Reflections from the Border

Fatigue at the Border

Fr. Pat Murphy, c.s.
Director
Centro Scalabrini – Casa del Migrante
Tijuana, Mexico

Credit: file404/Shutterstock.com

Fatigue at the Border

Several years ago, there was a great little movie called Network in which a very frustrated newscaster invited people to stick their heads out the window and simply shout at the top of their lungs:

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!

No doubt this is the way I am feeling these days and it could be that I am suffering from a severe case of political fatigue. I am tired of the commercials, the debates, the mudslinging, the name calling, and the dirty politics. I just hope and pray it will all come to an end on November 8th, but maybe it won’t.

On another level, I also seem to be suffering from a case of interview fatigue because sometime in the next week, I will do my 200th interview since May 26, 2016 when the humanitarian crisis of refugees started at the Tijuana-San Diego border. I must admit that I am running out of energy and creative ways to answer the same questions. Exacerbating my fatigue are the Mexican officials who think people like me are just exaggerating the conditions here. However, before I go on about interview-political fatigue, let me take one more stab at updating you on what is happening here at the Tijuana-San Diego border:

  • As of Thursday, November 3, 2016, the US government resumed deportations of Haitians to Haiti after not doing so since 2010. We have been told that those who have legal residence in Brazil may choose to be deported to Brazil.
  • Despite this news, Haitians continue to arrive in Tijuana by the hundreds every day. All of them are coming from Brazil, and no one wants to return there after a four-month journey to Tijuana. We average 80 Haitians per night in our Casa.
  • It seems like a good number will be changing their American Dream into a Mexican Dream and seeking a legal way to stay in Mexico. The good news is that Mexico seems open to the possibility, which will mean a lot of extra work for shelters like ours.
  • The US continues to deport many Mexicans and they continue to arrive at our Casa. We offer hospitality and hope to deportees who arrive at the Casa every night of the year. In case you are wondering – yes, they do deport people on Christmas Day. Our Casa is usually full every night and recently we have about 20 people sleeping on the floor.
  • A smattering of people from different countries in Africa continues to arrive to escape the war and violence back home. We suspect many have legitimate cases for asylum.
  • Mexicans arrive from violent torn states such as Michoacán, Guerrero and Veracruz. They come because they cannot live in peace and their family members are threatened, tortured and killed on a regular basis by those controlling those states – that would be the drug lords of Mexico and not the local police.
  • The sad news is that Mexican asylum-seekers at the border are rejected within minutes without even receiving the benefit of a credible fear interview by the US authorities. Immigration officials deny this fact, but our lived reality tells us a different story,

I have no doubt that people will continue to arrive at the Tijuana border as well as other borders around the globe because there is something fundamentally wrong in our world. The world economic model is not functioning for most people. The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, and the only safety valve is immigration.

In the meantime, I do not have high hopes that government officials will respond to this crisis. Too many are worried about their image as politicians and keeping their positions. Seeking justice for the people is not their priority.

This is why I am mad as hell and at times don’t feel like taking it anymore. However, let me close on a positive note and share what keeps me going and where I see hope for the future.

  1. Young people – If you visit our house you will be impressed by the number of young people who give up their time and energy to help our brother and sister migrants on the journey. We have eight full time volunteers at the Casa from around the world and several part-time volunteers who give from the bottom of their hearts. Since the crisis began, we have never had so many requests from young people who want to help us in any way possible.
  2. The generosity of the people of the border community – I never worry about food for Casa guests because people just keep coming and giving. The number of people who show up at our doors with donations each day is quite impressive. This daily miracle of the loaves and fishes inspires me to keep going and not be overwhelmed by fatigue.
  3. The spirit of Pope Francis – It is the spirit that continues to motivate all of us who are in mission at the border. In his visit to the Mexican border earlier this year, the Holy Father said it so well when he called us to be build bridges and not walls. This is something we try to do every day at the Casa.

Consequently, I will continue to work at overcoming both political and interview fatigue because this story needs to be told and this mission needs to be completed. I am happy to report that the good people who inspire me far outnumber those who weigh me down.