The Borders (Las fronteras)

My apologies for skipping an entry last week. Here is another piece that I wrote after my spring break trip to the US/Mexico border. By the time I write next week I will be in Nogales.

Before this spring break, I had never been to the border. I had an idea built up in my imagination of the walls, the concrete, and perhaps some chain link fence. But I wanted to see the border itself because I thought it was critical to better understand immigration.

What I found was not one border but many. I grew to understand the border between north and south Tucson – a border marked by fear and misunderstanding, where some rich donors will give money to a Cristo Rey school but do not have the courage to voyage to South Tucson. I felt a border in the Florence Detention Center as I stood with other Georgetown students along the wall, watching detainees file past. The border that forbade us from saying a word or extending compassion beyond what I hope was a welcoming smile. I discovered a border in the courtroom, between the immigrants standing trial for illegal entry on one side and the observers on the other.

I used to think that there were such things as impenetrable barriers. Language, for example. How can speaker of two different languages ever possibly understand each other? But as I switch between Spanish, English, and Spanglish over the course of the week, day, and hour the barrier doesn’t seem quite as set. Are there any truly permanent barriers?

What surprised me most when it finally came time to cross the border fence is how deceptively easy it is for me and my US passport to go back and forth. The immensity of the wall is nothing compared to my rectangular passport book. It was almost easy enough to make me forget how hard the border is to cross without that piece of paper.

Because the reality is that I can cross the border. We can cross the border. We can reach out not just across the physical fence but also beyond the invisible line drawn in the city or the shame and fear that prevent eye contact. I pray that I might see beyond borders and barriers to understand a God who has already broken down the dividing wall of hostility. A God who empowers us to face the world with the knowledge that every tongue and tribe and nation can belong to His kingdom.

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