Curiosity lead us to the border where El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico meet. Sometimes we must silence our predetermined stance in order to experience the narrative firsthand. Curiosity allows us to fully enter in. Entering in generates personal connection and its that connection to one another that so often changes everything.
“ The world may be in a culture war. Our churches may be divided and our family members may not be talking to one another. We need a new imagination of fighting fear with love. We must refuse to enter into the terms set for us and instead seek connection.” Dan White Jr.
In mid May we landed in El Paso and headed to our host, Ciudad Nueva. This organization has been embedded in the central El Paso Rio Grande neighborhood for 15 plus years. Ciudad Nueva connects to at risk youth providing mentoring, financial and job readiness, education initiatives and summer camps They are equipping youth and families while partnering with businesses and churches for numerous outreach efforts.
In order to respond to the growing flight of Central Americans from the northern triangle of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the El Paso Initiative was created as an arm of Ciudad Nueva. El Paso Initiative has partnered with the Annunciation House to coordinate relief efforts such as shelter, meals, basic medical/hygiene supplies while those who have been legally allowed in are beginning their wait for asylum. This is where we spent our time listening and learning; donating time, goods and finances. I would highly encourage you to take a look at the inspiring work this coalition of churches, hotels and community leaders has been doing for some time. They are literally the hands and feet within a situation that many days feels impossible to resolve.
We spent time with immigration specialists and attorneys and those who have traveled the immigration corridors through Honduras and Guatemala several years ago. Our first question was focused on asylum and the current situation of those legally migrating to a border port of entry and presenting themselves to request asylum. This conversation lead to us better understanding how our nation is legally bound to establish credible fear. The credible fear screening must be conducted by a highly trained Asylum Officer, however the recent serge in numbers has forced Customs and Border Patrol agents (CBP) into roles they simply are not trained in. This is highly problematic. Agents are very overworked and mentally exhausted, having faced months of record numbers of migrants presenting themselves at the border. They are ill equipped to make such determinations in the moment and frankly they are being pulled from doing their expected job of monitoring the border wall.
We interviewed a Border Patrol agent who shared that most feel they have become pawns in a broken system where they cannot effectively patrol and protect the border because they are being called to the numerous ports of entry to hear initial family pleas. This published nearly two months ago, explains some of the extreme situations facing Border Patrol. “It’s the changing demographics that US officials and agencies are struggling with. Fifteen years ago, the typical migrant apprehended at the southern border was a single male from Mexico who was then quickly returned to Mexico. Today, families and children make up the majority of apprehensions and asylum presentations. I don’t get extra personnel, given to me for the humanitarian mission, nor do I get extra personnel for the actual rescue operations, so all of those things are very taxing,” Karisch continued.
With so much more to share as the debate and details are changing daily, please continue to seek out information beyond basic sound bites. While the political debate rages on and gridlock feels inevitable there are lives at stake. We can move beyond the politcal clammoring toward action and connection to others willing to designate their time, talent and treasure. We can spread the message of compassion and we can call members of Congress to push them toward solutions. More on that soon.
Thank you to the many who have supported our efforts so far. We were able to generously support three outstanding efforts at the El Paso border, El Paso Initiative, Annunciation House and Iglesia De Dios El Elyion. If you wish to be a part of our ongoing Begin With One initiative please click here.