What’s going on at the border?
We all seem to be getting a different story, be it from Fox News or CNN.
We see images of weary families, walls, barbed wire, border patrol agents, gangs and tear gas on our Facebook feeds or our flat screens — we can’t get away from it, and the visceral impact of these images makes it overwhelming to sort out the fiction from the facts. It may tempt us to put our head in the sand.
Yet this question recently became important enough to close down our government, signaling that it is worthy of our time to wrestle with the truth of the matter.
This question — “What’s going on?” — led me and my two friends, Bri Workcuff and the Rev. Jennifer Wilder, to travel to the San Diego/Tijuana border a few weeks back.
During our brief stay, we heard the firsthand accounts of asylum seekers who had traveled to our country’s borders to escape violent, life-threatening situations.
Carrying little more than the American dream, these individuals and families were faced with the difficult decision to leave their countries of origins, all that they knew and loved, not just to find a better life for themselves, but many times in order to survive at all.
We learned that once they had made the arduous trip to Tijuana, Mexico, they must wait to enter the United States.
Thousands of individuals are living in limbo due to a makeshift numbering system that allows up to 25 people to present themselves for asylum, though less are often called to cross.
This system is against federal and international laws which makes provisions for asylum seekers to present themselves at any port of entry.
Every morning, asylum seekers gather at a plaza in Tijuana to await their numbers. Some have been gathering each morning for months to ensure that they do not miss their opportunity to cross.
Once their numbers are called, they are loaded on a van, with black metal grating on the sides of the windows, and escorted to the border where they face detention. It is not a crime to seek asylum; however, currently the protocols used for those seeking asylum, mirror the protocols that are reserved for criminals both in terminology and in practices.
On our trip, we also had a chance to work with volunteers in San Diego who were providing aid for those who have been recently released from detention.
The night that we volunteered at the shelter approximately 100 asylum seekers came through the doors and received hospitality, medical care that was neglected in detention, and aid in making arrangements to meet with their sponsors. We were told that it is quite usual to have 100 or so a night in need of a place to stay after being dropped off by ICE agents post detention.
So what did we learn?
We learned that our system is indeed broken. And yet, much like our foremothers and forefathers who migrated to America, immigrants fleeing persecution are daring to believe that the American dream still has something to offer.
I hope the dream they are entrusting their lives to exists.
I hope we can be curious enough to learn more about the border, even if it means we let go of our personally held basis for the sake of truth, freedom and justice for those in harm’s way.
If you are interested in learning more about the border or possible ways that you and fellow Marylanders can respond to this humanitarian crisis, let’s learn together firstname.lastname@example.org.