To Arizona we go...

Trip Start Aug 15, 2012
Trip End Aug 15, 2013

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Flag of Mexico  , Morelos,
Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tomorrow I, along with the other Mexico YAGMS, will be heading to Arizona for our border retreat. On this retreat we will be working with many organizations that deal with immigration. Below are the organizations that we will be working with as well as descriptions that my country coordinator, Andrea, wrote.

Frontera de Cristo is a Presbyterian border ministry located in the sister cities of Agua Prieta, Sonora and Douglas, Arizona.  Frontera de Cristo seeks to put flesh on the good news of Jesus Christ through six areas of ministry: Church Development, Health Ministry, Family Ministry, the New Hope Community Center, Mission Education and the Just Trade Center.

The Douglas Station of the U.S. Border Patrol is one of eight stations in the Tucson Sector that ensures the successful implementation of the service's Southwest Border Strategy. The Douglas Station's area of responsibility (AOR) covers 40.5 linear miles of the International Border with Mexico and includes over 1450 square miles of mountainous terrain, with a few small valleys to the north of the International Border.

DouglaPrieta Works promotes sustainable economic development and self-sufficiency models for individuals and families living in the poor neighborhoods of Aqua Prieta, Sonora.  DouglaPrieta Works (DPW) is the only organization of it’s kind in the Arizona borderlands that cultivates an ethic of mutual aid among community members and offers practical solutions to reduce dependency on weak job markets, government assistance programs, charity, and border crossing.  DPW is an IRS-designated 501c3 nonprofit organization headquartered in Douglas, Arizona.  Its Mexican partner DouglaPrieta Trabajan (DPT) began in 2003 as a grassroots self-help project in Agua Prieta, Sonora, just across the border.

The Migrant Resource Center is a partnership of many different people and organizations working together toward the common goal of helping migrants. Migrants, especially those who have been recently deported, have many basic humanitarian needs - a fresh pair of socks, a burrito, and some basic medical attention for dehydration and blisters goes a long way.  The Center helps to inform migrants about their options, including reduced price bus tickets to return to their place of origin.  Another important part of the Center's work is abuse documentation, which they use to better understand the situation migrants face and, in some cases, to help victims of crimes pursue legal options.

The first Café Justo (formerly Just Coffee) cooperative was formed in 2002 by members of the Lily of the Valley Church in Agua Prieta. Their first pound of coffee was roasted, ground, packaged, and sold to market that year. They have since teamed with cooperatives across Mexico eager to pursue a new model, not just for growing coffee, but for roasting, marketing, and selling the beans as well. Doing so has revitalized rural communities and has kept families together. They have been joined by partner congregations across the United States who are striving to make a positive impact on both sides of the border.

El Centro de Atención al Migrante "Exodus" (C.A.M.E.) is a hospitality center for migrants, staffed by volunteers and located at La Sagrada Familia church in Agua Prieta, Sonora.  It was founded in 2002 as a collaborate project of the parish, the Archdiocese of Hermosillo, and Catholic Relief Services to address the needs of the vulnerable poor who cross the border to seek a better life in the U.S., or who are being deported back to Mexico.  Many migrants arrive after spending several days in the Sonora desert without food, water, a place to stay, or other resources.  C.A.M.E. provides the following services to migrants, free of charge:  Registration of migrants and assistance to families in locating family members; meals, clothing and shoes, personal hygiene items, and a place in the dormitory; information about migrants’ rights and other institutions and resources; warnings about the dangers migrants will face in the desert; bus vouchers for those migrants who wish to return back home; medical care and spiritual support.

Agua Para La Vida (Water for Life) was formed in 2002 by residents on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, as participants began to leave bottled water (first liters, then gallons) along popular migrant trails on the U.S. side.  About 60% of these bottles were slashed and left along the trains, presumably by vigilante groups.  In 2004, in response to the increasing number of migrant deaths from dehydration in Cochise County, the group discussed placing 55-gallon water barrels along the trails.  Because of concern about vandalism and poisoning, however, the group decided to place the tanks in Mexico, just south of the border.  In 2005 alone, more than 50,000 gallons of water were provided from more than 30 water barrels.  These tanks are paid for and maintained by a number of organizations on both sides of the border, including CRREDA, a Mexican drug and rehab organization with centers across the country, including one in Agua Prieta.

School Sisters of Notre Dame  is a worldwide religious institute of Roman Catholic nuns devoted to primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. Their life in mission centers on prayer, community life and ministry. The sisters uphold their congregation's founding vision that education has the power to transform the world, and they do so in a variety of ways, serving as teachers, administrators, lawyers, accountants, nurses, therapists, social workers, pastoral ministers, social justice advocates and much more.  Several of the sisters living in Douglas, AZ work with the Wings of Angels Foundation, providing assistance to countless people in the border town of Agua Prieta, Sonora.    
Healing our Borders is an interfaith group based in Douglas, Arizona.  They organized in December of 2000 in response to the growing number of migrant deaths in Cochise County, which has become the most popular entry point for undocumented migrants along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.  Healing Our Borders has four main areas of focus: organizing a weekly prayer vigil, education, humanitarian aid, and advocating for legislative change.  The weekly prayer vigil takes place every Tuesday evening along the Pan American Highway in Douglas, Arizona.  Participants gather to remember and pray for those who have died crossing the border through Cochise County.

In 1988, BorderLinks began providing educational seminars at the U.S./Mexico border. These first trips focused on educating church groups across the United States on the conflicts taking place in war-torn Central American countries at the time and on the difficulties encountered by Central Americans fleeing persecution across the U.S./Mexico border.  By the early 1990s, their mission had broadened as they developed deeper relationships in Mexican border communities and directed their attention to helping participants understand the implications of the global economy for residents of communities at risk along the U.S./Mexico border.  By experiencing first-hand life in communities like Nogales, Sonora, their participants have been able to wrestle with the complexity of life on the border.  In meeting with workers and newly arrived migrants, government and immigration enforcement officials on both sides of the border, and business people in the maquiladora sector, participants are challenged to re-examine their own assumptions and beliefs.

Southside Presbyterian Church started as a mission to Native Americans. In the 1980s, the congregation became one of the key churches to reach out to help refugees fleeing terror in their Central American countries, specifically El Salvador and Guatemala, where U.S. policy under Ronald Reagan was supporting the repressive governments. The Sanctuary Movement was born out of this work.  Southside’s former pastor, the Rev. John Fife, along with several others, was convicted in 1986 on felony charges of aiding the illegal entrance of migrants into the U.S. 

No More Deaths is an organization whose mission is to end death and suffering on the U.S./Mexico border through civil initiative: the conviction that people of conscience must work openly and in community to uphold fundamental human rights.  The goals of No More Deaths, founded in 2004, are to provide water, food, and medical assistance to migrants walking through the Arizona desert; to monitor US operations on the border and work to change US policy to resolve the "war zone" crisis on the border; and to bring the plight of migrants to public attention. These goals are implemented by recruiting aid programs as well as supporting already-existing ones, by interfaith, humanitarian, peaceful, solidarity-building events, and by establishing camps for assistance, outreach and border monitoring. Under the No More Deaths umbrella, participating groups—staffed by volunteers--abide by clear medical and legal protocols and worked in concert to save human lives.  Gene LeFebvre is an active member of No More Deaths in Tucson.  He’s a retired minister, and was very involved in the founding of the Sanctuary Movement, along with the Revs. John Fife and Ken Kennon.  

The Restoration Project is an intentional community, based in Tucson and housed in Casa Mariposa, that models just relationships by sharing resources, living simply, standing in solidarity with those being oppressed, living in harmony with the earth, and being dedicated to peaceful, non-violent resistance.  Their vision of how community, hospitality, spirituality, and social justice meet is unique, and is demonstrated in the work that they do with the Greyhound Project and by hosting people recently released from ICE detention, for whom they provide phone calls, food, support, and a place to sleep.  They also have community meals every Wednesday evening with a Quaker worship time prior to the meal.  

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the second largest investigative agency in the federal government. Created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service(INS), ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries. While Border Patrol operates only in the border regions of the U.S., ICE’s jurisdiction covers the interior of the U.S.  ICE is widely known for its raids on workplaces, as well as arrests of drug- and human-traffickers.  

In preparation for this retreat we discussed The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea and looked at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's message on immigration (you can find it here in Spanish). As a group we watched and reflected on two movies The Wall & The Desert and Maquilapolis. Even though we did all this prep work I am still confused about the issue of immigration. But, this is what has me excited for the retreat! I am hopeful that it will provide me with some more information and allow me the space to reflect on the border and walls.

I ask for your prayers for myself and all of the other Mexico YAGMS Aaron, Alicia, Casey, Catie, Kristen, Meghan, and Sarah as we journey to Arizona and learn more about this important issue. May we stay healthy and have open minds to learn and grow.

If you would like to read about last year's retreat I invite you to check out Kyle Thorson's blog post. Kyle and I went to college at the University of North Dakota together and he recently came to Cuernavaca for a visit. You can also check back soon for an update and reflection from me!

In peace,
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