A week-long Trip to the Border was made by 15 members of Forest Hill Church’s Immigration Task Force in February 2023. The trip was filled to overflowing with unfathomable heartache and hopefulness. Here are a few:
South Texas Human Rights Center in Brownsville, Texas, a small city right on the border separated from Matamoros, Mexico by “The Wall.” Matamoros is a notorious camp for refugee applicants waiting to get across the border into the United States.
Matamoras Refugee Encampment in Matamoras, Mexico The words from this poem called “Home” by Warsan Shire haunted FHC traveler Cynthia Lehman as she walked this Camp.
No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.
No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer
than the land. No one would choose days and night in the
stomach of a truck unless the miles traveled meant something
more than a journey.
No one would choose to crawl under fences, beaten until your
shadow leaves…drowned, sold, stared, shot at the border like
a sick animal, pitied. No one would choose to make a refugee
Everyone in the camp was alert to the presence of the FHC Group. The immigrants believe that many Americans hate them, so the group tried to compensate with smiles and greetings. The major concern in the camp that day was a change in the asylum paperwork that caused confusion and meant that some families might be separated.
Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in Hidalgo, Texas has a profound Mission Statement: “To Restore Human Dignity.” This mission begins immediately when newly admitted immigrants first arrive. Respite Center staff gather around them to loudly applaud their arrival. Immigrants are expected to stay at the Center only a day or two before they travel to their destination. But the time spent at the Center, gives them an opportunity to refresh themselves and to start to reverse what has been months of experiencing a steep decline in their dignity.
The Wall in Hildago, Texas, according to FHC member, Carol Wedell, “is big and brutish and sends the message those who support its presence want to send — you are not welcome here. We fear you so much that we will do almost anything to keep you out. It is not a symbol that made me proud to be an American.”
Las Toronjas Colonia – Colonias are settlements of people living on private land without the public serves and protection of municipal government. Emerging after the 1950’s, they developed haphazardly. There are 2,300 along the South Texas border populated by about 500,000 people, Hidalgo County has 900 colonias, the most of any county in the state. The population in colonias is growing faster than the rest of the state of Texas.
Our ITF Trip to the Border Team offers powerful, informative presentations about their border experience. If you would like more information about hosting a presentation for your group, contact Anne Smith.