With how prevalent the immigration crisis currently is, I knew it was a subject that I not only wanted to know more about, and one that I needed to know more about. In order to expose myself to the unfiltered, uncensored truth, I chose to join Las Fronteras, and see the complexity of the border for myself.
During the trip, I was exposed to a number of “firsts”. It was my first time eating In-N-Out, petting two-week old puppies, going to Arizona, leaving the U.S., and my first time socializing with people who didn’t speak my native language. And along with the numerous new experiences, I heard countless stories, proving that the immigration crisis cannot be simplified to just one narrative.
We went to two migrant shelters this week: Las Torres and La Roca. At Las Torres, there was a man, Miguel Angelo, who was staying at the shelter with his wife and two kids. They were from Guerrero in southern Mexico, where Miguel owned a food store. However, the Cartel in the area continued asking him for more and more money, until it was impossible for him to comply. With fear for his, and his family’s lives, Miguel sold his car, and his family took the bus all the way to Nogales, Sonora. He now wishes to enter the U.S. as an asylum seeker, live with his father in San Francisco, and work in construction. But what I remember the most about Miguel and his story, was that everything he had done was for his family. I remember his smile as he looked at his daughter. I remember that his sole concern was their safety and happiness.
At La Rocca, a young woman named Sonia spoke of the violence in Nicaragua that drove her from her home. Students were protesting in the streets, armed with only their voices, flags, and signs. The police, on the other hand, used excessive force to deter these protests. Many people were killed, and many others arrested. Sonia, and another Nicaraguan woman, said that the country was nothing like the one they had grown up in. Sonia spoke with a powerful voice; her passion was clear and transcended the barrier of language. When we asked her what she wants people in the U.S. to know about migrants like her, she told us that no one wants to leave their home. As she said this, the other women in the room nodded their heads and murmured in agreement. They didn’t want to leave, they needed to.
At both migrant shelters, the attitude of the kids was particularly inspiring. When we went to Las Torres, we brought games, puzzles, and a soccer ball for them. The kids were so willing and happy to play with us, though we couldn’t even speak their language. A young boy started a soccer game on the little concrete patio. He made makeshift goals from pillows, bags and boxes. We ran and we kicked, ducking under the clotheslines and occasionally knocking down a shirt, or a pair of socks. It may not have been much of a soccer field, but it was more than enough for us to have fun. At La Roca, a little girl came up to me and my sister, and handed us her teddy bears. That was so meaningful because those bears were likely some of her only possessions, and yet, she was willing to share them with a complete stranger. A few minutes later, a boy gave us all homemade, beaded keychains. The children at both of these shelters welcomed us, and they were all a valuable reminder that joy can be found in the simplest of things.
This trip was proof that there’s so much more to these people’s lives than just a statistic, or just one news story. There are so many perspectives on the current U.S.-Mexican border crisis; from the migrants, border control, native tribes, customs officers, ranchers, U.S. citizens, Mexican citizens, and countless more. Moreover, it’s essential to remember that even these groups of people are made up of unique opinions and distinct stories. These are individual humans, and each and every one of them deserves to be treated with honest compassion and true humanity. Thank you, Las Fronteras, for allowing me to experience this truth for myself.
-Mikayla, St. Chrysostom’s, Quincy and Brockton Covenant, Brockton