A few weeks ago, my housemates and I piled into our green Honda Odyssey (nicknames include: the swagger wagon, el Diablo verde, and OBD [old broken doors]) and drove south to take part in a border delegation through Border Links in Tucson, AZ, Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, MX.
If you’re as big of Presby-geek as I am, you probably heard that Donald Trump claimed to be a member of the Presbyterian church, and that Stated Clerk of the PC(USA), Gradye Parsons responded with a letter stating what the Presbyterian church actually believes about immigrants (spoiler: Presbyterians disagree with the Donald) With our border delegation trip, I got to see these beliefs being put into action by amazing people.
You see, if Donald Trump knew that Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ and Rev. Alison Harrington offered Sanctuary to migrants at risk of deportation, most recently, Rosa Robles Loreto for over 15 months, he would not be calling himself a Presbyterian.
If Donald Trump knew that Frontera de Cristo, a Presybterian border ministry, exists in Douglas, AZ and holds a prayer vigil every week for those who die in the desert surrounding Douglas every week, he would not call himself a Presbyterian.
If Donald Trump knew that Frontera de Cristo, through its different partnerships led us to:
C.R.R.E.D.A., a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Agua Prieta whose residents help deliver water to the desert for migrants on their journey. We got to walk in the desert with them one day, and that combined with our knowledge of how cold it was getting at night, let us see the brutal conditions migrants face as they make their way to the border.
C.A.M.E., a migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, offering shelter to men, women, and families on their journey. We shared a meal with some of the migrants who were staying at C.A.M.E. while we were in Agua Prieta. The man I sat next to had been deported from Canada where he had lived with his wife, children and grandchildren for the past 27 years! That’s a whole lifetime! He also explained so many of the people getting deported back to Mexico and other places have lived in the US for so long that they no longer have family in Mexico so they have to stay at shelters like C.A.M.E.
Cafe Justo, a grower owned coffee cooperative that was created in response to NAFTA. Before NAFTA, coffee growers were able to earn a livable wage from their product but after, many coffee growers joined the hoards of migrants going North to work in US-owned factories in Mexico as well as other jobs in the United States. Café Justo allows families to stay on their farms.
If Donald Trump knew about any of this, as well as the other places we went where Presbyterians have left a mark, he would not be calling himself a Presbyterian. But I am proud to call myself a Presbyterian. And I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet so many people who are serving migrants on the border both directly and indirectly, and I am so grateful for this amazing, educational opportunity.
I hope that as debates continue in relation to our borders when it comes to undocumented migrants or refugees, we can have a spirit as welcoming and hospitable as I witnessed on the Arizona-Mexico border.