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It’s not a great time to go to Mexico…or at least it’s not a great time to tell your loved ones you’re going to Mexico. Thankfully, my understanding parents raised very few concerns about the idea and graciously drove me to the shuttle station in Phoenix to catch my ride down to the border.
We pulled into a rundown plaza with restaurants and shops advertising entirely in Spanish. The man behind the ticket counter spoke only Spanish and made no apologies or explanations for leaving an hour late. My parents gave me one of those long, ominous good-bye hugs and watched me climb into the shuttle, romantic Spanish ballads already blasting.
Of all the places to travel, and with the State Department warnings to stomach, I’m here in the most notorious region of the moment.
Yes. I am, indeed, in Mexico—and on the border, no less!
What’s Going On?
This has been a hard pill to swallow for many of my friends and family. Our neighbor to the south, historically cherished for its rich and colorful traditions and beautiful landscape, is now more hastily associated with drug cartels than Mariachi. And if we’re not talking about the drug cartels, we’re talking immigration policy. Or both at the same time.
The four hour shuttle ride from Phoenix took me away from the sprawling city and into the wide open desert of southern Arizona. In recent history, this land was Mexico. But in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American war and conceded (for a small fee) nearly half of Mexico’s land, now the southwestern United States.
But there’s no mistaking the territories now. As my shuttle pulled closer and closer to the border, the number of U.S. officials increased—green and white Border Patrol SUVs sit keeping watch every few blocks, and customs officials and police officers line the port of entry into the U.S. from Mexico.
And of course, I saw the looming metal wall before anything else. Gulp. Even in this sleepy border town of Douglas, AZ—a blip on nearly 2,000 miles of border—tension creeps into daily life.
What’s going on here? It has been four years since my last trip to the U.S.-Mexican border, but from what I’ve seen and read in the news, it seems like a war zone. There are over 21,000 Border Patrol agents, hundreds of miles of fence, various armed vigilante groups and even 1,200 members of the National Guard were deployed at one point.
Work has been busy, to say the least. In 2011 alone, the Border Patrol made over 327,000 apprehensions of people crossing illegally into the United States through the southwestern border.
Hundreds of thousands of people trying to come to the United States.
And now, the public concern isn’t just about whether or not to give legal residencies to these immigrants, but people are worried about drug trafficking and other organized crime through the border. The security isn’t just about catching people who are guilty of illegally entering the U.S., but about intervening in other criminal activity.
Ok, I know my contacts down here didn’t give me any reasons to worry about visiting, but knowing all of this and seeing things up close made me wonder—if this is the U.S., what’s on the other side of that fence?
For the next few weeks, I’ll be learning just that. I’m living here in Agua Prieta, Sonora and working with Frontera de Cristo (translated as “Border of Christ”), a bi-national group dedicated to demonstrating God’s love in this single community made up of two nations and the many migrants passing through.
With so much turmoil in parts of Mexico, and so much talk being thrown around about border security, and the differing opinions about immigrants living in the United States, I think the time is right to seek to understand.
I’m excited to learn during my time with Frontera de Cristo—to seek to understand the “issue,” yes. But most importantly, to seek to understand the people caught in the middle here on the border.
- Learn more about Frontera de Cristo and the Migrant Resource Center from their website.
- Take a moment to think about how your ancestors came to the U.S. What was required of them? How did they travel here?
- Pray for the safety and dignity of the migrants who are crossing the border and who are returned or deported. Pray for the authorities they meet along the way who have a challenging and overwhelming job to do.
- Do you know any immigrants in the U.S.? Ask an immigrant friend what type of documentation he or she has and what the process was like to get that documentation. How long did it take? Where did he or she have to go? (Or if it’s someone without documentation, what was his or her journey like to get to the U.S.?)
About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.