March 19, 2016
BORDERLANDS DELEGATION: “Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason”
The USA-Mexican Border wall cuts a brown line through the vast desert terrain. It is visible for miles as it snakes to the horizon. This is the wall that Mexican and Central American migrants climb and jump over, sometimes four or five times, to return to an established life in the US or to start a new one they hope will be better than the life they left behind. In the eyes of the Border Patrol and US immigration policy, they are doing the wrong thing. Without the proper "documentos," they are breaking the law. Period.
But in their own eyes and those of their families, migrants from the south are doing the right thing for the right reason. Victor, a 30-year-old man we met in the Comedor, a migrant resource center operated by Kino Border in Nogales, Sonora, had just been deported from the US—dropped off by a bus at the border after serving 90 days in a private detention center for illegally crossing the border. Victor had lived in New York since he was 9 years old, worked in a restaurant, and had a wife and three children. He had returned to Mexico only briefly—for three hour—to see his mother before she died. After leaving his mother, he returned to the border to cross back into the country that he called home. He was caught by Border Patrol and convicted through Operation Streamline, a fast track means of processing illegal entry cases in groups of up to 70 migrants. He was sent to detention. He had tried to cross the border two previous times and had received shorter sentences—15 days and 30 days. He would try again, he said, though he would likely get a two year sentence next time. In his heart, he was doing the right thing for the right reason. It was really the only thing he could imagine doing.
In the documentary film, The Undocumented, we learned about another father, a man with four children, who left his family in Mexico to make the journey north. One of his sons needed intensive medical care and the family couldn't afford it. Finding a better paying job in the US and sending money home was his goal. After the father left, the family did not receive the phone call he had promised to make. They heard nothing. The family was distraught and one of his sons who lives in Chicago tried to find his father. He used all of the resources available to him to try to locate his father, but the consulate, support organizations, and medical examiners could not match any human remains to his father. The son was devastated and the family despaired. Many would think that making the arduous and danger trip across the desert and over the wall was wrongheaded. But like Victor, this father saw no other means to support his family. He did the right thing for the right reason. He risked his life for the love of his family.
It was a noble and righteous deed in my eyes.