When I spent Holy Week visiting the work with the deportees on the Mexican-American border between the two Nogales, I met some extraordinary people. The great majority of the detainees were men, mostly between the ages of twenty and thirty-five. Only a few were females. All of them were very respectful of one another and of course of those who were attending to them. Some people’s feet were too swollen to wear shoes. As I watched them file in and chatted with them, I was deeply struck by a lady who had her maybe three-year-old son with her. (I have no idea how that happened, how she made sure they were never separated when they were detained. It probably had something to do with her motherly instinct.) How desperate did she have to be to decide to risk everything to enter a foreign country with her little son and no permission? Another was a young man no more than fourteen. He was totally alone and scared to death. Who wouldn’t be? Just a kid, but growing up quickly. I wonder if he was with someone who got away, or maybe was even shot. I don’t know.
Another man, rather elderly, was sitting there waiting for everyone in the group to be seated. He asked me where I was from. When I said “Chicago,” he lit up and said “Where? 26th Street?” I told him “almost,” that I lived on 18th Street. He said he had lived in Chicago’s Little Village area (26th Street) years ago when it was all Puerto Rican. He said he had been in the United States for thirty years and was just now being deported because he had no documents. I wonder where he was going to go, whether he even had family in Mexico any more.
I also met a young lady, a volunteer, who is studying Social Work at BC. She is from New York, a graduate of Loyola University, Chicago, and has been on the border since last January, volunteering with the Kino Initiative. She lives with the nuns and attends to the detainees 24/7.
There was another young man maybe in his early twenties. One of the priests told me in a low voice that later that afternoon that young man was going to go back to the United States, try once again to cross the border. How I don’t know but they obviously have their ways. At the end of the meal I went up to him and said “God bless you,” and he said right back to me, “God bless you, too.” I value that blessing. Hope really does “spring eternal.”