Borderlands: Walls Don't Work

by Brian Young

During the month of July, CPT organized a 3,000-mile Border Witness Drive from Tucson, Arizona to Brownsville, Texas and then north to Washington, DC, culminating with legislative advocacy calling for comprehensive immigration reform. Team members were: John Heid (Winona, MN), Sarah Shirk (Chicago, IL), Haven Whiteside (Palm Harbor, FL) and Brian Young (Richmond, IN).

“Walls don’t work.” We heard that theme many times during our travels along the U.S./Mexico border.
Laredo Community College sits in a bend of the Rio Grande near a point where migrants often cross the border. At a cost of close to $1 million 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 people from coming.

A teacher 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.

At first the teacher 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 in Brownsville, Texas echoed the refrain. A son of immigrants, Judge Cascos has worked hard and is committed to his community. He just returned from a visit to Washington, D.C. where he advocated with federal officials for alternatives to the wall that would separate the U.S. and Mexico along the river.

Some “walls” in the borderlands block people more effectively than the physical structures the U.S. government seeks to erect. Graduating from high school is like hitting a wall for some people here. Many young people 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.

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 in the borderlands and that we might join their struggle for a humane immigration policy.