Editor’s note: This piece was originally published Nov. 5 on the author’s blog.
Caravana. Migrante. Apoyo. Necesitamos ayudar.
Caravan. Migrant. Support. We need help.
Over the last month, I’ve heard these words like a drumbeat, steadily increasing in volume as the migrant caravan gets closer to Mexico City. And, despite the city’s government telling migrants they could not pass through while its water service was being cut, many have arrived.
Many of them are sleeping without much shelter in the cold November drizzle in a deportiva, or concrete field. The shelters in the city cannot hold thousands of people—Casa Tochan, the migrant shelter where I serve as an ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) volunteer, only has 24 beds—and those who are with the caravan mostly want to stay together.
The water in Mexico City has largely been cut off citywide for repairs since Halloween and may not come back on for the entire city until this week—23 million people with completely cut off or lessened water for eight days. I find living without water difficult, yet I have it far better than those without access to working restrooms and showers after traveling for weeks.
Although not as cold as the Midwest (where I moved from), the altitude here guarantees frigid nights and mornings, and the days without sun crawl under your clothes with a cold dampness you cannot completely shake, even in comfortable homes with jackets and blankets. The caravan still has a long way to go until it reaches the Mexican-American border. Their shoes are already wearing thin; they need extra clothing for the plunging temperatures; and they need food, water, medicine and shelter.
In Mexico City, networks of shelters, migration nongovernmental organizations (NGO), human rights nonprofits and more are banding together to get donations where they need to go, inform migrants of their rights, and help inform volunteers and lawyers here and in the U.S. of the asylum process. We are doing our best as a city, but there’s still so much left to go.
In a month or more, the caravan will reach the border, only to be faced with thousands of armed American soldiers, border patrol, police and more with orders to treat any attempt at provocation—including throwing rocks—as enemy fire. (I know my YAGM siblings in Palestine understand the implications of turning rocks into guns.) They will reach a country that thinks them illegal, that wants to strip them of citizenship, that wants to deport them back to the countries they walked thousands of miles from to find safety. Undoubtedly, people will be hurt. Some may be killed. Most will be denied asylum based on the trends of the past two years for Central American asylees.
It’s hard to find God in all of this. I have wrestled with this every day since hearing about the caravan’s departure and the subsequent promises from the U.S. president, from civilians in both the U.S. and Mexico, from those who think denying these peoples’ legal rights to seek asylum is somehow upholding democracy and order.
Of course, God is among the caravan as it crosses through dangerous territory on a dangerous mission from dangerous countries.
Of course, God is among the caravan as it crosses through dangerous territory on a dangerous mission from dangerous countries. God is with the mother who wearily hoists her child, crying and tired from walking, onto her other hip as she follows the crowd, knowing that any physical exhaustion now far outweighs the risk of her child never growing up back home.
God is lifting an aging man off his feet as he departs for the morning, trying not to dwell on the fact that he thought he would grow old in the same place he was born, the same place where his forefathers and mothers were laid to rest. God is with them as they cross rivers, tear down fences and march forward. God is with the relief workers, the humanitarians, the NGO officers, the strangers that band together to protect and help those traveling through their towns. God is with the activists in the U.S. and around the world demanding that the administration retract the troops and allow the migrants through.
But where is the righteous justice? Where is the fire and brimstone, the border being wrested open by an invisible force like the Red Sea, and a booming voice from the heavens declaring, “Let my people in”? Will the world watch as migrants are fired upon, turned back from the border and deported?
I often feel entirely helpless down here, which is ironic, as I wanted to go to Mexico in order to do something about migration. Now, on the other side of the border, I feel helpless against the power of our own xenophobic government. I cannot protect thousands of people from bullets, intimidation and deportation all the way in Mexico City. I want to stay positive, but a happy ending doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
When Jesus and his parents fled to Egypt, there was no border guard demanding that they return because their fear wasn’t credible, or that they weren’t worth it because they were likely criminals. These are God’s people. We must let them in.
Pray for them. Pray for the shelters that house them, those who support them, those who worry about them at home and abroad.
Support them. Love them as yourself.
This is your second commandment.