Border Stories: Opening the Door to the Kingdom God Wants
There was a tap-tap-tap on my office door. Two Mexican mothers looked at me through the glass door. They asked with a gesture if they could have a minute of my time. It was one of those days where nothing was going the way I had planned.
The list of items I had thoroughly written out for my morning kept getting interrupted by people who had questions or wanted to speak with me. I had actually considered working from home to make more progress, but our internet at home wasn’t working. So, there I was, in an office with glass walls. There I was vulnerable to whoever might walk by, spot me and invade my precious “thinking time.” I sighed audibly.
I did not recognize the women, but when I opened the door, they greeted me with familiarity. They quickly explained that they were the wife and sister of Armando, a migrant leader with The Revolutionaries. This was a group of women and men who decided to organize a big march last fall when the U.S. government closed a temporary process for families seeking protection to enter the U.S. and access asylum. (Read more about increasing obstacles to seeking protection at the U.S.-Mexico border, like Title 42, here, or watch this video for my interpretation of how these obstacles have unfolded over the last few years.)
Once I connected the dots, I was thrilled that I had opened the door to these women. They shared that they had struggled with the discrimination they experienced as migrants in Nogales, Mexico. So they had moved with their families to a mining town nearby where their husbands could find work while they continued to wait to access protection in the U.S. One of the women commented, “The rest of the Revolutionaries are all in the U.S. now, right?” I cringed.
Yes, most of their colleagues, the families who had marched in the rain with them, who had approached the border and been rejected with them, who had held daily and weekly vigils to express their need for protection in the U.S. alongside these two women, had been paroled into the U.S. during an exceptions process in the spring. All while these two families were hiding out in another town for their safety. I waited for one of the women to say that it wasn’t fair. That we should have let them know about the possibility of crossing into the U.S. when it came along. But to my surprise, they were both smiling.
‘It was worth it’
“¿Así que valió la pena?” one of them beamed. “So, it was worth it?” I didn’t respond right away in part because I was confused. Why weren’t they upset? She continued, “All the marches, the vigils, all our work made a difference?” I got chills. Yes, I responded. It was worth it. Your friends and co-laborers for justice were admitted to the U.S. in part because of all the work you did together to raise your voices.”
Before we parted ways, they asked about how they could get involved again in the work to restore asylum now that they were back in Nogales. I shared about The Revolutionaries’ next meeting. And they were excited to attend and continue what they had started.
This coming week in the Catholic Church, we celebrate National Migration Week. The theme is “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees.” Pope Francis elaborates on this theme. “The Kingdom of God is to be built with (migrants), for without them it would not be the Kingdom that God wants.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. At least once a week, I have an interaction with someone who has migrated that grips my heart in a way that says, “No — you’re not listening. This is the Kingdom that God wants.”
My encounter with these radiant, wise Mexican women was one such moment. In a world where many are driven by competition and a “me first” attitude, these women offered a holy alternative. They had every right to wallow in disappointment or resentment. Yet they chose instead to celebrate the fact that their companions had reached safety.
Families in migration have shown me the Kingdom that God wants over and over: Through surprise birthday parties, the way moms care for each other’s children, their joy in sharing foods and traditions from their hometowns and their willingness to speak vulnerably about why they are here. I believe deeply that our decisions not to welcome people from other places impoverish us. I had seen how my own life is impoverished when I do not welcome others.
This National Migration Week, may we imagine the Kingdom we can build together with our neighbors who have migrated and may we celebrate the richness of such a Kingdom. This is the Kingdom that God wants.
Ways to Take Action
Watch and share one of the following videos:
- A Honduran Father’s Story: “That’s what it’s about – saving your loved ones, however you can.”
- Title 42: Policy Context – Obstacles to Welcome, or
- Faith & Community Leaders: How to #WelcomeLikeJesus.
Try to organize a public or small group prayer in support of migrants.
Read Voices of the Border or another book that focuses on getting to know why people migrate and how our U.S. immigration systems are set up to exclude rather than welcome.
Do you want to make a difference in the world like Sister Tracey? Learn more about becoming a Sister of Providence here!