At CAME (Centro de Atención al Migrante Exodus) in Agua Prieta, Sonora, there are 160 people sleeping in a shelter with a 44 person capacity. The shelter is full to overflowing, but staff and volunteers remain committed to finding ways to extend hospitality to the migrants who knock at their door. Rather than seeing this generosity as a blessing, organized crime in Agua Prieta has begun to see CAME as a threat. Each person sleeping at CAME represents lost income (through extortion) to the cartel.
The increasing numbers of people needing shelter at CAME is due in part to shifting flows of migration and primarily because US policies are forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico (sometimes a month or more) before making their petition of asylum at the port of entry. By protecting migrants from extortion, staff and volunteers have become subject to intimidation and threats — and have asked PPF for support.
The local cartel, used to extorting money from asylum seekers waiting at the border, have begun to ask if CAME is a competitor and potential threat. The volunteers at CAME have been observed and photographed by members of a local cartel. In the last three months, the intimidation has increased exponentially, to the point of indirect threats of violence. The community in Agua Prieta, discussing how to support CAME as they continue to hold space for migrants, requested international accompaniment from PPF. This past Saturday, the first pair of volunteer accompaniers from PPF arrived in Agua Prieta.
Volunteers at CAME, and members of the network of faith-based and humanitarian aid organizations that support CAME, believe that the visible presence of accompaniers from the U.S. will serve as a protection from and deterrent to the cartel. Accompaniment also offers encouragement and support for everyone in Agua Prieta who is living with escalated intimidation. Although our safety in the world as seekers of justice is never guaranteed, accompaniment works because US citizens are at a low risk of violence in this situation.
Responding to this request for accompaniment, PPF joins a strong community of support for migrants and human rights in Agua Prieta. Partners there include PC(USA) mission co-worker Mark Adams, bi-national ministry Frontera de Cristo, Christian Peacemaker Teams reservists, Mennonite Central Committee, Sisters of Notre Dame, and others. We are glad to join this network in the specific role of offering international accompaniment, learning from local experts and serving together in community.
PPF has called upon people who have already trained as accompaniers through the Colombia Accompaniment Program to serve in Agua Prieta through the end of July. If the community in Agua Prieta discerns that accompaniment has been useful and is still needed after the end of July, we hope to hold border-specific trainings and will seek more volunteers to serve as accompaniers there.
As this work begins, we ask for your prayers for the volunteers and migrants in Agua Prieta, for PPF accompaniers, and for all who leave their homes to seek safety, security, and stability for themselves and their families. We also hope that you will follow along with regular accompanier reports which will be posted our on website and shared through PPF’s e-news.
If you feel called to support this work with your financial resources, gifts of all sizes are appreciated and will be put to direct use. We will share more in the future about specific needs and will be put to direct use to cover accompaniers expenses like travel, food, and a local cell phone. Please click here to give to support Border Accompaniment in Agua Prieta.
Every Wednesday morning, Frontera de Cristo holds a bilingual, binational community Bible study. Community members gather in the upper room of a local coffee shop and share songs, prayers, and reflections. Sharing alternates between someone from north of the border wall and someone from the south, with each person inviting the next into reflection.
Last week, a friend from south of the wall highlighted something important in the story of the bleeding woman: though the woman was “trembling with fear,” she was valiant enough to approach Jesus and confess that she had touched his robe. “We are called to have courage too,” she said, “even when we risk much.”
The community in Agua Prieta is risking much to live out the abundant welcome of the Gospel. They are inviting us to share in this work, to accompany them as they continue in prayer and action – to seek justice and healing together.
Thank you for your prayers and support as we answer this call for accompaniment together.
PPF Accompaniment Coordinator
In addition to working with partners in Agua Prieta and Douglas, AZ, we are in conversation with other trusted partner organizations and with World Mission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) about ways the church can work together to support the community in Agua Prieta and meet their request for accompaniment.