Agua Prieta: Anger and Hope

by Faith Garlington, accompanier in Agua Prieta, Sonora

“The line” refers to the space just to the east of the Port of Entry in Agua Prieta, where people are waiting for their numbers to be called from “the list” so that they can cross into the U.S. and present themselves to Customs and Border Protection to petition for asylum. The Migrant Resource Center (CRM or Centro de Recursos para Migrantes) is a building two blocks from the Port of Entry where travelers can use the bathroom, take showers, do laundry, and find respite from the heat. People have to wait “on the line” because of the current administration’s metering and delay policies.

“The line” — space just to the east of the Port of Entry in Agua Prieta, where people are waiting for their numbers to be called from “the list” so that they can cross into the U.S. and present themselves to Customs and Border Protection to petition for asylum.

Every morning, I wake up to my 5 a.m. alarm. I move through my daily meditation, spiritual practice and exercises. I finish with physical preparations, breakfast and a commute to the office. At home in San Jose, CA, my morning routine strongly resembles these rituals of my life here and now in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. I still talk to my family everyday, but I’m seeing them over video chat instead of sitting beside them or with my son in my lap. Sure, I’m sleeping in a different bed. My breakfast companion is an adult woman I met a few days ago in place of my six-year-old son who has been the most important person in my life since the day I learned I was pregnant. And the final piece of my morning routine is a 15-minute drive in a 1996 Saturn along an aggressive wall of 30-foot-high steel beams painted with beautiful, poignant murals rather than a five-minute walk through our quiet neighborhood with my son to take him to school.

The rest of the day couldn’t look more different. In San Jose, my days are a mix of working from home, visiting clients, connecting with friends and family, and the general tasks of managing life for myself and my family. Here and now, in Agua Prieta, the final piece of my morning responsibilities is accompanying families on foot from their place in the line leading up to the pedestrian entrance to the port of entry to cross north to the United States. My accompaniment partner and I go at 7 a.m., and people waiting haven’t had access to a bathroom since our last visit to the line at 5:30 p.m. the evening before. Hoping their turn to start the asylum process will come soon. A call from Border Patrol for an application. We accompaniers wear neon-colored vests as we all walk the block to the Migrant Resource Center. For the past few days, we’ve had a family on the line with four young girls, ages 3, 6, 8 and 9. The three eldest take turns holding my hand on each walk. It makes me miss my son, holding his hand as we walked the few times blocks to his school each morning.

The U.S. immigration process may turn out be treacherous for these brilliant, glowing kids, but their parents have judged it worth the risk. If their family’s asylum request is denied, as most cases are, and their parents decide the best option is to remain in the U.S. under threat of deportation and without documentation, that life would still be an improvement from the one they left. Back in Guerrero, Mexico, gangs kidnap 25-year-old women. They hold 3-year-old kids hostage to keep their mothers around. They threaten the men from their families who desperately try to get involved to protect and help them. Violence permeated that life.

We’re all doing the best we can with the options we can see in front of us. This poem expresses how I’m feeling today at my halfway point on the timeline of my accompaniment in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico.

Anger and hope
Fear and gratitude
Giving and receiving

When the little girls
Hold my hand
To cross Calle Internacional
Returning
To their temporary home
A makeshift tent
Between the sidewalk
And the wall

I offer
Safety
Security
They offer
Touch
Smiles
Gentle, genuine, innocent
We both
Give and receive

Who gives more?
Not even a question
For me
Balance
I receive
As much as I give
Balance
What I’m giving
May seem
On the surface
More
To have more value
But the gifts
I’m receiving
The kindness
The gratitude
Their good spirits
Through their struggles
A gift
I can never repay

Where is the anger?
I anticipated
Mine
Theirs
Absent
Only love
And patience
Hope
Acceptance
That this current path
Will lead
To a better life
Open
To however it looks

Family
Welcomes them
On the other side
The next bend
On the path