Agua Prieta: “What we should be doing”

by Tricia Lloyd-Sidle & Barbara Clawson – Agua Prieta, Sonora.

This report mentions activity of the Mexican National Guard at CAME, our partners in Agua Prieta. Read a communique from CAME and other Immigrant Human Rights Centers about this incident here in English and en Español. Thanks to Stephanie Quintana, member of our Border Accompaniment Program Consejo, for the English translation.

On June 23, a military convoy arrived at CAME (Centro de Atención al Migrante Exodus) in Agua Prieta. Officers wore the insignia of the Mexican National Guard, an entity formed in March of this year consisting of military and police officers. They demanded entry into the migrant shelter. There was a standoff in front of the facility for nearly two hours, during which the National Guard interrogated CAME leaders about its purpose, funding and the identity of the persons inside. Finally, they left without explaining why they had come. 

Accompaniers Barbara Clawson and Phyllis Stutzman arrived in the midst of this encounter. They went inside and waited along with the 80 asylum-seekers currently living in CAME. The children had been sent into the dining hall to watch a movie. Silence had replaced the usual hub-bub in the courtyard and the tension was palpable. They kept asking themselves: “Should we be doing something?”

The questions of “what we should be doing” crops up daily. We remind ourselves that our ministry is one of presence. When in Colombia as accompaniers, we were frequently told that our job was “to see and be seen.”

There is no way to measure the impact of seeing and being seen. There is certainly no way to know if the presence of two US women made any difference in the actions/non-actions of the National Guard. But we do know that those who live and work at CAME are exceedingly grateful for our presence as accompaniers.

This experience has deeply personalized the immigration issue for us. Gifts we have received from the migrants include examples of the courage it takes to do what you think is best for your family, the ability to keep moving forward in spite of great uncertainty, gratitude for help received and the ability to smile and laugh in the midst of all of this. In return, we ask you to join us in prayer for these migrants.

Cuba: a young couple who first went to an island off the South American coast, then to Argentina where he worked to earn money to fly to Mexico City and take the bus to Agua Prieta. Always ready to help with tasks at the Center and when thanked said, “I like to do it because it makes me feel productive.”

Russia: Two men in their 30’s who met at CAME, did not speak English or Spanish, but who used a translation app in order to communicate with various members of the group and to enable others to communicate with each other. One of the men always greeted us with a smile and positive spirit that permeated the group.

A man who had many ideas to express in English and his wife who is a stylist, professional cook and seamstress with a 2-year old who was teething. His love for his daughter was apparent as he held and comforted her.

Honduras: a quiet young mother traveling with a baby and small child, who, unlike most of the others, did not have a cell phone.

Guerrero, Mexico: A mother traveling with a boy with a mischievous smile and a girl who delighted in being asked to unlock the padlock at the gate and the door to the Center

A farmer, his wife and 3 well-behaved, alert, curious children who were 3, 6, and 9 who have relatives in GA and AL. He commented on how dangerous their area of the country was, which is what we have been told. Both parents were eager to help with tasks at the Center and grateful for our presence.

A young couple with a 2-month old infant and a toddler who, like the others, took a bus to a city along the border and then a taxi or Uber to AP because of the danger of being caught at the bus station by the mafia and charged exorbitant fees to leave.

An indigenous couple who speak Mixtec (and a little Spanish) with a young child.

Cuernavaca, Mexico: A young couple with a toddler and a mother with an elementary age boy traveling together

Venezuela: A couple with two children who left Argentina after a five-year doctoral study program arranged through the two governments and could not return to Venezuela.