From October 1st to October 11th, 2016, World Student Christian Federation (WSCF)-North America held a solidarity trip to the Arizona border between the US and Mexico as a regional follow-up project on the Inter-Regional Leadership Training Program on Migrants, Refugees and Asylum seekers. The solidarity trip was organized in the framework of WSCF’s strategy of Transformative Ecumenical Diakonia and Overcoming Violence Program.
During the program, a delegation of ten young adults and students from across the United States were able to roam in the border and witness the cruelty of human-made efforts to keep off migrants coming from the Southern part of the Americas on the basis of “illegally” crossing the border.
The participants visited the site where a border patrol officer killed Jose’ Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a harmless 16-year-old Mexican boy. The agent has always claimed to have acted to defend himself from rocks being hurled at him, a very warped hypothesis given the 12-15 meters wall sitting on an already tall stone embankment rising off the street where Jose’ Antonio was standing. Likewise they joined a vigil and interfaith servicein front of the Eloy Detention center on the eve of the School of the Americas Convergence in Nogales.
The group was also able to witness the cruelty of a border enforcement program called Operation Streamline, a strategy set up in 2005 to fast track deportation practice consisting in a pre-agreed plea where migrants who are caught crossing the desert are arraigned and sentenced to “illegal entry into the United States”. In the Federal Court of Tucson 60-70 migrants appear in front of a judge in shackles and chains on any given day in a show reminiscent of slaves just off the boat where they plead guilty to entering the US. Many of these people are imprisoned in so-called detention centers where inmates are subjected to all kind of abuse, which often ends up in unexplained deaths or suicides.
At the end of the program, participants recommended that the Solidarity Border trip should become a WSCF signature program, as it challenge participants and changes young people’s lives. In the words of a participant: “Thank you for disturbing me”. “We all need to be disturbed to fully understand what is ethical in doing solidarity in deep and meaningful ways”. This program enabled participants to see that “thereis hope amidst suffering and that marginalized people continue to take charge of their narratives”. The program was in partnership with the American Waldensian Society and Borderlinks, a Tucson-based non-profit organization that receives delegations throughout the year for a full-immersion visits in the borderlands.
Originally published in the WSCF Federation News.