During our trip to Tijuana, we have spent the majority of our time at Casa del Migrante, a Catholic mission to migrants. In years past, the majority of their ministry was to migrants traveling north to find work in the United States. Today, since the U. S. has deported 400,000 undocumented workers over the last few years, the vast majority of their visitors are recent deportees. In fact, each night of our trip I sat across the dinner table and talked with men who had been dropped off across the border the previous night. Many of them had been in the U. S. for several decades. Most of them had wives and children somewhere in the States. All of them were newly arrived in Mexico with only the belongings on their body—and they have no chance to return to their wives or children legally.
One man, Jaime, was planning to hike across the mountains, risking a very dangerous journey, in order to get back. Approximately ten people die every day trying to make this same journey, and yet Jaime would not give it a second thought. Why would he do such a thing? As I said goodbye to him at the end of dinner, I did so knowing that he might be dead in two or three days. It is hard to relate to such a life or fully appreciate the choices he faced. But many people feel the same pressures.
The picture above depicts men from Guatemala riding “The Beast.” Guatemalans live in such abject poverty that even Mexico seems like a land of opportunity compared to their home. So they get out the only way they can. They ride on top of a freight train into Mexico—by the hundreds, as you can see. One man we met at the Casa had fallen off “The Beast,” lost his leg, spent all of his money obtaining a prosthetic, and had it stolen when he got back on The Beast to complete his journey. When we met him he was on crutches and broke. These men are obviously convinced that a land of opportunity awaits them if they are willing to take on such risks.
If you watch the news, you will hear no shortage of opinions about how the immigration problem should be solved. I can’t pretend to have a solution to the complex political problems involved in our nation’s immigration laws. However, I would remind you that the men and women who risk life and limb in order to cross borders are human beings with the same hopes and dreams as the rest of us. As Christians, we cannot all solve the public policy problems, but all of us can care about fellow human beings who are trying to make a better life for themselves. I can’t imagine having to navigate the choices they have to navigate. But I do know what the church must do. We must love them. We must also remind them that the American Dream cannot be the only dream. The Apostle Paul very memorably instructed us that our citizenship is in heaven. If we can love them and point them toward a home that cannot be taken away, a home in which they can find a lasting citizenship, then we will impart to them a gift that will last forever.