Today during a text exchange with my mom, she asked me if I thought I was doing any good down here. Of course I know that bringing activities to families during their asylum process is doing good, but this question got me thinking; what are volunteers on the border really doing? So many of us are only here for a short amount of time, can we really be making an impact?
After 10 straight hours of painting, coloring, making friendship bracelets, throwing a ball, playing with bubbles, and attempting to communicate in a language I just started learning six months ago, the answer is yes.
Why? Because the border needs a welcoming committee. Hospitality is important.
Since I arrived, I’ve become acutely aware of the families first impressions of the US, which unfortunately aren’t usually welcoming or caring. While I understand that Border Protection Officers have an important job to do in keeping our country safe, their daily attitudes toward the migrants are less than desirable. I want to respect them, but they continue to make this task difficult. In fact, just a few days ago one of the Russian families overheard an officer say “those fucking Russians”, assuming that none of them understood English. I broke into pieces when the young woman relayed this story to me. Those words are not the country I know, and it’s certainly not the country I want these families to know.
For the first time, today I was able to actually speak to a border field agent. At first, the conversation seemed to be going well. He was complaining that not enough Congressional Representatives or Senators have been to the border, something I agreed with because how can you fix a problem you’ve never seen? Unfortunately, just a few sentences later this officer was saying things like “it’s not like these people are Australian or Austrian” and “it’s not our problem, it’s Mexicos”. Since I did not feel like being arrested I kept my mouth shut, but inside I was screaming the following:
While there are certainly a lot of policy changes that can be made to help the situation, my fear is that nothing will change if these are the prevailing attitudes in the US. It also makes my head spin that often times the same people draping themselves in American Pride are the same people unwilling to acknowledge that it IS America’s greatness that motivates so many people to make long, dangerous journeys just for a chance at it.
We can’t always assert ourselves as the best country in the world, but also be surprised when these claims draw in those searching for a better life.
Walking enthusiast, and kitchen experimenter currently living out my dream in Mexico City, Mexico.
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