Borderlands: Praying on the Buses



by Myrla Baldonado & CPTer Kryss Chupp
Myrla Baldonado, a CPT supporter from the Philippines, works to get the USA to clean up toxic waste at its former military bases there.  She currently lives in Chicago.

 Every Friday, from a small, unassuming brick building tucked away behind huge factories in a suburb west of Chicago, undocumented men and women – mostly men and mostly Latinos – are boarded onto buses and taken to O’Hare airport to be deported.

Every Friday, people of faith gather there, at the Broadview Detention Center, to pray – for those being deported, for the families they leave behind, for a change in the inhumane policies that criminalize migrants, and for those responsible for carrying out those policies. 

Religious leaders struggled for several years to gain access to those being detained (a different kind of prison ministry).  Finally Immigration authorities relented, and now, every Friday, a handful of people are permitted to pray with those being humiliated, denigrated and torn away from their families.

After being searched, three of us boarded the bus.  There before us, behind bars, sat around 50 male deportees with chains around their waists linked to shackled hands and feet.  The finely woven steel mesh and Plexiglas between the bars made it difficult to distinguish the faces of those towards the back of the bus.

“It was heart rending,” reflected Baldonado.  “I wondered how many of them were just picked up in the streets or at work and never had the chance to go home or make a call to say goodbye to their children.  It was hard for me to hold back the tears as we prayed the Migrant’s Prayer.  I rejoined the vigil and, as the bus was pulled away, we all waved to bid them farewell.  I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore.”

Heart of Jesus, full of love and mercy, we pray for our migrant brothers and sisters.  Have pity on them and protect them as they suffer mistreatment and humiliation, are labeled “dangerous,” and are marginalized for being foreigners.  May they be respected and valued for their dignity.  Touch with your goodness the many that see them pass.  Care for their families until they can be reunited, not with broken hearts but rather, with hopes fulfilled.  Let it be so.  Amen.

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