TEXAS/MEXICO BORDER IMMIGRATION: A MISSIONARY’S PERSPECTIVE
By Nathanael Sommers
A young mother recalls her journey to the United States at a Border Patrol detainment center in South Texas. The Border Patrol officer listens intently, asking questions she has asked to countless other newly arrived undocumented immigrants. The mother’s two children, a boy and girl both under twelve, are being interviewed in a separate room as officers seek to understand the small family’s situation.
Too many times have children been smuggled across the border by fake guardians to take their relationship at face value (and governmental policy leaves little wiggle room for the officers anyway). The mother speaks of a trek from an impoverished Central American country, hoping to reach the United States so her children may lead better lives away from the poverty, crime and violence of her native country. The hope of a new life sustained her. She remembers how the cartels promised the American dream: a job, home, and opportunity; if only she could arrive safely. So, she did what she could to provide a better life for her children, and she gave the cartel all she had: every possession and coin to her name.
She found herself dropped off in a border town in Mexico with no resources and no way to cross the border without the cartel’s aid. That is where many immigrants end their journey. They fill the colonias of Mexican border towns struggling to survive. A few like this family have arrangements already made with a local coyote, a man whose sole purpose is to deliver people across the border. The mother recounts how she and her children were taken by this coyote to a place to cross the border. They begin the crossing but, as they reach the other side, the coyote grabs the mother’s young son and tosses him away from them. He tells the mother the price has just risen for her and her daughter to cross and join the boy. The mother is shocked and terrified as she has no more to give. The man knows this and says the price is her daughter. The mother refuses adamantly but what can she do? She is forced to watch as her daughter is abused by this man and, then, the family of three are left to fend for themselves on American soil. A day later she is picked up by Border Patrol and brought to this detainment center. Now her fate is in the hands of policy made by politicians far away from the pain, hope, humiliation and joy experienced by immigrants every day.
This type of story is common up and down the border. Some immigrants are deceived by the cartels and convinced they will arrive in the U.S. and immediately have a better job, home and life. Instead, they arrive and find themselves in a situation demanding paperwork. Some had no clue they were even breaking the law. Yet, now they suffer for it.
Violence in their home countries has forced families to take drastic measures just to protect themselves. Oftentimes, children are sent across the border alone because their parents want them to live with relatives already in the U.S. Some parents even hope their child will be placed with American foster parents because they think this will give them a better life.
The American people have become so intent on the political issues around immigration. We can focus on the “Zero Tolerance” policy of the current administration or the various other policies with previous presidents that have existed in varying ways for years and, yet, the people here on the border and the immigrants crossing daily are still suffering. The focus must come back to the immigrant. Do not forget they all have a story to be heard.
If you want to make a difference, then act to show the love and grace of Jesus Christ to people captured by this crisis in their daily lives. If you want to do something, by all means come and help. Buy a plane ticket and volunteer with one of the many non-profits doing amazing work in border towns. If that is not possible, then financially give and support those programs and people doing the work. Simply expressing your outrage online does nothing for the immigrant terrified for her future or the child sent across the border by parents who only hoped he would be taken care of by an American family. Only through the shared hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can we transform the lives of immigrants, Border Patrol officers, and politicians.
Nathanel Sommers is a Texas/Mexico Border Border Ministries Missionary with World Gospel Mission based in McAllen, TX.