Granby deacon’s mission trip to Mexican border illustrates immigration plight
Last week, a deacon from St. John’s Church in Granby carried a gallon of water into the desert near the Mexican border.
Kaye Piper and the others on her mission trip left the water for immigrants trying to enter the United States illegally afraid they might be dehydrated and dying.
On that same trip, Piper saw a map of southern Arizona covered in red dots marking the places where human remains had been found along the border. She showed a photo of the map to members of St. John’s on Wednesday as she shared details about her trip in a presentation.
“This is just in Arizona,” Piper said. “It doesn’t cover Texas or Mexico. “
During her weeklong mission trip, Piper experienced the border from all angles in Nogales, a town that sits on the Arizona/Mexico border. Of course, Piper saw the wall that stretched through the middle of town.
“Just seeing that wall was so devastating to me,” Piper said. “To think that people find it necessary to have this wall here to keep people out or in was awful.”
As part of the trip, Piper and her group visited the Border Patrol station in Nogales and joined them in a drive along the border. Piper described one point when a member of the mission trip asked an agent how it felt to arrest immigrants knowing they would be sent back to face the dangers in their countries.
“He really got teary eyed,” she continued. “He was wiping his eyes and said, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty difficult.’ I thought there are things about the agents that are good, and there are things about the agents that are maybe not so good.”
She spent time at a shelter in Mexico that houses people trying to cross the border legally. The shelter is part of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, and the border ministry program is called, “Cruzando Fronteras,” which means crossing borders in English.
The ministry works with Mexican and American authorities to facilitate the immigration process. Piper spent time with the people housed at the shelter as she learned more about the program during her trip.
Piper said the shelter houses 88 prospective immigrants at a rented building in Mexico. Families spend an average of eight to 12 weeks at the shelter and 95% of them eventually make it across the border legally.
There are 120 people on the waiting list for this shelter and the ministry has begun the process of opening another shelter.
On one of the days of the trip, the mission group went to Tucson and sat in an immigration court. In two hours, 75 immigrants who had been caught crossing the border illegally pleaded guilty to the charges against them. First-time offenders were deported and repeat offenders were sentenced to jail terms between 30-90 days before being deported.
“They piled in with chains around their waist, with their wrists shackled together, their ankles shackled together,” Piper said. “When all they did was cross the border illegally.”
Another visit was to a children’s clinic founded 47 years ago to serve people in Mexico without the medical resources available in the US. Mexican families can obtain a temporary, one-day visa to enter the country and go to the clinic that sees 250 children every week, one day a week, Piper said. The medial staff works voluntarily to serve these families.
Piper concluded her presentation listing ways to help the program at the border.
“Of course, you can pray,” Piper said.
Beyond prayer and monetary donations, she encouraged listeners to contact lawmakers with their opinions and to participate in a mission trip.
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