Marylou Rodriguez’ Experience of ‘Bold Border Action’.
As a native of the Philippines, and an American citizen, Marylou Rodriguez was curious about the situation of migrants and immigrants at the US/Mexico Border.
Responding to the invitation from the Interfaith Coalition to join a group headed for the Laredo/Mexico Border, in what they labeled ‘Bold, Border Action’, Marylou found herself in the midst of a variety of volunteer activists and advocates whose aim was to focus attention on the migrant/refugee situation at hand.
“It was not my first Border visit,” recalled Marylou, “I visited the San Diego Border at Tijuana six years ago. At that time, the situation there was problem- free; people came and went, back and forth across the border in a peaceful manner, so I was wondering what the situation was like at other border crossings.”
Speaking of the Laredo gathering at the Border, Marylou shared that the Interfaith Coalition initiated the event with a communal Prayer Service. Indian Prayer, drawn from American-Indian tradition combined with music and sound. The group listened to religious ministers and activists; various speakers made presentations, while letters from some of the incarcerated refugees were read in public. A poet was on hand to recite his composition on the topic of the Border environment with reference to the ‘River and the Wall’. A touching ceremony of scattering flowers on the river while a Christian pastor recited a prayer in honor of the lives of children lost in the crossings.
Reflecting on what it felt like to visit a place of incarceration, being an immigrant herself, Marylou shared that she “feels for the immigrant who is compelled to leave her/his country for a better life, if not to escape danger and violence. Leaving your homeland can be painful for starters, but I had traveled earlier on for professional reasons,” she said. “For 23 years, in order to obey the law, the family waited for legal entry into the USA while I came into the country legally through professional networks.”
Incarcerations due to breaking the law with illegal entry, present a case for thorough examination of underlying causes. The Caravan organizers, well paid to offer false perspectives of hope/promises of the American Dream to disadvantaged people who lack the education and faith to discern their course of action, along with the dangerous traffickers who enrich themselves on the poor immigrants’ transportation fees, are matters of serious concern and require investigation and legal action.
A bit disappointed at not being allowed to cross the border to engage directly with the suffering refugees, Marylou indicated that she would have preferred a ‘hands-on’ approach to minister to the suffering. She sees their “hopelessness in that they would break the law to get into the USA, while suffering oppression, human abuse and inhumane treatment along the way, not to mention the painful separation from their children as they face detention themselves.”
Looking at the root causes of the situation, Marylou sees a lack of education and Faith, abuse of power by the greedy who seek to enrich themselves on the backs of the poor, while leading them astray. Patience with the situation is required, in hopes of implementing laws at the Border that address the culture of the family situation, especially in the separation of a mother from her child.
About the question of what can be done, going forward, to improve things at the Border, given the present situation, Marylou first replied that “it takes patience, so perhaps prayer and fasting” would be a good place to start the healing of the suffering and oppressed. Also, providing humane treatment and health care for the incarcerated and the children’s shelters; lobbying government agencies for additional funding as needed; Christian churches could assist with shelters and family care, along with support for Catholic Charities, which is devoted to the care of the homeless and the migrant.
Asked if there were any surprises encountered at the gathering, Marylou mentioned her “surprise that nobody talked about the Traffickers/Activists who have become rich on the backs of their incarcerated victims. It is sad that the children had to be victimized in this trafficking and in the aftermath. ” She also expressed surprise at the presence of just a few Laredo residents in attendance at the Interfaith gathering, since their environmental concern for the ‘River & the Wall’ was one of the topics presented earlier in the day. It would seem not to be a problem for them; the city has many outlets for trade and commerce along both sides of the Border.
In conclusion, Marylou expressed a feeling of satisfaction about her Border visit. “It helps to widen one’s perspective on immigration matters from both sides of the issue. Being open minded allows one to engage more intelligently in such discussions as well as to express or address them.”
By Sister Mary Carmel Smith.