Thursday, November 24, 2011

Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, Sonora

On November 5, after our chilly ride to Douglas and a warm arrival from the Sisters Christine, Louise, Lucy and Judy, filled with long introductions and amazing vegetable stew, Sister Christine brought us on a little tour of Agua Prieta.

Similar to Naco, volunteers from Douglas and Agua Prieta had come together to serve the population of deportees being repatriated only to have Agua Prieta cease to be a deportation site.  The migrant resource center still remains, right next to the port of entry, and everyday volunteers still go there, but hardly anyone arrives.

Migrant Resouce Center in Agua Prieta, Sonora

Sister Christine trying to find pants for the men who stopped by

We stopped in to see the space and soon after three men were knocking at the door.  They were traveling north from Veracruz and were pleased to get a bite to eat, some new pants and a lively conversation.  We sat and chatted about the persecution of immigrants these days over bologna sandwiches and cookies.  One of the men explained to us: "Most of us are good people.  There are a few bad ones, criminals, and they are ruining it for us all."  This is something we have heard over and over again from migrants--they feel forced to explain their goodness, their lack of criminality. 

As we have historically done when in economic crisis, our country is using immigrants as scapegoats for our broken system, and I feel so bad when I hear migrants having to explain themselves, like they have done something bad, when in reality, they are practical slaves in our society!  Look in nearly every hotel, every restaurant, every field, every construction crew, and you will see how immigrants are the backbone of our economy and they are not only underpaid and underappreciated but they are persecuted at every turn!  One great lesson I have learned on this trip how important it is to express my gratitude to each and every undocumented worker for the backbreaking labor they do in our communities.

After chatting for well over an hour at the migrant center, we walked over to the shelter for migrants, which is operated in a similar way to the shelter we stayed at in Altar, Sonora.  It is part of a parish, this one right next to the church.


At the parish Casa del Migrante
 Because of the lack of deportees, the number of guests arriving at the shelter are very low, but they continue to keep their doors open for the one or two that straggle in each night.

It was inspiring to see how the commuinities of Agua Prieta and Douglas built up a network of resources for migrants, and while their numbers are currently low, they continue to be a presence because just as fast as they stopped deporting to Agua Prieta, they may start again and if they do, there will be kind faces to welcome them.

The next day, Eric and I accompanied Sister Judy, deacon Gabe and volunteer Fernando on a water drop in Naco, Sonora.  We traveled several miles both east and west of the town of Naco and assured that 10 55-gallon drums of water were filled for the migrants that chose that route to cross.  We sat in the back of the truck with the huge barrel of water and Fernando's dog, el Rey/King.  It was chilly, but the landscape was really beautiful (except for that tacky border wall thing).

Gabe, checking if the tank is low

These water tanks are on the Mexican side, because, due to the wall,
migrants are running out of water before they even make it across the line

El Rey, stealing Sister Judy's seat

Almost perfect

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