By Kathleen Erickson
I recently spent three weeks at the border between El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Mexico. The experience strengthened my resolve, as a person of faith and Sister of Mercy, to share more about how the situation there concerns all of us in the United States.
In the shelters where thousands of refugees await their court dates, I met many migrants who quietly maintained their dignity despite sleeping for months on floors and suffering degrading treatment from U.S. border authorities.
As their faces became real to me, my heart lurched. I could recognize the hope in the eyes of parents waiting for the chance to request asylum, even as I knew almost none of those requests would be granted.
I greeted a newly arrived woman at the Juárez migrant center. As she wept, I learned she was waiting to talk with a doctor about being raped on the journey north. Her four-year-old daughter clung to her and broke my heart.
People throughout the U.S. who pay attention to this crisis are appalled. The problem is most of us just aren’t paying attention.
The truth is, even if folks know a little about the border, many Americans simply have no idea about the U.S. policies that have created the displacement crisis. “The people in the U.S. are good people,” I remember a speaker in Nicaragua saying back in 1985, “but they live in a cloud of disinformation.”
Most are not aware, for instance, that the U.S. government supports a Honduran president broadly considered illegitimate and criminal. Our own lack of awareness contributes to that reality — and to the thousands of Hondurans forced to flee their homes. Among the migrants I met were women from Honduras who’d received death threats for participating in protests against that government.
It’s not a new situation. I grew up waking to the smell of coffee my dad made every morning, never once realizing that the Central Americans who grew and harvested that coffee were paid so little their children didn’t have shoes.
Guatemalan friends in Omaha, meanwhile, tell about family members back home whose children are dying due to lack of food and access to medicine. Their country is experiencing drought for the third year in a row, accelerated by our own government’s hostility to climate science.
When you look a little closer, it’s no surprise that desperate people risk their lives and freedom to cross our border. When will we realize everything is connected — and that how people treat one another shouldn’t be a partisan question?
“It’s foolish and retrogressive to accept a kind of citizenship that implies toleration, silence, and approval of crimes against the innocent,” warned the late Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan in 1977. Still, we are blessed to live in a time of growing awareness. We can no longer avoid the truth except by deliberate choice.
To learn more, I recommend books such as New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins; Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, by Todd Miller; and Sand and Blood: America’s Stealth War on the Mexico Border, by John Carlos Frey.
Slowly, many are waking up. At the border, I met generous, caring volunteers from around the United States and Mexico. I saw rooms full of donated blankets, clothing, and other supplies, and learned of campaigns to raise cash to support the shelters and get legal aid for asylum seekers.
Sister Kathleen Erickson is a Sister of Mercy from Omaha. Over the last 30 years she’s ministered on the border, served as a chaplain in an immigrant detention center, and led delegations to the border and to Honduras.
I agree, it’s a very sad situation. There are over one billion people worldwide who want to come to America. Can we support them all? Is it really our problem? We have way too many problems in America that we can’t fix. Seniors freezing to death in the winter due to not heat. Seniors die because they can not afford their medicine. Well over 100000 people living on the streets. Veterans who die waiting health care we can not provide. American Indian treaties being broken time snd time again, and fir edit live on reservation in the middle of nowhere, by a corrupt government. The list goes on snd on. 23 plus trillion in debt. Corruption so deep within the government, it will never be weeded out. Wake up America, it’s a very sad thing, but it’s not our problem to take millions of people into our country. We can’t even take care of our own.
Jim O says
Great Post. Spot on.
I am awake and will not fall into they native that we should have open borders.
Lynn L Tobin says
What people like the author above do not realize is that illegal, and even amasty immigration is only “the importation of poverty” into America. Lyndon Johnson created “The War on Poverty” over 50 years ago. So why has it not worked? Answer: we are importing poverty each day over the Southern border!! Add to the poverty of these people, the fact they are poorly educated and maybe have a 6th grade education. So tell me, how does one exist in a high tech American Society with only a 6th grade education and no money?? Answer: These people are looking for free stuff. Although welfare is not available to illegal immigrants, states especially California, give these people free, shool, free school lunches, free housing, free healthcare and now even free college!! Guess what? Even US citizen do not get all that free stuff!! President Trump is doing the right thing blocking the caravans and hoards of illegals trying to get into the USA. Yes conditions at the border are not good. Too bad. Don’t come, we do not need more poverty in the USA. We already have more than enough.
How about this idea for resolving issues at the current border of the US, just annex all of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama to the US. Then dispatch all of the corrupted police, drug lords and anyone else opposed to a democracy in all of those countries. Control the millions of dollars that go to these countries so that it actually benefits the people and not just the few corrupted individuals. End of having to deal with these people illegally entering the US.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
We are a nation in debt – we cannot keep borrowing to feed illegal immigrants while ignoring our own.
Ironic that when I went to live in Mexico , we had to prove everything, including showing source of income at the border, as well as US Passport. Our car was inspected from hood to trunk , inside out before we could enter Mexico where I was not allowed to work – at the time a 5 year status as a tourista was minimum before obtaining ‘ immigrado’ status to be allowed to work,.We
Mike Cocchiola says
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” These words by poet Emma Lazarus are inscribed on a plaque on the base of the Statue of Liberty. This American icon offered its words of hope and welcome to millions of new Americans and their descendants – the people who made America great.
But no more. We are no longer great. The Statue of Liberty no longer welcomes or offers hope. It is instead a warning to stay away. You are not welcome. We neither want nor need you. Our divided country is now a land of sadness where we separate and physically and mentally abuse families seeking succor. We cage their children and toss them back into a bleak and probably short future. We tell people there is no hope for them here.
This is Trump’s new America. Land of the greedy, the venal, the crude and the cruel.
Most people still welcome them if they come here LEGALLY! Don’t break the law and then asked to be treated special. Many people are going through the process the right way, why should someone coming here unlawfully be given a free pass?
Eric Hollis says
This article is such BS. Feeling sorry for people who break the law and try to come into this country illegals is a joke. Why isn’t she worried about our own homeless (tent cities), veterans, child hunger, child sex trafficking, opioid use. Must not be in her narrative. I grew up in California and the illegal problems are far worse that everyone thinks. These people are not here to assimilate and learn English, they are here to steal American jobs so they can send money home by the millions. Money that is not spent here in the US. I watches Kate Steinle get shot out of the window of my restaurant in SF, an illegal with prior deportations only to watch him get acquitted. Just another person dying at the hands of illegals. How many American have to die from law breaking illegal aliens? None should be the response.
Lastly, we should be defunding Sanctuary City’s and start allowing ICE to deport leaching Illegals by the bus full. Local government are not above the Law, even though they think they are. We need to take America back from left leaning governments like California, NY, Oregon, Washington which don’t want to help the working Americans.
Illegal is illegal.
If all those illegals will apply to come legally will be automatically denied even if they would have applied before they ever came illegally and that is the only reason that they risk the only thing they have “their lives” to cross our southern border for a chance to life. I sadly agree with Mike C. above. We can say we have now a meaningless Lady in the Harbor. By the way for more insult to injury given the corona virus they are “just closing the Mexico border” as reported, when actually the virus originated in China and not in Mexico.
ChilliDSTA MSMBA says
Hundreds of Chinese were caught trying to cross the Southern border, just yesterday. The Statue of Liberty was created to celebrate freed slaves, not to prop the door to the country open. The “huddled masses” was a poem(sonnett), not a Bill of Rights for immigrants. With that said, I am not anti-immigrant. I am anti-open border. We need to follow the rule of law. We cannot import the entire third world and expect good results for our people.