and serve daily in partnership with God to open people’s eyes and ears to God’s salvation.

  2. Mary Hopkins permalink
    August 24, 2010 7:21 pm

    Dear Diane Benton: I take your point. But I would also say, speak for yourself. “We don’t have to make clandestine trips …” may seem obvious from your point of view.

    I don’t think that Jesus came here to tell people to starve in place, either. The more I hear of the stories behind the clandestine trips, the less inclined I am to judge. I haven’t been there and I don’t know what I’d do if I were there. I do, however, know many intelligent, thoughtful, hardworking people who’ve felt driven to make that decision, and I know that they didn’t make it lightly, nor out of lack of faith.

    Accepting hardship for oneself is one thing. Condemning one’s children to inadequate food or to no schooling, or one’s parents to lack of medical care, can feel like quite another matter.

    • Diane Benton permalink
      August 25, 2010 9:41 pm

      All any of us can do is what we know to do. I can’t put anyone right so I’m in no position to judge another person. I can only speak truth as I know it and trust God to use it to accomplish God’s purposes including setting me straight if need be.

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