At the US/Mexico border, changes can come fast and unexpectedly. That has certainly been the case here in Agua Prieta, Sonora/Douglas, Arizona, in the last month or so. Six weeks ago, CPT was accompanying approximately one family per week from CAME, the migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, to the Port of Entry to request asylum. Customs officials were accepting most of these families into the asylum process.
But then, three cars of people from Chihuahua, the state bordering Sonora to the east, drove into Agua Prieta and attempted to crash a gate at the port in order to ask for asylum. Even though these people were afraid for their lives, they were not allowed to come into the US. As a result of this incident, the Customs officials have now built new fences to further slow down traffic and maintain control in an already controlled environment. It is obvious that these representatives of the US government are afraid and do not know how to respond to situations of perceived violence except with more violence.
Most of the families arriving at the shelter are from the south of Mexico, the states of Guerrero and Chiapas. They and their families are fleeing the armed violence of criminal cartels. However, many people in the northern state of Chihuahua have also been caught in the middle of increasing violence by organized crime. They are afraid for their lives and the lives of their children. When they arrive in Agua Prieta, rather than going to the migrant shelter, they are camping out across the street from the Port. Initially, 50 to 100 people were arriving daily, but that number is now much smaller. Apparently, several families are being accepted into the US every day.
One day, when CPT brought a family from CAME to the port, the Customs agent said that they were breaking the line and that the family should come to wait with everyone else. The entire process is unclear and open to abuses, and the shelter director is unsure how to respond.
- May these people from Chihuahua keep the courage and find a way to live their lives in safety. While they are living in the open and sleeping on the ground keep them well and protected from criminal threats.
- Give strength and patience to the workers at CAME shelter and at the migrant resource center (CRM), to know how to provide support for the Chihuahuan migrants.
- Especially pray that the Customs officials at the Port of Entry dealing with this situation find a fair and safe way to process all the people coming to the gate. May they see that fear does not justify more violence.