26 July 2007

By Brian Young

[Note: People wishing to follow the progress of Christian Peacemaker Team's
Borderland's Witness drive may do so at]

"Walls don't work" is a theme we heard many times during our time in the Rio
Grande Valley. Laredo Community College sits in a bend of the Rio Grande
near a point where migrants often cross from Nuevo Laredo in Mexico. At a
cost of close to one million dollars in Homeland Security funds, the college
erected a ten-foot-high wrought iron fence all the way across the southern
edge of its campus. It has not stopped the people from coming. An art
teacher at the college who lives in faculty housing just inside the fence
told us that once the fence was built, migrants began prying the bars apart
to get through. The college welded a crosspiece to the bars to hold them
together; people began to use this piece as a step to make it over the top.
Others have tunneled underneath. The teacher told us that when it first went
up, he thought the fence was a good idea, but he has since seen its
ineffectiveness. People will always find a way over, under, or through.

Walls don't work--a Cameron County judge speaking at a rally in Brownsville
echoes the refrain. Judge Cascos is typical of many in this majority
Mexican-American community: a son of immigrants who has worked hard and is
committed to his community. He is also typical of most public officials in
the Rio Grande Valley in his opposition to a wall that would separate the
U.S. and Mexico along the river. He has just returned from a visit to
Washington, D.C., where he advocated with federal officials for alternatives
to the wall.

Some walls in the borderlands are far more effective than any physical
structures that the U.S. government might seek to erect. Graduating from
high school is like hitting a wall for some people he here. Many young
people growing up in the Rio Grande Valley find their opportunities severely
limited because their undocumented status prevents them from obtaining
financial aid for college. One community leader says, "There are so many
talented youths who want to go to school, but their education is truncated."
Others are walled in by fear of detention by the Border Patrol and losing
everything--family members, community, homes--that they have worked so hard
for over so many years.

And within the hearts of those of us who do not have to live these
borderland realities, there are also walls, walls built of fear and
indifference. May God grant us grace to make it over, under, or through
these walls, that we might see more clearly the faces of our sisters and
brothers struggling in the Rio Grande Valley, and that we might join their
struggle for a humane immigration policy.