Who is being kept in and who is being kept out?

We started our Monday morning early. Sarah, our Border Service Corps leader for the day, drove us to Kelly Memorial Food Pantry. This particular non-profit organization provides supplemental food to families and individuals whose income does not go far enough to buy all the groceries they need to feed their families or themselves. The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry serves approximately 12,000 families that are El Paso residents. This number does not include each member of every family. Proof of citizenship is not required, but a set criteria is used to distinguish the needs of each individual that is seeking help. We specifically helped shelve various food products, prepare food to be distributed, dispensed food boxes to residents, and obtained a better understanding of how the food pantry functioned. The profound impact that these volunteers are making on the community was evident based on their increase in numbers and the simple “muchas gracias” from the El Paso residents. The truly appreciated the help they were receiving through this generous organization.

Later in the day we had the opportunity to visit the border and speak with Mexican citizen Berta and Estella through the fence. They both started working with a mission that was initiated by a man connected to a church in Kansas City. More specifically, their mission helps with the building up of schools in the neighborhood of Anapra in the city of Jaurez, Mexico. They also built a library that has stimulated community member’s desire to read and further educate themselves.

Estella’s was raised in the Unites States as a child with her aunt and uncle and was brought back to Mexico to be with her mom where she has remained since. Her children worked with her through their childhood and now work with the mission too. What I found to be the most moving during our day was listening to Estella talk about her family. She spoke of how grateful they were that God had blessed them with another day and kept their family safe, especially when times were hard. She also shared that during difficult times, her family made it their mission to share necessities/scarce items such as water.

Estella’s dream that one day the United States would agree to/support reformed immigration. She believes because our government does have a desire to help the people of our country in comparison to the Mexican government that cares more about the money in their pocket. There has been trouble in regards to the war on drugs, fighting for higher power. Fifty or more people were killed daily within the city, either on purpose or on accident. This was where the schools and factory jobs.  Estella’s family prayed daily and their safety, and they thanked God for all they had/each day they survived. Estella also frequently uses her crossing card. It just allows Mexicans into the downtown city area across from a port of entry for a short period of time. They require multiple forms of verification to cross and must be able to tell the border patrol where they are going and why, essentially. Both women found the physical border to be silly… They questioned who is being kept in and who is being kept out?

After visiting the fence our group then went to a place called Las Americas. We spoke with a woman named Claire who informed us of the services their organization provides. Las Americas is a 25-year-old, home grown non-profit dedicated to serving the legal needs of low income immigrants, including refugees, asylum seeker, and domestic violence survivors. The lawyers and staff are committed to providing high quality legal representation to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it. Las Americas believes that the American Dream should not be for sale but should be accessible to all deserving people, regardless of their countries of origin or their financial situation. It was an insightful presentation and conversation. We concluded the evening at a dinner with the border servant core volunteers from Las Cruces and El Paso.